Rio Alma
Photo: via Flickr

CHICAGO (JGL) – Like father, like daughter.

Philippine National Commission for Culture and the Arts Chair Virgilio “Rio Alma” S. Almario told the in an exclusive video interview last June 15 in Chicago, Illinois that he “supports” his daughter’s call for “revolution” “because we are precisely of the same orientation. You like to continuously pursue a revolution of consciousness in the Philippines.”

Almario, 74, who is mandated by law to “advise the President of the Philippines on matters pertaining to culture and the arts,” was responding to a question posed by this reporter. I asked if he supports his daughter’s (Ani Rosa Almario-David) call for revolution in her commencement speech before more than 2,000 graduates of Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines last May 26.

When asked about his daughter’s advocacy, the National Artist on Literature said, “No comment. Marami na ang nangyari (Many things have happened) after this. Many trolls have attacked my daughter, my whole family, including me. And I don’t want to respond to whatever they are saying against my daughter. I support her, of course, because we are precisely of the same orientation.”

In her speech, the young Almario told the graduates, “There is a degradation of morals, twisting of truth and widespread injustice. Most Filipinos are demoralized and frustrated with recent events for they are afraid to speak up.

“And I believe that Ateneans mentored by the very best minds and nurtured in this very special community will not be overwhelmed by this culture of fear. Our present national situation calls for a revolution. And quoting the (Marcos pre-martial law Ateneo students’) manifesto (dated Nov. 27, 1968, ‘Down from the Hill’) again, Ateneans have the moral, intellectual obligation to lead this revolution.

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“Batch 2018, these are difficult times, and so our country ask you to muster everything that Ateneo has given you.

“All your magis and your cura personalis (Latin for “care for the whole person.”) be the voice of the voiceless, be the courage of the weak. Be truth. Be hope. Resist! Resist! Resist!”

Mr. Almario, chair of the Komisyon sa WikangFilipino (Commission on National Language), was in Chicago as guest of the Philippine Consulate. He delivered a lecture titled, “Valuing the Priceless: The Importance of Research in Philippine Arts and Cultural Preservation” on June 15 at the Towner Fellows’ Lounge of the Newberry Library.

After his lecture, he and Philippine Consul General Gina A. Jamoralin were accompanied by the president of Newberry Library, David Spadafora, in viewing the library collections that included letters written by Jose Rizal to a colleague in Germany about Filipino language, Tagalog mostly; and the first printing of original water colors by Damian Domingo, father of Filipino painting which is a set of 29 drawings of people in the Philippines.

The collection has been digitized and is freely available online, according to Will Hansen, Director of Reader Services and Curator of Americana in the Newberry Library.

In the Newberry Library, Almario bought facsimiles of two old editions of Francisco Balagtas’s  Florante at Laura so he could make annotations and corrections and re-create the original texts of the epic romantic poem.

He said the existing texts of Florante at Laura used in Philippine schools “were faulty,” especially texts of Filipino classic literature from the Spanish period. He said a “third-class” poet hired by publisher, Philippine Education Co., who made “‘erroneous revisions or ‘corrections’ without actual or verifiable basis.”

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As chair of Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino, Almario is one of the 15 members of the board of commissioners that governs the National Commission for Culture and the Arts NCAA) created by the Philippine Congress through Republic Act 7356. NCAA is under the Office of the President.

To become chair of NCAA, one has to be elected for a term of two years by 11 representatives from the legislative, executive, and four representatives from the private sector.

Almario is serving a two-year term from 2017 to 2019 as NCAA chair. A poet and literary historian, Almario was declared as a National Artist in 2003. He has published 12 poetry books in three decades. Some of his works include Makinasyon and Peregrination (Machination and Peregrination), and his famed trilogy Doktrinang Anakpawis (Doctrine of the Masses), Mga Retrato at Rekwerdo (Photos and Souvenirs) and Muli, Sa Kandungan ng Lupa (Again, On the Lap of the Ground).

His latest book written under his pen name, Rio Alma, is a translation to English of his book, “Sa Oras ng Tindera at Kriminal” (In the Hour of Merchant and Felon) and in Italian (Il Regno Della Venditrice E Del Criminale) by Marne L. Kilates in English and by Loise L. Melchor in Italian, 2017, published by Filipinas Institute of Translation, Inc., Quezon City, Philippines.

He earlier visited Washington, D.C. where he was a featured speaker on “Philippine Culture and Arts: Reflections by Virgilio S. Almario” at an event held at the Carlos P. Romulo Hall of the Philippine Embassy on June 11 together with Georgetown University Professor Erwin Tiongson.

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Asked to address Filipino artists in the Diaspora, Chairman Almario said, “You are citizens of the Philippines, which we also have to recognize and if possible, help. If you are a writer or an artist, then it is the duty of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts to give you support so that you can be more fulfilled in your profession.”