Poems & Stories of Ed Maranan

Monday 26th November 2007 saw the launch of 5 new books from the much celebrated Filipino poet, essayist, fictionist, playwright, author and translator, Ed Maranan. Little did many members of the Filipino community here in the UK, including myself, know that we had for fifteen years, such an important individual living and working in London. This made me think…just how many remarkable and historically valuable Filipinos there are living or working in the UK?

Ed Maranan was born in Batangas and raised in Baguio City. In his 61 years, he has been a University lecturer, an activist, a political prisoner, a member of the diplomatic service and an award-winning writer, playwright and poet. Ed studied and taught political science & political theory at University of the Philippines in Quezon City between 1979-1991. In the early 1970s he became involved with progressive groups such as PAKSA (Panulat para sa Kaunlaran ng Sambayanan), a national organisation of left-wing writers, and SAGUPA (Samahan ng mga Guro sa Pamantasan), an informal union of activist faculty members at the state University.

When martial law was declared in 1972 during the Marcos regime, he worked with the underground movement until his arrest in 1976. He spent more than two years in political detention at Bicutan “Rehabilitation” Centre. Whilst there he continued to be active in cultural work writing prison plays and poetry. His prison play ‘Ang Panahon ni Cristy’ (‘In the time of Cristy’) written in Bicutan won the grand prize for full-length drama in the Palanca Awrds of 1978. The Palanca Awards are the most prestigious literary award in the Philippines, it is the Filipino equivalent of a ‘Pulitzer Prize’. In 2000, he was admitted into the Palanca hall of fame, reserved for those with 5 or more awards, all in all Maranan has won 30 awards, a record number.

After his release from prison, Maranan joined a group of peoets and writers and became active in advocacy groups concerned with indigenous and underprivileged Filipinos. It was during this period he served as a board member of AsiaVisions, an alternative media organisation. Whilst there, he and the late filmmaker Lito Tiongson, produced ‘Fragments’. This was a documentary on the crisis under the Cory Aquino regime and used Maranan’s protest poetry in English as the narrative text. He was appointed by the Department of Foreign Affairs as Information Officer of the Philippine Diplomatic Mission in London in 1993 and held the position until 2006. It was in December 2006 that Maranan went back to the Philippines to concentrate on his creative writing.

The book launch itself was very informal as most of the people there already knew Ed Maranan from his previous guise as the Embassy’s Information Officer. There was a short introductory speech, as is customary, from Ambassador Espiritu, then a few words from the man himself. There also followed a few excerpts from the books before an impromptu fashion show, which will be documented in due course! The 5 books in question were on sale and sold out before the end of the night, however the Cultural Office at the Embassy can order more books upon request.

There were two childrens books launched, ‘Ang Aiwit ni Pulaw’, plus it English translated version ‘The Song of Pulaw’ and ‘Ang Batang Nanaginip Na Siya’y Nakalilipad’, plus it’s English translated version ‘ The girl who dreamt She could Fly’. The beauty of the childrens books is the fact that 2 versions are available, providing direct translations for each book making it easier for those parents whose children are bilingual. The final book of the 5 is ‘Passage’, a collection of poems written between 1983-2006 containing a few of the poems that had won Palanca awards in ’84, ’87, ’88 and 2000.

By Adrian Williams


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