Interpreting the world: The writer as public intellectual

(Keynote speech at the PEN Philippines Conference, December 6-7, 2012)

Founding Chairman Sionil Jose, Chairman Lumbera, Members Of The Board Of Directors Of Philippine PEN, Friends, Ladies And Gentlemen:

A COLLEAGUE at the University of the Philippines thinks the phrase public intellectual redundant, and wonders who may properly be called writers in the Philippine setting. It would seem then that a few definitions are in order.

But we all know who, or what, the writer is. He or she is a poet, an essayist and/or a novelist, as the initials and acronym of this organization suggest. But he or she is also the writer of the editorials and columns, the investigative and explanatory reports that are among the many forms journalism has developed in discharging its public task of describing and interpreting the human environments. In the digital age, the writer is also the blogger who makes it his concern to gather and provide information on issues of citizen concern and to comment on them online.

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