A Profile of The Lamiraw Workshop

by Harold L. Mercurio

The Lamiraw Creative Writing Workshop is an annual activity held in the month of November at Tiburcio Tancinco Memorial Institute of Science and Technology (TTMIST) under the auspices of the Arts, Social and Cultural Affairs (ASCA) Office of TTMIST and the Research, Extension and External Affairs (REEA) Office of TTMIST in Calbayog City , Samar .

This workshop is jointly funded by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the TTMIST. The founding of the Lamiraw Literary Arts Organization, an arts discipline at TTMIST, on August 24, 2004 gave way to the conception of said workshop by its convenor Mr. Phil Harold L. Mercurio, a faculty member of the Institute who is a product of the UP Visayas Creative Writing Program (UP VISWRITE) in Tacloban City .

Instrumental in the creation of this Samar-based workshop is Prof. Merlie Alunan, the director of the UP VISWRITE and the NCCA Regional Coordinator for Eastern Visayas in the Committee for Literary Arts (CAL) from 2004-2007. Her full support and care giving to this workshop made an open clearing for the growth of Waray literature in Samar , and the whole region, in general. It was on February 25, 2004 when the 1 st Lamiraw Creative Writing Workshop was launched in consonance with the National Arts Month. From then onwards, it was agreed upon by the Lamiraw Executive Committee to hold the said workshop in the month of November during the semester break to allow young writers in the academe to participate in said workshop.

Dr. Aida L. Tobes, former VP for Academic Affairs of TTMIST in 2004-2005, and Dr. Socorro O. Bohol, college president in 2006 to date, are the workshop directors who handled the said activity during their watch. Among those who served as Lamiraw EXECOM members and coordinators are Dr. Remedios T. Tomnob, VP for REEA; Dr. Gabriela T. Sabenicio, coordinator of ASCA; Dr. Judith Reyes, former coordinator of the TTMIST student publication; Dr. Lorna O. De Veyra, former dean of the Student Affairs and Related Services (SARS); and Mr. Phil Harold L. Mercurio, Lamiraw Adviser.

The panellists that have been part of the Lamiraw Workshop since 2004 are Dr. David, Genotiva of Eastern Visayas State University (EVSU); Dr. Victor Sugbo and Prof. Merlie Alunan of UP Tacloban College; Prof. Corazon Almerino of Cebu Normal University (CNU); Mr. Michael Obenieta, former editor of Sun Star Cebu; Mr. Temistokles Adlawan and Mr. Ernesto Lariosa, senior members of the Bathalad Writers Organization in Cebu City; Mr. Dante Rosales of Ibabao Arts Council of Calbayog; Mr. Votaire Oyzon of Leyte Normal University (LNU); Mr. Jethol Paanod of Naval Institute of Technology (NIT); and Ms. Janis Salvacion of Eastern Visayas State University (EVSU). And this year, Dr. Leoncio Deriada, multi-awarded writer and teacher, is invited to sit as a panel member of said workshop.

The target fellows of this workshop are student-writers, teachers handling literature courses, local writers and out-of-school youths (OSY). Works accepted as entries in the selection process are written in Waray, Cebuano, Abaknon and English. To qualify as fellow, aspirants need to submit 3 poems, 1 short story, 2 essays, 1 one-act play, or any reasonable combination of the above mentioned genres.

At present, the Lamiraw Writers of TTMIST are looking forward to come up with a publication which is a collection of works generated in its five years of existence. And the assumption into office this year of Dr. Victor N. Sugbo, NCCA Regional Coordinator for the Literary Arts, sees more projects to come for the cultivation and strengthening of Waray literature and the continuity of the Lamiraw Workshop in the coming years.

By Jose Jason L. Chancoco

" Poetry is writing about something happening somewhere ?"

We almost wanted to turn this popular query-sounding adage by J. Neil Garcia into a ring tone. It was repeated too often (thanks to poet/actor Vic Nierva) that it was starting to get into our system. From time to time one of us would blurt it out, almost subconsciously, as if the insight is a wave of mobile phone frequency arresting our minds. Then it would come out, well, like a ring tone.

