Peter Pumpkin Head

Or, whosoever eats my dust gets the last gas

The only thing that writer Peter Solis Nery hasn’t done is getting himself crucified. He has gone in isolation as a missionary, grown his hair and beard long like a hermit, studied yoga and transcendental meditation, practiced kama sutra, sung the cabaret, stripped in parks and cafes, launched a political and sexual protest, mixed music as a DJ, published books of prose and poetry, loved and lost men, women, and everyone else in between.

He has just completed an opus of 100 erotic sonnets. The poems transgress the limits of conventional hetero, homo, and fetishist relationships. If it’s true he intends to make a blue film starring his chosen friends, chances are he’s halfway through. He always works ahead of time. Nothing can stop Nery’s mental fat from oiling his brains.

Peter Nery can afford to lead the life that he does because that is his only concern. Even while in nursing school, he couldn’t stop turning ideas over in his head. Charge it to poetry that the room he rents has no windows; to theater that he leads his college’s cheering squad (at age 35); to dance that he gyrates the crowd into oblivion at a disco depot.

Sociable and often flamboyant, Peter Nery calls attention to himself almost all the time. His flair for the King’s English at moments of high emotion turns heads and breeds contempt.

But Peter Nery walks the talk. He is never apologetic for any of that. He foreplays under a tree with a fellow poet in Malate. He hosts a bed-in at his three-story den in Dumangas, Iloilo. He treats derelicts to lunch in Sampaloc. He crashes and burns for love. And this is the only form of torture he wants to die of over and over again.
For all the love-hate relationships he keeps with his people, not quite anyone has matched Peter Nery’s artistic generosity to write about Iloilo. Many of his works are unread at so-called institutions of higher learning. Which is why his effort at suiting up to popular forms such as adult-themed magazines (Pierre), chapbooks (The Prince of Ngoyngoy, A Loneliness Greater Than Love, Fantasia) calls the serious writers’ politics into question. For who are they writing is best answered by the volumes of books gathering dust in the university library in opposition to Peter Nery’s books passing hands at the National University of Singapore, or the University of California in Los Angeles, or Harvard.

Peter can get way with literary fame without help from literature teachers. He trusts nothing but his instincts. So in a bid for little power, he distributes copies of his short fiction several days before a municipal election. He loses, yes, and acquires more foes than friends, but his sorry state fires up a collection of magical realism stories.

Peter Nery proves a major irritant to the mediocre and insecure. He speaks about his art with a flourish that is often mistaken for blind pride. But so does everybody who speaks his mind. No self-respecting cultured person should take offense at that.
But invariably Nery gets into squabbles over poetics and politics. The accusation goes, for instance, that while he claims he has started the sexual revolution in Iloilo, he does not have a decent sex life himself. Nery laughs off the pathetic stupidity behind that statement. It’s as if sex is absolutely limited to copulation.

The sexual revolution that Peter Nery has started in Iloilo is attitudinal in essence. It is an ideological force as a means to break sexual myths and mediation. Nery’s sexual politics goes well beyond the brute desire to go horizontal at the prompting of the libido.

Nery’s crusade, therefore, is all about using one’s sexuality at one’s leisure, using one’s sexuality for one’s freedom and selfhood. The State has nothing to do with whether one wants to have sex with himself or others or not at all, in any way, human or bestial.

Peter Nery’s ties with writers from the academe is not known to be strong. Although he once taught philosophy at UP Iloilo and English at a Jesuit school in the same city, it has not resulted in any attachment to academic setting. Even the great Richard Brautigan yearned to teach; Charles Bukowsky loved to lecture. Not Peter Solis Nery. He does not suck up to scholars and pseudo-intellectuals in exchange for favors. He can samba his way into a publisher’s pants. He can massage readers with his toes.

Ironically it is those who teach humanities that swear off Peter Solis Nery as a maniac. They view him as a desperate swellhead whose famous days are numbered. So when they learn that Nery is put on the Operation: Adam’s Apple anti-smut watchlist they heave a sigh of relief. It’s at that point, however, that Nery decides to park Pierre Magazine because he thinks he’s done his duty. The jealous lot rejoices.
Peter Nery strays into incognito and in a snap mutates himself into any and all of these: nursing student, art collaborator, curator, script writer, rumormonger, masseur, poseur, traveler, agitator, sonneteer, jilted lover, IELTS passer.

But the question remains: How does his evolution stand in relation to his work? At his age he has bitten more than he could chew, literally and figuratively.

Now, if close to a score of books, a hundred erotic poems, a half dozen winning screenplays, fitful dreams of shadowy loves, pending arrests, are not enough to stop him from taking on the next level, what is?

He has cursed the writing life many times over but obstinately kept coming back to it for reasons only he knows. Because he gives too much of himself he owes no one anything. Practically misunderstood but immensely prolific, Peter Solis Nery is coming dangerously close to greatness.


© Melecio F. Turao [2005]

Discovering the Gold Behind All that Glitters

It all began in 2001. I was scanning the pages of a weekly newspaper in Western Visayas, and there it was, a feisty, intelligent piece of writing bylined by Peter Solis Nery. The experience was profound. Nothing I have read in the local papers before has affected me with such fervor.

I immediately asked for back issues of the newspaper from our school library, and it was like discovering a treasure trove of upbeat, flamboyant, and confident writing. Every piece by Peter Nery throbbed with wit, humor, and beautifully expressed ideas. They shimmered with such brilliance and radiance like nothing that I have read before. Instantly, I felt a fondness and an affinity with the writer, who was (and still is!) very popular among the younger band of readers, and, of course, to the 25 – 35 age bracket that he confessed as his target audience.

Every week since then, I religiously followed his column. And although this might sound too childish to the point that I hate to admit it, I must say that I got thoroughly captivated, totally enthralled by Peter Nery’s writing style.

I was an avid fan, but I moved from fan reader, to sort-of stalker, until I finally got introduced to him. And surprise, surprise! Peter Nery isn’t as intimidating in person as he is in print. On the contrary, he is rather friendly. And to amateur writers like me back then, he was most encouraging and inspiring. In fact, he gave me the break to publish my work on the pages he edited, and we became friends. Too intimate, in fact, that I have the opportunity to study him very closely and thoroughly from his works, faith witnessing, and biographical accounts and anecdotes recounted over our times together.

In his writings, Peter Nery was making love to everything: munggo beans, electric fans, the distant planet Uranus, cellphones, pencils and sharpeners, rain, TV remote controls. Geez! Only brilliant writers can do that!

Peter Nery is outstanding in English, but his creative output in the Hiligaynon are without peers. He uses the language with such sensitivity and ethereal beauty. His works are simply divine. I think that it is an injustice not to acknowledge Peter Nery as a great Ilonggo writer as he has contributed a lot of radiant things to Philippine Literature, but especially to the regional literature of Western Visayas.

