‘Pasyon,’ contests kick off National Literature Month

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The Philippines’ arts, language, and publishing agencies will begin celebrating April as National Literature Month this year with the traditional “Pasyon” and competitions aimed at promoting and preserving the country’s literary and musical heritage.

The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF, or Commission on the Filipino Language), the National Book Development Board (NBDB), and other government agencies announced this during a press conference at NCCA’s headquarters in Intramuros, Manila, on March 14.

In a statement, NCCA said its “Pabasa: Himig ng Kultura sa Semana Santa (Reading the ‘Pasyon’: Melody of Culture on Holy Week)” would be held in Malolos City, Bulacan province on March 28.

The event would gather local readers or chanters of the epic narrative about Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection for a contest “that seeks to preserve and promote tradition,” it added.


(From left) Priscilla Claudio of the Civil Service Commission; Michael Coroza, head of the Unyon ng mga Manunulat ng Pilipinas; Liza Diño-Seguerra, chairman of the Film Development Council of the Philippines; singer Cariza “Ice” Seguerra, chairman of the National Youth Commission (NYC) and National Literature Month ambassador; National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario, chairman of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino; singer Noel Cabangon, representative of the Organisasyon ng mga Pilipinong Mangaawit and the Filipino Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers Inc.; NYC Commissioner James Ventura; National Book Development Board’s Martin Guasch; and actress-host Kakki Teodoro pose for a photo at the “Pingkian: National Literature Month” press conference at the NCCA Building in Intramuros, Manila, on March 14.

Another event that would officially open the month-long celebration, the “Pambansang Kampong Balagtas” (National Balagtas Camp), will be held in Bataan province’s Orion town from April 2 to 4 to honor Filipino poet laureate Francisco “Balagtas” Baltazar, best known for penning “Florante at Laura.”

The literary camp shall gather at the Orion Bataan Elementary School 104 student-delegates chosen from all over the country to hone their creative-writing skills. It will coincide with the poet’s 230th birth anniversary.

To promote awareness and knowledge of local culture and literature next month, NCCA has launched four contests, the first being the Rene Villanueva Young Adult Prize, the guidelines and rubrics of which will be announced on April 2.

The competition—named after the late, celebrated playwright behind “May Isang Sundalo” (There is a Soldier) “Botong,” and “Kalantiaw,” and author of the children’s books “Ang Unang Baboy sa Langit” (The First Pig in Heaven) and “Nemo, Ang Batang Papel” (Nemo, the Paper Child)—invites young people to write young-adult novels and who have a year to finish and submit them.

The second, Timpalak Florentino Hornedo, involves junior and senior high-school students in Batanes province singing the “laji,” the literary Ivatan song that the late scholar, author, and cultural historian had researched and written on, highlighting the need to cultivate and preserve it for future generations.

Preliminary contests for it have been held this month, with the contestants hailing from Batanes’ six municipalities. The finals’ night will be held in the provincial capital Basco on April 9.

The third, the Bayani/han 2018: Bayani sa Panitikan (Hero in Literature) short film contest, aims to encourage Filipinos between 13 and 18 years old to appreciate the literatures of each region by adapting them for the screen. Deadline of online entries is on March 30, and the winners will be announced and honored at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) on April 20.

The first-prize winner will receive P35,000; the second, P20,000; and third, P10,000.

The fourth, Timpalak Kundiman 2018, seeks to persuade contemporary musical artists to write and sing a “kundiman,” the traditional Filipino love song noted for its 3/4 time signature and, in the process, help revive the art form and its practice.

This contest is established in partnership with the Organisasyon ng mga Pilipinong Mang-aawit (OPM, or Organization of Filipino Musicians) and the Filipino Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers Inc. (Filscap).

The first-placing musical production and arrangement will earn P250,000; second place, P150,000; and third place, P100,000.

This year’s celebration of National Literature Month has adopted “Pingkian”—defined as “dialectical friction or conflict igniting fire”—to highlight “the revolutionary function of literature as a springboard [for]discussion toward progress,” NCCA said.

The word is better known as the alias of writer and revolutionary hero Emilio Jacinto, regarded as the brains of the Kataastaasan Kagalang-galang na Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan (Highest and Most Venerated Association of the Sons and Daughters of the Land), or Katipunan.

To emphasize his importance in the celebration, there will be a literary pilgrimage at Jacinto’s hometown of Magdalena, Laguna province, on April 16.

National Literature Month was established in 2015 through Proclamation 968, which says “Philippine literature, written in different Philippine languages, is associated with the history and cultural legacy” of the country and must be, therefore, “promoted among Filipinos.”

“National literature…plays an important role in preserving and inspiring the literature of today and in introducing to future generations the Filipino values that we have inherited from our ancestors,” it adds.

For more details on National Literature Month activities, call the NCCA Public Affairs and Information Office at (632) 527-2192 or 0928-5281057; e-mail ncca.paio@gmail.com; or visit www.ncca.gov.ph.

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