On call were some of the most prolific and assertive Bikol writers on the occasion of the 3 rd Juliana Arejola Fajardo Workshop for Bikol Writing on May 18-20. Convened by poet Carlo A. Arejola and the Arejola Foundation for Social Responsibility, it was co-sponsored by civic groups Rotary Club of Isarog and Pili: Banwaan Ko, Padangat Ko . Literary bloodletting was to ensue at the Training Center of Camarines Sur State Agricultural College right there in Pili under the directorship of Jose Jason L. Chancoco with Jocelyn Bisuña and Jaime Jesus Borlagdan as lead panelists. Bikol writers Kristian Cordero and Estelito Jacob also came for a visit and sat as guest panelists.

The writing fellows whose works in Bikol, Filipino and English were put under careful scrutiny were Joy B. Bagasala and Maricris F. Bongalos of Pili, Camarines Sur; Helga Andrea R. Casillan, Nona Mikhaila R. Casillan, Ma. Rizza Icaranom, Edgar Ramores and Victor Dennis T. Nierva of Naga City; Noel B. Dorente of Tabaco, Albay; and Nestor Alagbate of Daet, Camarines Norte.

A new feature for this year's write shop was the presence of teacher-participants designed to familiarize teachers of literature with the psychology of the creative writing process and the psychiatry of the workshop scenario. Coming from various highschools and colleges across the province, they were: Cora A. Arejola, Salvacion C. Aballa, Emerlina S. Arnante, Ma. Shiela Fortuno, Janet B. Fabay, Ma. Janina B. Catimbang, Alice Abergos, Rita N. Talay, Mylene P. Ababa, Amelia T. Ambion, Dr. Marietta A. Tataro, Fritz T. Nuyles, Nelly C. Aguilar, and Rene Eugenia B. Mercado. They were all active during the workshop/lecture sessions with some even planning to come back next year as writing fellows.

Also sharing their observations and readings were writer-participants Marissa R. Casillan, Ramon Olaño Jr., Michelle Bayos and Vanessa Mae F. Joven.

Truly, regional creative writing workshops locate the geography of language and aesthetics. It is here where owners of a certain literary tradition try to assess and re-examine themselves in relation with contemporary writing. In our case, it was for our very own Bikol literature. For who will have a more genuine concern for the many Bikol languages than the Bikol writers themselves?

Need for More Research

It is all about something that is Bikol and someplace that is Bikol. This was reasserted by the 'Grandma' of Bikol literature, UP Professor Emeritus Ma. Lilia F. Realubit, PhD in her keynote speech. Recovering from thyroid cancer, she could not join us but sent her niece, Eunice Alanis of Mom's Radio FM to read the message in her stead. She urged us to 'know the core and the essence of things'. Sometimes things need further examining for they are not always what they seem. There are various cultural forces-hybridities in many artistic articulations. The Ibalong is not spared from this, and for Tia Lil, this means many years more of rigorous research.

'Bikol must resurface', she says.

So far so good and it is going for the better. There are new publications supportive of Bikol writing such as the Bikol Reporter, Bicol Mail, Bangraw, Burak, Ani, Hingowa, The Pillars, Pegasus, T-Bloc, Dalityapi Unpoemed, A Critical Survey of Philippine Literature, Muse Apprentice Guild, E-Manila, Panitikan.Com.Ph and not to mention Salugsog sa Sulog publisher OragonRepublic.Com. The Premio Tomas para sa Literaturang Bikolnon is now on its third year with Irigueños bringing home gold medallions. The current list of grandprize winners includes Kristian Cordero, Rizaldy Manrique, Jose Jason Chancoco, Francisco Peñones and Sonny Sendon. The academe has expressed support and just recently, the University of Northeastern Philippines and the Ateneo de Naga University hosted a lecture on the Premio by De La Salle University professor and Bikol scholar Dr. Paz Verdades Santos. She focused on the 'Orag' of Cordero and the 'Juan Osong' dexterity of Chancoco.

