The back-cover blurb for 100 Pink Poems para kay Leni, published by San Anselmo Press, states:
“Sixty-seven poets contributed to this anthology, whose theme and purpose were announced only in mid-December. Remarkably, the process of dissemination, submission, collation and editing took only four weeks — in time to have this collection of multi-lingual poetry printed and presented as a Valentine’s Day gift to Vice President Leni Robredo. Indeed, she symbolizes and champions the hopes of most of our country’s creatives for a rosy future. The poetry should serve as a consort in her crusade, our pink revolution.”
The brainchild of executive publisher Marvin B. Aceron, the unique anthology drew in Noel Romero del Prado, Emmanuel Quintos Velasco, and yours truly to form the editorial board. The cover art is by outstanding painter Celeste Lecaroz, with layout by MK Segundo.
Our oldest contributor is oragon Luis Cabalquinto of Magarao, Camarines Sur, who just turned 87 in New York City where he has resided for over half a century. The youngest is Yñigo Miguel Almeda, at 17 a BS Biology freshman in Ateneo.
We may think of the seven decades that are bookended by their ages as a continuum of passion for patriotism, that privilege to be counted when it is needed most. And when our country issues the call at a crucial crossroads of history, one can be sure that it’s immediately heeded globally.
What we’ve grown to call Fil-Am poets include Ninotchka Rosca and Luis H. Francia (like Cabalquinto, both of New York and also wielding familiar bylines for different genres of literature), Fidelito C. Cortes who teaches Filipino American and Philippine literature at Hunter College-City University of New York, and Joi Barrios, Eileen R. Tabios and Aileen Cassinetto in California. All have authored poetry collections, with Tabios having released over 60 collections of poetry, fiction, essays and experimental biographies from publishers in 10 countries and cyberspace, while Cassinetto is an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellow and the Poet Laureate of San Mateo County, California. Los Angeles-based Zosimo Quibilan, Jr. occasionally gives talks on Filipino fiction at UCLA. Data analyst Tala Tanigue is also in the US.
Another formidable multi-genre author, Dr. Merlinda Bobis, sent in her contribution from Canberra, where she teaches at the Australian National University. Gene Alcantara pitched in from London, Joel Vega from Arnhem, The Netherlands, Jim Pascual Agustin from Cape Town, South Africa, and Eric Tinsay Valles from Singapore, where he has been a director of the city-state’s Poetry Festival.
The heavy-hitters among homegrown poetic voices are led by Rio Alma, a.k.a. National Artist for Literature Virgilio S. Almario, Gémino H. Abad, Jose Dalisay, and fellow UP alumnae Mila Aguilar, Marra PL. Lanot, and Bibeth Orteza, who served as a University Regent and currently chairs the Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP). Also from UP Diliman are Romulo P. Baquiran, Jr. and Cesar G. Aljama, an architect and heritage conservationist.
Among the Ateneo teachers, professors and alumnae are Cyan Abad-Jugo, Rofel G. Brion, Michael M. Coroza, Jun Dela Rosa, Mookie Katigbak-Lacuesta, Louie Melosantos, Allan Popa, and Edgar Calabia Samar.
Joti Tabula of San Antonio, Zambales heads Linangan sa Imahen, Retorika, at Anyo (LIRA), of which Manuel Ortega Abis and Lee Sepe are members.
Bikolanos include Abdon M. Balde, Jr., Kristian Sendon Cordero, Marne Kilates, Victor Dennis T. Nierva, and writer-impresario Pablo Tariman.
From the South come Merlie M. Alunan of Tacloban, whose extended poem is written in Cebuano and translated into English, Cesar Ruiz Aquino of Dumaguete, F. Jordan Carnice and Simeon Dumdum, Jr. of Cebu City, and R. Torres Pandan of Bacolod City.
Other familiar bylines are those of Juaniyo Arcellana, Justine Camacho-Tajonera, Gang Badoy-Capati (founder of Rock Ed Philippines), Alma Anonas-Carpio, Frank Cimatu of Baguio Vity, “Balagtasero” Dakila Cutab, Celina S. Cristobal, Gerome Nicolas Dela Peña, Richard R. Gappi, Anna Liza Gaspar, Angelo R. Lacuesta, Christine V. Lao, Grace R. Monte de Ramos, Aloy Polintan, Floy Quintos, Frank G. Rivera, Beverly W. Siy, and Hugo D. Yonzon III.
The count of “100 Poems” would be an approximation, depending on whether a set of three sonnets or a subset of four thematic poems under an over-all title is counted as one. As the previous year drew to a close and our deadline neared, we didn’t think we’d hit the desired number. But a week’s extension brought in more than enough, until we had to close the submission call with the 67th poet.
Poet Laureate of Albay and past UMPIL Chairman Jun Balde wound up with the most, eight poems, which are only part of his daily regimen of tributes on Facebook to our Vice President. Her late husband, Hon. Jesse Robredo, had conferred the Bikol Regional Artist Award for Literary Arts on Balde in 2009.
The briefest poem, a haiku by Cesar Ruiz Aquino, is titled “Cosmicolor”: “The answer to all/ the problems that beset our/ universe: pink ink.”
Also pithy if poignantly personal is Gang Badoy Capati’s “Pasuyong Pagsuyo”: “Alam kong madalas may ulap/ sa silid kung saan ka/ natutulog./ Kapos sa sinag ng araw,/ mahamog.// Alam ko ring naiisip mo pa siya, nangungulila sa yapos./ Kanya nga’t/ uulit-ulitin ko na lang/ na lahat ng naka-kulay rosas/ sa kalye man/ o sa internet,/ ay bulaklak niyang alay/ sa iyo.// Happy Valentine’s daw, Leni./ Crush na crush ka pa rin/ ni Pogi.”
In her bionote, Capati recalls that she was “signatory #22 sa isang ‘Jesse Robredo Please run for President’ petition na pinaikot ng Ateneo noong 2009.”
Jun Dumdum’s shorter of two poems also bears quoting here: “The Pink Rose in the Season of Winds”: “That delicate pink rose, than which I’ve found/ Nothing more brave, for when the gusts will strike/ And fling its petals, it will stand its ground — / The more the petals fly off from the spike/ The more it bares its stinging thorns, much like/ A girl stripped of her clothes by a lowlife/ Who finds that in her hand there is a knife.”
The book is to be presented to VP Leni on Valentine’s Day. If things go right, the benefit event will feature a tripartite assembly of creatives as Kakampinks, with visual artists led by BenCab, the poets by Virgilio S. Almario, and musical artists and performers by Ryan Cayabyab and Alice Reyes. Four National Artists will thus spearhead the bold expression of commitment and support for VP Leni’s presidential run, in what is tentatively billed as “Leni, State of the heArt: Pusuan ang Sining.”
Organized by talent manager and movie, radio, TV and events producer Noel Ferrer for the campaign cause, it will be historic in having such a number of poets publicly offering their craft in support of a presidential candidate. Just as historic should be the collaboration with visual artists organized by Gigo Alampay to place their equally thematic artworks on display and sale. The last part of the program will be feature musical and movie artists, some of whom will join the poetry reading.
Details will be forthcoming on social media. Meanwhile, pre-orders for the book, modestly priced at P330 a copy, are already pouring in at San Anselmo Publications, Inc. on FB.