Palanca Awards 2011
This year's September 1 is a season of smiles, I thought, noticing for the first time that everyone I met inside the ballroom of Manila Peninsula Hotel had a grin glued on his face.
Well, the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards Night is a happy occasion. The winners are given their certificates/medals on stage.
Now on its 61st year, the Palanca Awards remains, as written on its website, “The country's most prestigious and longest-running literary contest.”
Receiving your certificate/medal takes no more than two minutes. But it makes you feel like you're floating on air far more than that.
I glimpsed some of the biggest smiles that night on stage where I stayed for two minutes—times six. As chair of the jury for the Kabataan Essay category in both Filipino and English, I was privileged to hand out the first, second, and third awards in both divisions.
But a judge had her share of excitement, too—of an unusual kind.
I felt humbled to be a part of a judging panel whose job was to separate the great from the excellent: a herculean task. After reading the entries over and over again, reveling in full adrenaline rush, you begin to doubt whether you are up to the task or are being fair.
Judging is personal taste. Put three judges together and there will be three points of view.
This is when one needs the grace of discernment. Human blinders make you lose your way.
After writing down my choices' strengths and weakness, I brought my notes to the judging table. Two other judges and I, after a lengthy discussion, agreed on the first, second and third prizes in both English and Filipino divisions.
I was blessed with two gentlemen peers who were as objective as objective can be. There were no names on the entries, just numbers, and the judges' identity were kept confidential. Every name was revealed only on September 1.
All below 18, the winners brimmed with optimism and idealism. (To read their winning pieces, please click.)
A bonus for me that night, aside from meeting the literary greats whose works I drool over and a huge souvenir medal, was talking for the first time to one of my revered Filipino authors, F. Sionil Jose, the guest speaker.
But just when I wanted to have a photo with him, my camera batteries conked out. Luis came to the rescue (95% of the photos on these page were taken by him).
“I pass through your town, Rosales, on my way to my own, sir, ” I babbled as an opener. “One time we drove around looking for the balete tree in your Rosales Saga.”
He laughed and rattled off in Ilocano, “Awan didiay! [That tree is non-existent!]” A fact I had already known from write-ups of him, yet it made for good conversation with a National Artist whose literary achievements stun.
So I got my pictures, which I am sharing with you.
Looking at them, I think I imbibed the winners' smiles—especially because when Tony and I left the hotel that night, this verse illumined my mind anew:
“. . . as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.” 2 Corinthians 4:15 (NLT)