When Ilonggo writer Peter Solis Nery won his first Palanca gold medal for his short story in Hiligaynon in 1998, he was delirious because every writer worth his title covets a Palanca Award, the longest-running and most prestigious literary award in the country that is often called “the Pulitzer Prize of the Philippines.”
Did he ever see himself winning five golds to join the elite circle of Filipino writers in the Palanca Hall of Fame at that time? No, his philosophy has always been, “If the Palanca is so prestigious, why does anyone need more than one?” but it surely did encourage him to write more. In recent years, he has always lamented that “in a country where writers are often poor, and people do not really buy books, the Palanca Awards was [his] only great incentive to write creatively.”
Fourteen years later, and after winning a total of 11 Palanca awards, including a fifth first prize this year for poetry written for children in English, Nery is still wildly ecstatic. “I never imagined I would be inducted to the Hall of Fame with a win in poetry [!], and in English [!], too! Believe it or not, I joined the Palanca contests only because, and only after, they had opened a category in Hiligaynon. I only wanted to be recognized as a great writer in Hiligaynon, but I guess it pays to be bilingual, or trilingual, or multilingual, in my case.”
Nery’s first four Palanca awards were for short stories in Hiligaynon, two of which were first prize winners for “Lirio” (1998) and “Candido” (2007). In 2008, he won a gold medal for full-length play in English for his “The Passion of Jovita Fuentes.” His other wins in English include awards for his one-act play “The Wide Ionian Sea” (2010), and poetry written for children—last year’s “The Shape of Happiness,” and this year’s gold medalist “Punctuation.” In addition to the first prize for “Punctuation,” Nery also won second prize for the category tulang pambata in Filipino this year.
Master class in drama
Nery will hold a Master Class in Drama (Stage Writing, Performance, and Production) on September 6, Thursday, at the Oton National High School. The event, sponsored by the Department of Education Iloilo Division, will be attended by secondary school English and Creative Writing teachers from all over the province.
The 2012 Palanca Hall of Famer, who hails from Dumangas, Iloilo, and who is now based in Los Angeles, California as an orthopedic nurse, regularly comes home to the country to deliver master classes in various and diverse disciplines. Last year, he also toured a Master Class on Writing Great Sentences for teachers and students all over Western Visayas.
Nery is a proud member of the Dramatist Guild of America since 2009.
© The News Today: September 4, 2012