14 February 2013
What exactly is Taboan? Well, literally, taboan is the Visayan word for market and according to cebu.sandayong.com, it is a marketplace where farmers and fishermen meet together to sell their harvests and other goods; it is a barter area. But, this word has come to have a new meaning after the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), as part of the celebration of National Arts Month, used it to refer to one of the country's biggest literary festivals. It is, indeed, an event where writers, artists, teachers, students, and lovers of literature from all over the country converge and exchange ideas about issues and concerns of and in the world of Philippine literature. Taboan as Philippine Writers Festival started in 2009 and it has been held annually since. It has gone around the Philippines as it has been held in Manila in 2009, Cebu in 2010, Davao in 2011, Pampanga in 2012, and Dumaguete this year. Hopefully, it will be brought back to Mindanao next year.
This year's Taboan gathered around forty seasoned and veteran writers and about fifty emerging writers from all over the country. Held on February 6-10, 2013, the writers festival afforded participants, guests and delegates the opportunity to listen to various panel discussions on topics such as:
- Your Place at the Writers' Table
- Insciribing the Past
- Bypassing the Center
- Imagining the Indigene
- Translating Texts, Texts in Translation
- Experimenting with Genres
- Vision and Revision
- Writing Chinoy, Chinoy Writing
- Writing for the Ebook Market
- Gender Factor
- The Space Between
- Chronicling Disasters
- Networking Among Writers
- Performance Poetry
- The Works of Edilberto K. Tiempo and National Artist for Literature Edith L. Tiempo
- The Works of Artemio Tadena
- The Works of Elsa Victoria Martinez Coscoluella and Bobby Flores Villasis
- Publishing Modern Catholic Writing and a Discussion of Fr. Roman C. Sagun, Jr.'s Work on Local History Writing
I am and will forever be thankful to Dr. Christine F. Godinez Ortega and her working force as well as the National Committee on Literary Arts (of the NCCA) and the Dumaguete Literary Arts Group for choosing and inviting me to the festival. I was assigned to be a panelist/resource speaker for Gender Factor. I need not say it was a great experience! Together with me in the panel were the Palanca-laureate Ilokana writer Sherma Benosa, the young, upcoming Davaoeño writer Paul Randy Gumanao, and another Palanca-laureate and internationally published poet Paolo Manalo. The keynote speaker for our panel was yet another Palanca-laureate, the brave and beautiful Jhoanna Lyn Cruz. Our moderator was the multi-awarded fictionist, essayist and erstwhile visual artist Ma. Carmen "Menchu" Aquino Sarmiento. The discussion went smoothly and the reception was much better than was expected, if I may be allowed to say. I'd say we all gave our best in our talks and I guess the audience felt and saw that. It was one of the greatest moments of my life. And, I felt quite proud of myself as everyone congratulated me. Of course, everyone did that to everyone else. It's the protocol, right? Hehe:) But, I was happy with myself, with our panel and with what had transpired. Nervous I was, yes, but quite satisfied.
For someone visiting Dumaguete for the first time, I really had my share of Dumagueteño hospitality. I experienced their friendliness and helpfulness when, on the first day, having a few hours to pass before the registration started, I roamed around the city all by myself. My friend told me, a few years back, that Dumaguete has some sort of special magic and I did feel it. It was difficult not to fall in love with the peaceful, laid-back and simple Dumagueteño life. One day, I'd like to visit the place again and maybe stay a little longer to feel and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere more. Also, Dumaguete is often referred to as the Philippines' city of literature mainly because of the prestigious Silliman University National Writers Workshop, which helped develop almost, if not every great Filipino writer of this age. It was easy to be engulfed by such air of literariness as we strolled down the famous Boulevard that holds big and small literary secrets. The old buildings and the tricycles add to the beauty and appeal of the city rather than ruin it as in other places I've been to.
Another thing that made the festival so meaningful to me was meeting again some of the great writers I met in last year's Iligan workshop. Sir Leoncio Deriada, Ma'am Merlie Alunan, Sir Victorio Sugbo, Sir Steven Patrick Fernandez, and Ma'am Christine Godinez Ortega were there. So was my Iligan co-fellow, Norman Darap. It was great reconnecting with them and knowing that they still remember me. And, in a very personal way, too! Plus, I met so many new friends. They come from different parts of the country and they make me excited about the future of Philippine literature. I will be waiting for their names in the different literary awards in the country as well as in the bookstores.
Meeting the "heavy-weights" or the literary giants was totally overwhelming! If meeting movie stars and other types of celebrities sometimes left me open-mouthed and star-struck, meeting these people that I've only studied and read about in books left me in some sort of trance the whole time! I couldn't believe I was rubbing elbows with some people whose works have made so much impact on me. Aside from the ones I've already mentioned above, there were National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera, Resil Mojares (the festival keynote speaker), Cesar Ruiz Aquino, Lamberto Ceballos, Marjorie Evasco, Elsa Victoria Coscoluello, Erlinda Alburo, Alice Tan-Gonzales, Ernesto Lariosa, Ma. Rosario Cruz Lucero, Elmer Ordoñez, Isagani Cruz, Jose "Butch" Dalisay, Francis "Butch" Macansantos, Priscilla Supnet Macansantos (NCLA Head), Elizabeth Raquel, Juliet Mallari, Allan Alberto Derain, Mark Benedict Lim, Santiago Villafania, Carlos Arejola, Dominique Gerald Cimafranca, Shirley Lua, Phil Harold Mercurio, Fr. Albert Alejo, Jane Camens (international writer-translator from Australia), and Hope Sabanpan-Yu and so many more.
For an ordinary Literature teacher and lover such as myself, to be among these people is something that I will forever cherish and something that I can never thank God enough for. I can only wish that I'd be given a chance to participate in the event again in the future. And, the learning-- wow, the learning was among the best things about the festival! I learned so much in the short time that I was there. These things that I will definitely be sharing to my students so that they, too, will be inspired to write and continue to do so until one day, I will be able to sit as a member of an audience listening to them speaking of their works! Yes, that is the dream! :)
Again, thank you, Taboan 2013, for the beautiful and grand experience!
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Kudos Ma'am D! You will always be one of my inspirations when it comes to writing. I am truly honored to know you. :)
A person who stays humble despite knowing having great character and intelligence is a person who is usually favored by God. You are given such a beautiful talent (to write) so you would inspire others including me to never fear trying to unveil their sheltered talents. Hehe. As if I have talent! Continue to be an inspiration to all and stay beautiful inside and out. Just sooo proud of you! Next level ulit!