On May 4, 2023, the best of the best from among the poems published in the Philippines Graphic Magazine will be feted at the Nick Joaquin Literary Awards (NJLA) 2023.
My three published poems will be among them. This is the first time I will attend a literary gathering of the country’s cream of short story writers and poets.
I got my invitation from no less than the editor of the magazine.
Another highlight of NJLA 2023 is the launching of Philippines Graphic Reader Book I, featuring the 48 short stories and 48 poems that the literary magazine published from February 2022 to January 2023.
That’s another literary anthology containing my modest literary output.
Thus far, I’ve been in five poetry anthologies since 2021: The Best Asian Poetry 2021-22 published in Singapore, the Santelmo literary magazine, two poetry anthologies dedicated to former VP Leni Robredo.
My poems also saw publication in three issues of the literary section of Philippines Graphic Magazine including Manila Bulletin, Vera files and The Diarist.Ph.
In Iloilo City, I was declared honorary citizen of the city not only because of my music advocacy but also because of my output as a poet.
In the past 47 years, I was too busy with music reportage and outreach concerts I didn’t think I could make a literary comeback.
Before the pandemic, my last published poem was at the Sunday Times Magazine in 1971!
As it turned out, I became a published poet on the first year of the pandemic and I didn’t stop.
It was not planned.
On the first week of lockdown in 2020, I woke up early as usual and reflected on my fate.
You just turned 70 and you lost minor sources of income.
Minor because the income wasn’t much but it kept you alive.
Then the verses started flowing.
They come without fail early in the morning as I gaze on my little garden and while my grandson was strumming guitar all night long.
You post initial output on the internet to test the (literary) water so to speak.
Feedback was not bad. On the contrary, it was quite encouraging.
Online publications and a national daily started using my poems.
When you post and let your poems float on the cyberspace, you didn’t expect much.
Friends will probably be a little polite.
But when total strangers started liking my verses, I decided I will go on writing, income or no income.
On the 10th month of the pandemic in 2020, the mayor of Pasig used my poem to pay tribute to health workers.
Too good to be true because it came with marker with my poem and name on it.
And the unveiling came with a proper program and a marching band. Also the first time to see the youthful mayor in person.
February of 2021, I was invited as one of the speakers along with other poets and literary personalities in a symposium on poetry and the pandemic.
I continued writing on the second year of the pandemic.
On the 8th month of 2021, I lost my second daughter.
On the 12th month of the second year of the pandemic, I had my first book of poetry.
At about the same time, a London-based poet and editor informed me two my poems (out of five) were included in an anthology called The Best of Asian Poetry 2021.
Moreover, some poems were also accepted in two more unreleased anthologies of poems.
In February 2022. another anthology came out: “100 Pink Poems Para Kay Leni.”
I was one of the 67 featured Filipino poets from all over the world.
Thrilled to see my name along with distinguished names in the literary world: Ninotchka Rosca, Luis Francia, Luis Cabalquinto, Rio Alma, Marra PL. Lanot, Gemino Abad, Mila Aguilar,, Angelo R. Lacuesta, among others.
Looking back, it was a short but fruitful journey.
Meanwhile, 2023 beckons.
I mean to stage a good comeback in the short story category.