Apung Frank: The Reincarnation of Jose Gallardo

“Mas masanting ne ing gawa, keysa king salita”, the hackneyed yet fascinating quotation of the 73 year old Kapampangan poet who was born and raised in Sta. Maria, Macabebe, Pampanga that he firmly beholds and looks up to in life.

An epitome of a poet laureate, an eminent Kapampangan poet who won a ligligan, a writing contest sponsored by a fiesta committee or a school. Francisco Mallari Guinto usually seen in his well-groomed polo shirts suited with his defiant appeal of denim jeans and a gnarled walking stick is an immense lover of Kapampangan poetry—he is fascinated with the verses, stanzas, meter, and rhyming scheme.

Being dubbed as “Apung Frank”, an enchanting smile and charismatic looks are the eye-catching characteristics he certainly clings to as he sets himself apart from other poets. Despite his age, he still has a pristine mind in poetry and a young heart towards Amanung Sisuan, the breastfed language of Pampango; Kapampangan. Apung Frank’s story is not the typical rags to riches stereotyping, he started from being bouncy and clever in his elementary days where he actively participated in every program of the school through spoken poetry. His pieces are either made by his English teacher or himself in which he imitated prominent authors. This became his stepping stone in creating an original piece.

When he was in his 4th year of high school, he intruded the world of poetry. He composed his first ever piece which he manifested through spoken poetry at the “Parangal ning Ligligang Leguan”, the annual beauty pageant in Macabebe.

Apung Frank is an avid fan of Jose Gallardo, the 2nd Ari Ning Parnaso ning Kapampangan, the highest title in the hierarchy of the poets’ society. He has stood in awe of Gallardo since he was a child. He often owned a book of Gallardo when he was still studying. He frequently has octopus ears when harkening to Gallardo’s radio program, “Bengi na ning Crissotan”. He also pondered setting his eyes wide open when Gallardo’s Zarzuela was playing in the theatre way back in 1964. He truly patronized Gallardo’s alluring master of works. Thus, he never hesitated to ingress the shadow of his icon through the hyperbolic words and metaphoric speeches.

Apparently, some people observed the resemblances of the physical attributes of Apung Frank to Gallardo. The poet laureate admits himself that somehow there are irrefutable commonalities that he and his icon have—the tone of voice, the structure of the body, the height, the posture, and substantially, the unparalleled love and the flaming soul for Amanung Sisuan. Upon that, there are people who call him as Gallardo for they can perceive the poet laureate in 1950 from Candaba in the presence of Apung Frank.

Apung Frank’s style of writing is far atypical from other poets and has diverse strategies upon his target audience. He also shares how prevalent he is in starting at the climax point of the story to puzzle the audience about the succeeding happenings. Afterwards, he would unveil the bolt from the blue through displaying flashbacks. Another technique he is good at is mixing and matching jokes through his writings for he has the charm and catchy personality to sympathize with the audience, especially when the ambiance is filled up with millennials and gen-Zers to strike their personal interests. He ensures to blend in with the taste of the contemporary world for he is well-acquainted with the preferences of the Kapampangan youth.

An orthodox old poet who dreamt to be a lawyer when he was a child turned into the playground of words. He was entitled thrice as poet laureate—sponsored by the Center for Kapampangan Studies (CKS) of Holy Angel University; Aguman Buklud Kapampangan in 2003; Ligligan Pamanyawul at Poesya in commemoration of the Mount Pinatubo Eruption in 2004 with his winning piece “Tagumpe Busal Ning Lumbe” where he was conferred as the 1st prize award; and by the Municipality Government of Macabebe led by Honarable Annette Flores-Balgan. Beholding a triad poet laureate, Apung Frank was given a laureate wreath, a round wreath made of bay leaves as a way of honouring him for his crystalline contribution to Kapampangan poetry and to join the highly respected and noble ranks of Kapampangans who are greatly looked up to as they live their honourable lives.

Through his passion and love for poetry, the poet from Macabebe won an honourable mention as being 4th place in the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) in 2006-2007 with his collection of 6-7 poems. Additionally, he was one of the 15 poets who shared the National Book Award in 2013 which featured their poems entitled, “Kawatasan: Obrang Poeta Laureado” in the poetry category for a special division for Kapampangan works. This award is given annually by the Manila Critics Circle and the National Book Development Board.

Apart from literature, he also invaded the world of film. He starred in various Kapampangan films pioneering Ari: My Life with a King in 2015, a film about a young man portrayed by Ronwaldo Martin who doesn’t speak and understand the Kapampangan language until he met an old poet played by Apung Frank who taught him the language itself. This is the first full-length feature film produced by Holy Angel University where it bagged ample awards locally and internationally.

Apung Frank was named as the New Wave Best Actor at the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) in 2015 tied with JM De Guzman. He was also nominated as the best actor at the FAMAS 2016 and Gawad Urian 2016. The MMFF Best Actor really showed how he could set his foot into the limelight, as he also starred in Area, a film depicting a place which is the home of several low-rent brothels, in 2016 alongside AiAi Delas Alas. He was also nominated at the Young Critics Circle 2017 as Best Ensemble Performance for the said film. Moreover, he also starred as a poet in Aria, a film set during the Japanese occupation where what was featured where guerrillas and soldiers who fought during World War II, people who died in combat and those who lived on after the war without receiving any compensation.

The Ari star was also recently awarded in the Most Outstanding Kapampangan Awards (MOKA) under Culture category last December 11, 2018. This award was given by the Provincial Government of Pampanga to pay back his imperishable contributions in upholding the privilege of being a Kapampangan in the field of culture. Through Apung Frank’s perennially valuable contributions to Kapampangan poetry, the poet laureate inevitably entrusts himself to relentlessly awaken the sleeping worlds of Kapampangan literature and culture. He also bursts out to love and care for the Amanung Sisuan as this will be the license of entering the “Atin Ku Pung Singsing” spirit and a spectrum usually seen in ROYGBIV hues to blaze the essence of being a Kapampangan in nature.

Art by Marienel Calma

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