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Arts and Culture

A posthumous launch of Doc Mic's set of books

KRIPOTKIN - Alfred A. Yuson - The Philippine Star
A posthumous launch of Doc Mic's set of books

On Sunday, Sept. 12, a commemorative edition of Mario I. Miclat’s yet unpublished books will be launched on his 72nd birthday.

The limited edition of only 300 sets is composed of his second novel in English, 21 West 4th Street; an essay collection in English, Hundred Flowers, Hundred Philosophies; and a collection of 72 poems in Filipino and English, Kailan Diwata at 70+ na Tula.

Coordinating the event is the Maningning Miclat Art Foundation, with support from Filipinas Institute of Translation, UP Office of the Chancellor, and Likhaan Creative Writing Center.

Alma Miclat recalls about the novel:

“He kept notes on the chapters he was working on, making sure that every detail written was factual. He researched a lot. It also helped that his memory was surprisingly vivid, even as he suffered from temporary amnesia when he had a stroke in 2012.

“His 21 West 4th Street, loosely based on true events juxtaposed with colorful images of his fertile imagination that mingles spirits, ghosts and myths past, is a picaresque story about two couples who lead parallel lives as they pursue their American-inspired dreams.

“… This last opus by Mario was completed during the pandemic before he succumbed to COVID-19 pneumonia exacerbated by COVID-19 myocarditis and fatal arrhythmia.”

That was last April 3. Over two decades earlier, “Doc Mic” had quintuple heart bypass surgery, in September 1998. Given a new lease on life, as Alma writes in her Introduction to the book of essays, “for the next 23 years he wrote books, taught, lectured, did research and administrative work, lived and loved.

“He followed the teaching of Confucius: ‘Instead of wasting one’s efforts in the pursuit of wealth, or long life, or power, one should just concentrate on doing the best he can.’ (From ‘To Be a Filipino, and an Asian.’) It was a dictum he followed all his life.

“After Doc Mic retired as full professor following 25 years of sterling service to his alma mater, the University of the Philippines, he continued writing and went back to his old love, photography. Even as his frail health brought him in and out of the ER and ICU of the Philippine Heart Center, he never flinched. He never stopped doing what he loved best.”

The essay collection has three parts: “Personal Essays,” “Essays on China,” and “Being Filipino, Filipino Being.” Alma points out that “the thread running through the book is the search for truth, for nation’s identity, for being Filipino and the Filipino being.”

In the essay titled “Truth in a Revolution: Notes from the Underground,” Mario wrote: “I believe, however, that our country’s history... has always been a history of individual dreams merging into something greater — a history of nation-building, economic pursuits, pride of place, and trying to grasp life’s meaning.”

Regarding the poetry collection, Mario still got to acknowledge in a Foreword that he had actually forgotten all about his poems until “Nanay,” or Alma, brought them back to light.

Some had been published in Philippine Collegian when he was just starting out in UP, while others had appeared in national publications such as Philippines Graphic, Liwayway, Asia-Philippines Leader, Diyaryo Filipino and Midweek Magazine, as well as Sinag, the publication he himself initiated for the UP College of Arts and Sciences, or Sin(ing at)Ag(ham.) Some had even won a Palanca prize, for which he entered them under a pseudonym.

National Artist for Literature Virgilio S. Almario introduces the book.

“Taglay ng libro ni Mario ang lahat ng kaniyang siphayo, pighati, at dusa kalakip ng kaniyang masayáhin at magandang kalooban hanggang kamatayan. Kapag binása mo ang kaniyang libro ng tula, manghihinayang ka na may búhay na tulad niya at napakarami nating hindi nakabása sa kaniyang libro noong buháy pa siyá.”

Elsewhere in his highly instructive, well-wrought Intro, Almario points out before quoting Miclat’s prescient lines:

“Isang tinig itong higit nating dapat pagtiwalaan. Pagtiwalaan natin kahit ang di-totoong hinayang niya sa ‘Lakas ng Bayan’:

“Kapag dumatíng ang araw / Na di na táyo / makapag-People Power, / Huwag nating iiyakan / ang ating mga anak / Na tatangging mangarap / Iyakan natin / Ang sarili / Na tumanggi sa pangarap.”

Mario I. Miclat reaped quite a harvest of literary distinctions. Among these were: the 1988 Palanca Award for the Short Story in English; 1989 Gawad CCP para sa Panitikan (Maikling Kuwento); 2006 Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan sa Larangan ng Panitikan (Art and Culture Lifetime Achievement Award for Literature) from the City of Manila; 2006 National Book Award for Beyond the Great Wall: A Family Journal; the 2013 Gawad Pambansang Alagad ni Balagtas for Fiction in Filipino and English from UMPIL or Writers Union of the Philippines; and the 2019 Kampeon ng Wika Award for Cultural Studies from Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino.

Owing to pandemic-related delays, the physical books won’t be available until sometime in October. But the book launch will push through along with the 2021 Maningning Poetry Awards.

You may join the event as a Zoom meet from 6 to 8 p.m. on Sunday via the following link and data: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/9530645524?pwd=L3pRUjc2UysvdmhkanpTWmltamVJdz09 / Meeting ID: 953 064 5524 / Passcode: MMAFI. Or watch Maningning Miclat FB page for livestreaming.

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