Remembering Manuel Arguilla(1911-1944)

7:56 PM

I remember my elementary days spending a couple of hours on my classmate Jesilla’s house playing hide and seek while waiting for my tricycle service. Their house was located in Brgy. Nagrebcan, less than a hundred meters from our school in Brgy. Calumbaya. It was an old ancestral house, with a big round marker on its walls. On the marker was a name in capital letters: MANUEL ARGUILLA.

Years later, I learned that Manuel Arguilla was Jesilla’s great grandfather, and a famous Ilocano short story writer.
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He was born in Barrio Nagrebcan in Bauang, La Union on June 17, 1911. He was the fourth child of Crisanto Arguilla and Margarita Estabillo, hard-working farmer folk who owned a small piece of land. Aside from being a farmer, his father was also a carpenter; his mother, on the other hand, was an occasional potter.
When he was seven years old, he enrolled in a school in the neighboring Barrio Calumbaya, where he was taught the cartilla by Alfredo Abuan. Later, he transferred to the public elementary school in Bauang, La Union and graduated in 1926.
Arguilla was a brilliant and active student. Aside from excelling in academics at the provincial high school in San Fernando, he edited as well the school’s official organ, the La Union Tab. A wide reader, he won in a vocabulary contest held in the school. He was a champion swimmer and an expert tango dancer, constantly winning in dance contests. He was known to have a “therapeutic” personality and was well-loved by everyone he knew, for he liked to listen to people tell him their stories. Anything that interested him became an almost intrinsic part of him. It took him only three years to complete his seconday education, graduating as class salutatorian in high school.
In 1926, he entered the University of the Philippines. While studying, he worked as a writer and printing assistant at the Carmelo and Bauermann office. He became a member of the UP Writers Club, and eventually led it in the school year 1932-1933. He also came to edit the Literary Apprentice. In 1933, he obtained the degree of bachelor of science in education. During the same period, he married Lydia Villanueva, another aspiring writer.
After graduating, he taught at the University of Manila while working at the Bureau of Public Welfare. The Arguillas’ home along M.H. del Pilar in Manila became a sanctuary for friends and fellow writers, such as Estrella Alfon, Jose Garcia Villa, N.V.M. Gonzales and A.V.H. Hartendorp.
Arguilla did not remain a teacher for long for he believed that writers were born, not made, and that a talent for writing was an innate attribute that could never be taught or acquired. Before leaving his students, he counselled them to just read volumes of stories.
In 1940, he became the managing editor of the Bureau of Welfare newsletter, the Welfare Advocate. He worked at the Bureau for three years until the latter half of 1943. By then, the country had been under Japanese occupation for two years. He was appointed to the Board of Censors and was asked to serve in the Japanese propaganda agency. But Arguilla had also just become an agent of the Markings Guerillas. Thus, while apparently working for the Japanese, he was actually heading the “Porch,” the Markings’ counter-intelligence and propaganda unit operating in Manila.
It was not long before the enemy discovered his guerilla activities, and subsequently, had him arrested in February 1944. Along with his mother and a few relatives, he was incarcerated to Fort Santiago. His wife was initially unaware of his arrest but later, was able to evade the dragnet. After two months, Arguilla’s mother and relatives were released, while he was transferred to the Old Bilibid Prisons. Later, after being tortured and subjected to a sham trial, he was brought back to Fort Santiago for execution.
Arguilla the writer often portrayed the life of the ordinary Filipino, usually the rural Ilocano, in his more than 50 short stories that have permanently enriched Philippine Literature. The critic Leopoldo Y. Yabes cited him as “the best craftsman among Filipino fictionists in English, (whose voice) is the only really authentic voice. He is shamelessly Filipino.” His stories are still considered unrivalled in his depiction of the life of the Ilocano farmer.
In the prime of his life, Arguilla died a hero’s death. Yet he would not be forgotten. On June 12, 1972, Arguilla was honored with a posthumous award, the republic Cultural Heritage Award. He was cited for producing literary works that have “continued to influence Filipio fiction writing… and literary scholarship.” In his honor, a marker was installed in his hometown on August 25, 1983.
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Join the 2nd Gawad Manuel Arguilla, College Editors Guild of the Philippines-La Union Chapter’s Annual Literary Contest.
Contest Rules:
2. The contest is open to all members of the student publications within Region 1 and the Cordilleras (membership to CEGP is not a requisite) except current officers of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines in any formation.
3. There are two (2) divisions: English and Filipino.
4. Translation of an entry submitted in one (1) division will not be qualified in the other division.
4.The contest has three (3) categories namely:
a. Short Story b. Essay c. Poetry
5. The patriotic and democratic orientation of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) must be perceived in the entries.
6. The entries should be original and must be solely written by the contestant. Writers should submit only one (1) entry per category.
7. Only published works in their student publications during the first semester of Academic Year 2007-2008 and/or unpublished works will be accepted in the contest.
8. All entries should consist of an original and three (3) copies.
9. Entries must be computerized, double-spaced on a letter-size (8 ½ X 11 inches) white bond paper, with 1” margin on all sides.
10. The page number must be typed at the bottom-center margin of each page (e.g. 1 of 15).
11. The font style should be Times New Roman, Arial or Book Antiqua and the font size must be 12. A soft copy (CD copy with written category and title of the entry on the top) must be provided on each entry.
12. All entries must be sealed in a letter-size brown envelope. Only the title of the entry, category, and division should be written or typed on the upper left portion of the envelope.
13. The author’s real name and address must not appear on the entry. An entry form must be accomplished at the secretariat area during the registration of the Ammoyo 2008.
14. All entries must be personally submitted not later than 10:00 pm during the first day of Ammoyo 2008.
15. Submitted copies of all entries shall remain with, and will be the property of the CEGP.


16. In the short story category, an entry must be at least five (5) but not more than fifteen (15) pages.
17. In the poetry category, an entry must consist of a compilation of at least three (3) but not more than five (5) poems.
18. In the essay category, an entry should be at least five (5) but not more than fifteen (15) pages.
19. The Board of Judges shall have the discretion not to award any prize if, in its judgment, no meritorious entry has been submitted.
20. The CEGP has the right to assign the persons who shall compose the Board of Judges in each of the categories. The decision of the majority of the Board of Judges in all categories shall be final.
21. Top three on each of the categories will be declared winners.
22. The names of the winners and the members of the Board of Judges will be announced on the last night of Ammoyo 2008.

Source: Filipinos in History, N.H.I publication., 1992
The Ilocos Guilder

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