Members of Tabig


Alex is preparing for the publication of his first collection of poetry, SONGS OF DATU LUBAY.


Nennen is now united with her husband in New Jersey, USA.


Acay works with Paranubliun-Antique, a cultural NGO based in San Jose de Buenavista, Antique.


Ed is on leave from his Creative Writing degree in De La Salle University for a job opportunity in Saudi Arabia.


After attending MFA in Creative Writing courses in De La Salle University, John chose to live in Palawan where he is editing a provincial newspaper.


Leah is a proud mother and dutiful wife, she lives in San Pedro, San Jose de Buenavista, Antique. Sometimes, she works for NGOs.


Gerry is recently elected to the provincial board of Antique.


Moi shuffles NGO work with mahjong and male bonding.


Dream is also a proud mother to a pretty daughter, and writes poetry while as well as love letters to her husband who works overseas.


Japs is soon to complete his Accountancy degree from St. Anthony's.


Jelyn teaches at the Polytechnic State College of Antique. She is moderator for the theater guild.


Remy is a farmer, NGO worker, youth leader and adventurer.


Sammy works for the provincial engineer's office, and composes award-winning songs.


Au-au is a loyal public servant, had been working at the provincial assessor's office for the past ten years.


Randy is graduating from St. Anthony's College.


Bhib is a student of the University of the Philippines in the Visayas.

Visit these sites, too

Homepage of Alex C Delos Santos:
Alex C Delos Santos Poetry Page: Samples of Alex' poems in English
Kinaray-a Poems by Alex C Delos Santos :
Poems by Tabig Writers: A sample of Kinaray-a poems
My Thoughts & Ideas: Other Works by Alex C Delos Santos
The Antique Arts Scene: What's going on in the arts & culture scene in Antique. Who are the artists and what are they doing?
Antique Homepage: Some facts and info about Antique, a wide selection of interesting sights and places to visit.
Greetings Page for Antique: Send greetings to your friends in Antique




By Alex C Delos Santos

I HAVE WRITTEN about Tabig’s little success story before, but I am writing it again. There are some things we need to recall time and again; lest we forget.

It all began in 1988. During a casual visit to my literature professor, Dr. Leo Deriada, at the UP in the Visayas, I received an invitation to apply for the CCP Literature Grants given annually by the Coordinating Center for Literature of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. The grants were open to writers and writers groups in the regions. There was no group of writers to speak of in San Jose de Buenavista. I was only begining to write then, after attending a creative writing workshop with the Sumakwelan writers at the National Arts Center in Mt. Makiling, Laguna.

But I knew opportunity when I saw one, so I sought the help of my friends Boyce Vescatcho and Susan Macabuag, my frequent allies in theater workshops, and who were very supportive of things cultural. Over beer and sumsuman in Susan’s house (her husband Macky was then manager of the local San Miguel Beer branch), we talked about the idea. We decided that I write a proposal to the CCP, making it appear that we do have a writers group. We used the name Homes Writers Guild, after Homes, a parish-based youth organization then headed by Boyce. Of course, we listed down all our friends’ names as members. The deadline for applications was to be the next day.

Very early the next day, I was ready with the proposal, complete with a fictitious organizational name, a fictitious roster of members, including a fictitious program plan should we get the grant. (Now I can divulge this without feat that CCP will take back the grant.) Boyce sent the proposal via LBC.

In January 1989, I received a most felicitous letter from the Cultural Center, announcing that Homes Writers Guild is the recepient of a full-venue grant, and a P5,000 regional assistance grant. I knew I had a problem. Classes were not over yet, and I had no money to buy myself a ticket to Manila to attend the awarding ceremonies. Our supposedly writers group did not have the funds either, because we never had a group to begin with. Ever resourceful and creative, I requested my friend Ceci Pefianco, who is a very good actress and who was at that time finishing a course at a design school in Manila, to attend the awarding ceremonies and receive the awards for us.

