Sunday, November 25, 2012


For the men and women of Palanca letters, not in the Cursillo sense, two Thursdays ago marked the start of Septemberfest! Yes, it was the V-Day at The Peninsula Manila, or aptly called The Manila Pen, where the best and the brightest writers were treated to dining and wining by the Palanca family.

Of course, by Palanca, we mean -- the Palanca -- the legacy of Don Carlos Palanca who was born on 1 September 1869 in a Chinese village known as Wily and went to the Philippines at 15, the same year Juan Luna won the gold medal at the 1884 Exposicion Nacional de Bellas Artes in Madrid for hisSpoliarium!

He is not just of the La Tondeňa fame. But of the Tan Guin Lay fortune which they share with the Hungry? Or the Angry Artists? Like the best-selling author and publisher, Antonio Hidalgo, who admitted that he was pissed, of all places, while we were in a men's room! Openly, he cut to bits his good friend Gregorio Brillantes' speech during the “New Diamond Anniversary” last year, that probably, as their literary barkadas would tease them, caused Sir Tony's demise last February 4, leaving his wife Jing and their daughters behind.

Anyway, this year, we lost two National Artists in Alejandro Reyes Roces who died last 23 May and Edith Lopez Tiempo whose death last 21 August seemed to be the climax, or the anticlimax, since four, or five, months earlier we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Silliman University Writers Workshop which she founded in 1962 with her husband Edilberto. Five days ago, the Cultural Center of the Philippines hosted the “state tribute” to Ma'am, or Mom, Edith via a morning of mourning, music, reminiscence, and poetry.

By the way, two literary matriarchs also met their Maker: poet Ophelia Alcantara Dimalanta last 4 November, and fictionist Kerima Polotan-Tuvera last 19 August!

And our family lost Zenaida Daelo Mendiola, our Other Mother, last 26 August.

The Palancas, too, are grieving over the loss of their beloved mother, Doňa Mercedes Borja de Palanca, who faded away last January at the age of 95.Mrs. Sylvia Palanca Quirino, the Carlos Palanca Foundation's Director General, recalled her mother's perfect attendance: “On the first of September every year for the past 60 years, she was with us to see the best of Philippine literature as it was read or acted out on stage. She was with us to witness the rapture on the faces of first-time Palanca winners, the radiance on the faces of repeat winners, and the pride on the faces of the Hall of Famers.”

“Atrocious” tension mounted, however, when National Artist Francisco Sionil Jose gave his instant theater review of Remi Karen Velasco's Ondoy: Ang Buhay sa Bubong directed onstage by Uro dela Cruz with Nor Domingo as his assistant. Good thing, it subsided like flash flood when Mrs. Quirino revealed the secret of their success which we can sum up as REMIT! More of a codename than a storm name, it means R for renewal or recognition or reaffirmation, E for excellence, M for memory, I for imagination, and T for tradition. Mrs. Quirino reiterated that these are not big words: “They are honorable words. Noble ones. And they best describe and define the continuing partnership we have with Filipino writers, that arc of bonding that continues to span our commitment to the cause of excellence of the written word, thus honoring ourselves and our times.”

We want to know more, more than just facts and figures about the 61st Palanca Awards with a record number of 55 winners with a total number of winning 58 works. It has 24 new winners and 31 former winners; has received 1,160 entries from contestants who have the following age range: 20-under (11%); 21-30 (27%); 31-40 (25%); 41-50 (22%); 51-60 (5%); 61-70 (9%); has 26 novels in English and Filipino more than in 2008; and has 35 Kabataan essays, too, more than last year. So, Mrs. Quirino, need we say more?

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