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I hope this will be a useful backgrounder for teachers and students of creative writing in Region VIII.

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CREATIVE WRITING IN EASTERN VISAYAS 1982-2018

THE WARAY DIALECTS. There are four major dialectal distinctions in the Waray language. There is the
primary distinction between the Leytenhon and the Samarnon Waray. Despite differences in lexis
and intonation, Warays everywhere have no trouble communicating with one another. The
Taclobanon, the Calbayognon, the Estehanon and the Nortehanon may speak to each other, each in
his/her own lingua, and no one blinks. However, there are hardly any crossovers of vocabulary and
intonation among the varietals in the linguistic exchange. We noted an unfortunate tendency to
represent Waray literature with works produced in Leyte in the early anthologies of Waray writing.
There was a fairly accessible trove of periodicals published between 1898 to the ‘60s which might be
the reason for this.

ORAL TRADITION. The earliest description of Waray Literature goes back to the Jesuit chronicler, Fray
Ignacio Francisco de Alzina. This is contained in his nine-volume Historia de las Islas e Indios de
Bisayas" (1668). The Franciscan priest, Cantius J. Kobak, O. P. and Lucio Gutierrez, O. P. annotated
Alzina’s works and translated them into English. Alzina noted the vigorous oral tradition among the
Bisaya, recording a number of forms. The ambahan, the bical, the balac, the siday, the anogon, and
the awit were among the forms he named. He mentions only two narrative forms: the sareta, or
susumaton, and the posong. He gives many samples of stories but he did not set down into writing
whole narratives in the Visayan dialect, because the non-Bisayan readers of his time would not have
found them of value.

One of the earliest scholars of Waray literature, Marilou Vilches, got her information about
early Waray literature from Alzina's account. Referring to written literature, Vilches writes, “Waray
poetry took shape in the 17th Century when the people began to use the Romanized alphabet fairly
well.” She affirms that the Waray language community did have a well-developed oral literature,
generally referred to as luwa, "a spontaneous verse or oral discourse, [but] usually in verse." Poetry
served a variety of social functions, such as for entertainment, rituals of courtship and marriage, to
praise or honor people, to mourn, to teach, to pass on wisdom. Of the forms recorded by Alzina, the
survivors are those embedded in social functions. The oral traditions are active to this day, enhanced
by the broadcast media and the karaoke culture which Filipinos everywhere seem to have embraced
with great enthusiasm. To this day, print and publication remain elusive in Samar and Leyte. Radio
and the karaoke, and perhaps even the Internet, serve the literary impulse.

ENTRY INTO PRINT 1860-1970. Pride of race and identity surged among the Warays at the end of
Spanish sovereignty in the islands. The liberal atmosphere spurred the appearance of periodicals
which became the vehicles for publication of early written Waray poetry. Among these periodicals
are: An Kaadlawan, reputedly the first, founded by Iluminado Lucente (1906), La Voz de Leyte (1907),
An Makabugwas, Noli Me Tangere, Pahayagan Sine nga Akademya san Binisaya sa Samar ug sa
Sidlangan san Leyte (1925), Eco de Samar y Leyte (1911-1940), An Tingog san Kabisay'an (1927), An
Lantawan (1928-1942), Leyte Shimbun (1942), The Courier (1959).
Sanghiran san Binisaya was founded in 1909 with the leadership of Norberto Romualdez, Sr. The
Sanghiran mission was to "cultivate, refine, and enrich the dialect spoken in Samar and Oriental
Leyte.” Its members included Jaime de Veyra, Iluminado Lucente, Juan Ricacho, Casiano Trinchera,
Francisco Enfectana, Espiridion Brillo, Francisco Alvarado and Eduardo Makabenta. Everyone of these
men was a poet. The Sanghiran also drew up the rules for the usage of the Waray language in poetry.
It adopted the dodeca-syllabic line, the quatrain, and the rhyme as norms for Waray poetry,
borrowing the form from the Spanish verse alexandrine.

