In pursuit of powerful words

by Isabella Mendoza

Last April 24 - 26, the Bienvenido N. Santos Creative Writing Center (BNSCWC) hosted the17th annual Iyas La Salle National Writers’ Workshop at the Henry Sy Sr. Building of De La Salle, Manila. This year, the organizers and panelists chose to pay particular attention to environment and ecocentric or eco-critical writing with the theme of “Writing, the Environment and Creation Advocacy”. 10 lucky fellows, from applicants all over the Philippines, and 5 panelists gathered in the halls of De La Salle to discuss in minute detail the intricacies and beauty of written word and the messages that lie behind them.

ICSC was one of the patrons for this year’s workshop and Agam was featured as an example and inspiration for writers to ponder and chew on the possibilities that only literature can open in the world of environment, science and even politics. As the first anthology on climate change, Agam served as a concrete example of local literature in eco-critical writing, as was alluded to in their discussions over the three days. Since publishing Agam, ICSC has been vigilant in continuing to share the message and value of Agam aspiring writers, artists and educators — a feat that has been made more fruitful with the company and insight of other Agam authors and poets. Three of whom were among the panelists for the workshop, Dr. Grace Monte de Ramos, Mr. Ricardo de Ungria and Iyas' director, Dr. Marjorie Evasco.

I had the rare opportunity of sitting in and observing the first and last day of the workshop. During their sessions they would tease out every artistic, and literary detail of the manuscripts written by the fellows. They covered topics from zombies and deities, to native language and metaphors, and even feminism and post-modernism. Each discussion was as humorous and dynamic as they were intensive. At the root of it all, they always circled back to how they could hone their skills to turn their words and stories into powerful messages of advocacy.

The workshop ended with a few words from Red Constantino in his experience as both a published writer and a climate advocate and campaigner. His short but provocative discussion urged writers to not only continue to hone their writing skills but to challenge themselves to find and fill the gap in the world of science that has often lacked the creativity and hope that only the world of letters can provide. Needless to say the entire three day workshop left the fellows and panelists reflecting on the the role of artists and writers through the pages of their manuscripts.

Agam is merely the beginning of a growing wave of literary anthologies, narratives and poetry that are attempting to break into the world of climate, science and environment. I also learned that there are a couple of ecocentric anthologies in the works to be published in the coming years, including a second edition of Agam.

Agam is now available in Fully Booked Alabang Town Center, Greenbelt 5, Rockwell, Century Mall and BGC High Street for Php 1,600.00 per copy.