San Anselmo Press publisher Marvin B. Aceron recounts that at last Easter’s book launch of the Lugaw ni Leni, Pink Parol, KKK, Kakampinks, Atbp. anthology (edited by Virgilio S. Almario and Aldrin Pentero) at the Leni-Kiko Volunteers Center in QC, the national artist Rio Alma suggested that a new regular literary publication may be in order.
Poet Marne L. Kilates quickly seconded the motion and proposed that it be called “Santelmo.” Hearing about it a few days later when asked to serve as one of the editors, I weighed in:
“As St. Elmo’s Fire, it may be seen as fleeting and unworldly. But it will appear whenever a spark of light is necessary to stoke imagination, courage and intrepidity during our journey. Ang ating liwanag sa dilim.”
It was agreed that “Santelmo” could become the unofficial Pink Movement literary organ — with the objective of building on the revival of the interest in the arts triggered by VP Leni. Given the temper of the times, we allowed that we may expect creative expressions of protest and resistance, but that submitted works did not have to be strictly political. Proffered as themes for the first issue were Hope, Faith, and Rebirth.
Noel Romero Del Prado, Emmanuel Quintos Velasco and I had been the co-editors for the highly successful Pink Poems para kay Leni, which has been a record-breaking bestseller at nearly 4,000 copies sold since its first copy was presented to VP Leni on Valentine’s Day.
The complicated process of screening and selection, conducted within another three weeks, led to the final choice of 63 writers and four artists whose works appear in the pilot issue.
This time, facing the challenge of developing a multilingual quarterly journal that would include short fiction, brief essays and articles, even interviews, the issue editors were expanded to include writer in Filipino Che Sarigumba and her fellow author and journalist-editor Joel Pablo Salud. Designated as Tagapayo was Rio Almario, whose lead essay is titled “Kahit Patuloy ang Pagbulusok ng Demokrasya.”
The Publisher’s Note mentions that “… Almario traces the old political paradigm in the Philippines. He marks the spot of a political anomaly with the creation of the word ‘Kakampink’ — marking the new political activism spurred by volunteerism and ‘radical love’ that shows the way for us to complete what he calls ‘Ang Himagsikang Rosas’ with an agenda to move it forward. Santelmo aims to further articulate these seeds of thought and love for country towards making them a reality.”
Within three weeks from the call for submission, 230 poets, writers and artists responded by email. The complicated process of screening and selection, conducted within another three weeks, led to the final choice of 63 writers and four artists whose works appear in the pilot issue’s 152 pages in a large-magazine format of 10 by 14 inches.
I solicited a couple of essays from abroad. One was a recollection by life-long friend Rowena Torrevillas from Iowa City of early days in Dumaguete, when her mom, our “Mom,” Edith L. Tiempo, used to regale her with tales of what in the region was called “Santilmo.” The other was Singaporean premier poet Alvin Pang’s keynote delivered recently at the close of a writers’ congregation in Brussels. I thought that his wondrously written “The Joy of Walking Through Walls” should be shared munificently with our young writers.
Expectedly, the bulk of the essays in English dwelled on the Kakampinks’ loss in the elections. Among these essayists are Neni Sta. Romana Cruz, Resti Santiago (“When Astrologers Fail”), Philip Angelo Hiñosa, Andre O. Mapantay, Mari-An C. Santos, and Prof. Ed Garcia, author of Servant Leader: Leni Robredo.
We asked Alma Anonas-Carpio to do an interview-article of virally popular artist Robert Alejandro, while showcasing some of his works. A veteran writer from San Juan, Batangas, Ramon Florencio “Buko Joe” Perez, Jr., essayed a retro article on how his townmates exercised People Power in aborting a Marcos-mandated smelter plant in 1977.
Heartwarming personal essays by Tessa Daffon and Och Gonzalez join the list of essays that conclude, triumphantly enough, with “Why Write at All?” by freshly selected National Artist for Literature Gémino H. Abad.
In Filipino, “Mga Sanaysay” has three other essayists joining Rio Almario’s: Arnold Matencio Valledor, Noel Sales Barcelona, and Niles Jordan Breis.
“Mga Tula” are offered by Teddy Griarte Espela, Luis Cabalquinto (from New York), Victor Barnuebo Velasco, Jun Lit, Aldrin Pentero, Glenn Galon, Hannah A. Leceña, Byernes Ramirez, Francisco Arias Monteseña, Mykel Andrada, Noel Galan de Leon, Vim Nadera, Kim Joshua Daño, Ronel Osias, Dakila Cutab, Mercedes H. Blancas, Jefferson G. Del Rosario, Christian Jeff G. Cariaga, and Abdon M. Balde, Jr.
The poets in English are Alyza Taguilaso (whom I must say strongly impressed me with her poems), Simeon Dumdum, Jr., Milagros T. Dumdum, Erwin Rommel Y. Fernandez, Eileen R. Tabios (from California), Juaniyo Arcellana, Justine C. Tajonera, Joel Vega (from the Netherlands), Jim Pascual Agustin (from South Africa), Dennis Andrew S. Aguinaldo, Boboy Yonzon, Christine V. Lao, Pablo Tariman, Judith Angela E. Alpay, F. Jordan Carnice, Marra PL. Lanot, R. Torres Pandan, Andrea Posadas, Elvie Victonette B. Razon-Gonzalez, Jonathan Davila, Clyde Ghian M. Rivera, Michellan Sarile-Alagao, Aloy Polintan, and Marvin B. Aceron.
The last two had similar pieces as reactions to the selection of Jimmy Abad as National Artist — Aceron’s in particular naughtily dwelling on how he had to shake the president’s hand during the conferment.
Of these 24 poets, a third are fresh bylines, portending well for the continuing growth of Philippine poetry in English.
What we were short of were fiction submissions. Only one in Filipino and another in English were selected, by Ariel Logroño and Ryan Leyco Faura, respectively.
Besides Kakampink rally photos provided by Bryan Aranas and Edgar Magtalas, digital pictures by Julius Sering Clar and illustrations by Och Gonzalez, Luigi Azura and Pandy Aviado enhanced the publication’s design by MK Segundo and Alex Sibug. The attractive cover’s artwork we owe to the distinguished painter Elmer Borlongan.
Aceron concludes his Publisher’s Note with the hope that Santelmo can become “the keeper of the flame that is our imagination and memory. To rage and fight against the disease of forgetting that beset our people, the weak memory that erases and alters, we need language. We need words. We need to write them down and share them to make our country strong, to make humanity stronger. To articulate, curate, distill, and help us imagine and remember. Ito ang ating liwanag sa dilim.”
Santelmo is now available through the San Anselmo Publications, Inc. Facebook page, and eventually, at Shopee and Lazada.