Once upon a time, there was a boy who dreamed to be so many things. Astronaut. Neurosurgeon. Ballet dancer. Priest. Pirate. Scientist. Gangster. Writer. So very fond of movies Peter Nery was that he wanted to be like the characters that he saw on the big screen. From his works, we can read that Peter Nery was a boy who loved butterflies, “the universal symbol of change; a very powerful symbol, [that] teaches us not to be afraid of change and transformation”; rivers – “constantly changing, constantly flowing”; ferns, grasslands, mountains, dragons – “there is so much beauty in green things”; poetry, “for they are the truth; these are our voices within”; and love poems, “because they remind [him that he was] once in love, too.”

It would seem like stuff of legend, but at the age of 5, Peter Nery learned to cook rice in an earthen stove. At 7, he sold plastic bags in the wet market to raise money to buy a 24-piece set of crayons (because he was also into drawing and painting). At 9, he was a young entrepreneur selling boiled quail’s eggs to his classmates.

Peter Nery was born on January 6, 1969 to parents who are both teachers. In 1990, he was named Most Outstanding Graduate of U.P.; and has received honors such as the Outstanding Student of the Philippines (President’s Award) and Most Outstanding Student in the Visayas (Chancellor’s Award), a crowning achievement for one who was consistently 1st honors since Grade I. He graduated with the Bachelor of Science in Biology from University of the Philippines in the Visayas but did not pursue Medicine because of financial constraints.

Because of poverty, and because their house was burned down in 1989, Peter Nery was forced to work for the streetchildren program in Iloilo City right after his college graduation. He also went to the seminary of the Society of Missions for Africa, and studied Philosophy at Christ the King Mission Seminary of the SVD in Quezon City. Then, in 1993-1995, he went to Macau and Hong Kong as a pastoral care worker for the Filipino migrant workers there.

Peter Solis Nery is the person that I admire most. The person I want to emulate. The person I want to learn beautiful things from. He is the great influence in my late adolescent years, the person who changed my life from shades of black and gray to radiant blue and green (and pink, and yellow, and tangerine!).

Peter Nery had read a lot of Japanese women writings, and other non-white, non-male, non-dead, authors. He points out that “[his] borrowings are many. [He has] voraciously read the magic realism of Latin America.” For literary instructions he goes back to Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet”; and for inspiration, to Antoine Saint-Exupery’s “The Little Prince.”

Peter Nery started writing poetry in Hiligaynon for competitions. But his best works are in Hiligaynon fiction. He personally translated his award-winning works – compiled in “Fantasia,” which includes Palanca winners “Lirio” (1st Prize, 1998) and “Ang Pangayaw” (3rd Prize, 2000) – in the English language for national publication. “Critics say [Peter Nery] has a peculiar phraseology in English but New Day Publishers and Giraffe Books continued to publish [him] so [he] thought [that he] was doing okay.”

In 1992, Peter Nery was convinced by the Sentro ng Wika at UP Visayas to write in Filipino – an appeal to his patriotism – to help the growth of the national language. He did it with essays, “then, somebody told [him that he] could give Hiligaynon dignity as a language with [his] storytelling flair.” And write in Hiligyanon, he did.

Peter Nery was a Literature grantee of the Cultural Center of the Philippines for Hiligaynon Poetry, and “Hari sang Binalaybay” (King of Poetry) of the region for more than six years.

To enrich his experiences in writing, Peter Nery went to the United States to study film and screenwriting after winning the Centennial Literary Prize and the Palanca gold medal in 1998. In the USA, he played bit roles in some Hollywood independent films, and had performed in open mic nightclubs and bars in Santa Monica and Los Angeles in California.

Peter Nery has published 13 books to date: I Flew a Kite for Pepe (1993), First Few Notes of a Green Symphony (1994), The Essential Thoughts of a Purple Cat (1996), Rated R (1997), Shorts (1997), Moon River, Butterflies, and Me (1997), Shy Evocations of Childhood (1997), My Life as a Hermit (1998), Fireflies of a Yuppie (1998), A Loneliness Greater than Love (2000), Fantasia (2000), Rain as Gentle as Tears (2001), and The Prince of Ngoyngoy (2001). He also tried publishing a magazine, PIERRE: The Magazine of Peter Solis Nery.

The initial issue of Pierre became an instant hit because it was brave, bold, daring, if a little irreverent. Each issue of Pierre Magazine (and there were only three) was “a gift, not only to its readers, but also to its writers.” Peter Nery considers himself “most fortunate to have seen [his] creative efforts published many times: as books of solo credits, and as part of countless anthologies. [His Pierre gives] back to the community by publishing other local writers with big potentials.”

Because we have become close friends, I often visit Peter Nery at his now-palatial house in Dumangas, Iloilo. Open to the public as a tourist attraction, Peter Nery’s home in Dumangas also serves as a sanctuary for weary writers of all sorts: functional, dysfunctional, veterans and wannabes. Minus the funding, network, and strict organization, it also functions as the Peter Solis Nery Creative Writing Center, the humble beginning of his ultimate dream to fully realize his vision of helping Philippine literature through developing the Visayan literatures, and their writers.


© Prince Couen Golez [2006]
Quoted italicized portions in the text are from books and publications by Peter Solis Nery, and several interviews over the years.

Poets, Priests, and Politicians

At one point in ancient history all three were one and the same. Today, priests and politicians occupy pretty much the same place and wield the same range of power, while poets are nowhere near the margins. This can’t be any clearer anywhere than in the Philippines. There’s a small number of poets and writers who have been voted into public office. And once there their bias toward art becomes obvious.

Peter Solis Nery could have been the first poet-politician of Iloilo in the late 20th century. But he lost in the local elections in his hometown. For some reason using his stories as campaign material didn’t help at all. Nery writes excellent Hiligaynon fiction and poetry, and only an illiterate can turn them down. Nor can you question Nery’s deep spirituality – not exactly holy in the Catholic sense but mystical just the same. But he lost. At the risk of sounding like a strategist, I’d theorize that Nery didn’t make it because of the following reasons: 1) He didn’t have a political party; 2) He was fighting a lost cause in the first place; 3) He went against the norm; 4) He didn’t have the blessing of a “church.”

Nery didn’t have a political party

Peter ran as an independent candidate. Unless he owned a cash factory (which he has now) he’d have no way of keeping up with the race. Money is the language of Philippine politics. In spite of his popularity, Nery was hard pressed to win votes because people could not buy food with poems.

