Beloved personalities from the movie, music, and media industries gathered to pay tribute to National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera, who passed away on Tuesday, September 28.
Nora Aunor, Vilma Santos-Recto, Ricky Lee, and Joel Lamangan were among those who shared their testimonial on the third night of novena masses and memorial for the late poet and critic.
Organized by Likhaan: University of the Philippines Institute of Creative Writing, the event is dubbed as "Bienvenido Lumbera: Ang Tunay na LODI sa Pelikula at Media."
Lamangan, who helmed the Kapuso drama series "Pamilya Roces" and "Onanay" in 2018, said that it was Lumbera who showed him that artistic works are historical documents where one can grasp various events in our nation through literature, plays, and film.
"Hindi mamumulat ang aking pagtingin sa kultura at sining kung wala si Bien Lumbera," said the multi-awarded director.
They had been colleagues for a long time: in the progressive groups Concerned Artists of the Philippines, where Lumbera was president and he was a member of its Board of Directors, and Free the Artist Movement, during Lino Brocka's time.
They also worked together as actors in the stage play Macbeth, directed by the German director Fritz Bennewitz. He was Macbeth, while Lumbera was Haring Duncan.
But Lamangan said that he was first introduced to Lumbera when he enrolled in his class on traditions of the Filipino novel.
"Doon ko nakilala ang isang taong malumanay magsalita, parating nakangiti, subalit alam na alam niya ang kanyang mga itiinuturo. Malalim ang kanyang pag-aanalisa sa bawat nobelang aming pinag-aralan," he said.
"Nakita ko kay Bien ang pagmamahal sa ating bayan. Nahihiya pa ako, subalit nang maging kaibigan niya ako nakita ko ang isang taong malapit sa tao, mahal ang taong-bayan, at ang kanyang sining ay nagsisilbi sa katotohanang maraming taong naghihirap," he added.
Award-winning and legendary writer Ricky Lee, GMA Network's newest Creative Consultant, said that while looking at Lumbera in various events, he would imagine Bien in the different roles he played in his life: mentor, friend, consultant, colleague, lover of films.
During the gatherings of the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino, of which he was a member, Lee said that Lumbera was always a "sobering presence" in the middle of discussions.
"Lagi siyang kalmado. Siya lagi ang nagbibigay ng konteksto, ng bigger picture, ang laging nagsi-synthesize sa huli," he said.
"Pero sa lahat ng mga naging papel ni Bien sa buhay ko, bilang tagapag-alaga ang lagi kong maaalala. He always took care of me nung mga taon namin sa PAKSA (or Panulat Para sa Kaunlaran ng Sambayanan, an organization of activist writers during Martial Law), kung saan siya ang chairman at ako ang general secretary."
The highly respected scriptwriter said Lumbera had taken it upon himself to help others.
"Tungkulin niya lagi ang welfare ng ibang tao. Ang alagaan sila. At isa ako sa mapapalad na nabiyayaan nito. Lagi siyang nandiyan kapag may okasyon ako. Birthday man o book launch. Lagi siyang handang gumawa ng blurbs o intro sa mga libro ko o payo sa mga problema ko. Lagi siyang may panahon," he said.
Aunor, who topbilled the Kapuso series "Onanay," said that these past few months, many of their colleagues in the industry have passed on.
"Tatay Bien, paano ko po ba kayo makakalimutan? Hindi eh. Itinuring ko na po kayong tatay," said the Superstar.
"Alam ko pong hindi po tayo madalas na magkita, hindi tayo madalas mag-usap, pero ramdam ko po na kapag nalulungkot po ako ay nalulungkot din po kayo," she added. "Nalulungkot lamang po ako na dahil sa tagal ng panahon, hindi man lamang po tayo nagkakilala nang husto. Alam n'yo po kung ano ang nilalaman ng aking puso," Aunor said.
Santos-Recto, who skipped her duties in Congress as the representative for the lone district of Lipa, Batangas on the last day of budget deliberations, said she wanted to attend the tribute for Lumbera no matter what.
The Star for All Seasons said that she was the mayor of Lipa when Lumbera was bestowed the National Artist award in 2006. They gave him recognition as "Natatanging Anak ng Lipa" and declared February 15, 2007 as his special day.
"Isa po si Ka Bien sa mga natatanging Lipenyo na may pagkataong mapagkakatiwalaan at may kredibilidad. Kaya nga po sa mga pagtitipon, kapag pumasok na po si Ka Bien, makikita po sa mga mata ng lahat ang paggalang na ibinibigay sa kanya," she said.
On December 9, 2019, Lumbera was also given the Dangal ng Batangan award in recognition of exemplary Batanguenos.
Santos-Recto also filed House Bill 2262: A Resolution Expressing the Profound Sympathies and Condolences of the House of Representatives on the demise of Dr. Bienvenido Lumbera, National Artist for Literature.
"(Ka Bien), isa po kayong alamat ng bansa. Kayo po ang tunay na lodi," she said.
Among those who also paid respects were members of the Manunuri, including Nicanor Tiongson, Roland Tolentino, Tito Valiente, and Clodualdo del Mundo Jr., as well as reputable directors Bibeth Orteza, Audie Gemora, Lav Diaz, and Sari Dalena.
Kenneth Guda, editor-in-chief of Pinoy Weekly, and Raymund Villanueva, director of Kodao Productions also gave their testimonials. According to activist writer Joi Barrios-LeBlanc, Lumbera guided the two alternative media outfits as well as Altermedia.
Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) spokesperson and film producer Noel Ferrer, who hosted the occasion with Manunuri President Gary Devilles, revealed that Lumbera had a wishlist of artists he wanted to perform in his memorial service: Aris, Ben&Ben, and Joey Ayala.
Aris, the Filipino rapper Aristotle Pollisco, also known as Gloc-9, paid tribute that night. Ayala performed his hearfelt song "Walang Hanggang Paalam."
Kapuso artists Mark Bautista, Gian Magdangal, and Cris Villonco also performed songs from Noli Me Tángere: The Musical, with music by National Artist for Music Ryan Cayabyab and libretto by Lumbera.
The musical, based on Jose Rizal's novel, premiered in the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) in 1995. Bautista and Magdangal starred as alternates for Crisostomo Ibarra, while Villonco as Maria Clara in the musical's second CCP revival in 2011.
In the lyrical dialogue between the star-crossed lovers, Ibarra, who just returned to the country, said, "Parang hindi ako lumisan. Ang langit at ilog ganyan na noon pa man." Maria Clara responded with, "Sa tinagal-tagal sa iba't ibang bayan, hindi kaya saglit man ay nakalimutan kaming nangaiwan sa sariling bayan?"
The performance is part of Tanghalang Pilipino's video "Handa Awit: Walang Sugat and Noli Me Tangere." The performance, which was introduced by Carlitos Siguion-Reyna during the tribute, also includes theater actors Arman Ferrer and Noel Rayos. Siguion-Reyna was the director of the musical's second CCP revival.
Ferrer also called for photos and written contributions to Sentro Lumbera, an online library which will be launched on Lumbera's 90th birthday on April 11, 2022.
—MGP, GMA News