Poetics and Performance Poetry

For their turn during the workshop, HighChair founder Allan Popa and Bikol Reporter columnist Francisco Peñones lectured on poetics and performance poetry respectively. Popa muses, " Sa tula, para mahuli mo ang totoo, kailangan mong magsinungaling ." For him poetry is an interrogation of silence, of the self, and an eternal revolt against the blank page. It is an attempt on permanence and yet always in the state of transit and becoming. For him too much certainty in poetry should be avoided for this art is just a means for both poet and reader to arrive at an understanding of certain things. And one must be wary of the gravity of artistry in the subtlety of ordinary experience. And he points to one's neighborhood and locality as primary source for materials in poetry.

Critics say that Bikol literary culture is ever-present. Only that it comes in the form of oral tradition still evident among rural folks. It is also dynamic and appropriates other cultural forces pressing against it. The native genius sometimes is never published. One source of discussion during the workshop was Noel Dorente's "Tigsikalampunay" and its attempt to show modifications on the form of the oral tigsik while retaining its didactic tendency. While its title reminds us of some of Vim Nadera's poems, it is in a way new as compared with the oral tigsik delivered without a title except for the common "tigsikan". But it has to have something to do 'tigsik' on, like a person or an object-or even a concept. And true, there are non-didactic samples of this poetic form but there are also didactic ones as oral tradition has that pragmatic value. As in the Haliya and its function in driving away the moon-eating Bakunawa.

Also, Nestor Alagbate's 'Sabi ni Pay: Sarong Bulan na Osipon' expertly simulates the tradition of spontaneous story-telling with the same didactic tendency further enhanced by an ariwaga (Bikol two-liner proverb with syllabication and rhyme) at the end of each narrative. Since Alagbate himself admitted that some parts of his piece are indeed derived from existing oral tradition, we suggested that he separates the product of his own creativity from what he simply recorded.

Tree Planting and Solidarity

As they say, show not tell. And so Frank Peñones, the 'Mr. Suave' of Bikol literature demonstrated the difference between performance art and performance poetry during the Solidarity Night. Needless to say, others soon followed, writing fellows and friends performing Nestor Alagbate's osipon ; the Salakab Theater group doing excerpts of the Vagina Monologues; actress Aira Bisuña crooning 'Go not gently into that good night!', Luther Matel Jorqia doing stand-up comedy, Noel Dorente surprising everyone with a cappella renditions of his original songs, Issa Casillan exclaiming 'Minapoon sa palibot an paglalang!'-All this with a little help from rounds of tuba .

Another feature for the writers' night this year was the 'Come (looking, sounding) as Your Favorite Filipino Writer and Get a Shot at Fame'. That is why Nierva's imitation of J. Neil Garcia, should come as no surprise. Heck, he could even do Butch Dalisay's 'When I came home from Michigan.' and 'Hey folks!' with voice modulation and all. Jo Bisuña appeared as the ever-radiant Joi Barrios, Luther as stethoscope toting and storytelling physician Dr. Luis Gatmaitan, and Carlo as master poet Ricky de Ungria. And this writer was sort of contemplating of doing a Rio Alma, reading one of his Bulawan editorials that goes, "Bakit daw ako "Nativist"?" But then again, the tuba , it made me drowsier than expected.

Good thing we woke up early for the Pili tree-planting activity around CSSAC campus the next day. This activity is almost the main point why we hold this workshop. In fact, it is so important that those who cannot attend it need not apply. This year, the seedlings were in the name and honor of Rudy Alano, Janetlyn Go-Alano, Christine Bellen, Frank Peñones, Hon. Gabby Bordado, Carlos Briones, Fr. James O' Brien, S.J., Fr. Carlos Abesamis, S.J., Jazmin Llana, Gode Calleja, Luis Cabalquinto, Prof. Evelyn Soriano, Prof. Ma. Lilia F. Realubit, PhD., Tito Valiente, Jun Balde, Danilo DM. Savilla, Leonardo D. Sureta, Jose Pardalis, Pedro B. Francia, Manuel V. Avilla, Jr., Henry A. Mabesa, Alberto M. Cabrera, Cecilio L. Obias, Sec. Damian F. Bresnan, and Rotary of Isarog President Armin B. Guinto.

