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Literature 49 Section A
III - College of Arts and Sciences
Silliman University

Content and development (40 Points) : ___________

Organization (30 Points) : ___________
Language usage and grammar (20 Points) : ___________
Mechanics (10 Points) : ___________
Total : ___________

A Simplified Glimpse into the Life and Works of Edilberto K. Tiempo

The name ‘Edilberto K. Tiempo’ is no doubt well-known or recognizable to students and
teachers of Philippine literature and whoever is knowledgeable about Philippine literature
and its development over the past century. Students of Silliman University especially or
those who have resided in Dumaguete city for a considerable time might find his name
familiar along with that of his wife’s, Edith L. Tiempo. In fact, their two names are hardly
ever used separately. Edilberto and Edith Tiempo are credited mostly for the
establishment of the Silliman National Writers’ Workshop - a legacy of theirs that has
gained much acclaim and repute and continues to this day. Fondly called “Mom and Dad”
by the fellows of the workshop and their students, both of them were respected authors
and teachers of creative writing in the Philippines and their works have been published
and read both locally and abroad. Where Edith excels and is known for her poetry,
Edilberto‘s fiction and short stories have been ranked among the best in the Philippines.

Edilberto Tiempo’s achievements in fiction are truly impressive, winning numerous

awards and receiving much acclaim from his readers. He takes much of his material from
his own experiences, from memories of his childhood in Southern Leyte to his
involvement with the Japanese resistance in World War II, and renders them with
fascinating detail and colourful descriptions. A product of the famed University of Iowa’s
writing workshop, Tiempo is considered a master of his craft who pays especially close
attention to the structure of his stories and whose fiction is a direct result of that
carefulness and discipline.
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Tiempo has made himself a name in the halls of Silliman University with the
establishment of the Silliman National Writers’ Workshop and the university’s
undergraduate creative writing program for English majors. He did not just become a
teacher but also chairman of the English department, dean of the graduate school and vice
president of academic affairs of the university.

The advent of New Criticism to Filipino writers in English is a contribution that

Tiempo and his wife Edith proudly take as their own. The concept of New Criticism,
which emphasizes the integrity of a text in itself as an aesthetic object and an organic
whole, is one that Tiempo has adhered to ever since - a major influence on his fiction and
his criticism of others’ works, effectively changing and shaping his views on literature for
the rest of his life, and the instruction of which still continues to this day. “...The writer’s
responsibility to picture that humanity with literary accuracy, skilled art, and
compassionate understanding, is at the core of Tiempo’s contribution to Philippine
writing,” writes Galdon (1993.) Indeed, his observance of the rules of New Criticism seem
to be one of the things Tiempo is most well-known for.

Tiempo’s life and contributions continue to be remembered and honoured today

with the continuance of his legacy and teachings. He remains one of the Philippines’ best
fictionists and he has helped greatly to shape the tradition of Philippine literature in


This study aims to provide a simplified and concise account of Edilberto Tiempo’s life as
well as a glimpse into his works and writings from which people interested in learning
about the fictionist’s life may be able to gain a substantial knowledge or a general idea of
Tiempo’s work and contributions. This study was completed through research of related
literature which include similar biographies, interviews and discussions on Tiempo and
his work which were readily accessible in the Silliman University library. An interview
with Rowena Tiempo-Torrevillas and other living relatives, friends or colleagues was
highly recommended and would have been of great use but were unattainable due to time
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constraints and other issues. Research was also done on the internet and a number of
online or digital sources gathered.

Inconsistencies regarding dates and events in Tiempo’s life were found among the
varied sources and there have been no other readily available records to clarify the
contradictions. Due to the limited sources immediately available to the researcher, there
may also be gaps of missing information especially regarding certain events in Tiempo’s
life. Exact details about certain parts of Tiempo’s life and other minute details may also
not be present in this study. The researcher has attempted to fill in these gaps and
inconsistencies to the best of their ability but recommends that more research be done to
smooth out these contradictions. Other sources outside of the Silliman library may prove
to be useful in filling the gaps of information.

