Bicol: A treasure trove of literary talents

The Bicol Region has a long history of publication and writing even in Bikol language. Even though the Spaniards burned proofs of Bikolano writing, the region was still able to preserve some of the oldest published materials including the two literary magazines “Sanghiran nin Bikol” and “Bikolnon” which dates back as early as 1880. This is courtesy of the Imprenta de Nuestra Senora de Penafrancia in Nueva Caceres established by Mariano Perfecto.

Since the establishment of the publishing company to 1940, the region reached the “Golden Age of Bikol Literature” according to Dr. Lilia Realubit, one of the 11 Filipino scientists awarded by the National Research Council of the Philippine on March 15, 2003 for her research on the Philippine culture. Poetry flourished along with folk plays — the comedia y zarzuela. Bikol literature flourished even after the World War, but magazines ceased publications and publishers died. Literary activity gained momentum after the Martial Law with the establishment of the Kabulig Bikol in 1993 as a number of Bicolano writer garner prizes in local and national contests. English, though, was and is the primary medium.

Mariano Perfecto, the 5th governor of Ambos Camarines and a prolific writer.

Below are some of the literary talents Bicolanos should be proud of.

  • Abdon Balde – a fiction writer from Oas, Albay and a a recipient of the National Book Award, and the Jaime Laya Best Book for fiction
  • Adrian Remodo – an essayist and the 2008 first prize winner of the Salita ng Taon of the Filipinas Institute of Translation
  • Alvin Yapan — A multi-awarded fictionist and film writer whose works were recognized by the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature (1997, 2002, 2003), and NCCA Writer’s Prize (2005), National Book Award (2006), the Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival, the Cairo International Film Festival (2009), 28th Festival de Cine de Bogota (2011), and the Gawad Urian (2012).
  • Angela Manalang Gloria — a poet and a literary editor who authored  “Revolt from Hymen” a poem protesting against marital rape, and the book “Poems” which was an entry to the Commonwealth Literary Awards. Gloria was born in Guagua, Pampanga but Bicol and settled in Tabaco, Albay.
  • Bienvenido N. Santos — Filipino-American writer who was exiled during the Martial Law for his writings. Though born and raised in Tondo, he moved to Daraga in Albay and served as president of Legazpi College and held several administrative posts at the University of Nueva Caceres. His numerous published works include novels, short story collections, poetry and non-fiction.
  • Carlo Arejola — an award-winning poet, storyteller for children, and playwright from Pili, Camarines Sur. His published poetry collection is entitled “Wala Akong Bitbit Na Sawiang Puso Tuwing Naglalakbay”.
  • Estelito Jacob — one of the 40 authors published by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts for their UBOD Writers Series project. His chapbook is a collection of poetry in Bikol entitled Mga Nirukitdukit; a recepient of Special Achievement Award in Creative Writing conferred by the University of Nueva Caceres, and a recipient of various awards for his literary works.
  • Frank V. Peñones, Jr. — a multi-awarded literary artist popular for his “Ragang Rinaranga” (2006), Sinaraysay: Halo-Halong Blog nin Buhay (2011) and “P.I. and Cancion nin Tawong Lipod“. Peñones is also an actor.
  • Godehardo “Gode” Calleja — a microbiologist, a writer and a publisher. He is a recipient of the Premio Tomas Arejola para sa Lietraturang Bikolnon and is known for his works “Burak” and “Masirang na Bitoon kan Kabikolan”. Other published works include “Science in the Boondocks: and Other Essays on Science and Society” (1987), “Clash by night / A play in two acts” (1986), and “Had we but world enough and time: Toward an ideology for ecology” (1974)
  • Honesto “Jun” Pesimo, Jr. — a teacher, writer, editor and one of the founding members )He is a founding member of Kabulig-Bikol. His notable work includes “Bagyo sa Oktubre” (2009). He is also one of the editors of Bangraw kan Arte, Literatura asin Kultura.
