Monday, November 13, 2006

The Salanga Award

I have written in this blog many times on the Salanga Award given by the PBBY. This year, I was again, judge in the contest. And what good entries we have this year! This week, Ani Almario, PBBY Secretariat, will send a press release of the winners. But before I let you in on the experience of judging this year, allow me to say some things about the award.

Just to establish recall and context, the Salanga is given by the Philippine Board on Books for Young People (PBBY)for the best story written for children annualy. It was named after Alfredo Salanga, one of PBBY's founding members and advocate of Philippine Children's Literature. Very soon, the Alcala Prize, after comic book creator, Larry Alcala, will be opened for illustrators to draw the story that won first prize.

It can be said that the Salanga is the Philippines' counterpart to America's Newbery, the Alcala to the Caldecott. While the Newbery and the Caldecott awards are determined by librarians (yes, Virginia, they have a strong voice when it comes to recommending and recognizing quality literature for children), the Salanga and the Alcala prizes are handed over by advocates of children's literature in the Philippines - non other than, the PBBY.

The PPBBY is composed of sectoral representatives from the field of education, writing, publishing, illustrating, book selling and review, storytelling, research and media.

This year, there are three honorable mention and a first prize winner. Take note that entries for this year consists of issues once considered "taboo" for children to read. This is a good sign that Philippine children's literature is continuously on the move. Homosexuality is one example of a theme that would not be entered in such a contest five or ten years ago. This year, we have around two or three stories on homosexuality to talk about. Death surprised us this year via an entry that confronts the issue straight on. Children are not spared of poverty and disease, thus, a handful of stories dealing on coping mechanisms and getting sick and thriftiness found their way in the judges' top ten.

But of course, there were entries that speak of traditional and tried formats of stories for children. When can our writers, particularly those who are starting out in this promising side of the industry, realize that literature for kids can also entertain. Many still perceive children's literature to be a vehicle to teach a moral. All stories have morals, even the bad ones. Now, how the concept and theme was written and presented for kids to understand and enjoy spells the difference.

The craft of writing for children is for another post.

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