Nick Joaquin: From paper to picture

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He may be gone for 13 years now, but it seems no one has dominated the arts and culture scene this year as much as National Artist for Literature Nick Joaquin did.

Of course, this is due to the fact that 2017 marks the birth centennial of the celebrated author, who the National Commission for Culture and the Arts said “is regarded by many as the most distinguished Filipino writer in English,” who wrote “so variedly and so well about so many aspects of the Filipino.”

Copies of Nick Joaquin’s “The Woman Who Had Two Navels and Tales of the Tropical Gothic” piled at one corner of a bookstore. (Photo by Alvin I. Dacanay)

“Nick Joaquin also enriched the English language, with critics coining ‘Joaquinese’ to describe his baroque, Spanish-flavored English or his reinventions of English based on Filipinisms,” it added.

There is no greater proof of this than his many books on display in stores. These include Anvil Publishing Inc.’s reprints of the novel Cave and Shadows; short-story collections May Day Eve and Other Stories and The Summer Solstice and Other Stories; Candido’s Apocalypse; and the play collection Tropical Baroque: Four Manileño Theatricals. All these are published under the company’s Anvil Classics imprint.


Another imprint, Anvil History, is set to reissue Joaquin’s Culture and History and A Question of Heroes.

Cover of “Ang Larawan: From Stage to Screen.”

The Ateneo de Manila University Press, meanwhile, published a special edition of Collected Verse, which it said “gathers Nick Joaquin’s own choices among the poems he wrote from the mid-30s to 1987.”

But the most significant of these new books is The Woman Who Had Two Navels and Tales of the Tropical Gothic, published by Penguin Books through its Penguin Classics imprint. This made Joaquin the third Filipino author to be published by the United States-based publishing powerhouse, after José Rizal with his novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo and José Garcia Villa with Doveglion: Collected Poems.

Unveiling of the Nick Joaquin commemorative stamp at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ “Nick Joaquin. He lives.” event. (Photo by Alvin I. Dacanay)

Paying tribute
A number of institutions also paid tribute to Joaquin. On his actual birth anniversary on May 4, the Cultural Center of the Philippines held an event titled “Nick Joaquin. He lives.” Activities included a screening of independent filmmaker Sari Dalena’s 2015 docudrama Dahling Nick; an opening ceremony hosted by Palanca Hall of Fame inductee Dr. Jose “Butch” Dalisay Jr. and featuring a poetry reading by writer and Joaquin’s close friend Jose “Pete” Lacaba and the unveiling of the late author’s portrait and commemorative stamp design; and the launch of The Woman Who Had Two Navels and Tales of the Tropical Gothic.

Later that month, Far Eastern University (FEU) held a series of activities that included a lecture by poet and scholar Dr. Gemino Abad and a special collections exhibit featuring Joaquin memorabilia and images.

(From left) Rody Vera, Leo Rialp and Stella Cañete-Mendoza in Dulaang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas’ production of “Fathers and Sons.” (Photo by Alvin I. Dacanay)

According to FEU President Michael Alba, Joaquin had a major role in the school’s history.

“For FEU, Nick is more than just a Philippine treasure. His works are part of our identity and his legacy remains in the values and culture of the university,” Alba said in a statement.

“He wrote our hymn and authored books about our alma mater. He even wrote the biography of our founder Nicanor Reyes Sr. It is but natural for us to celebrate his life and his contributions, not [just]to our community, but to all Filipinos,” he added.

Year-long celebration
Performing-arts groups also took part in the year-long celebration. Dulaang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas staged Joaquin’s Fathers and Sons—based on “Three Generations”—and Mga Ama, Mga Anak, Lacaba and National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario’s Filipino translation of it, as its 42nd theater season opener in September.

A month later, Ballet Philippines remounted National Artist for Dance Alice Reyes’ “Amada,” based on “The Summer Solstice,” as part of The Exemplars: Amada and Other Dances.

National Artist for Literature Nick Joaquin. (CCP Photo)

Although originally scheduled for this month, Tanghalang Pilipino will stage Nang Dalawin ng Pag-ibig si Juan Tamad next year. Adapted from Joaquin’s children’s story “How Love Came to Juan Tamad,” it will be the company’s 31st theater season closer.

Capping the year was the long-awaited release of Ang Larawan, the film adaptation of the late National Artist for Literature Rolando Tinio and Ryan Cayabyab’s musical based on Joaquin’s play A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino.

A passion project for everyone involved, especially for producers Celeste Legaspi, Girlie Rodis and Rachel Alejandro, Ang Larawan was one of eight official entries to the 43rd Metro Manila Film Festival. During the festival’s awards night on December 27, it won six prizes, including best picture and best actress for Joanna Ampil, who portrays Candida, the elder of the two unmarried Marasigan sisters pressured to sell the titular portrait.

With its wins, it is expected that Ang Larawan would be shown in more cinemas in the coming days after many theater operators stopped screening it on the festival’s second day.

As part of efforts to promote the film, Anvil published Ang Larawan: From Stage to Screen. It contains Joaquin’s original text, Tinio’s libretto, the screenplay and photos from the picture.

At the end of Ang Larawan, Marasigan family friend Bitoy Camacho vowed that he would not only remember the sisters, but also what Manila once was. “To remember and to sing,” he said.

Clearly, the literary, arts and cultural communities adopted that same vow this year in praise of Joaquin, who, in more ways than one, is a writer for all seasons.

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