Probably the first anthologist of Waray literature was Vicente I. de Veyra, one of the stalwarts of the
Sanghiran. He entitled his early work Hinugpong nga mga Siday, Garaygaday, Titiguhun, Liaw-Libang,
Diwata (1914). In 1968, Fr. Raymond Quetchenbach, SVD established the Leyte-Samar Research
Center in the Divine Word University. The Center published the bi-annual Leyte-Samar Studies
Journal. An issue of the journal was devoted to Lineyte-Samarnon Poems (1974). This was followed
by Gregorio Luangco's Kandabao, a collection of essays on Waray literature, and Waray Literature,
an anthology. The Journal lasted for twenty-four years and closed shop in 1982, four years before
DWU itself shut down after losing a bitterly contested labor conflict. Ani IV No. 1, dated March 1990,
was produced by the Cultural Center of the Philippines and edited by Charo Nabong-Cabardo, Fra
Paolo Maria Diosdado (Casurao) and A. O. Llaneta. Jaime Biron Polo came out with his Panulaan at
Dulaang Lineyte-Samarnon (1994) published by Ateneo de Manila University Press. Polo's intention
was to bring Waray literature into the mainstream of national literature by translating them into
Filipino. Victor N. Sugbo's Tinipigan (1995) came out a year after Polo’s, showcasing the best of
Waray writing from the Sanghiran poets up to the 1990s. The collection is thin because, according to
him, his “field work in preparation for the book turned up little poetry and much ethnographic
memoranda.” Duke Bagulaya wrote Writing History: Mode of Economic Production and 20th
Century Waray Poetry (2006), the only book-length critique ever done on Waray literature.

BACK TO ORALITY: PERFORMANCE POETRY. By the ‘60s local periodicals have all stopped coming out.
Waray writing leaned back on the reliable tradition of orality, finding its audiences in town fiestas
and local festivals and celebrations. Weddings, baptisms, funerals were all occasions for the
recitation of a siday; politicians hired poets to deliver sidays in praise of their virtues and/or to revile
their opponents. Poets offered their talents for free or for a fee. No women poets of any importance
showed up in the period between 1898 to 1970. Men wrote about women, praising them as
goddesses or inspiring muses, or vilifying them as extravagant, capricious, cold, and faithless. Male
poets portrayed themselves as long-suffering victims of the female cruelty. No woman poet ever
dared to talked back.

By the ‘80s, Agustin El O'Mora, the poet of Palo and probably the last of the Sanghiran, was
practically writing alone, without any hope of publication. By this time only English and Filipino were
allowed in the classrooms of both public and private schools. English was used for the businesses of
government and commerce. The educated found little use for Binisaya in the pursuit of their careers.
Binisaya became the language of the streets and the marketplace, without status, pride and honor
among its users. English language publications dominated the print media. Venues for publication for
writers in the mother-tongue disappeared. Keeping the mother languages out of academe resulted in
the marginalization and degradation of the cultures that they embodied. Even the native speakers
learned to look down on their own language. Those with literary talent turned to English or Filipino
as their creative medium. The situation prompted the National Artist Bienvenido Lumbera to declare
in the early 1990s that Visayan literatures, including Waray literature, were dead.

REVIVAL: VISWRITE. Four faculty members of the Arts and Sciences Program began the UP Tacloban
College creative writing workshop in 1983: Victor N. Sugbo, William Remollo, David A. Genotiva, and
Merlie M. Alunan. The 1983 workshop gathered poets from the grassroots whose literary practice
was based on the poorly-understood stylistics of the Sanghiran. Despite their limitations they
continued holding workshops. Deriada and Alunan became associate faculty of the UP Institute of
Creative Writing (UP ICW). Their involvement in the UP Diliman workshops obliged the autonomous
university to support the fledgling workshops in its own campuses. A succession of chancellors, from
Dr. Arsenio Camacho in 1993-98, Dr. Ida Siason (1998-2005), and Dr. Glenn Aguilar (2005-2008)
granted funds to make the workshops happen annually.

