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Get on board the ‘Train of Thought’

By Allison Lopez
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:38:00 02/08/2009

Filed Under: Literature

MANILA, Philippines?The ride isn?t over yet for Philippine literature.

The ?Tulaan sa Tren? project, which began in August to promote poetry to Light Rail Transit commuters, will soon reach school teachers, libraries and creative writing institutions after it was captured in book and CD form.

?Through the book, you can savor the poems for heavier reading,? said Andrea Pasion-Flores, executive director of project proponent National Book Development Board (NBDB).

?Tulaan,? she said, was such a success that it had gained attention from The New Yorker online, which said playing poetry on the trains gave the publishing industry a well-deserved boost.

By immortalizing the project, Flores said they will create a more lasting impression by distributing the materials to the academe.

She said the NBDB was lucky to get help from Fuji Xerox, which will publish 1,000 copies of ?Train of Thought? for free, as well as the Optical Media Board, which will produce 10,000 CDs without charge.

Both the books and CDs, though, will not be sold to the public. Flores said the reading material will be given to the poets, creative writing institutions and select libraries, while the audio copies will go to Filipino and English teachers.

?The audio will reinforce appreciation for poetry. We are giving this to the instructors so they could use it as an aid to teach students our poems, which is so hard to sell,? she explained.

Among the poems to be gleaned from the book are Amado V. Hernandez?s ?Ang Langgam,? Bienvenido Lumbera?s ?Voyagers on Recto,? Jose F. Lacaba?s ?Awit sa Ilog Pateros,? Rene O. Villanueva?s ?Kay Sarap Magbasa? and Virgilio ?Rio Alma? Almario?s ?Dyipni.?

?Train of Thought? also contains works by notable poets like Nerisa del Carmen Guevara, Marjorie Evasco, Cirilo Bautista, Danton Remoto, Alfred Yuson, Marra PL Lanot, Alain Russ Dimzon and Ricardo de Ungria.

And with celebrities reading them, who wouldn?t sit up and listen? In the book?s introduction, Flores hailed the artists who lent their voices gratis in NBDB?s ?Get Caught Reading? program.

?There was Matt Evans reading Rio Alma?s ?Barong Tagalog.? Matt is only 19 but showed that he can take on a Rio Alma poem as if a barong tagalog was his choice of everyday wear... My personal favorite is Chin-chin Gutierrez?s reading of Nick Joaquin?s ?The Innocence of Solomon,? which made my hair stand on end,? she said.

The poems, which painted varied pictures of Metro Manila, were also read by OMB Chair Edu Manzano, actor Romnick Sarmenta and wife Harlene Bautista, TV hosts Lyn Ching-Pascual, Rhea Santos, Miriam Quiambao and Christine Bersola-Babao; and singer Nikki Gil.

With the success of ?Tulaan sa Tren,? LRT Authority administrator Mel Robles said during the book?s launch they would extend the project?s six-month run, which ended in January.

He said the LRTA received kudos from all sectors for the program that brought poetry to the masses, which composed the bulk of LRT?s commuters.

?This is our version of graffiti. It gives value to our passengers, which are the ?masa.? We got positive messages from our text feedback. Natuwa sila. This project reached out to the people who are not that exposed to literature,? he said.

Robles said they could extend the project to one year this time because the six-month run had only been experimental.

The LRT administrator said he would propose some changes on the project to the NBDB, such as including Line 1, and giving more time slots to play the 30-minute doses of poetry, which used to be heard only at 8 a.m., 12 noon, 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.

The LRT Lines 1 and 2, he stressed, service about 70,000 commuters daily on weekdays.

A contest, he added, could also be held by the LRTA to encourage new blood and promote their work which will be seen and heard by thousands of Filipinos every day.

This was because the LRT had become the most common mode of transportation?thus it is often used as an effective means for communicating.

?We?ve seen a doubling of commuters in four and a half years. We don?t want to be too commercialized that?s why we restrain the ads and engage in worthy projects like this instead,? he said.

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