Lualhati Bautista and her one true and forever love

Published December 15, 2020, 9:20 AM

by Rica Arevalo

The Diamond Jubilarian publishes her first poetry book

Lualhati Bautista is one of the awardees of the prestigious 2020 Gawad CCP Para sa Sining, the highest award given by the Cultural Center of the Philippines, but due to the country’s current health situation, the awarding ceremonies will take place in 2021.

Lualhati Bautista

The COVID-19 pandemic has not stopped the revered novelist from capping another milestone–publishing her first poetry book entitled, Alitaptap sa Gabing Madilim.  

“Publishing your own book is a challenge,” she shares to Manila Bulletin Lifestyle.  “Not many people know that I did publish the first several thousand copies of Bata, Bata, Paano Ka Ginawa? I had a very good arrangement with National Book Store and its purchasing manager then, Jimmy Gregorio. He would get the whole print run directly from the printer and take care of the distribution. Mrs. Socorro Ramos, Aling Coring we call her, had a very good relationship with writers,” recalls the 75-year-old writer.  “She was very supportive, even attended book launchings and allowed us to hang our posters on the glass walls of NBS. Books of Filipino authors are placed prominently on the shelves, nasa bungad, nakikita agad pagpasok (you see them when you enter).”  

Her earlier work, Dekada ‘70, has been in the market for over 35 years, still going strong as ever as this is a required book in schools.

How did her poetry book get started?  “Alam mo pag wala akong magawa, panigurado, makakaisip ako ng gagawin (If I have nothing to do, I’d make sure to keep myself busy),” she says.

Dekada ’70

She posted some of her poems on Facebook and they automatically garnered thousands of likes.  “It popped in my mind to collect my poems.  Many of those poems were written in the ’70s, on WordStar, written over several years, months and years apart from one another,” explains the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards winner. “Then I thought, i-publish ko kayaAyun (Why don’t I publish it?) I called my layout artist, asked her to transfer the collection to PDF, think of a good cover, negotiated with a printer, at ayun na! Libro na siya.” 

Lualhati has been used to “solitary confinement” and the lockdown did not affect her as much.  “Writers work alone, remember? Besides, I am no longer the young person who loved going out and was into a lot of literary activities. I have mellowed through the years and become more of a ‘home person,’” muses the 1984 MMFF Best Screenplay winner for Bulaklak sa City Jail.   

‘Writing is my passion, my one true and forever love.

She is more afraid of getting the virus than getting arrested for violating quarantine rules. “Takot nga akong tumaas ang presyon ko ngayon (I am afraid to have high blood pressure),” confesses the GAPÔ novelist.  “The hospital is the last place on earth I would want to set foot on at this point.”

Retirement is forbidden in her vocabulary.  “Do you retire from somebody you loved all your life just because you have reached that ‘retirement age?’” she questions. “With me it’s the same with writing. Writing is my passion, my one true and forever love. Till death do us part.”

Alitaptap sa Gabing Madilim

How can she entice the younger generation to read?  “Give them good stories. I am the meanest, pinakawalang-pakundangang (irreverent) critic of my own works,” says the former vice president of the Screenwriters Guild of the Philippines. “I make sure every sentence, every dialogue, is exactly what I want to hear, that every period, every comma, is in its proper place. The young writers should know that. Hindi barabarabay. Hindi puwede yung puwede na. Dapat, pulido. Dapat, the best (No place for mediocrity.  It should be polished.  It should be the best).”

Alitaptap sa Gabing Madilim is available on Lualhati Bautista’s Facebook page, Bookay-Ukay, Bookfellas, Solidaridad Bookshop, and Pandayan Bookshop.