Nery was fighting a lost cause in the first place

If Peter resolved to represent homosexuals, transgenders, pan-sexuals, perverts and the marginalized, he was doomed to fail. Once in office political leaders sit comfortably in their comfort zone and scheme to steal public funds in the name of service. Peter is too generous and kind to even think of that. Who in his right mind would draft laws to uplift and promote the rights of people society labels as misfits and sinners? Only Peter and a handful of others would.

But politics listens only to the voice of the majority that outcasts may as well be non-existent. And that includes artists who take themselves too seriously.

Nery went against the norm

Peter didn’t go with the flow. While candidates delivered self-serving speeches (which they themselves barely understood), Peter was busy handing out copies of his stories and poems. Other candidates shook hands with bigwig politicians. Peter Nery shook hands and exchanged glances with jeepney drivers and students. Other candidates quoted statesmen and senators. Peter Nery quoted Horace, Catullus and Shakespeare.

The voting public loves crowd-pleasers. Peter Nery stirs ire and controversy. Politicians scratch each other’s back and curse their enemies. Peter Nery massages his friends and kisses his enemies.

Nery didn’t have the blessing of a church

It’s no secret that Peter went to a seminary in Macau and left soon after. It did his art well but crushed his politics, at least his public service bid. A libertine of astute taste, Peter could only hope to win his neighbors over. In spite of his captive audience, Peter’s sphere of influence was far narrower than the dumbest candidate who kissed the priest’s hand and sponsored Sunday masses. Peter’s church was his books, video collection, and a coterie of high hats.

Meanwhile among the early Essenes, worship, and prayer were a communal activity. No priest, no sermon, no first or second collection for an invisible church, no mention of names of the sick and test passers.

It’s 90 days to election time. My candidate is someone who goes against the grain: Someone who is so consumed with passion he gives it all without expecting anything in return, win or lose. He is someone who doesn’t offer any promises. He is someone whose platform is the people.


© Mel F. Turao [2010]

Peter Solis Nery: Ilonggo Icon (oclast)

If the comma were a color,

I bet it would be green

Like growing grass
Or sprouting leaves,

Or rolling hills,

Or the Sierra Madre

Mountain range,

Because commas

Make sentences grow,

And grow,

And grow.


THE poem above, titled “If the Comma Were a Color,” opens “Punctuation,” author Peter Solis Nery’s collection of English-language poetry for children that not only won him the top prize in its category in the 2012 Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature, but also a coveted spot in the prestigious literary competition’s Hall of Fame.

The poem may also very well describe the 43-year-old Nery’s remarkable writing career: flourishing, always expanding, seemingly limitless. Consider: He writes in three genres—poetry, fiction, drama—and in three languages (his native Hiligaynon, spoken mainly in Western Visayas; Filipino; and English). He has also branched out into filmmaking; his first full-length feature, Gugma sa Panahon sang Bakunawa (Love in the Time of the Bacunaua), was shown recently in his home province of Iloilo and is expected to be screened in other areas.

Impressive as these feats are, what is even more so is the fact Nery accomplished these while working as an orthopedic nurse at the White Medical Memorial Center in Los Angeles, California, where he has lived since 2006. Even his colleagues in the medical profession rewarded his work with the Daisy Award for Extraordinary Nurses, given to him in 2008 by the hospital and the Daisy Foundation, which seeks to eliminate diseases attacking the immune system.

But despite the honors, Nery remains a rather obscure figure outside of Iloilo and among members of the Manila-centric literary community. Not too many people beyond Western Visayas know of his long-cultivated reputation as a boundary-pushing and flamboyant scribe with a sharp mind and a sharper tongue, as previously published articles on him show. In a country where most creative writers are sorely underappreciated, the persistent lack of attention on Nery and his growing body of work seems almost criminal.

In an interview with the Sunday Times Magazine, Nery discussed his induction into the Palanca Hall of Fame, his winning entries this year, Hiligaynon literature, his role and the challenges he faces as a creative writer, and his budding filmmaking career.

Sunday Times Magazine (STM): How long have you aspired to be in the Palanca Hall of Fame? What does your inclusion in the elite roster mean to you?
Peter Solis Nery (PSN): I started dreaming of the Hall of Fame when I [started] getting consecutive wins. And [when I won first prize] for the English full-length play (“The Passion of Jovita Fuentes” in 2008), I thought: “Maybe I can do this.” [I also thought that] if I am inducted into the Hall of Fame, I would do something to help Hiligaynon literature. So I was thinking of establishing a foundation for Hiligaynon literature. When I came home this year, I [started laying] the groundwork for [it].

STM: What inspired you to write “Punctuation”?
PSN: Last year, I [won second prize] for English poetry for children. The collection is called “The Shape of Happiness.” [In it,] I played with colors and shapes: “If friendship is a color, what color would it be? If happiness is a shape, what [would] it be?” So this year, I just continued that train of thought. I thought: “[Maybe it should be] writing and about the art of writing, so let’s do punctuation for kids!” I actually studied a little about color theories and all that, so for “Punctuation,” it was just playing with the colors of the punctuations and their shapes.

STM: And “Sa Mundo ng mga Kulisap (In the World of Insects)”?
PSN: I think the biggest conceit in the Filipino collection is having two voices. I was pretty entertained by what they do during the Palanca Awards, when you actually hear the poems [being] delivered, and I’ve always seen the poetry being delivered by a single person. If they can have two [people]—a boy and a girl—[reading the poems], I think that would be interesting. I started with one poem about the firefly, and from there I [thought]: “Maybe I should limit it to the world of insects.” Kids love insects, like grasshoppers and ants.

STM: Do you still plan to join the Palanca competition in the future?
PSN: If I find very good materials that I think should be out there, I wouldn’t stop myself from joining. If they (Carlos Palanca Foundation) want to stop me, they have to create another rule. But I’m not going to do what I did in the last three years, which was crazy, like making a career [out] of it, like joining as [many] categories as I can to get into the Hall of Fame. The pressure is off to write for the Palanca.

STM: You write in three languages. Is there a particular mindset you adopt when you write in any of these languages? How does Hiligaynon compare with English, for example?
PSN: With Hiligaynon, you cannot [be] very vulgar. Ilonggo readers or speakers of the language are very conservative. But with English, you’re exposed to the works of other people, like [those of] vulgar writers in the US and all that—there is nothing that shocks anymore. Although I still write a little conservatively in Hiligaynon, I am also trying to push it.

