IS THERE still a place for traditional poetry in a pragmatic and the fast-paced era?

Poet and pedagogue Michael M. Coroza seems to have answered in the affirmative after receiving the Southeast Asian Writers’ Award last October 12.

The annual Southeast Asia Writers’ Awards, or simply SEA Write, was instituted in 1979 by Thailand’s royal family to honor literary excellence in the ASEAN region, and as such is the only regional literary award of its kind.

Coroza, who has gained acclaim from institutions like the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards and the Filipino Language Commission, now stands alongside Filipino literary greats like the late Nick Joaquin, Edilberto Tiempo, and Ophelia Dimalanta who have received the SEA Write citation. While now with the Filipino Department of the Ateneo de Manila University’s School of Humanities, Coroza also traces part of his roots to the University of Santo Tomas’ Faculty of Arts and Letters where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree major in Philosophy. Coroza also worked in the Varsitarian as editor of the Filipino section.

In the awarding ceremony at The Oriental Hotel in Bangkok, Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana of the Thai royal family bestowed the prize on Coroza. But instead of delivering a customary speech, Coroza opted to render a poem in his native tongue with all the physical and vocal verve characteristic of traditional Filipino poetry.

Coroza admitted that he was aware of the fact that his audience that day would not understand his words, but apparently the performance was well-received.

“Everyone, including the princess, was quite astonished with my delivery perhaps because they were unacquainted to poetry delivered in such a lively manner.” Coroza also related how one Briton approached him after the ceremony and said, “I could not understand what you were saying but I could feel what you were telling me.”

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