GarciaTHOMASIAN passion for writing and teaching letters was the central theme of memorial lectures held in honor of two of the University’s celebrated literature pedagogues, Paz M. Latorena and Carolina Garcia.

Now on its third year, the Paz M. Latorena Lecture was held at the AMV-College of Accountancy Auditorium last February 2.

A project of the College of Hospitality and Management, this year’s lecture aimed at paying homage to the history of the University as well as to the many Thomasian writers who established a name for themselves in literature. The lecture started with an exhibit of paintings depicting the legacy of Latorena (born 1907) as interpreted by College of Fine Arts and Design students.

“Her stories transcend time since it did not conform to the trend of its day,” said National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera, who led the audience to the exhibit.

A portrait sketch of the young Latorena“Moreover, the issues tackled and discussed in her stories are timeless. For a woman whose writings represented a great part of the female voice and the Filipino soul, Paz M. Latorena is truly a ‘matriarch’ of Filipino writing in English,” said Lumbera, who was mentored by Latorena before her untimely death in 1953.

Lumbera also gave a rundown of UST’s renowned writers and showed how UST’s contribution was considerable Philippine literature.

“It is unfortunate that, as a result of the failure to name the big writers that UST has produced, UST earned some kind of reputation as perhaps a third-rate producer of writers,” Lumbera said. “After this lecture, I hope that those of you in this audience will take pride in what UST has contributed to Philippine literature.”

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Latorena belonged to the first generation of writers. Together with Paz Marquez-Benitez and Loreto Paras-Sulit, she became part of the triumvirate of “literary matriarchs” to the next generation of writers in English. Her short stories such as “Desire” and “Small Key” disclose the image of the Filipino women during the first half of the 20th century in transition. She also became the second literary editor of the Varsitarian, after Jose Villa Panganiban, the “Father of the Varsitarian”.

When science meets literature

Meanwhile, the second Carolina Garcia Memorial Lecture tackled the intersections between science and literature. The theme of the lecture was “Crossing Boundaries, Rethinking Science Education: Humanizing the Science Curriculum through Literature” at the Thomas Aquinas Research Complex Auditorium last February 16.

Ferdinand Lopez, literature professor in the Faculty of Arts and Letters and a former student of Garcia’s, said Garcia was a phenomenal “teacher’s teacher”.

“[She was] an animated teacher who transported us to different dimensions of imaginative existence,” said Lopez. “Garcia never came to class unprepared. She interpreted us students like living texts.”

J. Niel Garcia, a UST alumnus and University of the Philippines professor, expounded on how poetry is used in the language of science.

“Science is a cultural practice,” said Garcia. “At the same time, poetry has become marginalized as an artistic activity. The scientific ideas are nothing but instruments to help us see truth. Science cannot offer us truth, it can only offer descriptions.”

The concept of the universe has become so abstract that it can be compared to poetry, Garcia said.

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“Poets have a claim to science because science has become poetic,” he said. “Scientists have these metaphors that have become completely naturalized that no one sees they are metaphors anymore. Like, when they say, ‘the heart is a pump,’ it is not really a pump; it’s a metaphor.”

However, Garcia underscored the point where these two fields clash.

“Poets don’t mind that there is mystery in the world, they live it, and they revel in it. Science cannot stand it; if there’s a mystery, they solve it,” he said.

Faculty of Medicine and Surgery Dean Graciela Gonzaga said she believes that science and literature go hand in hand.

“Literature opens our eyes to the world,” she said. “It makes us feel the world, understand its intricacies and [the] frailties [of human beings]. It makes us more human, more humane,” she said. “There is always a marriage between science and literature. I believe they are part and parcel with each other.”

“Science is critical thinking, literature is creative thinking,” she added. “Literature is even for doctors.”

Citing the negative effects of removing humanities from the Science curriculum was literature professor Nerisa Guevara, who took up BS Biology in UST.

“If humanity and literature subjects will be taken away, where will you get your art? What will you know about the complexity of the human soul?” Guevera said.

“From the 1980s to about 1997, majority of the winners in the Ustetika awards [for literature] would be Science or Medicine students,” she added, explaining the impact of humanities subjects have done for the students of medicine and the sciences.

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“I wonder if it is just a decision of the administrators to remove the humanities from the curriculum. I wonder if the administration actually asked their student council or is this just a decision of the administrators,” she said.

Capping the seminar was children’s author and practicing physician, Dr. Luis P. Gatmaitan, who is best known for his children’s books, “Mga Kwento ni Tito Doc,” which explain to children the different ailments that affect young people, including tooth decay, dog-bites, wound-healing, sore-eyes, common colds, fractures, intestinal problems, diarrhea, and tonsillitis.

“Writing for children is a serious thing because I am writing for the most discriminating audience of all,” said Gatmantan, whose books have been used as supplementary reading materials in public elementary schools. He also writes children’s books for institutions like the United Nations Children’s Fund, World Vision International, and World Health Organization.

“Magkaroon kayo ng sining, para hindi n’yo maramdaman na para kayong mga robot,” said Gatmaitan, in response to how science students these days feel like they have been programmed to perform tasks and memorize a great deal of information. Azer N. Parrocha

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