Category Archives: Portfolio

Throwback Thursdays: Sanghaya 2001

Throwback Thursdays: Sanghaya 2001

Book: Sanghaya: Philippine Arts and Culture Yearbook 2001
Product Details: Hardbound, 144 pages
Publisher: National Commission for Culture and the Arts
Year: 2001
Language: English
ISSN: 1655-1796
Availability: Limited. It’s an old title. Your best bet would be
the publication department of the National Commission


If there’s any book I have worked on that is incredibly close to my heart, it has to be the first volume of Sanghaya: Philippine Arts and Culture Yearbook. The brainchild of National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera and my boss and mentor, P.T. Martin, Sanghaya was an ambitious project. In the context of publishing in the Philippines, nothing quite like it had been attempted before.

 The Project

Sanghaya aimed to capture the developments of the national art scene. Subject experts wrote in-depth articles on developments in their fields: architecture, film, dance, performing arts, literature, music, and visual arts. The articles, supported with numerous lists, directories, and a chronicle of the major cultural events of the year, provided one huge snapshot of all the local endeavors and cultural trends.

Essays on cultural awareness and ethnic minorities, mainstream media, and translation attempted to include ideas from the fringes of society. These provided a nuanced look at the challenges faced by a country perennially besieged with foreign influences and internal conflict. I remember pushing for some weird items, like the list of current pop music and DVD releases. I felt that these things reflected mass culture, and served as a counterpoint to the coverage of formal ballets and concertos.

My Involvement

"Malaki ang utang ng librong ito sa iyong sipag at talino." (Loosely translated: "this book owes much to your diligence and talent.") Prof. Lumbera's dedication still makes me giddy.

Before Sanghaya, I had already worked on other book projects, albeit in a limited capacity. As an undergraduate, I worked as a research assistant for some titles put out by the UP Creative Writing Center (now called the UP Institute of Creative Writing.) This usually involved combing through endless magazine stacks for recently published short stories and poems.

Sanghaya, however, was on an entirely different level. I had to: keep tabs on all our contributors, their contracts, and their submissions; gather most of the research material; hunt for photos and get permission to use them; keep track of and attend to a hundred other things. It was a huge challenge but I really enjoyed it. My personal favorite task was compiling amusing or thought-provoking quotations that could be used to relieve the layout of the text. Since this was a decade before Twitter, you can only imagine how hawk-eyed I grew over every newspaper interview.

In his introduction, Professor Lumbera explained that sanghaya was an old Filipino word that meant “beauty, honor, dignity.” Working on Sanghaya was occasionally messy. My insane commute to downtown Manila was anything but dignified, and I don’t know if it’s honorable to hound critics for their drafts. But when Sanghaya finally came out, I was so happy. I felt as if I had witnessed a birth. I know my designation in the credits is “editorial assistant,” but I was definitely more than that. I think I can still take pride that I worked on a book that tried to live up to its name.