A tale of two writers

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Sunday, December 29, 2013


OSCAR Wilde said we are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

Dreams begin with a dreamer. But perhaps to these litterateurs, dreams begin with writing, which after all to some dreamers, is the grandest celebration of existence.

At the 63rd Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature a couple of weeks ago, Jona Branzuela Bering (JBB) bagged the first place with “Tubod” for Cebuano short story followed by Richel Gervacio Dorotan (RGD) with “Ang Batang Tamsi.”

Writers are either born or made. But does it matter? From the daunting duty of formulating ideas to the recognition of the piece, Bering and Dorotan related the whole experience. As advocates of the Cebuano language, the latter favored the native dialect.

JBB: Joining was just coincidental, really. I kept the story secret and sent it on the last day of submission. Palanca was my first national stint. My entry was my first story for the past five years.

Winners were notified two weeks ahead prior to the public announcement. Mine was not your Ms. Universe kind of shock but when the cat was out of the bag, I got anxious, insecure. The terror came from the assumption that I won because of “beginner’s luck.”

I don’t see myself as an awardee. Yes, when I receive accolades from writers I admire, I feel that perhaps I’m doing the right thing. There’s still so much to learn. But I’m
not cramming. I’m still 27, relatively young for a writer.

RGD: Sa nag-eskwela pa ko, kadungog na ko ining Palanca. Pero morag English ug Tagalog pa man to ilang giablihan. Kalit lang diha nay Binisaya, Hiligaynon ug Iloco.

Ug sa dihang akong mga idolo—Ric Patalinhug ug Erning Lariosa mao man di ay nanaog sa unang mga tuig.

Triling gamay pero wa na man kaayo ko kurati karon tuiga. Kon ang usa ka butang kadaghan na nimo himoa, puparehas na lang nig manghingugmo ka. Pero sa tinuod lang, mas kuyaw kon modaog ka. Tanang sumbohan sa mga hinawayon ipunting diha nimo. Sa panulat, kon modaog ka, mas labaw pa kang ibutang sa ayagan. Naanad na lang ko. Pilde ang pikon matod pa sa mga estambay sa Colon.

Mao man lang gihapon ko human sa pasidungog. Kada buntag, mag-walking sa duha nako ka iro—Airrah ug Potpot. Inom-inom uban sa mga silingan. Magkanta-kanta. Gitara-gitara. Basa-basa’g libro aron ingnon korek. Trabaho ginagmay para mabuhi. Sige ra gihapon ug pakigbugno sa mga demonyo nga gitawag nilang sugilanon ug balak.

Bleeding thoughts. Bursting with senses. A slave of life’s intricacies. How long have you been writing?

JBB: I have been a diarist since sixth grade. Oh, yes, John Prats filled my high school pages.

I grew up in Tuburan, where reading is not really important for teenagers unless it’s Precious Heart Romance. Gradually, I found it a predictable read. I wanted to write my own version. It started there. I pursued master of arts in literature at Cebu Normal University. My preference matured a lot after taking classes under Januar Yap.

Personal influences are evolving. Let me highlight Rebecca Solnitt, Andre Aciman, Chang-rae Lee, Jamaica Kincaid and Orhan Pamuk.

Writing is a solitary act. I write because I love to write. Ideas are usually born when I’m doing something or in transit. The phone is an accessible medium but I still maintain a traditional record. I’m a Faber Castel fan. Although “Ctrl X+V” comes in handy, there is this certain cadence in writing longhand that computers can’t capture.

RGD: Nagdako ko sa Leyte apan ni-gradwar ko sa Cebu Roosevelt Memorial Colleges sa syudad sa Bogo. Nag-edad na ko ron og 38 anyos, maong dugay-dugay na gyud kong nagsulat. Nagseryoso ko mga 1999. Namantala sa Bisaya Magazine ang una nakong istorya; si Ina Raymundo ang hapin sa maong isyu. Bahin to sa akong iro nga namatay sa bagyong Undang. Kuyaw og impresyon sa akong pagkabatan-on ang pagkamatay sa akong iro. Unang tilaw nako sa kasakit.

Haskang bukara sa akong atay. Mura ko ug bago gisugut ug gipanguyaban. Karon, literary editor na ko sa maong pamantalaan.

Ubay-ubay na pod kog sinulat apan mubo ra kog memorya bahin ani. Madayg nako akong mga sugilanon pero human nako makonsumo, bahala na ang publiko. Mga kapin na sa traynta na siguru akong nadawat nga award sa nagkalaing kontes. Kining Palanca morag nakalima na ko ini.

Writers don’t live in the limelight all the time. But just like celebrities, your influence is immortal to followers. What have you been doing to have gone this far?

JBB: No matter what happens, never stop. Read anything. Write like your own god and edit like your own satan. Don’t do Facebook too much.

Literary wins are not the real benchmarks of greatness. Actually, I teach English to Japanese nationals, market resorts and wander. Let travels teach you the beauty of the world and the kindness of humankind.

RGD: Sige lang kog dasig sa mga batan-on sa pagpadayon ining tradisyon sa pagpanulat nga gisugdan sa atong katigulangan. Balido gihapon hangtod karon ang literatura. Anhi makita unsay epekto sa usa ka ideya.

Sa mga buot moapil sa Palanca, basa gyod mo sa mga maayong sinulat aron maoy inyong kasukaran sa kahibalo. Bentaha gyod kaayo ang kamao mosulat og sugilanon. Lahi og pikada ang manunulat. Mora siya’g salamangkero. Gunitan niya ang imong atensiyon ug andam ka nang motuo sa tanan. Pero diha nalang kutob. Ang salamangkero pirmeng nag-amping nga di hisakpan ang iyang sekreto sa mga mata sa iyang mga parokyano.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 30, 2013.

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