The Summer Creative Writing Workshop conducted by the University of Santo Tomas revived Center for Creative Writing and Literary Studies, headed by writer and literary scholar Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo, brought 12 hand-picked practicing and aspiring writers from the Thomasian community to Baguio May 5-11, as an important part of the ongoing effort to rebuild a robust Thomasian writing community.
The workshop was sponsored by UST Rector Magnificus Fr. Herminio V. Dagohoy, OP.
The writing fellows, all either UST faculty members, graduate students or alumni, are: Rommel Boquiren, Abigail M. Deabanico, Imelda de Castro, Kat del Rosario, Crescencio Martires Doma Jr., Simon Paul Felismino, Jonathan Vergara Geronimo, Levine Lao, Rhodora Lynn Lintag, Crizel Sicat, Pocholo Torres and Sooey Valencia.
They stayed at Ridgewood Residence for a week, during which their works were subjected to the intensive scrutiny of their peers and a formidable teaching panel: Workshop coordinator Ralph Semino Galan, Rebecca Añonuevo-Cuñada, Eros S. Atalia, Nerisa del Carmen Guevara, Inquirer Arts and Books editor Lito Zulueta, and workshop director and professor emeritus Hidalgo herself.
UST Literature alumnus Carlomar Daoana, former Varsitarian editor and last year’s Palanca first-prize winner for poetry; and UST faculty member and this year’s Komisyon ng Wikang Filipino’s Makata ng Taon Joselito de los Reyes, took their place on the panel with the sponsorship of the Varsitarian, UST’s official student publication.
“For someone who is starting to immerse himself in creative writing,” Lao says, “this workshop experience has been a source of inspiring ideas on what direction I should take in creating the identity of the writer I long to be.”
Deabanico agrees, adding that the workshop is, indeed, extremely helpful.
Doma, secretary of the UST Faculty of Arts and Letters and a winner of the Ustetika, the longest-running campus literary derby in the country, finds the experience enriching and enabling.
“Workshops such as this are helpful because, while they can be severe, panelists and fellows are also careful in their handling of the materials, as well as of the fellows themselves,” Kat del Rosario says. “Everyone is open to new things.”
Boyish-looking Poch Torres says “the workshop provided a solid and friendly environment conducive to learning, especially for a student like me who is very keen on learning how to improve my writing.”
For Doray Lintag, a licensed nurse, the workshop was “truly inspiring.”
Crizel Sicat, niece of Tagalog writer Rogelio Sicat, who had once turned her back on writing, says she has found herself falling in love with the craft again.
“I thank all my co-fellows and the panelists for helping me return to it. I will take all I have learned from this experience in my journey,” she says.
Jonathan Geronimo likens the workshop to experiencing videoke for the first time: “Nerve-wracking but worth it in the end, and I’ve always wanted to be either a writer or a videoke king.”
“This workshop is proof of one thing: that the spirit of creative writing is, indeed, alive in the university,” says Valencia.
Rommel Boquiren, a high-school teacher taking up a master’s in Creative Writing at the UST Graduate School, agrees: “This workshop inspired me to further improve my craft. The informality of it allowed for more freedom to express oneself, free from the normal restrictions of a classroom setting.”
Imelda de Castro sees the experience as revitalizing: “It allowed me a fresh perspective when it comes to the crafting of literature. The insights I gleaned from this experience are invaluable and would translate beautifully into the classroom setting. I’m glad to have been a part of this workshop.”
UST has always been a thriving writing community whose members have brought honor and distinction in the literary arts to the university on both national and international stages.
With the reestablishment of the UST Center for Creative Writing and Literary Studies, and its major programs, such as this Summer Creative Writing Workshop and the literary journal Tomas—it is only a matter of time for the Pontifical University to enjoy a literary renaissance of sorts, becoming once more a vibrant literary hub.