Naga City, June 2, 2006

The First Iligan National Writers Workshop – Pioneering Literary Development in Mindanao
by Cirilo F. Bautista

WE were a participant in the successful Iligan National Writers Workshop held the first week of May 1994. It was a historical event, to say the least, since, for the first time, writers from south of the country acquired the long-needed voice and forum for their creative consciousness. Conceived as a national workshop where the best poets, fictionist, and dramatists can interact and discuss their works, credit for its realization must be given to the officers, teachers, and staff of Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology, specifically Vice Chancellor Jimmy Y. Balacuit of the Office of Research and Extension; Dr. Jaime An Lim, Workshop Director; Christine Godinez-Ortega, Workshop Co-Director; Dr. Anthony Tan, Resident Panelist; Ralph Semino Galan, Chair of the Secretariat; and Ferdie Areola, Chair of the Accommodations Committee. Our humble contribution was suggesting to Tony and Jaime, when they visited us in the Panorama office the other September, the need for Iligan writers to concretize such a workshop. We never thought that they would do so in such a short time.

The workshop was held also in conjunction with a Literature Teachers Conference, in the belief that the thirty or so mentors, mostly from Visayas and Mindanao, could learn from the discussions in the workshop. And they did so, on their own admittance at the end of the week, especially concerning matters of teaching methodologies, materials, and philosophy. The panelists gave them particular lectures on these areas and their involvement in the workshop enabled us to consider literature from both the creative and the educationist points of view. The output of such an encounter will undeniably be of much help to future classroom activities.

Discussions and criticisms during the workshop were enlivened by diverse perspectives and experiences coming from the fellows. Luzon was represented by J. Neil Garcia, Camilo Villanueva, Jr., Charlson Ong, and Jim Pascual San Agustin; Visayas by Felino Garcia, Jr., Ma. Milagros Geremia, and Dino Enriquez V. Deriada; and Mindanao by Eduardo P. Ortega, Eulogia Salalima, Nancy Allen, Maribel T. Ora, Man V. Gervacio, and Saturnina S. Rodil. The level of discourse was generally high, with theoretical frameworks from New Criticism, Post-colonialism, Pragmatism, Reconstruction and Ethical Criticism being brought in to bear light on the literary works under consideration by panelists Leoncio Deriada, Steven Patrick Fernandez, Anthony Tan, Jaime An Lim, Christine Godinez-Ortega, and Cirilo F. Bautista (whose wife, Rosemarie, was conceded as an unofficial special panelist). Some of the poems were so exceptional that we have asked their author’s permission to have them published in future issues of Panorama.

The formal opening ceremonies of the workshop took place on May 2 at Café Hermoso. The Church, the city administration, and the academe were represented. The Most Rev. Fernando Capalla, Bishop of Iligan diocese, gave the invocation; Mayor Alejo Yañez sent a proxy, Kagawad Pedro Generalao, to read his welcome speech; MSU President Emily M. Marohombsar articulated the importance of writers in national development, of literature to teachers, and culture as a component of the national soul. She cited her own initiatives in supporting the arts as head of the biggest academic community in the South. “Writers are an endangered species,” she said, but they “draw out the richness of life in their works,” providing teachers and readers with “a bridge to various worlds.” We found her speech a blend of intellectualism and common sense, based on a correct understanding of the role of the humanities in social progress. She invited us to visit the Marawi campus – “a most beautiful place,” she said – but we doubted if we could, given our tight schedule. Perhaps next year, we told her, if the workshop organizers could include a session outside Lanao del Norte.

Then the panelists and fellows were introduced to the guests, after which Dr. Bienvenido Lumbera, 1993 Magsaysay Awardee for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts, delivered the keynote speech. Focusing on the theme of the writer and the institutions of learning, Lumbera averred that “literature today is largely a product of the academe,” that in fact one could not think of writing in the country apart from the schools. This, of course, is true, especially in the case of our literature in English which was spawned by the American educational system. Its language and awareness took roots and blossomed in the classrooms. Now, because of education’s empowering values, even our literatures in other languages have academic configurations. Yearly, upon graduation, writers from the campuses join the national literary streams.