Edilberto Kainday Tiempo was born on August 5, 1913 to Ambrosio Tiempo and
Anunciacion Kainday in the town of Maasin in Southern Leyte. Growing up in this small
provincial town provided Tiempo with much inspiration for his stories, from the scenery
to the many personalities who lived there and the superstitions they shared. The town
was indeed a rich source for the young Tiempo. Many of the experiences he has had in
the town and the surrounding landscapes can be seen described so vividly in many of his

An early literary influence during this time was the short stories of Guy de
Maupassant. The young Tiempo was still in grade school when an orphaned cousin
twelve years his senior who had been staying with his family at the time ordered a
collection of Maupassant’s short stories. When the cousin eventually went away, he left
the collection of short stories in their house and Tiempo started reading them. It was
Maupassant’s writings that got the young Tiempo subconsciously interested in short
stories (Alegre and Fernandez, 1987.) Tiempo would later draw inspiration for some of
his most eccentric characters from people he has seen in his neighbourhood.
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Tiempo attended Maasin Institute for both his elementary and high school years,
where he became the editor of the school paper Hilltop News in his senior year. Other than
Maupassant, Tiempo has read other authors such as Arnold, Irving, Defoe, Swift, Scott,
Dickens and Bronte to name a few whom he was introduced to through his high school
literature classes (Alegre and Fernandez, 1987.) All of his teachers in high school were
Silliman-trained with the exception of Sol Gwekoh, a published author who was part of
the UP Writers’ Club and a big literary influence on Tiempo during this time. Gwekoh
was adviser of the high school paper when Tiempo became its editor and he also
organized a writers’ club in their school where he introduced the students to the
balagtasan. Tiempo himself wrote a balagtasan entitled “Night and Day” under
Gwekoh’s tutelage. In his seventh grade, he wrote a piece about a girl his history teacher,
a valedictorian from Silliman, was also in love with. The story, entitled “Postscript”,
would later be published in the Philippine Graphic magazine in July 12, 1934 where it was
placed among the 20 best of the year by Jose Garcia Villa. Tiempo, however, believed that
the story was so badly written that he could not salvage it for his first story collection, A
Stream at Dalton Pass, as he did with most of his older stories. The girl he had written
about got pregnant before her marriage to a medical doctor and when he sent her an
issue of the Graphic where the story was published, she sent it back with “Not Wanted”
written on the wrapper. Years later, Tiempo had the chance to meet the girl again, now a
mother to a dozen children and a grandmother, and when he brought up the unopened
Graphic, she stated that she had never received the issue as her husband had always been
a jealous man (Alegre and Fernandez, 1987.) Nevertheless, it was the generally positive
responses to the story that got Tiempo interested in pursuing writing.

After graduating high school, Tiempo taught at the elementary school for a year
where he handled all subjects. When the year was over, he went to study education in
Silliman University in 1932. He had originally planned to take journalism but since there
was no degree in journalism at the time, he contented himself with taking all the English
and literature subjects available in the university, where all his teachers in English were
American. While also studying in the university, Tiempo became the editor of the
Sillimanian and realized that it was literature where his real interest lay and not in
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journalism. His studies in Silliman served to instill in him a love for literature but lacked
the teaching of literary criticism that was needed in order for a healthy literary
development as the teachings all seemed to be purely academic despite coming from the
best teachers in English in the country (Bresnahan, 1990.)

He graduated from Silliman University in 1937 with a bachelor’s degree in English.

