Last Friday, I went to Bayview Hotel (and missed my class for it!) from UP area to Roxas Blvd. to receive my plaque and cash prize for winning third place in the Kapampangan poetry competition of Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino's Gawad Komisyon 2007.
There I met other Kapampangan poets and enthusiasts, some members of this organization I'm part of, SOLFED (Save Our Languages Through Federalism), and it's all so overwhelming. No one - including myself - could have ever thought that I'd be regarded as an officially recognized budding Kapampangan writer, because honestly, I seem to be the only one from the teenage generation who takes seriously Kapampangan writing and production of new literature.
Before I ventured into Kapampangan writing, people already saw me as a person bound to become someone big in English and Tagalog writing, especially with my entertaining (according to readers) pieces posted on my column at Peyups.com. Right now, Cozy Reads Publishing is releasing a book, a love story collection, and I have one short story included in there, and it's in English.
However, back when my Kapampangan consciousness was beginning to grow, I decided to start anew, by writing in Kapampangan and challenging myself more.
I was told by Fr. Venancio Samson, one of the secret judges in the contest (and also the translator of Fray Diego Bergano's Kapampangan dictionary), that I garnered a high score in the content of my pieces, and scored relatively lower compared to the first- and second-placers in terms of grammar and vocabulary.
As Dr. Juliet Mallari said, director of UP Pampanga and one of the organizers in the Kapampangan literary contest, my writing has potential but I just need to undergo some workshops on the Kapampangan language to "perfect" it.
At least my intention was recognized - I wanted to produce new and modern Kapampangan literature, because as I've read in lots of references, one of the reasons why Kapampangan literature deteriorated is because the topics being produced in general were becoming trite and simplistic (apart from the loss of interest in Kapampangan by the new generation). Actually, that is always one of the reasons of literature deterioration in any given culture.
If you'd read my poems, themes are both philosophical and sociological.
For example, Ing Anak a Tagak symbolically talks about migration to other countries. Manukluan speaks of the youth's experience of being condemned in school for speaking in Kapampangan, and in a macro view, speaks of being branded negatively - an anti-nationalist - when loving your own homeland.
Dumulung Ka on the other hand puts on equal footing the artists, professionals, and prostitutes, in that all of them sell parts of themselves to people, thus, making the world a marketplace which makes any place a pirulungan; the artists sell their soul, the professionals sell their minds, and the prostitutes sell their bodies.
This is Kong Tony Pena, the Kapampangan poet based in Catanduanes, who won first place in the ligligan, giving a victory speech. His winning poetry collection includes Kapampangan haikus and tankas, something which I believe was never done before.
The second placer is US-based artist Rafael Maniago, also of Pampanga Arts Guild, who, of course, was not there to join us in the ceremony.
There were also three Honorable Mentions, one of which is Mr. Jaspe Dula, a very lively and entertaining polosador (spontaneous) and zarzuela actor (during his days) who never runs out of stories to tell and who makes friends with every person he meets, including the security officers. Prominent writer Jose Gallardo used to be his friend when he was still alive.
I was also awed by the speeches of the winners in other language categories. It went to show that we, Kapampangans, are not alone in struggling to preserve and develop our native languages amidst the dominance of Tagalog and English in the country.
It encourages and inspires me more to continue this less-than-a-year-old advocacy that I am holding. And it's not yet over. Never be over in my lifetime perchance. As long as there are people in the Kapampangan Region who look down on their ethnicity, I shall never stop.
[Good news: the President of the Holy Angel University has approved this project I am organizing - RocKapampangan, an album of Kapampangan rock/alternative music as rendered by local bands.]