By Marivir R. Montebon
New York – A colleague at the Cebu media once confided to me, ‘We all love Simeon Dumdum. We scamper to edit his copy, because we don’t just edit it, we just enjoy it.’
Before the readers, the editors are the first to love Simeon Dumdum, Jr. because they glide on his flawless composition of an article. Once endeared by the media, any writer is easily accepted by the reading public. And such of course, is Simeon Dumdum, a celebrated poet and respected judge in Cebu City where he served as Regional Trial Court Executive Judge.
He was born in the northern town of Balamban, Cebu on March 7, 1948, where he grew up and had his schooling in Catholic schools. He attended St. Francis Academy in high school and at St. Clement’s College in Iloilo City, where he did a year of college. In Ireland, he went to University College in Galway.
For some twist of fate, Dumdum may have been a priest, but left the seminary to take up law and later became a respected lawyer and judge.
While practicing the legal craft, Dumdum has published five books – The Gift of Sleep (poems), Third World Opera (poems), Love in the Time of the Camera (essays), Selected Poems and New (poems), and My Pledge of Love Cannot be Broken (essays).
He won the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for English poetry five times,and the Manila Critics Circle’s National Book Award three times. In 2005, he received a medallion for writing the best decision in a criminal case, second level courts, in the Judicial Excellence Awards sponsored by the Supreme Court of the Philippines.
OSM! had the opportunity to interview him.
1. What is the greatest inspiration for you when you write your poems?
I wait for the moment when I ‘see”–when I find new relationships, arrangements, meanings in the familiar world. It is not so much inspiration as discovery that prompts me to write a poem.
2. As a professional writer, does inspiration matter more than deadline? or is deadline an inspiration itself?
As regards the writing of poems, I set my own deadlines, but they are not strictly deadlines, more of an intention or mood induced purely for the purpose of opening the tap of creative juices within my subconscious.
3. And how is it that you became a Judge, it is a totally different world from literature and poetry?
I was a poet before I became a judge, and even now I still write poems. The law and literature are just aspects of the same life and do not cancel each other out. In fact, they somehow reinforce each other.
4. Which self-expression are you happiest? As a Judge or Poet?
Being a judge has its own fulfillment. If I may use an analogy from the Gospels, as judge I am like Martha, as poet, like Mary.
5. How does one become a celebrated writer? It is not something to bring in so much food on the table, right? But what is it for, its purpose, meaning?
One becomes a true human being first before one, if one has the inclination, becomes a writer. Whether one becomes a celebrated writer or not is for the future to decide. Art makes one rich, not materially but spiritually.
6. Advice to young aspiring poets and writers…how to better their craft.