Ginugunita Kita

Maningning in Chinese garb.

Marikit na tala ang tanglaw sa dilim,
Sa halimuyak ng matamis na hangin,
Sa gubat ng gabi ay hinihintay ko,
Mga kislap ng nilimot na pangako.

For the third time, the Maningning Miclat Art Foundation Inc., in cooperation with District Gallery-Artist Playground and Far Eastern University President’s Committee on Culture, presented “Ginugunita Kita” on Sept. 26 at the FEU Auditorium.
“Ginugunita Kita” is a poetry performance celebrating the poetry of Maningning Miclat, as well as an event showcasing the works of the winners and participants in The Maningning Miclat Art Foundation contest.
Maningning Miclat was many things: poet, painter, teacher, friend, loving sister and daughter. She was all of them all at once. Yet, at the same time, she was an enigma.
Maningning shocked the nation when one day in 2000, she jumped from the seventh floor of an FEU building where she was working as professor. Earlier that fateful morning, she had told her sister Banaue that she was okay and that she loved her, after Banaue observed her depressive mood days before.
Many were shocked upon hearing of her death. Some speculated and wondered – what could have been going through her mind?
Rumors of her ghostly appearances at the FEU premises floated. Banaue recalled one time when she thought she saw Maningning passing by, her feet not touching the ground, as she looked out a car window.
Some people philosophized that perhaps jumping to her death was not really to end her life but to begin something else, to live in a world she inhabited through her poetry and paintings. Perhaps her psychological state can be revealed in her poems and art works?
Teresita Ang See has a touching recollection of the day of Maningning’s passing. Maningning had dropped by Kaisa that morning with a book Maningning’s father Mario promised to give but was unable to deliver. Mario and wife Alma Miclat were in the United States then. She handed the book and told Ang See she was fine and was on her way to FEU.
Kaisa friend, Norbert Chingcuanco, who happened to be there, offered to drop her off at FEU, unaware of what would happen next. Chingcuanco said she was quiet and pensive on the way, which she usually was.
Ang See recalled that when she called Banaue within a few minutes of the tragedy, she repeated what her sister told her earlier: Tita Tess, she told me “I’m okay now. I love you.”

Grand winner Jessica Lopez receives her trophy.

Maningning will be forever etched in Ang See’s memory – even on her last day, she still fulfilled a promise.
Maningning was born in Beijing, China, during the height of Martial Law in the Philippines. Her parents were forced to find refuge there during the early period of Martial Law.
Her mother Alma is a writer and her father Mario is a painter, thus, it is not surprising that she and her sister are both gifted artists. Perhaps it is the experiences of her family during political upheavals in both the Philippines and China that stirred the young Maningning.
At 7 years old, she began to write poems in Chinese, the language she first learned, and her first book was published shortly afterwards. It was her father who inspired her not to heed an adult’s advice on what she should write, but instead write from her heart.
And follow her heart she did, not only when writing poems but also in painting.
That she spoke Mandarin and wrote well even though she was not Chinese came as a surprise to those who did not know she grew up in China.
After the 1986 People Power Revolution, her family came back to the Philippines, and she soon learned to speak and write in English and Filipino, and would use either of the languages when composing her poems.
Maningning learned painting in China, from a teacher based in Beijing. Her Chinese paintings were put on exhibit at the Cultural Center of the Philippines sometime in 1987. Her first book of Chinese poems, Wo De Shi (我的詩 My Poems), was published soon after.
The year 2000 was an unforgettable one for her family and friends. Her first and only compilation of trilingual poems (in English, Filipino, Chinese) titled Voice from the Underworld was published by Anvil Publishing. It would be her last.
Voice from the Underworld became a finalist for the National Book Awards in 2001. Eleven of her poems from this book were featured in the “Gunigunita Kita” performance event. Musician Jesse Lucas shared that he was inspired by Maningning’s poems, which were imagistic and melodious. He felt the poet’s strong emotions of pain and love, and was so moved that he composed songs based on those poems.

Angela Castro (middle), Banaue Miclat-Janssen and cellist Renato Lucas perform “To Catch a Second and Turn it to Forever.”

Banaue Miclat-Janssen, who has established herself as an opera singer, performed on stage: acting, singing and narrating. Renato Lucas provided a stirring performance with his masterful cello rendition along with the piano accompaniment by Jesse.
The first few poems elicited a serious and sad mood. Maningning’s sister and main actor Banaue shared her memories and the facts surrounding her death.
Inevitably, the brooding question of why, why and more whys arose surrounding her death. Fortunately the mood changed to a lighter one upon featuring Duet (of Jose Rizal and Josephine Bracken), performed by Banaue and tenor Al Gatmaitan.
This was followed by the performance of “Kulay sa Bagyo,” “Ang Naliligaw” and a Chinese poem “Shì Bù Shì (是不是 Is or Isn’t).” Notable in the poems is the witty use of wordplay and unexpected juxtaposition.
The last performance was the “To Catch a Second and Turn it to Forever” as it showcased the dance performance of Angela Castro dressed in white which complemented Banaue’s purity of voice. It was a subtle reference to the purpose of Maningning’s life: that she lives on in the memories of those who share her passion, her art.
This is the guiding force behind the Maningning Miclat Art Foundation which encourages young poets and painters to hone their craft and to keep on with their art.
The fusion of vocal and instrumental music, dance and interactive visual art by Nasser Lubay rightfully commanded the audience to be silent and to meditate.
Consider the first few lines of Maningning’s poem “Laughter” from her book:

Maningning with Lucrecia Kasilag and her mural, “Soliloquy,” at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

He left me
when he could
no longer stand the laughter

Trustees of the Maningning Miclat Art Foundation Inc. pose with the judges and winners of the 2018 MMAFI art awards held at FEU Auditorium on Sept. 26.

that I gave him
while he begged me not
to keep memories

alive in poems
to hurt myself
and make those
who read

sad. I laughed
when he shared
his life with me
while holding him

And her clarity on discerning what cannot be seen:

Father and I

The leaves are shaking,
“Look. It’s the wind!”
You said, “No, those are leaves.
Wind cannot be seen.”

Maningning Miclat’s life may have been a short one. Her descent from the seventh floor that ended her earthly life gave birth to a different life that shines brighter and looms bigger in the hearts and minds of other artists through music, visual arts and literature.
“Ginugunita Kita” performance poetry is a testimony that speaks to that kind of ningning (brightness, brilliance, sparkle) that shines forever.