Monday, September 03, 2007
The truth was, I almost never got to Manila to attend the Palanca Awards. My sundo
was late, and we were soon caught in traffic on the way to the airport. They were almost closing the plane door when I arrived breathless and deep in prayer that some miracle would happen -- and miracle of miracles, the check-in counter girl kindly issued me a boarding pass. (That I knew her was, of course, a blessing in disguise.) And so off to Manila we went, my brother Edwin and I. I never thought it would turn out to be the strangest Palanca I have ever been to. (I can't really complain, though. I proved to be a surprise beneficiary for the strangeness.)
Manila was calm and slightly drizzling when we arrived -- a perfect thing since I hate walking under Manila's occasional blazing sun. This was our view of the cityscape of Makati from Room 908 of the Manila Peninsula where we stayed. The Palanca was being held in the Pen's Rigodon Ballroom -- and Edwin wanted to be as near as possible to the venue. "I've always wanted to stay in Manila Pen," he told me, and so that was that. Later that September 1 night, we went down from our room to the lobby, and the first people I saw inside were...
... great friends and speculative fiction
advocates Dean Francis Alfar
and wife Nikki
. (Dean won second prize for the children's story "Poor, Poor Luisa".) The table he choose for us, while far from the stage, was perfect: it was very near the buffet table, strategic location for a huge ballroom brimming with writers who were already quite excited and hungry
. Strangely, for me, the Rigodon Ballroom looked smaller. Then again, this was already my third Palanca, and perhaps my memory of the cavernous ballroom from my first win in 2002 has already been compromised by old age.
This is another one of my good friends, Glenn Sevilla Mas
, second prize winner for the naughty full-length play "Games People Play." I haven't seen Glenn since our Iligan days in 2002, and so this was quite the reunion. But like old friends, the years that passed didn't seem to matter too much: we were back to our kalog
ways, amusing ourselves in naughty conversation.
Our table has got to be the loudest one. It would even get louder before the night was over. After a sumptuous dinner of what constituted a feast of fish dishes (delighting the pescetarian in me), the program began. Below, on stage, are some of the judges in the English Division -- Butch Dalisay
, Carla Pacis
, and Isagani R. Cruz
Below are pictures of me receiving my award from the judges and from Ms. Nemie Bermejo
. I realized right then that it was still a thrill -- even after all these years -- to be on that stage in front of friends and many of the movers and shakers of Philippine literature.
After the awarding, the program continued. The poet Ricardo de Ungria
read the winning poems by Mikael Co
and Jodi Reyes
, and then the actress Irma Adlawan
essayed the role of a Muslim DVD seller in Chris Martinez
's winning play "Our Lady of Arlegui," and then Mar Roxas
spoke -- and people drank more wine and Bailey's, helped themselves to the dessert, and basically milled about reconnecting with friends and other writers...
These are Marjorie Evasco, Mookie Katigbak, Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo,
and Antonio Hidalgo
. Mookie is the "proxy eros" (Dean's term) for Sarge Lacuesta
who was in Iowa for the International Workshop. Sarge won first prize for the short story "Flames."
These are my co-winners in my category. Dean Francis Alfar with Lakambini Sitoy
(who won first prize for "The Elusive Banana Dog"), together with Bing's father, the great T. Valentino Sitoy
, and niece.Douglas Candano
, second prize winner for his short story "Dreaming Valhalla," with Michael Coroza
and son. Like me, Michael won third prize his maikling kuwentong pambata
"Imbisibol Man ang Tatay."
As the night wore on, my brother Edwin must be thinking: "Filipino writers are crazy..."
These are two of my mentors, Merlie Alunan
and Susan Lara
. Ma'am Merlie won first prize for the Cebuano short story "Pamato." The lovely Ma'am Susan was one for the judges for the short story in English.
This is Dinah Roma
, third prize winner for her poetry collection "Geographies of Light."
Dean and Nikki with Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo. When the speeches began, we gelled into a discussion of Philippine publishing -- the secrets, the do's and don'ts, etc. It was an enlightening conversation, given the fact that Ma'am Jing is married to Milflores Publishing's Sir Tony, and Dean is a young publisher for Kestrel.
I look unfairly dwarfish beside Dean and Crystal Koo
, third prize winner for the short story, "Benito Salazar's Last Creation" ...
... and I look terrifyingly starstruck beside Korina Sanchez
and Senator Mar Roxas
. Others have already noted my resemblance to the poet Larry Ypil.
With Jerome Gomez
, second prize winner for the maikling kuwento
With Palanca Hall of Famer Rene O. Villanueva
. Mr. Villanueva, I think, holds the record for having won the most number of Palancas. I had directed his play "Asawa" back in college, and now, here I was beside him looking positively stalkerish...
With famed Ladlad
series editor Danton Remoto
, who proceeded to re-introduce me to...
... Anvil Publishing's Karina Africa Bolasco
(third from left), and Marra PL. Lanot
. Let's just say something fruitful came off this meeting. (Right, Kit?)
Later on, the LitCritters took Edwin and me to Red Box in Greenbelt where we sang the rest of the night away...
This is Kate Osias
and Vin Simbulan
searching for songs, and preparing to belt...
... while Dean and Alex Osias
look on. (Alex, it would soon turn out, is a surprise rocker.)
Kate, Andrew Drilon,
and Nikki giving their all! Vin chose a Gary Valenciano song for me, which sealed effectively my corny romantic side. Fortunately, there are no photographic evidences for the effort.
Dean giving a slam-dunk performance, devouring the microphone with such musical energy. A great way to end a strange night. How strange? Read Dean's blog post about Palanca night
 This is Where You Bite the Sandwich
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