05 December 2015, while at a Surgery Post Graduate Lecture, I would receive an email. It was an invitation to the 2016 NVM Gonzalez Writers Workshop. Yup, I got an invite from such a prestigious Workshop! 3 slots were available but I had to submit my “Writers Resumé” (something I’ve never made all these years), past works and 2 short stories, to be submitted and reviewed by the mentors of this workshop and NVM son Dr.Michael Gonzalez.

With Michael Gonzalez

With Michael Gonzalez

I was a fan of NVM but a slightly bigger fan of the other National Artist Frankie Sionil Jose, I guess his Ilocano heritage was the final factor, of a difficult not just apples to apples, but apples to apples from the same branch. I was aware of NVM’s books but only read “The Winds of April,” “Seven Hills Away,” and “Children of the Ash-Covered Loam and Other Stories.” I was aware of his winning the National Artist Award for Literature in 1997 (Sionil Jose was in the running the same year but yielded to NVM). I was aware of his death in 1999, November 28 to be exact. I was aware that 2015 was his birth centenary. I realized I knew little of NVM Gonzalez.

With Professor Charlson Ong

With Professor Charlson Ong

There is so much to learn about him but the one thing that I learned about NVM through this Workshop was his passion to teach. When he would mentor at a workshop, he made it a point to interact with each participant from start to end. The mission of the NVM Gonzalez Workshops are clearly defined at the page.

Together with the UP Institute of Creative Writing, the NVM Gonzalez Foundation would cap the celebration of his Centenary by holding the 2016 Writers Workshop in UP Diliman where NVM was a professor and at his hometown of Calapan Mindoro. NVM son Dr. Michael Gonzalez took the lead as well as M.Evelina Galang MFA, Master Professor and Director of Creative Writing at the University of Miami as our main workshop Director. Resident Fellow of the UP Institute of Creative Writing, Professor of Literature and Creative Writing at the UP Colllege of Arts and Letters Charlson Ong and Jose Dalisay Phd, Director of the UP Institute of Creative Writing, Professor of English and Creative Writing at the UP College of Arts and Letters also served as mentors. Charlson gave a lot of guidance on my writing and I still owe him a “one for the road.” The discourse (very much lacking in the monthly meetings that I regularly attend) in this room of established writers is unparalleled for me. Myke Gonzalez even participated with his own Creative Responses. I managed to sit next to Myke Tuesday morning and just loved our discussion! The exercises definitely made my sulci and gyri, tighter and taller! The FilAm professors/writers MG Bertulfo, Chris Guillermo, Lisa Suguitan Melnick, Anna Alves and Penelope Flores who gave me the much needed praise and encouragement and the more important guidance to improve-“Maraming Salamat Po!” To Evelina, Butch, Charlson, Myke and the rest of the gang-Thank you for taking me in! Below is a photo of everyone, image is by Kat Cruz from an article written by Lisa Suguitan Melnick.


The NVM Gonzalez Writers Workshop Class of 2016

What I like most about the NVM Gonzalez Writers Workshop series is their readiness to take in beginning and aspiring writers and not just established ones. The series of workshops has made the rounds of all the places where NVM was a professor. The NVM Gonzalez Writers Workshop came back home to Manila and Mindoro in celebration of the mans birth Centenary as the 2016 NVM GONZALEZ WRITERS WORKSHOP. What an experience but most of all what an honor to be part of it and to be in the company of such established writers. To set the tone of the year, the Ilocano in me always starts the year hitting the ground running by working hard. I don’t mind at all that this year, I started it by working hard…on my writing.

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