Revitalizing language and keeping it alive for the next generation is a wonderful way of showing national pride and heritage. And in Bicol, famous for its rich cuisine, centuries-old churches, and natural attractions, things are spicing up, even more, these days in its flourishing literary scene especially with the recently concluded 1st Premyo Victorio C. Valledor for Bikol Novel.
Besides its famous chili-based dishes (Laing and Bicol Express, anyone?), scenic spots like Mt. Mayon, and the butanding or whale sharks, Bicol is also celebrated for its rich literary history consisting of folklores, epics, ballads, and patotodon or riddles.
It takes a community to preserve and enrich language, believes the proponents of the 1st Premyo Valledor. One organization can’t do it alone. Thus, the contest was made possible with the support of the National Book Development Board (NBDB) in collaboration with the Ateneo de Naga University. Victorio C. Valledor—the literary contest’s benefactor and namesake—is an insurance industry vanguard, philanthropist, and a true son of Bicol who traces his roots in Catanduanes.
Premyo Valledor aims to inspire Bikol writers to pursue novel writing and to encourage more readers to discover and appreciate the depth and nuances of Bikol literature and its diverse sub-languages.
Neni Sta. Romana-Cruz, NBDB chairperson, said there is a lack of dialect-based literary contests in the country. “Our current literary competitions open the local language categories on a rotation basis. So how do you give equal opportunity for our 170 languages or even the Department of Education’s choice of 18 languages? How many more years can a writer wait till a category on his or her dialect is offered again by a literary contest?
“This is the significance of the Premyo Valledor—it opens the doors for Bikol writers to create great works in their native tongue. The award lets the Bikol language grow, to develop the genre and enrich Bicol culture further. It’s really something to look forward to.”
Though the maiden contest has had its birthing pains in terms of submissions, Cruz praised the organizers for coming up with a very fruitful project. “The hardest part was encouraging participation because people were not sure if the idea could be sustained. But the awarding ceremony proved that this is an important literary competition. That, wow, it means serious business and it has a future.”
Cruz also praised the Ateneo de Naga University Press for supporting the contest. Kristian Sendon Cordero, Ateneo de Naga professor, and university press deputy director was at the helm of the project.
Cruz added, “We’re happy with the support of the team behind the Ateneo de Naga University Press. It has always been their dream to organize an initiative for the Bicol novel. They really did a lot of the legwork for this project.”
Two winners were declared this year: Niles Jordan Breis won for “Kalatraban Sa Alkawaraan” and Jerome Hipolito who took the prize for “Dyurnal Entries.” Besides the Php50,000 cash prize and trophy received by Breis and Hipolito, their winning works will also be published into a physical book by the Ateneo de Naga University Press, complete with a launch and tour around the region to boot. Besides Breis and Hipolito’s works, other novels included in the shortlist are “Alunsina Kan Dagat” by Marvin Davila Aguino and “An Huring Panuga,” co-authored by Arthur Justine P. Alemania and Roxanne E. Berido.
Already, the contest has reaped some inspiring impact on Bicol’s growing community of literary artists. At the awarding ceremony held in April, some writers already expressed that they have novels in progress—ready for the 2nd Premyo Victorio C. Valledor for Bikol Novel to be launched in September 2019.
In an interview, Valledor noted, “The success of the first Premyo Valledor awards is proof that Bikol literature is truly vibrant and diverse. There is really a need to encourage our local writers to embrace its richness by writing not just their grandparents’ and parents’ stories but their own narratives as well. This is how Bikol literature will flourish and continue in its heritage.
Joining Mr.Valledor and Cruz at the awards ceremony held last April were Premyo Valledor jury members Tito Valiente, accomplished film educator, and critic; Marne Kilates, prized literary writer and 1998 Southeast Asia Write Award winner; and Frank V. Peñones Jr., poet, translator, visual artist and Southern Luzon representative for the National Committee of Literary Arts of NCCA.
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