How to Win the Palanca Without Even Writing Part III
The most powerful person during the Palanca judging is among my 5,000 friends in Facebook. Look at all the profiles in my account and look for him/her. He/She had been with the Palanca Foundation for decades and one of his/her job is to look for judges for every genre.
There has to be three judges per category and one of them is the head judge. If one is not available, then he/she has to find a replacement. More often than not, he/she (OK, she's a she) would have to get from past winners in that category or if not, experts in that category.
She said she does it by random but then especially in the 1980s and 1990s in the Filipino category, it was said that she would get three poets from the LIRA and the next year from the GAT (Galian sa Arte at Tula). The LIRA was the Almario group while the GAT was the more radical ones. I think I won during the GAT year.
Anyway you have to be aware of this. Google or research the possible judges by looking at the winners and the judges. There can be no repeat judges or at least within three to four years.
If you are chummy chummy with many writers, ask around. The most powerful Palanca person loves to get winners who are easily available (meaning not National Artists, dean or those in Fulbright scholarships) and inexpensive (nakukuha sa pakain sa mahal na restaurants though). So don't expect Krip Yuson, Cirilo Bautista or those in the pantheon of the gods anymore although I still see grizzled veterans. If they are out-of-towners, remember that Palanca will not shoulder air fares for the judging so don't expect many from the islands although many are willing to sacrifice their own money.
My friend's father used to judge in the Filipino essay. On his birthday, which happens during the judging period (June to August), he received cakes from unnamed people.
Because we are living in the Facebook period, don't expect to be superlavish on your writer "friends" especially the potential jurors. Like all their comments. Give them cakes and presents during their FB. Give them life for their Candy Crush or chips for their poker. These are free but a nice gesture.
Do some lurking especially during the judging period. Look at their pictures. if they are in a restaurant, who are with them? Fellow writers in a certain genre? They just might be the judges. Look at their FB pages. Friend them. Praise them. Flatter them. After the end of August and you don't hear anything fromPalanca, unfriend these ungrateful rascals. Then troll them.
You got that covered? Now for the category. Let's say you are not a regional writer (Kinaray-a, Ilocano or Cebuano). Then you are stuck with the PENS (poetry, play, essay, novel, short story).
If you still have no first chapters for a novel, then forget that category. Anyway, they have that category every other year, so you can prepare for next year.
Poetry needs ten poems (used to be twelve) so if you don't have three or four this late stage of preparation, you might not just make it. So scratch poetry.
You have essay or short story to choose from. The time of preparation is just right. Is your story about yourself? Chances are, such very personal essays don't usually cut it unless you are writing for Kabataan Essay.
You just accepted Jesus as your personal savior and want the whole world to know? There usually are ten such stories every year so leave that to you next testimonial.
Your essay is about PNoy or other sinners, I mean, politicians and other important people? Remember an essay in the Palanca will be anthologized and the judges knew that. If your essay sounds like a newspaper article, then leave it in the newspaper. Essays for the Palanca must be timely yet timeless.
Also try to quote heavy writers. Forget Rizal and the hope of the fatherland thing. Pairing them means, "Hello, trashcan." Cliches can make it for one judge but all three? I don't think so. If you need to quote, use these names: Zizek, Walter Benjamin, Foucault, Said, San Juan, Patrick Flores, Neil Garcia, etc. You get the drift? Obama, Kris (unless funny), PNoy, De Quiros will not do.
Make it personal but scholarly. Creative nonfiction is the norm nowadays in the essay category. Think Sebald, Woolf, Hampl. Ramble. Quote. Anecdote. Shuffle.