Winning a Palanca

Very, very vividly, as though it happened only yesterday instead of years ago, I remember the first time I won a Palanca (Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature, a much-coveted prize among the literati).

Together with around 30 of my bosom buddies at Dentsu, Young & Rubicam-Alcantara, I was at Lucy's home (20 miles away from my own)—having a raucous time in her terrace, eating and bantering and wishing Lucy good wishes for a safe trip to the US in a few days.

Her house helper called from the sala and said I had a call from JR. My heart went lub-dub, lub-dub. My family calls only when there is an emergency.

"Mom, we received a notification. I won a Palanca," JR announced.

My lungs went on overdrive and my scream reached the next city.

"Mom, first prize!" he added.

My next scream reached the heavens.

"Mom, you won a Palanca, too!"

Now my scream must have broken a million eardrums.

"First prize!"

One last scream and my lungs, throat, larynx and other body parts snapped.

Everyone came in from the terrace, "What's wrong, Grace? Are you okay?"

"I'm okay, very okay, absolutely okay," I said, now totally dysfunctional with a hoarse voice not louder than a whisper.

That was a life-changing moment; grace found me in August, on Friday the 13th . That was when I finally made the decision (see-sawing in my mind for over a year) to quit advertising and take up creative writing.

Just two days ago, I went through the same lub-dub, lub-dub experience for the 5th time. I was solving a crossword puzzle after a long day in school when Ate Vi entered my bedroom.

"Did you join the Palanca again?!" she said, brandishing the familiar yellow plastic courier envelope containing the congratulatory letter and formal invitation to the awards night.

My throat and other body parts are no longer as spry as they were that first time. But I screamed anyway—silently—and wiped a tear that flowed down unbidden.

Winning a Palanca, for me, is always a moment of surprise. At that precise, precious second when grace finds me, I ponder my nothingness.

"I wonder why You care, God—
why do You bother with us at all?
All we are is a puff of air;
we're like shadows in a campfire."

Psalm 144:3-4 (The Message)


Anonymous said...

Ms. Grace! Congratulations on winning another Palanca! :D This is huge! God bless! :D

lucy bigornia said...

...and i screamed my congratulations to you in my reply to your text mssg saying that you won the palanca for the nth time two weekends ago!

Grace D. Chong said...

Thank you very much, Pungok. God bless you, too.

Grace D. Chong said...

Hi, Louse,

Even minus the exclamation points, I knew you were screaming with me. LOL.

Ruth Floresca said...

Ate Grace! Congrats, congrats, congrats!!! I am so happy for you! For what story po? :)

Winning a Palanca is also one of my dreams. But I guess I have to submit something first to up my chances :p

BTW, I just read Big Brother the other night. Naiyak ako because Daniel is so much like Bunsoy in the story. He takes good care of his kuya with cerebral palsy very well too :)

Grace D. Chong said...

How nice to hear from you, Ruth! The title of the story is "I am an Apple." it is about adoption. Warm regards to "Big Brother" Daniel!

Anonymous said...

Hi! congrats for Nth. just to let you know... am still a FAN..forever!

mabelita NADAL (o:

Grace D. Chong said...

Mrs. Nadal, it's always a pleasant treat to read your short notes on my blog!

Alvin said...

Congratulations! Very happy for you. Ü Hope to read your winning story soon. First Prize? Ü

Anonymous said...

Hall of Fame ka ngaruden!!!

Grace D. Chong said...

Thank you, Alvin. Hey, I was looking for you at the last Cinemalaya. Maybe you were there on a different day (?)

Grace D. Chong said...

Is this you, Dave? Saan pay. Masapul pay ti maysa.

dOnnaMaE said...

Ate Grace:)

Congratulations. I always wanted to write since I joined your creative writing workshop 5years ago (in Silliman 2005). Thank you for your inspiration! Now i'm even inspired to be a short story writer just like you..

Donna Mae (Compassion-LDP)

Grace D. Chong said...

Hi, Donna Mae!

You have the talent and the passion--go for it!

Yay Padua-Olmedo said...

Such an outpouring of GRACE! To God be the glory!

Grace D. Chong said...

Outpouring, drenching, soaking -- I am running out of words.

Frederick Delubiar Raz said...

it's better late than never.. CONGRATULATIONS!!!

i'm looking forward to read your piece.. :D

Grace D. Chong said...

Hi, Fred! Thank you very much. I can send the piece to you. What's your email addy?

Frederick Delubiar Raz said...

Ms. Grace, here's my email frdrck.skyler@gmail.com

thanks in advance..

anyway, what day is your class in southville? maybe i can visit you and Miss Yay.

Grace D. Chong said...

Hi, Fred! Just emailed you the manuscript. The semester ended last week and the next one will begin on the 20th. Our schedules have not been fixed, but will let you know. Thanks!

The Tiger Scribe said...

Hi Mam Grace... knowing that you won a palanca for the 6th time is something that delights my heart so much. When you see your idol receiving the ultimate of all awards, it feels liberating to dream that one day, with God's grace, my dream will happen in God's precious time.

Unknown said...

Good day to you, Ma'am Grace. I am Concepcion Belza, a faculty of Philippine Normal University Mindanao. I am also currently writing my dissertation on the contexts and aesthetics of children's literature. Being a Carlos Palanca award-winning writer, I wish to learn from you on the aesthetics of writing and about your craft as a writer. I hope you would grant me the favor of having an interview with you, Ma’am. I am hopeful that you will reply to this message. I can send you my formal letter of introduction. Thank you very much and more power.
email: belza.cg@pnu.edu.ph