Death of a poet

Talk about giants among Cebuano poets and one eventually gets to Rene Estella Amper. As a writer, I got to know the man in a circuitous way. I joined The Quill, the student publication of Southwestern University, as a Chemical Engineering freshman. With me was Blanche, an amiable student who turned out to be Amper’s daughter.

But those were tumultuous times. Instead of concentrating on improving our craft, we got caught in the struggle for campus press freedom. I could not recall now whether Blanche was still with us when years later the school administration eased us out of The Quill. I quit college altogether and joined the bigger struggle outside the school campus.

The older Amper had made a name for himself then as a distinguished Cebuano poet writing in English. I heard stories about his stint in The Quill, that’s why I haven’t forgotten Blanche. When you are a young writer, there are works that catches your fancy, and writers that you end up idolizing. I read Amper’s published works and became a fan.

I didn’t get to meet Amper until I took journalism as a profession and ended up covering the Capitol beat. He had jumped from being a municipal health officer to being a mayor of Boljoon, the town of his birth. My admiration grew. In these materialistic times, it is not often that doctors like him would choose to practice in a rural setting.

By then, Amper had shifted to writing poems in Cebuano even as politics drew him away from his craft. He was mayor for three terms (nine years), then vice mayor until his death Wednesday. “He is a great loss to our town,” said SPO1 Roderick Roma of the Boljoon police, recalling how Amper, as a doctor, would treat rural folks for free.

I don’t know how far Amper would have gone as a poet had he concentrated on his writings. His collection of poems, “All Else is Grass” grabbed second prize in the Palanca Awards in 1989. This writing fellow of the famed Silliman University Summer Writer’s Workshop published two other collections, “12 Poems” and “Collected Poems.”

It is indeed a pity that this country’s literary lights grow old and pass away virtually unrecognized for their contribution to our culture. Thus, while to his children he was a good father, to rural folks he was a kind doctor and to Boljoon people he was a devoted public servant, Rene Estella Amper should aptly be, to Cebuanos, their pride.

–Candido O. Wenceslao (I wrote this for Sun.Star Cebu for January 26, 2007)

33 Responses to Death of a poet

  1. Dr. Bert Sanchez says:

    Dear Bong:

    Nice article about Dr. Amper.

    The Suroy Suroy Sugbo participants together with Gov. Gwen Garcia arrived in Boljoon that day 26 Jan 07 when we were told that the vice mayor died waiting for us! I felt terrible about it because I was looking forward to meeting a fellow physician on this sojourn to the southern parts of Cebu. I have already known of his many acts of kindness to his constituents.

    Your article now makes me feel that I missed meeting a great Cebuano. I hope his legacy lives on…

    Dr. Sanchez

  2. Michelle Marie Amper says:

    It has been almost two months since Papa Rene died. The family is still grieving but to us it is as if he just went away for a holiday and would one day come home (but of course he would never go away on a long trip without Mama Tacion). He is greatly missed and he will always be remembered as a kind person who would always extend any form of help to the needy at any time of the day, to others a great poet and a true leader of the people of Boljo-on. To us his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren he was our hero.

  3. cebuano says:

    I was there in Boljoon when Doctor Amper was buried and I agree with you, Michelle, that he will always be remembered. I saw the big number of people who trooped to the cemetery to pay their last respects to the man. Kumusta na lang ko ni Blanche, maybe she still remembers me nga kauban niya sa Quill kaniadto.

  4. Dr. Sanchez says:

    I travel quite a bit around this planet but on occasions when I get lonely I would think of my beloved Cebu. Since my last visit last January, I have been constantly thinking about Bolho-on, partly because of the tragic event that took place when Dr. Amper died while waiting for the Suroy Suroy sa Sugbo group to arrive but mostly because I fell in love with the place. I was born and raised in Cebu but I never had the occasion to go there until last January. My family used to travel south to Bato on our way to Tanjay, Negros Oriental, but from Carcar we would go west to Dumnajug.

