Silliman Writers Workshop

Silliman Writers Workshop

The Silliman University National Writers Workshop 
By Asst. Lady Flor Partosa, Coordinator, Creative Writing Center 

(Message delivered during the closing ceremony of the 55th Silliman University National Writers Workshop on May 27, 2016 on the grounds of the University House.) 

They say that the Silliman University National Writers Workshop never ends. This I have proven with the many throwback pictures I have seen recently on Facebook. Fellows and panelists almost immediately recall the camaraderie, the fun, and family born out of the May-time pilgrimage to the University by the sea. But at the heart of the Workshop is Work: weighing the strength of images, fine-tuning syllables, measuring the consistency of symbols, identifying the epicenter or the centripetal force of poetry, answering the question whose story is it anyway, or pointing to a map of our lived experience and saying this is where the text belongs and such is how it has made a difference. As for the staff, it is even more true: Work is certainly the heart of the Workshop: When do the participants arrive and leave? Are there enough tables and chairs? Is the line cutting of the certificate citation unambiguous? Is it going to rain tonight? And so much more tedious monstrosity.

When I became one of those assigned with the task of organizing the Workshop, I have since been praying for two things: ang pagkahapsay ug pagkamubangahun sa tahas. I have always been praying for the event to run smoothly and orderly. As we close the Workshop today, let me take a moment to acknowledge the hard work of the Workshop Team who has made it possible for the event to run its course and march to the cadence of uninterrupted ease.

Thus whatever we do for the Workshop—the literary heirloom of Edilberto and Edith Tiempo entrusted to our care—we know that it is for the good: it makes writing less lonesome, reconnects us to Truth and Beauty, saves humanity from the unexamined life, (maybe even promotes world peace), and so many more.

The 55th Workshop ends here, a few minutes from now. Imagine my relief. But it is not only that we want to check this item off our to-do list, but it is also that our writers can begin nurturing the seed the Workshop has instilled in them. 

As a teacher, like most of us here, I would like to see the greater world (the community, town, and neighbourhood) where the creative work is situated, which then necessitates for writers, also for us teachers and students, to confront these challenges: To whom do I offer my words, dream, and hard work? Para kinsa akong pulong, damgo, ug kakugi? Knowing where directs us from dwelling inwardly and gazing perpetually at our navels. It also liberates us from the hollow life of self-indulgence and wills us to hope and aim towards a more just, humane society. What are the tangible results of this sense of purpose? Our readers will have an astute understanding of themselves and society, empathic even in disagreements, and more importantly, critical of those that subvert the freedom of thought and speech.

This liberation of the mind can begin when we can engage with our community through literature and the arts. How do we include our students of literature into our discussion so they will also share our joy, our confusion, and contemplation of creative works? These we have to answer so the fruits of our labor will continue to grow beyond ourselves and we will reap the harvest of the Workshop—as Ma’am Tiempo immortally rendered into verse— “for the moment and all time, both.”