Because of this, Lumbera suggested a re-appraisal of our historical heritage vis-à-vis the literary craft. “To what extent must the Philippine writers allow themselves to be constricted” by western norms acquired in college? He asserted that the search for identity is no longer the concern of the writers, but creative freedom – “to break the confines that limit creativity, to interrogate the past, as it were.” This is a form of subversion, he said, for the sake of liberating the literary mind so that it could soar to new heights and expand its magnitude. Though academic standards have a strong historicity, they can be reshaped to answer the imperatives of the present, thus making the writers attuned to the vibrations of contemporaneity. Lumbera advocated the use of new modes of interpreting social realities to widen literary boundaries, for it is an important tool to creative progress.

Vice Chancellor Balacuit assured us that the Iligan National Writers Workshop will continue annually as long as he is in office – “the funding of next year’s workshop is already budgeted,” he told us. He is very supportive of arts and culture, for a head of a technological university, because he is committed to creating humanistic men and women of science. We admire his commitment and look forward to seeing him and all our writer-friends in Iligan in April this year.

February 1995

The University of the Philippines National Writers Workshop

The UP National Writers Workshop was first held at the COMELEC Compound and the UP College Baguio from 12 to 24 July 1965. It was a pilot project proposed by the late UP Pres. Carlos P. Romulo, and administered by the Department of English whose Chairman was Dr. Dionisio A. Rola.

From the UP ICW records, which was received from Rene O. Villanueva and Herminio S. Beltran Jr., sometime during the first Writers’ Workshop sponsored by the then CWC in 1980, the following were the Fellows: Jorge Arago, Leopoldo Cacnio, José Nadal Carreon, Julian Dacanay Jr. (+), Romeo Dizon, Rita Gadi, Erwin Gomez, Edilberto Guerrero, José Lacaba, Marra PL. Lanot, Clemencia Nativida, Ong Nai-bon, Emmanuel Osorio, Lourdes Pangilinan, John Panoy, Armando Ravanzo, Georgina Reyes, Virgilio Reyes Jr., Rosemarie Romero, Maximiano Tuason, Wilfredo Pascua Sanchez, Alma de Jesus Tayo & Manuel Yu.*

The records, with minimal errors, also included the Fellows, the Visiting Writers and the venues of the six other Workshops under the aegis of the English Department: 1967, 1969, 1971, 1974, 1976 & 1978. The turnover of records was not only a happy coincidence, but also a stroke of luck. Under the directorship of the late Francisco Arcellana, the CWC tried to reconstruct the other pertinent files of the Workshop, but, due to the passage of time, the Department could not furnish any.

Lasting 13 days, the Workshop consisted of lectures, discussions, criticisms of manuscripts, and individual conferences between the Fellows and the Teaching Staff. The succeeding Workshops practically followed the same format.

George Bluestone of Washington University and author of The Private World of Cully Powers served as the Writer-in-Residence. Mrs. Natalie Bluestone also delivered a lecture on Jean-Paul Sartre.

Prof. Francisco Arcellana was the Workshop Director. The Teaching Staff was composed of Arcellana, Petronilo Bn. Daroy, Romy V. Diaz, NVM Gonzalez & Alejandrino G. Hufana, Department of English Ricaredo D. Demetillo & Virginia R. Moreno, Department of Humanities; Wilfrido Ma. O Guerrero, Department of Speech & Drama; & Dominador I. Ilio, College of Engineering. Prof. Emerenciana Yuvienco-Arcellana was the official chaperone. The Workshop Fellows were provided board, lodging & transportation from Manila and back.

The Workshop ended on 24 July with the Closing Ceremonies at the UP College in Baguio Auditorium. Poet and translator John Ciardi, Poetry Editor of the Saturday Review, delivered the closing lecture. Pres. Carlos P. Romulo formally closed the Workshop with a speech entitled “The Writer’s Freedom and Integrity.”


