Back in 1997, when I was a preschool librarian in Xavier School, I joined the first storytelling contest of the Philippine Board on Books for Young People. This is how I remembered it to be.
The elimination rounds were held at the Filipinas Heritage Library which was then located at the historic Nielsen Tower in Ayala, Makati. I wore my peach blouse and black pants. My hubby was my companion and cheer leader. I read aloud Ompong Remigio's Bruhaha! Bruhihi. I made it through the final round. The judges of the contests were Letti Sala and Neni Sta. Romana-Cruz. There was a third judge, but I could not remember who that person is. Sorry.
During the final round, there was no book to hold or read aloud. Contestants were asked to read the story and deliver on the spot. I was racked with nerves. It didn't help that I was the first contestant. To make the long story short, I didn't win the top spot. In fact, I ranked the lowest.
Yes, I was disappointed with myself. But, a few weeks after the National Children's Book Day, I got a call from Rose Gonzales, who was then programs coordinator for National Bookstore, to do a storytelling session in one of the store's branches. You see, all seven contestants of the Storytelling contest were "required" to do a session or two. Early on, I knew my advocacy to promote books and reading was off to a start. I said yes, of course, but Rose Gonzales sounded snotty and strict on the phone that I was a bit annoyed. Little did I know that we'll be good friends in the years to come. How that happened is another story I will reserve for another day.
The long and short of it, I never looked back. That storytelling contest paved the way for more storytelling opportunities that helped me improve my craft in the art of storytelling. After all these years, I am still telling stories.
While I am grateful for PBBY for the storytelling contest it set up in 1997, I hope that one of these days, it can organize a festival where storytellers are not pitted against each other; where stories are teh stars of the show; where the skill and craft of storytelling is the highlight in making a story a powerful medium to heal people and to build and empower communities.