Rofel G. Brion

Portrait Rofel G. Brion
© Hartwig Klappert

Rofel G. Brion was born in 1953 in San Pablo, in the Philippines. Although his mother tongue is the local Filipino, he began to write in English, the language of his early education, at 12 years of age. It was only as a young adult that he started to consider Filipino as a literary language. For this reason, after he had finished his economic studies, he decided to study Philippine Literature at the Ateneo de Manila University. His graduation from the Creative Writing Center of the University of the Philippines was again in the fields of English Language and Literature.

In 1982 Brion won the Gawad Galian sa Tula Poetry Prize. His first volume of poetry, »Baka Sakali« (1990; t: Maybe by Chance), was awarded the National Book Award. Seven years later his second book »Story« was published. This title accurately identifies a characteristic property of Brion’s poems. They are stories in verse form – lyrical snapshots that capture special moments. Using this form he mainly uses language to denote objects and occurences – as opposed to modernistic and avantgarde trends – which takes on a characteristic of ritual. »I write about my life, my family, my friends, my travels, my loves; events that make me happy; events that make me cry; events that may never really come to be. I write mostly about small, ordinary events, and in doing so, I capture them. I hold on to them and never let them go. And this, I guess, is how I pay homage to them.« This admired designation reveals various aspects in Brion’s bilingual writings. In the as yet less appreciated mother tongue Filipino, the denotation of the names of ordinary things and experiences, betokens a conscious effort to overcome colonial repression. Simultaneously an awareness of Philippino culture is created. The poems written in the other official language of the Philippines, English, demonstrate a confident exposure to the reality of a country which is widely influenced by American culture. With their often humorous tone, the poems give a forgiving and constructive example of creating an own national identity. In the anthology »Returning a Borrowed Tongue« (1995), Brion’s poems are arranged exemplarily in the rich tradition of English-speaking Philippine and American-Philippine verse. He recently published »Sandali: Mga Pili at Bagong Tula« (2006; t: Moment: Selected and New Poems).

Brion has served as an editor, translator and author of many publications. He has received three foreign scholarships from the British Council, two Fulbright grants, and was twice Resident Fellow at Hawthornden Castle in Scotland. He is Professor and academic adviser to the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies at the Ateneo de Manila University.

© international literature festival berlin


Baka Sakali
Ateneo de Manila University
Manila, 1989

University of the Phillipines Press
Manila, 1997

Sandali:Mga Pili at Bagong Tula
Ateneo de Manila University
Manila, 2006