After graduating, he was asked to teach in Silliman but had previously promised to
return to Maasin where he stayed for two years. During this time, he came upon a short
story in the Philippine Magazine written by a woman named Arlyne Lopez. He was so
struck by the quality of the writing that shortly afterward, he wrote a short story entitled
“Sea Drifts”, used Arlyne’s full name in the story and published it in the same magazine.
A few weeks later, he received an angry letter from Arlyne’s sister, Edith Lopez,
demanding to know his relation to her sister and why he had used her name. Edith and
her family believed that Tiempo had met Arlyne on a boat trip to Surigao where she was
going to stay with a sister who was married to an American who owned a gold mine
there, as his story featured a similar boat scene (Alegre and Fernandez, 1987.) Tiempo
replied with an explanation and the two kept up a correspondence after that, much to the
chagrin of Edith’s mother. However, the two would not meet each other in person until a
year later when Tiempo would visit Edith in her hometown of Nueva Vizcaya. By then,
Tiempo had already become a widely published and read author with many of his short
stories and essays being published in various national magazines, among them “Sea
Drifts” itself. In 1939, Tiempo pursued his graduate studies in the University of the
Philippines where Edith was also studying pre-law. After only one semester, the two got
married without finishing any of their courses. They then moved to Dumaguete city,
Negros Oriental and settled down there.

When World War II broke out, Tiempo served under the United States Armed Forces
in the Far East or USAFFE while his family fled to the hills of Negros Oriental. He
worked as the historical data officer of the Seventh Military District and gathered and
collected data about the movements and actions of the Japanese troops. They Called Us
Outlaws is the book he wrote for the USAFFE that was drawn from his own personal
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experience of his work there. It would later be used against Tomoyuki Yamashita,
commander of the Japanese Imperial forces in the Philippines. Certain chapters of the
book that dealt with the atrocities the Japanese committed during the war were presented
in Yamashita’s trial by the American prosecution (Alegre and Fernandez, 1987.)

In early 1943, Negros Oriental was the first province to make contact with General
MacArthur in Australia through the efforts of Roy Bell, physics department chairman of
Silliman at that time. MacArthur sent Jesus Villamor to Negros in order to find out what
was going on and Tiempo asked Bell to introduce him to Villamor. When the two met,
Tiempo asked Villamor if he could take his manuscript of Watch in the Night back to
Australia with him and to his surprise, Villamor accepted. The manuscript of this novel
was smuggled out of the Philippines by submarine for later publication in the US, titled
to Cry Slaughter, and it is said to be the only manuscript written in the Philippines to be
smuggled out of the country during the war (Nazareth, 1990; Alegre and Fernandez,
1987.) It took the novel a decade to be published and by then, Tiempo had made
numerous revisions to it and had sent it to Scott Meredith Library Agency in New York.
He also submitted the manuscript as his thesis for his MFA.

After the war in 1946, Tiempo was granted a scholarship for graduate school in the
United States by the Presbyterian Board of Missions that funded Silliman University.
Silliman wanted Tiempo to pursue his graduate work in the University of Iowa writers’
workshop, which was considered the best creative writing workshop in the world,
although at first he was unhappy about this arrangement because he was originally
supposed to go to an ivy league college. Nonetheless, Tiempo travelled to Iowa and he
was the first Filipino to be admitted into the Iowa writing program under Paul Engle. By
the time Tiempo was admitted into the University of Iowa, he had already written about
30 short stories and the manuscript of Watch in the Night (Alegre and Fernandez, 1987.)
However, in his first semester in the workshop, he found that he knew virtually nothing
about the structure of the short story. When writers Robert Penn Warren and Mark
Schorer panelled for the workshop and critiqued Tiempo’s short story “The Tuba
Gatherer” (about an ambuscade during World War II) in front of the other workshop
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fellows (without stating whose work it was), Tiempo was told that although his work was
more grammatically correct than most, he lacked skill in the structure and rendering the
actual story itself. Tiempo blames this mostly on the fact that his education about writing
in the Philippines was limited. Just as New Criticism was a new concept to him when he
arrived at the workshop, so it was just as largely unknown to other writers and teachers
in the Philippines. According to Tiempo, he had to “literally relearn everything” he had
previously known about writing in the Iowa workshop. He and Edith stayed in the
workshop the longest among the Filipino participants, with him staying for four years
and Edith for three. Tiempo himself advanced straight to his doctoral degree in English
without taking an MA first and in 1947, he received a writing fellowship from Rockefeller.

