Eight stories were received from five contestants, so you can imagine some multiple submissions, and that’s very fine by me. The stories—at 2,500 words minimum to 4,000 words maximum—were a little longer than what Peter’s Prize is used to, which was 500 words maximum, but I am very glad to see that our participants are equally adept with stories longer than 500 words. Although, of course, I also see that more people have competed in our very, very short story contests in the past compared to this 2,500 words minimum challenge.
What kinds of love stories were submitted?
Our contest guideline was quite clear. I said that we wanted to push Hiligaynon literature forward so it didn’t matter if it was a love story of a cat and a dog, or a man and another man, or a woman and a horse. Our top prize winner, “Emanuel,” is a gay version of “The Notebook” story, but this time the characters are dealing with amnesia instead of Alzheimer’s dementia. Our second placer, “Pinihakan,” is a “Brokeback Mountain”-type story between a nurse and a politician, and our third placer, “Ang Balay ni Mama Bidad,” is a story of the love for an ancestral house. Among the submissions, at least two stories were about love of parents/children: one leading from hatred to forgiveness [Ang Mag-amay], another from blindness to realization to gratitude-come-lately [Ang Bulak sang Mayo]. But there were also melodramas that included unintentional incest [Sang Nadula ang Bulan], love of a man of God [Gua-sulud-gua-sulud], and that often told story of a lover donating his/her heart to the surviving beloved [Pitik sang Kasingkasing].
Any great finds?
Thanks be to God, yes! Our first prize winner is Michael de la Peña, who, like me, is also a writing nurse from Dumangas, Iloilo. Michael was the first winner of our monthly 500-words-or-less short story contest last year. He was also the second prize winner in our 2013 Love Poetry contest. Second prize winner is Norman Darap, another writing nurse who also placed second to my first prize Palanca for Hiligaynon Short Story [Si Padre Olan kag ang Dios] last year. Our biggest find, however, is Ma. Joji Tan, a teacher at UP High School in Iloilo. “Ang Balay ni Mama Bidad” is Ms Tan’s entry to her first official Hiligaynon literary competition. When I read her entry, I got really excited. There was no doubt in my mind that she was going to win, place, or show. With her encouraging win, we really look forward to seeing more Hiligaynon literary output from her, and The Peter Solis Nery Foundation is only very proud to “discover” another brilliant female Hiligaynon writer.
Will you do another story contest?
My foundation is committed to Hiligaynon literary contests. The question is only a matter of when, since our funds are limited, and we can only afford so much every year. Unlike most writing contests that leave their output to gather dust, I want our literary harvest to see the light of day in printed book forms. Right now, I have at least four books lined up for release this year, and that’s a lot for a language that most people still look down on as bakya. So, to answer the question, there will be no more story contests until next year.
But will you do another love story contest?
Maybe not in the next three years. As I have said, our funds are limited, and we can only do a number of contests a year. Also, I have a vision of exploring various subgenre of stories like horror, fantasy, sci-fi, and so on. I also like to challenge people to write on specific topics so I have the idea of making contests for stories about Iloilo or stories set in Boracay. But then again, love is a wonderful, reliable subject that I wouldn’t mind going back on my word when the subject is love. Haha!