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Writers from across the globe gather in Manila, Philippines, for the 85th PEN International Congress

Monday 30 September 2019 - 11:40am

Solidaridad Bookstore, Manila, unofficial home of Philippine PEN

30 September 2019 – From 30 September until 4 October, more than 200 writers and PEN members will be gathering in Manila, Philippines for the 85th annual PEN Congress - ‘Speaking in Tongues’ - centring on literary freedom and the promotion of indigenous languages. Writers from over 50 countries from across the world will come together to promote and celebrate linguistic diversity, highlight cases of imprisoned writers and discuss PEN’s response to the increasing challenges facing free expression across the world today.

‘The safeguarding of the rich traditions found in indigenous languages has been a central part of PEN’s work from its inception almost 100 years ago. It is through language that we communicate our history, culture and identity, through which we build bridges and share our unique systems of knowledge and understanding of the world. It is how we tell stories about our individual worlds to one another. It is therefore fitting that the 2019 PEN Congress – which is also the year of indigenous languages – is held in the Philippines, a country whose rich linguistic diversity and cultural heritage is at risk.’  – Jennifer Clement, PEN International President

“It is the first time the PEN International congress is being held in Southeast Asia and it is only proper that PEN Philippines, one of the older PEN centres in Asia, is hosting it. And the theme of the conference on ‘indigenous languages’ dovetails with the UNESCO declaration of 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages and is likewise quite perfectly embodied in the multicultural, multi-linguistic dimensions of the Philippines and much of Southeast Asia,” said Lito Zulueta, Secretary General of PEN Philippines.

Hosted by PEN Philippines, members of the public will have the opportunity to join PEN’s membership at a series of public events tackling a range of topics from translation and poetry, literary traditions and how literature and digitised media intersect. Guest speakers will include: Virgilio Almario, Eka Kurniawan, Resil Mojares, Tammy Ho Lai-Ming, Seno Gumira Ajidrama and Marne Kilates. For more information about the public programme, please click here.

PEN’s diverse community of writers gather each year to share ideas, discuss new campaigns and initiatives, and highlight emerging global challenges to freedom of expression. Members have the opportunity to attend literary events and workshops, and to share experiences of defending and promoting freedom of expression. In an important act of international solidarity, delegates will speak out on behalf of writers who are silenced in countries including Uganda, China, Eritrea, Syria, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, and Turkey.

For more information please contact: Mike Halmshaw: or Sahar Halaimzai: | +0044 7514139606