Updated- March 7- THE UNIVERSITY paid tribute to the Ustetika, the longest-running campus literary derby in the country, for being “a true testimony to UST’s rich and robust intellectual life.”

“Many of the country’s greatest writers are products of the University of Santo Tomas,” said Vice Rector Fr. Pablo Tiong, O.P., during the 25th Ustetika Awards night last December 5 at the UST Plaza Mayor. “And a number of them started their writing career by participating in Ustetika when they were still students.”

Fr. Tiong also commended the Varsitarian for organizing Ustetika. “Your efforts have contributed to making literature alive and flourishing in the University,” he said.

For the fifth straight year, a student from the Faculty of Arts and Letters won the highly coveted Rector’s Literary Award.

Journalism senior Sarah Aurelio, earlier proclaimed Thomasian Fictionist of the Year, bagged the penultimate prize for her short story, The King’s Listener, about a bird that gives up its freedom to listen to a grieving king.

The Rector’s Literary Award is chosen by Rector Fr. Rolando de la Rosa, O.P. from the first-prize winners of the various categories. The winner is the work that best reflects “the Catholic vision of grace and redemption.”

“Winning the RLA feels surreal and exhilarating,” said Aurelio, a former fellow of the annual Varsitarian Fiction Workshop. “The workshop helped a lot for I got to hear what I need to do in order to get better. It gives you a sense and idea of where you are as a writer.”

Artlets students continued to dominate the contest, bagging 20 of the 25 prizes available.

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Journalism sophomore Azer Parrocha, also a former Fiction Workshop fellow, placed second in fiction for her entry, The Peri-a Circus, while literature senior Camille Diane Johnson was third with Snapshots. Communication arts senior Stephanie San Juan and journalism senior Jacob Dominguez were given honorable mentions for Diary for Emily and God Knows When, respectively.

There was only one winner each in the one-act drama, now on its second year of revival. Parrocha won third prize for Keeping Company. Literature junior Marianne Freya Nono also won third place in the Filipino division for Tirahan.

Dominguez, who was last year’s Fictionist of the Year, broke the two-year no-first-prize-winner drought in poetry when he was named Thomasian Poet of the Year for his collection, Mostly Your Kind, Star Boy. Placing second and third are literature junior Carmela Sagtitalo and senior Dominique Allison Santos for Paperthought and In Small, Things are Kept, respectively.

Literature seniors dominated the essay with Johnson being named Thomasian Essayist of the Year for Coming Full Circle, and Maria Katrina del Rosario placing second for In the Garage I Wait for a Cat. Koreen Borillo and Kristine Ann Ferriols received honorable mentions for Sitting on a Chair and Dream House, respectively.

No one placed first in sanaysay, but AB-BSE senior Adrian Romero placed second for Teacher Carabao, while literature junior Kristine Nigel Santos won third prize for Sa Kabilang Dako. Honorable mention was given to Isang Araw na Walang Kuryente by medical technology freshman Ma. Kathleen Jane Villaruel.

Paul Castillo bagged his second Tomasinong Makata ng Taon title for his collection Hanapbuhay. He first won the award in 2007. No other winners were declared in tula this year.

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Library science sophomore Julie Ann Dominique de Leon was named Tomasinong Kuwentista ng Taon for ID at Super-ego. Communication arts senior Camille Kristine Cruz placed second for Ponga, while political science sophomore April Anne Dizon won third place for Pitong Kahilingan. Honorable mentions were given to Hotel Sogo by Adrian Jules Dalmacio (journalism), Alikabok, atbp. by Arthea Arese Quesada (BS secondary education), Ultramega Powertrip by Michaela Sarah de Leon (journalism), and Kumpisal by Lisse Anne Bertumen (commerce).

This year’s judges were: Cirilo Bautista, Jose Neil Garcia, and Ralph Galan (Poetry); Victor Emmanuel Carmelo Nadera, Rebecca Añonuevo, and Roberto Añonuevo (Tula); Charlson Ong, Ma. Francezca Therese Kwe, and Ferdinand Lopez (Fiction); Efren Abueg, Eros Atalia, and Abdon Balde, Jr. (Katha); Florentino Hornedo, Jose Wendell Capili, and Lopez (Essay); Oscar Campomanes and Gary Devilles (Sanaysay); and Jose Victor Torres and Dennis Marasigan (Dula/Play).

Parangal Hagbong

The Parangal Hagbong, given by the Ustetika to UST alumni for lifetime achievement in letters, was bestowed on writer Nita Umali-Berthelsen and Tagalog poet Teodoro Antonio.

Berthelsen, who was present in the awards night, sent her daughter, Karen Berthelsen- Cardenas on stage to receive her award.

Cardenas said she was not conscious that her mom was a writer until she wrote a novel that was serialized in a magazine and her friends started asking what would happen in the next installments. She said the Hagbong reaffirmed her mom’s status in the literary world. “What I’m saying is that my mom is my mom,” Cardenas said. “To others, she is a writer. I’m grateful for the Ustetika award because to me, my mom has become a writer, not just my mom.”

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A neglected fictionist and essayist, Umali-Berthelsen graduated from the old Faculty of Philosophy and Letters and is former Varsitarian Literary writer. She won third prize in the 1949 Philippines Free Press contest for her story The Money Maker. Her translation of her mother’s memoirs, The Tayabas Chronicles, won Best Translation in the 2002 National Book Awards.

Meanwhile, Antonio dedicated the award to the journalists killed in the Maguindanao massacre. He also paid tribute to his mentors at UST fine arts where he took up Painting–National Artist Victorio Edades, Diosdado Lorenzo, and Manuel Rodriguez.

As the son of the late poet Emilio Mar Antonio, the Hari ng Balagtasan during the 1950s, Antonio said he had wanted to become an artist because his father was already a famous poet. But he later gravitated to letters.

Extremely versatile, Antonio is the best-loved Tagalog poet of his generation and has received the Southeast Asian Write Award from the King of Thailand.

Folk singer Gary Granada, soprano Karla Gutierrez of the Philippine Opera Company, UST Salinggawi Dance Troupe, and Chorus of Arts and Letters performed numbers. To cap the silver jubilee of the country’s most prestigious campus literary contest, fireworks at the UST football field lit up the firmament as Gutierrez led the Ustetika audience in singing Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.”


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