A mournful week for Philippine culture

Published May 14, 2018, 12:05 AM


Compiled by Terence Repelente and Dom Galeon

Augusto “Toti” Villalon, and Edgar Maranan
Augusto “Toti” Villalon, and Edgar Maranan

The past two weeks have been tragic for Philippine culture and arts community. Aside from the recent passing of National Artist for Literature Cirilo F. Bautista, the nation also lost two of the most respectable cultural workers—poet Ed Maranan and architect Augusto “Toti” Villalon.

Ed wrote in both English and Filipino. Versatile across many literary genres from drama and fiction to children’s stories and poetry, he was a 30-time Carlos Palanca awardee and was inducted into the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature Hall of Fame in 2000. He had won a multitude of other awards, published many books, and mentored and influenced a generation of poets, through his teaching of political science at the University of the Philippines Diliman. Above all his credentials, Ed was known for his sharp protest poetry and staunch activism.

Architect and cultural historian Augusto Villalon, or Toti as he was known among friends, was among the country’s earliest and foremost heritage and conservation advocate. He was a former National Commission for Culture the Arts (NCCA) commissioner for the Subcommission on Cultural Heritage, head of the National Committee on Monuments and Sites, vice president and founding trustee of the Heritage Conservation Society, and commissioner of the UNESCO National Commission. Toti tirelessly worked on the nomination dossiers for the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, the Subterranean River National Park in Puerto Princesa, the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras, as well as four Baroque churches in the country, to become recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. His invaluable contributions to promoting heritage monuments in the country didn’t go unnoticed, as Toti received numerous awards and accolades, including the Diwa ng Lahi Award from the City of Manila in 2011.


Ed Maranan was a poet who had reached a really broad audience. He was very open to what his readers thought, and that’s what makes his achievements great. He was an accessible poet, accessible in a sense that one could understand him easily.

Ed was true to his political persuasion, and when he wrote, he wrote with his politics deeply embedded in his poetry. He was a very kind person, and indeed I think the number of people who he had influenced is an indication of the kind of man that he is. —National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera


Ed Maranan was more than just a writer—he was kind, generous, humble, a giant soul with a child’s excitement about the world. I remember him not long ago telling me he was looking forward to an upcoming residency at Hawthornden Castle, where fellows who have completed the writing retreat have their names inscribed on the doors to the rooms where they stayed. He never made it to Hawthornden because of his illness, but we need no further proof of the mark he has left on the world as a great writer and a beautiful human being. —Sarge Lacuesta


Augusto “Toti” Villalon was known by many names but we knew him simply as Papa. Celebrated and awarded several times over for his work as an architect and a heritage warrior, perhaps the thing I will remember the most about Papa is how much he loved to share his world with his family.

When the newest generation of Villalon kids was born, he was quick to show them his favorite places, too. I’ll always treasure the time he took the family to Vigan. He did not speak about the work he did to have the Historic City of Vigan to be inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, instead he shared what he loved about the city. The food from his favorite restaurant, the sound of the cobble stone streets as horse drawn carriages passed by, and the work produced by the weavers and pottery makers. Papa fought for cultural heritage, he fought for the story to continue to be told. The world will remember him for this work, but we will remember him as our Papa, the man that spoke of the weavers, pot makers, and the cobblestone that made some place truly special. He will be remembered for the stories he shared with us at Sunday family lunch. —Antonio Villalon


The passing of Toti Villalon, is a great loss to the architectural and conservation movement in the country. Toti was always a true gentleman. We worked together in the setting up of the St Scholatica’s College Museum and Archives, the cornerstone of the celebration of the 100 years presence of the Missionary Benedictine Sisters of Tutzing. He did an amazing work. He captured the essence of the work and contribution of Sisters to the Philippines. We had long meetings but he was very patient and he had the cunning ability to translate the experiences and events into visual images to tell the story and send the message about the whole experience. Toti was truly a gifted artist and professional. His heart and mind was in the right place. He might not be with us but his work and contribution will live on. —Vicente Antonio Vallejo Pijano III


My sincerest condolences to Luchie Maranan, Ellen Maranan, Diego, Len, and to their entire family. His works will always remain with us, including his superb collection of poems called Alab, his play called Ang Panahon ni Cristy, which was once staged by the UP Repertory Company, as well as his many other poems, children stories, and essays. That he translated some of my poems was a great honor for me. As my teacher once said, Ed was among the few whom he knew could translate long Tagalog metered poems to English, while keeping the original measure (and even vice-versa, he could also translate English to Filipino!) We know Ed as perhaps a writer who won the numerous Palancas, but we also honor him for being an activitst, a former political prisoner, with an unfading conviction to stand with the masses. Here’s one happy memory I have of him: When the UP Peryante showed Oratoryo ng Bayan in Baguio back in 1985, Ed worked the mask and acted as Marcos—and what an actor he was on stage!  —Joi Barrios-LeBlanc


