Stormy weather and heavy pouring of rains did not deter the Binisaya writers coming from various parts of Mindanao to gather under one roof on October 26, 2019. After all, the occasion was very important as they only convene once a year for the annual congress of their organization called Bathalan-ong Halad sa Dagang-Mindanao, or more popularly known among the literati as Bathalad-Mindanao.
It is the occasion where old and incoming members meet, rub elbows, listen to lectures on creative writing and witness the awarding of the winners of the group’s annual writing contest dubbed Bathalad Mindanao Literary Awards.
For this year, Bathalad-Mindanao held its 23rd Annual Convention at the spacious Bulwagang Filipino in the College of Arts and Social Sciences of the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT) in Iligan City. The convention was centered on the theme “Binisayang Sinugboanon, Buhing Pinulongan sa Kabisay-an ug Mindanao.”
Fr. Jon Saguban, a Roman Catholic priest belonging to the TOR Franciscan Order and incumbent Bathalad-Mindanao chair, expressed hopes that the partnership between Bathalad-Mindanao and MSU-IIT will continue so that the group will have its permanent home in the university.
In attendance were Bathalad-Mindanao members coming from Surigao del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Agusan del Norte, Davao del Sur, Bukidnon, Misamis Oriental, Lanao del Norte, Cagayan de Oro as well as students of MSU-IIT and MSU Main Campus in Marawi City.
The one-day convention was highlighted by lectures on topics relating to creative writing in the morning and book launching and awarding of winners in the afternoon.
Before the lectures, lawyer Leo Zaragoza, who is the national president of Lubas sa Dagang Bisaya (Ludabi), challenged the writers to continue their craft using the Mother tongue, even as he urged the young students to use the Binisaya language. “Tam-is ang atong pinulongan. Gasa kini sa Diyos. Busa ato kining gamiton,” the emotional Zaragoza said.
Palanca awardee and Bisaya magazine literary editor Richel Dorotan talked about the basic elements required of a story, stressing that the craft has the discipline to follow by those who engage themselves in the solitary art of creative writing. He pointed out that writers are like jeepney drivers, they have to be watchful and alert always to avoid hitting posts along the road.
To refresh the knowledge of the oldtimers and for the benefit of the newbies, erstwhile Bisaya associate editor Edgar S. Godin discussed about rules on Cebuano grammar and spelling. Godin is the author of the book Atong Inahang Dila, which contains comprehensive rules on Binisaya writing.
Meanwhile, Bisaya magazine staff member Richellet Chan lectured about the metronome that is required in the writing of an essay. Like musicians, Chan said, writers should also learn to observe such device to make their creative outputs alive or breathe with life.
I was tasked to deliver this year’s Frank S. Alforque Memorial Lecture. This annual lecture is in honor of the man who founded the group. My lecture was centered on the writers’ role in the quest for peace in Mindanao.
I ended my lecture thus, “Ingon nga mga magsusulat, we can humanize the ugliness of wars and conflicts pinaagi sa katahom sa atong mga sugilanon ug sa kahawot sa rima ug garay sa atong sulaton nga mga balak.”
Two members of Bathalad-Mindanao—Emeterio S. Sumagang and Jondy Arpilleda—launched their respective books during the occasion.
Sumagang’s book Ang Balay sa Tiilan sa Chocolate Hills ug Ubang Sugilanon gathered together the writer’s more than a dozen short stories which were previously published in Bisaya magazine.
Meanwhile, Arpilleda’s book Hagawhaw sa Kagabhion contains the English translation of his Binisaya stories. The book was previously launched in Cebu City.
Both authors donated copies of their books to MSU-IIT’s Filipino Department for its library. On behalf of the department chair, Prof. Marina Quilab accepted the donations.
The annual Bathalad-Mindanao Literary Awards has three categories: Sugilanon (Short Story), Gumalaysay (Essay) and Balak (Poetry). For this year, the short story and poetry categories gathered 20 entries each while the essay category had six entries. Composing the board of judges were Richel Dorotan, Edgar Godin and this writer.
Though the judges are based in different locations, their deliberations on the entries were made possible through group chat. As agreed, the judges had to have a shortlist for each category. Then they discussed the merits and demerits before proceeding to ranking them to get the winners. Bathalad-Mindanao co-chair Gil Nambatac Jr., a young and promising writer from Iligan, was a member of the group chat to serve as minutes taker.
The winners were the following:
Short story: First Prize, Color Game by Jefferson G. del Rosario; Second Prize, Ang Hukom by Buenaventura F. Tibon; Third Prize, Hunghong sa Usa ka Damgo by Jovanie B. Garay.
Essay: First Prize, Ang Marawi sa Akong Kagahapon by Emeterio S. Sumagang; Second Prize, Ang Misteryo sa Paghandom by Marcelo Geocallo; Third Prize, Ug Natubag ang Pangutana: Nganong Nagluib si Heneral Antonio Luna kang Dr. Jose Rizal by Bernito A. Dalit.
Poetry: First Prize, Tinagutlo nga Pag-aninaw sa Tuboran by Jovanie B. Garay; Second Prize, Dinhis Akong Payag by Jovanie B. Garay; Third Prize, Destiyero sa Desiyerto by Gratian Paul R. Tidor.
Cash prizes for the winners: P5,000 for the First Prize; P3,000, Second Prize; and P2,000, Third Prize. The winners also received certificates of award signed by the members of the board of judges and Bathalad-Mindanao officials.
A Look At The Past
Bathalad-Mindanao branched out in the early 1990s from Bathalad, a group of Binisaya writers based in Cebu City. Bathalad-Cebu was organized in the late 1960s by young students of Southwestern University who collectively called themselves as ALBICALARIVI Poetry Group. The group was composed of Melquiadito Maambong Allego, Jr. (AL), Romeo Birao (BI), Zosimo Cabungcal (CA), Ernesto D. Lariosa (LA), Fernando C. Rigodon (RI) and Antonio Villadvido (VI).
The forming of Bathalad-Mindanao was due to the fact that Mindanao-based writers wanted to have their own organization, separate and distinct from Bathalad-Cebu. It was the late poet and fictionist Frank S. Alforque who initiated and led the early years of Bathalad-Mindanao.
For the past two decades, Bathalad-Mindanao held its annual convention in such places as Cagayan de Oro, Iligan, Central Mindanao University, Capitol University, Butuan City and Linamon, Lanao del Norte. It sponsors an annual writing competition purposely to get the Binisaya literature flourish and to encourage young wordsmiths to write in their own tongue. Several members of Bathalad-Mindanao have won in the annual Palanca Awards for Literature.
Two of its members were conferred the prestigious Pambansang Alagad ni Balagtas award by the Unyon ng mga Manunulat sa Pilipinas (Umpil). They are Marcelo Geocallo in 2015 and the late Gumer M. Rafanan (2005).
As a tradition, this year’s convention was capped by a fellowship night held at Iligan City’s newest tourist destination—Paseo de Santiago, a park by the sea which is owned and managed by lawyer Leo Zaragoza. The owner himself hosted the fellowship dinner where the members were treated with sumptuous meal.
Thereafter, writers took turns in showcasing their talents in singing and reading poems amid the clinking of glasses full of either beer or wine.
And as the old cliché goes, it was indeed an affair to remember.
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