A novel on top of it all

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THE Manila Times is proud to publish the first novel of one of our country’s locally and internationally celebrated artists, Prof. Emeritus Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio of the University of the Philippines.

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All we at The Times did was print In Binondo, Once Upon A War, and assume the ministerial tasks of a publisher. The editing, computer typesetting, design and layout of the book were all done by the author and her team. The book cover shows the author when she was three years old, dressed as an angel.

Prof. Lapeña-Bonifacio spent ten years writing the book, not rushing the flow of memories. “The writing, preparation and completion of this book for the publisher were accomplished under a permanent appointment as University Professor Emeritus of the Department Of English & Comparative Literature, in the College of Arts and Letters of the University of the Philippines, which program also resulted in two plays which won the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature, First Prize, for Dalawang Bayani (Two Heroes) and Second Prize for Chinchina and the Five Mountains,” she said.

In Binondo, Once Upon A War is the 23rd book by this personification of what a mega-achiever is. This, her first novel, published on her 84th year, crowns her treasury of works. One of her books, The ‘Seditious’ Tagalog Playwrights: Early American Occupation, says the Cultural Center of the Philippines Encyclopedia (of Philippine art and culture), is our country’s first book on Philippine theatre.

Yesterday, in UP’s Recto Hall, the book was launched at a formal but enjoyable convocation.

The guest speaker was former President Fidel V. Ramos. UP’s Vice-President for Public Affairs Prof. J. Prospero E. de Vera introduced him.

Apart from lauding the greatness of Prof. Bonifacio’s cultural achievements, the former president dwelt on the need for Filipinos and all peoples of the world to work for peace.

Then UP Chancellor Michael Tan spoke on “Our Productive Seniors,” citing, of course, FVR and the author Bonifacio as icons.

The break from the speeches was “The Dance of Sisa.” It is a number that comes from one of Prof. Amel Bonifacio’s puppet plays. It was hauntingly performed by the author’s daughter, Puppeteer Dr. Amihan Bonifacio-Ramolete.

Then Charlson Ong, a leading fictionist who has several prize-winning short stories and two novels to his name, which are set also in Binondo, gave a lecture on “The Writing of a Novel.” In the course of his talk he recalled how, as a young UP student some 30 years ago, he was led to a literary career by the encouragement of “Prof AmBo” (the students’ acronym for Professor Amelia Bonifacio).

On behalf of Times Chairman Emeritus Dante A. Ang, our Publisher-Editor Rene Q. Bas spoke on “The Manila Times as a Book Publisher.”

Then came the author and honoree’s turn. She spoke on “My first novel, the challenge.”

On behalf of the UP Institute of Creative Writing, Dean Roland Tolentino, National Artist for Literature Dr. Bienvenido Lumbera spoke about his friendship with author Lapeña-Bonifacio which began when she was just starting to write her plays during a time when few Filipino creative writers chose to work in that genre.

When she headed the UP Arts and Letters Curriculum Committee of the Department of English & Comparative Literature, she initiated a Philippine first—“Creative Writing for Children” as a major AB and MA degree program and later a Ph.D pursuit.

She worked hard to strengthen the position of the arts in the curriculum. The UP artist-in-residence program is the result of her initiative.

She introduced puppet theater to Filipinos and developed a distinct puppet theater stage and style that has been adopted by many countries. The Amelia Lapeña Bonifacio Teatro Papet Museo in Teachers Village West is one of Quezon City’s cultural attractions.

There are so many more things that can be written about this model of a creative and indefatigable Filipino artist and educator.

Young Filipinos will benefit a lot if they went out of their way to learn about the creative work and read the books of Prof. Lapeña-Bonifacio.

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