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Posted by Dexter Matilla - - 0 comments

By Dexter R. Matilla
For the Philippine Daily Inquirer

CEBU WILL host this year’s biggest gathering of local and international writers as the Philippine PEN (Poets & Playwrights, Essayists, Novelists) hold its annual writers’ conference on Dec. 4-5 at Montebelo Villa Hotel.

Keynote speech will be delivered by Cebu executive judge and multi-awarded poet Simeon Dumdum Jr.

The annual José Rizal Lecture, the high point of the conference, will be delivered by highly respected Cebu scholar Resil Mojares.

The international conference, with the theme “Solidarity in Literature without Borders,” will bring together writers not only from the Philippines, but also from the Asia-Pacific, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and the Americas.

Foreign writers who will join Filipino writers from all over the country in several panel discussions of current issues in literature and writing include Ignacio Martínez de Pisón, Spain; Nori Nakagami, Japan; Nguyen Bao Chan, Vietnam; Alvin Pang, Singapore; Robin Lim, Indonesia; Lina Zerón, Mexico; Ruth Elynia Mabanglo, USA; Marianne Villanueva, USA; and Joseph Akawu Ushie, Nigeria.

The conference is supported by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.

Sen. Edgardo Angara, a staunch supporter of culture and the arts, is expected to grace the José Rizal Lecture.

The Philippine PEN is a member of International PEN with centers in some 150 countries worldwide. The PEN Philippine Center celebrated its golden anniversary in December 2007.

Its founding was marked by a national writers’ conference, the first of its kind after the war, held for two days in Baguio City in December 1958 and attended by distinguished literary people and intellectuals from all over the country including Sen. Claro M. Recto and President Carlos P. Garcia.

The conference organizer and also Philippine PEN founder was F. Sionil José, now National Artist for Literature. Among the conference participants were, later to become National Artists for Literature: Francisco Arcellana, NVM Gonzalez, Bienvenido Lumbera, Alejandro Roces and Edith Tiempo.

In its 50 years, the Philippine PEN has organized and sponsored such activities as literary readings, workshops, meet-the-author

series, seminars, and conferences in Manila and in the provinces. It has hosted the visits or held receptions for distinguished writers from abroad, such as Nobel Laureates Wole Soyinka and Mario Vargas Llosa (himself a former president of the International PEN), Richard Kim, Lin Yutang, Khushwant Singh, Hirabayashi Taiko, Hayako Sono, Norman Mailer, Gunter Grass, Mochtar Lubis, Edwin Thumboo and Juan Gelman.

PEN also organized two regional Asian Writers conferences in Manila, and published several anthologies including an Asian PEN anthology.

During the Marcos dictatorship, PEN stood in defense of freedom of expression and speech, in consonance with the International PEN Charter.

Panel discussions on writers and writing

Panels and writer-discussants for the two-day conference are:

Panel on Writing and Writers in the Visayas: Vicente Garcia Groyon, Erma Cuizon, Isidoro Cruz, John Barrios

Panel on Writing and Writers in Mindanao: Jaime An Lim, Anthony Tan, Steven Patrick Fernandez, Servando Halili Jr., Telesforo Sungkit Jr.

Panel on Writing and Writers in Luzon: Herminio Beltran Jr., Santiago Villafania, Priscilla Macansantos, Carlos Arejola, Sherma Benosa

Panel on Writing and Writers in Asia: Ronald Baytan, Nori Nakagami (Japan), Nguyen Bao Chan (Vietnam), Alvin Pang (Singapore), Robin Lim (Indonesia).

Panel on Writing and Writers in the Americas: Marjorie Evasco, Alice Sun-Cua, Ma. Carmen Sarmiento, Lina Zerón (Mexico), Ruth Elynia Mabanglo (USA), Marianne Villanueva (USA)

Panel on Writing and Writers in Europe and Africa: José Victor Torres, Edgardo Maranan, Ignacio Martínez de Pisón (Spain), Joseph Akawu Ushie (Nigeria)

PEN board, patrons

Lumbera is now the chair of the Philippine PEN board of directors. Elmer Ordoñez is vice chair and Lito B. Zulueta is national secretary.

The other directors are Suzie Tan, Shirley Lua, José Wendell Capili, Ronald Baytan, Hermie Beltran, Karina Bolasco, Marjorie Evasco, Susan Lara, Charlson Ong, Nicolas Pichay, Jun Cruz Reyes and José Victor Torres.

At PowerBooks-Cebu

On the eve of the two-day Philippine PEN conference, Philippine PEN officials will hold a “Meet the PEN Authors” session on Dec. 3, 5 p.m., at PowerBooks-SM Cebu.

To talk about their latest literary titles, mainly published by Anvil Publishing, are Lumbera, Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) literature head Herminio Beltran, poet-teacher Marjorie Evasco, and fictionists Charlson Ong and Jun Cruz Reyes.

Also during the PowerBooks session, the Philippine PEN will distribute reading guides to the works of Philippine PEN authors. Designed for teachers, students and literature lovers, the guides can help facilitate appreciation of literary works and are part of a grant to boost literature appreciation and teaching in the Philippine education system. The grant is by the International PEN based in London and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.

Patrons and cooperators of the 2010 conference are Angara (READ Foundation), House of Representatives Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Anvil Publishing, Aria Edition, Asia Foundation, Ateneo de Manila University, Josephine Aboitiz Booth, Chinese-Filipino Business Club, De La Salle University, Instituto Cervantes de Manila, International PEN (London), Japan Foundation in Manila, Doris Magsaysay-Ho (Magsaysay Maritime Corp.), Mexican Embassy in the Philippines, National Book Store, NCCA, Rizal Commercial Banking Corp., SM, Solidaridad Bookstore, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, Washington Sycip, Marlinda Angbetic Tan and The Varsitarian of the University of Santo Tomas.

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