Saturday, April 19, 2014

Nick Joaquin: The Biography

Nick Joaquín (Nicomedes Márquez Joaquín) was born in the old district of Pacò in Manila, Philippines, on September 15, 1917, the feast day of Saint Nicomedes, a protomartyr of Rome, after whom he took his baptismal name. Although some claimed the writer's correct birthdate was May 04, 1917. Whichever was right, Nick was born to a home deeply Catholic, educated, and prosperous family. His father, Leocadio Joaquín, was a procurador (attorney) in the Court of First Instance of Laguna at the time of the Philippine Revolution. Around 1906, after the death of his first wife, he married Salomé Márquez, Nick’s mother. A friend of General Emilio Aguinaldo, Leocadio was a popular lawyer in Manila and the Southern Tagalog provinces. 

The fifth child of ten children, Nick had an extremely happy childhood. Their parents were able to provide them a decent and privileged life. However in 1920s, Leocadio lost the family's fortune in an oil exploration investment somewhere in the Visayas. This was the turning point in the life of the Joaquin's. After that, Nick dropped out of school and his intention of entering the seminary to pursue his religious vocation was abandoned. Later, his work in the composing department of the Tribune, of the TVT (Tribune-Vanguardia-Taliba) publishing company, got him started on what would be a lifelong association with the world of print.

Right after the war, he published in rapid succession stories as “Summer Solstice,” “May Day Eve,” and “Guardia de Honor.” These stories have become Nick Joaquín’s signature stories and classics in Philippine writing in English.

In 1947, Joaquin's earlier dream of leaving Manila after the war came to reality when he was awarded a scholarship to the Saint Albert’s College, a Dominican monastery in Hong Kong after the publication of his essay “La Naval de Manila” (1943), a description of Manila’s fabled resistance to 17th-century Dutch invaders. His stay at Saint Albert’s schooled him in Latin and the classics. He stayed less than two years and returned to Manila thereafter.

In 1950 Joaquin joined the country's premiere magazine, Philippine's Free Press working as a proofreader, copywriter, and then member of the staff. His Free Press years established him as a leading public figure in Philippine letters. He wrote using the pen name Quijano de Manila (“Manila Old-Timer”).
He wrote with eloquence and verve on the most democratic range of subjects, from the arts and popular culture to history and current politics. He was a widely read chronicler of the times, original and provocative in his insights and energetic
and compassionate in his embrace of local realities. 
(Biography of Nick Joaquín, Resil B. Mojares)
The novel The Woman Who Had Two Navels (1961) examines his country’s various heritages. A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino (1966), a celebrated play, attempts to reconcile historical events with dynamic change.

Joaquín died of cardiac arrest in the early morning of April 29, 2004, at his home in San Juan, Metro Manila. He was eighty-six. He was then editor of Philippine Graphic magazine where he worked with Juan P. Dayang, who was the magazine's first publisher. Joaquin was conferred the rank and title of National Artist of the Philippines for Literature. Joaquin was also publisher of its sister publication, Mirror Weekly, a women’s magazine. He also wrote the column (“Small Beer”) for the Philippine Daily Inquirer and Isyu, an opinion tabloid.

He is considered one of the most important Filipino writers in English, and the third most important overall, after José Rizal and Claro M. Recto.

For a detailed biography of Nick Joaquin, click here.

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