“April is the cruelest month,” declared the poet T.S. Eliot, “breeding/ Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing/ Memory and desire, stirring/ Dull roots with spring rain.”
April is also the month the young revolutionary hero Emilio Jacinto died, National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario reminded the audience of this at a recent press conference at the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) in Intramuros, Manila, ushering in April as the National Literature Month (Buwan ng Panitikan ng Pilipinas).
“Jacinto was the brains of the Katipunan,” Almario, the new NCCA chair, said. “He was very young, but mature in government and political science.”
And he was also a good writer, contributing substantially to the revolutionary literature of the Katipunan.
The monthlong literary activities are led by the NCCA, Komisyon sa Wikang Pilipino (KWF) and National Book Development Board (NBDB). Theme is Banyuhay (Bagong Anyo ng Buhay), a word first coined by songwriter-folk singer Heber Bartolome, and means “metamorphosis.”
National Literature Month, aimed at highlighting “the transformative power of literature,” will kick off with the celebration of Balagtas (Francisco Baltazar) Day, the 229th birth anniversary of the post who wrote the immortal “Florante at Laura.” This will be held in Orani, Bataan, on April 2.
Almario said the theme of metamorphosis or transformation was intended to stimulate the discovery of new forms in literature, while helping in the development of regional languages. Joining him in the press launch were Aiza Seguerra, the singer-actress, an NCCA Ambassador for National Literature Month; and Anna Katarina Rodriguez of NBDB.
“I am a fan of books,” Seguerra said. “We should use these to gain more readers, like the out-of-school youth. They need to start somewhere and these should be in Tagalog, so they can understand it. I’d like to encourage everyone, and give them options. We should promote classes with alternative texts.”
The festival will run from April 1-29.
National Literature Month will open with the celebration of Francisco “Balagtas” Baltazar Day or Araw ni Francisco “Balagtas” Baltazar on April 2.
The Pambansang Kampong Balagtas 2017, a literary conference, will gather 100 student-writers from all over the Philippines. It will be held March 31 to April 2, at the Orion Elementary School in Orion, Bataan.
Outstanding writers will be honored on April 2 with the conferment of the Gawad Dangal ni Balagtas and Talaang Ginto: Makata ng Taon. Previous recipients of Dangal are Lamberto Antonio (2013), Teodoro “Teo” Antonio (2014), Rogelio Mangahas (2015), and Jose Maria “Pete” Lacaba (2016).
NBDB will hold the Pinoy Book Stop Tour, highlighting libraries and independent and campus-based bookstores in Metro Manila on April 7 and 8. National Book Award winners will be featured through book talks, poetry readings and music performances.
Other NLM activities include literary caravans, workshops, conferences, language and literary forums, spoken word poetry, performances, book launches, lectures, singing competitions, Brushes with Words and Chords at University of Santo Tomas, and Umpil National Congress of Writers on April 29.
The venues will include Metro Manila, Bataan, Laguna, Samar and Cagayan de Oro.