STM: Three of your first-prize wins were for Hiligaynon short stories (“Lirio,” 1998; “Candido,” 2007; “Donato Bugtot,” 2011). Are there many writers writing in the language? What do they usually write about?
PSN: There are not many writers writing in Hiligaynon. The more popular ones, they go [for] crime stories in newspapers because those sell. I’ve seen some stories in Hiligaynon magazines, for example, and these are so different from the Palanca-winning works. I think that the more popular/komiks-type [stories]—their characters are more global, and their concerns are more global. The Palanca winners? I feel that they really don’t connect with the world. Like they make it so local that they become very unique. I would look at them as period pieces. They’re so stylized—the construction, the language. Most of them talk about the exotic life in the rural [areas] . . . I think that the [Palanca] favorites are those that put in long research, [that are set in] the past . . . more historical [in] feel, more researched, more “worked.”

STM: What do you aim for as a writer in Hiligaynon?
PSN: I want to write [in] Hiligaynon with a more global perspective. I’m not just writing about people from an island in the Visayas; I’m talking about people from the place who are [living] the migrant worker experience. I want my characters to be more global and more open, and I think that’s the way to go.

STM: Why do you write? What drives you as a writer?
PSN: I’m vain! I want my name in print! But that being out of the way, there’s really a joy in writing, for me. In writing, I’m able to clarify so many things. If you look at the written sentence, it always feels to me like [it’s] all scrambled and [it’s] in this one tiny blank thing. And then you begin to write them, you [feel] like [stretching] them so you can actually understand and see them, and it becomes very clear to you.
My initial drive to write is basically for name preservation. There are three ways to preserve your name: have kids, plant trees, and write books. Leaving something, doing something meaningful in this planet, leaving your mark. It’s all about leaving your mark. If you get serious about that, then you’ll see that I’m not just out there for fame, it’s actually I want to leave a mark. But can you really leave a mark without being famous?

STM: What are the challenges you face as a writer?
PSN: The biggest challenge is finding time to write! I work a 12-hour shift, and it’s a night shift. But there are downtimes [at] work, [and] that’s [when] I ruminate on ideas. I have a writer’s journal where I could write down ideas, jot down things that I like to think about more when I have days off.

STM: You often present yourself as a self-confident writer. What fuels this self-confidence?
PSN: I’m actually very insecure, I swear! I’m a very insecure writer, because most of the writers in the Philippines are actually in the academe. They actually [have] MFA’s (master of fine arts) and Ph.D’s in writing. I know some people here who probably attended all the workshops in the Philippines. I did a couple of workshops, but I felt really out of place.

STM: Speaking of Filipino writers, is there any you admire or identify with?
PSN: In that sense, I’m illiterate, because I really don’t read a lot of Filipino authors. [No Filipino author] really strikes me as someone whose sensibility is closer to mine. I think I’ve read [an F.] Sionil [José], [NVM] Gonzalez, [Bienvenido] Santos . . . I can’t get through a [Gregorio] Brillantes story. He enjoys [using] words that [make me look them up in] the dictionary. It might be beautiful for people who know the language very well.

STM: You recently released your full-length feature film, Gugma sa Panahon sang Bakunawa. How would you describe yourself as a budding moviemaker? What is the major difference between the writing and filmmaking processes for you?
PSN: I think I’m just a born storyteller. The problem with making movies is that you have to collaborate, and that’s the big difference. I have to trust my actors, my directors of photography. With writing, you write something, you’re on your own, it’s a solitary exercise. At certain stages, I turn to select figures for critique. But when you’re making a movie, you have to respect other people’s time, money and their resources. In my first venture, I had to be director, writer, and producer, but I may not be lucky next time if there’s going to be a producer who would expect certain things [and] I don’t know if I would be very willing to compromise my vision. But I enjoy making films, because I think most writers would like their stories told on the big screen. I think it’s the secret dream of anyone who wants to tell a story.


© Alvin I. Dacanay & The Sunday Times Magazine: September 16, 2012


Palanca Hall of Fame Awardee is Ilonggo’s Pride

AT 43 years old, Peter Solis Nery is diversity personified. He is a multi-awarded poet, playwright, fictionist and book author, who would later put up his own publishing house and his own magazine. He also wrote and edited newspapers in his hometown Iloilo, dabbled in acting and directing before going to the US to work as an orthopedic nurse. He is now also directing and producing an Ilonggo film and starting a foundation for Hiligaynon literature.

His choice of literary genre is also as diversified as his interests. He has written poems, short stories and screenplays in his native tongue Hiligaynon, as well as in Filipino and English—one of the few Filipino writers who excelled in generating recognized works across these genres. In his hometown, he was called king of Hiligaynon poetry and the Ilonggo epitome of emotional poetry.

The irony is that Peter Solis Nery had earned degrees and diplomas in various fields—biology, philosophy, nursing and education—but not one in writing. He is a self-taught writer. He said that writing for him is a natural science—a talent to be honed through practice and dedication. It is also a way of releasing the demon within and clarifying one’s thoughts through having them all laid out in poetry and prose.

His published works spanning 18 years (1993 to 2012) include: “I Flew a Kite for Pepe,” “First Few Notes of a Green Symphony,” “The Essential Thoughts of a Purple Cat,” “Rated R,” “Shorts,” “Moon River, Butterflies, and Me,” “Shy Evocations of Childhood,” “My Life as a Hermit,” “Fireflies for a Yuppie,” “A Loneliness Greater than Love,” “Fantasia,” “Rain as Gentle as Tears,” “The Prince of Ngoyngoy,” “The Passion of Jovita Fuentes,” “100 Erotic Sonnets from the Hiligaynon,” “If the Shoe Fits,” and “Love in the Time of the Bakunawa.”

© Malaya: October 5, 2012


Creating stories on screen with Peter Solis Nery

What does it take for a person to consider himself a filmmaker? Is it marked by the number of awards associated with one’s name? Is it in the number of after-parties that one has gone to or the number of insider bigwigs that one has rubbed elbows with?

Or does it come with the ability to work with a camera, tell the story through the lens, and make your viewers see your vision and be touched?

For 43-year-old Peter Solis Nery, it’s not about the “This is it” moment, but a realization of his talent and dream shown onscreen.

His first full-length film is Gugma sa Panahon sang Bakunawa (Love in the Time of the Bakunawa), which ran for 109 minutes at the 1st Sineng Pambansa National Film Competition of the Development Council of the Philippines last July.

Gugma sa Panahon sang Bakunawa isn’t Peter’s first film. He had already dabbled in short films and produced a silent short “Dumangas 2010,” which also has a more condensed version with dialogue in YouTube, entitled Dabadaba.

Right now, Peter enjoys the scenery of Los Angeles, as a nurse and a writer serving as his bread and butter. But when it comes to filmmaking, his drawer is actually filled with scripts that he has previously done. What’s missing in the scene is the right producer to take care of his films.

“Until I find producers who would like to spend their money to make my kind of movies, I still would have to work as a nurse to finance my projects,” he says. “But I’m not in a rush.”

When it comes to potential projects in the future, Peter sees meditative films as his future weapon of choice. But in the event of expanding his filmmaker’s horizon, horror seems to be the second option.

