Lawyer Rebecca E. Khan may have spent the last eight years reading and writing in highly technical legalese, but that clearly hasn’t stifled her creativity—Khan is the first-place winner in the Short Story in English category at this year’s Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards, the country’s most prestigious literary prize.
Her winning story “In Transit” is about a contractual World Bank employee who drops everything in Washington D.C. and rushes to Manila with only the clothes on her back to be with her mother as her father undergoes heart surgery.
“This is very meaningful for me because I’ve been practicing law for eight years and as you can imagine, the hectic schedule and the language that we use in the practice of law is very different from creative writing,” she told GMA News Online.
“In litigation you lay all your arguments out and you explain everything, but in fiction writing, what you don’t put on the page is as important as what you put on the page. It’s been a struggle to return to that kind of writing so this award is very meaningful because I’ve been able to prove to myself that I can still write creatively,” she said.
For Khan and many other writers who took home the coveted award this year, the Palanca they received at the awarding ceremonies Saturday evening, September 1, was their first.
Of the 58 winning writers, 29 were first-time winners. The other half added new Palancas to their shelf of literary awards.
Nery elevated to Hall of Fame
Among the Palanca veterans is Peter Solis Nery, who was inducted to the Palanca Hall of Fame after clinching his fifth first prize win this year. He joined the likes of previous awardees and noted writers Alfred “Krip” Yuson, Isagani R. Cruz, Luisa Igloria, Gregorio Brillantes, and Cirilo Bautista among others.
Nery won first place this year in the Poetry for Children in English category for his collection “Punctuation,” whose eponymous poem brings a grammar lesson to life as it adds color and character to something as mundane as punctuation marks. The poem was read at the ceremonies by poet Marjorie Evasco and actor Miguel Faustmann, to the delight of the audience.
Nery told GMA News Online that he sees his fifth win as an elevation of his responsibility as a writer.
“Kasi tinitingala ko talaga yung Palanca, so for me it’s more of getting a new responsibility more than enjoying the privileges. From now on, I need to be more careful, more crafty, to outdo everything that I’ve done in the past, so pangalagaan din ang pangalan ng Palanca,” he said.
“I’ve always respected the Palanca and I think it’s still the best literary contest in the country and probably the greatest standard that we have for Filipino writers,” he added.
However, he advised young writers to not be preoccupied with trying to achieve Hall of Fame status, but simply to enjoy the craft.
“I think that the drive should not be to achieve the Hall of Fame. I think that the drive should just be to enjoy writing primarily. Pero sa akin importante din kasi yung may message, yung may tinuturo, educating people through literature,” he shared.
Palanca Foundation director-general Sylvia Palanca-Quirino noted that more young writers enter their works in the competition each year, and most of the winning writers this year are 30 years old or younger.
“These numbers signify and reaffirm each year that there is a continuous, consistent passing of the torch among the bearers of the light that is our literature,” the director-general said.
The Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature was established in 1950, and is considered by many writers and scholars to be the most prestigious literary award in the country.
This year, the awards received a total of 1,077 entries in 20 categories. Winning works are archived by the Palanca Foundation and are made accessible to the public through the Foundation library and the official Palanca website.
© Amanda Lago & GMA News : September 3, 2012