The only independent bookshop in Naga City, Savage Mind: Books, Arts and Cinema, in cooperation with the Ateneo de Naga University Press, celebrated the 2019 National Book Month with a series of book launchings and author’s conversations held last November 7-14, 2019. The bookshop owned and managed by writer and filmmaker Kristian Sendon Cordero will soon be celebrating its first year anniversary.
Among the invited guest writers are Tito Genova Valiente whose book, The Last Sacristan Mayor and the Most Expensive Mass for the Dead is one of the finalists in the 2019 National Book Awards for Best Book in Fiction, Dr. Maryjane Guazon-Uy, author of the young adult novella, The Book of Pedro Bautista, Fr. Wilmer Joseph S. Tria, translator of The Little Prince in Bikol, Frank V. Penones Jr., poet and visual artist, author of the book Cancion nin mga Tawong Lipod and P.I., Emmanuel Barrameda, author of P’wera Bisita, winner of the 2019 National Book Awards for Best Book in Fictions in Filipino, Dr. Christine Bellen-Ang, author of Batang Rizal at iba pang Dula and the Jesuit poet and priest Albert E. Alejo who launched his third book of poetry, Isang Kahig, Isang Tuka Mahigit Dalawang Daang Tanaga published by the Ateneo de Naga University Press. Among the participating schools who attended are Minds that Matter, Naga College Foundation, Ateneo de Naga University Junior/Senior/College Departments, Holy Rosary Minor Seminary and walk-in guests composed mostly of teachers and students from Central Bicol State University for Agriculture from Calabanga and Saint Joseph School in Naga City.
Fictionist Emmanuel Barrameda who is a public school teacher in Catanduanes encouraged the audience to continue writing about one’s own town, despite the constant departures and leave-takings, while Fr. Alejo who also conducted a poetry writing workshop to a select group of participants reminded the audience that it is the task of the poet to never run out of words. “Ang mga salita’y tumatayong saksi ng pag-asa”, (Words act as agents of hope.) said Fr. Alejo who is also an anthropologist.
Like Barrameda’s Catanduanes, Dr. Uy and Professor Valiente, shared their experience in writing their respective books and how their particular localities figure in their literary works. Valiente’s Ticao remains to be remembered as these stories continue to haunt the storyteller’s imagination. Recently, one of Valiente’s stories, Erlina’s Sugilanon which is included in the Ticao book was selected for the first Philippine issue of Words Without Borders, a digital literary platform based in New York City.
Dr. Uy who is now into her second book project about an aswang-lover, claims that it is only when we create fictional characters that we get that close to what we may call as our realities. “By way of fictions, we may actually understand history and treat it as an open field rather than as the boring lessons infested with difficult names and long-forgotten events—we must fill in our city with interesting characters, for what is a city without its magical stories?” asked Dr. Uy.
Fr. Tria reiterated that urgent and necessary need of translating in the local languages as means of “decoding the secrets of the text and decolonizing the Filipino mind”. He also shared the challenges he encountered in translating Antoine Saint Exupery’s beloved masterpiece, The Little Prince in Bikol. For Fr. Tria what seems to be a simple problem may actually present a complex issue when doing translation works particularly the cultural specificity and nuances involved. But these situations should not make the translator waiver in their task rather it should fuel their desire to ferry across the semantic meanings from one shore to another. In the Tagalog translation of the Little Prince, the fox which does not exist in Philippine context has become a wild cat or singalong, and as a result, Fr. Tria decided to use its Bikol equivalence that is the amid. Asked by the audience what is his on-going project, Fr. Tria, quipped that it would be an adaptation of George Orwell’s Animal Farm.
Poet Frank Peñones Jr, challenged his audience composed mostly of nursing students from Ateneo, “to develop critical thinking especially in this time when everything is reduced to images and soundbites.” Peñones recalled that while his poem Cancion nin Tawong lipod, was written several years ago, the call to move from darkness to light as shown in his poems remains a calling for everyone. Dr. Bellen-Ang, who is a professor in the Ateneo de Manila University and is one of the respected children story writers in the country encouraged the teachers and students to write stories in the local languages.” It is through our local language that we can fashion a world that truly belongs to our children and the future,” said Dr. Bellen-Ang who hails from Albay.
Open from Monday to Sunday, from 3pm to 8pm, Savage Mind will have more art and book talks in the coming days. There will also be screenings of independent and regional films starting January 2020. With Peninsula Café and Resto, this place in Naga City (5 Peninsula St., Mayon Avenue) aims to bring arts and culture in the city and in the region into new directions.