The Regional Approach to Reading Philippine Literature

In this post, we will look at the regional approach to reading Philippine literature. 

During a 2014 conference in Cebu City, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano remarked that the national government should stop giving the bulk of its national budget to Metro Manila alone. He said, “let us remember that Metro Manila is not the Philippines, and the Philippines is not Metro Manila. We should not always build in Manila. Other provinces and regions should share in the resources such as Clark, Zamboanga Peninsula, Caraga, Central Visayas, etc.” (“Metro Manila Gets ‘Fatter 2014). Providing equal resources to all regions of the country has been a continuous problem in more than a century of our independence as a nation.

Nature cannot be blamed for this condition. The archipelagic nature of the Republic of the Philippines has made the country enjoy a rich biodiversity. Our topography, which consists of mountainous terrains, dense forests, plains, and coastal areas, allow us to enjoy endemic flora and fauna. As a result of this diverse environment, our ancestors developed separate cultures and languages. Our country has a total of 182 living languages. With these languages our ancestors communicated, built their communities, and created unique cultural products. And yet, our blessings from nature coupled with these multiple languages also provide a continuous challenge for us in addressing the needs of our different provinces and regions, along with its peoples.

Separated by seas cultures, and languages, the Filipinos of today must consciously choose to maintain a united front in order for all of us to be truly equal and free as a people in one nation. How can we do this? Perhaps our study of literature can help point us toward the direction of understanding different Philippine cultures across the country, and hopefully this would provide the opportunity for a true sense of pride to grow within us for being part of this nation.

It is imperative that we Filipinos should read as much literature as we can from other regions. There is a need for more works from outside of Metro Manila to be read across the country. It is the sad reality that even in the 21st century Filipinos tend to privilege the popular and sophisticated literatures of NCR, particularly Metro Manila. Whether it is comics or novels, Metro Manila literature seem to lord it over the rest of the country. That is, in the world of Philippine literature, authors from Metro Manila tend to be more accepted by readers from the rest of the country. Perhaps it is because the central government, big universities, corporate headquarters, and the big publishing houses are all found in Metro Manila. Literature from “the center” thus appears to be more valid to the readers who do not question the dated Manila-centric view of Philippine literature.

While it is true that a lot of historically moving as well as entertain-ing works were produced by Metro Manila authors, they are merely one group in the constellation of Philippine authors. So much can be discovered in the literatures of the regions that can help paint a better picture of who we are as a nation. Thus, it is necessary for our national language, Filipino, or our other language, English, to embrace as much as possible the literary output from the regions through translations. The wider we can disseminate literatures from the regions, the bigger the possibility of understanding among the different ethnic groups.

21st-century technology can help propel this goal into something obtainable. With the help of the Internet, many contemporary authors from the regions are publishing their work online. Whether they are using their regional language, Filipino, or English, these young authors are beginning to speak to a national audience about their reality. Some 21″ century literature of the Philippines can be found in blogs, online newspapers, online magazines, online journals, etc. Also a good number of performances of songs, skits, and amateur films showcasing regional works can be found in video-sharing sites like YouTube.

While it is true that regional literature has been overlooked for so long, perhaps 21st century technology, particularly the Internet can help build bridges across the archipelago for us to be able to indulge in regional literature.

The list below presents the current regional division of the Philippines. Samples of 21st century Filipino authors associated with each region are listed below. The writer’s association with that region is established in two ways: it is the writer’s birthplace or the writer settled in that region. Please be reminded that the names of writers here are merely a fraction of 21″ century Filipino writers. Many of our new writers are still waiting to have their works be published, circulated, and read.

National Capital Region — Metro Manila, it is made up of the following cities: Manila, Caloocan, Las Pifias, Makati, Malabon, Mandaluyong, Marikina, Muntinlupa, Navotas, Quezon City, Pasay, Pasig, Parafiaque, San Juan, Taguig, Valenzuela, and Pateros.

