It isn’t every day that you get to fill a single train with a National Artist, venerated poets, and celebrities. Last August 9, the NBDB, together with the Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA), was able to make this seemingly impossible feat happen with the successful launch of Tulaan sa Tren.

National Artist Virgilio Almario, Gemino Abad, Jose Lacaba, Marra Lanot, Paolo Manalo, and Vim Nadera and other Philippine Literature bigwigs rode a jam-packed train with the public from Santolan to Recto, in a historic and unforgettable event where the poems recorded by Edu Manzano. Miriam Quiambao, Nikki Gil, Rhea Santos, Matt Evans, Christine Bersola-Babao, Romnick Sarmenta, Lyn Ching-Pascual, Rhea Santos, and Chin-chin Gutierrez were played and heard by the public for the first time. The poems are now regularly heard by LRT Line 2 passengers over the public announcement system in Line 2 stations. The literary experience is all the more enlivened by posters of the poems placed inside the trains that the passengers can look up at while taking their everyday commute to school or work.

The Tulaan sa Tren launch began at the LRTA Santolan Depot, LRTA’s Atty. Elmo Triste and NBDB chairman Dr. Dennis Gonzalez welcomed the literary giants and the celebrity readers – most of whom came with their families – as well as their loyal followers to the festive event that did not only bring the poems closer to the public but also the poets themselves. From the depot, everyone walked a few meters to the Santolan Station where the Tulaan sa Tren train awaited. The 60-minute ride took passengers from Santolan to Recto back to Santolan Station, entertaining everyone aboard with the celebrities’ superb renditions of poems such as Jose Corazon de Jesus’ “Ang Tren,” Jose Garcia Villa’s “To A Lady Going to Antipolo,” Rio Alma’s “Ang Ilog,” and Jose Lacaba’s “Ang Mga Kagila-gilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran ni Juan de la Cruz.”

The launch was also well-timed with Anvil Publishing’s release of Rio Alma’s latest book Mga Biyahe, Mga Estasyon (Journeys, Junctions), where the well-loved poet reflects on his journeys to different places in the world. Almario, who took the train ride with childlike glee, congratulated the NBDB and the LRTA for their wonderful present to the Filipino people.

With Tulaan sa Tren, the NBDB hopes to invigorate the ordinary Filipinos’ appreciation for Philippine poetry and rekindle their interest in reading the best poets and authors of our country. The project will run until January 2009.

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