Fictionist Professor Emerita Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo, PhD, Director of the Center for Creative Writing and Literary Studies and professor at the Graduate School, is the country’s latest recipient of the prestigious South East Asian Write (SEA Write) Award, conferred annually since 1979 in Thailand. Pantoja-Hidalgo was recognized as the country’s 2020 awardee on August 10, 2023.
Pantoja-Hidalgo joins fellow Philippine literary titans such as National Artists for Literature Nick Joaquin (1980 SEA Write Awardee) and Bienvenido Lumbera (2016 SEA Write Awardee). Thomasian mentors such as the late Arts and Letters Dean Ophelia Alcantara Dimalanta (1999), Rebecca T. Añonuevo-Cunada (2013), and Michael Coroza (2007) also join the illustrious list.
In an interview with the Communications Bureau, Pantoja-Hidalgo expressed gratitude to the “legendary Philets,” the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters, where she earned her bachelor’s degree. “While there were no formal creative writing courses then, it helped that I had wonderful Literature teachers (like Erlinda Francia Rustia, Ophelia Alcantara, and in graduate school, Carolina Garcia). They simply assumed that we, their students, loved reading, and encouraged us to delve deeper into books. As we all know, for writers, this love for and familiarity with, good books, is essential. It also helped that most of the students around me were, or dreamt of being, writers. Some were already working for the national papers and magazines. In that sense, Philets was a true writing school. And I feel owe it a great deal.”
A prolific writer and multi-awarded scholar, she has published more than 40 books, including novels, short stories, and creative nonfiction collections. She has received three Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature, including the Grand Prize for her novel “Recuerdo.”
Prior to leading the CCWLS, Pantoja-Hidalgo was Director of the UST Publishing House. An alumna of the University, she earned her Bachelor of Philosophy and Master of Arts in Literature degrees in the 1960s before eventually earning a doctorate in Comparative Literature from the University of the Philippines.