Profs praise Nick Joaquin as “Catholic writer”, tackle role of pop culture in PH literature


UNIVERSITY EDUCATORS underscored the influence of religion in the short stories and novels of National Artist for Literature Nick Joaquin during the commemoration of the centennial birth year of the distinguished Filipino writer in English last Feb. 14.

Charlson Ong, literature and creative writing professor at the University of the Philippines, said Joaquin’s prose and poetry such as The Legend of the Dying Wanton and The Mass of St. Sylvester were based on Spanish-era Catholic lore.

“He was often described as a Catholic writer […] Joaquin minds Christian-inspired myths and legends to underscore theme on the need for a spiritual renaissance,” he said.

Joaquin’s novels, poems, and short stories were written in the baroque Spanish-flavored English that explored the Philippine colonial past under Spain.

Presenting his paper titled The Catholic Imagination in Nick Joaquin’s The Woman Who Had Two Navels, Philippine Daily Inquirer Arts and Books editor Joselito Zulueta said Joaquin also discussed various topics such as heritage and folk traditions but still implied religion in his works through metaphors.

“If you read Nick Joaquin meron bang doctrinal kay Nick Joaquin? Wala naman. Nick Joaquin does not tell you ‘there are three persons in one God,’” Zulueta said.

“Basically he is a Catholic fictionist. His fiction has Catholic sacramental and analogical dimensions,” he added.

Zulueta also praised Joaquin for venturing into the different fields of literature and journalism as well. “I think Nick Joaquin is the most complete writer. He masters different genres and he deals with them in a very comprehensive way and highly original manner.”

Joaquin was named National Artist of the Philippines in the field of literature in 1976, the highest recognition given by the country for an artist. The award cited his works as “beacons in the racial landscape” and the author for his “rare excellence and significant contribution to literature.”

He was born on May 14, 1917 and passed away on April 24, 2009 at the age of 86.

Some of his works were The Woman Who Had Two Navels, A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino, Manila, My Manila: A History for the Young, The Ballad of the Five Battles, Rizal in Saga, Almanac for Manileños, and Cave and Shadows.

Furthermore, literature professors discussed the roles of pop culture and translation in encouraging Filipinos to read and study Philippine literature.

UST Research Center for Culture, Arts, and Humanities (RCCAH) Director Joyce Arriola presented her paper aiming to establish a theory on the Filipino way of adapting literature such as komiks-to-film adaptation.

“We are drawing from ideas, we are drawing from fragments of narratives coming from oral tradition, [and] even from pop culture […] halo-halo talaga. ‘Yung hybridity nandon,” she said.

Asst. Prof. Chuckberry Pascual, who translated the novel Ilustrado by Miguel Syjuco in Filipino, said that translation of English texts to Filipino is a form of “pagbabalik-bayan” to reach more readers in the country.

Ngayon batid kong magbigay ng impresyon na ang lahat ng nasang wikang Ingles ay nasa labas at ang tanging paraan ng kanilang pagbabalik sa bayan ay ang pagsasalin sa wika. Na lumilitaw din na sa ganitong argument, tanging siyang may access sa bayan,” Pascual said.

Humor is used not only for conversation but also in spreading information and political agenda. However, study about humor and how it affects Filipinos in different aspects is still lacking, said literature professor Joselito delos Reyes.

Masayahin tayo, hindi ko alam kung bakit hindi natin pinag aaralan ito,” delos Reyes said. “Naniniwala akong may malaking ganap sa lipunan ang humor. May silbi. Hindi lang ‘yung ‘Vice Ganda’ kind of humor kundi’ yung humor that can somehow make us think.”

The research colloquium titled “Portrait of a National Artist: Nick Joaquin Centennial Commemorative Lectures and Panel Presentations on Cultural Studies” was organized by the RCCAH. F – VANN MARLO M. VILLEGAS

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