Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Reflecting on a post war friend and poet

Tony Manuud- Born February 4th, 1930; Died March 7th, 1996;
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We were among the shell shocked Filipino teens that suffered through the Pacific War from 1941 - 1945. When we got back to school we felt old at 14 years but Ateneo High School was a haven for us. Still some bore the scars of war - some lost their parents who were murdered by retreating Japanese, shelled homes by the American artillery forces when they liberated Manila freeing the interns at the University of Santo Tomas and other internment camps.

I almost did not get admitted at the Ateneo for the grade school records were all burned when the building inside the Walled City, the exact place where Jose Rizal studied as a young boy was bombed during the early days of the war. Thanks to the Nakpil boys and their father Juan Nakpil who vouched for me during registration time at the Padre Faura Campus where we held our classes in makeshift burnt concrete rooms still with the acrid smell of raw human flesh clinging to crevices. The rest of the classes held session in U.S. installed Quonset Huts which were like ovens during the summer months and a cold storage in January.

Tony lived in Sampaloc with his parents. He had two sisters whom we met during our periodic high school dances held in those times at private homes of students. These dances were "visited" by Jesuit priests and some nuns just to see how the kids were enjoying themselves. Slow drag was the favorite dance in which couples held each other tightly and just sort of swayed with the slow soft music as if in a trance or meditating. We were warned about this type of dance that could provoke the occasion of "sin".

My sisters and I enjoyed Tony's sharp mind and keen wit. Ateneo boys liked to pun at the time and playing with words phrases and quotations always got many laughing with complete abandon. In other mixed groups La Salle students frowned on Ateneo students being too intellectual. They just wanted to dance, period.

After our high school graduation at Padre Faura, Tony got a scholarship for a Masters in Journalism at Marquette University, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It was THE school for good Journalists. Gaby Manalac was another Journalism scholarship awardee at this Jesuit university. After his Marquette stint Tony returned to Manila and taught at the Ateneo for a couple of years. Since we became close friends on and off campus we asked Tony to stand as god father to our fourth child Ma. Regina. If the old folks are to be believed, Gina is our brainiest child now into information technology.

In 1964 he was awarded a fellowship at Oxford University (Exeter and St. Antony's Colleges) and another at the University of Durham (Grey College). Tony enjoyed the three year scholarship to observe English Literature courses in both universities. He was commended for his distingushed tutorial paper at the end of the course. We did not see Tony for a while and when he came back he managed to publish the first anthology of Filipino fiction the landmark anthology Brown Heritage: Essays on Philippine Cultural Tradition and Literature ( AdMU, 1967), which has been reviewed as the book that “sparked the revolution in Philippine cultural studies.”

.As chairman of the English Department, Ateneo de Manila University, he organized the Ateneo Institute of Philippine Literature in 1965.

A poem by Tony

TO MIREN

Did I forget? Do I regret

Days unremembered, thoughts unkept?

A harp (once plucked to eloquence by joy)

Long untouched now lies untuned ... off-key ...

Not sure if chords ring true. Listen! In coy

Distress -- how mute. Yet singing silently.

Days are remembered, thoughts are kept

In long, long silence ... with regret.

-- Antonio P. Gella Manuud, Bowling Green, 1973

1 Comments:

At September 5, 2007 at 3:20 PM , Blogger thepoetslizard said...

Tony, what a great tribute. It's good to get some insight into your personal relationship with Mr. Manuud-- I have long treasured a now badly tattered copy of his BROWN HERITAGE, truly a pioneering work in the field of Philippine cultural studies. Thanks, Luisa

 

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