How familiar are you with our country’s distinguished National Artists for Literature? If you can’t remember all their names, it’s time to get acquainted with them. These men and women have received the highest recognition in the land for their significant contribution to Philippine literature, and their works, which have become classics, are studied by high school and college students.
Here they are, as shared by Kristine Tria, English tutor at Ahead Tutorial & Review.
Amado V. Hernandez (1973)
A labor leader, journalist, and novelist, Amado V. Hernandez is best known for his socio-political novels, among them, “Mga Ibong Mandaragit” (Birds of Prey) and “Luha ng Buwaya” (Crocodile’s Tears). He married actress Atang de la Rama, who herself was later named National Artist for Theater, Dance and Music. A guerilla during World War II, Hernandez became a political detainee in the 1950s. He died in 1970.
Jose Garcia Villa (1973)
Jose Garcia Villa is an internationally recognized poet. In fact, he was named Comma Poet for his extensive use of commas in his poems. His pen name was Doveglion (short for Dove, Eagle, Lion) and was credited for introducing the reversed consonance rime scheme in poetry. Garcia Villa was also a critic, lecturer, and short story writer. Among his famous works are “Mir-I-Nisa” (a short story) and “When I Was No Bigger Than a Huge” (a poem). He passed away in 1997.
Nick Joaquin (1976)
Nick Joaquin wrote short stories, poems, essays, and novels in English, and was also a journalist. His pen name, Quijano de Manila, was familiar to many readers. Joaquin also translated Jose Rizal’s “Mi Ultimo Adios” poem to English, entitled “Land That I Love, Farewell!” Among his well-known works are “May Day Eve” (a short story), “The Woman Who Had Two Navels” (a historical novel), and “A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino” (a play). He passed away in 2004.
Carlos P. Romulo (1982)
A journalist, diplomat and politician, Carlos P. Romulo became president of the United Nations General Assembly in 1949. He also served under 8 Philippine presidents as Secretary of Foreign Affairs and co-founded the Boy Scouts of the Philippines. Among the books he wrote are “The United” (a novel), “I Walked with Heroes” (autobiography), and “I Saw the Fall of the Philippines” (memoirs). He died in 1985.
Francisco Arcellana (1990)
Best known for his short stories written in English, Francisco “Franz” Arcellana is credited for developing the short story as a “lyrical prose-poetic form.” A prolific writer, journalist and teacher, he also wrote poems and essays. His essay titled “The Flowers of May” won a Palanca award. He died in 2002.
Rolando S. Tinio (1992)
With his achievements in both theater and literature, Rolando Tinio was named National Artist for Theater and Literature. A poet, dramatist, and essayist, Tinio wrote in both English and Tagalog. Among his poetry collection is “Sitsit sa Kuliglig” and “Ang Burgis sa Kanyang Almusal” . He also translated the play “Waiting for Godot” into Filipino as “Paghihintay Kay Godo” . Tinio died in 1997.
N.V.M. Gonzalez (1997)
A novelist, short story writer, and essayist, N.V.M Gonzalez was also a journalist and teacher. His timeless works have been translated to many other languages. Among his works are the novels “The Winds of April” , “A Season of Grace” , and “The Bamboo Dancers” . He passed away in 1999.
Edith L. Tiempo (1999)
Edith L. Tiempo was a fictionist and poet, and is known for conducting the annual Silliman National Writers Workshop with her husband, writer Edilberto K. Tiempo. This workshop has been instrumental in honing the skills of many Filipino writers, who called her “Mom” . Among her poems are “Lament for the Littlest Fellow” and “Bonsai” . She died in August 2011.
Francisco Sionil Jose (2001)
Better known as F. Sionil Jose, this artist has produced many works in English, including the popular Rosales Saga, which spanned 5 volumes. Social justice is a recurring theme in his works. His most popular work is the novel “The Pretenders” , part of the Rosales Saga. “The God Stealer” , a short story he wrote, won first prize in the Palanca awards. His works have been translated to other languages.
Virgilio S. Almario (2003)
Using the pen name Rio Alma, Virgilio S. Almario has written a number of works, notably poems and critiques. He has also translated poems, plays, and novels such as “Noli Me Tangere” and “El Filibusterismo” of Jose Rizal. He founded the poets’ group Linangan sa Imahen, Retorika, at Anyo (LIRA).
Alejandro R. Roces (2003)
Known for his essays and short stories written in English, Alejandro Roces has received recognition here and abroad for many of his works. Among the short stories he wrote are “My Brother’s Peculiar Chicken” and “We Filipinos are Mild Drinkers” , which were both cited in the US as among the best short stories. Roces also became Secretary of Education in the 1960s when Diosdado Macapagal was President. He died in May 2011.
Bienvenido Lumbera (2006)
A dramatist, poet, and literary critic, Bienvenido Lumbera is considered one of the pillars of Philippine literature. He has written the librettos “Tales of the Manuvu” , “Rama, Hari” , “Bayani” , and “Noli Me Tangere: The Musical” , among others. Lumbera was also a well-loved professor who was put in jail during martial law. He won the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature, and Creative Communications.
Lazaro Francisco (2009)
A novelist who wrote in Filipino, Lazaro Francisco is known for his works such as “Daluyong” , “Maganda Pa Ang Daigdig” , “Ama” , and “Ilaw sa Hilaga” . Most of his novels were published in “Liwayway” magazine. Some of his works have been adapted for the stage. He established the Kapatiran ng mga Alagad ng Wikang Pilipino (KAWIKA) in 1958. He passed away in 1980.