h1

Virginia “Aling Barang” Reyes Moreno: “Matahari”

August 16, 2021

Aling Barang once told me that she was writing her memoirs; its title is “Matahari.” I wonder whether she managed to finish it because at the time of my visit, she was quite busy with J. Moreno Foundation activities.

[R to L]: Aling Barang, Jorge Arago, Hilario “Mang Larry” Francia, Rodrigo Paras-Perez? at the book launching of my brother’s {Isagani R. Medina) book, “Cavite Before the Revolution,” Balay Kalinaw, U.P., 1994. (Photo by Mirana)
Happy Together
VRM’s Birthday 2019 / Photo by Mirana
VRM’s Personalized/Autographed Invite
Aling Barang’s Signature
Poetry Reading 2005 Flyer signed Aling Barang by VRM; Mang Raul Ingles and Ms. Deana Ongpin-Recto

MANILA, Philippines — The poet, playwright and arts organizer Virginia “Virgie” Reyes Moreno died on Saturday morning after a lingering illness. She was 98.

Known for her grace and graciousness, Moreno earned lofty monikers such as “The High Priestess’’ or “Empress Dowager of Philippine Poetry”—conferred by no less than National Artist for Literature Jose Garcia Villa—both for her published works and the energy she devoted to stoking the creative spirit of likeminded artists who held her in high esteem.

She was the only female member of Villa’s coterie of younger writers known as “The Ravens.”

Moreno published only one collection of poems, “Batik Maker and Others,” but it was a slim volume of peak lyrical power when it came out in 1972. The titular piece “Batik Maker” and “Order for Masks,” for example, went on to become gems in Philippine literature in English, featured and studied in textbooks. The collection won first prize in the Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature.

Tondo girl

Moreno was born in Tondo, Manila, on April 24, 1923. She was the older sister of the late fashion designer Jose “Pitoy” Moreno, himself an icon in his field. (She later headed a foundation set up in his memory.)

eir father, a ship captain, died when Virgie was about 6 years old. The siblings were then raised by their mother, a rice trader, at a house on Juan Luna Street in Gagalangin.

Moreno earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of the Philippines (UP) and pursued further studies at the Kansas Institute for International Education, the British Film Institute and the International Writing Program in Iowa.

In 1976, she became the founding director of the UP Film Center, around the same time she was teaching humanities at the state university.

Outside the academe, she chaired the Unesco Culture Committee of the Philippines.

In 1984, she received the SEAWrite Award in recognition of her stature in the arts and letters of Southeast Asia. In 1991, the French government named her Chevalier (knight) in the Ordre des Palmes Academiques, a national honor bestowed on academics for their valuable contributions to education and science.

‘Onyx Wolf’

As a playwright, Moreno is best known for “The Onyx Wolf,” which won the National Historical Playwriting Contest in 1969. The play is also known as “La Loba Negra” and “Itim Asu.”

Adapted for dance and staged in 1970, 1984 and 1990, “Itim Asu” was scheduled for another run starting February 2020 as part of Ballet Philippines’ 50th season at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, with music by National Artist Antonino Buenaventura and choreography by Alice Reyes. The author was able to join the audience for a special one-off presentation, before the rest of the performance dates were canceled due to the pandemic.

Moreno’s wake will be held at Funeraria Paz at Manila Memorial Park, Parañaque City, on Aug. 16. The family on Saturday said that due to community quarantine restrictions, viewing will be for family members only.

Burial will be on Aug. 17. An online memorial will be held on the ninth day after her death, details of which will be announced soon.

“Ultimo Adios’ in Filipino Sign Language; showing sponsored by J. Moreno Foundation; a repeat showing was held at Cafe Orfeo in December
My last talk with Aling Barang was in April 2021 on her birthday. I couldn’t go to her place because of pandemic scare and restrictions. On the phone, she was excited talking about her plans. Last Friday, August 13, Sheila informed me that Ms. Moreno was back home, bedridden after hospitalization. I was surprised. From Tikoy, I came to know about her passing away. Lockdown however, prevents us from going to the Memorial Park to pay our tribute to her. Ms. Moreno was my professor in Humanities, and the one who recruited me to work as researcher at the UP Film Center. It is to her that I owe my being a film editor. She sent me to the Film and Television Institute of India to study. I am forever grateful! We shall all miss you Aling Barang! [Photos & Flyers: MRM collection]
%d bloggers like this: