May 19, 2024

Luisa Aguilar Igloria, who grew up in Baguio City, was awarded by the Unyon ng mga Manunulat sa Pilipinas (UMPIL) with the 2021 Gawad Pambansang Alagad ni Balagtas for Poetry in English.

Igloria, whose first collection titled “Cartography” published in 1992 comprises her poems on Baguio, earned her doctorate from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and her Masters in Literature from the Ateneo de Manila University where she wrote a thesis on Foucault and the discourse of power in colonial texts pertaining to the Igorot.

She graduated with a BA in Humanities, major in Comparative Literature, minor in English and cognate in Philosophy, cum laude, from the University of the Philippines Baguio where she has also taught and served in leadership positions.

In a virtual program recently, Igloria was recognized among other awardees of Gawad Paz Marquez Benitex and Gawad Pedro Bucaneg.

Launched in 1988, the Gawad Balagtas given by UMPIL is a lifetime achievement award to living Filipino writers.

It is a recognition of the success and excellence of writers who have contributed outstanding works in any language in the Philippines.

Igloria, cited in the awarding as someone who writes in diaspora and constantly talks about home and history, was awarded the Gawad Balagtas for excellence, specifically for her vivid, broad, sharp, and profound imagination of personal and political experience as woman, child, mother, wife, and teacher whether in the Cordillera or in the U.S.A., in her numerous poems.

The citation also recognizes the intensity and splendor of her writing that gives light to complex human life, which serves as an inspiration to both the country and the world.

Igloria is currently based in the U.S.A. where she is a professor at the Old Dominion University and was recently named as Poet Laureate of Virginia.

During the program, Igloria expressed her gratitude and read one of her poems titled “I come from” in which one might read not only references to Filipino but also images that conjure universal experience of one’s own country “where one blind man can lead another down the sidewalk, both of their canes tapping.”

She shared her first three decades of formation, which she spent growing up in Baguio, have influenced her art and her writing in a deep and lasting way.

“I would like to think of this award as not only bringing honor to me and my family but also to Baguio which I consider my hometown,” Igloria said.

On her poems, Igloria in the UMPIL awarding expressed she has “always written about place and history, which is to say, our relationship with time.”

“And I have come to the conclusion that poetry is one of the ways through which we are able to more clearly see how history is not over because we are constantly adjusting what we know of ourselves in the present from studying and writing about the past.”

Since 2010, Igloria has been writing at least one poem a day, some of which are at luisaigloria.com. – Press release