By: Penn T. Larena
The culture of a place is a reflection of its society, in Negros Island its rich customs and traditions are both fascinating and captivating, it tells us about the people in the island, their way of living, as well as their beliefs.
When the Americans came in Dumaguete City and established Silliman Institute in 1901, Negros Oriental Provincial School in 1902, and Provincial Trade School in 1907; English language, literature, and creative writing were taught to develop the city to start as a creative center in the Visayas region. During the war, St. Paul Academy (now a University) was the only school in the Visayas area that opened the school for few children spearheaded by the Saint Paul of Chartes (SPC) nuns teaching French Language and French Literature at that time.
During the beginning of the post-war era, Spanish literary works were abundant at the early 1950s.
With works by prolific Dumaguete Writers like Oscar Montenegro, Tito Montenegro, Jose B. Anfone, Gloria Ledesma, Pelucio P. Lavinia, Rita S. Montenegro, Emmanuela Trio, Jose Maria Suarez, Rosario Fe Saavedra, Angel Calumpang, Salome Pastor, Luisa Magbanua, Claro Ceniza, Cesar Amigo, Aida Rivera (Ford), Edilberto Tiempo, Edith Tiempo, Reuben Canoy, Ricaredo Demetillo, David Quemada, Jose V. Montebon Jr., James Matheson, and Nicator F. Tabligan Jr. – whose contributions to the literary culture in Dumaguete City spanned for decades.
Writers Rowena Tiempo-Torrevillas, Myrna Pena-Reyes, Lakambini A. Sitoy, Cezar Ruiz Aquino, Christine Godinez-Ortega, Merlie Alunan, and young emerging scholars Francis Lianro Bulado, and Cedrick Louis Antiquina continues to influence the world of literary and creative minds for our future generation.
Drs. Edilberto Tiempo and Edith Tiempo were the faculty of the creative writing program in Silliman University, and the people responsible for the establishment of the Silliman National Writers Workshop which was inspired by their experience at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. The workshop has contributed to the creative atmosphere in Negros Island, and has also served as a pioneering model for other workshops established in the Philippines.
Foundation University was also a breeding ground of writer, poet and literary artists Apolonio de la Pena, Henry Jo Teves, Federico Villahermosa, Antonino Calumpang, Saleto Erames, Marcelino Maxino, and Leonaga Tulabing Larena.
St. Paul University – Dumagute has a number of well-known writers; Atty. David Cabello Martinez, Bobby Flores Villasis, Lilius Pinili, Arturo Valencia Umbac, Veronico Somera, and new breed of writers Tichie Ann Baena, Trina Claire Somoza-Ampalayo, Grace L. Alejado, Penn T. Larena, and Roel Jumawan.
Elsie Victoria Martinez-Coscolluela the first Filipina Hall of Famer to win Palanca Awards, Artemio Tadena and Edgar Libre Grińo both also won prizes for their literary works in the prestigious Palanca Awards. Rolin Migyuel Cadallo Obina is also an award-winning Palanca poet, writer, and playwright from Bais City. Beverly Marcela Pastor-Ambo poems were accepted for publication in the American Poetry Anthology as she became a member of the International Society of Poets based in Washington D.C.
The literary background of the late Dr. Timoteo Sibala Oracion (anthropology, historian and writer) started when he recorded a piece of oral literature similar to a chant or incantation to bless the bounty of a hunt, it was later on transcribed by Dr. Oracion in his old study of the 'Negritos Culture and Traditions'. Most of his founded studies were about the Pre-colonial times in the cultural communities of Negros.
Rodolfo ‘Rudy’ Villanueva, shortlisted for the country’s highest recognition given to Filipino artists, Villanueva, also known by his pen name Renato E. Madrid, is a candidate for literature and music, he is the author of Southern Harvest (1996), a collection of stories, and two novels titled Devil Wings (1997) and Mass for the Death of an Enemy (2000).
Simon Anton Nino Diego Galera Baena, a poet whose work has been published in Mascara Literary Review International, Philippines Free Press, The James Franco Review, The Blue Hour Magazine, and The American Journal of Poetry.
Young generation writer and theatre actor, Ron Jacob Calumpang wrote several literary and autobiographies of famous people in his locality in Negros. Poet and medical doctor Gerard Jude Bumanglag humanizes the "real-world" of human emotions including sadness, pain, and happiness through his poems. Ayla Lopez-Sedon started writing at an early age, she is a creative writer who has a way with her words that are astounding and powerful. Josefa Baena Villanueva Perez (writer, researcher, and visual artist) has an impressive compilation of original folktales, folkways, and legends written together with her English Teacher husband, Serafin Perez, their work was utilized during the Negros Oriental Centennial Celebration.
Gemma Laxina Iso wrote several literary publications; Batang Tun-og (2013, non-fiction book) and Jobless to Job-packed (2021, non-fiction book). Some of her popular articles titled; OFWs in Madrid (published in a newspaper in Spain about Overseas Filipino Workers), Womb for Rent (about surrogacy), The Beautiful Mind (about mental health in the Philippine context), Eve Loves Eve (about same-sex relationships), and more. Her work was published by Independent Singapore newspaper, and in the columns of the Dumaguete MetroPost amongst others. She was also featured in the article Negros Women in Service published by The Negros Times whose current Editor-in-Chief, Lyle Mark Bulado (better known under the nom de plume of Lyle Whatchamacallit) who was born and raised in Negros Oriental, and is currently a lifestyle editor and writer based in New York City covering pop-culture and current affairs.
The declaration of the month of April of every year as a celebration for National Literature Month was established by Presidential Proclamation 968, signed by former President Benigno Aquino III in 2015. Its goal is to promote, conserve and popularize the country’s historical and cultural heritage and resources, as well as artistic creations through literature.