National Artist Cirilo Bautista passes away

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Photo courtesy of The Varsitarian

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 6) — Poet and fictionist Cirilo Bautista, born July 9, 1941, passed away this morning, May 6, 2018, at the age of 76.


Bautista was given the accolade of National Artist on June 20, 2014. Prior to that, he won a total of nine Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards in the fields of poetry, fiction and essay, in both English and Filipino.

Bautista graduated magna cum laude with a degree of AB Literature from the University of Santo Tomas (UST) in 1963, where he was also the literary editor of their school publication The Varsitarian.

He received his masteral degree in Literature from the St. Louis University in Baguio City, where he was also magna cum laude. He received his doctorate in Language and Literature from De La Salle University (DLSU). He taught creative writing and literature in all three of his alma maters.

His poetry and fiction would often deal with what it means to be Filipino. In his poem "Oh How to Find Silence In The World" he wrote:

"Being spotted in the color of skin,

why I take care in San Francisco,

waiting for the bus to Iowa.

They say racial prejudice is strong,

Negros and not whites kawawa,

and because of this they will revolt."

Nikko Garcia, current literary editor of The Varsitarian, said that Bautista's works would still resonate with Filipinos today.

"I think it's important for Filipinos to read him because he talks about what it's like to be a Filipino," Garcia said in a phone interview with CNN Philippines. "He wrote The Trilogy of Saint Lazarus as an epic poem in English and people will ask, how can something written in English be Filipino? But even if it's in English, he wrote The Trilogy of Saint Lazarus as an idiom of Philippine History" Garcia adds.

Garcia regretted never having a chance to meet Bautista in person, but he remembered fondly how his professors in UST would talk about the late author. His professors, Garcia recalled, remembered Bautista as a strict mentor who took the arts very seriously.

Malacañang sent its condolences in a statement released later that day.

"The Palace extends its deepest condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of renowned National Artist for Literature, Dr. Cirilo Bautista, who died at the age of 76," Malacañang said in a statement. "We remember him as one of the country's most passionate authors, whose devotion to the study of Literature paved the way for more Filipinos to develop their creative talent."