Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Article by Arvin Abejo Mangohig

Rica Bolipata-Santos’ Love, Desire, Children, Etc.: Reflections of a Young Wife won this year’s Madrigal-Gonzalez Best First Book Award. Published in 2005 by Milflores Publishing, Inc., the book is a collection of essays which Dr. Neil Garcia praised for its “candor, grace and humor.”

At ceremonies held at the UP Diliman Bulwagang Rizal last December 8, Garcia announced the winner, who was congratulated by UP ICW Director Vim Nadera and Atty. Gizela Gonzalez-Montinola. Bolipata-Santos received a P50,000 check and certificate. She delivered a short acceptance speech as her children rejoiced at her success, her youngest son joining her onstage and bowing like a performer, further endearing them to the audience. She described herself as a “closet writer,” talked about the sheer joy of writing as her hand moves across the page, and described her delight when Antonio Hidalgo of Milflores said he was extremely interested in publishing Love.
The award is the only such prize that recognizes literary debuts of Filipino writers and was established in memory of Gonzalo Gonzalez. Previous winners are Elena Sicat, Luna Sicat-Cleto, F.H. Batacan, Sarg Lacuesta, Vince Groyon and Kristian Cordero. This year’s panel of judges was composed of Garcia, Jaime An-Lim and previous winner Vince Groyon.

Below is the transcript from Garcia’s presentation of the winner and other nominees:
"The six finalists for this year’s Madrigal-Gonzalez Best First Book Award are:
First, Salamanca, a novel by Dean Alfar. This is the only avowed book of fiction to make it to the short list in what has turned out to be the year of creative nonfiction. A verbal conjuration of the magical realist sort, Salamanca is a campy verbal adventure written in Alfar’s trademark rambunctious and irreverent prose. In typical postmodernist fashion, this fabulation’s impressively scintillant surface—its medium—is quite possibly already the innermost depth of its message."

Second, Barbara-Ann Gamboa Lewis’s Barefoot in Fire: A World War II Childhood. This charmingly illustrated, book-length memoir reads like a compelling little novel, whose narrative carefully imparts to the reader a sense of its precocious narrator’s unfolding life—a life that is by turns impressionable and courageous, vulnerable and steadfast, reckless and prudent. Like other memorable books of the same genre, Lewis’s Barefoot in Fire is an eloquent indictment of the utter evil of war, as well as a moving study of the indomitable human spirit.

Third, Science Solitaire: Essays on Science, Nature, and Becoming Human by Maria Isabel Garcia. This book, possibly the first of its kind in the history of Philippine literary publishing, is an interesting collection of nonfiction essays about science, written in a generous and accessible language. In essay after essay, the author strikes the reader as being at once a naturalist and a philosopher—a student of creation, who intimately participates in the very thing that she observes, and who seeks, in the world’s tangible and mutable forms, the harmony and meaningfulness that affirm our deepest sense of being.

Fourth, Kapwa: the Self in the Other by Katrin De Guia. This beautifully produced and capaciously heavy book emerged out of the multi-talented author’s dissertation in Filipino Psychology. A singular achievement in intelligent fellow-feeling and scholarly sympathy, De Guia’s Kapwa is at once an academic inquiry into the Filipino concepts and rituals of the shared inner self, as well as an intricate interweaving of six, richly textured biographical essays on culture-bearing Filipino artists, whose complex worldviews and lifeways the author painstakingly and passionately brings to light.

Fifth, Helen T. Yap’s From Inside the Berlin Wall. A series of letters to her family back in the Philippines, Yap’s book traces a narrative arc that articulates the “Pinoy abroad” perspective in a way that is remarkably different from the garden variety travelogue, probably because the author actually resided rather than merely toured in the strange and estranging landscape of East Germany, right before the end of the Cold War. This experience afforded Yap the time to piece together her book’s fragmentary but finally singular vision—that of a temporary Filipino exile’s haunting and haunted inner world.

And finally, the sixth finalist and this year’s winner of the coveted Madrigal-Gonzalez Best First Book Award is…Love, Desire, Children, Etc.: Reflections of a Young Wife by Rica Bolipata-Santos.

Published in 2005 by Milflores Publishing, Inc., Bolipata-Santos’s first book is a rewarding collection of thirteen thematically unified essays that addresses with uncommon candor, grace, and humor some of life’s more mundane realities and mysteries: love and desire, marriage and children, family and friends, teaching and writing. The author treads the uneven terrain of the quotidian with an open compass, unafraid to confront and scrutinize even her own intimate fears and insecurities and confusions. Again and again, in these luminous little personal narratives, what triumphs is a clear-eyed self-understanding, which is utterly convincing because it is earned at the cost of so much soul-searching and inner struggle. In these provocative and well-shaped essays, Bolipata-Santos (following the words of Peter Walsh from Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway ) has taken hold of fragments of her public and private life and turned them round, slowly, in the light, to discover designs that are finally comprehensible, startling, consoling, and wise.

A deeply celebratory book worthy of the Madrigal-Gonzales Best First Book Award.
Congratulations to all author-finalists, and congratulations to our winner, Rica Bolipata-Santos.

Note: Rica Bolipata-Santos was the very first guest speaker of the Writers Guild's A SERIES OF FORTUNATE EVENTS (Writers Workshop Series).

1 comment:

Tahn said...

I was so happy that she won that award. She definitely deserves that. She is a wonderful teacher.