Biography • Peter Solis Nery
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Peter Solis Nery

(born 6 January 1969) is an award-winning Filipino poet, fictionist, and author. Writing in his native Hiligaynon language, he has won such prestigious literary contests as the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature, the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Literary Grant, and the All-Western Visayas Literary Contest of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA). He was inducted into the Palanca Awards Hall of Fame in 2012.

Diversifying into English and Filipino, he has authored over 20 books, and wrote screenplays that won the Philippine Centennial Literary Prize of 1998, the 1998 Film Development Foundation of the Philippines’ Screenwriting Contest, the 2001 Cinemanila International Film Festival Scriptwriting Competition, and the 2012 Film Development Council of the Philippines’ First Sineng Pambansa National Film Competition. He wrote and edited wide circulation newspapers in Iloilo City before becoming a nurse in the United States. As a screen actor, Peter briefly appears in Tikoy Aguiluz’s film on cybersex, www.XXX.com (Maverick Films, 2003), of which he was also the Assistant Director. He also has a cameo performance in Gugma sa Panahon sang Bakunawa (Graydonnery Artists and DreamWings Productions, 2012), the first full-length feature film that he wrote, directed, and produced.

Peter worked as an orthopedic nurse in Los Angeles, California for seven years before moving to Reisterstown, Maryland, where he now lives. He continues to write in English and Hiligaynon.



Early life and education

Peter was born and raised in the coastal town of Dumangas, Iloilo on the island of Panay in central Philippines. The eldest son of the late Cecilino Divinagracia Nery, and the former Thelma Ramirez Solis, both public school teachers, he has four siblings: Irene Cecile (now Irene Ramos), Antonio, Rocky, and Maricel (now Maricel Centeno).

Peter attended primary school at the Dumangas Central Elementary School, and completed his secondary education at the Dumangas Polytechnic College (now Iloilo State College of Fisheries), where he was consistently first honor from grade one until his high school graduation. He finished his Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences at the University of the Philippines in the Visayas, where he was named Most Outstanding Student (1989), and Most Outstanding Graduate of 1990. He also received the President’s Award of Merit as Outstanding Student in his graduation year.

While attending public school, Peter honed his talent for writing. He was editor of his school publications from elementary to college, and multi-awarded in the journalistic genre of news writing, feature writing, editorial writing, and editorial cartooning. Under his editorship, he led the UPV college publication Pagbutlak to become the region’s best at the 1989 College Press Awards. Peter also attended the SVD Christ the King Mission Seminary in Quezon City where he took an Associate in Philosophy degree in 1992-1993. In 2004, he earned his Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from the West Negros College (now West Negros University) in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental.



Writing career

After the People’s Power EDSA Revolution of 1986, Peter found himself on the crest of a new wave in Philippine literature. Post-EDSA, there was a resurgence of interest in regional writing. The administration of President Cory Aquino also declared a Decade of Nationalism. At UP, Peter was lucky to meet Leoncio Deriada who encouraged him to write in the Hiligaynon. Peter won his first national award in writing from the CCP for his poetry in Hiligaynon, Mga Ambahanon kag Pangamuyo sang Bata nga Nalimtan sa Wayang [Songs and Prayers of a Child Forgotten in the Fields] in 1992. For his performance poetry Si Eva, si Delilah, si Ruth, kag ang Alput [Eva, Delilah, Ruth, and the Prostitute] at the Premio Operiano Italia, he was crowned Hari sang Binalaybay [King of Hiligaynon Poetry] in 1993, a title he held until 1998. Out of his student activism days at the university (He espoused the issues of the US military bases, Iloilo’s street children, and ecological awareness.), he wrote his first book, I Flew a Kite for Pepe. He admits, “I cringe now at my boldness to call it poetry then, but I always thought that the book has a big heart. I still cry when I read it.” I Flew a Kite for Pepe was published by New Day Publishers in 1993. It was followed by his earth song and hymn to the planet, First Few Notes of a Green Symphony (1994).

When Gloria F. Rodriguez (1997 Manila Critics’ Circle Lifetime Achievement Awardee for Publishing) retired from New Day in 1993, she established her own publishing house, Giraffe Books. Peter was among the first authors she published; the book was First Few Notes of a Green Symphony, which contained some translations and reworking of poems from his 1992 CCP Literature Grant. While working as a religious missionary in Macau, Peter became more introspective and started his memoirs. The Essential Thoughts of a Purple Cat was published by Giraffe Books in 1996; Moon River, Butterflies, and Me by New Day in 1997; and My Life as a Hermit again by Giraffe in 1998.

In 1995, he won the NCCA Western Visayas Poetry Competition for his collection Umanhon nga Gugma [Love of the Rural Folks]. Some of the poems were translated, reworked, and included in his provocative collection, Rated R (Giraffe Books, 1997). Peter Published four titles in 1997: the playful poetry collection Shy Evocations of Childhood and other Poems that Came under Hypnosis, and Rated R for Giraffe; Shorts, a collection of haiku-like poems, and the memoir Moon River, Butterflies, and Me for New Day.

