New Ilocano Literary Art: “Saribitniw”



     Good news to Ilocano creative writers who are residing in the country. The 2nd National Saribitniw competition, a partnership project of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and Sir Pelagio Alcantara Development (SPADE) Foundation, is on.

      Key objective of this innovative initiative is to give the Ilocano writers here a greater opportunity to develop their gifts and contribute to the country’s creative industry.

      This big revenue-generating industry thrives on textual and audio-visual productions of excellent quality not only in English and Filipino but also in major regional languages such as Visaya and Ilocano. In this context, Ilocano literary and cultural products do continually enjoy as much as the others a significant share of the still flourishing domestic market.

      Considered a relatively new genre in Ilocano Literary arts, saribitniw (a coinage for sarita, bitla, daniw in the Ilocano language) means fiction, speech and poetry packaged into one. Unique that it is, without any equal yet either at the national or international market, saribitniw has instantaneously taken a special place in the contemporary history of Ilocano literature.

      What is so special about it is that it does not end with the textual content to be appreciated. Rather, it goes one step higher – up to the level of an exciting live show where the writer himself takes center stage to deliver his/her masterpiece during the championship round. And that is where its greater impact, as a kind of performing art too, resonates to the delight of the audience, most likely, as already proven.

      SPADE chair Crescencia R. Alcantara says that saribitniw, an invention by her late husband Pelagio A. Alcantara, a noted Ilocano-English writer, came to life in the summer of 2004 marking the first ever saribitniw season. Talking passionately about it, she recalls that SPADE Foundation was then doing solo as prime mover and funder at the same time.

At once the competition was set off on a national scale, but just experimental in nature for a launch.

      The culminating championship event, including the awarding ceremony, took place at the National Press Club in Manila. A show of artistic magnitude the way it turned out as one enchanting highlight of the 35th National Convention of GUMIL Filipinas, an association of Ilocano writers here and abroad. Here, the first Saribitniw king was discovered and honored – multitalented writer Fernando Sanchez, DepEd district supervisor in San Nicolas, Pangasinan, his hometown. Aside from the title he won, Sanchez went home richer by P7,000 in cash price for landing second place. Inasmuch as there was no first prize winner declared by the judges of the contest, Sanchez got the recognition as the best for that season, and so the anointed king.

      A perennial short story (Ilocano) winner, Sanchez made history again when he retained his title during the 1st National Saribitniw competition held in 2005 at the Regional DepEd Training Ceenter in San Fernando City, La Union. Working in tandem for the first time to make it praiseworthy and unforgettable were NCCA and SPADE Foundation. Here, Sanchez finally made it as a full-fledged champion.  Putting up a close fight were Mario Tejada, a promising writer from Piddig, Ilocos Norte, second placer and Luvimin Aquino, a radio announcer/scriptwriter and drama talent/instructor based in Baguio City, third placer.

      Now, the third saribitniw season has reeled off as a pre-Christmas cheerbringer of sort.  This one promises to be the most colorful so far in the history of saribitniw – the 2nd National Saribitniw competition that will lead to a battle of finalists on November 30-December 1, 2008 at the La Union National High School in San Fernando City highlighting the 2nd Ilocano Literary-Cultural Festival organized by SPADE in the spirit of heritage-building.

    Will Sanchez make it for the third time?

    The possibility is always there, but better come and have a taste of the splendor saribitniw has to offer, which is always intellectually refreshing and rewarding, says SPADE, the initiator and organizer of the festival.


   Email for more details.


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