After a series of drinking cum meeting sessions, we finally decided to hold the first Kinaray-a Language and Literature Seminar in the summer of 1989. It was attended by a few municipal information officers, some teachers, some suspected writers and one respected writer Ernesto Nietes. We had the honor to have as lecturer Santiago Alv. Mulato, the only grammarian, literary historian and linguistics expert we know in Western Visayas. Tyo Tagoy himself won a CCP Literature Grant for Essay that year. Tyo Tagoy and Tyo Erning were happy to have reunited after a long time since their active days with the Sumakwelan.

With the extra fund after that seminar, came another round of serious meetings. This time we had with us Nening Dava, Susan’s sister who’s into interior design, Moi Magbanua, also a theater enthusiast, Ching Deza, who was my partner in organizing the Students’ Theater Group (Stage) at St. Anthony’s College.

We set our goals on forming a cultural group, but nothing concrete came out of those meetings, but a rough draft of a constitution and by-laws. Perhaps the problem then was we were more interested in theater than in writing, plus each had preoccupations not exactly related to writing. Boyce was with the statistics office, Susan with the Regional Trial Court, Nening had a business, Ching was completing her masteral degree on library science, Moi was looking for a job, and I was studying.

Our next problem was the venue grant. This entitled us a week at the National Arts Center, with free board and lodging. It was too big an opportunity to pass off. CCP booked us for September 1989. By then almost all were not available. I myself was already in Manila, and had just started on my first job. By the time we had to have the workshop in Makiling, no one was willing to go, but Acay Flores, a friend who was teaching at the college, Leah Pagunsan and Edison Tondares, who were my collegues when I was editor of the school paper, Nennen Geremia, another friend who works for the Center for West Visayan Studies in UPV, Gerry Antoy, a schoolmate at the college. Moi and I who were both working in Manila joined them in Makiling. Dr. Deriada who we invited to be our resource person excused himself, so we had to have the workshop all by ourselves. Nennen and I, who had attended a previous writing workshop, assumed leadership of what was to be our version of a creative writing response group.

All seven of us stayed the whole week at the NAC, enjoying VIP treatment from the Cultural Center, fattened ourselves, and lived like we had not a care in the world, except that we were supposed to be writers, and we were expected to submit poems, stories or anything we have written during that junket. During the exercises we called gus-abanay, we criticized each other’s works, we poured out all our angst, passions, and desires openly or unknowingly. Oh, how we enjoyed it; to read somebody else’s work, and to let yours be read by another; to listen to their comments, and accept all of them; to be humble, or get bitchy and offend others (and share breakfast and bed later). Even the harshest of criticisms were affirmations that indeed, there is possibility in an idea, and all we need to do is search for words and arrange them into a poem or a story to embody it. For the first time we were together, trying to mold, to weave, to smoothen a language we used since birth but we were taught to unlearn by studying English and Tagalog in schools. For all of us, it was a rediscovery of Kinaray-a, a rite of passage that appointed us our tasks of being Karay-a writers.

When the workshop was about to end, we sat down to formally talk about our fate as a group. Since none of the supposedly members of the Homes Writers Guild were present but Moi and myself, we agreed to form another group and call it Tabig Hubon Manunulat Antique (Antique Writers’ Guild). Tabig’s primary goal is the development and promotion of Kinaray-a literature. It was named after the bamboo woven basket used for storing harvested rice. It was actually a vision: We were sowing, and someday we would need a receptacle for a bountiful literary harvest. It was 30 September 1989 when Tabig was born.

After the workshop, Nennen, Acay, Edison, Leah and Gerry sailed back to Antique, while Moi and I stayed behind. What followed was a chain of correspondences. We had not only sworn our duty to write, we had sealed our friendships. Tabig became like a fraternity. Acay, Leah, Edison and Gerry, who were all based in the college, were raring to share their experiences in Makiling to other writers. They conducted a series of workshops and gus-abanay sessions.

