Monday, September 01, 2003

palanca awards night 2003

because, because

Finally, riding the cab to the Pen with Nikki, I found myself excited, as if it were the first time all over again.

Because at the heart of things, peer recognition by a mystery group of judges for something I wrote and worked at is like a wink in my direction – that other people, disinterested parties, found merit in it.

Because more so than getting the award and the prize money, Palanca night is the evening I get to spend with some of my peers, both familiar and unknown, both for years past and the current year. A chance to have conversations with people I look up to and to make new friends.

Because while writing is ultimately a solitary affair, at a certain point you're done, and celebrating good writing is best with a group of people with the same sensibilities concerning craft (and, as Butch Dalisay pointed out, it is also a good excuse to get soused. Hello Butch, you lurker, you).

Because my nine years self-imposed literary hermitage, of not joining or judging, has ended.

Because Manila Peninsula food is good (and my wine cup overfloweth) and people dress up (yes, for me, an awards night should have appropriate pomp).

a note on the winners mix

It was great to note that majority of the prizes went to first-time winners.

This means that literature is alive and well, and that there are more and more quality voices to listen to.

And that makes being a return winner is much sweeter.

short time again

Mingling before dinner, Alex Cortez told me that he has planning to stage “Short Time” again (see, what did I tell you about this play) and if I permitted it, would stage “The Onan Circle” too – for some sort of Alfar-themed evening. I was delighted, of course, and now think I need to write a third play to round it up and create a trilogy. A Trilogy of Lust, or something like that.


I got to meet Honoel Ibardaloza at last (and will respect his request for mystery by neither posting a photograph nor describing what he looks like). Hai is such an interesting person, and our meeting was rendered doubly wonderful by his agreement to sign on the Big Project my friends and I are putting together. Surprisingly, we shared the same views on the development of Philippine sequential art styles and the position of manga in that context. I gave him a goody bag with issues of Angel Ace, Ab Ovo and The Lost and he gave me copies of his winning stories, plus stuff for the gang. I told him that I planned to visit Negros next year and would stop by Bacolod before going to Dumaguete.

Though it was our first meeting, I felt a certain kinship with him. Something like a writerly bond – because those who observe the human condition cannot help but identify others who think along the same lines.

my own book?

Christina Hidalgo (publisher of UP Press, who won Publisher of the Year honors at the National Book Awards last Saturday) told me to submit my plays for consideration. For what? To be published as a personal anthology. It seems I have enough, and all prize-winners at that. I asked her if I could submit a collection of short fiction instead.

“Why?” she asked. “Are you happier with your fiction?”

“Yes,” I replied, after a moment. Because it was true. Later, on the way home, Nikki told me that it was because I found writing fiction more challenging. Maybe that’s the case. I certainly felt that way when I won my workshop seats for the Silliman University and UP Diliman writing workshops. “Kindly disregard my plays,” I wrote the board. “Please judge my worth on the basis of the attached fiction.”

So we’ll see. Perhaps I undervalue my plays because secretly I feel fiction is more “important”, which is pish-posh, of course. And if a book of plays is the first step to getting a collection of fiction out, then so be it. Besides, the operative word is “for consideration”. Remember, nothing in this world is certain.

onstage: my own cheering section

It really made me smile when my name was called and my table erupted into loud cheers (the lesson here is to immediately make friends with the people you choose to sit with, if you aren't already known to each other).

Onstage, I was caught off-guard as each of the head judges took time to talk to me (and really, I just wanted the thing and the check!).

Alexr Cortez: Dean, don't forget about the new stagings, okay?

Guillermo Pesigan: Oh, so you're the Onan playwright (and I blushed, because of course the play is about masturbation and stuff like that)

Cirilo Bautista: What else have you been writing?

Ophie Dimalanta: Hey... I know you. You're very familiar to me... (and indeed, remember me she should, since I gave her a hell of time at one of the workshops, questioning authority in my usual little shy introverted and quiet way)

Sylvia Palanca: Don't you want the check? (when it took me forever to get to her at the end)

name dropping (a la society page)

I met the youngest winner, Monique Buensalido, and her lovely parents. I wish I had parents like Tita Joy (o di ba, Tita Joy na?) who are incredibly supportive and encouraging. Nikki and I wanted to ask them how they managed to raise three well-rounded kids (all award-winners, one of them won the competition for redesigning Nayong Filipino).

Vince Groyon (of Dimas fame) and I chatted about writing. My god, I don’t know how he managed it, but he was much taller than when we last met. He judged one of the categories and was Hai’s teacher (small world, I tell you).

I scanned the entire Rigodon Ballroom for my secret college crush, Maria Elena Paterno-Locsin (who wrote all those lovely children’s stories and let me read “Oil” years ago) but couldn’t find her. Instead, I bumped in Kuya Kryp Yuzon (I held true to my promise when I spoke with him at the Anvil Awards), Cirilo Bautista (who grilled me as to what I was up to nowadays – and somehow, having very little creative output this year left me feeling embarrassed), Cyan Abad-Jugo (one of Nikki’s co-writers for the very late Mango Jam) and her very proud father, Gemino Abad (I hope that 17 or so years from the scene would be me and Nikki accompanying Sage at the Palancas, with tears in our eyes), Chris Vertido (who told me what a fatty I had become since we last met in ‘94, sheesh), and Ruey de Vera (who explained that the reason I won 2nd place and why there was no 1st place in my category was that I had a marvelous play but the judges hated me – LOL!). And many others.

What a night.

a private celebration

Nikki and left early to catch Fully Booked before it closed for the night, and I rewarded us both with whatever books we wanted. Me, for my rejuvenated writing spirit; and her, for being the best editor and wife a man could possibly ever want.

Here's to my real best friend, partner and forever kakampi.

near-death experience

We almost got killed by the frenetic taxi driver on our way home, but… so what? Who cares? Tonight, I live!


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