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  • Cynthia Nograles Lumbera1946–2022
  • Maria Teresa Tinio

I first met Cynthia “Shayne” Lumbera in 1991 at the office of the Ateneo de Manila English department, which was then at the third floor of Kostka Hall. She was the chair of the department, and I was applying for a part-time teaching position. Although I had taken numerous literature classes during my undergraduate years and had been very familiar with the English department doyen and doyennes—Fr. Joseph Galdon, Soledad Reyes, Doreen Fernandez, Edna Manlapaz, Susan Evangelista—I had never crossed paths with Shayne till then.

Shayne would become to me, in the years after that first meeting in 1991, a very strong presence: graduate-school teacher, colleague, collaborator in many a department project, comrade at the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), and eventually, as her husband, National Artist Bienvenido “Bien” Lumbera, was to be the principal sponsor at my wedding, ninang.

Through ACT, a progressive teachers’ organization that campaigns for teacher welfare, Shayne and I were often together at symposia, rallies, and education sessions (fondly called EDs). It was through her that I learned the nuances of dialectical materialism, false consciousness, and political [End Page 301]

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economy. As department chair and then later colleague, Shayne insisted on the practice of selecting readings for class that were not just models of good and clear writing but also material for developing among students an awareness of sociopolitical realities. It is a practice that is now hardwired into me and one I insist on in department and syllabus-writing meetings.

Although I was unaware of it, Shayne had actually been a strong influence on me long before that first meeting in Kostka in 1991. As an undergraduate at the Ateneo de Manila taking a general education course on the essay (one required of all students regardless of degree program), I was required to read the essays in Rediscovery: Essays in Philippine Life and Culture, a book that she had edited with Teresita Gimenez Maceda (Lumbera and Maceda 1983).

Rediscovery was for me and for many a young college student of the 1980s the first serious encounter with Philippine culture. The selections— interesting, funny, relevant, intense—created in me and many of my classmates a real rediscovery. We had read the Noli me tangere in high school, but rereading the chapter on Doña Victorina and reading it alongside Graciano López Jaena’s “Friar Botod” led us to see the humor that had always been there and to somehow understand how satire worked. We always had had sinigang—a sour soup dish of vegetables with either fish, seafood, pork, or beef, which is a staple in most Philippine households on our dinner tables and had seen or ridden on jeepneys all our lives and had all been familiar with Quiapo, but we had never thought about the historical and cultural connection of sinigang, jeepney, and Quiapo to the nation and to ourselves till we were asked to read Doreen Fernandez’s “Why Sinigang?,” Valerio Nofuente’s essay on the jeepney, and Gregorio Brillantes’s “Black Christ among Neon Lights.” We were aware of the existence of the American occupation of the Philippines, martial law, and what is now known as indigenous cultures, but these became relevant and immediate through Harold Conklin’s “Childhood in a Hanunoo Village,” Fidel A. Reyes’s “Birds of Prey,” and Jose Lacaba’s “January 26 Confrontation.” The book quietly but significantly invaded the psyche of a generation of college students in the 1980s and helped them put into context the political turmoil through which they were living.

Shayne would also coedit another anthology that would be of great influence to even more students. With her husband, Bien, she would edit Philippine Literature: A History and Anthology, fondly referred to as Lumbera and Lumbera (1982). [End Page 303] It would go through several editions and reprintings and would be a staple in high school and college literature classrooms from the 1980s to today. Numerous anthologies of Philippine literature and of Philippine literature in English had existed prior to the publication of Lumbera and...