The UPTC Visayas Writing Workshop or VisWrite was established in 1997 following a grant from UP
President Emil Javier. VisWrite survived for more than ten years, augmenting its original fund from
other sources, including the UPV Office of the Chancellor and the NCCA. In 2004, VisWrite
collaborated with the TTMIST (Tiburcio Tancinco Memorial Institute of Science and Technology, now
the Northwestern Samar State University or the NorWeSSU) in Calbayog City in developing the
Lamiraw Creative Writing Workshop for Samar. Thus creative writing workshops have been going on
in Samar and Leyte from 1983 to the present. Lamiraw also counts writers from Luzon, Visayas, and
Mindanao among its Fellows. VisWrite, the "mother" workshop held its last gathering on December
2008. Lamiraw carried on the work under aegis of the NorWesSSU.

BACK TO PRINT. At least six collections of poetry in Waray came out in the first twenty-five years
after the first workshop in 1983: Voltaire Oyzon, An Maupay ha mga Waray ug Iba nga mga Siday,
NCCA (2008); Victor N. Sugbo, Inintokan, UP Press (2008); Harold L. Mercurio, Ayaw Pagpudla an
Tuog ug Iba pa nga mga Siday, Neil Lopido, Ha Salog ug Iba pa nga mga Siday, and Janis Claire
Salvacion, Siso Sakradang ug Iba nga mga Siday ha Taguangkan, all published by UBOD-AILAP, 2010;
Victor N. Sugbo, Taburos han Dagat, UP Press (2014); Jerry Gracio, Waray Hiunong ha Gugma, AdNU
Press, 2016; Hermenigildo Sanchez came out with a compilation of the hagsi (haglipot nga siday,
‘short poem’), a form that he invented. Nemesio Baldesco published Kawit, a collection of his poetry.
Building up the spare corpus of Waray literature are the following new publications by Merlie M.
Alunan: Sa Atong Dila Anthology of Visayan Literature (UP Press, 2015); Susumaton: Oral Narratives
of Leyte (Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2015); Tinalunay Hinugpong nga Panurat nga Waray (UP
Press, 2017); An Siday han DYVL (NCCA, 2005). We may attribute this to the continuous activities of
the Workshops in the last thirty-six years.

KATIG WRITERS NETWORK. In 2003, a respectable number of writers, mostly alumni of the VisWrite
and the Lamiraw Workshops, decided to organize. This was the nucleus of KATIG or KATIG-UBAN
HAN MGA MANUNURAT HA SAMAR UG LEYTE. The organization is registered with the SEC. It has
taken charge since then, of managing the literary art scene in Region 8. As of the present, KATIG is
running the following programs: Lamiraw Creative Writing Workshop (LCWW). Under KATIG, LCWW
has become a mobile community workshop, with a different host institution each time, within Samar,
Leyte and Biliran; Chito Roño Awards for Literature (prize money comes from film director, Chito
Roño); Gawad Makabenta Award (prize money was initially donated by the Makabenta Family; Boy
Abunda Fellowship for Literature (supports the attendance of a young writer from Samar or Leyte in
the Lamiraw creative writing workshops or in any creative writing workshop held elsewhere;
publications (Katig is set to publish the following titles: Pinili: Fifteen Years of Lamiraw; Garab; Dalan
Tipauli; Sasaro.

HONORS AND RECOGNITION: Waray Literature has its own share of distinction: GAWAD PLARIDEL
AWARD 2016 for An Mga Siday han DYVL, a recognition for Mass Media, the award was given to the
Radio Program, Poplunganon for Outstanding Public Service. The book, An Mga Siday han DYVL, was
cited as concrete proof of the importance of the radio program to the cultural development of
Region 8; UMPIL GAWAD ALAGAD NI BALAGTAS for NEMESIO BALDESCO and VICTOR N. SUGBO.
Apart from their own outstanding performances as artists, recognition for these poets are an
offshoot of their engagement in the literary development of Region 8.

DEVELOPMENT GOALS. More publication and increased readership. Sustain the growth and
development achieved over the last thirty years by increasing readership and improving the quality
of literature being produced; retrieval and scholarship of the Waray literary heritage, including
materials in the oral tradition, to build up the body of Waray literature; Publication of the works of
known Waray writers such as Lucente, Makabenta and Rebadulla; Training teachers how to teach
mother-tongue literature; training teachers how to teach creative writing; translation of works in
other languages into Waray to increase the quality and quantity of available reading materials in the
language.

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