“I’d like to do a ‘horror film’ that does not rely on computer-generated special effects, something like Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” says Peter.

So, does he classify himself in label as a filmmaker?

“I still see myself as someone who is just playing around with the film medium,” says Peter. “I’m basically just a writer, a story teller. I just want tot ell stories—either in print, on stage, and now, on screen.”


One-on-one with Peter Nery

What can you say about the Philippine film industry?

Since I am based in Los Angels, it’s hard for me to comment on the state of the Philippine movie industry. But judging from the proliferation of independent films and the international recognition that Philippine movies get, I think the Philippine movie industry is very well alive and kicking.

Do you see yourself doing this for the rest of your life?

Doing occasional film for the rest of my life, yes. But I think I’ll be more of a writer than a filmmaker for the rest of my life. I just know that I’d still be writing long after I’ve retired from making movies.

What are the usual themes that you explore in your films?

My predilection as a filmmaker and filmgoer is towards gay films. I think I’d do great with non-gay films as a filmmaker, but if I can infuse my work with some gay liberation or gay tolerance agenda, I think it would be wonderful.


© Gel Galang & Spot Reviews: September 17, 2012


A defining moment with Mr. Nery

WHO do you want to be?
There are points in our lives when we question what our dreams are. We wonder which path our ambitions will take us. And more often, this is a question that we repeatedly and continually ask.
For a long time, I wanted to be a writer. Whether as a career or just as a hobby, I wanted the chance to string together words into meaning and bring my thoughts to life. But I did not always want to be a writer. Like any child, I went through a series of phases as I pondered who I wanted to become. I remember wanting to be a scientist, an astronomer. I once wanted to create the first settlement on Mars, even creating a design to survive in a deoxygenated environment.
It was in high school when my dream came to me. And it was through Palanca Hall-of-Famer Peter Solis Nery.
I was a freshman of West Visayas State University – Integrated Laboratory School (WVSU-ILS) then, at the beginnings of my bibliophilic phase. Our school paper, the Blue Quill, invited me to a creative writing class that they were sponsoring. With nothing else to do, I agreed. It was there that I met Mr. Nery, who just won a Palanca.
It was so long ago, that I have forgotten most of the contents of our class. I remember that we were taught about poetry, and practiced writing Haiku. I wrote about bamboo grass, bending ever resiliently against the wind, and standing firm after the sudden gust. I passed my work, the lesson was over, and I returned to my daily routines.
However, Mr. Nery returned to WVSU-ILS. He had me called, and asked permission to publish my poem. For a preadolescent, it was a great honor, and to be told that I had talent in writing by a Palanca awardee was an indescribable affirmation of my potential. Afterwards, I joined the school paper, and my passion for the written word has never wavered since.

Looking back, maybe I was meant to be a writer. My grandfather, Atty. Teresito Sedigo, was a very talented poet who continued to inspire me, and I was raised in a family with the appreciation for literature. But what would have happened to Cinderella if there was no fairy godmother to help her go to the ball? No matter what potential you have, it is nothing without guidance, affirmation or inspiration. Someone will come to your life that will help define the path you choose. In my case, it was Mr. Nery. Thank you and congratulations.


© Justine Christiamarie Sedigo Obando & The Daily Guardian: September 8, 2012

An Ilonggo Director, the Bakunawa, and Regional Cinema

An interview by Ronelo Ladiao

Earlier in April this year, Los Angeles-based Ilonggo polymath Peter Solis Nery (he insists he’s a Dumangasanon artist) came home to Iloilo to shoot his film, Gugma sa Panahon sang Bakunawa.

The film is a classic love story in Hiligaynon that touches on contemporary issues like literature and myth-making, economics and colorful local festivals, love and its modern-day complications. And on August 26, 4 pm to 8pm at CAP Auditorium in Iloilo City, writer-producer-director Peter Solis Nery returns to premiere his two-hour obra maestra in Iloilo City, and tour it all over Western Visayas, before finally showing it in Singapore on September 9.

RL: You constantly amaze your critics and fans by endlessly reinventing yourself. As a multi-awarded writer, did you enjoy the transition into film directing?
PSN: Just because most of my accolades come from writing, people tend to forget my other showbiz talents, namely: acting, dancing, and directing. For this movie, I wore more hats than just being its writer, producer, and director. I was also the production designer, costume designer, casting director, acting coach, location manager, finance officer, payroll master, and hell, yeah, I also acted in this movie! So, this is more than just transitioning from being a writer to being a film director for me, but I love all the challenges involved in it, knowing that I still could control many things, and turn an at-least-2.5-million-pesos-script into a high quality movie with a budget of less than a million pesos.

RL: What were the risks that you took as an artist in making this movie?
PSN: The biggest risk for me in making this Bakunawa movie was taking on collaborators. As a writer, I basically work alone. I like total control over my materials. As a stage director, I am also pretty authoritarian because, by experience, that’s how I’ve always gotten the best results. But for this movie, because I am also the director and producer, in addition to being the writer, I had to trust my cinematographer, and film editor, big time. I also had to compromise with some of the acting, bearing in mind that most of my cast members are non-professional actors. With a limited budget, scarce resources, and time constraints (we worked with a deadline for the national film competition), I could not be nitpicking. Otherwise, we could have been stuck with Scene One. As a writer, I can afford to take my time to revise and repeatedly revise until I produce perfection, but as a filmmaker, I have to respect other people’s time (especially if my actors and crew have other projects to work on), and my co-producer’s money.

RL: There is inherent beauty in the exploration of literature, art, culture, myth-making, and art-for-economics in your Bakunawa story. What inspired you to write it?
PSN: You’d be surprised if I tell you that there is not so much inspiration in the writing of the bakunawa story compared to the audacity of turning it into a movie. I think the story of making it a movie was inspired lunacy, but I’m so glad I ultimately did it. As for the writing, I’m always trying to write stories at least for the yearly Palanca competitions, bakunawa is just one of them. If it was not the bakunawa story for this movie, it could be any one of my other stories: gay stories, magic realist stories, search for God stories. I mean, right now as we speak, I have at least seven ready-to-shoot movie scripts in my possession, and I have at least ten good stories that can be turned into movie scripts, if there are interested producers out there.

RL: How did you motivate and inspire your actors to portray their roles?
PSN: Jet Alcantara was pretty sure that my story was foul-proof so that he decided on the butt exposure and scenes with nudity without qualms. Even when I had no idea who Eman Abatayo was while I was writing the screenplay, he swears the story is almost a blow by blow retelling of his own life story. As for Priscilla Fontana, I just reminded her that this is her big break, that her future career in the film industry rests on her performance in this particular, and mind you, her launching, movie. The other actors in the movie, mostly my townmates from Dumangas, already knew my work ethics and artistic integrity, so that they trust me so much that when I ask them to bend over or jump off the cliff, they just willingly do so without any question.