In 1951, he finished his master of fine arts in the University of Iowa and in the same
year returned to the Philippines to establish the undergraduate creative writing program
for English majors at Silliman University. On the same year, his and Edith’s first child
Rowena was born. In 1956, he received a fellowship from Guggenheim that enabled him
and Edith to return to the US and for him to earn his Ph.D. in English at the University of
Denver. Tiempo’s Ph.D. took two years for him to complete and Edith got pregnant with
their son in the first year. It was then that Tiempo decided to teach at Wartburg College in
Iowa for a year. Shortly after this, his and Edith’s son Maldon was born. In 1958, his first
story collection A Stream at Dalton Pass was accepted as his doctoral dissertation at the
University of Denver.

The couple would return to the Philippines in 1962. On this year, they established the
Silliman National Writers’ Workshop at Silliman University, the first of its kind in Asia
and a legacy of theirs that continues to this day. Modelled after the Iowa workshop, the
Silliman workshop was where the Tiempos integrated the study and application of New
Criticism into Philippine literature in English. Over the years, the workshop has gained a
reputation as a rite of passage for all Filipino writers and has granted fellowships to over
six hundred Filipinos. It has attracted the attention of not only local writers but
international ones as well, both as fellows and as visiting panelists. Edith and Edilberto,
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as the workshop’s pioneers, have often been fondly called “Mom” and “Dad”
respectively not only by the fellows of the workshop but by their own students as well.

In1963, he and Edith taught at the Western Michigan College for a year under the
exchange professorship program. Both Western Michigan and Wartburg had offered
Tiempo a permanent teaching position but he refused both. “Edith and I felt we could be
more useful in the Philippines than in Michigan,” said Tiempo (Alegre and Fernandez,
1987.) During his tenure in Silliman, Tiempo was chairman of the English department,
dean of the graduate school, vice president for academic affairs and writer in residence.

After the publication of his first novel Watch in the Night, Tiempo would go on to
publish five more, namely More Than Conquerors, To Be Free, The Standard Bearer, Cracked
Mirror and Farah. In addition to this, he would go on to publish three more short story
collections: Finalities, Rainbow for Rima and Snake Twin and Other Stories. Most if not all of
his works have gained awards or honourable mentions and have been greatly lauded by
many audiences.

Edilberto Tiempo died on September 1996 at the age of 83. He was survived by his
wife Edith, who would later pass away on 2011, his son Maldon, his daughter Rowena,
who became an award-winning writer herself, and his grandchildren.


Tiempo’s earliest literary influence were the writings of Guy de Maupaussant which
were essential in his interest in short stories. Sol Gwekoh, his teacher in high school, may
have also been a significant influence in his writing as well as his American teachers in
Silliman although their knowledge was limited and emphasized grammar and syntax
more than the story’s structure (Alegre and Fernandez, 1987.)

But perhaps the most significant literary influence Tiempo has had was Paul Engle.
“He was the first to open my eyes about the nature of fiction,” states Tiempo in his
interview with Edilberto Alegre and Doreen Fernandez. Engle’s mentorship was essential
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in shaping Tiempo’s future writing and his teaching of the New Criticism has proven to
have been highly influential to both him and Edith. The Iowa workshop in general is one
of the biggest literary influences in Tiempo’s life, with teachers such as Ray B. West,
Robert Penn Warren and Mark Schorer who have each helped in Tiempo’s development
as a writer (Bresnahan, 1990.) The methods and teachings he learned in the workshops
and universities he has attended have all helped Tiempo to develop a critical attitude not
only towards others’ writings but to his own as well. These are essential knowledge that
stayed with Tiempo for the rest of his life.

Aside from these, Tiempo has named other authors that have had some influence on
his literature, such as Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, Conrad, Henry James, Faulkner and

In addition to the Iowa workshop, Tiempo was also granted a fellowship from
Rockefeller in 1947 and Guggenheim in 1956. Prior to his time in the Iowa workshop,
Tiempo had already written a number of short stories. However, during his time in Iowa,
he found that the teachings he had learnt from his teachers in the Philippines were
severely lacking in the structure of the short story and literary criticism. “When I went to
Iowa for the first time in 1946,” says Tiempo in an interview with Roger Bresnahan,
“there was a revolution in the study of literature. That new way of approaching a piece of
work from its textual aspects was unknown in the Philippines. When I had taken a course
in 1935 it was the usual thing – plot, character, climax, and so forth. That really means
nothing to one who wants to know the structure of a literary piece...There was a story all
right, but there was really no definable meaning. There was only straight narration. But
that’s not what fiction is. I had to learn this.”

