Seasoned strategic communications professional Mikael De Lara Co proved his mettle in the
Tula category (poetry in the Filipino Division) of the 71st Palanca Awards after winning first prize for his collection of poems titled Epistolaryo ng Bagamundo at ang Tugon ng mga Multo.This recent win marks his second top-prize victory in the Tula category. He has previously won first prize twice and third prize once in the Poetry in English category of the same awards.
With this latest achievement, he is now only one first prize away from being inducted into the Palanca Awards Hall of Fame. Co has been crafting poems for as long as he can remember. For him, “Poetry is more than a
hobby. It’s a craft, a profession.” For such reasons, he could never detach his poetic self from
his line of work as a communicator.
Furthermore, he believes poetry is a way of life; for the poet, words and ideas come to mind
naturally (like breathing) and beautifully as a form of self-expression. “You don’t create art in
order to achieve something. It is not a goal-driven process, but a part of being human,” Co
Nevertheless, it’s poetry’s mission to create an impact on readers and deepen their sensibilities.
He says, “The fact that words can affect people and make them remember that they are
humans is the whole point (of poetry). And if we are to seek poetry in the way we live, we can
be a better person for others. Co, meanwhile, finds it imperative for poets to treat their craft with seriousness because that’s
the only way to express their humanity and contribute positively to the world and its people. And while the poet alone cannot change the world with their words, they play a role in the ecosystem of telling the truth.
His words about truth are more beautifully expressed in Filipino when he said: “Mahirap
hagilapin o maapuhap ang katotohanan sa panahon kung saan malinaw (na may ginagawang hakbangin) para mangibabaw ang mga bagay na hindi totoo.” (It can be challenging to discern the truth at a time when deliberate attempts are made to promote lies.)
Co adds, “Ang pagmamakata ay isang uri ng depensa para protektahan ang katotohanan o ang mga instruktura ng pagbabahagi ng katotohanan.” (The art of making poetry is one of our lines of defense against these kinds of efforts to dismantle truth or the structures for truth-telling.) When asked if poetry could still leave an impact on young people today, he thoughtfully considers, “I think so. If that person begins to feel more human, then poetry has done its job.”
The multi-awarded writer, translator, and editor fearlessly expresses his emotions and inspires others to recognize their own in his recent Palanca-winning collection of 15 lyric poems in
Epistolaryo ng Bagamundo at ang Tugon ng mga Multo. Through this series, Co shares his
struggles with significant life challenges, such as losing loved ones and starting anew in another city.
Up until 2022, Co was Deputy Director General for Communications of the Liberal Party while also serving as a senior communications consultant under Vice President Leni Robredo. He was also an Assistant Secretary under President Noynoy Aquino’s communications team, and staffed for Mar
Roxas in the Senate.
He recently put up his own strategic communications firm with former colleagues in government. He
is part of WiFi, a community of poets that came together during the pandemic. He is based in Cagayan de Oro City.
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