RL: Your movie is almost perfectly cast. How did you go through with the casting of the movie since you are actually based in L.A.?
PSN: By now, it is no secret that the movie’s lead stars were cast online, specifically via Facebook. I posted casting calls, asked friends for recommendations, and I started chatting up complete strangers for the roles. I think great credit should go to my intuitive intelligence as casting director, and as “crash course” acting coach. I certainly think I did very well choosing and coaching the actors for my movie.

RL: Your movie has been dubbed as the definitive Ilonggo film of the new millennium, if not in history. What makes this movie significant for Ilonggo culture?
PSN: Gugma sa Panahon sang Bakunawa is done in the Hiligaynon language, shot in Iloilo and Guimaras, with Ilonggo actors. I think that it is very Filipino in the most glorious Hiligaynon language!

RL: What are your expectations in making this movie a vehicle of introducing and endorsing regional filmmaking?
PSN: Although the movie was made primarily as part of the 1st Sineng Pambansa National Film Competition of the Film Development Council of the Philippines, in all honesty, I wasn’t really thinking about advancing any regional filmmaking agenda. I make no distinctions about regional or national cinema/filmmaking. Because I live in the U.S. that has access to all kind of movies, there is really no strict distinction between Hong Kong movies and movies from mainland China, among others. They are all foreign language movies!

RL: Much has been said about the phenomenal speed of how you made the movie in six days. How did you do it?
PSN: I don’t really know how we did it, but I know I could never again make a movie of this magnitude in the same way. I really thank God for how everything just fell into place.

RL: Was shooting both in Guimaras and your hometown of Dumangas really part of your plan?
PSN: Surely, Dumangas was in the plan. Not only because it would be cheaper to do it there, but especially because I wanted to honor my hometown with a historical undertaking of making a movie there. I have always insisted to be identified as an author, filmmaker, and artist from Dumangas! To be sure, I wanted to be the first homegrown filmmaker to make a movie of this scale in my hometown. I am very grateful for the support of Mayor Ronaldo Golez, the local government, and the good people of my hometown for making my dream come true. As for Guimaras, it is a cheaper substitute for Boracay, what can I say?

RL: How do you want this film to be remembered by Ilonggos and movie enthusiasts?
PSN: I just want them to remember that this is “a film by Peter Solis Nery,” that this is my first full-length feature film. That it is truly representative of my romantic and lyrical vision of the world, and that I gave my all on this major opus because I wanted to make sure that I get noticed as writer and director. I think, by now, Ilonggos should have learned that the name Peter Solis Nery is synonymous to quality, artistic integrity, and, at least smartness, if not down right intelligence.

RL: How can you inspire the young filmmakers specifically, and generally convince Ilonggos to support regional films?
PSN: It is by giving them an excellent example of what you insistently call regional cinema. In all seriousness, my movie, Gugma sa Panahon sang Bakunawa, is, I can’t say it with false modesty, an excellent movie to begin. It has a simple, easy, formulaic even, but foul-proof story that greatly entertains. It was produced with superior quality and technical brilliance.


© Ronelo Ladao & The News Today: August 7, 2012

K Magazine Interview: Peter Solis Nery

Kapangahasan ang birtud ni Peter Solis Nery nang magsimula siyang seryosohin ang Panitikang Hiligaynon, tila malay siyang walang imposible sa taong palaging nag-aasam ng bago at hindi nawawalan ng pag-asa. Dahil sa maagang kapangahasan nito, tila mas maaga niyang nakita ang rason ng pagiging manunulat, hanggang sa unang dekada ng ikatlong siglo, naunawaan niyang kailangan niyang maging manunulat na mulat sa isyu at problema ng wika at panitikang nakagisnan.

Hindi naging madali ang pagsisimula ni Nery sa larang ng panitikang matagal ring itinuring na labas sa sentro, ang totoo niyan, tulad ng maraming manunulat, tila pagpasok sa butas ng karayom din ang dinaanan niya bago pa man marating sa mga sandaling ito ang tagumpay na inasam. Narito ang ilang punto ni Nery sa mga usapin tungkol sa Panitikang Hiligaynon at sa mga plano nito para sa pagpauswag pa ng Panitikan.

Kalatas: Sino si Peter Solis Nery (PSN) sa Panitikang Hiligaynon?

Nery: H’wag na nating sabihin na pangunahing manunulat ako sa panitikang Hiligaynon, pero hindi rin naman siguro kasinungalingan na sabihing mahalagang manunulat ako sa Hiligaynon. Pagkilala ng kaparis na mga manunulat: tsek! Mga papuri at parangal mula sa mga lehitimong pangkat: tsek! Mga librong naisulat at nailathala sa Hiligaynon: tsek! Mga pelikula sa Hiligaynon: tsek! Patuloy na nagsusulat: tsek! Malasakit sa wikang Hiligaynon at panitikan nito: tsek, tsek! Sa matapat na palagay ko, naghihikahos ang panitikang Hiligaynon kaya naman lalo akong nagsusumisigasig na sumulat sa wika. Wala naman talagang naglalathala ng panulatang Hiligaynon maliban sa kakapiranggot na mga magasin at dyaryo na kalakal, at hindi literatura, ang pangunahing dahilan. Tanong ko: sa nakaraang limang taon, maliban sa dalawang libro na nailimbag ko noong nakaraang taon, meron ba tayong limang aklat sa Hiligaynon na nailathala? Kung tama ang hinala ko na wala, o hindi aabot sa lima, hindi ba makatuwirang sabihing mahalagang manunulat ako dahil ako’y nakakapagsulat at nakakapaglimbag, at tunay ngang naghihikahos ang panitikang Hiligaynon?

Kalatas: Paano nagsimulang magsulat ang isang PSN, at paano siyang naging isang mahalagang bukal sa Panitikang Hiligaynon?

Nery: Kahit pa man noong Grade 3, nagsimula na akong magsulat ng mga tula ayon sa mga itinuro at nabasa kong mga haiku at cinquian. Naging patnugot ako ng mga pahayagang estudyante sa elementarya, haiskul, at maging sa kolehiyo. Wala talaga akong pormal na pagsasanay sa pagsulat. Basa lang ako nang basa, at kopya nang kopya ng istilo ng mga panulat na nagustuhan ko. Paano naging mahalagang bukal? Pwes, marahil dahil sa aking kapangahasan. Palibhasa’y walang pag-aaral at wala naman talagang nagturo o nagsanay, at sa palagay ko’y wala naman talagang nakataya o mawawala sa akin, pinasok ko ang mga kontrobersyal na pamamaraan: erotika, performance literature, self-publishing. Gawa lang ako nang gawa: sulat, limbag, sulat, panalo, sulat, tinda, hanggang hindi na maitanggi ng establisemento na manunulat nga ako.

