Bautista was a celebrated poet, author, critic, columnist, professor of literature and Palanca Awards Hall of Famer. He spent many years teaching at De La Salle University (DLSU) where he obtained his doctorate degree and helped establish the Bienvenido Santos Creative Writing Center.
Kiko Cabuena/
National Artist Cirilo Bautista, 76
Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - May 7, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — National Artist for Literature Cirilo Bautista died early yesterday after more than a month’s confinement at the Philippine Heart Center in Quezon City. He was 76.

Bautista was a celebrated poet, author, critic, columnist, professor of literature and Palanca Awards Hall of Famer. He spent many years teaching at De La Salle University (DLSU) where he obtained his doctorate degree and helped establish the Bienvenido Santos Creative Writing Center.

He had been rushed to hospital weeks ago due to pneumonia and complications from muscular dystrophy.

Bautista was conferred the Order of the National Artist for Literature in 2014. Among his notable works are “Summer Suns,” “Words and Battlefields,” “The Trilogy of Saint Lazarus” and the Filipino novel “Galaw ng Asoge.” His poems gained a disarming conversational tone in his later years, particularly in the collection “Things Happen,” yet retaining their internal rhyme and meter.

The Filipino verse collection “Sugat ng Salita” and the volume of essays culled from his weekly column in Panorama magazine, “Breaking Signs,” were also seminal works.

 According to the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), Bautista was the man behind the founding of the Philippine Literary Arts Council in 1981, Iligan National Writers Workshop in 1993 and the Baguio Writers Group. He also cofounded the Iyas workshop held at the University of St. La Salle in Bacolod. There are three founding members of PLAC left – Gemino Abad, Ricardo de Ungria and Alfred Yuson – as Alfrredo Navarro Salanga died in 1988.

Bautista finished his bachelor’s degree in literature magna cum laude in the University of Santo Tomas (UST) in 1963. He completed his master’s degree in literature in St. Louis University and his doctorate in language and literature from DLSU. Bautista also served as a literary editor of The Varsitarian, the official student publication of UST.

Bautista spent his last years in his home in Balicbalic with his wife Rosemarie, where he had hosted a lunch for PLAC members and their adjuncts shortly after winning the National Artist award.

The poet was also a painter, as he had famously held exhibits with Rock Drilon as well as collaborated with other PLAC members and various artists in the Chromatext exhibits in Pinaglabanan Gallery in the 1980s, and the rebooted version at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in the new millennium.

He raised a few hackles in the artistic community with his remark, “All poets can paint but not all painters can write poetry.”

A former graduate student of his at the DLSU Department of Literature recalled how the poet once told the class that, “there is no such thing as grammatical error, only ideological comprehension.”

A standard inscription during book signings was, “To (name)…, in the hope that you’ll find something here that delights.”

Malacañang mourned the death of Bautista, calling him a passionate author whose works will live forever.

The Duterte administration condoled with the family, friends and colleagues of Bautista and lauded him for his contributions to literature.

“We remember (Bautista) as one of the country’s most passionate authors, whose devotion to the study of literature paved the way for more Filipinos to develop their creative talent,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said in a statement.

“Dr. Bautista’s contribution to the continuous growth and progress of Philippine Literature will always be inscribed in the pages of our nation’s history. His teachings and literary works will live on forever,” he added.

Meanwhile, another pillar of the arts, former NCCA commissioner Augusto Villalon, also passed away over the weekend.

Villalon died last Saturday due to heart attack, the NCCA has confirmed. The wake started yesterday at the Santuario de San Antonio in Makati City and interment will be on Thursday.

An architect by profession, he was NCCA commissioner for the subcommission on culture heritage, and head of the National Committee on Monuments and Sites.

Villalon, the first Filipino to become a member of the Paris-based International Committee on Monuments and Sites, spearheaded campaigns for world heritage status for natural and historical landmarks in the country.

He pushed for the inclusion of Banaue Rice Terraces, Tubbataha Reef, baroque churches and Puerto Princesa’s Subterranean River, among others, on the World Heritage List. – Alexis Romero

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