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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Friday, March 30, 2007

entry arrow6:31 PM | The 46th Summer

This weekend is the deadline for manuscripts to be considered in the running for a place in the prestigious (and hard-to-get-into) 46th Dumaguete National Writers Workshop, the oldest writing workshop of its kind in Asia. What is also significant with this edition of the workshop is that this year marks a transition period for what Krip Yuson has called "the mother of all workshops" in the Philippines: it will see a return to Silliman University, where the workshop was conceived by two enterprising, and passionate, Filipino writers.

For a little bit of history... The workshop was established as the Silliman National Writers Workshop by Dr. Edith Lopez Tiempo and the late Dr. Edilberto K. Tiempo in 1962. The three-week live-in summer workshop for Philippine writers (writing in and from English -- although creative writing in the regional languages once was part of earlier editions of the workshop) aims "to provide opportunities for interaction between a panel of established writers and critics, and selected writing fellows."

The Tiempos designed the workshop, according to the book Silliman University 1901-1976 written by Edilberto K. Tiempo, Crispin C. Maslog, and T. Valentino Sitoy Jr. (Bing's father), "to help serious creative writers, both published and unpublished, to discover their own strengths and weaknesses as writers, to stimulate their creative faculties, and to develop their critical insights through frank discussions of their works in regular sessions and informal gatherings among their colleagues, as well as with literary critics and publishing editors." Writes Doc Ed of the process: "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 for the past years is composed of National Artist for Literature Edith L. Tiempo, the Director of the program, and critics and creative writers of the Creative Writing Foundation, as well as visiting writers and critics from other countries.

Panelists have included Nick Joaquin, Gregorio Brillantes, Kerima Polotan Tuvera, Bienvenido N. Santos, NVM Gonzales, Francisco Arcellana, Celso N. Carunungan, Fr. Miguel Bernad, F. Sionil Jose, Alejandro Roces, Leonidas Benesa, Ricaredo Demetillo, Mig Alvarez Enriquez, Rolando Tinio, Doris Trinidad, Estrella Alfon, Rowena Tiempo Torrevillas, Gémino H. Abad, Ophelia Alcantara-Dimalanta, Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo, Alfred Yuson, Butch Perez, Susan Lara, Marjorie Evasco, DM Reyes, Anthony Tan, Jaime An Lim, Francis Macansantos, Merlie Alunan, among other top writers in the country.

Renowned American writers and critics Paul Engle, Leonard Casper, Kenneth Rexroth, and William Gaddis have also been part of the workshop panel.

Today, the resident panelists include Bobby Flores Villasis, Ernesto Superal Yee, and César Ruìz Aquino.

Every summer, ten to fifteen writing fellows get the chance to have their manuscript critiqued by the panel of writers and critics. 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, creative non-fiction, and drama."

Over the last 46 years, more than 500 of the best writers in the country, many of them winners or eventual winners of the prestigious Palanca and other literary awards, have participated in the workshop. From the start, an appointment as a writing fellow has been regarded as a mark of recognition in Philippine literary circles.

Since its inception in 1962, the workshop -- which is patterned after the famous writers workshop in the State University of Iowa -- was a program administered by Silliman University and its Department of English and Literature, with funds allocated by then President Leopoldo T. Ruìz. At the start, the workshop was jointly sponsored by the University and the Philippine Center of International PEN. Since then, it has been subsidized by various grant-giving bodies including the Asia Foundation, the Congress of Cultural Freedom in Paris, the Philippines Press Institute, the Manila Times Publishing Co., the Philippine Education Co., the International Agency for Christian Literature Development, and the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia.

In the early 1990s, Silliman University unfortunately decided to stop being the administrator of the workshop, and responsibility and control fell into the hands of the Creative Writing Foundation Inc. and College Assurance Plan (CAP).

Since 2004, the Dumaguete Literary Arts Service Group Inc. has taken the responsibility of managing the workshop (which was now known as the Dumaguete National Writers Workshop since its parting from Silliman), with funding from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.

This year, with Silliman University President Ben S. Malayang III and Dr. Edith Lopez Tiempo at the helm, the University once again is part of the future of National Writers Workshop, with 2007 being designated as a transition period.

In 2008, the workshop will once again be called the Silliman National Writers Workshop, in coordination with the Department of English and Literature, the Creative Writing Foundation, and the Dumaguete Literary Arts Service Group.

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