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Premyo Valledor for Best Bikol Novel

I was more than pleased to witness Ateneo de Naga’s Buwan ng Wika celebration with the official launch of the Premyo Victorio C. Valledor for Best Bikol Novel, for many reasons.

Buwan ng Wika highlights the beauty and the propagation of Filipino, our national language; it also draws our attention to the rich diversity of our over a hundred Philippine languages. Yet, for such an amazingly language-rich country, much still remains to be discovered in local literature, because most of our critically acclaimed novels are written in English or Filipino. This present state of literary affairs is a gross misrepresentation of our linguistic and cultural background.

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The Valledor Prize, a collaboration between Ateneo de Naga University (ADNU) represented by president Fr. Roberto Rivera, SJ, and the National Book Development Board, is the first competition of its kind, especially since it is open to any and all Bikol languages as mapped and classified by the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino.  Kristian Cordero, deputy director of the ADN University Press, has always dreamt of a competition such as this for Bikol, because national writing competitions do not carry a regular and permanent Bikol category.

Book competitions in Philippine languages typically go on a rotation basis with other languages, and there is always the difficulty of finding judges to read in the particular language. But the issue of judges does not discourage Cordero, who is confident that competent juror-readers will always be found.

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Bikol is a major Filipino language, spoken by at least five million people in the provinces of Albay, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Masbate and Sorsogon. It also has a literary heritage that dates back to Spanish colonial times.  Many literary stars hail from the region, led today by two successful writers writing abroad but drawing on their Bikol roots and experience: Filipino-Australian Merlinda Bobis and poet Luis Cabalquinto.

Of course, today, one has to look no further than the ADN University Press, headed by Fr. Wilmer Tria, to find some of the most prolific contemporary Bikol writers. However, as far as publishing is concerned, Bikol novels are few and far between.

The competition, with a cash prize of P50,000, is named after its benefactor, Victorio Cabangon Valledor, CEO and president of Lockton Philippines Insurance and Reinsurance Brokers Inc. A native of Catanduanes, he is a patron of literature and the arts, having also supported the National Book Awards. He comes from a family of readers (and artists, namely his first cousin Noel).

He is earnest about having a robust Bikol literature known and appreciated by many, especially by non-Bikolanos; and, as Valledor himself puts it, “the propagation and understanding of the nuances of the Bikol dialect.” Is there such a thing as “pure Bikol,” he asks, familiar as he is with the language spoken in the northern and southern parts of his island province of Catanduanes.

It is hoped that this prize will encourage more Bikol writers to write or finish their novels and pursue publication. The phenomenal ADN University Press, under the Tria-Cordero leadership tandem, plans to have the top three entries as published books in time for April 2019, Buwan ng Panitikan, when the winners would be announced.

As an aside, the ADN University Press continues to impress. It was Cordero’s Bikol translation of Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” that first drew the attention of Czech Ambassador Jaroslav Olsa Jr.—and since then, many noteworthy translation collaborations have happened.

This prize should lead writers and publishers to seriously consider novels in the mother tongue. May the Premyo Valledor inspire other benefactors to support similar literary endeavors, and serve as a template for other such pursuits.

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This was a welcome opportunity for me to be representing the NBDB out of Metro Manila, if only to live up to the agency’s goal of being truly national.

For more details about the Premyo Valledor, visit https://www.adnu.edu.ph/2018/08/13/premyo-victorio-c-valledor-para-sa-nobelang-bikol-guidelines-and-entry-form/ or email [email protected]

Neni Sta. Romana Cruz ([email protected]) is chair of the National Book Development Board and a member of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.

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TAGS: Best Bikol Novel, bicol, Buwan ng Wika, column, editorial, literature, news, opinion, Premyo Victorio C. Valledor
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