Melchor F. Cichon
Updated: February 22, 2007
Read during the First Provincial Conference on Aklanon History, Culture and Society, Second Floor, Capt. Gil M. Mijares Bldg., 19 Martyrs St., Kalibo, Aklan, April 21, 2006.
The word Aklanon has two meanings. It may refer to the natives of Aklan and to their language.
Aklanon literature refers to all kinds of literary works in any languages written by Aklanons, either published or unpublished.
But it can also refer to the kind of literature written by Aklanons in their native language.
In this paper, unless stated, Aklanon literature refers to the kind of literature written by Aklanons in their own language.
For several decades now Aklanons have been writing literary pieces in Spanish, Tagalog, Hiligaynon, Kinaray-a. Surprisingly, this writer has discovered that Aklanons have been writing poems in Aklanon since 1568.
In 1925, Gabriel M. Reyes published a novel, Toning. This 35-page novel in Akeanon was published by La Panayana.
In 1926, Peping Tansinko Manyas published a short novel entitled Tagiposuon nga Hueowaran; Baeasahon Nga May Mataeupangdan.
Included in this work are the following poems by Manyas
“Sa Adlaw Nga Kinamatyan nay Doctor Jose Rizal”, dated December 1, 1913;
“Haead Sa Adlaw Nga Kinamatyan Ku Napueo Ag Siyam Sa Akean”, 1913;
“Kaeantahon nga Pilipinhon” (Marcha Nacional Filipina), Sinueat nay G. Jose Palma; Gin Inakeanon nay G. Peping Tansinko Manyas, Musika nay G. Julian Felipe.
“Haead Sa Pahayagang “Ro Akeanon”, April 26, 1913;
“Sa Manga Kadaeagahan; Mga Tubo Sa Akean”, April, 1914;
Also in this book is Manyas’ translation of the Spanish poem by Manuel Laseran entitled: Eugta’ng Nahamut-an (Sinueat nay Manuel Laserna.) Its original Spanish version is also found in this book.
It must be noted that Manyas’ translation is so far the oldest Aklanon translation of the Philippine National Anthem.
In 1957, Tente Undoy published Mga Bilisad-on. This includes 105 maxims in Akeanon. Tente Undoy must be a brother of Roman A. de la Cruz.
We can see some of the old Aklanon poems in the book Contribution of Aklanon Minds to Philippine Literature by Beato de la Cruz. We can also see two Aklanon poems translated into English in the book Hiligayon Literature: Texts and Contexts (1992) edited by Lucila V. Hosillos. These are “Halad Sa Adlaw Nga Kinmatyan” by G.H.M.A. Tagipusuon.
But the oldest Aklanon poem that I have known is The “Song of Balinganga”
But before that, please allow me to give you a little background of these poems.
Nabor (1968) gives us a good background of this poem:
The “Song of Balinganga”
Other than the syllabary itself, the most antiquated sample of Old Inakeanon writing that we have so far is the 1911 reproduction made by Capitan Juan Orbista of the 1725 Moysing reproduction of the 1568 Kabanyag reproduction of the original “Song of Balinganga.” According to tradition, the original and the rest of its copies were written on hardwood (amaga) tablets.
The Juan Orbista reproduction was submitted by Apolinar Orbista, Sr., eldest son of the former, to the chairman of the Aklaniana Research Society in appropriate ceremonies held at the Aklan College Auditorium in 1962.
In his manuscript, Orbista (the elder) explains that his reproduction is but a hokwa or a copy of a writing which goes back to Balinganga, The Orbista Ms. contains a number of other songs and poems in Inakeanon writing, It also contains Orbista’s transcription of the famous Code of Kalantiaw from the original syllabic writing system into contemporary Inakeanon graphics.”
Here is the poem:
Hanongod sa dato,
Nga si Bangkaay,
Ag anang asawa,
Imaw si Katorong,
Kat sanda nga daywa
Mga bataon pa.
Sanda hay nagkita
Sa sangka daeanon,
Miron nga dongganon:
Ag sanglit gaoy eon
Rato nga daeaga,
Datong miron kana.
Singpit nat dayon
Nga kana omaba,
Agod di gaoyon,
Dayon na nga abhon
Ay mana eat opa,
Kono, kabog-at na
Kato nga daeaga.
