Writers, artists pay tribute to literary titan Cirilo Bautista

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National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose leads the tribute for the late Cirilo Bautista who died last May 6 at the age of 76. Photo by Rhenwill James G. Santos/The Varsitarian

WRITERS and artists paid tribute to the late National Artist Cirilo Bautista during the necrological service for him last May 10 at the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo of the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Bautista’s works served as the definition of the Filipino identity, said fellow National Artist F. Sionil Jose.

“You (Bautista) deserve [the National Artist award] because in your works, there is profound rootedness in our own soil and you have this very, very deep affection for our country,” he said.

Bautista, a former Varsitarian literary editor, died last May 6 at the age of 76.

READ: Cirilo Bautista, Philippine literature giant, 76

Jose described poets and writers as the nation’s “keepers of memory” and urged writers to follow Bautista’s style of “Filipinizing” the English language in his works.

“Without the memory, there is no nation. [I] know he has some doubts about his writing in borrowed tongue. His epic is a product of an experimentation in the form. I hope all Filipino poets try to do the same,” he said.

Ronald Baytan, director of the Bienvenido N. Santos Creative Writing Center, said Bautista, his former professor, taught him the importance of kindness and commitment in writing.

“We constantly hold literary events and workshops, because Dr. Bautista is our inspiration. We are giving back. I was one of those who benefitted from his free workshop[s],” Baytan said.

“[H]e pushed for actions that would pool more funding for the benefit of the young writers so that more would receive training to hone their craft,” he added.

Prospero de Vera III, officer in charge of the Commission on Higher Education, delivered a message on behalf of President Rodrigo Duterte.

“Dr. Bautista’s body of works reminds us that culture and the arts reflect and define our national identity which is vital to nation-building,” the President’s message read.

Duterte said Bautista’s life should continue to “profoundly move [Filipinos] as [they] sphere [their] country towards genuine transformation.”

Filipino writers took to social media their expressions of gratitude to Bautista, saying he was instrumental to the flourishing of the country’s literature in English and Filipino.

Joselito de los Reyes, chairman of the UST Department of Literature, remembered Bautista as his “first major literary editor” at Panorama.

“Siya ang nagbigay sa akin ng tsansang makapagmakata kahit papaano, sa labas ng student publication, at maging manunulat kahit pilit na pilit,” de los Reyes wrote in his Facebook post.

Jerry Gracio, commissioner for Samar-Leyte languages of the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino, recalled Bautista’s strong and constant reminder to “think of books.”

“Kaya marahil laging ibinibilin ni Bautista to think of books, hindi para sa pansariling kadakilaan, kung hindi dahil sa paniwala na nasa mga aklat maiimbak ang gunita ng bayan, ang ating sariling mga kalakasan at kahinaan bilang tao, ang mga personal na pagkabigo at mumunting tagumpay,” he said.

Allan Popa, a poet from Ateneo de Manila, describer his former professor Bautista as a jolly mentor.

“Laging masaya ang aming mga pagkikita noon. Puno ng biruan at tawanan,” he said.

State funeral rites followed the tribute. His remains were interred at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Taguig.

Bautista, who was named National Artist for Literature in 2014, received nine Carlos Palanca awards for his works such as The Cave and Other Poems, 1968; The Archipelago, 1970; Ritual, 1971; The Man Who Made a Covenant with the Wind, 1975; Charts, 1973; Telex Moon, 1975; Crossworks, 1979; and Philippine Poetics: The Past Eight Years, 1981.

Bautista obtained his bachelor’s degree in literature at the University in 1963.

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