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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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Monday, June 08, 2009

entry arrow2:30 PM | Lazaro Francisco Becomes the Latest National Artist for Literature

The great Tagalog writer Lazaro Francisco (1898-1980) becomes the second novelist in that language to be proclaimed National Artist for Literature. He follows the lead of Amado Hernandez, and joins the company of fellow National Artists in creative writing, including Francisco Arcellana, Virgilio S. Almario, N.V.M. Gonzalez, Amado V. Hernandez, Nick Joaquin, F. Sionil Jose, Bienvenido Lumbera, Alejandro R. Roces, Carlos P. Romulo, Edith L. Tiempo, and Jose Garcia Villa. (Carlos Quirino won for Historical Literature.)

The rest of the new roster include painter Federico Aguilar Alcuaz, composer Ramon Santos, and the late filmmaker Manuel Conde. (See complete story by poet Lito Zulueta here.)

I was gunning for the inclusion of either poet and tireless anthologist Gemino Abad or the great Hiligaynon novelist Magdalena Jalandoni -- but according to inside sources, some of the Manila-centric "culturati" deliberating on the decision could not fathom the Hiligaynon sensibilities of Jalandoni, and one was said to be looking for "memorable" lines like "Call me Ishmael!" Ummm.

Here's something about Lazaro Francisco culled from the National Historical Institute website:

[Francisco was] born in Orani, Bataan on February 22, 1898... He acquired his college education at the Central Luzon Agricultural college and, later, through the International Correspondence School. In 1946, his essay "Tatsulok" won in the Commonwealth Literary Contest, and became the basis of his major social novels. As a writer, Francisco earned acclaim for Ilaw sa Hilaga, considered the best novel ever written in the first decade of the Third Philippine Republic. First published as Bayang Nagpapatiwakal (Suicidal Country), it deals mostly with the detriment of economic imperialism, colonial mentality, nationalism and agricultural backwardness. It was printed in book form. His other novels which likewise gained praise and awards were Maganda Pa Ang Daigdig, Sugat ng Alaala, Bago Lumubog Ang Araw, Ama, Binhi, Daluyong, and Sa Paanan ng Krus.

The nationalism of Francisco found its concrete expression in the Kapatiran ng mga Alagad ng Wikang Pilipino (KAWIKA), a nationwide organization which he himself established in 1958 to sustain and advocate the use of Tagalog (Filipino) as a national language. He himself wrote KAWIKA’s constitution and rules.

Francisco worked in the provincial government of Nueva Ecija as provincial assessor until he retired in 1963. As provincial assessor, he fought for the rights of small farmers. It was his idea to create an agency that would protect Filipino grain raisers and traders from the abuses of foreign businessmen. Thereafter, the National Rice and Corn Corporation (NARIC) was strengthened by President Marcos and renamed National Grains Authority (NGA), during martial law. In recognition of his active nationalism and his salutary contributions to Philippine culture and literature, he was conferred the following awards: Republic Cultural Heritage Award (1970), Patnubay ng Kalinangan from the City of Manila (1975), Dangal ng Lahi, Lungsod ng Quezon (1976), Tanglaw ng Lahi from Ateneo de Manila (1979), Presidential Award of Merit for Literature, and Gawad Plaridel and Pingkain Award, both from the Bayanihan Foundation.

Francisco died on June 17, 1980 at the age of 82.

Maybe it's time to crack open that dusty copy of Ilaw sa Hilaga somewhere. But, really, no Magdalena Jalandoni? Sheesh.

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