The 61st Palanca Awards

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  8 September 2011, Thursday

The 61st Palanca Awards

For a Filipino writer, winning a Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature is one of the most gratifying accomplishments one can achieve.

The awards night was held, as always, on September 1, at the Manila Peninsula Hotel. The guest of honor was F. Sionil Jose, a five-time Palanca awardee, who received the 2011 Dangal ng Lahi Award. Fifty-eight other writers were given awards from first to third place, in several different categories in Filipino, Cebuano, Iluko, Hiligaynon, and English.

Also present among the writeratti was Palanca Foundation director-general Sylvia Palanca-Quirino, who spoke of the six-decade long history of the awards. Their family’s dedication in sustaining this program is to be lauded; save for them, there would be no recognition for Filipino literary writers.

Winning a Palanca is something to strive for, a goal, and gives direction to one’s efforts. We hope the Palanca Foundation continues their support of Philippine belles lettres.

It was with tremendous pleasure that I attended the awards night to receive a first prize for Essay for my piece “The Turn for Home: Memories of Santa Ana Park.” The Palanca Award is a heavy brass medal as big as a saucer, hung on a wide sapphire blue ribbon. It comes with a certificate, a wooden presentation box, and prestige, that clings to the awardees like perfume.

With judges.

With De La Salle University’s Dr Genevieve Asenjo (judge, Maikling Kuwento – Hiligaynon) and poet German Gervacio (judge, Tulang Pambata). 

I dedicate my win to my writing mentor at the University of the Philippines-Diliman, professor emerita Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo. It was in her creative non-fiction graduate class last year that I wrote my winning piece.

It was also for that class that this year’s second-place Essay winner, professor Jeena Rani Marquez-Manaois, wrote her winning “The River of Gold”, set in Cagayan de Oro.

With Jeena.

With writer Natasha Gamalinda, who accompanied her fiance Rosmon Tuazon (2nd prize, Tula) to the ceremony. She was my classmate, along with Jeena, in that same CNF class of Dr. Pantoja-Hidalgo. 

The role of mentor, I realize now, is highly significant and cannot be over-emphasized. On my own, without guidance, I most likely would not have produced this work. It was Dr. Pantoja-Hidalgo who gave me the guidance to take my memories and give them shape and structure in narrative form.

May other writers be blessed with the same good fortune as to find a mentor as kind and encouraging, whose keen critical insights instruct and set the direction to do even better in the craft, not only technically, but also in the lyricism and “literary-ness” of the work.

In my essay, I weave memories of the Santa Ana racetrack and my personal life. Here’s an excerpt. In this scene, I’ve been thrown off my horse during morning workout (I was the sport’s first female apprentice jockey and trained for several months) and am lying on the track:

“Jockeys rode past me; unseated apprentices were not an unusual sight, in fact it was expected for one to fall several times during training, and since it was obvious I wasn’t dead – yet – there was no cause for alarm. One jockey did stop beside me as I lay in the sand, staring blankly up at the sky.

He halted his horse and leaned over me. I saw him upside down. It was some wiry guy clad in layers of t-shirt, sweatshirt, and jacket. They all looked alike in their helmets.

“Okay ka lang?” he asked.

Of course not, you idiot, I nearly broke my neck when I fell and I could have been paralyzed from the neck down like Ron Turcotte who rode Secretariat who was the greatest racehorse of all time in my opinion and he spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair until he died in a car accident – Turcotte, not Secretariat, was what I wanted to say.

“I’m fine,” was what I actually said.

We were married at Don Bosco Church five months later.”

The essay will be published in December by the UP-Diliman College of Arts and Letters in their literary journal, “Likhaan”. It will also appear online on their website and on that of the Carlos Palanca Foundation.

* *  * * *

I read with interest last Wednesday’s column here in MST by our opinion editor Adelle Chua, which dealt with the topic of depression. I have beloved friends and family members who suffer from depression, and those of us in their support network often wonder what other treatment methods out there other than the usual would be beneficial.

A friend, American psychologist and Virginia Western Community College professor Dr. Annemarie Carroll, advocates yoga to ease depression, in addition to other treatments such as therapy and fish oil.

Says Dr. Carroll, “There’s a lot of research about using [yoga] for depression and this is what I’m working towards doing with my psych clients. The reason yoga is so helpful is that it teaches people the ability to “ride the wave” of discomfort with breathing – whether that’s physical discomfort as in a yoga posture that’s difficult for you, or in emotional/mental discomfort, as those feelings can come up while doing the physical practice.

“The person then begins to generalize that to their everyday life situations. Any good yoga teacher would be helpful, but sometimes you can find a yoga teacher who specializes in this.”

I don’t know much about the yoga scene in Manila, and was glad to receive word from writer/performer Lissa Romero De Guia about the “Wake Up and Shake Up!” yoga event presented by Art of Living Philippines.

It’s a two-hour event of “Meditation, Yoga and Wisdom”, set for September 14 at the AIM Conference Center in Makati beginning 6:30pm.

The session will be conducted by senior Art of Living teacher Swami Sadyojathah. He travels extensively all over the world teaching yoga and meditation, conducting trauma relief, and “spreading ancient techniques on how to live life with a deep sense of joy and enthusiasm.”

No previous experience in meditation or yoga is required. Wear comfortable clothing and bring a yoga mat and water bottle. For details call Lorna Nasayao (0917-8484898).  ***

Portraits of Dr Pantoja-Hidalgo and Dr Carroll  from their Facebook pages.

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6 Comments on The 61st Palanca Awards

  1. Joel
    8 September 2011 at 5:33 pm (2150 days ago)

    Jenny, wonderful to see your photo wearing that CPLMA medal. And your note on the mentorship of Dr. Pantoja-Hidalgo. You deserve it. Congrats again!

  2. Annemarie Carroll
    9 September 2011 at 1:37 am (2149 days ago)

    Jenny – Thanks so much for helping spread the word about the benefits of yoga for depression! Congrats again on your award – what an amazing achievement!

  3. wella
    10 September 2011 at 8:33 am (2148 days ago)

    Congratulations on your win! What an achievement! I’m proud to know you. Please post links and send an announcement when your winning piece is published online.

  4. amer
    10 September 2011 at 9:25 pm (2147 days ago)

    For some reason, I always believe that this will come to pass. It’s just a matter of time. Congratulations!

  5. thelma
    17 November 2012 at 9:30 am (1714 days ago)

    belated congratulations on your Palanca. unfortunately, i could not attend the awards night, else i would have met you. just a correction to the caption of one of your fotos above–that wasn’t me there.

  6. JennyO
    17 November 2012 at 12:08 pm (1714 days ago)

    Ma’am Thelma, thank you for your comment, I have changed the caption. I hope to meet you one of these days, hopefully soon. All the best! :)

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