  • Writers associated with this region: Michael M. Coroza, Jessica Zafra, Charlson Ong, Norman Wilwayco, Ana Maria Villanueva-Lykes, Janet B. Villa, Naya Valdellon, Rosmon Tuazon, Lourd de Veyra

Ilocos Region-includes Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Pangasinan, and Dagupan City

  • Writers associated with this region: Paul B. Zafaralla, Santiago B. Villafania, Cles B. Rambaud, Jan Marc Austria, Arid S. Tabag

Cagayan Valley Region- includes Batanes, Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, and Quirino

  • Writers associated with this region: Jun Lisondra

Cordillera Administrative Region — includes Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga-Apayao, and Mountain Province

  • Writers associated with this region: Ma. Luisa Aguilar-Carino, Dion Michael Fernandez, Rachel Pitlogay, Chinee Sanchez-Palatino, Charisse Acquisio

Central Luzon Region — Aurora, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueve Ecija, Pamanga, Tarlac, and Zambales

  • Writers associated with this region: Virgilio Almario, Rolando F. Santos, D.M. Reyes, Danton Remoto, Mark Anthony Cayanan

CALABARZON — Cavite, Laguna, Batnagas, Rizal, and Quezon

  • Writers associated with this region: Joel M. Toledo, Frank G. Rivera, Jimmuel C. Naval Region

MIMAROPA (Occidental Mindoro and Oriental Mindoro), Marinduque, Romblon, and Palawan

  • Writers associated with this region: Jose Dalisay, Jr.

Bicol Region — this comprises Camarines None, Camarines Sur, Albay, Catanduanes, Masbate, and Sorsogon

  • Writers associated with this region: Merlinda Bobis, Ricardo Lee, Victor Dennis Tino Nierva, Rizaldy Manrique, Jasmin Badong Liana, Marne L Kilates, Estelito Baylon Jacob, Kristian Sendon Cordero, Alvin Yapan, Richard Madrilejos Region

Western Visayas Region — Aldan, Antique, Capiz, Guimaras, and Iloilo

  • Writers associated with this region: Felino Garcia Jr., John Iramil Teodoro, Alice Tan-Gonzales, Mark Anthony Grejaldo, Alain Russ Dimzon, Melchor E Cichon, Genevieve L. Asenjo, John Edision Tondares, John Carlo Tiampong, John Barrios, Isidro Cruz

Negros Island Region — Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental

  • Some writers associated with this region: Isabel D. Sibullen, Jean Lee C. Patindol, Ian Rosales Casocot, Roger Garcia, Karlo Antonio Galay David, Rosario Cruz-Lucero, Marianne Villanueva

Central Visayas Region — Bohol, Cebu, and Siquijor

  • Writers associated with this region: Michael Obenieta, Jeneen R. Garcia, Lawrence Lacambra Ypil, Rene Amper, Marjorie Evasco, Marcel Navarra, Godofredo Roperos, Joshua Cabrera, Januar Yap, Corazon Almerino, Adonis Dorado, Gerard Pareja, Debra Sales Ulysses Aparece, Ronald Villavelez, Cathy Viado

Eastern Visayas Region — Samar, Leyte, and Biliran

  • Some writers associated with this region: Voltaire Oyzon, Timothy R. Montes, Daryll Delgado

Zamboanga Peninsula — Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, Zamboanga City, and Isabela

  • Writers associated with this region: Mig Alvarez Enriquez, Servando D. Halili Jr.

Northern Mindanao Region — Bukidnon, Camiguin, Lanao del None, Misamis Occidental, and Misamis Oriental

  • Writers associated with this region: Ralph Semino Galin, Judith R Dharmdas

Davao region or Southern Mindanao Region — Compostela Valley, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Davao Oriental, and Davao Occidental

  • Writers associated with this region: Candy Gourlay, Miguel Linda, Salud M. Carrido, Margarita Marfori, Ricky Villafuerte

SOCCSKSARGEN or Central Mindanao Region —South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos

  • Writers associated with this region: Christine Godinez-Ortega, Jaime An Lim

Caraga Region — Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, and Dinagat Islands

  • Writers associatedwith this region: Joey Ayala, Tita Lacambra-Ayala

Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao — Basilan (except Isabela City), Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi

  • Writers associated with this region: Steven Prince Patrick C. Fernandez, Mehol K. Sadain, Therese P. Abonales, Minalang K. Barapantao Jr.

You are the editor of a literary section of a newspaper. You need to write a 500-word feature article on a Filipino contemporary (21st century) author from outside your region. Do a library or an online search on a noteworthy writer. Do not limit yourself to those cited in the table of authors above, but be on the lookout for a lesser-known author you believe to be promising. Make sure that your feature provides the following information: background of the author, a short overview of the author’s literary works (books, online or print publications, etc.), a short sampling of the author’s work/s together with your commentary. End the article by highlighting what this author’s contribution is to contemporary Philippine literature.