EVERY YEAR AT ABOUT THIS time, the Palanca Awards for literary excellence galvanize scores of Filipino writers to come up with their best stories, poems, plays and essays.
This year, the excitement level is even higher, because the prestigious literary awards are marking their 60th year. Naturally, the country?s best writers want to win awards this year to further shine up their reputations on this especially auspicious occasion.
Whenever we conduct writing workshops, we urge our students to compete for Palanca awards, because they can do a lot to help establish new scribes as exceptional writers. We know this for a fact, because our own writing career has been greatly firmed up by our good showing in the Palanca competitions.
When we first joined the Palanca tilt decades ago, we were not aware of its ?talent-affirming? power. It was just something logical for us to do, since we were active in Philippine theater as an actor.
Imagine our great surprise and delight, therefore, when our first one-act play won third prize in the annual tilt. We were even more delighted when some veteran writers warmly welcomed us to the then fairly small and exclusive world of Philippine letters.
We were so encouraged by our unexpected success that we again joined the one-act play tilt the following year?and won first prize. When we attended the awards rites, we were overwhelmed by the enthusiastic reception we got from the competition?s organizers and jurors, who seemed genuinely delighted that they had helped ?discover? a new and now first prize-winning playwright.
It was this sincere and enthusiastically encouraging reception that impressed us most, and prompted us to urge other young writers to join the Palanca tilt. We were also tickled pink when the chair of the board of judges confided to us that he thought our winning script was written by a name writer who, it turned out, failed to win any prize that year.
Another year, we were so busy with our work at the Ateneo Educational TV Center that we didn?t finish writing our entry to the awards. However, ambition got the better of us, and on deadline day, we decided to finish writing the script, anyway.
In fact, we were so driven to meet the deadline that, even in the cab on the way to the Palanca office, we were still madly typing away!
We did make it just in the nick of time, but we felt so harassed that we forgot about the whole deal?until, on Sept. 1, we were told that our ?instant? script had won for us our second top Palanca award.
Not to boast, but that particular victory really threw us for a loop, because it ?proved? to us that winning a top award was as easy as pie. It isn?t, of course, but that?s how it felt like at the time.
Some more awards later, we learned to take the whole deal in less silly and smug perspective, and focused more, not just on winning, but on what the entire writing and competing process should be all about. It was great to be known as a ?record-setter? in the tilt (six awards in six years of competition, four of them first prizes), but there really had to be more to the whole experience than that.
We were grateful to the Palanca Awards for ?making? us as a writer, but we realized that we had to do something more with the reputation that the awards had made for us.
Our first and most controversial decision was?to stop competing for awards! Our friends were horrified at our decision because, they gruffly pointed out, we were at the ?peak? of our playwriting powers.
But, we took our cue from champion boxer, Rocky Marciano, and opted to quit ?undefeated,? to keep our focus, not on the prize, but on the gift.
In any case, we had already benefited a lot from the Palanca Awards, so it was time for other writers to get a similar boost.
Next, we decided to devote ourselves to the production and direction of Filipino scripts, so they wouldn?t remain gleaming but unproduced on a shelf, but would reach the audiences they were intended to move and delight.
Finally, we conducted many scriptwriting workshops, the better to ?hand down? the Palanca torch, as it were?and we?re happy to report that quite a number of our workshoppers are now Palanca awardees in their own right. You can bet that some of them will be joining this year?s tilt, to add more laurels to their burnished brows.
If you want to join the Palanca competition this year, you have until April 30 to write and submit your magnum opus. Lotsa pluck and luck! ?And, thank you, Palanca.