THE SCRIBE VIBE
By Libay Linsangan Cantor
Local literature winning international awards
Who says local literature is not world class? Works by Filipino authors have been continuously recognized abroad much more than we realize.
The latest accolade was bestowed upon thirty-something author Miguel “Chuck” Syjuco, recent winner of the Man Asia Literary Prize for his novel entitled Illustrado.
The Man Asia Literary Prize, only in its second year of existence, was initiated by the Hong Kong International Literary Festival Limited with financial support from Man Group plc. According to its website (manasialiteraryprize.org), it is “administered by representatives from the Man Hong Kong International Literary Festival, the University of Hong Kong and the Chinese University of Hong Kong.” This prestigious award-giving body aims to spread Asian literature to the world literary scene and to help unpublished novels see print. Not only that, but it also encourages the translation of Asian literary works, as translation awards receive $3,000. The grand winner receives $10,000. Now that’s literary encouragement.
To be “longlisted” in literary awards such as this one is, sometimes, an honor enough for authors. This is why we see some book covers embossed with such nomination mentions; to be nominated is honor enough (shades of the Academy Awards). After the “longlist” comes the shortlist of five works. From that shortlist emerges one winner.
Out of 2008s 21 hopefuls, Chuck wasn’t the only Filipino entry. Longlisted with him are Lakambini “Bing” Sitoy, Ian Casocot and Alfred “Krip” Yuson. In 2007, Jose “Butch” Dalisay Jr.’s second novel, Soledad’s Sister, was shortlisted, and it was the lone Philippine entry. So imagine the accolade for Pinoy writers to have the second grand winner come from our ranks.
Illustrado is Chuck’s debut novel. It also won grand prize at this year’s Carlos Palanca literary awards. The novel is about an apprentice writer’s quest to find out the truth behind the death of his writer-mentor, unearthing intrigues and conflicts connected with 150 years of the nation’s history as well. We’re still waiting who gets to publish this work first because the publication rights of both award-giving bodies are currently being considered.
Chuck graduated from the Ateneo and became a freelance writer in the 1990s, eventually putting up one of the very first lifestyle webzines of that time—together with his fellow Atenean friends—called Localvibe.Com (where this scribe had her first weekly film review column). He later moved to Canada where he is still based.
Here’s hoping that his win will inspire more people to read Pinoy authors. Congrats, Chuck.