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Young Filipino teen bags top spot at spoken poetry at Emirates Festival of Literature 2021

A 17-year-old teen was recently recognized as the only Filipino to have won the top spot at the Emirates Literature Festival’s Spoken Poetry competition for his bracket that witnessed over 700 competitors from different nationalities across various UAE schools.

Hayden Christian Villarico, student of the United International Private School won first place at the Interschool Emirates NBD Poetry Competition, English age group 14-18 for his masterful storytelling of Joy Harjo’s poem, “Remember”

Hayden said that he chose the poem for its relevance to the times and its words that strike the hearts of the masses with a message that centers on the importance of remembering and living your memories and the true value of an individual’s existence.

“Each verse starts with it, and each verse spoke of the various aspects of life that has devised creation on this earth; be it the things, animals, and the people that are on it. I chose it, because it was both beautiful and relevant to our current situation. Having the ability to remember and live through our own memories is a gift, and especially at a time where hopelessness is eager to clog our lives, this poem taught how it is important to look around us and know that our existence is of greater worth to the people we love and the things we cherish,” said Hayden.

Hayden’s grandmother, Leticia, highlighted that her grandson was able to deliver and tell the story of the poem with a heartfelt interpretation.

“He pulled in the listeners and got them to listen to each and every word through his emotional response to the ideas of the poem. It was about the importance and love for God’s creation, its beauty and relevance to all of us. When Hayden’s name was called, I was elated and proud. Being a 1st placer and the only Filipino winner in this annual competition to celebrate spoken poetry makes me more proud – as being a Filipino. This shows that Filipinos have special talents in excelling in different fields and competitions, and that is God’s gift given to us.” said Leticia.

The teenager’s success also brought joy to his grandfather, Florencio, who hopes for Hayden to continue making strides in spreading kindness and positivity to those who will witness his prowess in poetry.

“My message to Hayden is to continue doing his best in any competition through being driven by self-motivation and inspired by a positive outlook in life. Always continue to be an inspiration to the young generation that every poem and its words have a special message and meaning that have to be conveyed clearly to connect people. Hayden has to continue to be a good student, stay humble and a God-fearing individual. He needs to sustain this positive character and good morals so that he can achieve success in any future endeavors in life,” said Florencio.

Hayden hopes that this win marks the beginning of his journey in telling and sharing stories from the heart.

“The success of writing a poem or reciting one does not rely solely on complexity and aesthetic, but rather the connection you as an artist have towards your own work. Though we are just restricted to words, this is an art form; you are in charge of adding color and shapes. Please write or recite from the heart, from what you are feeling; it can be uncomfortable, but you are offering a piece of yourself to a vast audience that are willing to listen and be healed with your message. If you are passionate, your capabilities will push you further in doing good,” said Hayden.


Neil Bie

Neil Bie is the Assistant Editor for The Filipino Times, responsible for gathering news that will resonate among OFW readers in the UAE, Philippines, and around 200 countries, where the platform reaches both Filipinos and worldwide audiences. ||| Get in touch with Neil at: Facebook: Neil Bie ||| Email: [email protected]||| or by sending a message to the Facebook page of The Filipino Times at:

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