Wednesday, July 15, 2015

*385. The Fiery Pen of Flauxgalier: FELIX N. GALURA

POETRY MAN. The newly-put up monument of Felix Galura y Napao, prominent literary figure from Bacolor, who rebelled against Spanish. literary styles and forms. ca. 1920s.

 One of the most prominent and versatile writers at the turn of 20th century Pampanga was the Bacolor native, Felix Galura y Napao. The multi-facetted literary giant did not only wield his pen as a poet, translator ( he translated Rizal’s “Noli” into Kapampangan ), playwright ( “Ing Mora”/The Moor Maiden), editor, religious writer (he composed original Kapampangan prayers and a Pasyon), grammarian (he authored “Gramatica Castellana” and “Sanayan A Malagwang Pipagaralan King Amanung Kastila”) and newspaper man, but he was also a passionate Revolutionist, a military man ( Lt. Colonel under Gen. Tomas Mascardo) and a political leader (Bacolor’s municipal presidente for 9 years).

 Born on 21 Feb. 1866 to Manuel Galura and Carlota Napao, the young Felix was educated in local schools, but circumstances did not allow him to get a college education. But even so, he was a quick learner, with the uncanny ability to absorb knowledge so easily. His close association with the brilliant lawyer, Don Roman Valdes, for example, enabled him to become an expert on law and jurisprudence.

 But writing was Galura’s first love. He assumed the pseudonym “Flauxgalier” (an acronym of his name), and became a regular contributor to the bi-lingual newspaper “E Mangabiran/ El Imparcial” which began publication in 1905. Exposed to Spanish works at an early age, he set about translating prayers, plays and literary pieces into Kapampangan. Galura turned Spanish plays into Kapampangan adaptations like “O, Kasiran” and “Azucena”.

 With Juan Crisostomo Sotto, he wrote the zarzuela “Ing Singsing A Bacal” (The Ring of Steel) which was based on a Spanish play. Galura was led to conclude that the Spanish literary forms available in the country were the main cause of the backwardness of Filipinos. After all, these “comedias” were full of incredible tales of magic, enchantment and nonsensical scenes.

 His response was the opus ”Ing Cabiguan”(The Misfortune”), a verse narrative published in 1915, which would become his best-known work. It recounts the ill-fated love of Jaime and Momay, whose planned elopement was thwarted by Rosa, Momay’s mother. This resulted in the imprisonment of Jaime for 8 months. Hoping to reunite with Momay after his release, he finds out that she had died while he was languishing in jail.

 Though his work had a romantic plot, “Ing Cabiguan” was full of jabs against Spanish works. The work was prefaced with a reader’s warning to not expect improbable scenarios (like a duel between a princess vs. a lion) and unrealistic characters (e.g. talking animals) that are staples in Spanish-inspired comedias and curirus. It was Galura’s direct exhortation to readers to break away from these whimsical writing tradition that are insulting to one’s senses, and instead, embrace more realistic forms.

 The first printing of ”Ing Cabiguan” totalling to 500 copies was quickly sold out, and a second edition of 1,000 more had to be rushed on 10 November 2015 to accommodate the demand. Apparently, Galura’s work still had the cloying romanticism that was also the characteristic of the curiru, the same literary forms that he had wanted to replace.

 Certainly, though, it paved the way for Juan Crisostomo Soto to depart fully and truly from the favored Spanish-influenced style. His masterpiece “Lidia”, proved to be very contemporary in every respect, from the use of prose to the modern plot, providing a clear distinction from the metrical romances of old.

 Even as he was writing, Galura continued to run the affairs of Bacolor as the town head from 1909 to 1918. A year after his term, he was hospitalized for pneumonia, an illness from which he would no recover. He passed away on 21 July 1919, at age 53. For his departed friend, the poet Don Monico R. Mercado wrote the elegy ”Ing Bie Na Ning Tau” The Life of a Man) .

