Touted as “Enfente Terrible of the Philippine Theatre,” Palawán native Kanakan Balintagos, aka Auraeus Solito, won the first prize for “Mga Buhay na Apoy” during the 65th Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards. He shares this honor with a Palaweña, Manuelita “Baby” Contreras-Cabrera for her piece, “Sulat sa Birhen.”
The Palanca award is just one among the many awards and recognitions accorded to this internationally acclaimed genius filmmaker, actor and director.
“It has always been my dream to win a Palanca. I guess every young writer dreams of this award because we read Palanca award-winning works in school,” he disclosed in a recent interview.
Kanakan wrote “Mga Buhay na Apoy” in 1994 but hid it because he felt that it was too personal. It made him rediscover his roots in Southern Palawan when he learned that his mother belongs to the Palawán tribe.
“I thought I lost the play and, while I was searching for an entry to the Cinema One Originals Film Festival (I am primarily known as a filmmaker), the play surfaced,” he explained.
“It was read publicly last year in CCP, and made me, and the audience, cry. Then Tanghalang Pilipino, the CCP Theatre Company, decided to stage it. I secretly entered it to the Palanca this year, and magically… It won First Prize! Just on time for the staging in October at the Little Theatre in CCP. “I guess it’s the Palawán ancestors guiding me.” he lengthily added.
Kanakan belongs to the first generation of Palawán who were born outside of their tribal land. His grandfather was a Spanish mestizo who married the princess daughter of a Palawán Shaman. The only son among the three children of Leonarda Calo of Bataraza, Palawan and Arturo Solito of Marinduque; he attended the University of the Philippines where he was a major in Theatre Arts.
He claimed his Palawán name Kanakan Balintagos, “Hunter of Truth” in Palawanon, when his Shaman uncle dreamed of him in a sandbar while holding a camera that turned into a hunter’s blowgun. Great waves appeared on both sides of the sandbar; he remained unscathed. His hunt continues.
His parting words, “Talent is not enough! I always tell young artists, ‘You need hard work, tenacity and burning patience to achieve excellence.” He considers his multi awarded dream film “Busong (Palawan Fate)” as his best work.