This is an article about a Human Rights Violation Victim of the Martial Law era. To view the rest of the Roll of Victims see this link: Roll of Victims

National Artist Bienvenido “Bien” Lumbera was born in Lipa in 1932, and orphaned at an early age following the deaths of his parents and paternal grandmother.[1] Bien went into the care of his godparents so he could be sent to school, eventually finishing a bachelor and masters degree in literature at the University of Santo Tomas. Soon afterwards he pursued a Fulbright Doctoral Degree in Comparative Literature at Indiana University in the United States.[2] It was during his time in the U.S. when he developed his interest in Modern Tagalog Poetry and the question of what defined Filipino Identity. Studying in the states during the Civil Rights movement also imparted in him the idea that one doesn’t simply wait for their rights and freedoms – they fought for them.[3]

Returning to the Philippines in 1967, he taught at the Department of English at the Ateneo de Manila.[4] [5] In the ensuing years however, Bien recalled feeling a greater need to devote their time and service to the more impoverished citizens of the country. He would help organize artists into the group Panulat para sa Kaunlaran ng Sambayanan (PAKSA).[6] The Manila Bulletin describes Lubmera’s recollections of the group: “Nagtayo kami ng isang workshop para sa mga manunulat na gumagamit ng wikang Pilipino, na may misyong ibaba sa mga mamamayan ang mga kaisipan at nilalaman ng aming mga likha” (We formed a group, a workshop for writers who wrote in Filipino, and those who wrote in English, with a mission to bring the message of our literature to the masses). Lumbera also helped in founding cultural organizations such as the Philippine Comparative Literature Association (1969); Pamana ng Panitikan ng Pilipinas (1970); Kalipunan para sa mga Literatura ng Pilipinas (1975); Philippine Studies Association of the Philippines (1984) and Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino (1976).[7

“Nagtayo kami ng isang workshop para sa mga manunulat na gumagamit ng wikang Pilipino, na may misyong ibaba sa mga mamamayan ang mga kaisipan at nilalaman ng aming mga likha”

Because of his role in PAKSA, Lumbera was well aware that he was a target for arrest upon the declaration of Martial Law.[8] Anticipating this, he went underground and edited for Ulos – a revolutionary literary publication.[9] In those days, what he would call “panitikan ng pagsisiwalat at pagtutol” (literature that exposes and opposes) emerged.  “Malinaw sa mga manunulat ang kanilang mga tungkulin” (It was clear to the writers what their tasks were).  Their writings were aimed at the dictatorship.

He was arrested in January 1974, and detained until December of the same year.[10] He recalled making sure that he would not write during his time in prison, believing these could be used by the administration as evidence against him.[11] One of his former students in Ateneo, Cynthia Nograles, wrote to Gen. Fidel Ramos for his release. Bien and Cynthia would marry each other a few months later.

Soon after, in 1976, Lumbera returned to teaching. Unable to return to his tenureship in Ateneo, he began work at University of the Philippines Department of Filipino and Philippine Literature.[12] A year later he would serve as the editor of Diliman Review – heading the publication openly against the dictatorship. This time they were left alone by Marcos’ authorities.

[1] “Bienvenido Lumbera –in craft as in life, ‘forever 81′”. Inquirer Lifestyle. November 29, 2013.

[2]  Interview with Bienvenido Lumbera, conducted by Roland Tolentino (12 April 2017). uploaded online by Rappler. “Interview with Bienvenido Lumbera, National Artist for Literature.”

Olea, Ronalyn (2004), “Para Kanino? The poet should perform his poems – Lumbera.” Bulatlat. Retrieved from

[3] ibid

[4] ibid

[5] Interview (2017)

[6] Repelente, Terence (14 April 2018). “Who are we Writing For?”, Manila Bulletin. Retrieved from

[7] Olea (2004)

[8] Interview (2017)

[9]  Olea (2004)

[10] Inquirer (2013), “Bienvenido Lumbera –in craft as in life, ‘forever 81′”

[11] Interview (2017)

[12] Citation for Bienvenido Lumbera, The 1993 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts. Archived in


Bienvenido Lumbera

April 11, 1932

Timoteo and Carmen Lumbera

Cynthia Nograles-Lumbera



Bienvenido Lumbera attending the 2012 Cinemalaya at the Cultural Center of the Philippines Image available at Wikicommons