By Gabriela Baron
Not only Higantes stand tall in this miniature town in Rizal.
Hailed as the Art Capital of the Philippines, Angono is famous for its Higantes Festival and as the home of its native sons National Artist for Music Lucio San Pedro and National Artist for the Visual Arts Carlos “Botong” Francisco. But unknown to some, the small town is also a cradle for poets.
Angono’s 3/7 Poetry Society is one of the town’s pioneers in promoting poetry. The collective was formed on July 7, 2007, hence the name.
Founder Richard Gappi said their group was originally the literature arm of Neo-Angono Artists Collective — an organization founded by visual artists, writers, musicians, theater actors, filmmakers, cultural workers, art critics, and researchers.
“Layunin ng grupo na palakasin ang panitikan sa Angono upang makapag-ambag sa pagkakakilanlan ng bayan bilang Art Capital of the Philippines (The group aims to strengthen literature in Angono to contribute to the town’s identity as the Art Capital of the Philippines),” he added.
Gappi won third place in the Komisyon ng Wikang Filipino’s 2019 Makata ng Taon contest for his collection “Dulok: Gunita ng Tubig.”
The purpose of 3/7 is to contribute to the local art scene, local poet Danilo Diaz said. “Makapagbahagi ng sining gaya ng pagtula, pagsusulat, pamamahayag, at iba pang literary works (To be able to share poetry, journalism, and other forms of literature).”
For Elliz Alog, a Filipino teacher, joining the group means giving herself a chance to further her craft.
“Gusto kong malaman dati kung kaya ko bang magsulat. Kung oo, gusto kong mahasa ang kakayahan ko. Alam kong di ko ‘yun mahahasang mag-isa, kailangan ko ng mentor (I wanted to know if I could write. If yes, I want to hone my skills. I know I can’t do it all alone, I need a mentor).”
Through 3/7, Alog was able to write two poetry books — “Mga Apak sa Dagat” and “Punla ng mga Papausbong na Makata” under independent publisher Hinabing Salita.
Meanwhile, 3/7 helped young poet Arthur San Juan gain a better perspective in life.
“Iminulat ng grupo ang aking mga mata sa estado ng paligid. Utang ko sa kanila ang sensibilidad ko bilang papausbong na manunulat (The group opened my eyes to the true state of the society. I owe them my sensibility as an emerging writer).”
San Juan’s works have been published in newspapers and online literary journals. He was also fortunate enough to have his poems featured in Carlos “Totong” Francisco II’s REVIVAL Exhibit and Ekphrasis Exhibit at Blanco Family Museum in Angono.
Angono poets regularly read their poems in art spaces in Angono and nearby towns. 3/7 performs yearly at the Pasinaya Festival at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
3/7 also spearheads writing workshops every summer for budding writers.
After offering workshops only to writers residing in Rizal, in 2018, the Angono National Writers Workshop (formerly Angono Summer Writers Workshop), started to accept manuscripts from writers in Manila and other regions.
Diaz and Francis Monteseña, both resident panelists of Angono National Writers Workshop, discussed the importance of writing workshops.
“Maraming natutuklasang potensyal na batang manunulat na kailangan lang tutukan upang hindi agawin ng ibang interes (We have discovered and mentored young writers with potential who need to be focused on so they are not distracted by other interests),” Monteseña said.
“Sa mga workshop ay iba-ibang genre ang natututuhan at ibinabahagi ng mga panelist, kanya-kanyang kaalaman at karanasan. Natututo rin ang mga panelist sa mga estudyante at iba pang mga kasali sa workshop. Pinakamabuti ang iba-ibang pananaw at pagbasa o pag-unawa sa mga akda at katha,” Diaz added.
(Different genres are taught and learned in workshops, knowledge and experiences are shared. Panelists also learn from students and other workshop participants. And I think it’s best to have varying perspectives or interpretations of works.)
For Monteseña, organizing free writing workshops every year is also their way of giving back.
“Ako man ay produkto ng halos lahat ng national writing workshop, at kailangang bayaran ang utang na loob sa sining sa paglulunsad din ng kahalintulad na gawain (I am a product of almost every national writing workshop so I am indebted to art to give back—my way is through giving free mentorship).”
When asked what he would like to tell to young writers:
“Hindi kailangang maging malupit sa sarili para makapagsulat. Walang limitasyon ang imahinasyon para idahilang nauubos ang paksa sa pagsulat. Disiplina lamang, kompiyansa sa sarili, at purong layon kung bakit ka nagsusulat, ang dapat makita ng mga mambabasa. May kapangyarihan ang mga salita sa kamay ng manunulat na marunong gumamit dito nang maayos.”
(You don’t have to be cruel to yourself to write. Imagination is limitless so there is no reason to say there is nothing more to write about. Self-discipline, self-confidence, and a pure purpose for why you write are what your readers should see. Words have power in the hands of those who know how to use them well.)
The members of 3/7 are Richard Gappi, Danilo Diaz, Francis Monteseña, Elliz Alog, David Magno, Noel Vocalan, Berlin Flores, Louise Vincent Amante, Glen Sales, Silvana Zapanta, Philip Anorico, Arthur San Juan, Leah Ramos-Gappi, actor Ian Lomongo, and sculptor Tata Raul Funilas.
National Arts Month is celebrated every February to honor Filipino artists and their talents.