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Bicol students read works of National Artists Bienvenido Lumbera, Levi Celerio |

Arts and Culture

Bicol students read works of National Artists Bienvenido Lumbera, Levi Celerio

Earl D.C. Bracamonte -
Bicol students read works of National Artists Bienvenido Lumbera, Levi Celerio
National Artists (from left) Levi Celerio and Dr. Bienvenido Lumbera
Photo release

MANILA, Philippines — The National Commission for Culture and the Arts proudly presented the works of National Artists Dr. Bienvenido Lumbera and Levi Celerio to the students and teachers of Bicol University in celebration of National Literature Month last April.  

Dr. Lumbera is remembered for his impressive body of work that includes "Tales of the Manuvu," "Rama Hari," "Hibik at Himagsik" and "Viktoria Laktaw," to name a few. He is the first activist writer to receive the prestigious National Artist honors in 2006, since Amado V. Hernandez did in the early 1900s.

Born on April 11, 1932, the celebrated poet died on September 28, 2021. As truth teller and nationalist writer, he was most known for his "Bagay Poetry."

"A Eulogy of Roaches," for instance, is poetry employing the use of metaphor to chronicle the downtrodden in society, written in a timeless narrative. Although literature changes and moves with the times, its nuances are understood by later generations.

The National Artist honors was established in 1972 by virtue of Presidential Proclamation 1001.

"We seek in literature what we can't find in life," shared Ian Ron V. Bello, founder of the Arabay Folkloric & Theater Group, who presented a short study on the life and times of Dr. Lumbera.

One reactor, poet laureate Abdon M. Balde Jr., former commissioner of the Komisyon ng Wikang Filipino (KWF), pointed out that even if 21st century literature is taught in schools, libraries do not carry 21st century literature.

Celerio, on the other hand, was introduced to the forum through "May Isang Pipit" (popularized by Pilita Corrales) that was translated into a dance and spoken-word presentation. Observers were quick to point out that most of the composers work are "schadenfreude," a German term that means "laughing at the misfortunes of others."

Some of Celerio's most memorable compositions are "Ang Pasko ay Sumapit," "Dito sa Pitong Gatang," "Sapagkat Kami ay Tao Lamang," "Kahit Konting Pagtingin," "Kalesa," "Rosas Pandan" and "Saan Ka Man Naroroon," among many others.

He was inscribed on the Guinness Book of World Records as "the man who could play music on a piece of leaf." Accounts say that during the Japanese Occupation, the composer always brought with him a piece of leaf. When asked who he was, he simply said "a musician." And when asked to prove himself, he played music on the piece of leaf he carried.

While lyrics used by Celerio in some of the songs he wrote may seem repetitive, music people are of the opinion that redundancies in the lyrics are difficult to change, especially if it has become popular after publication.

Levi Celerio, who passed on in 2002, was hailed as a full-blooded "Anak ng Tondo," and was rumored to have been a close friend of the late Asiong Salonga.

Aside from Dr. Bienvenido Lumbera, the other National Artists who hailed from Bicol include indie pioneer Manuel Conde, superstar Nora Aunor, filmmaker Lino Brocka, cartoonist Larry Alcala, dance meister Ramon Obusan, fashion designer Salvacion Lim Higgins and opera singer Fides Cuyugan Asensio. Ten (10) of the 81 National Artist honorees are Bicolanos.

RELATED: Bienvenido Lumbera: The writer as public intellectual

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