Kalatas: Ano ang matitingkad na karanasan ni PSN sa Panitikang Hiligaynon?

Nery: Una, ang unang pagkapanalo sa Gawad Palanca: Unang Gantimpala para sa Maikling Kwento sa Hiligaynon. Nagbukas iyon ng pinto sa aking de-kalidad o pang-award na pagsulat. Pangalawa, ang pagkasulat ng sandaang erotikong sonetos sa Hiligaynon. Patunay iyon ng tunay na kapangahasan at pag-angat mula sa inaasahan ng mga tagasubaybay. Pangatlo, ang paglathala ang sandaang sonetos na ito. Pang-apat, ang makagawa ng pelikulang Hiligaynon mula sa nanalong sariling dulang-pampelikula. Palaging matingkad na karanasan ang pagsasanib ng literatura at pelikula. Panglima, ang kilalanin at pansinin ako ng American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages sa Amerika bilang dalubhasa ng wika dahil sa aking mga panulat sa Hiligaynon na matatagpuan sa internet.

Kalatas: Kilala si PSN bilang erotic writer mula sa kanyang mga binalaybay sa Hiligaynon, paano niya binibigyang paliwanag ang salitang erotika?

Nery: May tampo sa akin ang mga Ilonggo. Bitin daw ang mga erotikong panulat ko. Para sa akin, iyon ang mas erotiko, ang bitin. Parang maginoong-medyo-bastos. Hindi tahasan, hindi lantaran, hindi pornograpiko. Nakakatawag pansin lang, nakakapukaw ng damdamin, pero hindi nakakasuka.

Kalatas: Para sa mga batang nagsusulat sa Panitikang Hiligaynon, paano sila papayuhan ni PSN? Ano ang nakikitang paraan ni PSN upang mas makilala at mapag-usapan sa mas malawak na espasyo ang Panitikang Hiligaynon?

Nery: Bakit sa pakiramdam ko, wala akong karapatang magpayo? Haha! Wala akong maipapayo, pero mayroon akong hamon: Maglathala kayo! Marami kasing gustong magsulat, marami ring nagmamagaling, marami ring nagsusulat ngunit walang tiwala sa mga sinusulat nila, ang tanong ko, nasaan ang mga naisulat nila? Nasaan sila? Pagkatapos maitala sa Palanca Awards Hall of Fame noong nakaraang taon (2012), itinatag ko ang Peter Solis Nery Foundation for Hiligaynon Literature and the Arts. Ang mga programa at proyekto nito ay naghahangad na mapaunlad at mapatingkad ng Panitikang Hiligaynon. Dasal kong samahan at sabayan ako ng mga manunulat sa Hiligaynon sa paglalakbay ng aking Foundation, subalit kung bibiguin nila ako, patuloy lang ako kahit nag-iisa sa pagsasakatuparan ng mga adhikain at misyon ng Foundation.

Kalatas: Paano ni PSN gustong makilala bilang manunulat?

Nery: Bilang manunulat na may malaking malasakit sa panitikang Hiligaynon, na naglaan ng sariling panahon [dahil hindi pagsusulat ang kanyang kabuhayan at propesyon] sa pagsulong ng Hiligaynon sa mga unang dekada ng ikatlong milenyo.

Kalatas: Nakatikim na ba ng rejection slips ang isang PSN? At paano niya ito hinarap?

Nery: Oo naman, lalo na noong nagsisimula pa lang ako. Paano hinarap? Syempre, umiyak, umatungal, hindi kumakain ng tatlong araw! Pero, lahat naman lumilipas. Kung meron man akong natutunan sa mga rejection slips, ito lang iyon: iba-iba at pabago-bago ang panlasa ng mga tagalimbag, patnugot, at hurado.

Kalatas: Alam ng marami na naging pangunahing impluwensya ni PSN si Dr. Leoncio P. Deriada sa panulat nito nung nagsisimula pa lamang ito, maliban rito, sino pa ang naging impluwensya ni PSN sa pagpapatuloy nito bilang manunulat?

Nery: Linawin lang natin na ang impluwensya ni Deriada ay ang pagsusog sa akin na patuloy na magsulat. Hindi kailanman na impluwensyahan ng istilo ni Deriada ang aking pagsusulat. Ang mga babaeng manunulat sa Panahong Heian ng Hapon ang may malaking impluwensya sa sensibilidad ng panulat ko. Sa kasalukuyan, malaking impluwensya sa akin ang mga kapwa manunulat ko. Importante sa akin ang inggit. Kasi, kapag may nabasa akong maganda, gusto kong mahigitan iyon.

Kalatas: Sino-sino ang kontemporaneo ni PSN sa pagsusulat sa Hiligaynon?

Nery: Ang mga maituturing kong mahalagang kontemporaneong nakapaglatha ng mga aklat sa Hiligaynon ay sina Alicia Gonzales at Felino Garcia. Pero dahil patuloy akong nagsusulat, kontemporaneo na rin ang turing ko sa mga bagong manunulat sa Hiligaynon katulad ni Jesus Insilada, at ang mga Hiligaynon bloggers tulad nina Edgar Siscar at Gil Camporazo.

Kalatas: Sa palagay ni PSN, kailangan bang kukuha ng kursong malikhaing pagsulat o sumailalim sa palihan ang nagsisimulang manunulat? Bakit?

Nery: Dahil hindi ako sumailalim sa mga palihan o kumuha ng kurso sa malikhaing pagsulat, palagay ko’y kailangan. Haha! Iyon ay kung ayaw ng manunulat na makaramdam ng pagkainsekyur na patuloy kong nararamdaman sa kabila ng mga papuri at parangal. Pero dapat ba talaga? Uulitin ko, wala akong kursong malikhaing pagsulat at hindi ako panatiko ng mga palihan sa pagsulat, pero nasaan ako ngayon?

Kalatas: Bakit mukhang mahalaga para kay PSN ang patimpalak Palanca? Paano ito nakatulong sa kanya upang makilala bilang manunulat?

Nery: Ipokrito ang Pilipinong manunulat na walang paghangad ng Gawad Palanca. Ang Palanca lang kasi ang may natatanging mahaba at maalalay na kasaysayan sa pagtaguyod ng mahalagang literatura ng bansa. May awtomatik na pagkilala sa mga manunulat na nanalo ng Palanca dahil na rin marahil ito na ang pinakatanyag na pagkilala mula sa kalipunan o sektor ng mga kaparis na manunulat.

