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An Outpouring Of Gratitude In Memory Of Poet And National Artist Cirilo Bautista

National artist for Literature Cirilo Bautista passed away today, May 6, 2018. He was a literary giant known for his poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and critical work. He was conferred the National Artist award in 2014 for a literary career that spanned long decades.

At the news of his death, some of his friends and colleagues have taken to honoring the revered titan of letters online. 


Photo of Bautista from the DLSU Literature Department 


“It is with deep sadness we announce the passing of our beloved professor/mentor and perhaps the greatest poet in the annals of Philippine literature—Dr. Cirilo F. Bautista. Rest in peace, our Moses, Gandalf, Nero Wolfe, Obi Wan Kenobi. Till we meet again in Paradise,” went a status post from the De La Salle University Department of Literature. Bautista became Doctor of Arts in Language and Literature in 1990 at the DLSU.

Bautista was known to be generous to the younger writers in the local literary scene. “He was kind to me and encouraged the publication of Salamanca (and gave a generous blurb),” wrote award-winning writer Dean Francis Alfar, recalling Bautista’s show of support for his first novel. “When we finally met in person, he told me he was happy that I was writing fiction in my own way. Years later, when I judged the fiction competition that bears his name, I was moved by his and Rosemarie's hospitality. Thank you, Cirilo, for helping create space for me and many others.” Rosemarie is Bautista’s wife.

Some writers honored his passing by posting a memorable quote from the National Artist. Sarge Lacuesta, quoting an essay Bautista wrote for a magazine, gave us a glimpse of the poet’s process:


When the poem is finished I go into the last place of production—editing. This confers on a poem a clarity of expression. All linguistic problems are resolved on the level of grammar and on the level of figurativeness. Then I read the poem, I speak the poem, the last act of creation, and the poem is really finished.”


The essay is entited Iowa, 1969. Bautista received a fellowship to the prestigious International Writing Program at the University of Iowa in 1968.

Editor of Philippine Graphic Magazine, Joel Pablo Salud, recalled, on his Facebook page an unforgettable line from Bautista, “one that has guided me and shaped my own excursion into the rough and tumble world of the writing life in a country where writers are ignored, if not killed:


‘There can never be a ceasefire in the writer's war with the irrational, the incompetent, and the corrupt..." (Notes on the Literary Life, p. 355)


Bautista with Salud, Yuson and writer Alma Anonas Carpio (from Salud's Facebook page)


On writer Krip Yuson’s page, below the announcement of the poet’s passing, we find out that the photographer Eddie Boy Escudero was once a student of Bautista at the De La Salle. “[He was] Our English Lit prof in DLSU. I still remember his comment on the poem I wrote, ‘Very clever, but still not poetry.’ I should have kept that!”

Bautista received his MA in Literature from St. Louis University in Baguio City where he graduated magna cum laude in 1968, and his Doctor of Arts in Language and Literature from the De La Salle University-Manila in 1990.

Bautista was also the co-founder of the Philippine Literary Arts Council (PLAC) and was a member of several organizations central to the promotion of FIlipino writing both locally and abroad, among them, the Philippine Center of International PEN, the Philippine Writers Academy, and the Manila Critics Circle.


Just two of Bautista's books, The Archipelago (1970 and Boneyard Breaking (1992).


He was a multi-awarded writer, having won the Palanca award multiple times, as well as the National Book Award, the Galaxy Balagtas Award, and the Pablo Roman Prize for the Novel.

He is survived by his loving wife Rosemarie, and his children Maria, Laura and Nikos.