Let’s Rally for the Love of Literature
Who would have thought that the war in the twenty-first century would be against an unseen enemy? Looking at the predominant narrative in the pandemic chronicle shows a puny attempt to grapple with it in quantifiable terms — statistics of new cases, total cases, recoveries and deaths; lockdown length and economic toll; vaccine efficacy and administered rates; etc. Yet some of the most touching stories are the compassionate sacrifices of health workers, synchronized gestures to appreciate this, rise of community pantries, etc. Driven by intrinsic motivation that spontaneously marshals communal spirit, such manifestations comfort helplessness in suffering, combat isolation during quarantine, and inspire faith in humanity. Embedded here are some of the universal, timely and timeless values cultivated in the Humanities, and that is why the enduring relevance of BA Literature may be unquantifiable but the degree program should nevertheless be sustained in the academe.
Primarily intended to recognize the accomplishments of BA Literature students as well as provide additional incentives, the Division of Humanities of UP Visayas’ College of Arts and Sciences recently had an online launch of the guidelines for its three Literature Awards: the Leoncio P. Deriada Literary Prize, Lourdes Villaluna de Castro Best Literature Paper, and Dionisia A. Rola Outstanding Literature Thesis. Ultimately, these recognitions contribute to the promotion of the regional literary heritage.
Why are the awards named as such? Here are brief bio notes of the eminent and beloved UPV Humanities personalities being honored.
Dr. Leoncio P. Deriada (1938-2019) served as faculty member of the division and upon retirement became Professor Emeritus. Though born in Barotac Viejo, Iloilo, he had a Davaoeño childhood which proceeded with attaining a degree in BA English from Ateneo de Davao. He later obtained his MA English from Xavier University and PhD English and Literature (Creative Writing) from Silliman University. His multi-genre (fiction, poetry, drama, and essay) and multi-lingual (English, Filipino, Hiligaynon, Kinaray-a, and Cebuano) body of works has made him multi-awarded (Palanca’s Hall of Fame, Manila Critics Circle’s National Book Award for the Novel in English, UMPIL’s Gawad Pambansang Alagad ni Balagtas, and NCCA’s Taboan Lifetime Achievement Award for Literature). Regarded as the Father of Contemporary West Visayan Literature, his nurturing of writers and championing of regional literature have been recognized by CCP’s Gawad para sa Sining (Literature) and Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino’s Kampeon ng Wika. He was also recipient of Metrobank’s Outstanding Teacher Award and Civil Service Commission’s Lingkod Bayan Award for Outstanding Government Employee.
Dr. Dionisia A. Rola, who turned centenarian in 2020, earned her PhD in English from the University of Chicago, MA English from the University of Melbourne and BS in Education from UP Diliman. She initially came to UP College Iloilo as an English professor and later dean who was mainly instrumental in UPV becoming a UP constituent unit where she served as its pioneering chancellor and also the first woman in that position in the UP System. One of her many administrative legacies was the establishment of the Visayan Studies Program, now the Center for West Visayan Studies, which has gainfully carried out one of UPV’s mandates, that is, to ‘promote, preserve and nurture the Visayan cultural heritage’. This was one translation of her passion for literary and cultural studies which was also fostered in her students to the extent of personally and generously providing funds to groups of research undergraduates.
Prof. Lourdes V. de Castro (1941-1991) may have been gone too soon at 50 years of age while she was the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, but what a full life of service, having previously served as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and chair of the Division of Humanities. She was also appointed as the first coordinator of the Visayan Studies Program, now the Center for West Visayan Studies. With the assistance of then VSP Research Associate Edward D. Defensor, she organized Teatro Salingsing, later renamed Teatro Amakan, which became VSP’s theater arm and enabled the UP College Iloilo faculty and students to reach out to communities in Panay, Guimaras and Negros through the stage drama. Prof. de Castro is a graduate of AB English and MA Comparative Literature from UP Diliman. Her academic and professional life bespeaks of dedication and keenness in furthering research interest in literature and culture which extended beyond the classroom.
Following a truly humanities spirit, the awards’ funding source will be drawn from community engagement. Thus far, annual pledges have come from alumni, former and present faculty members, as well as family members and former proteges. The Division of Humanities is deeply grateful for the inspiring responses and hopes to be able to gather sufficient funds for the continuance and even expansion of the awards in the near future:
By: Mary Oveta L. Villareal (with bio note info from Prof. Dulce Maria V. Deriada, Prof. Eliodora L. Dimzon, CWVS and HRDO)