Miron ag daeaga:
Nagpanaw sa nayon
Kon tawgon Tawaya
The Aklanon oral literature are found in our luwa, riddles, legends, proverbs, and composo.
As for the written ones, we find them in longer poems, short stories, novels, essays, and lately haiku.
Except for riddles, composo, proverbs and luwa, most of the Aklanon written poetry, legends and short stories are in English. This is understandable because there were no venues for Aklanon literature. If there were they were very limited. We have for example the Aklan Reporter published and edited by Mr. Roman de la Cruz that used to publish Aklanon short stories. Or those who have the means would just publish their own works.
As a result most of the Aklanon writers would contribute their pieces to national magazines like Philippines Free Press, Liwayway and Sunday Times Magazine. But the competition in these magazines are very stiff.
After the 1986 EDSA Revolution came a new literary revolution in Western Visayas. Spearheaded by Dr. Leoncio P. Deriada, a former professor in literature at the U.P. in the Visayas, a literary revolution took place almost simultaneously in Iloilo, Antique, and Aklan. Through his encouragement and with funding from the Cultural Center of the Philippines and later through the Presidential Commission for Culture and the Arts, which later gave way for the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), writers in these provinces started to write poems and short stories in Ilonggo, Kinaray-a and in Aklanons. The NCCA encouraged the establishments of local arts councils and subsidized conferences, workshops and publication. It also awarded writing grants and venue grants. Two of these writers who availed of these writing grants were Prof. John Barrios and this writer. The Bishop Gabriel Reyes Foundation I think also availed of these grants.
Dr. Deriada’s political approach to encourage local writers to write in their own languages was effective. He said this to Kinaray-a writers.
“My politicizing would begin by my saying: There is no such thing as a superior language. No one can give power and dignity to your language except you. Your language has dignity and power if you can do three things with it: sing your songs in it, compose your poems in it, and pray in it. If you can do these in Kinaray-a, then your language is the same level as any language in the world.”
Later, he used the same approach to Aklanon writers.
After conducting creative writing workshops and contests among Ilonggo and Kinaray-a writers, Dr. Deriada continued his crusade to Aklan. Here is how he practically twisted the arms of Aklanon writers to write in Aklanon:
“Liberating itself likewise from literary oblivion was Aklanon. Just as the Antiquenos were forming Tabig, emerging Aklanon writers also formed the Aklanon Literary Circle in Kalibo. Spearheading this was Melchor F. Cichon, a librarian at UP Visayas. Ably assisting him was UP Visayas student John E. Barrios.
“In my various workshops in Iloilo, Cichon had been there listening to the things I was telling Kinaray-a writers to challenge them. Cichon - and Barrios - took the challenge and soon the Aklan issue of Ani, which I edited with Cichon, et al., was published by the CCP and launched in Kalibo in early 1993. Cichon, who was by then writing in English and Tagalog-based Filipino, turned out to be the leading poet in his language and has the distinction of being the first Aklanon ever to publish a book of poems in his own language. Eventually, Cichon and Barrios won writing grants from the CCP.”
When the Aklanon Literary Circle (ALC) was formed in the 1990s, Melchor Cichon, John Barrios and Alexander de Juan put up Bueabod, the literary journal of ALC. It was a one-page mimeograph or photo-copied journal. In this journal some contemporary Aklanon poets like John Barrios, Pett Candido, Alexander de Juan, Geoffrey Ricafuente, Rommel Constantino and others contributed poems. It was also in this journal where the Aklanon poems of Mr. Roman de la Cruz and Dominador Ilio first appeared.
Many of the poems published in this journal were anthologized in Patubas, Ani (Aklanon issue), and in Mantala. Some of them were selected as best poems of the month by Mr. Isagani Cruz in his column Critic at Large.
From 1986 to 2000, three books were published by NCCA edited by Dr. Deriada et al. which included Aklanon poems. One of these books is the Ani Aklanon issue. In 1999, the book by Melchor, Ham-at Madueom Ro Gabii ? (Bakit Madilim Ang Gabi?) was published.
The books on poetry by Bellysarius de la Cruz came out within this period. These are With Hope Undying (1988); Earth Glare (1994) and Poems in Praise of God (1997) In 2000, the novel of Roman de la Cruz, Life with the Family; a folk autobiographical novel came out.