The integration of New Criticism into Tiempo’s writing was a significant

development in his career as a writer. So great was its influence in fact that Tiempo had
to rewrite many of the short stories he had written prior to entering the Iowa workshop
because they did not live up to the standard of criticism the workshop abided by.
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Tiempo’s learning of New Criticism laid the foundation of most of his literature and
helped to establish him as a leading figure in Philippine fiction in English. His study on
New Criticism has helped Tiempo to not only be critical of other writers’ works but his
own as well.

When it came to sharing ideas and discussions of stories, Tiempo seemed to trust his
family most. He and Edith would read and edit each other’s works before sending them
to the publisher and Tiempo has a considerable trust in Edith’s judgment (Alegre and
Fernandez, 1987.) Tiempo’s close literary circle seems to be made up mostly by his own
family, with the addition of Rowena’s husband Lemuel Torrevillas, and the fellows and
panellists of the Silliman National Writers’ Workshop.


In 1952, he received second place for his story “The Heritage” from the Philippine
Free Press Literary Contest.

In 1958, he received first prize for More Than Conquerors and an honourable mention
for A Stream at Dalton Pass from the UP Golden Anniversary Awards.

In 1968, he received third prize for “Kulasising Hari” from the Carlos Palanca
Memorial Awards for Literature.

In 1974, he received the Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan Award from the City
Government of Manila. He was also awarded a medallion for literature by the Manila
Commission of Culture during the 400th anniversary of the city.

In 1981, he received the Malacanang Literary Award and the Outstanding Sillimanian

In 1983, the Manila Critics Circle awarded him the National Book Award for Fiction
for his novelette Finalities. On July of the same year, he received the Ferdinand E. Marcos
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Medallion for Literature as Distinguished Son of Southern Leyte. Later in September, his
book The Standard Bearer won the grand prize in the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for
Literature. He was also awarded the Southeast Asian Writers (SEAWRITE) award by
Queen Sirikit of Thailand and on November, the War Veterans Association awarded him
with the Gintong Karangalan Achievement Award.

In 1984, his novel Cracked Mirror won the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Literary

Edilberto Tiempo has been listed as one of the four or five best Filipino fiction
writers in English, ranking highly among names like Bienvenido Santos, N.V.M Gonzalez
and F. Sionil Jose (Galdon, 1993.) His works have received much critical acclaim and his
contributions to the tradition of Philippine literature in English have rarely gone

His first novel, Watch in the Night, was said to be the only manuscript to be
smuggled out of the Philippines during World War II. The novel was printed in the
United States under the name Cry Slaughter by Avon in New York City and has been
translated into six languages. The manuscript was also submitted as Tiempo’s MFA thesis
for the University of Iowa. The manuscript of this novel eventually reached Washington
D.C but the State Department never moved to publish it because of its subject matter,
dealing with the son of a political leader turning traitor to his own country. It would take
the novel a decade later to finally be published. Tiempo states that Watch in the Night was
based on an incident that occurred in World War II shortly after the fall of Corregidor. A
son of Osmena, then vice president of the Philippine government in exile, was sent as one
of three envoys by the Japanese command to demand the peaceful surrender of USAFFE
troops in Negros. A corporal was assigned to guard them for the night. Sometime during
the night, the other troops suddenly heard gunshots. When the USAFFE soldiers rushed to
see what was going on, they found all three envoys shot dead and the corporal reading his
Bible (Alegre and Fernandez, 1987.)
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The novel borrows this incident in one of its scenes but remains largely fictionalized,
though it is still considered a historical novel. “Mr. Tiempo has the story-teller’s gift,” says
Miguel Bernad in his review of the novel, “and many an episode is told with vividness
and realism. He also has that adjunct to the story-teller’s art, the gift of description – exact,
leisurely description (particularly of country life) which at times takes on an idyllic
quality.” However, as his first novel and written before the advent of New Criticism was
introduced to Tiempo, the story lacked an organic unity of theme, character and action
and seemed to be entirely made up of episodic narration – a fault in its structure. Even
Tiempo himself seems to agree, as he cannot bring himself to reread it without

