The Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF, or Commission on the Filipino Language) recently proclaimed an instructor from Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU) as its 2018 Makata ng Taon (Poet of the Year).
In an online statement, the government-run language agency said the teacher, Christian Jil R. Benitez, won for his poem “Sapagkat Pag-ibig ang Tuod sa Pinakamahabang Bugtong sa Kasaysayan” (Because Love is the Hindrance in the Longest Riddle in History).
“Nagsusulat ako ng mga tula na may malayang taludturan, ngunit naging hámon sa akin ang magsulat ng tula na may tugma at sukat” (I write free-verse poems, but to write a poem with rhyme and meter challenged me), Benitez said.
“Nakatulong sa akin ang lektura ng dati kong propesor sa Ateneo na si Dr. Edgar Samar hinggil sa pagsulat ng tula na may antas tudlikan ang tugmaan” (The lecture of my former professor at Ateneo, Dr. Edgar Samar, helped me in writing poems with a specific rhyming pattern and pronunciation), he added.
As Poet of the Year, Benitez will receive a trophy and P30,000 from the KWF. Second-prize winner Aldrin P. Pentero—who won the top honor last year—will get P20,000, while third-placer Paul Alcoseba Castillo will receive P15,000.
The awarding ceremony will be held at Orion Elementary School in Orion town, Bataan province, on April 2, the 230th birth anniversary of Francisco “Balagtas” Baltazar, author of the classic epic poem “Florante at Laura” who is considered the country’s most important poet.
Benitez finished AB-MA Filipino Literature at AdMU, where he teaches Filipino, Philippine literature and literary criticism. He is a member of the Young Critics Circle, a group of academe-based film critics.
He won third place in the Tula (Poetry) category in the 65th Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature for his collection “Sapagkat Umiibig: Mga Tula” and second place in the Filipino category at the 7th Maningning Miclat Trilingual Poetry Awards, both in 2015.
He also won in AdMU’s Loyola School Awards for the Arts and the University of the Philippines (UP) Press Critical Essay Writing Contest.
This year’s judges were Michael M. Coroza, Louie Jon A. Sanchez, and Enrique S. Villasis, all Palanca award-winning poets.
Coroza, one of the country’s foremost proponents of “Balagtasan,” or verbal jousting today, is president of the Unyon ng mga Manunulat ng Pilipinas (Umpil, or Writers Union of the Philippines). Sanchez has garnered the Makata ng Taon prize thrice (2006, 2009, 2011), and Villasis is a television scriptwriter.
Many renowned writers have been proclaimed Makata ng Taon since the award’s establishment in 1963. They inclue National Artists for Literature Virgilio S. Almario (1984) and Cirilo F. Bautista (1993), as well as Palanca Hall of Fame inductees Ruth Elynia Mabanglo (1992), Reynaldo A. Duque (1998), Eugene Y. Evasco (2000), and Reuel Molina Aguila (2008).|
Other notable winners are Bienvenido A. Ramos (1963), Rogelio Mangahas (1969), Teo T. Antonio (1976), Lamberto E. Antonio (1980), Victor Emmanuel Carmelo “Vim” Nadera Jr. (1985), Mike Birgonia (1986), Tomas F. Agulto (1988, 1997, 1999), and Lilia Quindoza Santiago (1989).