ACADEMIC discourses are not necessarily only produced by academics. In the case of Panitikabataan2004, students get to deliver studies and treatises that could give academics and scholars a run for their money.

The unique conference and paper presentation was organized by the University of the Philippines (UP) Institute of Creative Writing and the UP Writers’ Club, with funding from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts last July 2 PanitiKabataan 2004 was subtitled “the first student conference on Philippine literature.”

Keynote speaker and multi-Palanca winner Alfred Yuson acknowledged “literature is not served well” by the “lack of critical discourses produced.” He added it was “heartening to welcome young people who may just be the key to the enhancement of literary appreciation.”

From more than 50 applicants nationwide, 10 fellows were chosen to deliver their papers: Maria Eda Carreon, Kathleen Evangelista and Diana Marie Rañola from De La Salle University; Barbara Magallona and Denis Villegas from the Ateneo de Manila University; Felizer Lozada and Ina Pahlia from UP Visayas; Carljoe Javier from UP Diliman; Lloyd Abria Luna from Polytechnic University of the Philippines; and Ailil Alvarez from the University of Santo Tomas.

Luna discussed the miseducation of campus journalists and campus journalism’s concept of press freedom in “The Peril of Immaturity of Campus Journalism: A Threat to the Nation.” “When campus journalists do not get into the bottom of this uncertainty, the upshot will be a production of no-sense media practitioners and a pool of writers that does not care for the real sentiments of the people but only themselves,” he said.

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Meanwhile, video games were presented as potential ground for fiction writers in Javier’s essay “Game On: Storytelling in Video Games and its Possibilities for Young Writers.”

According to Javier, video games and fiction use the same method of storytelling. Thus, video games may be used as a creative medium. Keeping people’s attention to the story would be easier because “in video games, the players are not just observers, but participants in the story.”

Another non-textual discourse on Philippine literature was Rañola’s “Dancing the Final Hours of Rizal,” an analysis of Basilio Villaruz’s ballet, La Lampara. She concludes that dance could be used as a medium for literary messages and ideas.

Meanwhile, feminism was applied in Magallona’s analysis of Ninotschka Rosca’s Generations in her paper, “Of Man, Woman and Beast”; in Pahlia’s critique of Illongo poetess Doray Espinosa’s works in “The Bitch Goddess on the Poetry of Doray Espinosa”; and in Villegas’ study of women’s attempt to “have a voice distinctly their own” in “Womb/an-W/O man-Pinay.”

On the other hand, Lozada said supernatural elements in literary texts should be seen as real experiences in his study, “Hegemony and the Discourse of the Supernatural.” According to him, the aswang, kapre and duwende are representations of our people’s struggles.

Carreon’s “A Rightful Claim” and Evangelista’s “The Traditional Elements and Guidelines of a Detective Story within Smaller and Small Circles” applied genre criticism on the Filipino detective novel.

UST’ very own Alvarez presented the most commended paper in the conference, judging from the panelist’s reaction to her study, the “Feminine Face of God: Myth-making and Goddess Consciousness in Merlinda Bobis’ Narrative”. The paper tackled the question, “Why are we conditioned that God is designated male?” Alvarez presented a feminine face of the Supreme Being through Bobis’ short stories and concluded that the author’s mythologizing is an “empowerment source” for women who want to be heard “in their own voice.”

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Oldtimers’ verdict

After the fellows have read their pieces, it was their turn to hold their breath and face the panelists.

Carreon was advised to “raise the stakes a little higher.” Magallona, on the other hand, was told to link her “Man, Woman, and Beast” to other feminist works besides Rosca’s “Generations.”

Luna’s paper on the “Perils of Immaturity of Campus Journalism” brought about talks on Martial Law and the Bureau of Standard for Mass Media, the government body that censored the press during the Marcos era.

The critics were also interested in Javier’s paper which linked video gaming and story telling but were quite doubtful on the connection of both.

Meanwhile, Alvarez, a magna cum laude graduate in AB Literature of the Faculty of Arts and Letters last March, was commended for the use of a clear framework of a pre-patriarchal theory and for a well-chosen author (Bobis).

The panelists advised the fellows to expand their study, to be more passionate about their subject, and to look more into Philippine literature for sources instead of using Western writers and ideas.

Among the panelists were Ramon Magsaysay laureate Bienvenido Lumbera; Timothy Montes, head of the Department of Humanities of UP Mindanao; Michael Coroza, professor at the Ateneo de Manila University; Patrick Flores, head of the Department of Art Studies of UP; Joi Barrios, associate dean for academic affairs of the UP College of Arts and Letters; and Paolo Manalo, assistant professor of the UP Department of English and Comparative Literature.

Also in the panel were: Hermano Beltran, head of the literary division of the Cultural Center of the Philippines and chair of the Literary Arts Committee of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts; Jovita Zarate, former head writer for ABS-CBN; Glecy Atienza, Gawad Chanselor and Dadufalza recipient; Basilio Esteban Villaruz, president of the World Dance-Alliance Philippines; Lilia Quindoza-Santiago, author of Sa Ngalan ng Ina; and Vicente Garcia Groyon III, director of the DLSU Bienvenido Santos Creative Writing Center.

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Yuson said “the conference was commendable as it developed the skills of the writers.” Minds were enlightened, new friends found, and enemies created, as Coroza jokingly said.

Coroza also referred to the writers as “mga sumusunod na kritiko ng ‘di malayong hinaharap.” He also advised, “Ibalik n’yo ang katutubong tradisyon dahil kritiko tayo hindi ng ibang tao ngunit ng Pilipino.”

Rosmon Tuazon, UST Legal Management alumnus and currently UP Writers’ Club president, said it best in his closing remarks: “Kung wala ang mga kabataang kritiko, patay na. Laging hingalo ang panitikan. Wala na tayong magiging batayan kung bakit tayo matutuwa o maiinis sa isang akda at hindi masyadong maganda ang buhay.” Ma. Nicole Pauline C. Cruz and Chuck D. Smith

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