While on one of my weekend hunts in National Bookstore, I zeroed in on a particular book in the Filipiniana section. What attracted me to the Premio Zobel book by Lourdes Castrillo Brillantes was its cover artwork. The words in Premio Zobel were rendered in Letras y Figuras which was a 19th Century popular form of art that has figures of people made to look like letters of the alphabet.
Browsing through the pages of this non-fiction book, I learned that it lists the winners of the prestigious Premio Zobel, an award given to Filipino writers who propagate the use of Spanish in Literature. It was founded by Don Enrique Zobel in 1920. His legacy has been continued by his family up to now.
There were four names that caught my attention: Ines Suico Villa, Antonio Abad, Vicente Padriga, and Jose Maria Del Mar. Those names are familiar to me because I see them every day. Walking around Cebu IT Park, you will see these names on the street signs.
Aside from these four scholars, there were two other Cebuano winners of the Premio Zobel, Governor Buenaventura Rodriguez and Napoleon Rama.
For me, it was a significant find. It definitely strengthened my ties to Cebu. With this information swirling in my head, I decided to take a short tour of Cebu IT Park. With my trusty LG G5 mobile phone, I took several photos of the place.
The 27-hectare Cebu IT Park was formerly known as the Lahug Airport. The ill-fated flight of President Ramon Magsaysay in 1957 took-off from here. After the airport was transferred to Mactan in the 1970s, it lay abandoned until it was bought and converted by Cebu Holdings (a subsidiary of the Ayala Group of Companies) into a Technological Hub.
I have been working in offices located in Cebu IT Park for more than 10 years. You could say that I'm a veteran of the Business Park. I remember when I first saw it, there were only about five structures on it. But now, it is a sprawling and busy area. For those who haven't been here in years, you wouldn't be able to recognize it. One thing it has maintained is the 'park' aspect. You'll still see a lot of greenery in and around Cebu IT Park.
It was an amazing discovery that I found during that afternoon. It was a big deal for me because I've always been fascinated by street names and where those names came from. What a coincidence that four out of six streets were named for Cebuanos who won the Premio Zobel Award.
The honor of having a street named after you is a testament to one's contribution to History, Society, and Culture. Most of these streets were named during the 1990s years after the place ceased to be an airport.
Now, I'm wondering if those folks who commissioned the street names were aware of the similarities among the honorees.
Jose Maria Del Mar Street
The longest street in Cebu IT Park which is almost a kilometer was named after the editor and owner of La Prensa (The Press), a Spanish language daily newspaper printed in Cebu City. Talking with homegrown Cebuanos, they related to me that the street used to be the airport runway which accounts for its length.
He won the Premio Zobel for Literature in 1965 for his essay titled, Perfiles (Profiles). Aside from being a writer and journalist, he was also an Orator, playwright, and Politician. One of his progeny is Congressman Raul Del Mar.
Ines Villa Street
On this street was where the entrance of my first work building stood. It is also the first street where the public jeepneys enter the Park from Barangay Apas. The popular weekend food market, Sugbo Mercado is also on this street.
Ines Suico Villa was awarded the Premio Zobel for her Filipinas En El Camino De La Cultura (Philippines on the Path of Culture) which was published and printed in Madrid, Spain.
Dr. Villa was a multi-faceted woman who earned degrees in Social Work and Education from American Universities in the 1920s and 1930s. She has also been cited as one of the leading personalities who advocated for the women suffragette movement in the Philippines.
Vicente Padriaga Street
Recent building developments in Cebu IT Park are found on Vicente Padriga street. Part of the Garden Bloc where the Pyramid and The Park Social restaurants are located is on this side of the street.
Aside from being a journalist, writer, and poet, Vicente Padriga was best known as one of the earliest editors of the Bisaya Magazine. The literary titles of "Prince of Cebuano Poets" and "King of Poetical Jousts in Cebu" have been bestowed on him. He won the Premio Zobel Award in 1962 for "Vino Viejo en Odres Nuevos" (Old Wine in New Bottles). For the centenary of Jose Rizal in 1961, he translated Rizal's poems in Cebuano. And in 1963, he followed it up with El Filibusterismo. He also collaborated with Jose Ma. Del Mar on a couple of literary works.
Unfortunately, I couldn't find a photo of him.
Antonio Abad Street
A. Abad street has the distinction of being the busiest street in the Park because it is where The Walk is situated and one of the routes of the public jeepneys. For old-timers, you know this place as The Village, the predecessor of The Walk.
Antonio Abad may be the most prolific and distinguished among the Cebuano Spanish Scholars. Reading through his biography took me several minutes to finish. The only person to win the Premio Zobel twice. His novels El Ultimo Romantico and La Oveja de Nathan won him the award in 1926 and 1929.
In 2013, the granddaughter of Don Enrique Zobel published a new edition La Oveja de Nathan (Nathan's Sheep) in two languages (English and Spanish). Georgina Padilla Y Zobel de Mac-Crohon shared that the novel was a favorite of Don Enrique.
She may not be part of the Literary world but the contributions of Winefreda Geonzon to Cebuano society speaks volumes as well. She was a lawyer and social activist from Bogo, Cebu. She founded the Free Legal Assistance Volunteers Association (Free LAVA) and was a strong voice against the legal abuses done during the Martial Law.
So, you see spending an afternoon at a bookstore is not a waste of time. Unexpected discoveries abound when you just have the patience and luck. Who would have thought that because of a book cover my knowledge of Cebu has grown in a more meaningful way?
Note: Minor edits were done in February 1, 2023 to correct spelling errors.