TWENTY-YEAR-OLD Leonard Francis M. Alcoran is one of the winners in the Regional Language Division of the 67th Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature.
This Palanca youngblood's win is far from beginner's luck. Rather, it's a product of hard work, determination, and the willingness to learn.
In this prestigious literary competition for Filipino writers, Alcoran bagged the third prize in the Hiligaynon short story category for his work, "Ang itlog nga wala nagabalibad."
The story is about an old shaman woman who uses an egg to find her missing grandson -- only to find out that he has long been dead.
"It's a story of one's quest for acceptance -- how, at some point in your life, you have to acknowledge the fact that you're inferior to yourself," Alcoran said.
Such profound wisdom from a young man who admits it has only been a year since he started writing fiction seriously.
The journey of a story begins
Alcoran, a Political Science student of West Visayas State University, submitted the earlier cited work to a local writing workshop in Antique. But when he failed to meet its deadline, he opted to finish the story instead for other existing writeshops.
That was when he came across the writing workshop of 13-time Palanca winner, Dr. Leoncio Deriada, at the University of the Philippines Visayas, and the 2017 San Agustin Writers' Workshop -- which Alcoran both earned a spot in.
"Dr. Deriada encouraged me to pass my work to the Palanca, and so I did," Alcoran said.
This bold move catapulted his journey to the Palanca awards.
The makings of a storyteller
Alcoran, along with his twin brother, Leynard grew up listening to the stories by her grandmother and the elders in their community.
"Hearing their stories about the olden times, and the customs in our village somehow enhanced my imagination," Alcoran said.
The value he placed on these stories further spurred him to develop and put them into writing. "To preserve the stories, it is important to pass them down to the next generation," he said.
Unbeknown to Alcoran, his habits as a child would prepare him to become a storyteller.
"I love reading books. I read stories by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, R.L. Stine. But growing up, I think I read more poetry than fiction, like the works of Pablo Neruda, Sylvia Plath, and Edith Tiempo," he said.
He remembers joining poetry contests occasionally as a young student. But if there was one person who actually influenced him to write, it was his twin brother who also enters his works to write shops.
"My twin was also the very first person to read my work," Alcoran said.
On joining the Palanca
Alcoran shared that anyone who wants to join the Palanca, or any writing stint for that matter, must be brave enough to show his work to others.
"The defeated attitude will bring yourself down, so just go -- write creatively and enter your stories to writing competitions," he said.
What's more for Alcoran?
He'll continue writing stories, and joining workshops. He believes these are the only way to learn and improve his craft. (PR)