 On 24 December 1924, a monument was put up in front of the Bacolor Elementary School by Aguman 33, a band of grateful citizens and friends, dedicated to the memory of a beloved son of Bacolor--“Caluguran Nang Anac Ning Baculud”—Felix Napao Galura.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

*384. A Story Interrupted: AGNES DE GUZMAN, Writer

IN HER OWN WRITE. Agnes De Guzman of Mabalacat, as a Commerce graduate of UST. She pursued a creative a career and became a successful TV ans film screen and story writer, actress, champion of Kapampangan films.

 There was never a quiet moment when you were with Agnes De Guzman—my sister Susan’s best friend since high school. It was easy to be taken by this vivacious girl, who always had a ready story to tell—the latest town gossip, school anecdotes, her opinionated movie reviews and political commentaries. We lived in the same barangay, shared rides as students in Angeles, and our mothers were acquaintances, so Agnes was always a welcome presence in our house.

 I didn’t know Agnes had ambitions of becoming a writer, until I got a call from her one day. It started as a usual “kumustahan”call—she was already working at PLDT in Manila, fresh from earning a College degree from the U.S.T. I, in the meanwhile, had been working for years in Makati and had become an advertising creative director writing advertising copy and dabbling in comedy writing on the side. She wanted me to know that she was planning a career shift; she had been taking writing classes under Nestor Torre and Ricky Lo, and she felt she was ready to take a plunge into the world of show business as a writer.

I remember telling her to follow her heart, while cautioning her on how fickle the industry can be for creative people---unlike a corporate job that guarantees a steady flow of income. Agnes, however, told me she had saved enough from her PLDT years, enough to allow her to make this “experimental detour” in her career. So, pushing 40, Agnes gave up her telecom job to pursue her other dream of becoming a writer for films.

 And did she chase that dream with a passion! Next time I heard from her, she told me to watch out for the film thriller “Ika-13 Kapitulo” starring Christopher De Leon and Zsa-Zsa Padilla, where she was credited for the screenplay. The comedy “Mana-Mana, Tiba-Tiba” (2000) was next, and this time, it was she who wrote the story. Agnes was definitely on her way,gaining writing experience and at the same time making important connections with showbiz stalwarts as Marichu Vera-Perez, director Adolf Alix Jr., Gina Tagasa, among others.

 Channel 2 took her in and her storytelling skills were honed by the many TV shows, movies and screenplays she wrote: “Baliktaran: Si Ace at Si Daisy”, “Mga Kwento Ni Lola Basyang”, “Angels”(2007). She also earned credits as an actress, making appearances in films like “”Imoral”, “Saan Nagtatago Ang Happiness”(2006) and “Nars” (2007). In 2008, she joined Cinemalaya film competition and her original story with a Kapampangan theme, √Ątin Cu Pung Parul”, made it to the semi-finals.

The next year, she wrote the movie, “A Journey Home”. In 2010, her output included the movie “Presa” (for which she won a 34th Gawad Urian nomination) and the TV series “Inday Wanda” that ran through 2011. Her most successful assignment as head writer was for the intriguing, “Nasaan Ka, Elisa?”, which was slated to have 90 episodes to run from 2011 and 2010.

She had also started work on another series, “Hiyas”, also on Channel 2 when fate intervened: she was stricken with an illness that turned out to be cancer. The feisty Agnes carried on with her work even with her condition; she shunned traditional medicine in favor of alternative healing.

In August 2011, she decided to tick off an item on her bucket list—to go on a Parisian adventure. Her friends, ignorant of her condition—including me, followed her journey through her regular postings on facebook---today she’s at the Eiffel Tower, the next she’s at the Louvre. Her photos showed her zest and animated spirit—smiling, enjoying, relishing every minute of her amazing journey, highlighted by a visit to the shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes.

 Less than three months after her return to the Philippines, Agnes took leave of this mortal world. She lies in a private cemetery in her beloved Mabalacat, with simple slab of stone to mark her grave. The gravestone bears both her name and her title that she was so proud to wear: Agnes P. De Guzman, Writer. (January 6, 1962- November 6, 2011).

 Cinekabalen, Pampanga’s leading film festival organization, honored her along with film critic Alexis Tioseco (+) in 2015, for her legacy of writing that found full expression on TV and the Silver Screen, assuring Agnes De Guzman, Kapampangan storyteller, of immortality.

 (4 June 2015)