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Bienvenido Lumbera, National Artist for Literature, Has Passed Away

The poet, literary critic, and cultural icon was 89

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A file photo of Bienvenido Lumbera from ABS-CBN News, by Gigie Cruz

An esteemed poet, literary critic, professor, and cultural icon, Bienvenido Lumbera is, without a doubt, one of the brightest minds in the Philippine literary scene over the last few decades. 


After graduating from the University of Santo Tomas in 1950, he has since gone on to write some of the most notable and essential works in Philippine literature and in musical theater (he's written librettos for musicals like Rama HariNoli Me Tangere, Carlos Bulosan's America is in the Heart, and more). 


He has also taught in several universities both within and outside of the country, from Ateneo de Manila University, the University of the Philippines – Diliman, to the Osaka Foreign University of Japan and the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He was also an outspoken critic of the Marcos regime, leading to his arrest in January 1974. 


In a report by ABS-CBN News, veteran writer Ricky Lee paid tribute to his friend and fellow detainee during the martial law period, saying that: “Bien has always taken care of me, lalo na noong nasa kulungan kami sa Ipil sa Fort Bonifacio, at matagal akong nagkasakit,” he said. 


Lima kaming magkakasamang nakulong, at magkakasama ding nakalabas after a year. Lagi siyang andiyan to give blurbs and introductions to my books. Laging andiyan kapag may mga book launch ako o party. Laging andyan tuwing may kailangan ako. Ngayon ay wala na siya.” 


Lumbera has several Palanca awards to his name, as well as the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature, and Creative Communication Arts. In April 2006, he was proclaimed National Artist for Literature for his work in the field. 


In the same report by ABS-CBN News, Lumbera’s daughter Tala said: “Salamat sa lahat ng suporta at pagmamahal sa aming Tatay. Masaya kami dahil din Tatay lived a long and full life. Nakapagpaalam din ang halos lahat sa kanya before he passed on.”


Lumbera, according to his daughter, passed away peacefully after complications from a stroke that he suffered back in June. 

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