Speaking in Tongues

Literary Freedom and Indigenous Languages
Manila 30 September – 4 October


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About Philippine PEN

PH PEN Civil Society Programme (CSP)

Project Description
In the 2010 Cebu Congress, Philippine PEN passed the following resolution:

We resolve to … work more closely with the education sector, its leaders, planners and administrators, its teachers and students, and the education publishing industry, to improve literature education in the country. The Philippine PEN recognizes that literary taste is shaped in the schools, especially the public school system; it is where generations must be taught to appreciate the outstanding works of our very own writers, works that constitute the soul of our nation.

In 2011, Philippine PEN launched For Love of the Word: Workshops on Teaching Philippine Literature in High School and College, supplemented with Meet the Philippine PEN Authors/Writers Forum. This series is geared towards retooling and upgrading the skills of literature teachers in both secondary and tertiary levels. It seeks to provide intellectual assistance, material resources, and critical guidance to the teachers/readers of Philippine literature. Meet the PEN Authors brings the writers to the general public and provides an opportunity for the audience to be in close contact with the local writers. As part of the Civil Society Programme of PEN International, this project is supported by PEN International in UK, Clifford Chance Foundation, and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA). With the implementation of the Department of Education’s enhanced K to 12 program and the Commission on Higher Education’s affirmative action with the New General Education Curriculum (CHED CMO20, series of 2013), the Philippine PEN, through its workshops and projects, hopes to provide modest assistance to this renovation in Philippine basic education, particularly in the areas of reading, writing, and literature.

In 2011-2017, Philippine PEN completed fourteen workshops across the country in partnership with different institutions: Far Eastern University, Manila on March 25, 2011; University of San Agustin-Iloilo on May 6, 2011; University of Cebu on June 9, 2011; University of the Philippines-Baguio on August 8, 2011; Naga College Foundation on October 10, 2011; Holy Name University-Bohol on February 27, 2012; Capitol University, Cagayan de Oro on August 12, 2013; Ateneo de Naga University on 28 July 2014; Capitol University, Cagayan de Oro on October 27, 2014; University of Cebu on April 11-12, 2016; Ateneo de Davao University on August 22-23, 2016; Northwest Samar State University on April 3-4, 2017; Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology on 4-5 September 2017; and the University of the Philippines-Baguio on 16-17 October 2017. PEN authors and university professors served as resource speakers and facilitators.

To reach a greater number of beneficiaries, the Philippine Center published a teaching handbook on Philippine literary selections called Lit Matters: A Manual for Teaching Philippine Literature (2013). This handbook compiles a set of modules which serve as a helpful resource guides for those teaching literature and for those who will teach literature. The modules cover Philippine selections by National Artists, canonical writers, regional representatives, and pre-colonial folkloric forms.

The 2018-2020 Programme seeks to further address the current concerns and needs in Philippine education and society (i.e., enhance Philippine literature education), uphold freedom of expression, and encourage expressions that contribute to the upliftment of humanity and the sustainable development of our planet. Moreover, it seeks to challenge the teachers to have an active engagement with civil society concerns, such as linguistic rights, environmental awareness, peace and conflict issues, and to inculcate this knowledge to the students in the literature classroom. Four workshops are scheduled to be held in Baguio, Davao, Iloilo, and Cebu in 2019-2020.

Objectives and Advocacy Goals

  1. To promote Philippine literature/s and to assert their continuing relevance in the educational curriculum and in nation-building;
  2. To provide critical guidance and resource materials to readers and teachers/educators;
  3. To expand the readership of books written by Philippine PEN authors and assist in developing a community of critical readers; and
  4. To defend freedom of expression, and promote expressions and measures that contribute to the development of peace, justice, care for our habitat and environment, and social responsibility in this country.

The advocacy goals of the Philippine Center have been manifested in diverse forms and activities through the years—conferences, workshops, publication of anthologies or journals, and book launchings. The goals are: literature education, regional writing, linguistic diversity, peace, and environmental awareness.

The Philippine Center has been concerned with and involved in literature education in the country. Several Philippine PEN writers are professional members of the academe and active makers of curriculum design and policies. For Love of the Word: Workshops on Teaching Philippine Literature is an advocacy activity, its target beneficiaries are teachers and educators, including textbook writers and publishers and those who hold positions in the country’s Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education.  

Philippine PEN has always been vigorous in its promotion of regional writing, and has extended whatever modest support it could give to writers from the regions. The teaching workshops have incorporated the regional component, encouraging the teachers to use their own vernacular language and to teach their own local writing in the literature curriculum. Local writers are featured in the writers’ fora.

The Philippine Center believes in linguistic diversity, as opposed tothe supremacy of one language. Philippine literature does not solely refer to those works in English or Tagalog, but to the body of multifarious writings, not discounting also those produced in dialectal variants. Whether in activities such as conferences and workshops or in the publication of PEN anthology, the Center has accommodated many regional writers and their writing in varied languages.

The Center’s advocacy for peace continues. Peace serves as the thematic focus of the conference, workshops and fora. For instance, the Center identified the production of peace literature as one of the objectives of the 2013 Beacon programme, the result of which was the publication of the Peace Mindanao anthology, edited by Jaime An Lim.

The Philippine Center supports environmental conservation. The Center believes that literature and education have a deep-seated responsibility in retrofitting its practices and resources for the readers and learners who should become conscientious associates in the re-building of a sustainable future. This environmental thrust was reflected in many activities, including workshops, teaching modules, and writers’ fora (e.g., Forum on Writing to Sustain Our Home, Our Habitat).

Philippine PEN

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