Marne Kilates' snapshot of his MacBook from which was born his last Palanca-winning poetry collection.
Palanca season is upon us. Every year, the pa-serious writer from every barangay gears up for the annual ritual of joining a literary contest sponsored by the country's leading manufacturer of rum.
It has long been the literary contest of choice for those who want to announce their entry into the literary space or those who, after winning a string of awards, merely wish to re-assert their literary superiority. The number of entries keep increasing each year.
This literary competition holds a special place in every Pinoy writers’ heart for four reasons. First, it offers the most number of categories to join. Also, the come-one-come-all tenor of the competition is irresistible and works as magnet for all types—from the talent-less to the talented. (More on that below.) Second, the annual event, which was started in 1951, is the longest-running literary competition in the Philippines. Every year’s top prize winners are afforded a respectable status akin to wearing a literary halo for a year until the next set of winners are announced).
Third, the winners of the competition—-like the Bar Topnotchers in recent years—-has sprung many surprises. The contest has been seen as the Tawag ng Tanghalan of the literary world; a democratic venue where the throng are given a chance to compete with the acknowledged. Ask anyone who has judged in any category and they will confirm that the quality of each year’s entries are as uneven as the steps of the rice terraces.
Finally, the chance to be invited to a grand reception at the awards ceremonies is an enticing proposition too good to be missed.
Preparing for the Palanca is, thus, one of the most revered annual activities of writers here. When people start making excuses for not being able to go to the mall with you during this month, they’re probably secretly preparing their entries to the Palanca.
Following are some tips to soften the stress of beating the Palanca deadline. I’ll be the first to admit that these strategies will not ensure one the top prize, but it will definitely make you less frazzled as you type away, what you think is, the winning entry.
1.Finish your entry earlier than the midnight deadline. Pace yourself way in advance so you need not be on the verge of a nervous breakdown because you have no ending to your short story on the 11th hour. Don’t rely on inspiration. Often, the muse, like true love, escapes us. Be a boy scout and set your deadline way in advance of the Palanca’s real deadline.
2.Follow the rules. Read them on the website or the announcements. Use the font and the margins suggested by the organizers of the competition. Comply with the minimum number of pages for a category. Don’t think that the judges will bend the rules because you think your work is fabulous. I’ve known judges who threw away entries that didn’t comply with the margin requirements, without even reading the first line. What I’m saying is don’t risk losing on technical grounds.
3.Be honest. Don’t submit an entry that you didn’t write; or claim as your own a work one that was co-written with another. Nah-ah. If it wins, the truth will out and your prize will be withdrawn. Don’t place yourself in a major embarrassment.
4.Choose a really cool pseudonym. Something hip, cool, lucky-sounding and original. Choose something that has a pop appeal and which you think will amuse the judges even if only for 5 seconds. It may not make you win on that basis alone. But at least, it will give you and your friends something to hoot about if you lose. Which brings me to…
5.If you win, be glamorous when you attend the awards night. Every year, the invite to the winners implore everyone to come in formal attire. Still, some winners attend dressed up like they came straight from 12-hours of soccer practice. Come on, people. Give the respect that the ceremonies deserve. And don’t think that we don’t know that you're excited to attend the ceremonies. Besides, you're a starving artist. You need to eat. The buffet is pretty good.
6.Take pics. Submitting to the Palanca is part of the writer’s summer ritual. It’s like going to the beach or flying to an exotic place. So relax, take a pic of yourself submitting your entry and post it in Facebook—-after the announcemnt that you’ve won. (See number 8 below.)
7.Give yourself a treat after submitting your entry. Go straight to the nearest bar and get yourself the coolest beer in the house. You deserve it.
8.Keep it a secret. Your victory will soon be news come announcemnt-of-the- winners time. Till then, mum is the word because you don’t want everyone to know that you joined, if in September you are not invited to the ball.
9.Wait patiently. Don’t sniff for the names of the judges in your category and spend sleepless nights figuring out whether or not they will like your work well enough to fight for it in case there are differences of opinion among the judges. Praying your favorite novena might be a better alternative. And finally…
10.Don’t take the Palanca thing too seriously. It’s a game. It’s the Bingo socials of the literary world. It should be fun and wholesome. Winning is an honor. Losing is not the end of the world; nor does it reflect your true worth as a writer. So get over it. Move on. Join again next year.
Nicolas Pichay can say these now because he is already a Hall-of-Famer (in 2007)--which means he's won five Palanca awards and therefore will not be qualified to join anymore. He is, of course, welcome to attend the yearly drinking binge at the Pen. Nick is a lawyer. He wrote this list exclusively for TheSwankStyle.com