The summer did not prevent us from braving the Manila heat and joining other book enthusiasts in Día del Libro 2011. Translated as Book Day, this activity traces its roots from the Catalan region in Spain in celebration of St. George’s Day. In these celebrations roses are given in exchange of books (information from Bersong Europinoy booklet).
And this exactly happened at Día del Libro 2011 which was organized by Instituto Cervantes – a book fair, jazz concert, workshop, food fair, poetry reading, and contest rolled into one highly-charged affair. Roses flowed as each purchase of a book entitled the customer to one rose. Some of the bookstores and groups who sold books were Anvil, Goodwill, Solidaridad, Powerbooks, Instituto Cervantes, National Historical Institute (or National Historical Commission of the Philippines), Benito Legarda, among others. Spanish dishes were also sold as well as wines, although I was not able to see if they were of Spanish origins too.
Bersong Europinoy 3
One of the features of Dia del Libro was the third year of Bersong Europinoy. The goal of this poetry reading “is to put Filipino poetry in parallel wit the European canon of poetry” (Bersong Europinoy booklet). Besides that, it seeks to strengthen harmony between European nations and the Philippines through literature, or poetry for that matter.
From Europe, the following poems were recited:
B’ MYKHNEΣ by Giorgos Seferis (Greece)
Einsamkeit by Rainer Maria Rilke (Austria)
Vodník by Karel Jaromír Erben (Czech Republic)
Biografía by Gabriel Celaya (España)
Palau by Gottfried Benn (Germany)
Nic Dwa Razy by Wislawa Symborska (Poland)
Ho Sceso Dandoti Il Braccio by Eugenio Montale (Italia)De Eenzamen by Jacob Johan Slauerhoff (Netherlands)
When We Two Parted by Lord George Gordon Noel Byron (United Kingdom)
The foreign language poetry readings made me realize that there is more to poetry than merely reading it by eyes. Listening to these poems being recited was far livelier. The emotions of the poems when recited were really there. English translations were also provided. Some of them were read by the event staff, although some of the readings failed to capture the emotions of the original poems.
I particularly enjoyed listening to the poems from Greece, Austria, Belgium, Spain, Germany, Poland, Italy, and Netherlands. The two people who recited in German were superb – not only did they practice; they also listened and watched the performances of the poem’s author to get the real feel of the piece.
From the Philippines, the following poems were recited:
Ngiti by Enrico Torralba
Absence X: Calligraphy at Mag: Net Café by Alice M. Sun-Cua
Swansong of the Sea by Saniago Villafania
The Great Experiment by Shirley Lua
Kulibangbang by Cles Rambaud
Ganito Nga Pala by Abdon M. Balde Jr.
Engkantada Rebecca Añonevo
Song of María Clara by Jose Rizal
There were two other poems to be recited supposedly. But perhaps the lack of idea as to what the event was really about prevented their authors to do the readings. And thus I decided to omit them here first because they were not really read at the event and second, to express my contempt in making a clown show out of an otherwise cultured recital.
I understand however the sentiments of the two poets. But I do think that it was not the best time to do it. The first did a jingle; the other almost made a war cry. The second one was commendable – the poem was in fact written well written. But the message of the poem he recited was well outside the objective of the recital. I am making this unnecessary discussion to share my realization that every thing (sentiment, opinion, etc.) has to be made or delivered through proper forums. In the presence of other nationalities, it was indeed a bad shot, really bad shot. I was about to walk out actually were it not for the other poems to be recited.
And I was not wrong in my decision to stay, for the rest of the poems were really moving – from poems about loss and love to poems about the aspirations of the Filipinos. The best recital came from Abdon Balde Jr. whose poem spoke of the hardships of getting old. The translation paled in comparison to the original Tagalog poem. It was simply hilarious yet the poetic nature of the piece was still there. In the end, we became one of those instant Jun Balde fans.
Jose Rodríguez, the director of Instituto Cervantes, was correct in saying that books will be around forever. Not even the most expensive e-book reader can replace the pleasure in touching the book pages, in memorizing the page textures, and having something that you can still carry around and read at your own pleasure. And thus Día del Libro is now another addition to my list of book-related affairs besides the Manila International Book Fair.