‘Kausaban’ confab addresses challenges in teaching creative writing in Mindanao

Seventy-five creative writing teachers from various corners of Mindanao and four professors from the Ateneo de Manila University came together at Xavier University – Ateneo de Cagayan for the Kausaban Forum on Teaching Creative Writing.

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First of its kind in Cagayan de Oro City, the forum was organized in response to the challenges in teaching creative writing, a subject included in the newly-implemented K-12 program by the Department of Education.

Many educators expressed the need to strengthen their understanding of the four genres covered on this subject, namely, poetry, fiction, essay, and drama as creative writing goes far beyond the conventional language and literature subjects in the previous educational model. 

Creative writing requires an approach that is different from conventional teaching practices.

“Tingnan natin ang larawan ni Mona Lisa at ni Lisa Simpson,” said Allan Derain, a professor from Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) – Kagawaran ng Filipino.

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“Tama bang sabihin natin sa painters na ‘dapat tayong lahat, mag-paint tayo tulad ni Da Vinci?’ Is that valid? Para ito ang ginagawa natin sa mga estudyante na sinasabihang kailangan nating magsulat at dapat katulad ito ni Shakespeare… Pero sa totoo lang, si Lisa Simpson at si Mona Lisa ay parehong valid na representasyon ng tao.

Besides fictionist Derain, other speakers during the forum were poet Allan Popa (director of Ateneo Institute for Literary Arts and Practices), fictionist Allan Derain, essayist Martin Villanueva (chairperson of ADMU’s Department of Fine Arts), and Glenn Sevilla Mas (ADMU theater program coordinator).

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During the open forum, the speakers also shared their years of experience in teaching and practicing creative writing in the hopes that local teachers and writers will find these useful in the Mindanaon setting.

“The past is like a song. You can take an old record, put it on and listen to it. But that’s not the job of an essayist. An essayist is like a DJ who takes different records, remixes them and puts them together in a way that is meaningful,” said Villanueva on writing narrative nonfiction.

Playwright Mas told the participants that in writing a drama, the audio comes secondary to the visual. “Try to make sure na nakukuha ng audience, but not spoon-feeding. At the same time, giving information, but also holding back. You get better as you watch more plays, write more plays and read more plays,” he continued.

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On writing poetry, Popa shared that is it important to be sensitive and emphathetic: “Huwag ninyong tanungin na ‘anong ibig sabihin nito?’ Matatakot [ang mga estudyante] kung ganoon ang tanong mo. Ang tanungin mo, una, ‘anong nakita mo?’… Ang unang response minsan sa estudyante ay i-try nilang iinterpret kasi akala nila ‘yun ang expected sa kanila. Pero kung tinanong mo kung anong nakita nila, ang ibig sabihin n’un, pinapahalagahan mo ang experience nila kaysa ‘yung expected mo na answers.”

Popa added, “Ikalawa, tanungin mo ‘anong nararamdaman mo?’… Let them participate in the meaning-making process.”

Following the workshop, the four ADMU creative writing teachers also served as panelists during the Kausaban Creative Writing Workshop, an activity which aimed to refine the skills of seven emerging Northern Mindanao writers. 

One play, two essays, two stories, and two poems were dissected and refined during the workshop.

Fellows of the workshop were Dennis Flores, Maria Karlene Shawn Cababaran, Hazel Aspera, Abigail James, Raymond Ybañez, Adeva Jane Esparrago, and Mark Acero.

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Both the Kausaban Creative Writing Forum and Workshop were organized in partnership with the AILAP and Nagkahiusang Magsusulat sa Cagayan de Oro (NAGMAC), with support from the Xavier Center for Culture and the Arts (XCCA) and the National Center for Culture and the Arts (NCCA). (Hazel Aspera/XU Comm)

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