The Department of Language, Literature, and the Arts in UP Baguio launched the 8th Cordillera Creative Writing Workshop (CCWW) on Friday, Oct. 22.
First introduced in 2007 with former College of Arts and Communication (CAC) dean Elizabeth Calinawagan at the helm, the CCWW aims to promote regional literature and encourage discourse between writers all over the Philippines.
CAC dean Dr. Jimmy Fong expressed his admiration for the courage of artists amid trying times.
“Artista ng bayan, tuloy na lumalaban,” he calls them. “Artista ng bayan, naninindigan.”
This year’s workshop is composed of 15 writing fellows coming from different parts of the country. The program will run from Oct. 22 to 29, featuring a series of lectures to be given by distinguished panelists.
Art and mental health
Acclaimed poet and UP Diliman professor Vim Nadera opened the program with a lecture entitled Literatura at Lusog-isip. Nadera talked about mental health as a vital part of being an artist.
“[Ang isip] ay maaari nating ituring na kadluan ng ating pagiging malikhain,” he said.
Nadera, who is also a psychology graduate, talked about his master’s thesis where he studied poetry as therapy for cancer survivors. The research entitled Poetreat explained the therapeutic effects of poetry to patients dealing with terminal diseases. According to Nadera, literature aids in processing challenges in life.
“Sa iba, ang gamot sa trauma ay literatura,” he added.
Currently, Nadera teaches at the Departamento ng Filipino at Panitikan ng Pilipinas in UP Diliman where he recently held a class called Trauma at Malikhaing Pagsulat. He showed excerpts of his students’ works in which they used different forms of art as a means of expression.
Reflecting on being asked to teach the class, the poet shared his own encounter with grief. Nadera’s son Awit passed away at age four which led to the creation of the Foundation for Advancing Wellness, Instruction and Talents (Foundation AWIT), a nonprofit mental health organization established in his son’s memory.
Nadera shared some of the foundation’s initiatives such as DionaTweet, COVIDagli, and COVIDalit which encouraged the use of literature and the arts to cope with the pandemic. He also emphasized the importance of mindfulness in times of uncertainty.
“Minsan ang iniisip natin yung mga bagay na nakaka distorbo sa atin, nawawala tayo sa focus o tuon ng pansin kaya mahalaga yung mindfulness para isipin mo yung […] mga bagay na nangyayari ngayon,” he said. “Iyon ang mahalaga sa mga bagong uri ng terapiya, yung pagtutok sa here and now, dito at ngayon.”
‘The future is not in the future’
Award-winning writer and UP College of Mass Communication professor Dr. Eulalio Guieb led the second lecture in the series called Walang New Normal: Paghahawi ng salansan ng mga inkomposibilidad.
His lecture focused on treating budding writers not just as ‘potentials’ but as ‘realities’ in themselves.
“Hindi ninyo kinakailangang hintayin ang bukas para maging ganap kayong manunulat,” he told the participants. “Mabuhay kayo sa ngayon, mabuhay ng humahawak sa katotohanan, lumalaban sa lahat ng kalapastanganan ng ngayon, sa lahat ng pagbabanta ng mga naririto nang diktador.”
Guieb also offered insight on how the pandemic’s ‘new normal’ is something that has been used by the government to cover up old truths.
“Dati nang namamatay ang tao na tirik ang mata sa gutom. Dati nang walang proteksyon sa buhay ang mga doktor at nurse, ang mga manggagawa, ang lahat ng mga frontliner ng buhay,” he said.
While COVID-19 revealed many systemic failures, Guieb still believes that the pandemic also showed many opportunities for resistance.
“Ipinakita ng pandemya ang mga maliliit na posibilidad ng mga pakikipagkapwa,” he said.
He then challenged fellows and participants to stand up against a familiar dictatorship making its way back to power. He calls on the participants to remain vigilant and faithful to the truth as they face a reality laced with tyranny and abuse.
“Nasa sa ngayon ang hinahanap nating katubusan sa lahat ng kasamaan ng buhay ng panahong ito at sa lahat ng kademonyohan ng rehimeng ito,” said Guieb.
The CCWW will continue its lecture series about different topics until Oct. 28. Visit their Facebook page for more details. DZUP