For the many talented writers birthed by the university, winning a Palanca award means the affirmation of their position as writers accepted into the elitist circle of literary giants the readers of this country look up to. In the case of Literature sophomore Harvey Castillo, winning his first Palanca meant two things: another Thomasian to be recognized in the country’s most prestigious literary barometer, and a personal record to keep as one of the youngest Thomasians to bag a Palanca Award.

The boy among titans

Castillo’s passion for writing first bloomed in high school. He began with script writing for class activities. “I was first into writing screenplays. I would always be tasked to write it whenever there’s a dramatization in class,” Upon entering the university, he soon found his passion blossoming with the help of his deeper understanding of literary forms, thanks to his literature course.

Though he takes more interest in poetry nowadays, he says it was Mario Vargas Llosa, George Orwell, and Shakira Sison, whose works influenced and inspired his essays. With the encouragement he received from his parents whom he described as very supportive of his dreams and writing prowess, he pursued literary writing and joined. “I remember posting a link of the Palanca Awards’ call for entries in our section’s Facebook page, only to find in the end that I was the only one who joined. When I decided to enter the category (Kabataan Essay), I chose to because the essay would cater to teenagers,” he smiled.,

He went on telling the Varsitarian that, indeed, maybe Lady Luck was on his side that time.

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He passed his entry on the day of the deadline itself. Composing it only weeks before the deadline, he admitted not being able to revise his entry and check it for any error. “I wasn’t keeping my expectations high then. He was sure, however, that he won because he wrote with his own voice, saying things that were closest to his heart at the moment, without any sense of pretense. He believes it was the rawness and beauty of it that outshone the other contestants’ pieces. somewhere he’s knowledgeable enough as he share with them the same thoughts and sentiments they live-by.

For Castillo, deviating from the world of art is an anathema, “I could imagine myself outside the world of letters as long as it is still within the realm of art like painting or drawing,” he said.

Aside his recent achievement, it is interesting to note that part of his student life was spent lately in service to The Flame, the official student publication of the Faculty of Arts and Letters, as a literary contributor. This year, he is the incumbent secretary of the AB Literary Society.

He would spend most of his free time reading books; “You would probably see me by the stairs near our classroom, or simply in my seat, killing time reading poetry.”

Outside school, he finds delight in spending time with his family, “Beyond being a writer, I am a son. I would often cook for my parents when I’m at home,” he told the Varsitarian.

From here on out

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Though Castillo has found somewhat of a niche in the literary world by writing essays, he plans on divulging into the world of speculative fiction. “I’m currently into writing creative non-fiction. I usually take on a realist approach because it’s what I’m used to, thanks to the books that I’ve read. Usually, the books that you read reflect on the writing that you produce,”

But writing isn’t all that Castillo considers doing. After finishing his undergraduate course in Literature, he plans to expand his knowledge by enrolling for a post-graduate degree in Creative Writing.

Though the Palanca he has won is gratifying enough, Castillo admits that he is far from an established writer. He urges his fellow new writers to continue revising their work even after the last period has been lain. “I myself still need help because I am still a budding writer. As a mentor once told me: “Good writing is rewriting,” Dedicate your time to editing and revising your work. Soon, you will hone your skill from constantly revising,”

As an imparting tip, he echoed many writers by reminding everyone that they should not merely join literary competitions for the glory.

“To join competitions for the sake of winning an award is a very shallow reason,” he said.

Castillo, with his entry titled “Avoiding the Fate of Gregor Samsa,” won first place in the Kabataan Division Essay Category of the 64th Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature. He now belongs to the roster of Thomasian Palanca student-winners, perhaps following the steps of notable winners of major categories like Maria Francezca Kwe (Fiction) and Angelo Suarez (Poetry), who both won their awards in 2003; Kwe was a senior Journalism student while Suarez was taking his Master’s Degree in Communication. Alpine Christopher P. Moldez and Josef Brian M. Ramil

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