CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/18 March) — Xavier University conferred the Fr. Francisco Demetrio S.J. awards for culture and arts on playwright, poet and theater director Frank G. Rivera during the school’s commencement exercises on Thursday.
Rivera founded the world-renown Sining Kambayoka ensemble of Mindanao State University in Marawi City during the 70s.
“In the 70s, Frank visited Mindanao State University (MSU) and was inspired by the rich culture of the Maranao and Mindanao. Frank founded the Sining Kambayoka Ensemble who at that time was considered as ‘Bakya’ by school-based theater groups who were doing Shakespeare productions and Broadway shows,” the citation of the award said.
The citation added that Rivera persevered using local Maranao folklore and traditions propelling Kambayoha “into a world-class performing arts group”.
Among Kambayoka’s popular plays are “Halik sa Kampilan” and “Ambon, Ulan, Baha”.
“Halik” depicts the struggle of a Moro community against land-grabbing and related forms of oppression, a theme that resonated well during the Martial Law era.
“Ambon” portrays the effects of forest denudation due to logging.
After Rivera left MSU in 1980, the spirit of the Kambayoka has continued to live on as many of his student-performers left the campus to organize their own theater groups in Cagayan de Oro, Butuan and Davao cities.
A native of Laguna, Rivera went back to Manila where he continued writing scripts for television, film and radio.
He won two Palanca Memorial Awards for literature, four National Book awards and a number of Gawad, CCCP and NCCA awards.
He published several books, mostly spoofs and witty poems against the Martial Law regime and later, a book of political text messages against former presidents Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
He was diagnosed as having terminal lymphoma in 2013, but is now free of cancer and was glad of the award given to him by Xavier University.
“My life has come full circle. I started the tradition of staging Lenten plays in Xavier University in the 70s and now I have come back being recognized for that work. Thank you very much,” Rivera said.
Aside from Rivera, Xavier University also awarded a Doctor of Humanities to Fr. Edwin Gariguez, for championing the causes of the indigenous people and the environment; and Damulog, Bukidnon town Mayor Romeo Tiongco for transforming his community into a zone of peace for his constituents. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)