Apoyon’s way of ending his own story PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 09 June 2011 13:46

Colorful flowers, wreaths and lighted candles surround the tiny table holding the shiny silver urn containing the ashes of Saturnino P. Apoyon, former Davao bureau chief of the Philippines News Agency (PNA) at the Cosmopolitan Funeral Parlor last week before he was laid to rest the following day at Davao Memorial Park in Davao City.

National writers and poets — mostly Palanca Award winners — wouldn’t let him go until they paid their last tribute to this man who finally convinced them, more or less, that Cebuano fiction is as much as an integral part of Philippine literature as English fiction.

Literary giants like fiction writer Aida Rivera Ford, national poets Tita Lacambra Ayala, and Ricardo de Ungria, Palanca award winning writers Macario Tiu and Don Pagusara — all members of the Davao Writers Guild (DWG) — are some of them that packed the small chapel of Cosmopolitan that Thursday evening, paying their tribute in poetry readings and fond memories.

“We’ll miss Satur so much, he was such a jolly person, full of stories and jokes while he was with us at the guild,” Ford said.
While some admitted they couldn’t understand Satur when insisting and arguing over an issue with such an “overpowering authority”, they learned to accept him as he was and adjusted well to his unique personality.

De Ungria, former chancellor of the University of the Philippines (UP) Mindanao and past president of the guild recalled the times when Satur crossed swords with officers of the National Commission of Arts and Culture (NCAA) in Manila, “insisting adamantly” on a local project.
“While he had this type of personality, we enjoyed our times with him at the guild, specially when he comes up with funny stories during our meetings,” de Ungria said.

Apoyon drifted away from the guild for a while after serving his term as president for about a year when a collection of his best works in Cebuano fiction hit a snag
during editing when Palanca Award winner for Cebuano fiction Macario Tiu, who was editor of the Tubao book series publishing project, couldn’t understand many of the old Cebuano words used by the late writer in his fiction.

Satur’s book of Cebuano fiction was eventually published later last year, marking a milestone in Cebuano writing for Philippine literature after months of debates by DWG members on how to edit his short stories.

“Many of the words used by Satur in his fiction are so difficult to understand,” says Tiu, who expressed his highest respect for the Cebuano writer whose works, both in features and fiction, are gobbled up and published as fast as the late writer could write them for the Bisayan magazine since 1955.
Satur’s old collections of Cebuano fiction was first shown about a decade ago, to journalist Aurelio Pena (this writer), also a former PNA Davao bureau chief and fiction writer, who kept pestering him to submit his best works to the UP National Writers’ Workshop held here in nearby Island Garden City of Samal. He never thought Cebuano short stories would matter at all in Philippine literature.

Admitted as one of the 15 creative writing fellows coming from all over the country, Satur’s fiction writings left a good impression on the late National Artist for Literature N.V.M. Gonzales as well as nationally renowned fiction writer Jose “Butch” Dalisay for his Cebuano short stories even though they could hardly understand his old baroque style of writing.

“One of my dreams is to see the growth and development of Filipino regional writings in fiction, specially in Cebuano. I want to see Filipinos writing novels in Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Ilocano and other dialects,” Gonzales said in one of his early letters to this writer when the late Filipino novelist was still living and working in California,
U.S.A., as resident literature professor.

Satur had been writing a novel and left behind some thick files of published stories and unfinished manuscripts at his 71 Opal Street, SM Village home before he was found dead in the deep, choppy waters of Davao Gulf last week, some 20 kilometers from the coastal village of Tibanban, Governor Generoso (formerly Sigaboy) in Davao Oriental.

Up to now, no one knows how he ended up dead in the middle of the sea after missing for five days.
“His death is like an unfinished work of fiction, we have to figure out how to reach the end of his own story,” Ford said. --AURELIO A. PEÑA