IN AN impressive and courageous attempt to define “20th Century Thomasian Literature,” respected literary critic and De La Salle University literature professor Dr. Isagani Cruz assessed Thomasian writing through the newly-released 2002 UST Center for Creative Writing and Studies (CCWS) calendar.

According to him, Thomasian writing is strictly artistic in terms of craft but full of emotions.

The calendar contains works of CCWS director Dr. Ophelia Dimalanta, assistant director Joselito Zulueta, administrative secretary Ferdinand Lopez, senior associates F. Sionil Jose and Cirilo Bautista, and junior associates Ramil Gulle, Jose Victor Torres, Lourd Ernest de Veyra, Rebecca Añonuevo, and Michael Coroza.

“Thomasian writing brings everything down to the level of the personal, the down to earth (and) the real life context. But the real life context is not a reality check; rather it is meditative and contemplative. It looks into the meanings or implications of what is all in the surface,” Cruz said, in his lecture at the UST-CCWS last Jan 23.

Cruz added that Thomasian writers are primarily male, which is evident not only in the writer’s gender but also in their “sexist” language.

To stress his point, Cruz lifted a line from F. Sionil Jose’s “Art and Revolution,” which goes, “Whatever the artist seeks in the long run, he must work for excellence.”

“The maleness is clear, especially in the subject matter, which is expected because the writers are predominantly male and by definition do not appreciate female issues,” Cruz explained.

As to the language, Cruz described the Thomasian writer as bilingual––a clear continuation of National Hero Jose Rizal’s multilingualism.

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In the calendar, three of the 12 works are in Filipino.

“The predominance of English text (in the calendar) is not significant (rather it is the presence of) Filipino text which is significant, since UST does not have a (regular) Filipino campus paper,” he said.

Cruz also pointed out that Catholicism plays a big role in the Thomasian writing.

“Anyone who does not come from UST will say that (Thomasian writing) is Catholic writing,” Cruz said.

He added that the 400-year-old Catholic tradition of the Pontifical University continues to influence Thomasians unlike writers from other universities whose writings basically dwell on current socio-political issues.

“After the first People Power Revolution everybody wrote books about it. Now, nobody reads them. But if you would write a “Kind of Burning” ––a poem by Dimalanta––everybody could have it. It does not necessarily have to be that particular kind of burning because everybody has a kind of burning,” Cruz said.

Cruz also challenged Thomasians to engage more in novel writing because it will be the trend of the new era.

Quoting newspaper columnist and writer Jose Dalisay, Cruz mentioned that the new critics, who are primarily teachers, brought the bias for short stories and the short lyric poetry to be able to teach short pieces in an hour-long class.

“If it is true that UST has now focused primarily on poetry despite a long line of outstanding poets such as Albert Casuga and Rolando Tinio, then UST has a real problem,” Cruz said.

Dimalanta, Torres, and Lopez, agreed with Cruz.

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“Thomasian writing is mainly poetry because students think that it is easier to write in poetry and easier to compete in poetry contests,” Dimalanta said.

However, Cruz did not totally banish the idea of writing poetry since the epic poem is also fast becoming a genre in the modern Philippine literary scene.

Cruz advised Thomasian writers to learn not only from their professors but also to read works of UST authors, to get a grasp of the Thomasian style and tradition.

“In fiction, it is very clear that UST writers use less modifiers, more subject verbs, shorter sentences, and write simpler sentences (in general). There are no complex sentences, which is good,” he said.

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