In 1998, five Aklanon short stories were published in the book: Selebrasyon at Lamentasyon: Antolohiya ng Maikling Kuwento ng Panay edited by Carmen L. de los Santos, Ma. Milagros G. Lachica and John E. Barrios.
A breakthrough came out in 2002 when the first Aklanon haiku written by this writer came out in SanAg, the literary journal of the Fray Luis de Leon Creative Writing Desk, University of San Agustin.
Another breakthrough in Aklanon literature took place in 2005 when the first Aklanon collection of short stories by Prof. John E. Barrios, Engkan(aw)o ag iba pa nga tag-ud nga istorya came out.
Another breakthrough in Aklanon literature took place in 2002 when the haiku by an Aklanon was published in Heron’s Nest, an international haiku journal based in America.
When the Aklanon Literary Circle was formed, almost all the members then were students.
Some of them were John Barrios, Alex de Juan, Geoffrey Villafuente, and Rommel Constantino. The youngest was Am. He was still a high school student then. I do not know where he is now.
But after their graduation, Bueabod hibernated for almost a decade.
While Bueabod was hibernating, a new writing venue was evolving in the Philippines. This is the internet.
And with internet, a new kind of Aklanon literature evolved. This is what is now known as the Aklanon virtual literature. Through the internet new Aklanon writers were discovered and new types of poems were added to Aklanon literature. These are haiku, senryu, and tanka. These are all Japanese types of short poems which had never been utilized by Aklanon writers until the new millennium.
As mentioned earlier, I said that a new crop of Aklanon poets came out as a result of the appearance of the internet particularly the appearance of this website: http://www.my.akeanon.com.
This website was created by a group of young Aklanons where Aklanons from different parts of the globe can exchange ideas.
Then one day a certain Tata_Goloy opened a thread, Kangga ni Tata_Goloy. In this website, many Aklanons posted their opinions on how to further develop Aklan. Some of the contributors include beeSPUNKY in Canada, bugoy in Federated States of Micronesia, Cinderella in Alaska, USA, ember in Manila, Gumamila in Iloilo, kal in Alaska, miss-terryosa in Iloilo City, SunflowR in Florida, USA, Swiss in Switzerland, Tata-Goloy in Chicago, USA, Toryo in one of the states in USA, water sprite , in Manila, yamanitoshi in Makati, Manila, and Maeara, in Iloilo. All of them are Aklanons and have one common desire—to write essays and poems.
You will notice that each of the contributors was using an alias. It was only later that I learned about their real names, but not all.
Then a certain Badjao opened a new thread in my.akeanon.com. He called it Iskul Bukol.
In this thread, some of the above contributors posted poems in Inakeanon. Noting that the so-called poems posted in this new thread needed rewriting, Maeara posted some comments to improve their works.
Then SunflowR posted a haiku written by Melchor F. Cichon from Heron’s Nest, an online haiku journal based in America. This haiku journal is one of the most respected and very competitive haiku journals in the world. So far only three Filipinos have been published in this journal, one is based in Pangasinan (Sonny Villafranca), the other one is in America (Victor V. Gendrano) and the third is from Iloilo, actually an Aklanon, Melchor F, Cichon.
Here is the copy of that haiku. It is a poem on the impact of the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo to a town in Pampanga: And this is the first haiku published in an international journal written by an Aklanon
a boy digs in the mud
that buried a cathedral
Heron’s Nest, Vol. IV, No. 9: September, 2002
Knowing that Maeara is no other than me, Tata_Goloy asked me to conduct a virtual class in poetry writing.
I agreed to conduct a virtual poetry workshop.
Adopting the technique used by Dr. Leoncio P. Deriada in creative writing workshops, I suggested to them that they first write and post their haiku, luwa, or longer poems in my.akeanon.com website.
And they did post their contributions in this website.
Every Saturday, I collected their works, wrote my comments on them and then post the original and the corrected ones, plus my comments on the merit and demerits on their works.
Of course, it would have been better if there were more critics, but there were no other critics around.
For two months, I did this.
Without their knowledge, I collected their corrected works and arranged them into a book. I requested two of the contributors to help me edit their works. SunflowR and beeSPUNKY agreed.
