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Posted by Dexter Matilla - - 0 comments

Jun Cruz Reyes, Marjorie Evasco, and Bien Lumbera

Text and photos by Dexter R. Matilla
For the Philippine Daily Inquirer

FOR ANYBODY who’s had to deal with the question, “How does one become a good writer?” National Artist for Literature Bienvenido offers a simple and logical answer: “get a pen, a paper, and start writing.”

This response resulted in a chorus of laughter from Cebuanos who attended the Philippine PEN (Poets, Playwrights, Essayists, and Novelists) “Meet the PEN Authors” event at the Powerbooks Specialty Store in SM Cebu.

But Lumbera was quick to add that one needs to focus first on becoming a writer. Being good at it? Well, that’s a different story altogether if you ask him.

Joining Lumbera are teacher and poet Marjorie Evasco, artist and poet Jun Cruz Reyes, fiction-writer Chalson Ong, and Herminio Beltran Jr., head of the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ literature division. Most of the authors have new titles with Anvil Publishing, which helped set up the session.

Herminio Beltran Jr.

Charlson Ong

In his welcome remarks, PEN national secretary and Inquirer editor Lito Zulueta said that the session was PEN’s way of providing an interaction between the authors and their readers, thus “giving the readers an opportunity to touch base with the authors and also to introduce the authors to a wider market.”

Indeed, such was the case on the eve of the PEN annual writers’ conference (see related story). Students, aspiring writers, and lovers of good literary work sat side by side as the authors read choice works, after which, the question and answer portion followed.

Those who attended were also provided with reading guides to the works of the guest authors to help boost appreciation for Philippine literature. The reading guides were produced based on a program by the Philippine PEN on improving the appreciation and teaching of Philippine literature in the education system. The program is funded by the International PEN based in London and the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida).

But perhaps, equally important was that the session showed the lighter side of the authors, all of whom are highly-acclaimed. Those who might have been erstwhile intimidated by them surely could have appreciated the humor shown by the authors.

More so after Lumbera’s pen and paper statement, to which Reyes playfully quipped: “Laptop na kami ngayon” (We now use the laptop).

 Members of the audience are charmed by the humor shown by the guest authors

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