The Philippines Awardee

 

I am deeply honored by this award. Perusing the roster of previous awardees is both a humbling and slightly intimidating experience. One is reminded of the great tradition of artistic and literary creation in Southeast Asia and the responsibility that goes with being considered among its best contemporary practitioners.

The present century is often touted as the century of Asia and the Pacific. Economic power is shifting east once more. Asia’s rising middle classes are no longer mere consumers of Western goods or mimics of European and US trends. We are now the inventors of new technologies, creators of new wealth, leaders in many of the sciences and the arts. Our time has come.

Yes, we will continue to be beset by problems as individual nations and as a regional bloc. We will have issues with neighbors, who too are brimming with new confidence and purpose. But now we deal with these issues as sovereign, self-knowing peoples in charge of our own destinies and no longer the echoes or proxies of other powers.

And so our literatures, arts, and popular media should, and do, reflect this new reality, this new spirit. Filipino, Thai, Malay, Singaporean, Vietnamese movies now reap awards in international festivals. Publishers now look to our region for the next best sellers, the next classics. Manila, Bangkok, Phnom Penh, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Bali are no longer mere exotic backdrops for Western stories but places of deep relevance where the most important tales of the unfolding century are being told and heard constantly.

Our olden traditions bear upon our present concerns. Our ancient poetry ring ever more true. We can little write about our present without hearing the voices of the past. So, it is all the more important for us to re-discover and re-valuate our pasts as we move further into this age of globalization. And it has become all the more relevant too that we discover and strengthen the ties and sensibilities that bind us a region.

On behalf of the Philippine chapter of the International PEN and the Filipino writing community I express my heartfelt gratitude to the organizers and patrons of the SEA Write Award and congratulate my co-awardees. May our peoples and our literatures continue to prosper.