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Arts Culture What The Sea Cannot Touch: Remembering Cirilo Bautista

What The Sea Cannot Touch: Remembering Cirilo Bautista

What The Sea Cannot Touch: Remembering Cirilo Bautista
By Dorynna Untivero
May 10, 2018
As the National Artist's necrological ceremonies commence today, we remember his touching influence in Philippine Literature and the Arts

Cirilo Bautista spent much of his childhood in the humble district of Sampaloc, Manila. Receiving a degree in AB Literature from the University of Santo Tomas in 1963, Bautista always had a passion for reading and writing. Afterward, he pursued a masters degree in Literature in St. Louis University and further on, a doctorate in Language and Literature from De La Salle University. Showing a natural and intensive prowess in creative writing and criticism, he also attended the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. 

With a fervent work ethic and an innate love for literature, Bautista went on to win multiple awards throughout his lifetime. The pinnacle of which was his conferment as National Artist for Literature last 2014. His works varied greatly -- from poetry, fiction and criticism. Writing in both English and Filipino (Tagalog), he was recognised with the Gawad Balagtas Award by the Writer's Union of the Philippines, whilst winning the coveted Palanca Awards for multiple works across genres, numerous times.

The University of Santo Tomas (mid-century) | Photo: Courtesy of Presidential Museum and Library PH
The University of Santo Tomas (mid-century) | Photo: Courtesy of Presidential Museum and Library PH
Old Downtown Manila | Photo: Courtesy of Presidential Museum and Library PH
Old Downtown Manila | Photo: Courtesy of Presidential Museum and Library PH

Some of his more famous works include The Trilogy of Saint Lazarus (2001), which is a step away from the traditions of literary formalism in the country. In this work of poetry, Bautista explores the summits and trenches that language can offer. His works, including Sunlight on Broken Stones (2000), have also seen distribution beyond Philippine shores, finding its way in bookshops in the United States, Japan, Romania, the Netherlands, China, Hong Kong, Germany, Malaysia, and much more.

Proving he is more than a one trick pony, Bautista also excelled effortlessly in the field of fiction and cultural/ literary criticism, noting here his famous Galaw ng Asoge (2004) and the mind-boggling, Words and Battlefields: A Theoria on the Poem (1998). 

Besides his long list of published works, Bautista served as Professor Emeritus of Literature at the College of Liberal Arts at the De La Salle University of Manila. He was also a columnist and literary editor of the Sunday Supplement of the Manila Bulletin and the Philippine Panorama. 

Photo: Courtesy of Presidential Museum and Library PH
Photo: Courtesy of Presidential Museum and Library PH

Having passed away last May 6, 2018, the field of Philippine Literature loses one of its brightest stars. A loving mentor to many, an inspiration to writers and artists alike, Cirilo Bautista will be remembered through the intricacy and strength of his works. He is survived by his wife, Rose Marie and three children. In his poem, The Sea Cannot Touch, Bautista explores the phenomelogical aspect of falling in love with his wife -- here, there is nothing but his darling Rose Marie -- in this short poem, he is untouchable and in solitude.  

 

The Sea Cannot Touch by Cirilo Bautista

The sea cannot touch me now
nor the sky
in this room whose arms are 
your arms

They would spell the night
I took you for my wife
I do not think of candles in that church
Though they were there

the priest the words though they
were there
I think only of your sad
beautiful face following

the nothing there/the nothing
to construct our lives with/hoping
the singing birds would come
and house among its branches

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