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Student poetry contest to celebrate Chilean miners

October 16, 2010 9:28am
"And it was at that age... Poetry arrived
in search of me."
- Pablo Neruda (Chilean poet)

The world watched with bated breath as the Phoenix 2 capsule emerged from the San Jose mine in northern Chile, rescuing the 33rd Chilean miner from 700 meters under the earth, where he and his team were trapped for more than two months. Finally above ground, perhaps they felt like Neruda -

"and suddenly I saw
the heavens
and open,"

Blue stars may have shivered in the clear night sky as Operation San Lorenzo came to its successful end, but there would be no sad lines written about the triumphant event that had all eyes on the country that gave the world Neruda, "the people's poet."

No matter how far away, people in every corner of the world were moved by the miners' resilience and fortitude. The engineering feat that saved the men's lives earned Chile respect and recognition, as well as gave the world a much-needed respite from generally bad news.

Last month, newly posted Chilean Ambassador to the Philippines Dr. Roberto Mayorga met with some officials of the University of the Philippines. "I've been thinking of a poetry contest for Filipino students," he told Wendell Capili, UP Assistant Vice President for Public Affairs.

After a couple of hours, "Chile: Odes from the Philippines": a Poetry Contest for Filipino Students was formed.

The project of The Embassy of Chile and The University of the Philippines System is in commemoration of the Bicentenary of Independence of the Republic of Chile, and in celebration of the rescue of 33 Chilean miners in San Jose. The contest is open to all Filipino students from any tertiary education course except family members of current officers and employees of the Embassy of Chile and the University of the Philippines.

"It's a way for Filipino students to connect with Chile. Ambassador Mayorga wants Filipinos to relate to Chile and for the Chileans to understand Filipinos," said Capili. Chile may be geographically remote, but the potential is there. "Though it is so far away, the situation of the miners is not far from our OFWs. It seems so remote, but when you look very closely we've had many close connections with Chile," said Capili.

Entries to the contest may be about any aspect of Chile. Contestants may choose to write about wine, maize, or even a large tuna in the market, as Neruda has done in his odes. But according to Capili, poems on the successful rescue of the 33 Chilean miners are preferred.

Neruda always wrote using green ink, the color of esperanza, or hope - the collective feeling inspired by the miners. Poems may be submitted about the emotions of the poet regarding the rescue, but other themes related to the Republic of Chile - its bicentenary, people, scenery, culture and society are also welcome.

The poetry contest is one way to touch base with Filipinos despite limited resources. "Cultural exchange can be just as powerful and important an foreign investment and trade," said Capili, a published poet himself.

"Poetry may capture a limited number of people, but these are people who can preserve the memories and the close ties we are trying to foster," he said, adding that it is a way of nurturing cultural literacy.

Entries should be submitted through this email address: by November 30, 2010.

The prizes are the following:

1st Prize – US$ 1000

2nd Prize – US$ 500

3rd Prize – US$ 500

Honorable Mention Winners (2) – US$ 100

All five (5) winners will also receive two (2) round trip tickets to Cebu or Boracay, courtesy of Air Philippines and La Isla Magazine.

The winning poems will be published in three languages: English, Spanish and Filipino. The anthology of poems will be launched in Chile and in the Philippines.

For the complete contest mechanics, please visit

- HS, GMANews.TV
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