Carlos Palanca Awards for Literature confirmed that Ed Maranan had the distinction of having the biggest number of winning works. All in all, 35! He could write poems, fictions, creative non-fictions, plays, children’s stories, features, and columns. Like Cirilo Bautista, he was bilingual. They both wrote well in Filipino and English. —Vim Nadera


Tito Ed and Ibecause we were mostly chat and email buddies. He shared many of his musings with me and always made me feel deserving of the responsibility to write. I’m not sure what the landscape of Philippine literature looks like to comment on his impact on it, but I can tell you that through his writings in multiple genres, he gave us roots. He made sure young writers like me were nurtured. When he passed, I realized that he was like a strong trunk of an acacia, where all of us, his friends, followers, and family, formed its branches. Even though he kept a diverse set of friends, we were all bound together by his steadfast and gentle friendship. Paalam, Tito Ed. Let more poems, stories, and essays bloom in his honor!

Sir Toti Villalon was someone I grew up reading in the Inquirer. He taught me to find the soul of a place in its structures, in the way people lived within and around them. He worked tirelessly to convince us that we are a storied people. May kultura tayo at dapat itong ipagmalaki (That we have our own culture and we should be proud of it). —Nash Tysmans


Toti is a knight in shining armor, especially in the preservation and restoration of our heritage buildings and sites. He was the first to write about Museo Pambata, and the one who reused the historical Elks Club building as a Children’s museum. We need to tell our policy makers to keep history in mind, for our future generation to appreciate and love what’s in their country. Thank you, dear Toti!—Nina Yuson


Ed Maranan never seemed to ever take a break from writing—but while this tirelessness was remarkable in itself, what I found more remarkable about him was his insistence that literature could only do so much. Literary production to him was no proxy for actual involvement in the mass movement for national democracy. And in times of growing fascism, we need to be reminded how invaluable getting organized is for collective resistance. —Angelo Suarez


Papa had proverbial itchy feet, and wanted all of us to see the world with him. Our first big trip as a family was a month-and-a-half full-on Parisian experience. Papa was attending a UNESCO conference in the City of Lights, and he proudly exclaimed, “I am going to turn you on to this wonderful city.” And we were switched on like stars.

He was tireless in planning activities around the city, diligent in explaining the Parisian way of living and serene when the city exhaled and we all saw her at her unguarded best. That was Papa. He switched things on in us that we never knew were there. He was all energy and all inspiration and we were all along for the ride. Then one day he said, it’s time for you all to make rides of your own. Papa wanted each of us to find our own City of Lights, for each of us to speak passionately about something with such power and energy that the subject would shine like a star. Because he thought that we were all stars. Papa’s light went out peacefully last Saturday, surrounded by four loving sons, family, and good friends. His star, though, shines ever brighter. —Simon Augusto Villalon


I was a young writer in 1997 and had my first book Bago ang Babae published when I got invited by the School of Oriental and African Studies to read my poetry, together with other poets from Southeast Asia, who wrote in their own tongues. Ed Maranan was working then with the London Embassy. It was my first time to meet him, together with other Filipino writers and scholars, and one memorable moment was when we gathered in a house, and read poems to one another. He bought several copies of my book. He was soft-spoken and unassuming, and it was hard to imagine he was going through some dark night of the soul. I salute him for his courage and brilliance and the singular persistence to write. His was a prodigious talent, and he served well and served best by writing. —Rebecca T. Añonuevo


Our country may have lost a brilliant architect, a heritage conservationist, an arts and culture advocate. But for our family, we lost a loving husband, supportive father, and doting grandfather.

I will miss you, Papa. I will miss your stories, how you leave everyone in awe after you give a talk, whether on a podium or our dining table. I will miss learning about what you do, your work, your travels, our culture, our history. I will miss seeing you working quietly in your office with your door always open. I will miss your gentle smile, your voice, you walking around the house… I will miss visiting you, making sure you had everything you needed, especially your favorite Lays chips, Ritz crackers, and coffee. I will miss taking care of you.

I would like to thank you Papa, from the bottom of my heart, for taking care of us and accepting us as your own.  We may not be related by blood, but us all living together under one roof for 21 years is more than enough time to make us have a deeper and meaningful relationship.

For that, I am truly thankful. We love you, Papa. May “flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.” —Candy Evangelista