His second novel, More Than Conquerors, was first serialized in Weekly Women’s
Magazine before being published in book form in 1964. It tells the story of members of the
Philippine resistance movement during World War II and their struggle for the freedom of
their country. The novel seems to borrow heavily from Tiempo’s own experience of the
war and from his book They Called Us Outlaws. “Edilberto Tiempo’s war novel is intense in
its examination of humanity at war, with a singular vision of men under stress,” writes
Robert M. Picart in his review of the novel. “In spite of some tendency to editorialize and
to hasten effects, the novel is a powerful appeal for freedom and against imperialism. The
protagonists’ grandeur of spirit indeed makes them ‘more than conquerors’.”

His third novel To Be Free, published in 1972, is a revision of his story “Daughters of
Time” which was also serialized in Women’s Magazine from November 1962 to March 1963.
Three chapters of the novel are actually derived from short stories Tiempo had previously
written – “Daughters of Time”, the original “To Be Free” from which he took the novel’s
title and “The Election.” In the original version “Daughters of Time,” Tiempo was largely
concerned with the historical and anthropological elements of the story and remaining
accurate to them. However, in his attempt to remain faithful to history, Tiempo has often
disregarded the elements of the story itself. But he eventually worked to amend this in his
second revision for the novel. Shortly after the publication of To Be Free, Ric Demetillo,
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chairman of the committee in charge of choosing the Republic Heritage Awards in

literature, informed Tiempo that he had been chosen to receive the award for the novel.
However, at the ceremony in Malacanang on the first year of Martial Law, the award was
given to a dead poet instead (Galdon, 1993; Nazareth, 1990; Alegre and Fernandez, 1987.)

To Be Free, as the title suggests, centers largely around “the Filipino search for
freedom in all its multi-faceted dimensions – individual, social and political,” writes
Galdon in his essay in Philippine Studies. Tiempo has stated that To Be Free was his
favourite novel to write and it took him three years to do so. The story is set in Nueva
Vizcaya and spans three generations of war under the Spanish, the Americans and the
Japanese. A crucial element in the story is the different meanings and dimensions of
freedom and its implications. However, Tiempo’s emphasis on his pervading theme of
freedom seems to have come at the cost of his character. “By choosing to emphasize theme,
Tiempo has had to sacrifice character,” states Galdon (1973), “since the choice of theme
over character is not necessarily a bad one, but in my view it has weakened this particular
novel considerably.” For all its praise and promise, To Be Free seems to fall short of what
could have been a great novel; quite possibly even Tiempo’s greatest. Says Galdon in his
review, “We have in To Be Free a long narrative, a series of episodes that do form an
organic whole....Tiempo has not taken full advantage of the length. His novel needs
fleshing out, for there is a certain ‘epic leisure’ which is missing and which would have
added immeasurably to the novel. The framework of epic length is there. It merely needs
to be filled out, and at least in this critic’s mind, the novel fails because that length has not
been given to us.” Galdon also points out flaws such as a lack of character unity and a full
realization or vision of the theme. “In short, we have all the qualities of epic...but Tiempo
has not used them to the fullest advantage.”

Cracked Mirror was published in 1984 and in the following year of 1985, Tiempo’s fifth
novel The Standard Bearer was published. Similar to To Be Free, the first two chapters of
Cracked Mirror are from Tiempo’s story “Crack in the Wall,” compiled in Finalities. “Using
the motifs of possession, search, loss and eventual rejuvenation, in this novel, Edilberto
Tiempo peels off the characters’ outer selves to reveal their psyches,” says Picart of the
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novel. “Plunging into the depths of psychoanalysis, he unwinds the kaleidoscope of

events showing the fragments of a mirror that gradually form the whole image of the
distressed spirit.”

