In partnership with University of Santo Tomas, the European Union held Hemispheres: A European Union Cultural Symposium, subtitled In Focus: European Literature last May 23, 2017 (Tuesday), at the Buenaventua G. Paredes, O.P. Building.

Literature as Key to Unity

National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose said the Filipino’s art and being were highly westernized. As a people, according to him, the Filipinos had not yet become a nation due to their divisive quality. “Ethnic groups, prominent families, warlords fighting one another, seeking not only prestige but vast territories [are among the reasons] we are soldered and easily colonized by foreigners,” Sionil said. “We must realize that we belong to this part of the world, in Asia, and it is our duty not so much to detach ourselves from our Western roots but to know more about our own region: its politics and powers that are contesting today.”

The national artist discouraged the teachers to follow the examples of American academe as well as workshops: “You cannot teach imagination, creativity, and intuition,” Sionil said. “These are the things that the writers that must learn themselves. Teach them the craft. They must know grammar and [particularly] words so that they can make the leap from craftsman to artist.”

According to Sionil, the literature teachers must read the text very carefully and also provide the context. “[Teachers] must nurture students and teach them the context in which they write […] One must also look at the period because today, there are so many so-called anthropologist who go to literature to understand different periods of civilization itself,” he said.

“Literature is important not because it entertains but it helps unite us as a people,” Sionil said. “All of us have certain ideals and dreams pursued. For me it is a creation of a just society.”

Ambassador of the Czech Republic to the Philippines Jaroslav Olsa Jr. also highlighted that literature had significant powers and it should be used to make a big difference in favor of the country, “The writers are the keepers of the past and they are also giving many ideas on what to do today and what to do in the future,” Olsa said. “Literature [books] is something which remains.”

Ambassador of Hungary to the  Philippines Dr. Josef Bencze said diplomacy was a good chance to connect with people across the world.