The multi-awarded fiction writer played key role in using Cebuano-Bisaya to produce Cebu’s first native-language daily. He went into journalism but never left his first passion, literary writing.

INFLUENTIAL literary writer and Superbalita Cebu columnist Ernesto Degumbis Lariosa died on Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2019, after two weeks of fighting an illness. He was 74.

In 2006, Lariosa won the second prize in the Gawad Komisyon’s poetry contest in Cebuano.

On Aug. 15, 1995, Lariosa wrote in his “Puyra Buyag” column that he accepted the offer of then editor-in-chief Pachico A. Seares to become the language consultant of SuperbalitaCebu, the first daily (seven-days-a-week) newspaper in Cebuano language.

As the second Cebuano-Bisaya writer to serve as  language consultant of the paper, Lariosa, a native of  San Fernando, Cebu, wrote “Tamdanan,” or guidelines for reporters and editors on spelling and Cebuano grammar. He was instructed to produce “Tamdanan” by Seares, who wanted a guidebook for Superbalita  and other journalists writing in CebuanoBisaya.

 ​​​An ‘experiment

We were experimenting on the use of the native language in a daily newspaper, Seares, who implemented founding publisher Sonny Garcia’s mission for the paper, explained in an anniversary article in SuperB.

“We had no rules on grammar. We just told editors and reporters to be plain, direct and easy to read and understand.  Cebuano-Bisaya then was thought to be verbose, windy and deep for most media consumers. The primary purpose was to communicate.  The rules would come later.”

​​Lariosa crafted the rules based on actual news reports the Superbalita has been producing: actual cases of  lapses in stories because of the language problem.

“Mao kadto nga nagkaanam kahusay ang mga sinuwat diha sa Superbalita sa paggamit sa angayang gamiton nga mga pulong ug labi na sa espeling nga niadtong tungora gubot nga isyu lang gihapon,” read a portion of Lariosa’s column published in 2014.

“Crackshot and other stories” is an anthology of Lariosa’s original Cebuano stories translated into English by Hope Sabanpan Yu. It was published by the University of San Carlos Press in Cebu City in 2010.
(c)Cebuano Studies Center

​​​​Tapping fiction writers

Aside from improving the Superbalita Cebu journalists’ grasp with the native language, Lariosa also wrote opinion pieces for the paper.

It was a case of print journalism tapping a fiction writer for its thoroughly non-fiction work, a migration process that came early in the SunStar papers, which saw the benefit of using literary writers in news media, Seares said. But Lariosa never left fiction writing, his first passion.

Lariosa ended his stint as language consultant in August 2005. His compatriot in creative writing, Lamberto Ceballos, replaced him.

Last column: about Insek

Lariosa was also the former information officer of the National Food Authority in Central Visayas.

His last column for Superbalita Cebu, “Insek midagsangsa ato,” appeared on the paper’s Aug. 7, 2019 issue.

A pioneering member of the Bathalan-ong Halad saDagang (Bathalad) Sugbo, Lariosa was a mentor to young writers who have passion for creative writing and the Cebuano Language.

Lariosa won multiple awards for his literary and journalistic endeavors.

During the Bathalad Sugbo Golden Jubilee Convention on Feb. 25, 2019, Lariosa was honored as one of the Top 15 Literary Writers in Cebuano in the Post-War Era.


He took home the Cebu Archdiocesan Mass Media Award twice for Best in Column Writing in 2010 and 2013.

The Cebu City Council passed a resolution in 2003, praising him as “vanguard of Cebuano Literature” for winning the Palanca thrice.

He was raised to the Hall of Fame in Cebuano Poetry by Bathalad Sugbo in 2006.

​​​​First Cebuano epic

Lariosa wrote the first Cebuano epic, “Kalisub.” The the two-volume masterwork has 5,000 lines. The first volume was serially published  by Bisaya Magazine.

“Bangaw sa Alimungaw,” is the first-ever book of poetry of Ernesto Lariosa. He completed the collection just before he was confined in a private hospital in Naga City, Cebu on Aug. 6, 2019. The book’s launch was scheduled on Saturday, Aug. 24, during the golden jubilee event of creative writers’ group Bathalan-ong Halad sa Dagang (Bathalad) Sugbo at the Cebu Normal University in Cebu City. The book cover art and design is SunStar Cebu’s art chief Josua Cabrera.

The prolific writer completed his first-ever book of poetry, “Bangaw sa Alimungaw,” a few weeks before he was admitted to a private hospital.

The launching of the book will push through on Saturday, Aug. 24, during the Bathalad Sugbo’s event celebrating its 50 years at the Tandang Sora Hall of Cebu Normal University in Cebu City.


Kevin A Lagunda is a sub-editor at Superbalita Cebu