​Civil Society Workshop: Manila

‘There was avid participation, excellent camaraderie and chemistry.’

From the 2nd to the 6th of July, Philippine PEN hosted a workshop on strengthening and developing civil society projects attended by delegates from PEN Centres across Asia.

The workshop was held at De La Salle University, Manila. The workshop focused on knowledge-sharing between Centres who have developed and are running projects and those at the genesis stage of new civil society projects.


The Civil Society programme, which has been running for over ten years, works across the globe to empower young people through literature and to ensure access to education for all.

Delegates included poets, essayists, journalists, academics, and novelists, such as Tammy Lai Ming Ho (Hong Kong); La Seng and Myat Thu Soe (Myanmar); Mitra Bandhu Poudel (Nepal); Apoorvanand Jha (New Delhi, India); Gauranga Chandra Mohanta (Bangladesh); Sangamesh Menasinakai (South India); and Danson Kahyana (Uganda).


Representing the Philippine PEN were Pamela R. Castrillo (Davao, Southern Mindanao); Junley L. Lazaga (Baguio, Northern Luzon); Phil Harold L. Mercurio (Samar, Eastern Visayas); H. Francisco V. Peñones Jr. (Bicol, Southern Luzon); Ma. Carmen Aquino Sarmiento (Manila); and Santiago B. Villafania (Pangasinan, Western Luzon).

Sessions covered project planning: articulating a vision, understanding contexts, and mapping outcomes; understanding and analysing impact; running participatory creative writing workshops and fundraising and governance. Delegates shared ideas more informally in the gardens of De La Salle University. 


On the evening of Wednesday 4th July, the Cultural Centre of the Philippines hosted a Free the Word! Event comprised of a panel discussion on freedom of expression issues followed by readings and performances from PEN delegates and prominent artists from across Asia. National writer F. Jose Sionil was the guest of honour.

Participants in the workshop described the atmosphere as ‘brilliant’, thanked Asian PEN Centres for their support and praised members of the Philippine PEN for their warm hosting and impeccable organisational skills.