After preparing the manuscript, I looked for a printer. I told the contributors to help me finance the printing. Finally, I found a better one, and that is the Macar Enterprise in Kalibo, Aklan. Besides, I know the owner of Macar Enterprise, Mr. Roman de la Cruz, poet, lexicographer, historian, novelist, and a newspaperman, rolled into one. I requested him to further edit the manuscript which he did.
And in July 2005, the book came out the press.
This book includes haiku, luwa and other poems.
But before this, I already have developed a website that focuses on Aklanon literature. This is: http://www.geocities.com/aklanonliterature. In this website one can find riddles, maxims, luwa, longer poems, songs, legends, short stories, profiles of Aklanon writers, annotated Aklanon bibliography, and haiku. As of April 17, 2006, this website was visited 16, 417 times. In addition,
I have my own blog, http://anahawleaf.blogspot.com , which features my haiku and luwa
What type of poetry is written in this website? Who are the writers, what do they write about.
What is the quality of their works?
What do Aklanon writers write? Like other writers in the Philippines, Aklanon writers wrote on oppression, corruption, poverty, exploitation of women and the environment, love, religion, politics, insurgency, and hope. This is so because many of them are college trained and have gone to many places outside of Aklan like Manila, Iloilo , Antique. And abroad.
Allow me to say something about Aklanon contemporary poets and read some of their works.
Here are some of them:
Losally R. Navarro was born in Banga, Aklan on January 3, 1973 but grew up in Malinao. She studied at Aklan College, now Aklan Catholic College. While in college, she used to contribute articles in the Aklan Collegian. She joined the Iskul Bukul creative writing workshop and wrote a number of haiku and luwa. Now married to an Indian national, Losally now stays in Calvary, Alberta, Canada. In the February issue of Homelife, a national magazine, one of her haiku was published.
Two of Navarro's best haiku are:
even if our taj mahal
is made of bamboo
si Maria Clara
nag-agto sa Amerika
pag-uli naka-minis-skirt eot-a
Amzi V. Martinez was born in December 1976 in Balete, Aklan. He has a BS Industrial Education degree, majoring in Drafting Technology. He also has an MA in Education-Industrial Arts, with units in MS Industrial Education-Drafting Technology. He is presently working in Tofol, Lelu, Kosrae, Federated States of Micronesia as a Vocational Instructor. Here is an example of his luwa:
Manami kunta tan-awon
Kitang mga Pilipino nagahugpong;
Paano kita magtililipon
Ay owa’t trabaho sa aton?
Ellamae Fernandez was born on April 18, 1986. She is currently studying at the University of Alaska Anchorage, Kodiak College and taking up Certified Nursing Assistant/Health Care Assistant and majoring in AAS in Nursing. She is from Lezo, Aklan. Here is an example of her work:
Jay Jose Feliciano is from Kalibo, Aklan. He is presently working in Alaska, USA. Here is one of his poems:
naka-Merceds nga gobyerno
Ma. Terry F. Marte is from Poblacion, Lezo, Aklan. She is currently taking up AB Political Science at the West Visayas State University in Iloilo City. Here is an example of her haiku:
Countless tears fall
in calloused hands
under the sun
Edna Romulo Laurente Faral was born in Batan, Aklan but resides in Tampa, Florida with her family. She is not only a folk dancer par excellence, but a fine haijin as well. Here are four of her finest haiku:
thousands of people hide
behind monster waves
after the storm—
a castle no more
sa punta ka eang
the cherry blossom
folds its petals
Renelyn Beglinger-Vallejo is married to a Swiss national and they now live in Switzerland. She was born in Ochando, Banga, Aklan.
Nga ginatawag nga paraiso—
Ham-at maputi ro baeas
Indi kaparis sa Kalibo?
7 kakilometro dayang isla
Maisot manlang ikumpara sa iba.
Ham-an abu nga hotel
Nga ginpatindog iya?
Owa sanda nahadlok’nga eumubog ra?
Cirilo Castillon, Jr. was born in Badio, Numancia. After working in Angeles, Pampanga, then in Saudi Arabia, he settled in Chicago, USA. A philanthropist, Mr. Castillon or Tata Goloy is one of the most prolific contemporary Aklanon poets and essayists.
