INSTEAD of giving away calendars and handbills, a young writer running for councilor in Dumangas town, 42 kilometers north of Iloilo City, distributes a collection of his award-winning short stories to voters.
Peter Solis Nery, 32, is running under the Puwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP), along with established politicians in the town. His campaign style, however, differs because his Hiligaynon short stories were welcomed not only because they are a novelty on the campaign trail but also because they are a rare find in rural areas that hardly have access to reading materials.
“The parents were surprised that their children know me. I read poetry and did story-telling before elementary school pupils in Dumangas,” said Nery, who is currently the entertainment editor of The News Today, a weekly paper in Iloilo.
Nery’s tract is a 20-page booklet titled “Fantasia” that includes his photos; his two short stories – Lirio, and Ang Pangayaw; and his life story. He had distributed some 3,000 copies in Dumangas, and planned to reprint a few thousand more. There are about 28,000 voters in the town.
Nery made a name for himself by winning third prize in the 1998 Centennial Literary Prize for script writing. Also in that year, Nery won the Palanca Award, his first, for his short story Lirio.
His recent awards include another Palanca award for the short story Ang Pangayaw, and a grant from the Cultural Center of the Philippine for Hiligaynon poetry.
Lirio and Ang Pangayaw are stories that do not only entertain but also settle in the minds of readers long after their telling. Lirio is a tragic story of a deaf-mute, while Ang Pangayaw is populated with supernatural heroes of age-old legends. Both stories offer lessons on how to negotiate many maladies that readers face in this millennium.
From his winnings, Nery was able to travel to the United States where he studied filmmaking and acting. He appeared in cameo roles for several independent filmmakers in Hollywood. He also became a poetry reader and stand-up comedian in clubs in Santa Monica and Los Angeles City.
Nery honed his writing and acting abilities when he was a student at the UP Visayas. He excelled in both academics and student activities. He was the university’s most outstanding graduate in 1990.
In answer to what he felt was a spiritual calling, Nery joined the Society of Missions for Africa, and studied philosophy at Christ the King Mission of the SVD in Quezon City. He was sent to Macau and Hong Kong where he worked with overseas contract workers as a missionary.
Nery taught at the Jesuit-run Sta. Maria Catholic School in Iloilo City, and joined the UP Visayas as a philosophy instructor in 1997. In between teaching and church work, he wrote and published several titles.
Getting into politics is also Nery’s way of responding to a call to do public service.
If he wins, Nery plans to “retire” from politics after a three-year-term. By then, he will be 35, a time for him to fulfill another calling – to enter a monastery.
© Ma. Diosa Labiste & Philippine Daily Inquirer: March 31, 2001