Launches and Prizes: The 16th Iligan National Writers Workshop
by Steven Patrick P.C. Fernandez
The 16th edition of the Iligan National Writers Workshop wrapped up its sessions last May 29 in Iligan City.
Sixteen fellows went through the experience of having their works scrutinized in the INWW held at the Elena Tower Inn in Iligan City. From May 25 to 29, the panel and the fellows praised or panned poems, short stories, and a play hoping to hone skills and invigorate Philippine writing with new talents and insights.
The Iligan workshop, one of three institutionalized in the country, culminated with the Jimmy Y. Balacuit Sr. Awards to the most promising works.
The INWW distinguishes itself from the other workshops because it has repositioned regional literature from the fringes to the mainstream. This workshop draws participants from across cultures ensuring equal representations from Luzon, the Visayas, and Mindanao. A bursary, too, from the Manuel E. Buenafe family prescribes that the 16th fellow be a Muslim or a lumad.
The scheme for a multi-lingual and multi-cultural workshop identifies the Iligan writeshop. Distinguishing the workshop, too, is the meticulous way proceedings are documented and published so that a run of the process of writing, criticism, and rewriting is kept for scholars to pore through. The Iligan workshop is the only workshop in the country that publishes its critiquing process.
This year, the INWW launched About Us, proceedings from last year’s workshop, and the Mindanao Forum (both edited by Godinez-Ortega), that anthologizes all fifteen keynote speeches from the start of the INWW in 1994. The speeches include those of National Artist Bien Lumbera, Cirilo Bautista, Ric de Ungria, Gemino Abad, Ophelia Alcantara-Dimalanta , Erlinda Alburo, Merle Alunan, Chari Lucero, Isagani Cruz, Deriada, Bautista, and those names that matter in contemporary Philippine Literature.
One other distinction: the INWW has initiated the practice to let former fellows who have made names in Philippine Literature deliver the keynote address during the opening program. This year, poet-critic Ralph Semino Galan delivered the address joining other alumni fellows who previously addressed past openings: Charlson Ong, Vicente Garcia Groyon III, Michael U. Obenieta, and Rebecca Anonuevo.
Tradition, too, calls for a performance of a literary work by the MSU-IIT Integrated Performing Arts Guild (IPAG), and this year, IPAG transcreated Godinez-Ortega’ s poem “Camp Bushra on Inquirer Page One” in a mix of dance, drama, film, and performance art.
The merry mix of languages and genres brought together writers-critics- scholars who are well established in their language turfs. Joining Deriada and Galan were Tony Enriquez, German Gervacio, Victor Sugbo, Mac Tiu, Alunan, Lucero, Godinez-Ortega, An Lim, and this writer.
The INWW awards are named after the late Jimmy Y. Balacuit Sr. who, as Vice Chancellor for Research and Extension, adopted the management of this workshop to anchor a writing program within the vision of the MSU-IIT. In his memory, his family has endowed cash prizes to the most promising writers in all genres awarded yearly by his wife Prof. Rosalinda C. Balacuit.
The 2009 Jimmy Y. Balacuit Sr. winners are:
Poetry FIRST PRIZE
Labyog / Sirkiro / Ang Pagpaabot sa Paglipot sa Aninipot
CINDY A. VELASQUEZ (Cebuano)
Balud / Ayaw Pagpudla an Tuog / Bump Cars
PHIL HAROLD MERCURIO (Waray)
Mga Dalan / Duyan-duyan / Iihapon Ko
JHONIL C. BAJADO (Waray)
“The Order of Things”
GABRIEL P. MERCADO (English)
MA. FE DE GUIA (Filipino)
TIMOTHY JAMES M. DIMACALI (English)