    I first heard about the beauty of Bolho-on through a Sun.Star columnist whose wife hails from there. But I did not expect to be very pleasantly surprised by the lovely beaches and shorelines, the green mountainside, the quaint and sleepy town, and its very hospitable people. My stay at the FortMed Resort was relaxing, and invigorating at the same time. Bolho-on is now the place for me to go back to again and again, year after year.

    Michelle Marie Amper, take heart in the great works that you father left behind. Continue to honor his memory as we all should.

    Dr. Sanchez

  5. Renee Marie Amper Sy says:

    It is been really sad for all of us to see papa Rene died very unexpectedly. We felt it is the end of the era.Papa Rene wasn’t just a father to us but he was a hero to everyone’s heart.His memory will always be there and he will always be an inspiration to all. I am so proud to be an AMPER and the daughter of papa Rene because wherever i travel the world and meet a filipino, after i introduce myself as Renee Amper they will say “igunsa man ka ni Rene day?”and they will make a comment “maayo kaayong tawo si papa nimo day.” Can you imagine how i feel? Isn’t it a great feeling?

  6. dal says:

    paexplain naman po ng poem ni rene amper ( a letter to pedro) tnx

  7. Ray Cabigon says:

    Dr. Amper’s death was a shock to me and my family. You see, I was privileged to know him at certain significant points in my life. As a liberal arts student at USC in the early 60’s, I was a piddling English major who envied Rene’, a pre-med, for his poems which were regularly found in the pages of the Carolinian. In the late 70’s, my family and I came home to Cebu in Tormis after a six-year stay in Chicago, and found ourselves as next-door neighbors to Rene’s growing family while he was practicing in Boljoon. Cecille, my daughter, became very close to Loie, Pretzel, Nips,Ayessa, etc. With Rene’s kids, a number of Christmases were a lot merrier, not to mention some clamorous excursions in Talisay, and how could we forget the time we went to a jampacked showing of a Superman movie at Victor theater. In 1983, my family and I left the country for Baltimore, Maryland. Since then, we have never been back. We knew Dr. Amper primarily through his kids.The very happy memories spent with them make it very difficult to accept the news of his untimely passing.

  8. Michelle Marie Amper says:

    It is indeed a pleasant surprise to hear from our dear neighbors in Tormis after a long time. This is Pretzel and I am working in LA as a Registered Nurse. My siblings and I used to go next door to play with Cecille their only child. My fondest memory was playing with Cecille’s toys while “Nang” Noemi would bake her famous chiffon and marble cakes filling the house with mouth watering aroma. I wonder if the giant Superman puzzle is still glued to the wall to this day. I remember “Noy” Ray putting it up using a stick which he would dip in rugby. I can still remember the “liyaliya” or rocking chair made of rattan facing the tv where we use to watch the soap opera Analisa. I could not remember if we watched Superman the movie with the Cabigons but I clearly remember watching it on this huge screen and the stiff neck after. I could not remember saying goodbye to them when they left to the States but they have been a great part of my childhood. We did not stay long in Tormis as well but I did my Bachelor’s Degree in USC-GHS and at one point I got curious and decided to visit the old neighborhood.The street looked narrower to me. Another family lives in the old apartment and the Cabigon’s house still looks the same. It is a strange feeling standing there, as if at any moment a child version of me, my siblings, Cecille and the Ramoses would suddenly emerge laughing and playing whatever childish games.
    “Noy” Ray, from my family to yours, thank you for the kind thoughts and hello to Cecille and “Nang” Noemi.

  9. Oyo Uy says:

    Sir, I am doing a project about some writers associated with region 7 and I just learned, only now, through your blog that Mr. Rene Amper had already died. May I know the exact date of Mr. Rene Amper’s death and what was the cause of his death? I hope you could reply as soon as possible. Thank you very much.

