Photos by Jilson Seckler C. TiuPHILIPPINE Literature has taken the first step in its campaign to encourage writing in the country and be recognized worldwide with its first international literary festival.

Local and international literary icons, as well as teachers, students, and book enthusiasts gathered in the country’s first Manila International Literary Festival held on November 18 to 20 at the Hotel Intercontinental Manila in Makati City. The three-day event, Lit Out Loud (LOL), was organized by the National Book Development Board (NBDB). It featured various seminars and workshops on creating a worthy literary work.

According to NBDB Executive Director Atty. Andrea Pasion-Flores, the festival aims to bolster hidden literary talent in Filipinos, as well as to make them recognized by the global literary community.

“It is a great undertaking of the NBDB. It’s a great achievement and there is hope among writers that it can be held annually,” said renowned poet and critic Gemino Abad.

Abad also noted that seminars such as LOL serve as great opportunities for Philippine literature to flourish.

“We are opening a big door for reading Philippine literature to enter. What we need is [for Philippine literature] to be seen on TV, radio, and other mass media. Modern technology should be used by literature for dissemination, not destruction of literature,” he said.

Faculty of Arts and Letters professor, poet and critic Ralph Galan said that the title “Lit Out Loud” implied creating some kind of noise, as it is derived from the widely-used Internet acronym LOL which means “laugh out loud.”

“I think NBDB wants to drum up the event regarding the importance of reading and appreciating books,” said Galan, who was spotted in the event.

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But Galan said he is rather skeptical whether such seminars would make an impact, knowing that Filipinos prefer towards foreign titles rather than the local ones.

“We [Filipinos] do read, but we do not necessarily read Filipino authors. Hopefully it would make an impact in the publication industry and literature in the long run,” Galan added.

During the last day of the event, Man Asian Literary Prize (MALP) chair director David Parker announced a change in the rules and regulations of the contest. According to Parker, writers will be limited to those living in their respective Asian countries instead of Asians living abroad.

Parker’s argument is that living in the United States or Europe allows an Asian writer to join various competitions which will cater an advantage in the MALP. It also defeats the purpose of the title itself, saying that the objective of the MALP is to promote writing in Asia.

Palanca winner Abdon Balde Jr. talked about creating opportunities for literary activity to flourish outside of Manila. In his talk, he addressed certain difficulties in such as the effect on metaphorical meaning when literature is published in the dialectic tongue.

In connection with Balde’s talk, writer Merlie Alunan discussed various programs of state colleges and universities outside Manila on working with dialects. Alunan also noted the reason for the frequency of writing in English.

“They tend to write in English because there is no prospect in writing [the language] of the motherland,” said Alunan.

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