the babel machine


Saturday, September 04, 2004

confessions of an ex-palanca virgin (part 1)

I've been blessed this year to have one of my greatest dreams come true (I won't tell you the one involving Nicole Kidman, hehe).

My entry, "Surviving the Zeroes," was adjudged third prize in the Essay category (English Division) of the 2004 Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature by the board of judges.

I've been thanking God everyday for this honor, and I'm just awed that a board of judges chaired by Ruel de Vera and that includes Conrado de Quiros and Edna Flor M. de los Santos chose my essay for an award. To think that I almost wasn't able to write and submit that essay, if not for the constant encouragement of Ellen, who has always believed in me even during those dark times when I'd lost faith in God and myself.

It's funny how I found out about the award. I was, as usual, working from home editing stories for, when Ellen called. Barely able to contain her joy, she said, "B, nanalo ka!"

Me: "What?"

Her: "Nanalo ka sa Palanca!"

Me: (Thud!)

Ellen was the one who actually went to the Palanca building to submit my essay in April. On Aug. 17, she was going through the stuff in her wallet when she saw the Palanca acknowledgement receipt they gave her when she submitted the essay. She called them up to ask if the entry had won.

"What's the title of the entry?" the woman on the other end of the line asked.

Since it had been several months, Ellen tried to recall the title and then said, "Surviving the Zeroes."

"Oo, nanalo ka." (Pause.) Ikaw ba si Jose Maria Alarilla?"

Ellen, who was bursting with joy, replied, "Hindi po, wife niya."

"Oo, nanalo siya."

It turned out that the official notification was already on its way to our condo unit because the Palanca Foundation sent it a day before Ellen called. Of course, when Ellen was recounting this to me over the phone a few minutes later, I simply couldn't believe it.

"Sige, gusto mo tumawag ka," Ellen said, which I did.

"Ah, hello, si Jose Maria Alarilla po ito. Itatanong ko lang kung nanalo 'yung essay ko," I said.

"Oo, 'Surviving the Zeroes,' tumawag 'yung wife mo," the Palanca woman said, sounding amused.

"Yeah, sabi nga niya, pero sabi ko gusto ko ring tumawag para ma-confirm talaga, hehe."

Smooth, huh?

The happiest day of my life was getting married to Ellen, followed by Sam's birth on December 27, 2001. But yes, finding out that I'd won a Palanca is the third happiest day of my life.

I'm also grateful that through the Palanca award (and the Internet), I got in touch again with some of my friends from UP Tinta, my org back in college. This is thanks to my Dubai-based best friend Quay Evano, the poet and artist extraordinaire, who in a clear case of synchronicity had gotten in touch with them shortly before the awards and was now tirelessly announcing that I'd won. Thanks, p're, your victories are mine too, and I can't wait for our next inuman.

It's also a source of pride to me to be a friend of 7-time Palanca awardee Dean Francis Alfar, who was also a Tinta orgmate. Dean won two this year, for Futuristic Fiction - English and One-Act Play - English. He and his wife Nikki (another Tinta orgmate and fantastic writer) saved seats for me and Ellen at the Palanca awards night and we chatted about the old days.

Pauline Orendain also e-mailed her congratulations -- she and husband Dino Fulgencio are also my Tinta friends, now based in New Jersey. And sorry Pauline, for those books I borrowed from you eons ago which are still with me, including the great Butch Dalisay's "Killing Time in a Warm Place" which has his dedication.

At the awards night, I also got to talk to my UP professor Anton Juan again. A multi-awarded playwright, Anton Juan chaired the board of judges for Full-Length Play - English. Pauline, Luz Manalo and I sure had fun in his class.

As you can see, my Tinta friends are all blogging and are to blame for my deciding to create my own blog, hehe. (I'm one of their contributing editors) published Part 1 of "Surviving the Zeroes," so you can check it out if you have the time. You can also e-mail comments to

Posted by Joey Alarilla :: 8:56 AM :: 7 Comments:

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