“Mary Beth Berdugo: The Name Behind the Words”

Written by Juliene Berdugo, B.S. in Applied Mathematics III.

During the U.S colonialism, many newspapers and magazines using local languages came to rise. They served as an information outlet for many Filipinos back in 1800’s. The use of local languages was a great way to gain more readers and to get the sympathy and support of the masses. One of the many local magazines that are well known before was the Hiligaynon magazine that was established way back in 1934 (Lumbera, B. (1982). Philippine Literature: A History and Anthology Manila: National Bookstore). As the name itself suggests, the language used was Hilligaynon that are spoken mostly by people living in Iloilo city, Capiz, Guimaras, Bacolod City and other parts of Negros Occidental.

The Hiligaynon magazine features the poems, short stories and other articles of the best Hiligaynon writers in the country. One of those is Mrs. Beata Maria Berdugo- Solano, also known as Marybeth Berdugo in which she used it as her pen name.

Beata Maria Solano, now ages 79 years, was a former writer in Hiligaynon magazine. As she narrated her story with me, she said that she started doing short stories for Hiligaynon when she was still studying in college. She studied Secretarial at Colegio de la Purisima Concepcion in 1957 as her first course then took up B.S in Elementary Education at Capiz Colleges. At noontime, she would go to the Provincial Fiscal’s office where her sister-in-law was working. There she would type her stories for Hiligaynon in the “makinilya” because she has no machine of her own.  She lived a simple life back then when she was still studying and in order for her to earn money, she made a way to enter the literary world, which she really enjoyed. She worked hard and contributed so many countless stories in the said magazine, for these she earned enough money to buy things for herself. At a young age, she made a living. She earned her own money and bought the things she needed for her school and everyday needs while at the same time, she got to do what she enjoys to do, which is writing.

Mary Beth Berdugo has done many stories in the magazine, most of them talked about love, teenage life and family. The subject of her works revolves around these three categories in which everyone can easily relate himself or herself. Hiligaynon published several of her stories in 1962 to 1966.

As a young writer of 17, she has done stories that people her age can relate to. One of those was the story entitled “Paalam sa Kahapon” that was written and published in 1964. The story was about a young girl and a young boy living in barrio. They know each other since they were young and would play all day long. One day, they saw a “santol” tree with a well beside it. Then the little girl said she owned the tree, but the young boy also said it was his. As little children, they made it a big deal to whom is the real owner of the tree, so they did not talk and ignored each other for days. But eventually, they made peace when the little girl asked for the little boy’s help. Until they grew up, they still have the closeness and friendship they had back then but there came a time when Vera (the little girl before) have to study away from their home because she has a dream to become a lawyer. She left Maning (the little boy before) in their barrio, and then 10 years passed, Vera came back and she saw the many changes in her hometown. There she saw again the “santol” tree but now, there was a new house built beside the tree. She found out soon that Maning owned it with his own family. The little hope in her heart that she and Maning will be together again turned into sadness and she now thought that it was all too late. Now, all her memories of the past with Maning are blurry and as she got away to the town, she may have no reason to come back again.

She also wrote stories about family like “Nalimot na Namon Ikaw”  which talks about the Father who abandoned his family, and many other stories like “Mapisli si Lily”, “Paghiguga, Pag-andam”, “Bong”, “Paglantaw sa Kamatuoran”, “Hingabot sa  biyahe”, etc.

Her life as a writer was never easy. She has to write while she was still studying. Also, at the same time she is a working student, which means she manages to do all these activities all at once.

But the Hiligaynon eventually vanished in thin air. It was closed because of Martial Law.

As we ended, she wanted to share some of the lessons she has learned with years of writing in Hiligaynon.

  1. Anywhere you are, anytime and anything you can see. Read everything that you can read, because with that you can learn different things, new words and new experiences.
  2. When a group of people or your friend talks, just listen. Absorb everything they say, everything you hear because you can learn something out of listening.
  3. NEVER STOP. Reading and writing only stops up to your deathbed. While you still can, never stop reading and writing, don’t waste a single time and just keep on learning.
  4. Wherever you are, whenever or whatever, always pray. In work, on the road, anywhere you are, don’t forget to pray because He will always guide us in everything that we do.
  5. Don’t forget your friends, those who helped you all throughout your journey. And if ever you happen to forget their names, just smile.
  6. THANK GOD. Always and never forget to thank God for all the blessings, especially the blessing of a long life.

Presently, Mrs. Beata Maria Solano or Mary Beth Berdugo is now a full-time mother and a grandmother and just stays at home. She has blurred eyes and painful knees but she had told me that even at her age now, she still continue to write in her small notebook things that carry lessons and examples in life, proof that writing is in her blood, no one can take that away from her.

About the Artist:

Beata Maria Solano

Brgy. Candual, Panay, Capiz

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