100 poems for storm survivors | Inquirer News

100 poems for storm survivors

/ 08:20 PM February 17, 2014

LOS BAÑOS, Laguna—Believing in poetry’s therapeutic powers, a foundation advancing human wellness and creativity commemorated the 100th day since Super Typhoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) hit the Philippines through “awit” writing.

Although awit or “auit” is literally translated as a song, awit in this case is different from “kanta,” or songs as we know it, and literally translated as a chant.

“It’s an old, pre-Hispanic form of poetry composed of four lines and 12 syllables,” Vim Nadera, director of the Philippine High School for Arts (PHSA) and a poet, said.


Nadera and his psychiatrist wife, Dr. Dinah Palmera-Nadera, launched “Sandaang Araw, Sandaang Awit” on Facebook on Sunday, exactly 100 days after Yolanda barreled through the Visayas and claimed the lives of more than 6,000 people.


The mechanics are simple, the couple explained in a phone interview on Sunday. Anyone, whether a disaster survivor or not, may post the quatrain on the Facebook page of the Foundation for Advancing Wellness, Instruction and Talents (AWIT) Inc.

The Nadera established AWIT as a nonstock organization in 2008 to help “differently abled” persons. It was named after the couple’s third child, Awit, who died of pneumonia at 4 years old in 2006.

“Once we gather 100 [poems], we’ll send it out through text blasts,” Dinah said.

Dinah, national professional officer for mental health of the World Health Organization in the Philippines, said she and her husband were working with nongovernment organizations and telecommunication networks for the text blasts.

They also plan to publish the collected poems in a monograph “to serve as a constant reminder for us to prepare against disasters.”

In time for National Arts Month this February and to relive “the dying art of awit,” the poems are preferably written in Filipino, Dinah said.


“The theme should be about challenge, change and chance to recover after a disaster, natural or not,” said Vim, who believes that poetry is an effective way against depression.

Earlier this month, Vim went to the typhoon-stricken areas and conducted arts and poetry therapy among school teachers.

“Our teachers, like the local officials or the policemen there, had to be tough. How could they be when they themselves were victims, too? They are wounded healers,” he said.

But the couple pointed out that not only the Visayas but also the entire nation was going through “a national grieving process” as the Philippines recovers from the destruction wrought by Yolanda, one of the strongest the world ever recorded.

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“It’s a way to condole and share with other people’s grief, to celebrate life as well as death,” Vim said.

TAGS: News, poetry, Regions

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