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Thursday, October 18, 2007

New Palanca Hall of Famer Nicolas Pichay shares secrets to concocting a literary masterpiece

Compelling literary works, for some artists, are produced out of vivid imagination, while others are inspired by merely observing the everyday rustics. But for Nicolas Pichay, the latest Hall of Fame awardee in the prestigious Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature, compelling and effective literary pieces are best derived from one’s heart and experiences.

Pichay's entry “Tres Ataques de Corazon” or “The Angina Monologues,” which delivers a poignant storytelling of three people suffering various problems of the heart, bagged the top prize in the 2007 Full-length play category in Filipino of the prestigious Palanca literary tilt.

The winning play starts with the character of Che Un, an overweight chef, who struggles with the unfamiliar territory of falling in love with his assistant cook. The second part tells of Lawrence Cruz, a self-confessed homosexual who juggles his time between two relationships. The last part of the Filipino play delves on the life of a retired public school teacher hell bent in entering American soil to rendezvous with his bed-ridden 62-year old Filipina fiancé.

The award is Pichay's fifth top prize in the Palanca Awards, which merited him a place in the Hall of Fame alongside renowned literary figures. The other Hall of Fame awardees are:

• Rodolfo R. Lana, Jr. (2006)
• Manuel R. Buising (2005)
• Luis P. Gatmaitan (2005)
• Isagani R. Cruz (2004)
• Reynaldo A. Duque (2003)
• Leoncio P. Deriada (2001)
• Alfred A. Yuson (2001)
• Roberto T. Añonuevo (2000)
• Jose Y. Dalisay, Jr. (2000)
• Edgardo B. Maranan (2000)
• Elsa M. Coscolluella (1999)
• Ma. Luisa A. Igloria (1996)
• Cirilo F. Bautista (1995)
• Gregorio C. Brillantes (1995)
• Ruth Elynia Mabanglo (1995)
• Buenaventura S. Medina, Jr. (1995)
• Jesus T. Peralta (1995)
• Rolando S. Tinio (1995)
• Rene O. Villanueva (1995)

While it obviously took the award-winning playwright great effort to complete the literary piece, Pichay needed not look far to find the inspiration to start the piece in the first place.

His latest literary masterpiece mirrors his own plight as Pichay himself had to conquer his own problems of the heart. He underwent triple bypass surgery in 2005 and even had to battle cancer the following year. Although he conceived of the monologues long before he was diagnosed of heart problems, the opportunity to translate his own ordeal into literature was hard to miss.

“Everybody was asking what happened to you, what happened to you? So I kept on repeating it. In the process of repeating it, I realized it could be a good monologue piece," Pichay stressed.

But more than the usual ailments of the heart, one problem that is surely difficult to ignore, Pichay said, is the changing of hearts and preferences of Filipinos, away from literature.

Pichay observes that most Filipinos today are more concerned about the advancing forms of communications and they are lacking attachment to history.

“There is a confluence of elements that seem to deprive young people or even old people of what I call a sense of originality. They dress up like Americans. They eat like Americans. They don’t read,” Pichay stressed.

Pichay is encouraging Filipinos to trace back the roots of Philippine literature and find inspiration in them.

As for his recent triumph in the field of literature, Pichay admits that bagging the top prize in the full-length play in Filipino category of the Palanca Awards is always a good feeling.

“If you win a Palanca, it means you are somebody to be reckoned with,” Pichay said admitting however that there is no cut out pattern for winning a Palanca. Instead, one has to listen to his own voice and then carefully weave his ideas into a carefully executed work of art.

“Storytelling is about how to tell your story and the discovery of your own voice. Better writing is writing that has a theory behind it. And the theory has to be wrapped in a voice,” Pichay adds.