  • Jaime Jesus Borlagdan — a poet, song-writer, graphic artist and musician. He has published a book of Tagalog poems “Maynila: Libro ng Pobya” (1999), which is now considered by his young followers as an important and influential collection. His recent works in the Bikol language can be accessed in his site, Suralista.
  • Jason Chancoco — a multi-awarded contemporary writer in Bikol, Iriganon, Filipino and English languages. His works can be accessed in his site, Hagbayon: A Bicol-based Literary Blog.
  • Kristian S. Cordero — a poet, fictionist, translator, filmmaker and a recipient of various awards including the Madrigal-Gonzales Best First Book Award, the Philippine National Book Awards, the Gintong Aklat Awards and the Southeast Asian Writers’ Award. Cordero is known for Mga “Tulang Tulala” (2004), “Santigwar: Mga Rawitsawit sa Bikol asin Filipino” (2006), and “Pusuanon: Mga Bersong Bikol” (2008) all written in the vernacular.
  • Luis Cabalquinto — a New York-based writer from Magarao Magarao town in Camarines Sur and whose poem “Hometown” appears in US college literature and textbooks.Carlos Aureus
  • Luis Dato — a poet, writer, educator and politician from Baao, Camarines Sur. Among his publications are: “Manila, A Collection of Verse (1920); “My Book of Verses” (1936); and “The Land of Mai” (1976). He also served as a municipal mayor of Baao from 1941 to 1947. A more comprehensive biography of Luis Dato and anthology of his works can be found here.
  • Mariano Perfecto — the fifth governor of Ambos Camarines and considered as the Father of both Bikol and Bisayan Literature. He established the first printing press in the Bicol Region, published An Parabareta (1899–1900) — the region’s first local newspaper. He wrote is known for in and set up the first printing press in the Bikol region, the Libreria y Imprenta Mariana. He wrote a number of poems and plays, and translated a number of religious tracts, novenas, poems, short dramas and linguistic works to both Ilonggo and Bikol languages.
  • Merlinda Bobis — a poet, a writer, a dancer and a visual artist from Legazpi City. Her play Rita’s Lullaby was the winner of the 1998 Awgie for Best Radio Play and the international Prix Italia of the same year. Her collection of short stories, “White Turtle”, won the Steele Rudd Award in 2000 for the Best Collection of Australian Short Stories, and thePhilippine National Book Award in the same year. She is also a recipient of the Gintong Aklat Award for her novel Banana Heart Summer, and the 2016 Christina Stead Prize for Fiction for her book, Locust Girl: A Lovesong
  • Bernardo Miguel Aguay Jr. — a teacher, a poet, and multi-awarded writer and director. He is the recipient of the Carlos Palanca Award (2011) for “Posporo”, and the NCCA Writers Prize (2017) for his book “Balinhaya sa Baksteyds“.
  • Raffi Banzuela — a writer, journalist, broadcaster and academician. He authored the book “Albay Viejo” (2010) and co-authored with Rafael Belgica a collection of Bikol poetry “Durùngan: Mga Rawitdawit” (2003). Some of Banzuela’s poems were also published in “Tambobong” and “Sagurong”.
  • Juan Rafael Belgica, Jr. — a writer, poet and academician. he co-authored Durùngan: Mga Rawitdawit” (2003), a collection of Bikol poetry.
  • Ricky Lee — a screenwriter, journalist, novelist, and playwright from Daet, Camarines Norte who has written almost 200 fils since 1973 earning him more than 70 trophies from various award-winning bodies both local and international.
  • Victor Dennis T. Nierva — a poet, teacher, journalist, theatre actor, translator, graphic and book designer, and a cultural advocate from Naga City. Among his notable works are: Antisipasyon asin iba pang Rawitdawit sa Bikol asin Ingles (2017), and Doros asin mga Anghel  (2012) — a Bikol translation of John Doone’s Holy Sonnets and Selected Works. Both works received various awards. Some of his writings are also availabe in his site, Makuapo ni Handiong.

The list is not yet exhaustive so feel free to add the names you know in the comment section below.

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