Just when I thought winning second place in the Palanca six years ago was the ultimate feather in my writing cap, the venerable muse of literary graces treasured me with yet another orgasmic delight: my short story "Chopsticks" - submitted to and which apparently got published in the Philippine Graphic last year - won third place in the 2010 Philippines Graphic - Nick Joaquin Literary Awards. First place went to Kit Kwe for "The Fires of the Sun in the Crystalline Sky" while second place went to Easy Fagela for "Deadlines."
Now I've always considered myself more of a creative non-fiction person, and "Chopsticks" was actually my first genuine foray into the realm of short stories. The spark came from out of nowhere, and before I knew it I was writing of silly feng shui anecdotes, painful memories, and your typical Filipino-Chinese family fussing over chopsticks. With a twist, of course. While this year's first and second place winners were both Silliman veterans, I am yet to sail the night boat to Dumaguete - that is, if I even get to. First timer's luck? Maybe. But then again, maybe not just.
Thank you to the judges: the trio of eminent writers Krip Yuson, Susan Lara and Charlson Ong for believing in my work. Thank you also to the equally eminent Marra PL Lanot - Graphic literary editor last year and also my brother's Palanca judge - for deeming my work worthy of publication. And many thanks to the awesome Pete Lacaba for taking time to personally inform poor old clueless me of the great, great news.
Last but not the least, thank you to dear old Mang Nick (wherever you are) for serving as the hefty inspiration and the indelible spirit behind our colorful literary journeys – and victories.
Beyond the numerous congratulatory remarks and handshakes, everyone summed it all up with a single piece of advice: "Keep writing. Keep writing. Keep writing." Oh yes, I definitely will (As if this year's generous prizes aren't more than enough motivation, haha.)
Kidding aside, here's to the future of writing. Here's to the future of Philippine literature. You'll be seeing more manuscripts from me.
An excerpt from "Chopsticks":
(Postscript: "Chopsticks" was eventually republished in Lauriat: A Filipino-Chinese Speculative Fiction Anthology, which came out in 2012 - see blog post.)
An excerpt from "Chopsticks":
When I was five, I thought chopsticks were an absolute pain in the neck. The first time I held them, they kept slipping from my fingers, and I fumbled about gripping them awkwardly, each stick bumping into the other every time I twisted them in the wrong direction. Mother always made it look so easy. The chopsticks would lithely rise in her hands as she directed them into a plate of steaming noodles, securely clipping a reasonable amount and bringing them to her plate – or straight to her mouth.
“You have to hold them like tongs,” she demonstrated. “And by all means, grasp them firmly. You don’t want to end up with nothing.” It was understandably a test of control and coordination, and somewhere at the back of my head I recalled her narrating that five thousand years of practice made China home of the world’s best surgeons, her voice swelling with pride.