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.
My friend, Dr. Luis Gatmaitan, a Hall of Fame Palanca awardee and who had been invited to judge a number of times, whispered as I hurried up the stage, It's more exciting to go up there as a winner than as a judge.
I couldn't agree more. When I went up the stage for my awards on several Sept. 1's, I nearly tripped and my lips twitched here and there. But now having the reverse view on ringside seat, I saw how those near-trips and twitches really looked like—a glow that rivaled the spotlights. 

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)


Ryan Rotor said...

congrats ms. G =)

Grace D. Chong said...

Gracias, Rye.

Yay Padua-Olmedo said...

What an honor, Grace, and you've taken it all as an unending shower of grace.

Grace D. Chong said...

Indeed, without grace, nothing is.

Jose Paolo Cheeseman Calcetas said...

Palanca is indeed THE most prestigious literary award in the Philippines. For one, it was established to serve as a validation for writers. I believe that one can't truly become a writer unless he holds in his hands a Palanca. It doesn't profit anyone or anything, but it serves as a bastion of our culture.

Ma'am Grace, you are truly blessed to have been graced with the opportunity to win such award many times. So may I ask, is there any secret you can share to aspiring writers who want to win? thank you and may you continue to become a grace to others.

Grace D. Chong said...

Thank you once again, Jose Paolo, for following my site. I think I wrote a blog on my guiding principles in writing sometime ago entitled, "Nine Chongisms." Maybe you can find it in my archives?

Jose Paolo Cheeseman Calcetas said...

Yes, madam. I will. I am just too happy because I can't believe that I am exchanging messages with my favorite writer of all time. Yes, following your site not only gives my soul invigoration, I also remain inspired in my work as a speech writer. Nine chongisms, that will be my writer's bible.

Ms. Curious said...

This might be a really long lost comment here, but congratulations!

I would just like to ask, are the organizers really strict that only one guest is allowed? I was thinking of having both my parents with me as I receive my very first award this year...

Also, do all winners get medals, or only the first prize winners? I'm really, really nervous for September 1 and I feel immensely blessed! Thank you so much! God bless!

Grace D. Chong said...

Hello, Ms. Curious!

Congratulations on your first Palanca Award! Going up the stage will be an experience of a lifetime, I promise you. Take as many photos as you can to remember the day.

What I do on Awards Night is bring along one son. Then after dinner, the rest of the family comes to watch the program.

Only first prize winners get medals, but all winners get a certificate.

Have we met? I hope to see you on Sept. 1. Thanks for visiting my site.

Ms. Curious said...

Hi, Ms. Grace! It's me, Ms. Curious again.

I just want to ask if the dinner comes first before the awarding session. Following your lead, I already have in mind to take just one person along (most likely my sister), but I'm deeply worried that my parents won't be allowed to come in for the awarding session and they won't be able to see me on stage. Gosh, I am such in a dilemma, since I really want them to see me. It would break my heart if they can't be there. :(

We haven't met yet, but I wish to see you on September 1, finally get over my shyness and introduce myself!

Thank you so much, Ms. Grace!

Grace D. Chong said...

Your parents may go in after dinner--around 8-8:30. After dinner, they allow anyone to enter (from what I had observed in the past). I'd be delighted to meet you on the 1st of September!

Eva Kristiaman said...

Congrats Grace! God bless you richly to bless your readers richly!

Grace D. Chong said...

Thank you, Eva. Hope to see you again sometime in the near future.