WITH nearly a hundred participants, the 19th Ustetika Annual Awards for Literature proved the torch of literature still burns in the University. While last year’s winners came mostly from the Faculty of Arts of Letters, this year’s were a more equitable lot, with some coming from colleges such as Medicine, Pharmacy and Commerce.

Joseph de Luna Saguid: Tomasinong Makata ng Taon and Rector’s Literary Award winner

A newcomer to Ustetika, Joseph Saguid won the much-coveted Rector’s Award for his poetry collection in Filipino, Pangitain ng mga Isda sa Madaling-araw at Iba pang mga Tula. It was his first attempt to join the contest. But this is not to say his victory was an easy one, especially for someone who hardly read any material in Filipino and has been writing in English since high school.

A second-year Communication Arts student, Saguid had published in Dapitan and Palabok, the literary supplements of the Artlets student publication The Flame.

But everything changed when he showed his Filipino poem, “Pangitain ng mga Isda sa Madaling-araw,” to Angelo Suarez, The Flame editor in chief and two-time Rector’s Literary Award winner. He realized that he was a more effective writer in Filipino because he was not asked to revise the poem. He also knew that the competition in the poetry in English category was tight, so he ventured to write in a new language.

To prepare, Saguid read works in Filipino by established poets such as Michael Coroza, Rebecca and Roberto Añonuevo, Cirilo Bautista and Virgilio Almario. Suarez lent him books to acquaint him with the language and the form. He wrote furiously from summer until the Ustetika deadline to be more familiar with the new language. After winning, he feels more certain with the direction of his craft.

Benilda Santos, Tula judge chairperson in the Ustetika and Filipino Department head of the Ateneo de Manila University, said in her evaluation that Saguid’s entry was musical and clean, and his experimentation was well-meant, revealing his knowledge of the importance of form. Definitely not bad for someone who just began writing in Filipino six months prior to the contest.

Saguid said he will continue to develop his voice as a writer in Filipino. He is getting ready to apply for national writing workshops and to contribute to literary publications.

Glenn Vincent K. Atanacio: Thomasian Poet of the Year

Atanacio has been joining the Ustetika since coming to the University. Unable to win in his first attempt, he continued writing ferociously. He reaped the fruits of his labor in the 2001 Ustetika when he won third place.

With Suarez and last year’s Rector’s Literary Award recipient Rosmon Tuazon out of the picture, the competition this year seemed less tight for Atanacio. The third-year Journalism student won the top prize for Dream Songs from my Country of Dreams, which the panel of judges unanimously chose.

Rosita Alyssa M. Baua: Thomasian Essayist of the Year

Faculty of Medicine and Surgery student Rosita Baua’s winning essay, “The Gift”, was based on her experiences with young cancer patients.

“The people who inspired me are the children that I’ve dealt with in the past—children with cancer, and most of them, if not all of them, have died, and (in dealing with them) God gave me the gift of seeing the value of life,” she said. The children have inspired her not only to write, but also to go through her life as a medicine student.

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“We all have talents, and we’re not just one-faceted people,” she said. “I am interested not only in medicine, but also in writing, art, and sports, so I really make time for them. If we want them hard enough, we’ll make time for them. And just like what I said, writing is like a need for me, so I make time for it.”

Joseph Mervin S. Espina: 2nd place, poetry; Karangalang Banggit, Katha

It was a surprise that campus poet Mervin Espina, a Philosophy student in the Faculty of Arts of Letters, only joined the Ustetika this year, winning second in poetry and receiving a special citation in katha.

He formed AB’s TunORG, the Faculty’s official music organization, became editor in chief of The Flame, and was president of the Thomasian Writers Guild. Espina’s works have been published in various publications in and out of the University and he was a fellow of the UST National Writers Workshop.

Certainly only a high-caliber writer can produce the works he submitted in the Ustetika. His poetry entry, The Adobo Incident, covers a wide range of topics: superheroes, “psychobabble variations,” and text messaging, among others. With such lines as “there was a philosophy professor who suddenly turned into a cow and acquired a British/ accent” and “it’s not hard to imagine how a city can fit into a sardine can,” it was not surprising the judges found Espina’s work “interesting” and “philosophical.”

His short story in Filipino, Interseksyon, is a dialogue-driven narrative, an innovative way of storytelling.

Kim Louie M. Favis: 2nd place, Tula

College of Commerce and Accountancy sophomore Kim Louie M. Favis focuses on small waves in Alimbukay, his winning poetry collection. These small waves are men working in their own ways to change the society, betraying a sociological bias.

Favis is open to exploring other themes, as the spiritual “Langit at Lupa sa La Naval” and the personal in “Ikaw at Hindi Ikaw”. This variety of subjects shows him swinging between math and writing.

“You cannot actually focus on just one thing. You have to explore other sides,” he said.

However, he still would not call himself a writer because he believes that winning an Ustetika award is simply a stepping stone to becoming one.

Ronald Jeffrey S. Lim: 2nd place, Fiction

Ronald Lim’s entry, Night out, definitely stood out in the selection. Ramil Gulle, Ustetika fiction judge and UST Center for Creative Writing and Studies junior associate, described the lineup as undistinguished this year, most of the stories marred by bad grammar and hardly resembling the elements of a short story. There was no first prize. But Lim’s entry stood out.

The Journalism senior, however, does not consider himself a writer, because winning an Ustetika “does not mean na lahat ng susunod mong istorya, maganda, at hindi rin ibig sabihin na lagi kang mananalo.”

Still, winning the Ustetika has its advantages.

“Dahil sa Ustetika, na-recognize ‘yung mga writers na otherwise would have remained anonymous,” Lim said. According to him, not everyone has the chance to get published, and the Ustetika is the most convenient way of showing one’s talent as a writer.

