Speaking in Tongues

Literary Freedom and Indigenous Languages
Manila 30 September – 4 October


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Theme / Tema

The 85th PEN International Congress theme is: Speaking in Tongues: Literary Freedom and Indigenous Languages. In conjunction with the United Nations’ declaration of 2019 as the International Year of the Indigenous Languages, the Manila Congress focuses on indigenous writing, linguistic diversity, and multiculturalism.

PEN International and PEN Centres have promoted linguistic diversity and linguistic rights for decades. The Translation and Linguistic Rights Committee (TLRC) was founded in 1978. In 1996, TLRC supported the signing of UNESCO’S Declaration of Linguistic Rights. In 2011, it drafted the Girona Manifesto for Linguistic Rights, which was ratified at the PEN International Congress.

October has been declared National Indigenous People Month in the Philippines (Proclamation No. 1906, 2009). The proclamation recognizes the importance of pluralistic culture in the country, calling for the conservation and promotion of its artistic and cultural products. The Philippine PEN has always been vigorous in its promotion of regional and minority writing, and has extended whatever modest support it could give to writers from the regions and of the minority cultures.

The 85th PEN International Congress is an excellent opportunity to promote more awareness of indigenous traditions and affirm their significant contributions to the heritage of a nation, and that of the world.

The aims of the Congress are:

  1. To promote literature and its expression in various languages and forms, including those of the indigenous people and cultural minorities;
  2. To defend free speech, and promote expression and measures that address current concerns in societal environments, including peace, women’s rights, and linguistic diversity; and
  3. To serve as a meeting-place for writers and readers from all over the world to exchange ideas and creative endeavors, and to increase understanding and international cooperation.

Ang tema ng ika-85 Pandaigdigang Kongreso ng PEN ay: Pagsasalita sa Iba’t Ibang Wika: Kalayaang Pampanitikan at mga Katutubong Wika. Kasabay ng deklarasyon ng United Nations sa 2019 bilang Pandaigdigang Taon ng mga Katutubong Wika, ang Kongreso sa Maynila ay nakatutok sa katutubong pagsulat, lingguwistikong dibersidad, at multikulturalismo.

Itinataguyod ng PEN International ang lingguwistikong dibersidad at mga lingguwistikong karapatan. Itinatag noong 1978 ang Translation and Linguistic Rights Committee (TLRC). Noong 1996, sinuportahan ng TLRC ang paglalagda ng Declaration of Linguistic Rights ng UNESCO. Noong 2011, binuo nito ang balangkas ng Girona Manifesto for Linguistic Rights, na naratipikahan sa Pandaigdigang Kongreso ng PEN.

Idineklara ang Oktubre bilang Pambansang Buwan ng Mga Katutubo sa Pilipinas (Proklamasyon Blg. 1906, 2009). Kinikilala ng proklamasyon ang halaga ng pluralistikong kultura sa bansa, para sa pangangalaga at pagtataguyod ng mga lokal na produktong pansining at pangkultura. Lagi’t laging masigla ang Philippine PEN sa pagtataguyod nito ng pagsulat sa mga rehiyon at minorya, at nag-aabot ng ano mang maayos na ayudang maibibigay nito sa mga manunulat mula sa mga rehiyon at minorya.

Ang ika-85 Pandaigdigang Kongreso ng PEN ay isang maringal na pagkakataon para maitaguyod ang higit pang pagkaunawa sa mga katutubong tradisyon at mapagtibay ang kanilang mga makabuluhang ambag sa kolektibong pamana ng lahi ng isang nasyon, at ng mundo.

Ang mga layunin ng Kongreso ay:

  1. Itaguyod ang panitikan at mga pagsasawika nito sa iba’t ibang dila at anyo, kasama na ang sa mga katutubo at minoryang kultural;
  2. Ipagtanggol ang malayang pananalita, at itaguyod ang mga pagsasawika at mga hakbang na tumutugon sa mga kasalukuyang usapin sa kapaligirang panlipunan, kasama na ang kalayaan, mga karapatan ng kababaihan, at lingguwistikong dibersidad; at,
  3. Magsilbing tertulya ng mga manunulat at mga mambabasa mula sa iba’t ibang panig ng mundo para magpalitan ng mga idea at mga malikhaing pagpupunyagi, at para mapalakas ang pagkakaunawaan at pandaigdigang pagdadamayan.

A Brief History of PEN International

Established in 1921, PEN International is a world-wide organization of writers with over 150 Centres. Its avowed aims as stated in the PEN Charter include: the promotion of literature, defense of free expression, and the fostering of mutual respect and harmony between nations and people. The main office is in London, United Kingdom.

The PEN International Congress is an annual general assembly of all PEN centres. It is a venue to exchange ideas and creative practices, engage in discussions and debates on issues related to writing and advocacy goals (e.g., translation and linguistic rights, peace, women’s issues, environmental concerns), and pass resolutions on artistic freedom and human rights concerns.

See website: https://pen-international.org/

About Philippine PEN

About Manila

Mabuhay! Welcome to Manila!

