The making of a Filipino litterateur
He is an artist every Filipino should know.
Reuel Molina Aguila, Ph.D., is a professor at the University of the Philippines, a playwright, poet, essayist, a scriptwriter for TV, film and radio, a fictionist, translator and a bird photographer. He is multi-awarded across literary genres.
For many of today’s young writers, this Carlos Palanca Hall of Fame awardee is worthy of recognition and admiration. Beyond his string of accolades, it was his perspective and staunch commitment to his craft that allowed him to remain relevant today.
The litterateur in Aguila was awakened during the martial law years, then as a young student of the ’70s, stepping foot in the University of the Philippines. As the military rule saw abuses being perpetrated across the nation, Aguila fought hard and was imprisoned, holding in his heart a patriotic battlecry that never wavered. He lost people he knew, and he lived to tell the tale.
But if there’s something notable that came out of this adversity was that a writer was unwittingly born.
In the aftermath of that tumultuous period, the mighty pen and his resolute stance endured. Aguila then entered UP again to teach. It was his home, having spent years of teaching and guiding the young at the country’s revered institution. He sought to retell his experience as a way to educate and inspire students to really learn and to not just seek to earn.
Aguila believes in the importance of learning, with an advocacy that leans towards literacy and culture. Hence, for the past decade, he has been the active adviser of the writer’s organization he founded: Kataga, Samahan ng mga Manunulat sa Pilipinas.
Kataga, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this month, promotes artistic and relevant literature that stems from practical knowledge of the society, contributing to its progress and transformation.
Aguila is convinced that every period in history has a need for writer’s organizations that are responsive to the needs of their time.
When the Galian ng Arte at Tula (GAT), the country’s most famous scribe group for 20 years died in the ’90s, the void was never filled. Everyone seemed to have immersed themselves in selfish rhetorics, detached from reality and the society’s sufferings.
Kataga is Aguila’s response to the need of writers to study the distinctive quality of the modern times, considering the demands of the digital landscape.
He stressed that every writer should be immersed in his or her society, realizing the challenges to the language posted by the relentless flow of information via the internet; the volatility of the Filipino language and the youth’s dominant and ever-changing lingo; the emerging crossbreeds of different literary genres; the unexplored terrain of ideas not covered by research; and the need to propagate readership across the islands, among others.
For Aguila, it is clear: Kataga writers must hone their skills, undergo serious study, and consider themselves professionals who need to be adept in their field. They should go further, beyond the completion of a magnum opus, and even after being conferred numerous citations.
He envisioned an organization of writers who are attuned, active and responsive to the needs of the suffering Filipino. At present, Kataga has seven branches: Kataga-Manila, Kataga-Quezon City, Kataga-South Luzon, Kataga-Zambales, Kataga Lucena, Kataga-Lucena Tanghal and Kataga-Online.
As he retires from his teaching job at UP, it’s easy to imagine the Gawad Dangal ng Wikang Filipino lifetime achievement awardee to be enjoying the view from up there. But he wouldn’t and he doesn’t.
For the Kataga founder, success does not have to come in one piece like an ivory tower. Instead, success could be in fragments, like small pieces of rocks carefully laid on top of the other becoming a fortress for the miserable others to rely on and for his countrymen’s continued protection.
Indeed, Aguila is among the remarkable Filipino artists who chose to remain relevant and vigilant, heeding the call of the times.
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