KALATAS is the official publication of the Unyon ng mga Manunulat sa Pilipinas (UMPIL), the largest organization of Filipino writers in the country. Founded in 1974, the organization was known for a time as the Writers Union of the Philippines.
Unyon ng mga Manunulat sa Pilipinas aka Writers Union of the Philippines: A Short History
UMPIL held its first meeting in 1974 at the Social Security System Building in Quezon City. Organized to unite Filipino writers and promote Philippine literature, UMPIL’s first set of officers were Adrian E. Cristobal, chairperson, J.V. Cruz, vice-chairperson, and Carmen Guerrero-Nakpil, secretary-general. Its first major project was hosting the Afro-Asian Writer’s Symposium held from January 3 to February 3, 1975 in Manila.
The constitution and by-laws of the organization, then known as the Writers Union of the Philippines, were formally ratified several years later in a convention of writers on 29 August 1981. Cristobal remained its chairperson until 1984. Among its projects were the annual exchange visits of writers to China, literary symposia, and the publication of a calendar of writers.
In 1984, Virgilio S. Almario was elected chairperson with Alfredo Navarro-Salanga as secretary-general. One of the first steps taken by Almario was to activate the organization’s twenty-one-member Board of Directors for monthly meetings and project plans. He also instituted the yearly Writers Congress which, since 1988, has been held every last Saturday of August. A series of seminars on literature for teachers was started. Mithi, a literary journal, was launched in 1985. Programs were held to commemorate birth anniversaries of well-known writers and workshops were arranged outside Metro Manila to reach writers in the provinces.
Almario was re-elected in 1987. This time, he enlarged the Board of Directors to include representatives of recognized writers’ organizations in languages other than English and Filipino. Writers in Ilocano, Bisaya, Spanish and Chinese were represented. It was also this year when the Union started using its official name Unyon ng mga Manunulat sa Pilipinas (UMPIL).
In 1988, UMPIL launched the Gawad Pambansang Alagad ni Balagtas, a lifetime achievement award for writers in various Philippine literatures. The award consists of a citation and a sculpted hardwood trophy by Manuel Baldemor. This is given at the closing ceremonies of the annual Writers Congress. UMPIL also held multi-sectoral discussions on copyright with editors and publishers towards forging a common stand protecting the rights and interests of writers. The UMPIL Directory of Filipino Writers was published in 1991.