*There is a slight problem regarding the number and composition of the Fellows. The Philippine Collegian press release on the Workshop – datelined 28 July 1965, p. 1 – listed only 19 Fellows. No mention of Messrs. Carreon, Gomez, Guerrero & Sanchez. According to Marra Lanot, Carreon & Sanchez were later accredited as Fellows for their attendance in the Workshop. The UP ICW will not revise the line-up handed down by Messrs. Villanueva & Beltran, until further notice and incontrovertible evidence is found.

read more about the workshop at LIKHAAN Online

Dumaguete National Writers Workshop

Established by the late Dr. Edilberto K. Tiempo and Dr. Edith Lopez Tiempo as the Silliman National Writers Workshop in 1962, the three-week live-in summer workshop for Philippine writers (writing in and from English, as well as in any Philippine regional languages) aims to provide opportunities for interaction between a panel of established writers and critics, and the selected writing fellows.

The bases for interaction are the manuscripts in any of the literary genres submitted by the writing fellows for reading and analysis. The panel of discussion is composed of Dr. Edith L. Tiempo, the director of the program, critics, and creative writers of the Creative Writing Foundation, and visiting writers and critics from other countries. Panelists have included Nick Joaquin, Gregorio Brillantes, F. Sionil Jose, Alejandro Roces, Gémino Abad, Ophelia Alcantara-Dimalanta, Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo, among other top writers in the country.

Each manuscript receives varied appraisal and interpretation from the panel, allowing the fellows deeper insight into their own performance, the range and limits of their freedom and responsibility as literary artists as well as their mastery of techniques in the craft of creative writing. Years of application of this analytical procedure have proven its efficacy in guiding young writers into self-discovery of the rigorous demands of the craft and the pleasures of the art of poetry, fiction, and drama.


Iyas Creative Writing Workshop

The Iyas Creative Writing Workshop is held every summer in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental. It was first conducted in 2001 as a module in that year's Negros Summer Workshops in Multimedia. Since then, it has grown into an independent workshop managed by the University of St. La Salle (USLS) in cooperation with the Bienvenido N. Santos Creative Writing Center and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.

Each year, the workshop awards fifteen fellowships to writers from all over the country in the genres of fiction, poetry, and drama, and the languages English, Filipino, Cebuano, and Hiligaynon.

Apart from the critiquing sessions, the workshop activities include a lecture from one of the panelists, a cultural tour of historic sites and landmarks in Negros Occidental, and individual consultation time between fellows and panelists. The workshop is conducted in Balay Kalinungan Retreat House, within the USLS campus.

Poet and novelist Cirilo F. Bautista serves as Workshop Director. The teaching staff includes writers like Marjorie Evasco, Elsa Martinez Coscolluela, Leoncio P. Deriada, Erlinda Alburo, and Vicente Garcia Groyon.

Applications for fellowships are accepted beginning January each year, and the roster of fellows is announced in March.


Also known as the Annual Writers Workshop of Cebu, it was established in 1984 by the Cebuano Studies Center of the University of San Carlos (USC), Cebu City, in honor of the poet-journalist-teacher Cornelio F. Faigao (1908-1959), whose heirs provided seed money for the project.

Held annually, usually for three days in May or October at the Talamban Retreat House of the USC Talamban Campus in Cebu City, it is the only regular English-Cebuano workshop in the country and has expanded to include fellows from the rest of the Visayas and Mindanao. The workshop is free, with an average of 20 participants chosen on the basis of submitted manuscripts. From 1984 to 1990, 106 have participated as fellows, resource persons, or panelists.

The resident panelists are Resil B. Mojares, Simeon Dumdum Jr., and Vicente Bandillo. Workshop coordinator is Erlinda Alburo. Those who have served as panelists include Gémino H. Abad, Rene Estella Amper, Thelma Arambulo, Cesar Ruiz Aquino, Leoncio P. Deriada, Linda Kalayaan Faigao, Teresita Gimenez Maceda, Lina Espina-Moore, Ricardo Patalinjug, Marjorie Evasco, Godofredo Roperos, Alfrredo Navarro Salanga, Anthony Tan, and Merlie Alunan-Wenceslao.

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