When I returned home in the summer of 1990, I was greeted by new faces in Tabig. We put up the first ever Kinaray-a poetry exhibit, to show off our abundant harvest. By that time, we were also ecstatic because Nennen just won the CCP Literature grant for Kinaray-a poetry. This marked the first time Kinaray-a literature was recognized nationally. I duplicated this triumph by winning the same grant in 1992; and John Iremil Teodoro, another member, got the grant for Filipino poetry in 1993. We were beginning to see our efforts bear fruit.

However, Tabig did not really expand because the members, mostly students, graduate and disappear. Those who remained were the ones writing vigorously. Yet even as a small group, Tabig managed itself to be felt in the community. We held workshops, exhibits, readings and performances. The most memorable of our poetry readings was in December 1992 at then Bistro Alberto (now Linskie), owned by friend and supporter Nene Arlene Loza. We read our poems before tricycle drivers, istambay and some professionals who were the habitues of the place, and they paid attention to our performances, even applauding at the right moments.

Tabig played a vital role in the publication of Ani 19 (Kinaray-a issue), a literary journal published by the CCP. Thru its efforts with the CCP, the book was launched in San Jose de Buenavista in January 1992, perhaps the first formal book launching ever made there. In 1993, when initial steps were taken to organize Paranubliun Antique, a cultural NGO that advocates people empowerment thru cultural action, the Tabig members were the first to signify support. Paranubliun Antique, under the incessant prodding Norma Javellana, a cultural worker from Mindanao, grew to become the umbrella organization of all small writers, artists and performing groups, including Tabig, in Antique. Paranubliun Antique was the cultural group that Susan, Boyce, Moi and myself was dreaming of when we sat down that one night, trying to figure out what to do with the grants from the Cultural Center.

It was in 1994 when Tabig raked in its biggest harvest. Early that year, Gerry Antoy, Dreamrose Barcebal-Petinglay and Albert Fred Magluyan won first and second places respectively (Barcebal and Magluyan tied in the second place) in the Paranubliun-sponsored poetry writing contest occasioned by the Women’s Month celebration. The All-Western Visayas Poetry Contest sponsored by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and the Arts Council of Iloilo ushered in a sweeping victory for Tabig: Nennen Geremia-Lachica won first prize in English, John Iremil Teodoro placed first in Filipino and in Hiligaynon, Acay Flores copped the plum prize in Kinaray-a, followed by Edison Tondares, who also won second in Filipino, and I was third. That year also, John Iremil and myself both won third prizes in Filipino and English categories respectively in Homelife Magazine’s National Poetry Prize.

The victories that Tabig members had earned were the result of years of painstakingly learning the craft of writing thru the gus-abanay sessions, the continuous exploration and exchange of ideas. Other Tabig members not previously mentioned are Ma. Aurora Salvacion J. Autajay, and Jasper Bungay, who won third place in the second poetry writing contest (now known as Padya Paranubliun sa Panulatan).

After 10 years, Tabig members have pursued separate endeavors, but continue to write. Nennen Geremia-Lachica has left to be with her husband in the US. It will not be surprising if we read Karay-a poems in literary journals from there in the future. Edison Tondares, after two years working for Paranubliun, attended a masteral course in creative writing at the De La Salle University. Moi Magbanua is an on and off teacher of literature at the St. Anthony’s College, and as of last meeting, is contemplating of going back to Manila. Leah Pagunsan-Tambanillo is focused on her family. Gerry Antoy has become a politician in Bugasong, and I have chosen to slave in the corporate world. John Iremil Teodoro, after proving himself as the ideal graduate student of Creative Writing in La Salle is contemplating of going to Palawan, and opening a resort for the lonely hearts there. Only Acay Flores has remained with Paranubliun, aside from her native crafts business and her work with a peasant organization. For some years now, we have been dreaming of coming up with a collection of their works, a book that we can claim their own.

It may be long before Tabig will get to publish that great book, but each of us believes that our task is far from over. We are happy that we have helped other young writers find their voice, as we have found ours. We have sowed the seeds, and we are happy to see the abundance that is open for all Antiqueños to reap and enjoy. Our joy is to see tomorrow’s children reading the poems and stories we have written in the language of our parents, and our parents’ parents.