Like many countries in Asia, the poet somehow enjoys a greater stature than the fictionist, dramatist, or essayist in the Philippines. That is why there are more writers asoiring to be poets than the combined number of fictionists, playwrights, and essayists. However, like in most countries of Asia, poets are admired but not read. Or rather, the kind of modernist poetry being published today in the Philippines does not enjoy a wide readership.
Despite this sad predicament, a few thin collections of poetry get published every year, usually with a limited print-run of 500 - 1,000 copies. Most of these copies are sold through literature classed in high schools and colleges. There are at least three weeklies, which regularly come out with one or two poems in English and in Filipino. Musa, a monthly literary magazine, which was launched recently, will hopefully provide more space for poetry, especially for beginning and younger poets.
One interesting development is the proliferation of poetry readings in recent years. Readings used to be limited to campus programs sponsored by literary organizations or by the departments of English or Filipino. These days, some cafes in Metro Manila offer poetry performances at least once a week. Two years back, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) even started a poetry reading circuit in some cities aside from Metro Manila.
Young poets are continuously trained through writers workshops. At the very least, there are three writers workshop held every year. An association, the Linangan sa Imahen, Retorika, at Anyo (LIRA) offers a special workshop for young poets annually.
In general, poetry receives as much patronage as the other literary genres. National competitions, like the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards, are open to all literary categories. The same is ture for incentives or support from the government. The NCCA administers the National Artist Awards and the celebration of National Arts Month every February. Recently, the NCCA opened the Writers Prize and the Bulawan Fellowship for Artists.
There is also a plan to celebrate National Poetry Week. This, hopefully, will give more promotional mileage to poetry and poets and bring back the popularity which the Filipino poets.
© Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, Malaysia. SEMUA HAK CIPTA TERPELIHARA 2002
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