November 29, 2022

Journalist Frank Cimatu was awarded as grand winner for the 20th Madrigal Gonzalez Best First Book Awards for Filipino for his first poetry collection, “Ang Mga Prusisyong Dumaan sa Unang Ba-ngungot.”

Published by the Ateneo de Naga University Press in 2018, the 90-page book consists of 39 poems in Filipino by Cimatu, most of which were originally written in the 1990s.

The Madrigal Gonzalez Best First Book Awards is given to the best first book by a Filipino author.

Established in 2001 by the University of the Philippines Institute of Creative Writing (ICW) through the initiative of the Madrigal-Gonzales family, the award aims to encourage further lite-rary production.

The award alternates biannually between books written in Filipino and English. This year, the Likhaan UP-ICW administered the 20th and 21st iterations of the awards, back-to-back, following a break last year due to the pandemic.

Winners were announced during the online awarding ce-remony held on Nov. 26.

The judges are Jun Cruz Reyes, Carlos Piocos III, and Genevieve Asenjo for the Filipino titles.

For this category, the five finalists were the books by Reagan Romero Maiquez, Emmanuel T. Barrameda, Ronaldo Vivo Jr., Rommel Fabros Bonus, and Cimatu.

For the English category, the four finalists were presented by Marjorie Evasco, Sarge Lacuesta, and Charlson Ong. The nominees were titles by Ronnie E. Baticulon, Dominic Sy, Gideon Lasco, and Joel Donato Ching Jacob.

Cimatu’s winning book was cited for its boldness in vision, “mapangahas nitong bisyon.” “Patunay ang aklat sa marami pang posibilidad ng pagtula at tunay na hahawan pa ng bagong landas para sa mga makatang nakasulyap sa hinaharap, ngunit matibay ang tuntungan sa kamalayan at kasaysayan ng kanyang lugar sa mundo,” reads part of the citation.

According to the citation, the collection, likened to a time capsule, came to our present time from a distant past but has contemporality in revealing that nothing changed even if a lot has changed.

Reyes, who read the citation, also underscored that in Cimatu’s poems in which the monstrous that is the bangunot (nightmare) may be history or prophesy, readers get to sense the spirit, pulse and zeitgeist of our times.

A poet and veteran journalist, Cimatu was born and raised in Baguio City where he was also among the founding members of the Baguio Writers Group.

He was a fellow of the 1988 and 2010 UP National Writers Workshop and has won awards from the Palanca, Procyon, and Philippine Free Press for his poems and essays in Filipino and English.

He is also an NGO worker mostly on environment, indigenous peoples, and reproductive rights.

His second book consisting of his poems in English, “Birdcatching in Sagada and Other Poems,” published by the University of the Philippines Press, has recently been released by the Likhaan under the Philippine Writers Series 2021. – Junley L. Lazaga