The awarding ceremony of the 68th Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature saw 54 writers bestowed with the highly sought-after prize in the Filipino literary community. Included in the list of winners in this year’s edition is a father-daughter duo from Iloilo who won in separate categories. This is the first time in the history of the Palanca Awards that a father and daughter claimed prizes in the same year.
Palanca Awards Hall of Famer Leoncio Deriada won third prize in the Short Story-Cebuano category for his work Dili Baya ko Bugoy, while his daughter Dulce Maria Deriada won third prize in the Short Story-Hiligaynon category for Candelaria. Dulce received her father’s award on his behalf, as he found it difficult to attend the ceremony.
“I’m very happy for the recognition but we could’ve been happier if my father were here with me. Before, I used to accompany him as his guest, but now I can say that I’m a winner too,” Dulce said. “It was actually him who told me to join this year.”
Claiming her win was a pleasant surprise, Dulce explained that her entry was both a personal challenge on her Hiligaynon writing skills and a personal encouragement from her father.
“Hiligaynon is a language I have been using my entire life, but I admit that I find writing in it difficult,” said Dulce. “I’m really used to writing in English so it took me weeks to finish the story because I was really grappling with the language. But thanks to the help of my father, I was able to submit it. Before the deadline, I showed him the manuscript. He gave his comments and also helped in cleaning it up.”
Leoncio, who is now 80 years old, is largely recognized as the Father of Contemporary Literature in Western Visayas. A vast majority of writers in the region have gone through his tutelage. Currently, he is a Professor Emeritus at the University of the Philippines Visayas (UPV) where he teaches Comparative Literature. He is a multi-lingual writer, having produced works in English, Filipino, Hiligaynon, Kinaray-a, and Cebuano.
Dulce also teaches at UPV in the Division of Humanities in the College of Arts and Sciences. She also serves as the President of Hubon Manunulat, an organization that promotes the advancement of West Visayan literature.
With this year’s award, Leoncio now has 18 Palanca awards under his belt. He was inducted into the Palanca Hall of Fame in 2001. Some of his first prize-winning pieces include the full-length play Maragtas: How Kapinangan Tricked Sumakwel Twice (2001), the one-act play Medea of Syquijor (1999), and the short story for children The Man Who Hated Birds (1993).
Dulce, on the other hand, is among this year’s first-time Palanca winners. Taking a day off from her teaching duties, she explains that her winning piece Candelaria is a story showcasing Ilonggo beliefs and culture while also putting into the spotlight the Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria de Jaro, a limestone statue depicting Mary with the Child Jesus carrying candles. Also known as Our Lady of Candles, it is currently enshrined on the balcony of Jaro Cathedral in Iloilo City and is recognized by the Catholic Church as the patroness of Jaro District and the whole of Western Visayas.
“Those who live in Iloilo know well of the image, and it’s believed to be miraculous. The statue is said to be growing bigger and bigger each year,” explained Dulce.
Despite growing up as the daughter of a literary titan, there was no pressure for Dulce to follow the footsteps of her father. Instead, it just happened naturally.
“I grew up surrounded with books and I got acquainted with other writers at an early age. Growing up, my father didn’t really force me to take up writing, but he was supportive and encouraging whenever I did it. I even remember him storing my writing assignments when I was in Grade 1,” said Dulce.
To aspiring writers who are seeking their first Palanca award, Dulce suggests starting with the basics, which is by reading a lot.
“My father always told me to read and read, and this is what he always tells his students. Because of reading, I became attracted to books at an early age, and this really helped me in putting into words my imagination and improved my vocabulary use. So for those who want to become a successful writer, you have to read,” Dulce said.
Such advice definitely helped Dulce to not only win the country’s most prestigious literary award but get to share it with her father too. This rare recognition accomplished by the Deriadas, which has added to the rich history of the Palanca Awards, shows that while skill in writing can run in the blood, it also needs to be cultivated and nurtured in the right environment to prosper.
Named after businessman and philanthropist Don Carlos Palanca Sr., the Palanca Awards continuously seeks to cultivate Philippine Literature by providing incentives for writers and serving as a treasury of these literary gems. It is considered the gold standard in writing excellence, highly-coveted by Filipino writers, young and old alike. For complete list of winners, visit www.palancaawards.com.ph.