Gawad CCP Awardee (1991), Multi-faceted Ilokano Writer, Prolific Translator, and an Excellent Storyteller

July 12, 1936 – October 23, 2020

JUAN S.P. HIDALGO JR. dedicated his life to writing. He was considered a prodigy of Ilocano writing by his peers, yet he continued to live humbly and inspired numerous others to pursue their love of literature.

Born in 1936 to Juan de Peralta Hidalgo Sr. and Felisa Sanchez, Juan was met with a happy childhood in Pangasinan surrounded by lush farm life. He would frequent cinemas and retell narratives to his relatives; they found him to be an amazing storyteller.

Upon entering the University of the Philippines (U.P.), Hidalgo dabbled and tried to find himself by taking a pre-med course, and even joining the U.P. Vanguard to be a soldier. Ultimately, he shifted and became an English major, returning to his love of writing and telling stories by studying British, European, and American writers.

Hidalgo worked by the wilderness as a warehouseman in Montalban, and he began writing and proofreading Ilocano works for Bannawag Magazine. Several of his novels were serialized under Bannawag such as Tarumamis (Sharp-Pointed, 1973), Ti Obra Maestra (The Masterpiece, 1974), Derraas ken Pannakatnag (The Cliff and the Fall, 1976), Apuy iti Ubbog ti Diro (Fire in the Honey Spring, 1977), Annak ti Init Nagsublidan iti Daga (The Children of the Sun Have Returned to Earth, 1979), and the list goes on.

As he moved up the ranks from proofreader to Managing Editor, his love for mentoring budding young writers sparked. Thus, he founded GUMIL (Gunglo dagiti Mannurat nga Ilokano) Filipinas in 1968, and several other chapters in Guam, Hawaii, California and even Greece.

Among his short stories are Bituen ti Rosales (Star of Rosales), Tallo a Lallaki ken Maysa a Kari (Three Men and a Promise), Taraon dagiti Didiosen (Food of the Demigods), Ti Daga, ti Tudo, ken ti Init (The Earth, the Rain, and the Sun). He has translated foreign works to Ilocano such as Ni Emil ken dagiti Detektib (Emil and the Detectives, 1974), Dagiti Napili a Sinurat Manipud iti Literatura Aleman Manipud Media Era agingga iti Agdama (Selected German Writings from the Middle Ages to the Present, 1975), Sarsarita idi Ugma Manipud iti Asia para Kadagiti Ubbing iti Amin a Lugar (Folktales from Asia for Children Everywhere, 1988), and several others. Hidalgo authored short stories for children, biographies, columns, and translated different forms of literature. He truly wrote prolifically and with a burning passion.

These countless of works garnered him titles and accolades of GUMIL Filipinas Award of Distinction in 1971, both UP-Vanguard Inc Achievement Award for literature and CCP Gawad CCP Pambansang Alagad ng Sining sa Panitikan in 1991, Cornelio Valdez Awardee in 1992, the Sen. Heherson T. Alvarez Award for Literature in 1994, and awardee for the Pedro Bucaneg Award.

However, none of these titles hold a candle to the ones at home. He is known as gayyem (friend) by his wife, Namnama Carma Prado. Papa to his three daughters, Ma. Bituen, Patricia Amor, and Marie Sol. And Lolo to his six grandchildren.

At the age of 84, on the 23rd of October in 2020, Hidalgo passed away. He died in their family residence in Rosales, Pangasinan where he spent his early years swimming in the river and visiting his grandfather’s farm.

He is remembered by his family as a happy person, and even a treasure hunter, in a sense. Bituen wrote about her beloved father, “Papa lived a very creative life. He never got materially rich – he never found any Yamashita treasure – yet his life was culturally rich. It was made even richer by his sense of curiosity, openness and deep spirituality.”

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