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For Lim, bagging a prize gave him self-confidence, after his “traumatic stint” as editor in chief of The Aquinian, the official organ of the UST High School, where he was asked to edit articles, layout a paper, and do various tasks despite having no background in writing and publishing.

While the experience made him shun writing organizations in college, he remained loyal to his craft. He would have not joined the Ustetika if not for a classmate who convinced him to join, saying he would not lose anything.

“’Pag nanalo ka ng kahit anong contest, they expect you to come up with great stuff. May expectation sa iyo ang tao na lahat ng sinusulat mo maganda. It’s not always like that, parang ‘yung latest story na sinulat ko, hindi talaga maganda,” he said.

Still, Lim plans to continue writing and join literary contests. Ustetika is nothing without his good stories to back it up, he says.

Anna Krisna N. Bautista: 2nd place, Katha

Last year Journalism senior Bautista won third prize for her short story, Sikat. This year, she proved the victory was no fluke by achieving a higher prize.

“Nagdasal ako, gusto ko lang may ma-prove sa sarili kasi iniisip ko yung dati kong panalo tsamba lang. Kasi walang akong training,” she said.

Her short story, Kalderong Walang Laman, was inspired by her grandmother’s stories of hungry souls getting trapped in empty pots, a myth that she believed as a child.

Her success proved that stories could be made out of the plane of reality.

Jaime M. Adriano Jr.: 2nd place, Essay

One of the three finalists from the College of Commerce and Accountancy, third year student Jaime Adriano submitted his entry because he was disappointed with the lack of participation in the contest by Commerce students.

“Natutuwa ako nanalo ako pero parang nakakalungkot pa ring isipin na di pa rin masyadong (popular) sa Commerce ang pagsusulat. Kasi kilala kami as plain business-minded people, ” he said.

He initially wanted to join the poetry category, but the lack of preparation prompted him to try out for the essay instead.

Ma. Ailil B. Alvarez: 3rd place, Poetry

At one point, Literature senior Ma. Ailil Alvarez realized that the major she chose had made her a “critic” which eased out the artist in her. This, she said, must have stopped her attempts at creative writing.

“I will never say that I’m a writer. After lahat ng narinig ko sa Lit, na-realize ko na hindi ako creative writer,” she claimed.

Alvarez did not originally plan to join the contest, but was prodded by a friend to dig through the works she had produced for their creative writing class. Nevertheless, she is happy, thankful, and even amused at friends who seemed happier than she is for her victory.

Her collection, Fluctuating Colors, features poems about color as metaphors for unity and diversity.

Denirose M. Afinidad: 3rd place, Tula

Journalism junior Denirose Afinidad trained herself to write at night, just before going to sleep—apparently the most convenient time for her to vent out her frustrations and depression on paper. It was only after she had won that she finally thought of a title for her collection—Pagsukob ng Sining sa Dilim.

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Maria Lourdes DC Parawan: 3rd place, Essay

Wanting to prove her prowess as a writer drove Lourdes Parawan, a Journalism senior, to try her luck in this year’s Ustetika. As a campus writer, it has been imposed to her by tradition that she should win an Ustetika in order for other people to recognize her talents.

“Joining the Ustetika is more like a ritual for campus writers. It’s not a written rule, but it’s imposing nonetheless,” Parawan said.

But she had second thoughts about joining. If not for the extended deadline, she would not have been able to submit her entry. A few days after she passed her essay, Parawan wanted to pull out her submission when she thought of the big names who would read and judge her work. Still, with the encouragement of her friends, she fought the urge of giving up.

Her “half-baked work”— Rabid Tales—won third place. “Natutuwa ako kasi nabasa nina Bienvenido Lumbera, Wendell Capili, Rina Jimenez-David (judges for Ustetika essay) ‘yung ginawa ko,” she said. “These people took the time to read my work. That is already an achievement. Winning an award is just a bonus.”

Allan Jason G. Tiu: Honorable Mention, Sanaysay

Truth and creativity fueled Jason Tiu’s Ang Katotohanan ng Lipunan to victory. For him, a good piece, more than being well written, should be inspired by real events in the society.

Tiu, a third-year Pharmacy major, wrote the essay two years ago, with his writer-friend from the University of the Philippines, out of sheer boredom. It was also his friend who suggested the title and the theme, which is prejudice and discrimination against gays. Although it is the truth of society that inspires him to write, he reads Paulo Coelho and Barbara Taylor Bradford. Ladlad, the Anthology of Philippine Gay Writing, also influenced him in writing the essay.

Kristel Anne SF Satumbaga: Honorable Mention, Katha

Joining the Ustetika was a long-term goal for Journalism senior Kristel Anne SF Satumbaga, who admitted that she never got to submit her entries in the past because she always missed the deadline.

Since it was her first time to enter the contest, the text message announcing her victory came as a big surprise.

“Just the mere fact na naisali ko yung piece ko, ok na ‘yun sa akin. Speechless pa rin ako, biglaan kasi,” she said.

Maria Melissa Frieda O. Padero: Honorable Mention, Fiction

Maria Melissa Friedo O. Padero was finally able to prove that she has the skill to write, despite having taken up Commerce. She says she has made her parents realize that she is not wasting her time writing.

The editor in chief of the Commerce Journal, says she has no regrets writing.

Of course, her parents were happy with her victory.

“Sabi ng mom ko, pleased daw siya kasi I take her side of the family, kahit medyo naliligaw ako sa extra-curricular activities,” Padero said.

Padero says she will continue writing. She in fact plans to join other categories next year. Although she also writes fiction and poetry, she thinks the essay is more challenging than the fiction. Sharline J. Bareng and Chuck D. Smith


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