By Michael Aaron Gomez
Certainly, somebody like Tita Lacambra-Ayala does not need any introduction, but as the Ateneo de Davao University celebrates her achievements and contributions to Mindanao culture by presenting her with the Fr. Theodore Daigler Award for Mindanao Culture and Arts, it is only right to start with a proper introduction of this poet and visual artist.
Most people might know of Tita Ayala as the mother of iconic singer-songwriter Joey Ayala. However, one does not earn a career like hers for nothing. Together with her several books (poetry/fiction/autobiography) and her literary awards including the coveted Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature and the Gawad Pambansang Alagad ni Balagtas Lifetime Achievement Award, it is her pioneering work on the legendary Road Map series that sets her a class apart from many of her peers either in Davao, or elsewhere. The Road Map series—a critically acclaimed independent DIY publication printed on folded-out bookwrapping paper—has launched the careers of a lot of luminaries in Davao literature and visual arts, such as Lilia N. Lopez Chua, Lydia Ingle, and Joan Edades. What made the series special was not just its persisting revolutionary form and production method but also its thoroughgoing concern with sharing its pages among almost all manner of artist in the region.
Starting in 1981 simply with the desire to publish the poems of Lilia N. Lopez Chua, the Road Map series continues to put out works by Davao artists to this day, having reached 37 titles. The Second Generation of the series has also been newly launched, the issue containing new poems by Lilia N. Lopez Chua, which also marks a return to its roots. This spirit of innovation truly does live on and continues to provide space and inspiration for other aspiring artists in Davao City and beyond to spread their works to a larger community and, most importantly, for these same artists to build a culture fuller and more robust moment by moment—a culture that stands tall outside the traditional spheres of cultural and artistic production.
Tita Ayala’s work and drive to publish more Davao artists led her to become a long-standing editor of the Davao Harvest series, a literary anthology that features regional writers, coediting issues with other eminent literary artists such as the late Alfredo Navarro Salanga and Ricardo M. de Ungria. The Road Map series, the Davao Harvest anthologies, her own numerous books and publications—all these paved the way for Davao City to be considered nationally as one of the major hotbeds of literary-cultural activity. A lot of recognized artists and writers in the country today have come from the city and other regions of Mindanao, and more than a handful have also moved to the city from other parts of the country and continued to write with renewed vigor.
Finally, Ms. Ayala is also a co-founder of the Davao Writers Guild, the city’s main literary organization. It counts as its members several of the region and country’s foremost writers, both the young and the practiced. Among the Guild’s major activities is the Davao Writers Workshop, which sustains the Road Map series’ ethos of generosity in recognizing young talent from the Mindanao region.
The Ateneo de Davao University is pleased to present the Daigler Award to Ms. Tita Lacambra-Ayala for her enduring legacy as a literary artist and pioneer, who helped terraform the current landscape of Davao culture and arts, as well as for her embodiment of true artistic selflessness, of excellence for the sake of others—and for something larger than oneself.