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For Love of the Word: Workshops on Teaching Philippine Literature in High School and College and the Peace Mindanao projects

Tuesday 11 February 2014 - 4:07pm

The Philippine PEN Center, under the PEN International Beacon Centre Programme 2013, conducted teacher-training workshops and produced two publications.

 Called For Love of the Word: Workshops on Teaching Philippine Literature in High School and College, the workshops were held on August 12, 2013 at Capitol University in Cagayan de Oro City, Misamis Oriental, Mindanao region, located at the southernmost part of the Philippines. PEN authors and university professors Ricardo de Ungria and Timothy Montes served as the resource persons. Over a hundred participants from higher education institutions (HEIs) and high schools in different provinces of Northern Mindanao participated. This project was a derivative of the previous workshops conducted by the Center in various Philippine cities in 2010-2012, which were also supported by PEN International and the Swedish Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).

Respected professor and scholar Delfin Tolentino spoke a modicum of truth when he observed, “Thousand of teachers teach literature but many do not know how to teach it.” The country’s Department of Education has initiated a reformation of the basic education curricula to accommodate a major shift from a six-year primary education and four-year secondary education to an enhanced K+12 program. In light of this, more teachers—especially those teaching reading, writing and literature—have to be equipped with the latest resource materials, and their skills in critical interpretation further honed to a competent level.

As an affirmative response, the 2010 Congress of the Philippine Center passed a resolution to “work more closely with the education sector, its leaders, planners and administrators, its teachers and students, and the education publishing industry, to improve literature education in the country. The Philippine PEN recognizes that literary taste is shaped in the schools, especially the public school system; it is wh


ere generations must be taught to appreciate the outstanding works of our very own writers, works that constitute the soul of our nation.” Hence the idea for the literature teaching workshops was conceived.

To reach a greater number of teachers-beneficiaries, the Philippine Center produced Lit Matters: A Manual for Teaching Philippine Literature, a compilation of teaching modules on Philippine literary texts. PEN authors, affiliated with Philippine universities, designed the modules which cover selections in four genres (poetry, novel, short fiction, drama) and in various Philippine languages aside from English (Tagalog, Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Bikol, Surat Mangyan). The selections include works by Philippine National Artists (Francisco Arcellana, Nick Joaquin, Rolando Tinio, F. Sionil José, Edith Tiempo, Virgilio Almario, Bienvenido Lumbera), canonical writers (Cirilo Bautista, Paul Dumol, Elynia Ruth Mabanglo), and regional representatives (Magdalena Jalandoni, Marcel Navarra). They also include pre-colonial folkloric forms (Bikol epic Ibalon, Mangyan ambahan poetry of Mindoro). The manual was edited by PEN author and academic Ronald Baytan.

Mindanao-based conflicts have been a perennial problem in the country, since the American colonial period (1899-1946). Bombings, kidnapping, and killings have occurred regularly in the region. On November 23, 2009 in Maguindanao, Mindanao, more than 60 civilians, many of them journalists and writers, were massacred, apparent victims of political violence in connection with the May 10, 2010 national and local elections. The Philippine Center issued a resolution condemning in the strongest terms the massacre and “the culture of violence and impunity that has been engendered by government’s rapprochement with warlords and their armies in Mindanao and elsewhere,” very evident in the state’s historic “lackluster efforts to investigate killings of and violence against journalists and other victims of human rights abuses.”

Under the Beacon programme, the Center then published Peace Mindanao, an anthology of writings in various genres (short fiction, novel excerpt, play, and poem, screenplay, essay) and in three different languages—English, Filipino, and Cebuano (lingua franca of Central Visayas and Mindanao). The themes deal with various facets of peace in Mindanao, or lack thereof. Christians, Muslims, and the Lumads (indigenous people of southern Philippines) are represented in this collection edited by prize-winning PEN writer Jaime An Lim.

The overall purpose of the programme sought to address current concerns and needs in Philippine education and society, i.e., the enhancement of literature education, the expansion of a community of critical readers, and the promotion of expressions that contribute to peace development.