Calvin Castillo, an 18-year-old student from Puerto Princesa City, was among the 82 recipients of the Graphic Salute Award at the Nick Joaquin Literary Awards on May 7.

The Graphic Salute Award is a literary recognition given to writers whose works are published in the Philippines Graphic Reader, currently the only literary magazine in national circulation that publishes Filipino literary pieces in the English language.

Castillo submitted his short story, “The King Who Had Nothing,” to Philippines Graphic Reader in October this year. He was the only student among the five awardees who came from Siliman University, where he is currently finishing his last year of senior high school.

Castillo’s first published short story, “The King Who Had Nothing,” appears in the December 2023 volume of the Philippines Graphic Reader.

“Writing stories to submit, very recently lang, pero ever since mahilig din talaga ako magsulat ng stories. (…) Hindi ko sinulat yung piece to submit it, I wrote it as a Father’s Day gift. Naisip ko lang na i-submit din iyon,” he said.

Castillo began his writing career when he joined the Palawan Hope Journal. He qualified for the Regional Schools Press Conference, a competition for campus journalists, during his first year at the publication.

Though Castillo moved to Palawan State University shortly after, he continued to explore and expand his writing skills by joining in-campus writing and literary competitions.

The Nick Joaquin Literary Awards is an annual event held by the Philippines Graphic, named in honor of the magazine’s former editor, the National Artist, who published seminal Filipino literature in the English language. Castillo’s recent achievement also allowed him to meet other national authors he admired, such as 16-time Palanca Awardee Jose “Butch” Dalisay Jr. and award-winning screenwriter Ricky Lee.

“They’re mostly there as guests, pero yung mga nominees, sila Yvette Tan—she’s one of the best horror writers in the Philippines. Then there’s Ian Casocot from Negros Oriental, he’s a professor here at Siliman. He writes a lot of poems, and a lot of short stories din napakaganda yun talaga. Parang medyo na-starstruck ako,” Castillo recalled.

Castillo left the ending of his short story open as a way of letting the audience participate in the narrative. He explained his hesitation in referring to his writing as a “craft” because he planned to develop it further.

He spotlighted the Pawikaan, a writer’s circle of Palaweño authors he goes on workshops with whenever he goes home to Palawan. Castillo hoped that more aspiring local writers would join their circle, as he expressed his desire to see Palawan become one of the centers of Philippine literature.

“Not everything that I write is based on the Palaweño experience, pero there are definitely some things when I write, especially, may isang poem ako about sa mga Chinese na naandiyan. Yung mga Chinese warships? May mga work din akong [featured iyon], which is part of the Palaweño experience,” he noted.

The Philippines Graphic Reader’s website, https://philippinesgraphic.com.ph/2024/01/22/the-king-who-had-nothing/, offers a free and full reading of The King Who Had Nothing.

The December 2023 edition of the Philippines Graphic Reader is also available on Shopee: https://shopee.ph/product/372409777/25353172229?d_id=2c31f&uls_trackid=4vo73ml700rp&utm_content=2qTZBQW1H7sCxVhME6YCwesevBoM.

The Pawikaan: Palawan Writer’s Circle’s Facebook page can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100093622039430.

Castillo also writes a column in Palawan News.