PERHAPS one of the perks of belonging to the Varsitarian’s Literary section is meeting creative writers, most especially Thomasians. These writers not only conduct poetry reading sessions and crafting book collections, but most of them actually end up in the academe as creative writing professors.

Ironically, more often than not, I find myself having to go out of the University just to scout and interview Thomasian writers. As a matter of fact, these writers are highly successful in other universities, being appointed as directors or associates of creative writing centers.

Since most of writers teach aboput writing per se, I figured it must be because of the lack of creative writing-related courses in the University. Among the top four universities in the country, only UST lacks Creative Writing. It is only offered as a one-semester subject in the Literature program of the Faculty of Arts and Letters. Although Literature is the most closely-related program to Creative Writing, they have significant differences that lie in their approach to the text. Literature is all about dissecting literary pieces, while Creative Writing is concerned with the creation.

Now, only a few professors-slash-creative writers have remained in UST, such Ophelia Dimalanta, Nerisa Guevara, and J. Vic Torres, to name a few. And where are the others?

Out in the University of the Philippines (UP), like Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo, former Varsitarian editor-in-chief, and now UP’s vice president for public affairs, and Vim Nadera, an ‘80’s graduate of BS Psychology, and the immediate past director of the UP Institute of Creative Writing (UPICW). Poet Michael Coroza, although a UST Graduate School professor, spends more time teaching Filipino at the Ateneo de Manila University.

UST vows to protect Church's cultural heritage

Another perfect example would have to be National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera. An alumnus of the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters, he was rejected by the University as a young lad applying for a teaching post. Now, he is a professor emeritus in UP. How come he is serving another university, when in fact he could have been teaching his fellow Thomasians?

These people could have been teaching here in UST, sharing their knowledge and expertise in creative writing, instead of having students from other universities benefit from their talents that they have honed in their alma mater.

Can we blame them for wanting to search for greener pastures? Perhaps they get more support and appreciation outside the University, like in UP, where UPICW is very active in promoting creative writing. The next best thing UST has is the Center for Creative Writing and Studies, which is doing its best to wake up the slumbering spirit of creative writing in UST, with its main program being the UST National Writers Workshop, thankfully surviving eight years of the administration’s frugality.

Reynaldo Candido, Jr., a professor from the Faculty of Arts and Letters, best illustrates this point in his essay, “Huling Pasada.” He compared the University’s treatment to its creative writers to the way a tiger treats its cubs: “Tingnan na lamang kung ilang higante sa larangan ng malikhaing pagsulat ang “pinakawalan” nito, at matapos ang ilang sandaling “pag-aaruga”, ay hahayaan na lamang na maging gala.”

UST should start giving emphasis to creative writing as a profession, not just a hobby that people engage in. In reality, great talents, like National Artists Lumbera and F. Sionil Jose, make a living out of writing. If the University gave more support to the writing geniuses that it has produced and employed them as professors in a creative writing program, UST could probably excel not only in the field of health sciences but also in the literary writing scene.

My own Pinoy big brother

If UST continues to let go of its creative minds, it will be left with no one to claim as its own.


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