Seven Bikolano authors were chosen as finalists in the 2008 National Book Award sponsored by the Manila Critics Circle and the National Book Development Board (NDBD). The finalists were officially announced last Thursday, October 24, in the column of Dr. Isagani Cruz in the Philippine Star.
Nine poetry books were cited as finalists in this year’s book awards and four of these verse collections were written by Bikolano poets. Antisi*Pasyon asin iba pang Rawitdawit sa Bikol asin Ingles / Anticipation and Other Poems in Bikol and English, by Victor Dennis T. Nierva, translated by Marne L. Kilates and H. Francisco V. Peñones Jr.; Mannahatta Mahal, by Luis Cabalquinto; Mostly in Monsoon Weather, by Marne L. Kilates and Pusuanon, by Kristian Sendon Cordero, translated by Marne L. Kilates and H. Francisco V. Peñones Jr.
Victor Denis Nierva who comes from San Fernando, Camarines Sur is finishing his master’s degree in Creative Writing at the University of the Philippines. He has won the Premio Tomas Arejola in 2006. Aside from writing, Nierva is also involved in graphic design, music and theater. His first book like Cordero was also published by Goldprint Publishing House late last year.
Kristian Cordero of Iriga City, who writes a regular column for this paper, has the longest list of awards received among the young Bikol writers of this generation. He has three collections of Filipino, Bikol and Rinconada poetry and has won several times in the annual poetry contest of Homelife magazine, the Premio Tomas Arejola, the Madrigal-Gonzales Best First Book Award and recently the NCCA Writers Prize for Poetry. Aside from poetry, Cordero writes fictions and essays that gained recognitions from the Gawad Collantes and the Palanca. Both Cordero and Nierva are members of the academic faculty of Ateneo de Naga University.
Marne Kilates of Daraga, Albay has published three books of poetry and nine books of translation of Filipino poetry into English. His translations include works by major Filipino poets, the latest of which are the University of the Philippines Centennial Edition of Francisco Balagtas' Florante at Laura , and National Artist Virgilio S. Almario's (or Rio Alma's) Mga Biyahe, Mga Estasyon / Journeys, Junctions (Anvil, 2008). Kilates who translated some of the works of Nierva and Cordero into English is considered by many as one of the major poets in the country today.
These first three poets are based in Manila and Naga while Luis Cabalquinto has been in New York for the longest period of time. Born in Magarao, Camarines Sur, Cabalquinto received a Fulbright-Hays grant (in 1968) and went to Cornell University in Ithaca, New York for further studies in mass communication. Cabalquinto enrolled in fiction and poetry writing workshops conducted by A.R. Ammons, William Matthews, James McConkey, and others in the English Department. He had been sporadically writing poetry and fiction since high school but at Cornell his creative writing teachers convinced him that he should pursue imaginative writing more seriously. Cabalquinto has five books of poetry published in the US and in the Philippines.
The three other Bikolano finalists are Conrado de Quiros (Naga City) for Essay and Andrew Gimenez Recepcion (a diocesan priest from Nabua, Camarines Sur) for Theology and Religion and the Filipino-Jesuit Joaquin Bernas of Baao, Camarines Sur who is the sole finalist and therefore the automatic winner for the Law category for his book A Living Constitution. De Quiros and Bernas are both columnists of the Philippine Daily Inquirer and have already published several books in their respective fields. De Quiros’ book Tongues on Fire is a collection of speeches and articles on various political and cultural issues of the Filipinos. Meanwhile, Andrew Gimenez Recepcion is the Mission Director of the Archdiocese of Caceres and writes a regular column for Vox Bikol. His book God’s Global Household is a breakthrough study that offers critical optics on the mission of the Catholic Church in the age of globalization.
The awarding ceremonies will be held at the Yuchengco Museum on November 15, 2008