Meanwhile, “Sayonara” the final story in Finalities, constitutes the first chapter of The
Standard Bearer. Tiempo describes The Standard Bearer as an anti-war novel that deals
largely with the after-effects of war (Alegre and Fernandez, 1987.) The novel is a love story
set during the Japanese period and filled yet again with elements of the guerrilla work
Tiempo uses considerably in his war novels. Like Watch in the Night and More Than
Conquerors, The Standard Bearer has its basis in They Called Us Outlaws. Indeed, Tiempo’s
experience in the war has had a deep and large influence in his writing. He has stated that
this is because the data and information he had collected for the USAFFE earned him a
better understanding and more knowledge about the war compared to his contemporaries
who were also involved in guerrilla activities.

“The vices and virtues of the earlier novels are all here,” writes Galdon in a review.
“Tiempo writes a good story in the romantic mode. His grasp of characters is particularly
good, but he often wanders into digressions that lead the reader astray. His dialogue is
sometimes forced and unnatural.”

Farah, his sixth and final novel, was serialized in Women’s Journal before eventually
being published posthumously in 2001. The book tells the story of a young Muslim girl
studying in Manila who finds her beliefs and way of life tested and changed.

In addition to his novels, Tiempo has also compiled his written short stories into four
collections, namely A Stream at Dalton Pass, Finalities (comprised of five short stories and a
novelette), Rainbow for Rima (a collection of stories dedicated to his granddaughter) and
Snake Twin (a collection of stories with a recurring metaphorical and folkloric snake
theme.) Many of his most well-known works, maybe even more well-known than his
novels, appear in these collections. Some of the notable titles compiled in these collections
are “The Grave Digger”, “The Witch”, “Sayonara”, “Kulisisang Hari” and “Karatung.”
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Tiempo’s short stories, particularly in the Dalton Pass collection, are rich with local
color and his uniquely Filipino outlook. “The Witch” seems to be the best example of this.
Bernad (1970) even goes as far as proclaiming it the one masterpiece among the collection.
With its vivid descriptions and imagery of the Philippine countryside and the local culture
present there, “The Witch” truly stands out as one of Tiempo’s best works. Other notable
works in the collection are The Heritage, The Grave Digger, Kulisisang Hari and the
titular story A Stream at Dalton Pass. Like with “The Witch,” the stories feature tales,
folklore and experiences that tell of our local culture in ways that only a Filipino or other
Filipinos can. Tiempo uses real places, people and circumstances in his story that reflect
the landscape, the experiences and the community around him (Diones, n.d.) Tiempo
seems to draw inspiration for his works from his own experiences – from the many
characters and personalities he has seen around him to the scenery and localities of the
towns and cities he has been to. A man who robbed graves for a living using a skull as a
glass for his tuba and a neighbour who was a cockfighting referee would both become the
basis of two characters from two of his most well-known short stories – “The Grave
Digger” and “Kulisisang Hari.” Even the lonely old woman in “The Witch” was based off
of an actual woman from Tiempo’s hometown of Maasin.

Tiempo’s exploration of local color continues in his fourth story collection Snake
Twin, consisting of stories set mostly in Dumaguete, Siquijor and Maasin all tied together
with a central snake theme – metaphorical, folkloric or even literal. Again, Tiempo brings
rich imagery and realism to his stories and seems to bring the local scenery and its
superstitions to life, giving color and freshness to his characters.

Ophelia Dimalanta (as cited in Galdon, 1993) calls Tiempo a romantic realist. "He
envelopes his stories in a proper atmosphere of actuality through details drawn from
personal experiences, unleashing a spate of a kind of Gothic romanticism, while he keeps
on firm ground, constantly aware of life's shadows ever touched by an eternal
luminescence. Tiempo is the necromancer writing for the sheer pleasure of it, enjoying the
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added latitude of creativity allowed by such a genre, but never really cutting the cable
tying this transport of the imagination to the ground of experience."

