Wednesday, February 07, 2007

portraits of an artist

Who is Edith Lopez Tiempo? Who are the Tiempos? Kinsa na siya?

I tried hard not to show any appalled reaction to these recurring lines. I tried to the best of my abilities to share who the “Mom” of the Philippine literary scene is to the rest of the unfortunately uninformed. But it is tasking. Just thinking about her and her literary works and the rest of her family’s is as profound as the legacy that she is.

It is true that moments come in our lives when we honestly forget the things that matter most. But this month, as the National Commission for Culture and the Arts honors 5 National Artists, we focus on Edith Tiempo, as a Sillimanian, as a Dumagueteño, as a literary giant, as an idol.

“She is venerable,” Prof. Phillip Van Peel said, since he once was under Tiempo’s supervision when he took up his Masters Degree in English. “She is a monument in the Philippine literary scene. Both young and mature authors in the country look up to her.”

Born in Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya on April 22, 1919, Tiempo, who is now 87, became one of the finest Filipino writers of the English language. In fact, according to the January 29 Philippine Daily Inquirer issue, her “works of fiction and poetry are characterized with much substance behind those simple looking items such as a fern (A Blade of Fern, a novel) and even a monkey (Lament of the Littlest Fellow, a poem).”

Garnering numerous achievements and awards that further enhanced her chosen field of artistry, such as the 1999 National Artist for Literature, 1979 Cultural Center of the Philippines First Prize for Novel, a 1988 Gawad Pambansang Alagad ni Balagtas, and many more; she gains the distinction she truly deserves.

The Silliman community witnessed the tribute honoring Tiempo last February 2 at the Luce Auditorium. Her works, “Bonsai”, “View of Water on a Lake”, “Dancers” and “Black Monkey” were ingenuously interpreted by the Silliman University Kahayag Dance Troupe.

“Her ‘lecture’ on poetry gave us a glimpse as to how insightful she can get when it comes to literary workshops,” said management junior Wharton Dy.

She is rightfully called “Mom” because, as what Prof. Andrea Gomez-Soluta said, “she may be a grandmom but she will always be a mom to us; she has a place in our [writers’] hearts.”

“I lost my virginity in Dumaguete. Of course, I mean my literary virginity,” stated Likhaan: UP Institute of Creative Writing Director Vim Nadera Jr. in his opening speech. And indeed a whole roster of important, contemporary and award-winning Filipino writers like Jose Dalisay Jr., Conrado de Quiros, Bobby Flores Villalis, Cesar Ruiz Aquino, Alfred Yuson, Marjorie Evasco, Ian Rosales Casocot, Angelo Suarez, Dean Alfar and Angelo Lacuesta, and many others, were also inspired  of her, through the Dumaguete National Writers Workshop that the Tiempos conceived and nurtured throughout the decades.

Even Tiempo’s daughter Rowena and granddaughter Rima got bitten by the writing bug. Rowena Torrevillas have won the Philippine National Book Awards and the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for literature, among others; most likely nourished by no less than her dad Edilberto Tiempo, another Philippine literary giant.

Rima, with her soft-spoken reading of Atty. Ernesto Superal Yee’s “The Comfort of Mom Edith”, only draws and entices the readers as to what kind of “mom” Edith Tiempo really is. With food probably, as what Yee wrote in his essay. But maybe it’s also something more, like passion for self-expression.

To those who left early on that once-in-a-blue-moon affair, maybe you have to wait another couple of years to witness great icons who shaped the landscape of Philippine culture and the arts. Edith Lopez Tiempo and her brood, biological or literary, will continue to transcend what is expected from them, and astound us with the most tangible of things—words.

No comments: