Rolando Santos Tinio

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Rolando Santos Tinio (March 5, 1937 - July 7, 1997) was a Filipino writer, actor, director, critic and essayist. He translated many western classic plays, such as the works of Shakespeare and Sophocles, into Tagalog.

Early Life

Tinio was born in Gagalangin, Tondo, Manila to Dominador Tinio and Marciana Santos. He was related to the Ilocos General Manuel Bundoc Tinio. As a child, Tinio showed interest in organizing and directing costumed celebrations with his friends. He would participate as an actor and a scriptwriter for school plays in Lakandula Elementary School in Tondo (1948) and Letran High School (1951). This later grew into a love for the Philippine theater and movie industry.

He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy at the University of Sto. Tomas, graduating with the honor of 'magna cum laude' in 1955 and a Master’s degree in Creative Writing: Poetry at the State University of Iowa in 1968. He took a non-degree course in Theater Arts at Bristol University in 1968.


He taught English, Filipino and Theater Arts at the Ateneo de Manila University in 1958. He was the head of Department of English, and later, the Department of Filipino until his retirement in 1975.

Transcending Writing Styles

One of his best works was produced during his time in Iowa called “Rage and Ritual”, which subsequently won an award from the University of the Philippines. According to Bienvenido Lumbera, his writing was very “European”, despite his Filipino origins. At that time, Tinio believed that the Tagalog language was inadequate in expressing the theme of his work. He proved this by writing an article in the Philippine Studies journal. Parts of English poems were translated into Tagalog to demonstrate that the message was not properly conveyed when the native language was used.

However, the constant criticisms caused Tinio to try writing in Tagalog in the 1960s. His next batch of poems, which he named “'Bagay'” (lit. “Thing” or “Object”), contained the first appearance of the controversial 'Taglish', in an attempt to portray the tone of middle-class Filipino. Another poetry collection was released in 1972, called “'Sitsit sa Kuliglig'” (lit. “Whistling at Cicadas”), which depicted the life of a person who grew up in Tondo, then resided in Loyola Heights.

His poems were well-received by readers, and he continued writing collections such as “'Dunung-Dunungan'” (lit. “Pedantry”) in 1975, “'Kristal na Uniberso'” (lit. Crystal Universe) in 1989, and “Trick of Mirrors” in 1993.

His success in writing Tagalog poems later made him write an essay about his personal transition on “A Matter of Language, Where English Fails”, in 1990.

Recreating the Philippine Theater

Tinio wrote, directed and designed many of the plays presented in the Ateneo Experimental Theater. One of his astounding productions was “Oedipus Rex”, wherein he replaced the Greek setting with a more industrialized rendition by using metals such as steel pipes on the set.

In “?”, he made the actors interact with the audience and included their reactions in the flow of the play. There was no storyline, as the “meaning” of the play depended on the actions of the actors and the responses of the audience.

Tinio translated western plays and rendered them in a Filipino setting, such as “'Laruang Kristal'” (lit. “Glass Menagerie”), and “'Pahimakas sa Isang Ahente'” (lit. “Death of a Salesman”), in 1966. In 1967, he wrote “'Paghihintay kay Godo'” (lit. “Waiting for Godo”), and “Miss Julie.”

The Profound Lyricist

Tinio composed a number of songs such as “'Alay Kapwa'”, “'Bakit Mrs. Ka'”, "Go With the Wind", “'Ibig Kong Ibigin Ka'” (lit. “I Long to Love You”), “'Matagal Na Rin'” (lit. “Its Been Long”), “'Minsan Pa'”, “'Pagsinta'y Pang-araw At Ulan'”, “'Pangako'” (lit. “Promise”), and “'Suwerte Suwerte Lang'” (lit. “Just Luck”).

Personal Life

Tinio was married to Ella Luansing, Tinio's leading actress in his plays in 'Teatro Pilipino'. He fathered two children, Antonio and Victoria. Unfortunately, operations came to a close when Luansing got into a car accident which led to her death in 1991. Tinio made a farewell performance in February 1992 by playing Shakespere's “'Ikalabindalawang Gabi'” (“Twelfth Night”), wherein many audiences claimed to have seen Luansing's ghost on stage.


Tinio was a distinguished man of theater during his time, so much so that he was named one of the “Ten Outstanding Young Men of 1967”. He received various accolades such as: 'Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan' from the Manila City government in 1967, the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards in 1975 for his work in 'Labingdalawang Tula' (lit. “12 Poems”), 'Gantimpalang Quezon sa Panitikan' in 1977, “'Gawad CCP Para sa Sining' for Theater” from the Cultural Center of the Philippines in 1993, and the FAMAS Award for his work on “'Sidhi'” in 1999.

Aside from this, he and his work were featured in newspaper columns such as “Touchstones” in Metro Manila (1977), “Totally Tinio” for the Manila Chronicles (1986 – 1987, 1990), and “In Black and White” for the Philippine Daily Globe (1987 – 1989).

He was posthumously declared as a National Artist of the Philippines for Theater and Literature in 1997.


  • "Rolando Tinio." Online Registry of Filipino Musical Artists and their Works. Organisasyon ng Pilipinong Mangaawit [1] (Accessed on 19 August 2010).
  • "Rolando Tinio's Valediction sa Hillcrest." LOL Literatures in Other Languages. Isagani R. Cruz. [2] (Accessed on 19 August 2010).
  • "Rolando Tinio." World Lingo. [3] (Accessed on 19 August 2010).
  • "Tito Rollie's Life before Teatro Pilipino." Teatro Pilipino. [4] (Accessed on 19 August 2010).
  • "Tuesdays with Morrie Manila Actor Collapses Onstage." The Bachelor Girl. [5] (Accessed on 19 August 2010).

External Link

  • “The Art of Translation.” ‘The Manila Times’. [6] (Accessed on 19 August 2010).