Francisco Arcellana

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Zacarias Eugene Francisco Quino Arcellana (September 6, 1916 — August 1, 2002) was a writer, poet, essayist, critic, journalist, and teacher and one of the most important progenitors of Filipino short stories in English. In 1990, he was declared National Artist of the Philippines for Literature.

Early life and education

Francisco Arcellana was born September 6, 1916 in Sta. Cruz, Manila to parents Jose Cabaneiro Arcellana and Epifania Quino. He was the fourth of the 18 children. Arcellana bloomed early in his craft and prospered from his first schooling in Tondo until he entered the University of the Philippines (UP) as a pre-medical student in 1932. He developed an interest in writing while he was studying at the Manila West High School (now Torres High School) as an active staff of the the school organ The Torres Torch.

While in UP, Arcellana received an invitation to join the U.P. Writer's Club from Manuel Arguilla. This happened after his "trilogy of the turtles" appeared in the Literary Apprentice. Arcellana also marked the beginning of nontraditional forms and themes in Philippine literature when he edited and published the Expression in 1934. He graduated with a degree in philosophy in 1939 and later went into medical school.

He married Emerenciana Yuvencio with whom he had six children: Francisco Jr., Elizabeth, Jose Esteban, Maria Epifania, Juan Eugenio, Emerenciana Jr.


He worked as columnist in the Herald Midweek Magazine while in medical school. After the war, he returned in the academe as a fellow of the UP Department of English and Comparative Literature. He became the adviser of the Philippine Collegian and director of Creative Writing Center from 1979 to 1982.

In 1951, his short story “The Flowers of May” won first prize in the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature (see Palanca Awards). His work entitled the “Wing of Madness” made became second prize in the Philippine Free Press literary contest in 1953. His other noteworthy works include 'The Man Who Could Be Poe”, “Death is a Factory”, “Lina”, and “Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal”.

In 1956-1957, Arcellana served as a fellow in creative writing at the University of Iowa and Breadloaf Writers' Conference under a Rockefeller Foundation grant. In 1989, he received a doctorate in humane letters honoris causa from the University of the Philippines.

He pioneered the development of the short story as a lyrical prose-poetic form. For Arcellana, the pride of fiction is "that it is able to render truth, that is able to present reality." He has kept alive the experimental tradition in fiction, and has been most daring in exploring new literary forms to express the sensibility of the Filipino people. A brilliant craftsman, his works are now an indispensable part of tertiary-level-syllabi all over the country.

Arcellana died from renal failure and pneumonia on August 1, 2002 at the age of 85.


Arcellana's published books include:

  • Selected Stories (1962)
  • Poetry and Politics: The State of Original Writing in English in the Philippines Today (1977)
  • The Francisco Arcellana Sampler (1990).
  • Philippine PEN Anthology of Short Stories, editor (1962)
  • Fifteen Stories: Story Masters 5, editor (1973)

External links




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