Here are two of his poems:
Nag-agto ako sa Kalibo
Nakakita ako’t mag-asawang mueto
Umalagwa gid ako it tudo
Iwag manlang gali’t awto.
Cris Ocampo. When I asked Cris on his concept about poetry, he wrote: “my concept about poetry is it makes your emotions come out lalo na pag mag-isa ka lang..dito mo nabubuhos ung mga nararamdaman mo its either na masaya, malungkot, anger, magmamahal, halos lahat na cguro ng emosyon pwede mong ilipat sa poetry..at nakakapag-isip ka ng mga matatalinhagang salita na ikaw lang or kunti lang ung makakagets at tapos pagnabasa ng iba, iba-ibang opinion ung maririnig mo na hindi lang pala ikaw ang nakakaalam. Cris was born in Kalibo and finished his high school at Pilot Science Development National High School , (now Regional Science High School) in Kalibo, Aklan. A martial law baby, one can see his political ideas in his haiku.
gapanago sa amamakoe
Abaw kanami isipon
Ro Jawili nga mahae nakon
Ano natabo kimo makaron
Musyon akon ikaw nga tatapon
Belle Nabor. She first studied at Kalalake Elementary School in Olongapo City, then transferred to Bulwang Elementary School in Numancia, Aklan. She finished her secondary and tertiary education in Aklan College, Kalibo, Aklan. Now she works as a University Research Associate at the University of the Philippines in Diliman (UPD). At the same time, she is working for her master’s degree in education majoring in guidance and counseling at UPD where she is also studying French language. Her haiku have been published the Mainichi Daily News, a world famous newspaper that prints haiku. . Her other haiku were included in Sakura Anthology of Haiku published in Sweden along with other world famous haijin like Robert D. Wilson, Michael Rehling, an’ya, and 27 other poets, The Makata, Short Stuff, and in Poetry Country Mouse. Her popular blog, http://Short.Poems.blogspot.com, that features her short poems: haiku, tanka, and cinquain, has been instrumental in her introduction to world haiku.
Here are some of her works:
inside a train
moves faster too
tonight, your beauty
tired of seeing
the world, the snail—
a recluse again
looks smaller now
the box from the attic
was full of letters, faded ink
those soulless papers — haunting
it wasn't that easy
putting him to rest.
Poet in Love
for you, I'll begin to write
this poem, a new set
of words with my heart
full of yearning
I could not speak.
we sit side by side
under the graceful stars
our hands entwined
dawn has arrived
Melchor F. Cichon
nagsueod ro aninipot
sa baeay namon
Ku Ati-atihan 2005 sa Kalibo
Sa plaza nag-eapta ro mga tawo
Ay nagpaburot ka armalite
Si SPO1 Jonathan Moreño
In conclusion, I would say that Aklanon literature has a tradition to think of. Through the centuries, Aklanons have been writing different types of literature: poems, short stories, novels, riddles, songs, maxims, legends. Lately, Aklanon writers have been writing haiku, tanka, and other Japanese types of short poems. Except for those who have the means to publish their works, it is unfortunate that Aklanon writers have very limited venues for their creative works.
Thanks however for the internet, Aklanon writers now have an alternative venue to publish their works. However, many Aklanon writers still have very limited means to use the internet because of its cost.
Cichon, Melchor F. Belle Nabor: A Filipino Haijin. Posted November 28, 2005. http://www.akeanon.com. Retrieved: April 16, 2006.
Deriada, Leoncio. Literature engineering in West Visayas. Forum, Opisyal na Pahayagan ng Universidad ng Pilipinas, March 28, 2006. http://www.up.edu.ph/forum/2000/03/28/litengg.html, retrieved: April 13, 2006.
Manyas, Peping Tansinko. Tagiposuon Nga Hueowaran. Daeang Rizal, Kalibo, Capiz. 1926. 26p. (Photo-copy)
Nabor, Fiorella I. “An Inquiry into the Ancient Inakeanon Writing System,” Silliman Journal, Ist Quarter, 1968, pp. 54-86 ((Photo-copy)
Reyes, Gabriel M. Toning. Mandurriao, Iloilo, 1925. 35p. (Photo-copy)
Tente Undoy. Mga Bilisad-n ni Tente Undoy. San Juan, Rizal, Kalantiaw Publications, Inc. 37p. (Photo-copy)