The defiant Nick Joaquin
By Andrea Pasion-Flores
There is a picture, taken in 1976, of National Artist Nick Joaquin sitting on the red-carpeted stairs of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, his forearms resting on his knees. He is looking straight at the camera, unsmiling. This was taken during a joyous occasion, but his eyes were not filled with joy.
Depending on how one might be inclined to read his body language, his gaze, his unsmiling lips, the title of National Artist for Literature recently conferred by President Ferdinand Marcos seems to have given Joaquin little joy. Accounts have it that after he received the honor, he raised his arms as if he were the sacrificed Christ nailed to the cross. It was a singular act of defiance. Joaquin was an unwilling recipient of an honor given by a man who had declared martial law in 1972 and had imprisoned many of the writer’s colleagues, one of them journalist-poet Jose Lacaba. But Joaquin accepted the honor and used it as leverage to demand the release of Lacaba—a prize more valuable to him than the medal he wears in the photo.
Nick Joaquin honored the Filipino people with his singular achievement. He wrote without pause during the trying times he lived in. He gifted us with his magnificent prose while he lived defiant and proud, integrity intact. He left behind a large body of work that survived the terrible times he lived in. Celebrating his centennial year in 2017 meant remembering the courage of the man, rereading his works, and being renewed by them during our own trying times.
Here are the many ways his centennial was and will be observed.
- International release of the Penguin Classics edition of The Woman Who Had Two Navels and Tales of the Tropical Gothic (April 29, 2017)
- CCP Birth Centennial Celebration (May 4, 2017)
- “Remembering Our Nick: Friend and Artist, FEU Celebrates the 100th birth anniversary of Nick Joaquin” (May 25, 2017). The event featured a memorial lecture by poet and University of the Philippines Professor Emeritus Gemino H. Abad, the re-launch of Nick Joaquin’s translations of the works of Rizal, and the re-launch of the Nick Joaquin Special Collections Room at the FEU Library.
- “What Do I Say to A Giant,” an exhibit of Nick Joaquin’s works that appeared under his penname Quijano de Manila, in conversation with the works of visual artist Marc Gaba (August 25–November 29, 2017).
- Re-issue during the Manila International Book Fair of the Anvil editions of Joaquin’s The Summer Solstice and Other Stories, May Day Eve and Other Stories, and Candido’s Apocalypse with new covers under its imprint Anvil Classics (September 13-15, 2017).
- FEU Interschool Essay Writing and Translations Contests (October 25, 2017).
- Release of the movie tie-in edition of Ang Larawan which compiles Joaquin’s play Portrait of the Artist as Filipino, its adaptation into Filipino by National Artist for Literature Rolando Tinio, and the movie’s libretto, also by Tinio.
- Showing of the musical drama Ang Larawan in all theaters as part of the Metro Manila Film Festival (December 25, 2017).
- Dennis Marasigan reads from Portrait of the Artist as Filipino, to be announced.
- Release of Joaquin’s commemorative stamp by the CCP, to be announced.
- Re-issue of Joaquin’s Tropical Baroque: Four Manileño Theatricals and The Woman Who Had Two Navels under Anvil Classics.
- Re-issue of Joaquin’s Pop Stories.
Andrea Pasion-Flores is the general manager of Anvil Publishing, Inc. Before that she was the Executive Director of the National Book Development Board of the Philippines, a government agency mandated to advance the causes of the book industry. She also authored the road map of the Philippine publishing industry, which was adopted by the Philippine government as an industry blueprint. (firstname.lastname@example.org)