Tiempo’s mastery of the craft of fiction is highly evident in his stories. "Tiempo is
truly a fictionist's fictionist. All the devices one learns about the art of fiction, all the tricks
it takes a whole lifetime to learn are there...Each story is well-wrought, well-baked fiction,
as can be written only by one consciously honed the craft. . . . Here is indubitably fiction
that is reflective of a literary decorum in the strength and discipline, the able balance of
history and fabulation, exalting life without diminishing art, serving art without rejecting
human contingencies elevated into memorable experiences," writers Dimalanta.

Although he has had some negative criticisms about his works, one cannot deny the
mark he has made in the history of Philippine fiction through the careful structure and
elements of his work and his contributions to the tradition of Philippine fiction in general.

Other than the aforementioned writings, Tiempo has also written four textbooks with
his wife Edith – Introduction to Literature, College Writing and Reading, Forms and Purposes
and A Handbook of College Composition.

Much of Tiempo’s literary philosophy is reflective of what he had been taught about
New Criticism. His time in the Iowa workshop has played a significant role in shaping his
literary philosophy. Experience has taught him that to write well, there must be long years
of maturation and proper teaching. The act of creative writing is the result of the
intuitional and the critical. One must learn how to look at one’s own work with a critical
eye – to always be aware of the structure and its flaws (Bresnahan, 1990.) Indeed, Tiempo
firmly believes that literary criticism and creative writing must go hand in hand in order
for there to be literary development and he places a lot of emphasis and importance on the
structure of a work. Even while one may be criticizing the work of another, one must also
be aware of the flaws in one’s own structure and work. Tiempo has stated that reading the
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works of the Silliman workshop’s fellows have also helped him to be conscious of the
structural flaws in his own works (Alegre and Fernandez, 1987.)

Tiempo’s faithful adherence to the structure of New Criticism he was taught in Iowa
evidently shows in both his works and his creative process. He is a very craft-conscious
writer who pays close attention to the structure of his writings yet gives the feeling of
spontaneity and effortlessness. His vivid descriptions and imagery have been lauded most
greatly by many critics that it might even count as his greatest strength in his writing.

Tiempo’s legacy and contributions are ones that can still be seen today, through the
continuance of both the Silliman Writers’ Workshop and the teaching of New Criticism
which he brought from the Iowa workshop. So great was his and Edith’s influence on the
tradition of Philippine literature in English that the latter half of the twentieth century
became known as the “Tiempo age.”

His fiction remains prominent among the works of other Filipino fictionists and he has
truly established for himself a place in the growing tradition of Philippine literature in
English – proving greatly that his life and his works are ones that should be remembered.

Works Cited

Alegre, E.N., Fernandez, D.G. (1987). Writers and their Milieu: An Oral History of First
Generation Writers in English.

Bernad, M.A. (1954). Watch in the Night by Edilberto K. Tiempo. Philippine Studies, 2(1),

Bernad, M.A. (1970). Stories with a Thoroughly Philippine Outlook. Philippine Studies,
18(4), 783-788.

Bresnahan, R.J. (1990). Conversations with Filipino Writers.

Diones, L.L. (n.d.). Local Color in Edilberto K. Tiempo's Selected Short Stories.
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Edilberto K. Tiempo. (n.d.). Retrieved September 27, 2017, from

Galdon, J.A. (1973). To Be Free: The Edge of Greatness. Philippine Studies, 21(3), 389-394.

Galdon, J.A. (1987). The Standard-Bearer by Edilberto K. Tiempo. World Literature Today,
61(1), 160.

Galdon, J.A. (1993). Edilberto Tiempo: Romantic Realist. Philippine Studies, 41(3), 377-382.

Nazareth, P. (1990). Rowena Torrevillas, Edilberto Tiempo, and Edith Tiempo interview,
The University of Iowa, 1990s. Iowa Digital Library

Picart, R.M. (1985). More Than Conquerors by Edilberto K. Tiempo. Philippine Studies, 33(1),

Picart, R.M. (1985). Cracked Mirror by Edilberto K. Tiempo. Philippine Studies, 33(1), 122-

Tiempo, E. (1984). Cracked Mirror.

Tiempo, E. (1970). A Stream at Dalton Pass and Other Stories.