EU literary festival goes to Zamboanga

French actor Anne Gauthier Das Neves will read Victor Hugo’s ‘Amis, Un Dernier Mot.’

The European Union (EU) is bringing back the literary festival Bersong Euro-Pinoy, this time going to Zamboanga City on 21 May at 6 p.m.

The EU Delegation to the Philippines is working with the embassies of Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Spain (with Instituto Cervantes Manila), France, Austria, Poland and Finland, and the Philippine-Italian Association and Ateneo de Zamboanga University (AdZU) for “Con Buen Amistad” (Friendship and Partnership), a poetry reading or recital to be streamed live on the Facebook page of the EU Delegation to the Philippines (

EU ambassador Luc Véron, a patron and lover of literature himself, said that Bersong Euro-Pinoy will provide a platform for European and Filipino poets and literary enthusiasts to better understand and appreciate each other’s culture and to strengthen people-to-people links between and among Europeans and Filipinos. A brainchild of Instituto Cervantes, the event used to be held to celebrate Dia del Libro, gathering all diplomats and literary enthusiasts from among the members of the EU Delegation to the Philippines, EU member states’ embassies and cultural institutes.

EU and AdZU partnership

Literary luminaries from Zamboanga City and Mindanao will read their pieces in the mother tongue, including MJ Cagumbay Tumamac, poet writing in Hiligaynon from southern Mindanao and an awardee of Makata ng Taon 2019; Sigrid Gayangos, poet in Chavacano from Zamboanga City and Dumaguete City and Palanca winner; and Errol Merquita, another Palanca awardee (2011, 2015, 2017) and winner of Satur Apoyon Writing Contest 2010 for fiction in Cebuano and poetry for children in Filipino. These poets were mobilized by the Ateneo de Zamboanga University, this year’s academic partner along with De La Salle University.

Writer from southern Mindanao MJ Cagumbay Tumamac. / Photograph ourtesy of MJ Cagumbay Tumamac

“The Ateneo de Zamboanga University is very grateful to be part of the European Union Delegation to the Philippines’ poetry recital this year. In these trying times, we need words that build, words that bring comfort, words that heal, and this literary event provides that. Let us continue to seek inspiration from friendships that flourish, and celebrate our freedom to collectively rise above difficulties,” said Fr. Karel San Juan, AdZU president.

Literary masterpieces from the EU

Carl Norac, Belgium’s fourth National Poet and a prize-winning poet and author of many acclaimed and best-selling children’s books, will join this year’s festival. His works have been translated into 47 languages. His bilingual children’s book, My Daddy is a Giant, appeared in Filipino and English in 2005. In 2009, Norac received the Grand Prix de la Société des Gens De Lettres. He will read his works Pour Marcel Moreau (For Marcel Moreau), about his friend who was a Belgian writer too and has recently passed away and Pour Mustafa, Pour Mustafa Kör (For Mustafa, For Mustafa Kör), a poem dedicated to Mustafa Kör who will succeed him in January 2022 as National Poet.

Carl Norac, Belgium’s fourth national poet.

Dora Šedivá, daughter of ambassador Jana Šedivá of the Czech Embassy, is back with her friend, Marika Štěpková, daughter of deputy ambassador Jana Peterková, to read Fortune (“Štěstí”) by Adolf Heyduk, both in Czech and in English.

Hans Christian Andersen´s philosophy and favorite phrase was articulated in the song “Det er Liv et Reise” or “To Travel is to Live,” which will be read by Danish ambassador Grete Sillasen.

For the first time, German actor Luisa Katharina Davids will recite the German translation of Mi Ultimo Adios as 2021 is the year when the German Embassy also unveils an exhibition with José Rizal’s former furniture from Heidelberg, Germany, and an official marker with the German translation of Mi Ultimo Adios at the Museo ni José Rizal in Intramuros.

Famous poet and essayist Luis Garcia Montero will recite his work Magallanes for Bersong Euro-Pinoy. Born in Granada in 1958, he is the general director of the Instituto Cervantes in Madrid since 2018. A professor of Spanish literature at the University of Granada.

Poet, essayist and director of Instituto Cervantes Madrid Luis García / PhotographS COURTESY OF eu delegation

The famous poem Amis, Un Dernier Mot (Friends, one last word) by Victor Hugo will be read by French actor Anne Gauthier Das Neves. The poem was translated by Martin Macalintal,

audio-visual attache of the French Embassy, and Jean-Pierre Dumont, director of Alliance Francaise de Manille.

“Rima LII,” a sonnet on friendship by Dante Alighieri, will be read by Alessandro Milani, general manager of the Philippine-Italian Association in celebration of Dante Alighieri’s 700th death anniversary. The sonnet was written by Dante to his best friend, Guido Cavalcanti.

After Zamboanga, the Bersong Euro-Pinoy goes to Manila, at the De La Salle University on 28 May. The event will be hosted by journalist and European Higher Education Fair goodwill ambassador Danie Laurel and Floraime Oliveros Pantaleta of the National Committee on Literary Arts of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.

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