In one big room (usually the ballroom of Manila Peninsula Hotel), every first week of September, lovers of literature get together for the Palanca Awards Night. I am privileged to be among them again this year—as one of the 57 judges.
This is the night when excellence is celebrated.
The winners are identified and feted, with their loved ones and judges in all categories, plus special guests—famed literary enthusiasts and published authors—in the audience to applaud them and take their photos to record the moment.
Now on its 66th year, the Palanca Awards is the longest running literary contest organized by the Carlos Palanca Foundation Inc. This year, there were 986 entries in 20 categories—among which were 51 winners, 24 of whom were first-time awardees.
A friend of mine who never misses a Palanca Night calls it a family reunion. In a way it is. It brings together people who belong to different demographics, but with common psychographics (meaning: same mindset), a term we invented in advertising, and in whose veins flows the same passion for the printed word.
Although it is a family reunion, I don’t know many of them personally (especially the famous ones)—neither do they know me—but I have read their books, and therefore, they are kindred spirits.
In this age of selfie, I still haven’t learned to take one, so I pass up opportunities to have photos with those whom I admire like F. Sionil Jose, Krip Yuson, Butch Dalisay, Tony Mabesa, National Artist Virgilio Almario, etc. Philippine literature wouldn’t be without them.
My photos are limited (taken by third son JR, who had to be cajoled to take them), but they represent the grace that permeated the soft air.
I take the chance to talk to the winner in the category which I judged with two others. He is a high school teacher and this is the first time he joined the Palanca.
“Beginner’s luck,” he grins.
Literature has nothing to do with luck, I want to reply, it is a gift from the Master writer Himself, but his wife wants a quick selfie and so the conversation turns to smiles and endless “Congratulations!”