Heights Ateneo — The Official Literary and Artistic Publication and Organization of the Ateneo de Manila University

Heights Creative Talks 2020: Art and Literature as a Tool for Communication Amidst the Pandemic

Gabrielle A. Cortes, Kelly Choy, Mariana Gardoce | Feb 23, 2021

Despite the drawbacks of the online setting, last semester’s Heights Creative Talks with the topic ‘The Role of Art and Literature as a Tool for Communication Amidst the Pandemic’, pushed through via Facebook livestream and featured renowned professionals in this field.

Kickstarting the event was a discussion on Pagsasalin ng Kontemporaryong Panitikan by Bernard Capinpin, a Filipino poet and translator. Capinpin spoke about his experience on translating contemporary literature, such as his work on Harris Guevarra’s The Betrayed Child and Luna Sicat-Cleto’s The Logic of Soap Bubbles.

He was first inspired to translate contemporary works after reading translated stories himself, as he found them captivating and enthralling. He began translating poetry as a hobby, then soon began contacting authors to ask them for permission to publish his translations.

Capinpin strongly emphasized that translating fosters a more intimate understanding of both languages, and is both a critical and creative process. It would take him days to translate a single poem, as he would have to read and analyze the piece continuously to fully understand and replicate its meaning.

Although translating requires meticulous effort, it is still looked down upon. Many individuals believe that words always get lost in translation, but Capinpin argues that translating can add new dimensions to a text and further imbue meaning. Nonetheless, Capinpin would contact the authors and ask for their insights and opinions to ensure that he is maintaining the true meaning of the text.

While there has been an upsurge in translating Philippine literature, Capinpin believes that more attention should be given to contemporary pieces outside the Tagalog region. Not only does translating evoke critical and creative thinking, but it also encourages authors to write in their mother tongue. Capinpin advises not to translate words such as aswang and diwata, as translating them would erase cultural integrity and meaning.

Capinpin believes that the purpose of translating is to act as conduit for cultural exchange and to relay different perspectives to the world. He advises aspiring translators to seek funding and distribution from cultural organizations, as well as to pursue grants. The beauty and complexity of translating is its inclusivity, as translating has no bounds. Hopefully, translating will become more prominent in our country and allow the world to see the beauty of Philippine culture.

Following Capinpin’s Creative Talk is a timely lecture focused on art, titled The Role of Information Design in Public Health by Angelo Soliongco and Smile Indias. Soliongco is a graduate of BFA Information Design from the Ateneo de Manila University and an instructor under the Department of Fine Arts from the same university. With years of experience under his belt, he explains that information design is a powerful tool in a global pandemic.

“As a nation still suffering from a pandemic, the role of information design has never been more valuable,” Soliongco says. He explains that the role of information design is to prevent a crisis from happening by informing the public about it, framing it in such a way that will be remembered by the audience. Information can grant people the knowledge they need to take action, which is why Soliongco emphasizes the importance of information design in this day and age. He urges everyone to be critical of information given to them and to avoid being misled by bad design.

Indias, meanwhile, is the program director of Information Design under the department of Fine Arts in Ateneo de Manila University. A graduate of BFA Information Design from Ateneo and holding a Masters Degree in Social Design from the Maryland Institute College of Art, Indias shares her knowledge on the craft of Information Design. 

Indias stresses that information design should be grounded in the context of empathy, because it is not only about choosing what is pretty for you as a graphic designer, but also about how ready the audience is to accept the information displayed. 

“Oftentimes, when we think about design, we think of it as this flashy decoration that makes things beautiful,” Indias shares. However, she notices that there is now a global revolution that goes against aesthetics in pursuit of becoming an important tool in delivering social change. In this uncharted territory we find ourselves in, information design plays a big role in times of crisis. To Indias, urgency, accuracy, and accessibility are vital pieces a design must possess. In a world of chaos and fake news, it is essential to ensure the validity, timeliness, and reach of the information, especially since it concerns public health. Indias says that this pandemic has caused the digital divide to widen even further, posing a threat to the accessibility of information. 

Finally, the 2020 Heights’ Creative Talks wrapped up with Dr. Joey A. Tabula and Dr. Cris Maria Raissa Paje-Bayawa’s lecture on Perspectives Amid Crisis: The Interplay of Humanistic Medicine and Literature. Dr. Tabula studies Medicine and Internal Medicine at the University of the Philippines and is currently pursuing a Masters in Creative Writing from De La Salle University. An avid literature enthusiast since college, he carries his love of literature into his current pursuits. While others may think there is little connection between literature and medicine, Dr. Tabula reminds us that both are centered around the human experience and themes of communication which has helped him improve in his own practice. He cites fellow MD-Poets such as Rafael Campo and William Carlos as inspirations that open discussions on health to the public. Dr. Tabula pointed out that with more courses emerging that focus on humanistic or narrative medicine, there’s been a greater emphasis on art playing a role in holistic healing for humans. Consuming various forms of art such as reading literature or illustrating has continued to provide catharsis for patients who suffer from ailment, or even to help normal people cope with their daily struggles.

Dr. Paje-Bayawa echoes the same sentiments that literature has affected how she approaches health and wellness. Aside from being a Pediatrician at Maria Reynas Xavier University Hospital, she is also a yoga instructor and author of the book TODAY Tala’s Adventure Begins, which incorporates yoga to children’s adventures in order to promote healthy living. Like Dr. Tabula, she also notes that exercising virtues from the humanities, such as understanding and compassion, have helped her communicate with her patients better. 

In all forms of art, people tend to find comfort in them; it has provided avenues to form meaningful relationships with others along with oneself. Amidst the pandemic, we must strive to use these artistic endeavors to promote social change on a global scale. This year’s Heights Creative Talks, merged with the 25th Ateneo HEIGHTS Writers Workshop as a Lecture Series, took place on February 18, 19, and 22 with renowned speakers in the field of literature such as Glenn Diaz on Practice and Isolation, Daryll Delgado on Story and Narrative as Portals in the Pandemic, and Cat Aquino on The Role of Psychological Trauma in Literature. Watch the talks on Heights’ Facebook page.

The 26th Ateneo HEIGHTS Writers Workshop will also take place on February 25, 27 and 28, 2021.

Poster by Justin Dhaniel Tan, Kessa Avila, Lia Datiles

Written by

Heights Online

Staff, 2020-2021

Read their articles

Art by

Heights Design

Staff, 2020-2021

View their artworks

Ready to have your work featured in HEIGHTS

We are calling for contributions for the next set of articles to be featured right in our next folio.
Interested? Come and submit your works today!

Contribute Now