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Sixth Bikol lit e-confab hosted by CamNorte

UP Diliman’s literary historian Dr. Raniela Barbaza, MagBikol Kita proponent Victor Dennis Nierva, and linguist and former Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino head Dr. Ricardo Nolasco served as keynote speakers at the Pagsurat Bikol VI, a quadrennial conference to gather together Bikol writers and teachers for the writing and study of Bikol literature and culture.

The theme for this year is Sanghiran Bikol, from the root word sanghid or touchstone, a smooth dark stone used to test the purity of gold in an alloy. Touchstone now refers to a reference point or standard by which something is judged. The choice of theme is based on the suggestion of the late Bikolista Merito Espinas in 2000, and on the current felt need for a standard Bikol orthography for Mother Tongue-Based–Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE).

This is the 20th year that Bikol literati are convening, the first time online through its Facebook Page; the first time in Daet, with Camarines Norte State College (CNSC) as host academic institution; and the first time that it is reaching an audience in the thousands.

Last Sept 26, Dr Barbaza gave a background on Sanghiran Bikol in the 1920s and 1930s; Nierva spoke on the need to intellectualize the Bikol language; and Dr Nolasco stressed the need to continue MTB-MLE.

A parallel session followed last Oct 4, with two more and a second plenary every Saturday from 3-4:30 pm until Oct 24. Aside from the writing and teaching of Bikol literature, topics were research projects on the folk tales of Camarines Norte and on Bikol dances; Bikol food in a time of calamity; youth cultural efforts to save Lake Buhi; arts and culture initiatives in Sorsogon, Masbate, and Camarines Norte; and Bikol community theater. The speakers in the three parallel sessions were Dr Rose Ann Aler, Ryan Cuatrona, Maria Leny Felix, Bernardo Aguay Jr, Joseph Jimenez Perez, Francis Orasa, JV Aler, Roda Daignre, Anthony Diaz, Dr Jiye Margate, Paolo Gerero, and Marissa Redburn. Moderators were Abe Belleza, Eilyn Nidea, and Sigfred Aler.

The last Plenary Session, chaired by Dr. Jazmin Llana, will mainly be a discussion of the future of Pagsurat Bikol. Jerome Hipolito and Elbert Baeta will mount a literary exhibit as a highlight in the last session. The National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA) is the main funder of the e-conference, with Southern Luzon representative Niles Jordan Breis helping in the coordination.

It will be remembered that Pagsurat Bikolnon 1 was the turning point for the resurgence of Bikol literature, after those present signed a statement of commitment to produce works in the language. A brainchild of Dr. Llana, literary lights such as Frank Penones Jr., with the late Reynaldo ‘Tootsie’ Jamoralin and Rudy Alano. Dr. Merito Espinas, Patty Lacerna, and Judith Salamat were among those who helped organize the conference, attended by Marne Kilates, Raffi Banzuela, Luis Cabalquinto, Gabriel H. Bordado, and Paz Verdades Santos.

The first two conferences in 2000 and 2004 were held at the Aquinas University, now the University of Sto. Tomas in Legazpi. The next three conferences were held at the Naga College Foundation, Ateneo de Naga University, and Camarines Sur Polytechnic Colleges in 2008, 2012, and 2016 respectively.

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