Kalatas: Ano ang opinyon ni PSN sa usaping self-publishing o independent publishing, at o e-publishing na nagkakaroon na ngayon ng puwang sa mundo ng panitikan at mundo ng publishing?

Nery: Sulong, self-publishing! Dahil sa mga pagbabago sa teknolohiya ng pakipagtalastasan katulad ng internet, mas madali na ngayon ang maglathala ng mga akda. Pwede na ngang maglatha ng basura! Sa Facebook na lang halimbawa, hindi na mapigilan ang paglatha ng mga walang-kwentang impormasyon tungkol sa inalmusal o sinuka ni Domingo Rodriguez. Sino si Domingo Rodriguez? Mismo ang punto ko! Siya ay sinuman o walang-sinuman. Ngayon, kung pwedeng abusahin ang teknolohiya para maglatha ng basura, bakit hindi natin ito pagsamantalahan para paunlarin ang panitikan? Hindi na ako naniniwala sa tradisyunal na palimbagan katulad ng tradisyunal na sistemang studio sa paggawa ng pelikula. Uso na ngayon ang indie, at sinumang makahawak ng kamera o celfon na may kamera, pwede nang maging litratista o tagagawa ng pelikula. Kung ayaw mo ng rejection slip, aba, magself-publish ka! Kung na-reject ka, aba, magself-publish ka! Summa-total, kung talagang may halaga ang sinulat mo, may tatangkilik dito. Iyon lang, sa self-publishing, dapat mong ihanda ang iyong sarili sa posibilidad na lalangawin ang nailathala mo. Kapag nagkataon, dobleng dagok iyon: wala ngang gusto magbasa sa iyo, talo pa ang negosyo mo. Kaya para sa akin, kailangan munang makilala ka, at maging “brand” ang pangalan mo. Bakit may lakas ng loob akong mag-self publish? Dahil dumaan ako sa maraming taon ng pagsusulat hanggang sa makilala, dahil may mga napanalunan ako sa Palanca at iba pang patimpalak sa pagsulat, dahil may kilala akong sandaan at isang tao na handang bumili ng mga libro ko, dahil may malaking tiwala ako sa mga isinusulat ko, at higit sa lahat, dahil kaya ko at handa na akong tumanggap ng pagkatalo ng puhunan, kung magyari man.

Kalatas: Ano ang rason kung paano at bakit naisipan mo ang PSN Foundation? Ano ang mga planong dapat asahan sa PSN Foundation ngayong 2013 at/o sa mga susunod pang taon?

Nery: Marahil dahil sa pagtuntong ko sa edad na kwarenta, naalala kong hindi na ako bata, na kailangan ko nang magsimulang mag-isip ng makabuluhang maipapamana sa mga susunod na salinlahi. Malaking pananda sa buhay ko ang pagkatalaga ko sa Hall of Fame ng Gawad Palanca, at utang ko iyon sa literatura kaya naisip kong magbalik-alay. Alam ko kung gaano kahirap ang mga manunulat at mga alagad ng sining sa Pilipinas kaya ko itinatag ang The Peter Solis Nery Foundation for Hiligaynon Literature and the Arts na naglalayong magbigay ng tulong, kalinga at pag-alalay sa kanila. Ngunit dahil nagsisimula pa lang tayo, at wala pang limpak-limpak na salapi ang Foundation, mapili muna ang Foundation sa mga proyektong masusuportahan nito. Naniniwala ako na kung de-kalidad ang mga proyektong maisasagawa at maisakatuparan ng Foundation, hindi malayong makakakuha din ito ng suporta at pagtaguyod ng publiko. Sa unang sandaang araw ng Foundation, dalawang libro sa panitikang Hiligaynon ang nailathala sa tulong nito: isang koleksyon ng mga tula at isang kalipunan ng mga maikling kwento. Naglunsad din ang Foundation ng isang patimpalak sa pagsulat ng maikling kwento sa Hiligaynon para sa 2013, at sisimulan na rin ang proyekto sa pagbuo ng talatinginan. Isang malaking hamon ang diksiyunaryo sa Hiligaynon, subalit magsisimula kami sa isang edisyon ng klasikong Hiligaynon na maaaring palaguin at dagdagan ng kontemporaneo at panlansangan na Hiligaynon sa mga susunod pang mga taon. Ang sinabi ko lang, mapili sa ngayon ang Foundation sa proyektong susuportahan nito, subalit nanatili kaming bukas para sa mga mungkahi at panukala. Nais lang ng Foundation na maging makabuluhan at masinop sa paggugol ng kakaunting puhunan nito. Palagay ko naman, iyon ay tunay na makatuwiran.


© Noel G. de Leon & Kalatas: March 8, 2013

Peter Nery: The Storyteller

Nery loves to tell stories. Especially those about his hometown, Iloilo.
The Palanca Hall of Famer now lives in Los Angeles and works as an orthopedic nurse. He still writes – mostly in Hiligaynon, his mother tongue.

When the American Council for The Teaching of Foreign Languages recognized Hiligaynon as a language of concentration, they named Peter as one of their proficiency interviewers.

“I think because I am living outside of the country, I have that longing for the Motherland,” Peter explains. “I’m surrounded by people who speak English or Spanish, so the love for Hiligaynon grows more. As they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

Longing for home
Over Skype, Peter expressed his longing for Hiligaynon, the places of his youth, and the people he grew up with. “I continue writing about them; I begin to cherish more the words that are becoming less used.”

To date, he has published more than a dozen books, written several award-winning screenplays, and has even directed his first full-length film.

And yet recognition and monetary rewards are not his primary motivation.

“For me, it is finding your purpose and being involved,” Peter says. “As a writer I feel like I am communicating the human experience, not only to Hiligaynon readers, but also to lovers of literature. That drives me to continue to write.”

Artist, friend, Filipino
When he’s on duty at the hospital, Peter trades his pen for clipboards and syringes. But he puts his stories to good use when he interacts with patients.

“Sometimes sick people become very focused on themselves. They become very angry. With my knowledge of the arts and literature and all that, I sometimes engage them with stories, and that changes their perspective and their mood,” Peter says. “A good joke always breaks the ice.”

When asked why he keeps writing, Peter answers, “I could not live without doing this.”

“As a writer,” he continues, “I feel that it’s my responsibility to bring light into the experience of people and give them hope and inspire them, maybe educate them, but basically just to make them feel that their experience is also shared by others. Therefore my stories always have that element of hope and that element of sharing and doing something for others.” Through his stories, Peter continues to Do More.

“I think it’s also part of the idea of Doing More when you do not impose limits on yourself,” Peter says. “It’s not just defining yourself as a writer or a nurse but also being an inspiration to others.”


© Krista Garcia & November 22, 2013