1998 was a big year for Peter’s writing career. Aside from publishing the memoir My Life as a Hermit, and the collection of lyric poems Fireflies for a Yuppie (both for Giraffe Books), Peter won his first Palanca gold medal for his magical realist Hiligaynon short story Lirio, about a deaf-mute who is a victim of marital rape. The Palanca is considered as the Philippine equivalent to the Pulitzer Prize, a standard by which all Filipino writers are measured. Furthermore, his first screenplay, Buyong, about the Katipunero revolutionary from Aklan won big as a third prize winner in the screenplay category of the Centennial Literary Prize, the biggest literary prize in the history of the Philippines. The Centennial Literary Prize awarded P1 Million Pesos to first prize winners, and half a million for third prize.

With the money he won, Peter visited the United States. Later that year, his second screenplay, Tayo na sa Buwan [Let’s Go to the Moon], won an honorable mention at the Film Development Foundation of the Philippines.

Upon his return to the Philippines in 1999, Peter was offered a job as a newspaper columnist and entertainment editor of The News Today, which was ultimately launched in 2000. With the publisher’s assurance that he would be given blanket authority over the pages that he edited, Peter started a sexy ego-tripping writing stance that was later described as “phenomenal” and “unprecendented in Ilonggo journalism.”

Writing with an edge, and with a bold attitude adapted from the liberal newspapers and magazines in the United States, Peter became a newspaper icon, and was treated as a celebrity writer.

Another Palanca win for his sci-fi story Ang Pangayaw [The Stranger] in 2000 solidified his position and quenched the question whether he could write “properly.”

Peter started his own DreamWings Publishing, and produced A Loneliness Greater than Love (2000), and exploration of homoerotic themes; and Fantasia (2000), a collection of his award-winning fiction. In 2001, DreamWings published Rain as Gentle as Tears, a sequel to his 1997 Shorts collection; and The Prince of Ngoyngoy [The Prince of Sob], a collection of lyric poems in Hiligaynon that established Peter as the Ilonggo epitome of sob poetry.

Celebrity status at hand, Peter left The News Today in 2003 for The Guardian (now The Daily Guardian) to reprise his role as premier agent provocateur of Iloilo City, and the whole Western Visayas. His columns, teetering between Carrie Bradshaw’s relationship meditations in Sex and the City, and bawdier versions of the funny essays of David Sedaris, have become much anticipated and widely followed by readers from all walks of life.

In 2003, DreamWings published Pierre: The Magazine of Peter Solis Nery. It delivered three monthly issues.

Finally, in 2005, Peter moved to Panay News, Western Visayas’ oldest and most widely circulated newspaper. By that time, he was already licensed to practice nursing in the Philippines. When the opportunity came in 2006, he went to the United States, took the US nursing licensure exam, passed, found a hospital employer, and stayed to work.

For 100 days in 2005, Peter endeavored to write the 100 Erotic Sonnets in Hiligaynon. He called it Kakunyag [Thrill]. It was launched in a concert, probably the biggest literary event of the 2006 National Arts Month in Iloilo, and was serialized in the newspaper Hublas nga Kamatuoran [The Naked Truth] starting March 2006.

Peter won another Palanca in 2006 for his Hiligaynon psycho-thriller short story Ang Kapid [The Twins]. The win provided him further encouragement to persevere in writing Hiligaynon.

In 2007, Peter won his second Palanca gold for his historical Hiligaynon short story Candido, about the anting-anting [amulets] of the revolutionary Candido Iban. The following year, he won his third Palanca gold for his full-length play in English, The Passion of Jovita Fuentes (published by New Day in 2009), about the tragic love affair of the first Filipino international opera diva and first female National Artist in Music. Peter also completed translation of his 100 erotic sonnets in Hiligaynon into English in 2008.

In 2011, Peter won his fourth Palanca gold for his Hiligaynon short story, Donato Bugtot, about a despised twin brother who donated a kidney to his handsome but arrogant twin. He also posted two second prizes at the Palanca that year for categories in English: poetry for children and full-length play.

Continuing his winning streak, he won his fifth gold and was elevated to the Palanca Awards Hall of Fame for his Punctuation, a collection of Poetry for Children in English, in 2012. In the same year, he also won for his Hiligaynon screenplay Gugma sa Panahon sang Bakunawa at the FDCP First Sineng Pambansa National Competition. The win awarded him money with which he made the film from his own script. The film premiered at the Sineng Pambansa Film Festival in July 2012, and has been shown in festival circuits in the Philippines, and abroad.

Peter won his sixth Palanca gold in 2013 for his Hiligaynon short story, Si Padre Olan kag ang Dios, about a priest, his faith, church politics, and the problem of drought.


Other Careers

While in college, Peter worked part-time as Editor of Voices and Tingog sang Kabataan for Stop Trafficking of Pilipinos (STOP) Foundation in Iloilo City. He was also the Project Officer for the Streetchildren Program.

