Thomasian National Artists for Literature urge penmen to write relevant pieces


National Artist for Literature F. Sionil José challenged fellow writers to use literature to continue educating the youth on history and nurture their sense of nationhood during the opening of the three-day Iowa International Conference titled “2017 International Conference and Hasaan5 on Education, Literatures and Creative Writing” at the Buenaventura Garcia Paredes Building, University of Santo Tomas.

“Write not only for yourself but for our people. Be true to them as you will be true to yourself. Be contextual. Be involved and politically aware of our peoples’ problems. Be engaged,” he said.

José also emphasized a writer’s importance in shaping national identity.

“Whether mediocre or brilliant, the writer is important to his people, his nation. The written word as journalism is history in a hurry. The written word as literature is history that is lived. The writer then is the tenacious keeper of memory, and without this memory, there is no nation,” said José, a Thomasian.

On the conference’s second day, another National Artist for Literature and Thomasian alumnus Bienvenido Lumbera reminded budding Filipino writers to disregard the demands of commercialism and, instead, utilize stories as tools that articulate the hopes of the poor and the abandoned.

“Writer must put into mind how the language used in writing their stories will put them in touch to the realities of the society,” he said, noting that written works should “trigger awareness of conditions in a particular time.”

Iowa International Writing Program (IWP) Director Mr. Christopher Merril, meanwhile, urged both writer-artists and scholar-academics to learn from each other, especially when they belong to a scholastic community that trains young scribes.

“There is a fruitful tension between writers and scholars; whereas writers can keep scholars honest and scholars can help artists be honest,” he said, adding that poets can remind scholars about the real beauty of the language—the sense of uncertainty and surprise it offers.

The first day of the conference focused on updates on Philippine Literature featuring IWP fellows from the country, while The second and third days had Filipino and foreign IWP Fellows, who delivered lectures on International Literature and Creative Writing, and Special Topics.

Faculty of Arts and Letters professor and IWP 2016 Fellow Asst. Prof. Eros S. Atalia emphasized on the last day the importance of having alternative platforms for aspiring writers in the country.

“When it comes to literature, we look for alternative platforms. Young Filipino writers are hooked on online publishing, writing and reading. They have built a new community where they can share stories,” Atalia said.

The United States Embassy in the Philippines Public Affairs Counselor Ms. Carolyn B. Glassman  who graced the opening of the international confab was welcomed by Rev. Fr. Jesus M. Miranda, Jr., O.P., UST Secretary General, and Assoc. Prof. Giovanna V. Fontanilla, Director of the UST Office of Public Affairs.

The conference was co-organized by the UST College of Education and the UST Department of Filipino through HASAAN 5 and sponsored by the US Embassy in Manila, according to College of Education Dean Prof. Allan B. de Guzman. It had for its theme “Educating the World through Literatures: Promoting Understanding, Peace and Equality.”

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