The road to making the Filipinos a more reflective and scrutinizing people is just a train ride away.
A 60-minute train ride from Santolan to Recto and back to Santolan station was the official launch of Tulaan sa Tren 2 on January 16. This was the National Book Development Board’s (NBDB) joint initiative with the Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA), Vibal Foundation, the Book Development Association of the Philippines (BDAP) and the Optical Media Board in promoting Philippine literature, particularly poetry, making it closer to more Filipinos and turning “their ordinary commute into a more meaningful and insightful journey.”
Guests who attended the opening program were the Tulaan sa Tren train’s first passengers, including National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera, Premio Feronia-winning poet Gémino Abad and Man Asian Literary Prize shortlisted author Alfred Yuson, editors of the year’s collection entitled “Off the Beaten Track.”
Dr. Lumbera lauded the efforts of NBDB in opening a door for Philippine poetry to let the commuters experience the words and musings of the poets while waiting for the train to drop them off to their destinations.
“Ang Tulaan sa Tren ay maka-taong serbisyo ng NBDB. Maaaring hindi natin namamalayan, subalit nagkakabisa sa ating personalidad. Sa anyong nakalimbag, na inilulunsad natin ngayon, ay material na ebidensya na pwedeng balik-balikan natin upang tiyakin kung ano ang himalang naganap sa ating pagkatao nang bigkasin ang mga ito sa ating harapan. (Tulaan sa Tren is the NBDB’s way of serving the people. We may not know it, but it will have a profound effect on us. We can return time and again to the print version of this, which we are launching today, to know what miracles happened to us when these works were spoken in front of us.)”
Tulaan sa Tren was the brainchild of NBDB Executive Director Atty. Andrea Pasion-Flores who hopes that the train passengers would have a better appreciation for the written word, especially pieces that were given the power to influence by the country’s budding wordsmiths and literary titans.
Dennis Gonzalez, NBDB Chairman, likened the project’s second installment to a movie sequel that surpassed the success of its predecessor.
“There are signs already of its superiority. First, some of the poems we’re featuring this time are products of a poetry-writing contest. Tulaan sa Tren 1 was a collection of poetry about movement, traveling, trains, transience in life, places in Manila. But this time, some of the poems, in a sense are really fresh creations that talk about the themes of Tulaan sa Tren 2. Some of those poems came from outside the Philippines, from Filipinos working in Italy, in Saudi Arabia, OFWs who were inspired to create poems. Another sign of its superiority is the launching of the collection of the poems that would be launched this afternoon and would not have been made possible without the support of Vibal Foundation.”
Aside from tapping local celebrities such as Chin-Chin Gutierrez, Romnick Sarmienta and wife Harlene Bautista, Lyn Ching-Pascual, JM Rodriguez, and Nikki Gil to render a recorded reading of the poems, Tulaan sa Tren 2 also took a fresh turn by holding a month-long poetry-writing contest that yielded notable pieces that were posted alongside the works of Yuson, Ricardo De Ungria, Joi Barrios, Isabela Banzon, Mookie Katigbak, Angelo Suárez, and Mesándel Virtusio Arguelles among others.
The winners for the Filipino category are: Joselito delos Reyes for “Pan-Rush Hour” (1st prize), Gexter Ocampo Lacambra for “Sa Metro Linea (Pagkamatay. . . Pagkabuhay)” (2nd prize), Abdon Balde Jr. for “Tren, Tren, Tren” (3rd prize), Danilo Diaz for “Dahilan ay Ikaw,” and Kristian Sendon Cordero for “Amay Nang Magdiklom (Maaga Nang Dumilim)” (runners-up).
For the English category, the winners are: Raymond Falgui for “Bus Trip” (1st prize), Louella Santiago Suque for “A Train Window Picture Show” (2nd prize), and Raymund Reyes for “I, Migrant” (3rd prize).
Balde, a Palanca-winning author quipped that he is a “fledgling” when it comes to poetry writing since he mostly weaves fiction. Diaz said that he develops his riddles into poems while Suque shared that her contest entry was originally a journal entry that she had written out of boredom in a day’s train ride.
According to LRTA Administrator Mel Robles, passengers complain that riding the LRT is boring and repeated advertisements are annoying, therefore posting poems and playing recorded readings are ways to give them something worth their while. He even cited results of a survey conducted by ACNielsen that shows the effectiveness of the poetry project.
He even quipped, “Our passengers are captive audience, they’re stuck, so they have no choice but to read the poems. . . And as a tribute, here is a short poem I wrote: Tulaan sa Tren, dapat ulitin. Sigaw ng pasahero, kami’y bitin!” which drew laughter from the audience.
This was seconded by Filipinas Copyright Licensing Society, Inc. (FILCOLS) Executive Director Alvin Buenaventura, saying that this “invasive” rather than passive approach of communicating literature has been welcomed by passengers who said that they were moved to laughter, to the feeling of love, to the reflection of their existence instead of just staring into space or having to bear with the person next to them.
“We received reports, especially from Danton Remoto. Some of his students from Ateneo started to email him, to contact him again and tell him ‘Sir, we’re so happy with your poems, most of us started buying your books again.’ Which is good for our authors, right? So when you have these (poems) here, we expect an evolution of people’s thinking, people will become more enlightened, more tolerant,” Buenaventura added.
Vibal Foundation Editorial Director Kristine Mandigma capped the event by reflecting on the indispensability of poetry to man in his search for meaning. Poets Mikael de Lara Co, Joel Toledo, and Ralph Semino Galán performed a reading of their works from the collection.
Photos by K.E. Pulumbarit, Some rights reserved.
Article reposted from thepoc.net