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We were seated at one of the 15 or more round tables inside the august Rigodon Ballroom of the Manila Peninsula Hotel in Makati City. Yes, we were there conglomerating in one table; all of us who happen to be from the provinces, specifically Laguna, Bacolod, and yes, us from Bohol. Though there were just three honorees in our table, we were about twelve, for an awardee was privileged to bring two guests each. But, we Filipinos are a clannish bunch; thus the more friends you are able to invite, the merrier. Thus, we were a merry mix in that round table which was situated at the left side of the Manila PEN's gound floor ballroom, where the 57th Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature was held.

Counting myself as the starting point of the particular group, I noticed that I was seated exactly right across from another mother whose son, Noli S. Dumlao, won first prize for "Maikling Kuwento-Iluko" category. Accompanied by her husband, the said mother was beaming from ear to ear as the affair, starting with a dinner, commenced the evening of September 1st. The pride of his parents, the fictionist from Laguna was seated to the left to his father, who, incidentally was seated right next to my daughter, Engr. Rosa Iglisia and her friend/colleague at Accenture Company, Glaiza. The father was a bubbly talkative one whose attention was focused to my equally excited daughter.

Food was served buffet-style on three display tables. Since we were close to the aperitif and hors d'oeuvres, I happily contented myself with a healthy heap of sushi plus ariot of green-tangerine and lilacs for salads complete with individual platter of French bread and butter, which was already set for each person at the tables. There was much to choose for entree at the next display table, but I was to conscious to pass through other tables to get my main dish. On the third display table were an array of incomparable desserts of chocolate fondues, meringue and fruits of varied shapes, colors and sizes. Red wine, coffee and/or tea, of varied flavors, were overflowing as the ever-courteous and solicitous waiters and lady-waiters were at our beck and call, asking if we wanted more be it wine, coffee, or tea, or simply sparkling mineral water, of a high-end brand. But, even in the dimmed lights of the hall, one can notice that our group was a bunch of first-timers; perhaps not at the Manila PEN, but first time for us to join the select crowd at a PALANCA Awards Night, which almost-always is a black gown and coat and tie event. For 2007, the 57th Palanca was complete one with ABS-CBN TV lights covering the affair (what with Korina Sanches in tow for Senador Mar "Mr.Palengke" Roxas was the guest of honor) and some six hundred thousand pesos raffled away to lucky Palanca awardees and board of judges, as special prizes. The three-hour affair commenced with a formal dinner, the awarding of winners and the raffle draw. Before the actual awarding was poetry reading of the prize-winning entries interpreted by Dr.Ricardo de Ungria, Jr., then a play presentation of "Our Lady of Arlegui" the first prize for One-Act plays written by Christopher Martinez. Indeed we were lucky that we were just a table away from stage-up for the dialogue between a young student, searching for a pirated copy of a classic film in compliance for a class assignment, and a compassionate female Muslim vendor; their barbs and repartee revealing of the prejudices that Filipinos of differing ethnic beliefs and origins have for one another.

To my right was a lady, a friend of the fictionist-awardees from Bacolod: namely, Peter Solis Nery for "Candido" and Felino Salem Garcia, Jr. for "Hingapusan", first and second placer for "Maikling Kuwento-Hilagaynon category. She had a world of her own, never moving a nudge to acknowledge the people around her. She was engrossed to the plate and wineness before her. If she ever did talk, it was meant for her ears alone. But I like her revealing yet simple haltered dark-blue gown. I looked inspiring too, in my crimson and black floral silk blouse and black slacks.

Finally, seated to my left was NOEL P.TUAZON, the Boholano third placer for "Maikling Kuwento-Cebuano" category in the Don Carlos Memorial Award for Literature. Yes, I was there as his guest, and I felt so proud too, though I am not Noel's Mom, but nonetheless happy for him, his family and friends in Dauis and Manila; and perhaps, his colleagues back at Holy Name University, Tagbilaran City, to have in their midst a fictionist whose work, "Kundat sa Unang Gugma" got the nod of the Board of Judges for Cebuano, headed by Dr. Jaime An Lim, with Dr. Marjorie Evasco, and Edgar Godin, as members.

I was privy to the amount as prize money that Noel or Roy (to us KAKA members) got as bronze winner for Cebuano fiction, but as the previous Boholano Palanca winners, like Dr.Ulysses Aparece (of Inabanga and University of Cebu), the late Clovis Nazareno (of Loon),even the adopted-Boholana Merlie Alunan (of DWC-Tagbilaran, 1977), and of course Dr.Marj Evasco (of Tagbilaran and De La Salle University) say, "it's not the monetary award that counts but the prestige of a PALANCA".

Nota Bene: NOEL P.TUAZON's entry was considered one of three consolation winners for Cebuano poetry in Komisyon ng Wika GAWAD last August 2007. He shares the limelight with Ester Tapi (one of three poetess featured in "Sinug-ang" book of poetry, 2002) and Merlie Alunan ("Amina Among the Angels" 1997), first and second placers for the same category.This year is surely one good harvest time for Roy.

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