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AdNU prof named TOYM ‘22 awardee

By John Sherwin Acampado

ARCHBISHOP of Caceres Leonardo Z. Legazpi, OP, received it in 1974 for his contribution to Education. The prelate is considered as the “first Filipino” named as rector of the venerable University of Santo Tomas, the oldest in Asia.

Father and son Luis Villafuerte and L-Ray Villafuerte who are seasoned politicians in Camarines Sur were also given the same recognition in 1973 and in 2002. The elder Villafuerte was honored for his achievement in ‘Investment Banking’ while incumbent congressman Villafuerte was given the award for his contribution in ‘Entrepreneurship in Exports.’

One must not forget that the local government of Naga also takes pride that former city mayor and cabinet secretary Jesse Robredo and government employee Florencio Mongoso, Jr., received the same award for government service in 1990 and 2002 respectively.

Twenty-years after, Kristian Sendon Cordero, a poet and translator, an assistant professor at the Ateneo de Naga University, a filmmaker and founder of an independent bookshop and art space, Savage Mind and Kamarin, was also recognized as one of The Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines (TOYM) for the year 2022 during a four-hour ceremony held at the Conrad Hotel in Manila last December 8, 2022.

Born in Iriga City in 1983 to Alejandro Quinto Cordero, a native of Candaba, Pampanga and Ofelia Balbuena Sendon of Nabua, Camarines Sur, Kristian or Yayan as he is fondly called by his family dreamt of becoming a Catholic priest.

Hence, after his primary and secondary education in Iriga City, Cordero studied philosophy at the Holy Rosary Minor Seminary in Naga City, where he had the chance to be taught scholastic philosophy by Fr. Andrew Recepcion, Federico Jose Lagdameo and Fr. Wilmer Tria who later became his immediate supervisor at the Ateneo de Naga University Press.

Cordero consider the latter as an inspiration in his intellectual formation. After his seminary years, Cordero has served as faculty member of the Social Sciences Department of Ateneo de Naga University for several years until he became involved in the newly established Ateneo de Naga University Press which he now heads as OIC-University Press Director.

The award recognizes Cordero for his continuous work to write, translate and film in the Bikolnon languages. New York-based poet Luis Cabalquinto describes the poems in Pusuanon, Cordero’s third book of poetry in Bikol as, “intimate sketches and portraits of the people and land of his birth. He does this with a confident hand, cool detachment and, very often, with tongue-in-cheek humor. Fully in command of his material, Cordero’s poetic diction deftly fuses real and surreal elements to elicit from the thoughtful reader not only high amusement but also deep understanding.”

While poet and translator Marne Kilates writes these words for Canticos, Cordero’s fourth volume, “There is no better proof of the surging revival of Bikol literature (poetry, stories, novels, and even movies written and conceived in the Bikol language) than the works being published today in and from the home ground, Bikol region. And the most remarkable thing about this “renaissance” is that it is being led by younger writers in the prime of their creative life, not least known of whom is the award-winning bilingual poet and Bikol scholar Kristian Sendon Cordero. And it is not “just” writing poetry but exploring the lesser-known territories of poetic composition such as what Cordero is doing in Canticos. With his characteristic opulence of substance and unmistakable sound, Cordero is breaking sacred ground here with the audacious use of the “profane” in poetry that is unfettered by, or almost naked with the extremes of form—the revealing and revelation of bone and structure, or the strictures that in the end liberate meaning.”

Considered as the enfant terrible of Bikol contemporary writings, Cordero is also regarded as the most awarded Bikolnon contemporary writer. Philippine Tatler has enlisted him as one of the Best Filipino creatives for 2021. Carlos Ojeda Aureus, writer and professor of the University of the Philippines writes, “Not since Chaucer have I been impressed by a person like Cordero. Apart from taking most of the weight of the Bikol Literary Renaissance Movement to rest on his shoulders, he, like Chaucer, wears many hats without compromising the quality of his poetry! If he is not busy on lecture tours here and abroad, he is busy receiving major awards, also here and abroad. There is no need to enumerate his laurels. Perhaps the better question is “what else has he not won?” But here’s what I find outstanding about him which sets him apart head and shoulders from many artists: Instead of confronting questionable situations head-on, he builds new structures. Nor does he struggle to change problematic models. Instead, he creates a new model and sets it on a higher ground, eventually making dissenting voices superfluous.”

Cordero has authored 29 books: seven of these books are his poetry collections in Rinconada, Bikol, and Filipino. His works (poetry and essays) have been translated into German, Spanish, Macedonian, Albanian, French, Japanese, Italian, Russian and English. He has two books of short fictions and has 6 edited and translated important foreign and Bikolnon writers to Bikol and Filipino respectively. He has edited and co-edited and provided art direction to fourteen books of anthologies of poetry, short stories, essays and children’s stories. He has two full-length films and two short films and has just finished a TV animation/educational program with the support of the National Council for Children’s Television.

His on-going creative projects are funded by the National Book Development Board (NBDB), National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the University of Los Angeles in California. He has recently been named as the next artist-in residence for 2023 in the Stellenbosch Institute of Advanced Studies in South Africa, and one of the fourteen recipients of the GAWAD HIYAS, given to outstanding artists and cultural workers in the Luzon region by the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Kaisa Sa Sining Network.

Aside from Cordero, other creatives were given the same recognition, this includes, the writers and doctors Ron Baticulon and Gideon Lasco and visual artist Manix Abrera. Cordero was nominated by JCI Iriga headed by Gir Albia Corporal. The TOYM is an award organized the JCI Philippines with the support of the TOYM Foundation, as well as other partners and stakeholders. JCI or Junior Chamber International has handed the recognition since 1959. As a national board in search of what it considers as outstanding young men and women, it fulfills its mission to create developmental opportunities in four areas: individual growth, business and entrepreneurship, community action and international cooperation that empower young people to create positive change.

In his two-minute acceptance speech, Cordero invited the audience to come and visit Savage Mind and he personally dedicated the newest recognition to his parents.

Cordero received the coveted recognition alongside with other nine honorees who were selected out of the twenty-one finalists announced by JCI Philippines and the TOYM Foundation. The TOYM is as considered one the most prestigious recognitions in the country. A trophy designed by National Artist Napoleon Abueva is handed over to the recipients during a formal awarding ceremony which is expected to be held at the Malacañang Palace. For this year, the board of jury is headed by Associate Justice Samuel Gaerlan.


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