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A Tao 道 Sign

Le poèt de Pangasinan

Santiago B. Villafania, a bilingual Filipino poet who writes in English and in his native language of Pangasinan, is the author of poetry collections Bonsaic Verses (2012), Pinabli and Other Poems (2012), Malagilion: Sonnets tan Villanelles (2007), and Balikas na Caboloan (Voices from Caboloan, 2005) published by the National Commission for the Culture and the Arts (NCCA) under its UBOD New Authors Series. He has been published in several countries and translated into several languages. Villafania is one of the 11 Outstanding Pangasinan conferred with the 2010 ASNA Award for the Arts and Culture (literature) during the first Agew na Pangasinan and also the 430th Foundation Day of the province on April 2010. He is a member of Philippine PEN writes a regular weekly column for the Sunday Punch.

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A collection of ghazals in Pangasinan language. Order now at Amazon.com


A collection of haiku, senryu, tanka, haiga, and other poems in English and Pangasinan language. Order now at Amazon.com


“Santiago Villafania is a searcher with a seemingly insatiable curiosity and endurance. His quest has brought him to explore world poetry from points East and West. He is no stranger to sophisticated verse forms such the Sapphic strophe nor to the diverse permutations of the Japanese haiku. But he is not a formalist, he has daringly explored Asian and Western cultures in a very personal way and writes his mind with a daring, invigorating, aesthetically pleasing ease. In his poetry Villafania displays not only a breadth, but it feels very much like a breath of fresh air.” – Ute Margaret Saine, poet, critic, translator, past president of PEN Orange County and the former editor of the California Poetry Quarterly

“Villafania’s emergence as a poet is a fine moment to celebrate. Another voice from the regions augurs a richer body of writing that Filipinos can hold up as a mirror of our native culture.” – Bienvenido Lumbera, National Artist for Literature

The Beloved Idiom | A Reading of Villafania’s ‘Pinabli & other poems’ by Dennis Andrew S. Aguinaldo


LCCN.: 2010338612

Order your copy now at CreateSpace or Amazon.com :)

"The publication of Malagilion: Sonnets tan Villanelles by Santiago B. Villafania should be a source of rejoicing for readers of regional literatures. This second book by Pangasinan's leading poet today is impressive in both form and substance. Villafania has created 300 sonnets and 50 villanelles in his own language that attempt to reflect the primacy of native culture and return the poet to the central stage of social life."A Boost to Pangasinan Literature from Breaking Signs by Cirilo F. Bautista (Philippine Panorama, 16 Dec. 2007, pp.25-26)

"Villafania is not only a visionary poet, he is a linguistic philosopher who codifies the origin of language and culture, dissects the myths and the common beliefs of the people against the urban legends, juxtaposes the literary tradition against the modern influences by dialectically infusing them in his poetic revelation of truth."Poetic Revelation in Language and Culture by Danny C. Sillada (Manila Bulletin, 12 May 2008, pp. F1-F2)

Photos: Book Launching at the Pearl Manila Hotel, 5 Feb. 2008


"Santiago Villafania's Balikas ed Caboloan certainly has reinvigorated the anlong tradition of Pangasinan that for a long period of time suffered silence from the hands of writers more attuned to English writing. Characteristically anacbanua, Villafania's poetry echoes his predecessors and presages a promising era for young writers in Pangasinan." – Dr. Marot Nelmida-Flores

Thesis: Bilay ed Caboloan - Reconfiguration of Space using a New Historicist Lens by Ayesah Tecson

from Pangasinan 'Anlong': Oral tradition into the 21st century published in Manila Times / Sunday Magazine, March 13 & 20, 2011.

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Translations of Sonnet To A Pilgrim Soul in different languages.

Translations of Erolalia in German, Arabic, Italian, Spanish, Bulgarian, and Hindi language. And here is the 1st version of the poem published in The Sunday Times (Manila Times, 11.23.2003).

Six of my poems translated into Arabic by Prof. Abdul-Settar Abdul-Latif (English Dept., College of Education, University of Basrah, Iraq) and have been published in TEXT - the Cultural Monthly Journal, Issue No.13

Swansong of the sea with translations in Italian, Arabic, Hindi, and Spanish.

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