Estrella Golingay’s reflections on writing

Estrella Golingay’s reflections on writing

WHEN I had the opportunity to interview the veteran writer, Estrella Taño Golingay, I did not receive an immediate confirmation. Curious about her initial reluctance, I asked her why. She candidly admitted feeling somewhat disconnected from the writing community in Soccsksargen. 

Despite her veteran status, she confessed to feeling like she did not quite fit into the vibrant tapestry of writers that make up the region’s literary scene.

Motivated by a strong desire to capture the wisdom of our seasoned literary writers, I embarked on a mission to reach out to them and arrange interviews at their convenience. Fortunately, Golingay agreed to my request, and we found ourselves engaged in a profound dialogue within the comforting confines of her modest home in Surallah, South Cotabato. 

It was a powerful demonstration of how words can bridge the generational gap and foster a deeper understanding of our shared literary heritage.

In the 1950s, Golingay’s family found a new home in Norala, South Cotabato, through the Philippine government’s migration program. They originally came from Catanduanes in the Bicol Region. 

However, due to the turmoil in Norala at the time, they eventually moved to the nearby town of Surallah. This cultural shift from being Bicolanos to being in an Ilonggo-dominated community added a new dimension to Golingay’s experiences, enriching her narrative as a writer. 

It was a testament to their adaptability and resilience, a story that became a part of their family history.

This unique experience brought its own set of challenges, particularly in terms of identity and language. Golingay struggled with a sense of ‘ambivalent rootedness” in her linguistic heritage.

Despite her Bicolano roots, she admitted to not fully mastering the language. At the same time, she was still finding her place in the Hiligaynon language, highlighting the complex linguistic landscape she navigated daily. It was a delicate dance between two cultures, a balancing act on the tightrope of identity.

“I felt incomplete,” she confessed. “At times, I would reach out to family members, seeking to fill the gaps in my Bicol vocabulary. Who cares if I don’t write in pure Bicolano? I wanted to write in SOX Bicol,” she shared, her words reflecting her determination to carve out her own linguistic identity.

This conundrum reflects the experiences of many writers in the region, whose narratives are influenced by the various ethnolinguistic groups residing in Soccsksargen (SOX). This cultural melting pot has given rise to a unique linguistic fusion, a harmonious blend of diverse languages that has developed and matured over time, much like the region itself.

The American educational system in the country, placing great emphasis on the English language played a crucial role in shaping Golingay’s linguistic skills. 

As a young student, she found herself drawn to the abundance of English reading materials in her school library, a haven where she could fully immerse herself in the world of words.

This fascination with the English language eventually guided her academic journey. She pursued a Bachelor of Arts in English at Notre Dame of Marbel University (NDMU) and continued her studies at the University of Mindanao in Davao City from 1971 to 1974. 

It was a testament to her dedication and passion for the language that had captivated her since her early years.

Golingay’s relationship with writing fluctuated like the ebb and flow of tides. During her school years, she actively participated in literary contests and campus journalism, her words flowing freely onto the page. However, as life unfolded and brought the joys of marriage and motherhood, the once-prominent spark in her writing seemed to diminish. Her academic career further complicated matters, leaving little room for indulging in the creation of literary pieces.

“I found myself caught in a delicate dance, trying to balance the demands of writing, family life, and an academic career,” she confessed. “Amid this juggling act, I somehow lost my way; my writing went into a long hibernation.”

Her words painted a vivid picture of the challenges faced by many individuals striving to balance their passions with life’s responsibilities.

The heartbreaking loss of her third child to illness awakened a dormant fire within Golingay, reigniting her love for writing. This devastating experience as a mother inspired her to write “Si Nene at Ako sa Pagitan ng Gabi at Liwanag” — more than just a piece of writing, it was an emotional release, a way for her to navigate the turbulent sea of grief.

As a testament to her talent and resilience, she submitted this deeply personal piece to Home Life Magazine. The literary world recognized the raw emotion and compelling narrative in her work, awarding it the coveted first prize in 1994. It was a silver lining in the storm, a beacon of hope in the darkness.

This recognition served as a springboard, propelling her into prestigious writing workshops across the country. Her journey included the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP)-sponsored workshop in 1994, followed by the esteemed Iligan National Writers Workshop in 1995. 

She also attended a University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman-funded workshop on the idyllic Samal Island, where she had the privilege of learning from literary luminaries such as Anthony Tan, Jaime Ann Lim, and N.V.M. Gonzales.

Golingay likened her writing journey to a thrilling roller coaster ride — a thrilling adventure filled with unexpected twists and turns. The opportunities it presented exceeded her wildest expectations, a testament to the unpredictable yet rewarding nature of the literary world.


A group of young writers initiated her entry into the region’s literary community by inviting her to various literary events. She participated in writers’ forums, served as a guest editor for the Cotabato Literary Journal, and acted as a resource speaker at the SOX Writers Workshop, among other engagements. 

Alongside experienced writers like Generoso Opulencia, she actively supports the emerging writers in the region, observing their budding careers.

Golingay finds validation in her inclusion in the literary circle and the chance to share her wisdom with promising writers. She encourages these young talents to persevere in their writing and reading endeavors, emphasizing that reading is a wellspring of inspiration.

As an educator herself, Golingay recognizes the advantages of the dual role played by many young writers in the region. Being a writer-educator not only promotes the works of local writers by incorporating them into classroom discussions but also provides a platform to advocate for the writing community.


Golingay holds deep admiration for the young SOX writers and their contributions. She finds the recent emergence of zine culture particularly intriguing. The SOX Zine Festival offers many budding writers a platform to self-publish and market their works, while also fostering networking opportunities with fellow literary enthusiasts. 

However, Golingay has also noticed a “reader vacuum” accompanying the surge of these writers and their works.

“Despite the proliferation of such writing, we are not nurturing a culture of readership,” she observed.

Technological advancement has undoubtedly brought significant contributions to humanity, but it also has its drawbacks for Golingay. The interests of today’s youth have changed, gravitating towards things that are fleeting and ephemeral. Everything is fast-paced, resulting in shorter attention spans and easy access to information. 

However, this trend can be counteracted by cultivating an interest in reading and writing.

After having a fulfilling career as an educator at NDMU and Notre Dame of Surallah, Golingay now enjoys the tranquility of their farm in Surallah. 

Alongside her husband, she immerses herself in the rhythm of farm life. The serenity of the farm provides her with an opportunity to explore the world of ecological writing. 

Currently, she finds joy in crafting eco poetry, using her words to showcase her deep connection with nature.

Upon reaching a certain age, one’s interests inevitably evolve. I found myself transitioning to a different genre, focusing on ecological writing. My work in eco-poetry is a testament to this shift, a field that warrants our attention. It holds a significance that is parallel to that of culture, deserving equal recognition and appreciation.

Estrella Golingay, PhD

“Recently, I’ve been channeling my personal and environmental concerns through attempts at eco-poetry. I find this process incredibly healing as it allows me to immerse myself in the captivating flaws of nature.”

Golingay compares a surge of inspiration to a virus that demands immediate attention. She finds potential material for her poetry and essays in anything that captures her interest. Her aspiration is to publish a book, a curated collection of her works that will capture the attention of eager readers.


Having the opportunity to share a moment with this writer was a privilege. While she may not have the same level of productivity as other writers we have encountered, her wisdom resonates like an ageless echo that continues to inspire new generations of writers. These writers seek to infuse their sense of rootedness into their literary creations.


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