A measly 5% of all entries.
That's how few there were from writers my age to the Palanca Awards this year. Of the 1077 manuscripts in competition, this percentage translates to only 54 entries.
Sylvia Palanca-Quirino, director general of the Carlos Palanca Foundation, mentioned in her talk that the passing of the torch to the younger generation is happening.
But . . .
Out of the 47 total Palanca winners, I counted over a dozen white-haired winners at the awarding ceremony. Add them to all the gray hair disguised in taupe, wigs, and commercial dyes, and the number comes up to something still impressive!
Like soldiers, old writers never die, they just fade away—by choice.
"This is my last Palanca entry," I thought aloud. Rhandee, a young winner retorted, "No! 18 or 81 does not matter in literature. Only good writing does."
Around me were young, old, and ages-in-between writers sharing their winning pieces to their seatmates. Our table had a winner in Iluko and a winner in Filipino. I wrote my piece in English so that completed the cast.
Conversations among writers never end. There are just too many things to talk about—the weather not one of them.
I beamed when I saw the revered invited guests: F. Sionil Jose, still writing at almost 90, and many other famous senior writers who are as active as active can be, writing anything they fancy.
However, there's no stopping ageing; I will someday get to that age category. I wonder if Palanca should still be in my itinerary then? It's a sobering thought.
Meanwhile, let me talk about the euphoria that floods you (young or old) when your written work is recognized. You can't seem to get out of a drunken stupor, dazed with cocktails of joy, disbelief, and excitement.
|My three minutes of fame|
|My own tradition of before-and-after photos at the entrance|
But thoughts of aging tumbled in my mind. (Aftermath of my recently-launched book on retirement? Ms. Quirino's remark about the dwindling number of entries from older writers?)
Maybe, maybe not.
At that moment, I so badly wanted to celebrate the writers who, even after reaching their 70s, 80s, and 90s, still put fingers to keyboard (or pen to paper) to immortalize their thoughts and soul in columns, poems, books, essays, novels, short stories, speeches: Henry Miller, Anais Nin, Papa Hemingway, Norman Mailer, Nick Joaquin, F. Sionil Jose, etc. etc.
Will I still write when I reach those ages? Let me recast that question. Will I still be given the grace of writing in my twilight years?