The greater Metro Manila (National Capital Region) covers Manila (capital), Quezon City, Pasay City, Makati City, Mandaluyong City, San Juan City, and Taguig City, among others. The social classes are evidently manifested, from tall, gleaming edifices and affluent subdivisions to dilapidated shanties and beggars. As any Third World urban environment, it is overcrowded, traffic-congested, at times chaotic, but terribly exciting and sense-stimulating.

The Filipino heritage is an interwoven culture of Malay, Chinese, Spanish and American traditions. The national language is Filipino. There are over 180 ethno-languages in the Philippines. The major linguistic groups include Cebuano (Binisaya), Tagalog, Ilokano, Hiligaynon, Kinaray-a, Waray, Kapampangan, Bikol, Pangasinan, Mëranaw (Maranao), Maguindanao, and Tausug. The main religious practice is Catholic, with sprinklings of syncretism (native/tribal, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu).

For more information about Manila as a city with soul, please visit:


Rough Guide to Manila



October is usually monsoon season in the Philippines, and typhoons could be a risk during this season. However, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) has declared that a full-blown El Niño is expected this 2019. Thus, there might be an extended dry season and weaker monsoon activity. Temperature is expected to fall within 25-30 degree Celsius.

It is advisable to bring a raincoat or an umbrella. (Note: Umbrella must be stored in checked-in baggage and not allowed in hand-carry bag during flight travel.)

Manila is warm and humid. Please wear comfortable clothes. Certain places in the city are air-conditioned (congress venues, hotels, restaurants, malls). You might want to have a shawl or a light jacket with you.


Tap water is not safe for drinking. Please ask the restaurant if the free drinking water they serve is filtered or purified. Or you may purchase bottled water only.

At De La Salle University (DLSU), the water from the drinking fountains is safe for drinking.

DLSU clinic has a resident doctor and can provide basic medicine (e.g., headache, painkiller, stomachache). Please bring your prescription medicines. Mercury Drugstore is the leading drugstore in Metro Manila and its branches are conveniently located everywhere in the city.

The nearest hospitals are: Adventist Medical Center Manila, Manila Doctors Hospital, and San Juan de Dios Hospital.

Adventist Medical Center Manila
1975 Corner Donada and San Juan Street, Pasay City, Metro Manila
(632) 5259191 to 98
Manila Doctors Hospital
667 United Nations Avenue, Ermita, Manila
(632) 5580888
San Juan de Dios Hospital
2772 Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City, Metro Manila
(632) 8319731 to 36


The local currency is Philippine peso (PHP). You may want to change currency at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). The conversion rates are approximately the following:

1 GBP = 69 PHP

1 EURO = 60 PHP

1 USD = 52.5 PHP 

(source: XE Currency Converter, as of March 22, 2019)


The Philippine standard voltage is 220 v and frequency is 60 hz. You may need to bring a universal adapter. For Philippine power plugs and sockets, please see images from this site: https://www.power-plugs-sockets.com/philippines/


Local SIM cards (Globe, Smart) are available at the airports. Loads can be purchased at the mini-marts (e.g., 7-11) or load centers and mobile phone outlets. Hotels and certain places (e.g., malls, coffee shops) have free wifi.


Metro Manila is not crime-free, although local travel is fairly incident-free. The local people are generally pleasant and helpful. They understand English and majority can communicate quite well in English.

Nonetheless, please take care of your personal valuables and avoid leaving your bags or phones just lying anywhere. When walking in the streets or in any public places, please secure your bags and wallets. Please avoid walking alone in the streets in very late evenings.

Public Events



85th PEN International Congress Venues

De La Salle University (DLSU) will be the venue for the main assemblies and committee meetings of the 85th PEN International Congress. The public events will be held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and the National Museum of the Philippines.

DLSU is an internationally recognized Catholic university in the Philippines founded in 1911 by the Brothers of the Christian Schools. It is known for its academic excellence, productive research and scholarship, and community engagement.

see https://www.dlsu.edu.ph/

CCP is the leading institution for arts and cultures in the Philippines. Founded in 1969, it has showcased both local and international events and exhibitions in the fields of music, dance, theater, visual arts, literary arts, cinema, and design. It houses nine resident companies: Ballet Philippines, Philippine Ballet Theater, Tanghalang Pilipino, Ramon Obusan Folkloric Group, the Bayanihan Philippine National Folk Dance Company, Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, UST Symphony Orchestra, Philippine Madrigal Singers and the National Music Competition for Young Artists Foundation (NAMCYA).

see https://culturalcenter.gov.ph/

The National Museum is an educational, scientific and cultural institution that preserves and exhibits art, specimens, and artifacts that define the cultural identity and heritage of the Filipino people. It manages and develops national reference collections in culture (fine arts, anthropology, archaeology) and natural history (botany, zoology, geology, paleontology). It engages in research work and programs in areas such as biodiversity, human origins, maritime and underwater heritage, art history, ethnology, and moveable and immoveable cultural properties, among others.

see https://www.nationalmuseum.gov.ph