In 1991, he attended the seminary, and two years later, went on a religious mission in Macau. In a ministry of accompaniment to the Filipino migrant workers in Macau and Hong Kong, Peter held a teaching job at the Scared Heart Canossian College, in addition to organizing prayer communities and church choirs. At the Canossian College, he taught secondary school English Grammar, Literature, and Biology.

Upon his repatriation in 1995, Peter became a recluse and wrote many of his published work. He came out of his self-imposed isolation in 1996, and taught high school English, World Literature, and Christian Living at Santa Maria Catholic School (now Ateneo de Iloilo). In 1997, he taught Philosophy at the University of the Philippines.

While teaching, Peter directed and acted in many school productions. He played Biff Loman in Santa Maria’s production of Death of a Salesman, and directed Edmond Rostand’s The Romancers for the senior class of the same school. For the Intermedius at UPV, he directed and acted in Pitik-Bulag sa Buwan ng Pebrero.
Peter did stand-up comedy and performed regularly at the now defunct Graciano Bar and grill in Jaro, Iloilo City from 1997 until his departure for the US in 1998. Upon his return to Iloilo in 1999, he performed at arranged capacities in such varied venues as Amigo Terrace Hotel, Hafa Adai Café, Sisa Bar, Cicada Bar, Zuba, Hite, and Riverside Bar, among many others.

In his hometown of Dumangas, Peter is a reputable choreographer, director, and performer. He played Jesus Christ in Lenten and Easter celebrations, and directed a most lavish coronation pageant for the millennium town fiesta.
Aside from playing Gary Estrada’s sidekick in the film that launched the movie career of FHM (Philippines) cover girl Juliana Palermo, Tikoy Aguiluz’s www.xxx.com (Maverick Films, 2003), Peter was also the film’s Assistant Director. In addition, Peter has acted and collaborated in several other independent films locally in the Philippines, and abroad.


Nursing Career

While investigating the phenomenon of doctors getting into nursing schools, Peter enrolled in Nursing as he continued to write for the newspaper.  He completed his Bachelor of Science in Nursing in October 2004, and became a Registered Nurse in the Philippines in February 2005. He went to the United States in February 2006, and became a Registered Nurse in California in May of the same year. He started working as an orthopedic nurse in downtown Los Angeles in 2007.

In October 2008, Peter was given the Daisy Award for Extraordinary Nurses by the White Memorial Medical Center and the DAISY Foundation, a foundation for the elimination of Diseases Attacking the Immune System in memory of J. Patrick Barnes. Peter was honored for his extraordinary care, compassion, and sensitivity to the needs of his patients and their families. He was presented a unique hand-carved Shona (a Zimbabwe tribe) stone sculpture entitled A Healer's Touch; proceeds from the purchase of the sculpture helped the artists’ families in Zimbabwe.


Champion of Hiligaynon

Right after his induction to the Palanca Awards Hall of Fame, Peter established The Peter Solis Nery Foundation for Hiligaynon Literature and the Arts, Inc. in September 2012. The Foundation, which aims to promote, preserve, and propagate Hiligaynon literature, and Filipino art and culture, through research, publications, productions, education, and cultural dissemination, was incorporated by the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission on November 5, 2012.

In 2013, the Foundation launched the literary contest, Peter’s Prize, starting with categories for Very, Very Short Story, and Love Poetry. Following their success, categories for Children’s Stories, Poetry for Children, and The Saddest Love Story Ever Told were opened in 2014.

In addition, the Foundation also went on to publish books of the new Hiligaynon writings collected from the Peter’s Prize contests. While editing the anthologies, Peter clarified and revolutionized the Hiligaynon language for the globally aware generation to accommodate concepts, ideas, and advances in cybercommunications and global industrialization. He advocated the new Hiligaynon orthography upgrading the alphabet from 20 to 28 letters in the tradition of the new Filipino alphabet established in 1987. He also formally rejected the use of diacritics or stress marks, a growing trend already, if the 48 authors from Peter’s Prize are to be believed (only one out of the 48 used stress marks). His effort is called The Hiligaynon Revolution of 2014, and can be seen in five or six books published by his Foundation on 2014 alone.

Peter is an independent contractor and oral proficiency interviewer in Hiligaynon accredited by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) since January 2013. Aside from winning six Palanca awards, four of them gold medals, for his Hiligaynon short stories, he also has four previous books in Hiligaynon before his so-called Hiligaynon Revolution of 2014: Fantasia (2000), The Prince of Ngoyngoy (2001), Kakunyag (2012), and Stories in Mellifluous Language: Hiligaynon Short Stories (2012).

As a primary and secondary producer, being a prolific writer and publisher of Hiligaynon literature, he is positive that his Hiligaynon Revolution will gain ground before long. After all, he says, orthography is ultimately controlled by those who write, and especially those who publish, literature in the language.

Peter is also at work for the definitive Hiligaynon dictionary for this, and the future generations. 

 

© Randy Graydon [original 2010, updated 2014]