  10. chloe marie amper polizon says:

    its almost 2years now that my father, DR. RENE AMPER died (january 24, 2007) of colon cancer.

  11. Asus Laptop says:

    Well I was just searching on Google for some videos and songs of my favorite singers and just came across your blog, generally I just visit blogs and retrieve my required information but this time the useful information that you posted in this post compelled me to reply here and appreciate your good work. I just bookmarked your blog🙂.

  12. Chino Amper Vazquez says:

    January 24,2007 the worst day,month and year of my life, since this is the day of my grandfather’s burial.We don’t talk that much, because the only time that we can talk is when we both try to sneak my grandmother’s hidden treasure her(chocolates).

    Papa Ene the greatest Man and Grandfather for of all for us, And surely for those people who knows him deeply.

    To all the people who posted their blogs thank you so much.Lets update this blog site because this is the only way that we can reach out our feelings for him.Thank you

  13. Keiffer Luis B. Amper says:

    I agree with you Chin… It made me realize how important our family is…Whatever happens, we will always be strong and we will help each other…God Bless Amper family…

  14. Chino Amper Vazquez says:

    Yes Chic it also made me realize how important our family is.Being Amper in our place, plays a big role as one of a respected family bacause of Papa Ene, a noble man with no other intentions but to serve our fellow “Kababayan” and to render care as a physician.

    But sadly some people tend to forget the value of Papa Ene, thats why im doing a move to put our familyname at the top again.God Bless our family.

  15. Niccolain Amper Suner says:

    I visited the grave of my beloved Grandfather today. I missed him so much. It seems like it was just yesterday I was coming his hair as I listen him whistling his favorite song. Dr. Renato E. Amper was not only a great poet and a good servant of his fellow men, but also a lovable lolo. Though he seems like a busy and serious man, he has able to seek time for us, to tells us stories that we can fall asleep

    One thing I can’t forget about him is that, he said something to me in the ICU and it made me cry and realized something. Sadly those were his last words to me.

  16. BLC Amper says:

    I was browsing to know more about my family link and suddenly I came across the sad story of one Dr. Rene Amper,a great poet and a public servant, I gather. Why sad, because his death proved to be a great loss not only to his fellow Cebuanos, but to all Amper Clan as well.This made after the outpouring of emotion shown, not only during his wake and funeral, but also manifested through all the good comments about how good he was to them via the internet.It was then that I realized how important are the works of my father (LORETO FELICILDA AMPER,62), his ever relentless drive to finish one by one his own “mga tudling sa garay”, a compilation of more than 200 poems written in Cebuano, inspite of all the hardships and troubles encountered in doing so,for the span of more than 30 yrs. As I looked back, he started making the said compilation before I ever came into this world.
    What I mean to say in sharing all of these is that I see in Dr. Rene Amper, my father.How good he was to his family and fellowmen, is how I perceive my father also as being. I would like to also add if i may, that I appreciate my father’s untiring and sincere servitude to his constituents as he is also a public servant at present of Bugo, Cagayan de Oro City, Mindanao, Philippines. 04-15-10.

  17. frances armee amper and natashsa jana amper says:

    we will miss you papa Rene from your beloved grandchildren jana,frances,matthieu,lynel,zach,pia,coleen,kyle,chico,chino,paula,bbb cap, and more……..

  18. chlo'e marie stella amper says:

    …all these years im still grieving for the loss of my father, my beloved papa ene! things would have been different if ur still with us😦😦😦 i miss u so much pa

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  21. David Wray says:

    I’m very sorry i couldn’t have known the man….but I can know him a little through his family, and having met some of those that loved him including one of his daughters…my wife to be… ( Renee Amper Sy). They are beautiful people including his(Papa’s) dear wife and my future Mother-in law. My Renee has a very open and kind, almost naively beautiful willingness to be gracious and generous to people who are difficult, somewhat unkind, or appear to others not to be worthy of her compassion. I would assume that this gift was handed down to her, from her “Papa”.
    I pray that she is covered by God as this quality can put her in harms way potentially. She is a rare flower and I have to thank God, and her Mama and Papa for inculcating her with such a rare quality.

