Stories about the Pala’wan tribe were among those that stood out in the literary contest concerning Christianity’s influence in Palawan.

Over 228 creative essays, short stories, and poems were submitted for the Literary Awards, the first writing competition of its kind to be organized by the provincial government of Palawan. Submissions were opened to departments across the province, with entries passed through email, and awards were given this September 4 at the VJR hall in Capitol.

One of the winning stories was Rodgie Demalinao’s “Dinala ng Panginoon”, about a boy who traveled from Iloilo to Palawan. Demalinao works as an education program supervisor for the Department of Education in Palawan, and used his background in language education for the story, which included actual Palaw’an dialogue with Filipino translation.

He recounted that the first iteration of his story featured a Batak character, as he set it in his hometown of Brgy. Abaroan in Roxas where the tribe is located, but changed the story when he found out he couldn’t translate the other dialogues into the Batak language.

“After ng Batak, nagpalit ako ng scene na parang nalipat [yung karakter] dito sa South sa may mga Pala’wan. Kasi ang kasama kong bata sa bahay ay Pala’wan, so yun na-translate ko yung ibang dialogue na gusto kong mangyari sa kwento,” added Demalinao.

Demalinao said that because the theme was about the influence of Christianity in Palawan, he wanted to tell a story about how that affected indigenous people, having worked with IP groups during the course of his teaching career. His story involved historical research for the years set during the story.

Another story that centered the Pala’wan perspective was written by a school teacher in Palawan State University. Lovely Rose Gonzales’ “Pasanin” featured a Pala’wan child who shoulders heavy merchandise every day, though none as burdensome as the responsibilities that he assumed at a young age, and won third place for the short story category.

Gonzales based the character on a Pala’wan churchmate of hers, whose strength of faith in God she admired. “Alam kong napakarami rin nilang pasanin sa buhay pero nakatutuwang makitang naglalaan pa rin sila ng oras para kilalanin ang Panginoon. At nakita kong saktong-sakto ito sa tema. Kaya naman, para bang mabilisang dumaloy nalang ang mga salita habang sinusulat ko ito,” said Gonzales.

Gonzales noted that the title “Pasanin” is wordplay, which can mean both “to carry” and “carried things”, and it represented how God can uplift people’s burdens.

The cultural emphasis on the Christian faith is also present in another winning piece. Colville Correa, a Grade 8 junior high school student from Palawan State University, won the first prize for his essay, “Ang Tagumpay ng Kristiyanismo sa Palawan sa loob ng 400 na taon”.

“Ang sanaysay ko po ay nagbibigay ng pagpupugay sa lahat ng mga pagsisikap at sakripisyo na pinagdaanan ng pananampalatayang Katoliko upang maging matagumpay ang Kristiyanismo dito sa ating lalawigan,” noted Correa.

Correa praised the literary contest, and was grateful for the opportunity to express his opinions and feelings through the creative medium. He further added that were he given a chance to choose the theme for next year’s event, that he would want the focus to be on the importance of progression in the future of the tribal groups of Palawan.

In the 60th regular session of the Provincial Board on September 5, Board Member Rafael Ortega Jr. presented a resolution to formally institutionalize the annual literary awards and approached the members of DepEd Palawan to propose a name for the event.

While the provincial government, as the sponsor of the literary contest, retains the intellectual property rights for the winning entries, they also intend to compile the submissions into a book and appropriately acknowledge the authors.

Demalinao mentioned that DepEd Palawan also expressed interest in translating the winning pieces into a compact book format, as they have previously engaged in developing similar educational materials featuring stories for the Mother-Tongue Based Multilingual Learning Education curriculum.

“Pwede siyang ma-turn into small books, pwede siyang maging video, (…) baguhin lang yung plot kasi dapat maging pang small book yung kaniyang approach, kasi ang sinubmit na stories more on narrative, konti lang ang dialogue,” said Demalinao.

Furthermore, Demalinao noted that the compilation should not be limited to the winning stories, as the other submitted pieces had cultural value and importance still.

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