(STAR) By Arvin Abejo Mangohig - "We just hope and pray that the government will prioritize culture. That is, to treat culture as a co-equal of the social, political and economic aspects of the country. That is why we are very thankful to the NCCA (National Commission for Culture and the Arts) for giving us the chance to disseminate our culture via the Internet."

Vim Nadera knows what he’s talking about. Without government support,, arguably the most ambitious online literary project in the Philippines, may not have come to fruition.

It all started when Nadera, director of the University of the Philippines’ Institute of Creative Writing (ICW), put together a project proposing a Web portal that would showcase Philippine literature to the online world. The staff members worked overtime for the content and a Web designer was hired. That was in late 2005. Before the year was over, the NCCA accepted the proposal.

By February 2006, the portal was online and it was launched at the Rizal Park and televised over Concert at the Park. The hits were moderate, boiling a little under 1,000 a day. But the opening of classes sent the average total daily hits to 3,000. This was a sign that the portal was reaching its target audience of students, teachers and researchers as well as writers featured in the portal.

By the last week of July, registered its highest total ever: over 6,000. This brings the total number of hits to just over 250,000, not bad for a literary portal. Those are by no means Friendster Philippines’ figures (two million a day), but Nadera isn’t complaining. The statistics and the feedback declare an ongoing success.

Its design is simple enough, a homepage featuring current news (uploaded thrice in one week), a top menu of genres like poetry and fiction, a side panel of contest deadlines and events and, on the left hand side, just about the most comprehensive listing of authors, awards, organizations, etc., ever done in Philippine literary history. There is also a Links page that connects visitors to government cultural offices, writers’ groups and even to the personal websites and blogs of their favorite writers. is living up to its claim of being the definitive portal to Philippine literature. is currently being supervised by Jose "Butch" Dalisay, the multi-awarded writer and associate of the ICW, and Nadera. The ICW was the first creative writing center founded in the country, with no less than National Artist Franz Arcellana as its first director. Its many projects, like the Panayam and Likhaan anthology series (to name a few), have kept the ICW at the forefront of cultural dissemination and artistic innovation. The portal is a giant leap in that direction, using technology to spread literature and unite Filipino writers through an online sense of community.

The portal’s headquarters is at the Gonzalo Gonzales Reading Room in UP Diliman. This is where the five staff members regularly meet and discuss issues relating to the site and how to improve it. Proof positive of the site’s popularity are the correspondents from the University of Santo Tomas, and from Bicol and Pangasinan who volunteered to gather literary material pro bono.

Nadera is particularly proud of the "Writing from the Regions" page. "Our website is so far the most culturally sensitive portal in the country. We try to cover all the writers and the writings from every region," he boasts.

And how does he see the website a year from now? "A more comprehensive, more authoritative and more definitive portal to Philippine literature," says Nadera. "Hopefully we can serve more researchers, teachers, students and writers. We might solicit ads to make us more sustainable. National and international recognition would also be good, just to assure everyone that Philippine literature is doing well."

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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