At the awards night this year, the guest speaker was Butch Dalisay, (a highly respected professor and author). He eloquently articulated what I have always thought of the Palanca Awards: “Writing for the truth, writing for honor and glory, writing for the love of language–these are what your being here is all about, what the Palancas have existed for these past 67 years.”
He added, “This is especially important in these darkening times, when megalomaniacal and murderous despotism threatens societies across the ocean, debases the truth, and cheapens human life.”
This year, however, I had one tiny dread. For the first time in Palanca’s history, there was no winner in the Short Story for Children category, for which I chaired the three-man board of judges.
Although my co-judges and I were confident of our stand, there was still a possibility of censure from some quarters.
True enough, the following day, I read snide remarks on FB about the result of our judging. These spurred a writer of Rappler to message me and ask for the judges’ POV. We welcomed the interview; it gave us a chance to candidly air our side, without being defensive.
After the article was published, we were deluged with overwhelming support. Not one disagreed with our decision.
It’s been four weeks since the Rappler story and I am still getting messages from FB friends and people I have not met:
“I can't believe the judges earned flak for not choosing a winner! It’s as though they’re saying, ‘that’s only a story for children.”
“I totally respect the judges' decision NOT to compromise the standards set for the Short Story for Children category. Lowering your standards would only reinforce other people's impression that writing for children is a breeze.”
“In my book, you did the right thing.”
“That was a bold move. But am so glad you made a statement that needed to be said.”
My fervent wish as an author of children’s book is that writers who plan to write for kids should take the craft seriously, very seriously. Kids deserve the very best, and the Palanca is the perfect venue to show it.
Regrettably, this year, not one made the grade.