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Becoming poets

The Asian English experience

Agnes Lam

Literatures in English have emerged in several Asian communities and have enjoyed a growing readership. Creative writing programmes in Asia and other parts of the world have also attracted many new voices from Asia. However, little is known about how learners from different language backgrounds become published poets in English. This book is a pioneering work on the development of poets and poetry in English in Asia. It offers a five-stage model to understand such phenomena. The life experiences of 50 published poets from five Asian locations: Macao, Hong Kong, Singapore, the Philippines and India, based on interviews conducted by the author, and their poetry are analyzed to appreciate how learners of English in multilingual environments become published poets and how such individual metamorphosis contributes to the growth of literary communities at local, regional and cosmopolitan levels. Researchers on Asian Englishes and literatures in English, teachers and participants in creative writing programmes, policy makers for English in education or the nurturing of the creative arts and any one interested in poetry writing will find the book highly informative and inspiring.
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Chapter 6 – The Philippines: A heritage of mentoring


Chapter 6 The Philippines: A Heritage of Mentoring


The Republic of the Philippines (area: 299,764 square kilometres; population: 92.34 million) consists of 7,107 islands; about half of the population lives in Luzon, the largest island group (Bureau of Immigration & National Statistics Office, The Republic of the Philippines, 2013). Colonized by the Spanish in 1521 and then by the Americans from 1901, the Philippines finally became an independent nation in 1946 (Tan, 1987, p. 50, 66 & 79). The two official languages are: Filipino (based on Tagalog), the national language, and English, which is widely used. Many Filipinos also speak a regional dialect; the eight major dialects are ‘Tagalog, Cebuano, Illocano, Hiligaynon or Ilonggo, Bicol, Waray, Pampango and Pangasinense’ (Bureau of Immigration, The Republic of the Philippines, 2013).

The Bilingual Education policy in the Philippines aims to cultivate Filipino as the language for national unity and identity while English is maintained as an international language. As early as 1974, the Department of Education, Culture and Sports (DECS) Order No. 25 already indicated that Pilipino (changed to Filipino in 1987) was to be used as a medium of instruction to teach ‘social studies/social sciences, music, arts, physical education, home economics, practical arts and character education’ while English should be used to teach ‘science, mathematics and technology subjects’ (Espiritu, 2013). In 1994, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) was created to make higher education independent from the DECS, which, in a subtle way,...

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