By Jove Moya
March 26, 2021
In the spirit of Women’s Month 2021, learn about these Filipina poets who remind us that reading poetry is something we should do more often.
As a continued celebration of International Women’s Month, we round up a list of female poets that have produced collections and works that give a glimpse into the experiences of being a Filipina woman. Although some may consider poetry to be an old-fashioned practice and genre, the Philippines boasts a deep history of lyricism and literature. Browse through our list to see which Filipina writers to add to your reading list this 2021:
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Perhaps one of the country’s most renowned female poets is Ophelia Dimalanta. Fondly remembered for her works Flowing On (1988), Love Woman (1998), and Lady Polyester: Poems Past and Present (1993), she has been a vanguard for Thomasian writers in the country.
For Ophelia, erotic pieces mean so much more than what the public perceives. Her works prove that it takes sensible ideas and good command of language to create effective works. She was once quoted in an article by The Varsitarian, “Eroticism can be applied if it is functional; if it is important to what you are writing about”. The much-anthologised poet had passed on at the age of 76, but she left an irreplaceable mark in the local poetry scene.
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A teacher and literary critic, Edith Tiempo is unlike any other writer. Her works, albeit descriptive, lets her readers experience the joy of unlocking symbols before moving on to the next lines.
One of her works, The Return tells of an old man who pictured his youth and past glories through dreadful memories. Edith used phrases such as “dead years” and “grey hair” to define old age. In 1999, Edith was conferred the National Artist Award for Literature.
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A lot of writers can leave their readers speechless but no one does it like Conchitina “Chingbee” Cruz, a 45-year-old literature professor at the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman.
Her modern and relatable tone is evident in the coming of age poem Exhibition Notes where she captured life’s varying milestones defined by age.
As of this writing, Chingbee already bagged two Carlos Palanca Awards: one in 1996 for Second Skin and another in 2001 for The Shortest Distance. Her work Dark Hours was also recognized at the 2016 National Bookstore award for poetry.
Merlie Alunan’s fluency in major Visayan languages made way for her to write Pagdakop sa Bulalakaw ug Uban Pang Mga Balak, Sa Atong Dila: Introduction to Visayan Literature, and Tinalunay: Hinugpong mga Panurat.
According to Merlie, most of her works are conceived and written in Cebuano or Waray before being translated to English. “All the poems in this collection were originally conceived and written in Cebuano. I have translated them myself into English”.
Merlie’s writings aim to inspire non-Tagalog writers to showcase their works and embrace language diversity in literature.
At the age of 77, Merlie continues to intensify her advocacy to encourage young writers to publish Waray poems by creating writing workshops.
Author Ma Luisa Aguilar Igloria lets her credentials speak for her. In 2015, she was chosen by former UK Poet Laureate Andrew Motion, Alice Oswald, and Jo Shapcott as the inaugural winner of the Resurgence Prize (UK), the world’s first major award for ecopoetry (poetry with a strong ecological emphasis or message).
Luisa acknowledges her privileges as the only child of her lawyer father and a stay-at-home mother. “I was raised as an only child and my parents were completely invested in my education. They taught me to read when I was three, and signed me up for piano lessons at around the same time”.
“We weren’t poor, but we weren’t exactly wealthy. We got our first television set when I was nearly 10 years old, our first car when I was nearly out of highschool,” Luisa explained in an interview.
Originally from Baguio, Luisa settled in Virginia together with her four daughters. She was recently appointed as the 20th Poet Laureate of the Commonwealth of Virginia (2020-2022).
Dinah Roma was born in Samar but went to Manila to take a double degree in Literature and Marketing Management at the De La Salle University (DLSU). The author also spent five years in Japan to take her Master’s Degree in Comparative Culture.
One of her latest and most notable works is Naming the Ruins, which explores “the guises of ruins in our encounter with every day”. In 2014, she was chosen to represent DLSU at the Sydney Writers’ Festival: the Asian Contemporary Poetry Reading Marathon.
Rebecca T Añonuevo teaches literature and writing subjects at Miriam College. Her book titled, Talinghaga ng Gana: Ang Banal sa mga Piling Tulang Tagalog ng Ika-20 Siglo, won the National Book Award for Literary Criticism from the Manila Critics Circle. She also grew fond of giving teacher training and panelling writing workshops in the country.
Award-winning author, editor, and professor Benilda Santos is often described by her colleagues as an exceptional poet and film critic. In her lifetime, she garnered three Carlos Palanca awards for Literature in poetry (both in English and in Filipino). The author’s first collection, Pali-palitong Posporo has already gone through three editions, the latest of which was published by High Chair in 2016. She is also a winner of the Metrobank Outstanding Teacher Award.
On February 18, 2016, Benilda was appointed as the Dean of the School of Humanities (SOH) at the Ateneo de Manila University. In his memo, University President Fr. Jose Ramon T. Villarin described Benilda as someone “concerned about national issues, and the rootedness of these to the role and relevance of the arts”.
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Born into a Visayan family who communicates in English, Marjorie Evasco’s works are written in two languages: her mother tongue Binisaya (Boholano-Visayan), and English.
When she moved to Manila, Marjorie wasted no time and finished her Master’s Degree in Creative Writing at Silliman University. She was also able to finish Doctor of Philosophy in Literature (Ph.D.Litt.) at De La Salle University.
Marjorie’s most notable achievement is her participation in conceiving Writers Involved in Creating Cultural Alternatives (WICCA) and Women in Literary Arts (WILA), two local organizations espousing the cause of female writers.