Modern Living

For Pete’s sake, let us support poets & poetry!

WILL SOON FLOURISH - Wilson Lee Flores - The Philippine Star
For Peteâs sake, let us support poets & poetry!
Kape’t Ka Pete: Music & Poetry Night for Jose F. Lacaba is on today, 6 p.m. at Kamuning Bakery Café at No. 43 Judge Jimenez Street corner K-1st Street, Barangay Kamuning, Quezon City.

What is the use of fast economic growth statistics and gleaming new skyscrapers in our cities if our society does not provide ample socio-economic support to our literati — the writers of poetry, fiction and other genres? Is this one reason we have so many seemingly amoral and mis-educated politicians and bureaucrats?

Regardless of our political persuasions, we should recognize that poets are very important to the life of any nation, to the soul of a society and to our quest for truth. Poets are not only hopeless romantics who passionately love, celebrate life and nature exuberantly, or point us to lofty dreams — they are prophets of the human spirit, they act as our fearless social conscience to remind us about ascendant moral and cultural values.

The English romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote in his essay “Defense of Poetry” in 1821 that “poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” President John F. Kennedy said, “When power leads men towards arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the areas of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses.”

Indeed, poets through the ages have often been fearless social critics who comment on current events and issues. Poets are also among the most passionate rabble-rousers and even revolutionaries who often give voice to the oppressed and downtrodden, fighting for social change.

It is not a coincidence that throughout world history and across different cultures, many of the foremost revolutionaries who questioned the untenable, corrupt status quo and who fought social injustices were also poets, like Jose Rizal.

An example of poetry galvanized as eloquent, scathing social protest is the timeless, beautiful Tagalog poem “Bayan Ko” (My Country)  written by José Corazón de Jesús (penname “Huseng Batute”) in 1929 to protest the US colonial occupation of the Philippines. This classic poem was set to music by Constancio de Guzman. It was revived as a protest song in the 1980s.

All poetry, music and literature lovers are invited to attend “Kape’t Ka Pete: Music & Poetry Night for Jose F. Lacaba” today, March 7, 6 p.m. onwards at the 81-year-old Kamuning Bakery Café at No. 43 Judge Jimenez Street corner K-1st Street, Barangay Kamuning, Quezon City. This is a unique event to raise funds for the challenging medical costs of the ailing award-winning poet, multi-awarded film screenwriter, songwriter, editor and journalist Jose “Pete” F. Lacaba.

Pete Lacaba became legendary among the youth and literary circles in the early 1970s when his poem “Prometheus Unbound” was published by a then government-owned magazine called Focus. The poem had a hidden anti-government message. When word got out about a hidden protest message across the first letters of each line of that poem, the martial law-era police and military confiscated copies of the magazine in all newsstands and bookstores. Despite the controversial and subversive nature of that poem, the magazine’s boss the respected literary writer Kerima Polotan Tuvera admired his literary prowess and sent him a check for the poem.

During martial law, activist writer Pete Lacaba was jailed and freed two years later at the request of the country’s first National Artist for Literature Nick Joaquin as part of his prize, while Pete’s younger brother poet Emannual “Eman” Lacaba  had become a communist rebel and was killed. 

It was said that Eman was captured alive after an encounter in Davao but was “salvaged” later in the day. It was his mother, Filipino-language schoolteacher Fe Flores Lacaba, who, with the help of the late talented poet and his Ateneo schoolmate Alfrredo Navarro Salanga, recovered Eman’s body from a mass grave in Mindanao.

Although the entrance ticket of P250 — with free coffee or beer and free pandesal breads — is not big, the purpose of the “Kape’t Ka Pete” event is to be a catalyst to encourage people to donate more for his health needs, since he and his wife Marra will be there.

I’ve been asked how I know Pete Lacaba. He and his late brother Eman were poets and writers whom I read and admire. When I was a college student, Pete also published my Filipino-language poetry in Midweek magazine. Coincidentally, when I bought and revived Kamuning Bakery Café a few years ago, I discovered he was a suki or loyal customer ever since the late movie actress Nida Blanca brought him there. Pete’s friends — painter Danny Dalena, sculptors Julie Lluch and Gerry Araos, National Artist Nick Joaquin, etc. — also bought breads there.

Apart from assisting a good man and a gifted writer, this event will hopefully raise public awareness on the need to support poetry and other literary arts in the Philippines. Perhaps we should explore establishing a Writers Fund for the emergency needs of writers and journalists.

 I and other co-organizers, poets and UP Prof. Vim Nadera; columnist and UST journalism Prof. Nestor Cuartero (who was himself a college student in the 1970s when he sent a short story to Asia Philippines Leader magazine where Pete Lacaba was editor; the story was rejected but Lacaba took time to write a letter suggesting revisions which Cuartero did and his re-submission of the revised story was published); Curve Entertainment president Narciso Chan; novelist, International PEN Philippine president and UP teacher Charlson Ong have invited various artists to perform for free at “Kape’t Ka Pete.”

Among these kind-hearted singers, poets, writers and actors who have volunteered to perform songs and poetry in honor of Pete and to help raise funds for his health needs include Noel Cabangon, Cooky Chua, Ricky Davao, Gemino Abad, Butch Dalisay, Krip Yuson, Skarlet Brown, Hazel Faith, Danton Remoto, Mike Coroza, Marne Kilates, Celina Cristobal, Fidel Rillo, Vim Nadera, Charlson Ong, Cavite Young Writers Association (CYWA), Linangan sa Imahen, Retorika at Anyo (LIRA), etc. Event hosts will be Gou de Jesus and Vim Nadera.

* * *

To inquire, confirm or offer support for “Kape’t Ka Pete,” text 09178481818 or 09188077788 or Vim 09951319743, [email protected], or message its Facebook page.

Thanks for the feedback [email protected]. Follow @wilsonleeflores on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook. Read also https://investment.fwd.com.ph/experts/asia-s-business-leaders-and-what-   we-can-learn-from-them



  • Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with