By Chelzee Salera
ON the surface, a writer tends to look serene, nonchalant and perhaps needing only a little shower, but no — deep inside a restlessness stirs, a volatile mix of bottled up thoughts, feelings and emotions that need to be vented out.
And a vent, an outlet for all the combustible intangibles swirling in the head, heart and gut, is what literary types in the University of the Philippines Cebu have found. It’s called Tinta, a spirited group of young writers that has fueled a literary revival not just among students but the working class as well.
Members of Tinta, which is Cebuano for ink, focus their energy in popularizing the waning art of writing Cebuano poetry. Members profess that poems written in Cebuano, or balak, sound much sweeter than those written in other languages, like how tuba is sweeter than wine from distant lands.
“Tinta is the official creative writing org of UP Cebu,” says Tara Angela Prieto, a fourth year Psychology student and the current president of the organization. “Tinta is all about creative writing and literature.”
Tara shared that four years ago, the group’s founder, Romeo Bonsocan, realized there was not much space for creative writing in the university’s official student publication, as it focused more on news, politics, and other matters. So, Tinta was born.
Since then, Tinta has left a mark in Cebu’s literary scene. Just this February, the group organized a poetry night or Basa Balak, an event that’s open to the public for free: anyone can read or recite poems they or their favorite poets have written to an audience. With varying themes, poetry night has become a monthly affair in Handuraw Events Cafe on Gorordo Ave. For this month, Tinta’s Basa Balak will be held on Nov. 28.
“We used to have an event in Tinta that was quite intimate wherein only members gathered and talked about our works and the things that we’ve been reading. We realized that we wanted to make the event bigger so that more people would go and more people would be able to hear our works,” said Astrid Ilano, a senior member of Tinta and a fourth year psychology student.
Reyna Cadiz, Vice President of Tinta and a second year Mass Communication student of UP, clarified that the Basa Balak event is not only a venue for poems but also for other presentations and performances that relates to their theme for the month.
“It’s not only poems that we share. We also do music and the songs and poems that are presented are in accordance with the theme. Last poetry night, the theme was Nostalgia, so the songs were about remembering. The other poetry night we had was Binilanggo and it was about the lumad killings and the Martial Law era, so the poems that were presented had nationalistic themes and were about being caged in a rotten system or something like that,” Reyna says.
Having partnered with Bathalad Sugbo (Bathalan-ong Halad sa Dagang) and Nomads, two literary groups of known Cebuano writers who partake in the activity, Tinta members get their mentoring and guidance from veterans who see potential and talent from this pool of young writers.
“With the connections we create, the poetry night is not just a night for young people because writers of all ages from all generations come together and we learn from them,” says Monica Gloria Manluluyo, a senior member of TINTA and fourth year Psych student. “And we learn so much from them as they talk about their works. They give advice, and something like an informal ‘mentor-mentee’ connection is built that is purely literary, then a little bit of friendship is formed.”
Having tested their works in the publishing industry with a 10-page comic book last year, Tinta revealed that within the year, they’ll be publishing an anthology of their members’ works.
For some, writing may seem like a wearisome task, but for this new breed of poets, writing is a dream that they are willing to bleed for. With ink.