In a communication sent from Thailand by Ittipol Witjitsomboon, secretary of the SEAWRITE Organizing Committee to National Artists for Literature Virgilio Almario and F. Sionil Jose, the letter confirms that Bikol writer and filmmaker Kristian Sendon Cordero will be one of the recipients of the most prestigious literary prizes in the ASEAN region, the SEAWRITE or the Southeast Asian Writers Award.
The awarding ceremony of the SEAWRITE is scheduled to take place in Bangkok, towards the end of the year awaiting a definite date selected by the Royal Palace of His Majesty King Vajiralongkorn (Rama X). Together with Cordero, two other Filipino writers will receive the same award which include National Artist Bienvenido Lumbera and UP-Mindanao professor and poet Ricardo de Ungria.
Established in 1979, the annual award has been given to some notable Filipino writers including National Artists Nick Joaquin who received it in 1980 and Alfredo Roces who received it in 1997. Poet and revolutionary leader Jose Maria Sison received it in 1986. In recent years, three Bikolano writers have also been honored by the same award, poet and translator Marne Kilates from Daraga, Albay received it in 1998, fictionist and critic Elmer Ordoñez from Juban, Sorsogon was honored in 2008 and the following year, fictionist and essayist Abdon M. Balde Jr. from Oas, Albay received it in 2009.
Born in 1983, Cordero’s literary prominence emerges after his first book, Mga Tulang Tulala which was published in 2004 won the Madrigal-Gonzales Best First Book Award given by the Institute of Creative Writing of the University of the Philippines-Diliman. Since then, the writer who is often described as the enfant terrible of Bikol letters has published five volumes of poetry which won the National Book Awards and the Gintong Aklat Awards from the Manila Critics Circle, Book Development Association of the Philippines and the National Book Development Board. He has also won six Palanca Awards for poetry, fiction, essay and screenplay, the Maningning Miclat Poetry Prize, the NCCA Writers Prize and the Gawad Rolando Tinio for Translation among others.
Consistent in his advocacies in promoting and intellectualizing of the local languages, Cordero translated the works of Franz Kafka, Rainer Maria Rilke, Oscar Wilde, Karel Capek, Jorge Luis Borges in Bikol and Filipino. His upcoming translations include Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo in Bikol. In 2017, he received the honorary degree in creative writing from the University of Iowa after participating as the Filipino writer-in-residence in the International Writing Program (sponsored by US State Department and the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs). The following year, he was appointed as the artist-in-residence in the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA and was the Filipino guest writer in the 2018 Frankfurt International Book Festival in Germany.
He also ventured into independent filmmaking which particularly employs the use of Bikol languages. His first film Angustia (which received an R-18 rating from the MTRCB) was awarded the Best First Film by the Young Critics Circle of the Philippines. His second film Hinulid which has Nora Aunor as lead actor continues to be shown in selected campuses in the region.
Cordero continues to teach humanities and histories at the Ateneo de Naga University where he also serves as the deputy director of the university press. Last November, 2019 he opened an independent bookshop and art gallery in Naga City called the Savage Mind. This year, his first book of short stories in Filipino and Bikol Kulto ni Santiago will be released by the University of the Philippines Press. He will also serve as guest editor of the Philippine issue of the Words Without Borders, an international literary resource materials based in New York City.