Supporting Filipino literature

An award-winning writer, a veteran journalist, and a columnist of The Standard were the recipients of Nick Joaquin Literary Awards last Sept. 29 at F1 Hotel in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig.

The NJLA are given for short stories in English published in Philippines Graphic magazine during a one-year period. An award is also given for Poet of the Year.

Among the attendees was National Artist F. Sionil Jose.

This year’s NJLA judges were: Gawad Balagtas awardee and Philippine Star columnist Alfred “Krip” Yuson, UST Creative Writing Center Director Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo, and Feronia Award-winning poet and UP professor emeritus Gemino H. Abad.

The judges reviewed all published fiction submissions for the period August 2014 to August 2015, from which they gleaned a shortlist before selecting the top three winning pieces and three honorable mentions.

First place was awarded to Ed (Edgardo) Maranan for “My Native Land.” Yuson describes it as a “long and solid” tale about “a dystopian Cordilleras in the future.” Maranan has won 35 Palanca awards to date.

Second place went to Beting Laygo Dolor (Ramon Faustino L. Dolor II) for “Diary of an Alien Abductee,” a funny bilingual tall tale.   Dolor is a veteran journalist who is now an editor at Philippine News.

Third prize was given to my “Marry Me,” part of my “Los Angeles Cycle” of stories about the experiences of a pair of Filipino lovers in La-La Land.

It is my honor to have received an NJLA every year for the past three years, ever since I first started submitting to Graphic in 2013, garnering third prize that year for “How I Spent My US Vacation” that year and second prize in 2014 for “Wolves I Have Known.”

Honorable mention awards went to US-based writer Cecilia Manguerra Brainard for “The Syrian Doctor in Paris,” Anne Carly Abad for “Sage’s Reckoning,” and Sultan Kudarat-based teacher Jude Ortega’s “The Conversion of Mujedin Dipatuan.”

The NJLA Poet of the Year awardee is Jose Victor Peñaranda, who has received the Gawad Balagtas and Palanca award, among other honors.

Philippines Graphic Literary Editor and award-winning poet Alma Anonas-Carpio receives an average of 50 fiction submissions and 80 or so poems for the magazine’s Poetry section every week.

From these submissions, she selects one short story and one poem for publication each week. The published fiction pieces of 45 or 50 every year are eligible for consideration for the NJLA.

The NJLA, says Anonas-Carpio, was “initially [called] The Philippines Graphic Literary Awards. [National Artist] Nick Joaquin [once editor-in-chief of the Graphic] was still alive then and the first awarding rites 25 years ago was a simple affair. We renamed the [PGLA] to the NJLA to honor Nick Joaquin in 2010.”

Graphic is only one of a handful or less of publications that currently publish short fiction.

Graphic editor-in-chief Joel Pablo Salud says this year marks the magazine’s 25th  anniversary under the current management, Ambassador Antonio Cabangon-Chua’s Aliw Media Group.

 “We have an advocacy to undertake,” Salud says, “and that is to be the guardian of the national memory,” while also attempting “to understand and impart context to both news and the country’s literature.”

Salud is working on a two-volume compilation of the best short stories published in the Graphic in the last 25 years.

Graphic’s efforts in support of belles lettres were recognized by Likhaan, the University of the Philippines Institute of Creative Writing, with a citation commending its “leadership and excellence in Philippine journalism, and for fostering in particular the sustained growth of Philippine fiction through the [NJLA] and its consistent publication of new literary works that have contributed immensely to the body and quality of our literary heritage.”

The evening was a celebration not only of the event but also of the community of writers and editors. Among those present were John Jack Wigley, Ralph Semino Galan, Dean Francis Alfar, Nikki Alfar, Vim Nadera, Andrea Pasion-Flores, Che Sarigumba, and Reggie (Ma. Helena) Reginaldo, as well as the next generation of writers represented by Alessandra Anonas, Sabrina Anonas, Alex Alcasid, Erika Alcasid, and Sage Alfar.

The call for submissions to the 2016 NJLA is out. Send your short stories and poems in English to  [email protected] Keep Philippine letters alive and kicking!


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