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  25. Marielle Angeli Amper Vazquez says:

    25/2/14 at 12:50 am-Six to Seven
    long years to remember and will always remember…I have a secret…that day,I prayed if only God would give a year of my life to Papa Rene, but it never did…. I asked if I could cancel my job offer here in Ireland and let my grandfather live… But it never did…I am the eldest grandchild from Papa Rene’s eldest daughter, Blanche(Mama Blanca).I know it’s late to leave a comment but every memories of my grandfather is still fresh…I grew up like his youngest child as I have a three -year age gap with Ate Ayessa , the youngest of the “Ampers”. I can still remember when I was small that I would sit in his lap and he would tell me stories like si amo-ay and si bao-hay and I could listen to his whistle.. It was like a sound of a bird singing.He is my hero in everything. I grew up seeing him, woke up from a nap because there was a patient waiting at the terrace at home in Boljoon even on weekends. It is in him that I saw how he gave that service for free.It is in him that I looked up to… One time I had a project when I was in 3 rd grade and he only guided me. I thought he would do the drawing for me but he didn’t because he showed me that I could do it and he inspired me for that because he told me that I have the artistic potential and I should believe that I can do it and I
    did! He was a man with great thoughts and advises. I never saw him with a bad temper. He is the greatest person I have known! Fresh from my memory when I massage his feet or leg in the evenings or get some gray hair.. and my first salary as a Nurse, I bought him a lovely big cake on his birthday.. He was the proudest when I passed the Nurses Licensure Board exam two months after graduation in 2003.He was the first one who remembered to offer mass for thanks and a rosary for birthdays and bad weather…… I am very lucky because I was there when he was at the hospital bed …I did bed bath, shaved him and massage his feet…I was there even if I could feel his pain and his hand held my hand… And all the words he said will always be in my heart ! My last farewell song in his last holy mass echoes in my soul…Everything that happened has its own reason. If only he is here …if only he is still with us!!!

  26. cebuano says:

    Thanks for the message. Kumusta na si Mama Blanca nimo? We were with The Quill in Southwestern University in college. She immediately caught my attention when we applied as staff members because I had read your grandpa’s poems at that time. Say hi to her from me.

  27. I had been trying to locate the poet Rene Estella Amper, God bless his soul, while I was assigned in the Philippines and editing Search, the Augustinian Journal of Literary Excellence. I was at the time deeply interested in publishing his works. I wrote a letter for that purpose addressed to a university publication in Cebu, Philippines which got some of his poems printed. I never got a reply. Now I know why. In my book, Rene Estella Amper, along with José García Villa, Ricaredo Demetillo and Federico Licsi Espino Jr. is one of the outstanding poets from the Philippines. Villa, Demetillo and Espino I got to personally know but, in Amper´s case, it was different: I had never really had any chance to even meet him much less to get acquainted with him. I nevertheless grieve for this poet whose poems will gloriously shine on their own and splendidly glow when placed side by side with the best of those written by the likes of Antonio Machado, Sergei Esenin and Cesar Vallejo. His country should do something to perpetuate his memory. Requiscat in pace!

  28. Grace Jeon says:

    i would like to ask about the name of Dr. Amper’s wife,children and the time of his death because it happened to be our report in literature in region 7 but I couldn’t find any article about his wife and children and even the exact date of his death

  29. ingridestay says:

    I have been googling his picture for my Philippine literature class. I would want my Cebuano students to see who Dr. Rene Amper is, but I still could not find any legitimate picture of him.. I dont want to show my students the wrong picture of the Greatest Cebuano poet, and I am sure through this blog I will get to see him. It is not too late yet, I think so. Thank you so much.

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