Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Words and Shadows: This Year's Philippines Graphic Literary Awards

So, it's been a long long while since I last posted. I've been terribly busy lately -- as I dash off this blog post, I can think of at least a half dozen things I should be doing, instead -- but also, I tend to post more on Twitter and Facebook these days. I guess I enjoy the more immediate -- and yes, somewhat more filtered -- feedback and influence. :)

There are some things that require more than 140 characters and/or a link, though. It was my great pleasure and honor to be one of the judges for this year's Philippines Graphic awards -- renamed the Nick Joaquin Literary Awards in recent years -- along with the illustrious Susan Lara, and of course Graphic literary editor Marra PL. Lanot, who chaired the trio of judges.

Getting a story published in the Graphic marked a definite turning point in my writing career. I was still in high school then, which made the acceptance letter -- with hand-scrawled note from Nick Joaquin, woo hoo! -- doubly mind-blowing. (Later on I would talk with other young writers who had received similar notes upon the acceptance of their first works for the Graphic, and we would get all misty-eyed and crap like that.) And it was always a pleasure to see the illustrations that artist par excellence Jimbo Albano would come up with to accompany my subsequent submissions.

Anyway, there was a big Awards night for the prize-winners, marking the Graphic's 19th anniversary -- and also bestowing honors on The Graphic’s 10 Outstanding Young Leaders, and former Graphic Editor-in-Chief and Palanca Awards Hall of Famer Gregorio Brillantes, who received the first Nick Joaquin Lifetime Achievement Award for "his lifetime of service and achievements as a teacher, journalist and writer of short fiction."

Here's an excerpt from the article by Alma Anonas-Carpio:

"The winners of the Nick Joaquin Awards for Literature were Rosario Cruz-Lucero, who brought home the grand prize of P50,000 for her short story titled “Papa’s Field” published in the August 25, 2008, issue; Erwin F. Castillo, who bagged the second prize of P30,000 for his story “Cape Engaño” which appeared as a two-part story in the Graphic; while the third prize of P20,000 went to Sasha Martinez for her short story “This Fleet of Shadows,” which was published on September 29, 2008."

And here are my comments on the winning stories:

On "Papa's Field" by Rosario Cruz-Lucero:

A long-overdue homecoming, a difference of sensibilities between siblings, the contrast of city and small town: at first glance there is much here that is overly familiar, but as always, it is in the telling that a story takes on its particular power. Each detail is presented with care and sensitivity and surehanded skill; each character comes alive. In the end we are enormously affected by this quiet tale of two sisters, the weight of personal and political history, and the ghosts of dogs and fathers.

On "Cape Engaño" by Erwin F. Castillo:

There is a dark fierce joy at work in this tale of the dead and the dying and the lost. From New Year's revelry to near-death delirium, the author assaults us with vivid imagery, snapshots of a "world unhinged," as the story of Dr. Mikkis Madamba, Regional Representative, and his larger-than-life mother, actress Lumen Madamba, is told. Along the way a young goat is hung from a showerhead and slaughtered, an olfactory comparison is made between Filipino and foreign lovers, and a 13 year-old rock star-worshipping death watcher in boots is hired.

On "This Fleet of Shadows" by Sasha Martinez:

Effortlessly and eloquently captures that early and all-too-brief time in one's life when mothers smell like mornings and every blank surface is a canvas. With colorful charm and a strong subtle sadness, this story depicts and demonstrates the childhood joy of catching words and shadows. Its serene mid-morning stillness reminds us of what we were and what we always end up leaving behind.

The complete article on this year's Nick Joaquin Awards, with all of the judges' comments, is in this week's issue of the Philippines Graphic (cover date July 13, 2009). Congratulations to all the winners! :D