Math professor returns to Palanca stage, bags two more wins

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It’s rare to find someone who excels in polar disciplines like Math and literature. But for Early Sol A. Gadong, the ability to do both requires the discipline to do what needs to be done at the right moment and the will to pursue one’s passion even when things get tough and complicated.

Gadong, a high school professor at the University of the Philippines Visayas, recently earned distinctions at the 68th Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature. Her work Sa Lum-ok Sang Imong Suso won first prize in the Hiligaynon Short Story category while Maraming-Maraming-Marami received the third prize in the Maikling Kuwentong Pambata category. She is one of only two writers who bagged prizes in two separate categories this year.

When asked how she’s able to write creative pieces despite her busy schedule, Gadong admitted, “You just have to take the little pockets of time to write.” True enough, she writes while having breakfast or waiting for her class to start.

Writing, for Gadong, is an enjoyable activity that allows her to relax, as well as pour out her thoughts and feelings. “It’s a cathartic process. Whether I’m extremely happy or sad, writing has been one of the best ways for me to cope with the surge of emotions,” she explained.

Sa Lum-ok Sang Imong Suso tells the story of two former girlfriends who struggle to get back together, juxtaposed with the changes happening in Iloilo brought about by a well of political actions. On the other hand, Maraming-Maraming-Marami narrates the tale of a child who tries to learn math concepts, motivated to do so by an older brother who works in the mines.

Gadong said that she found the inspiration to write the said children’s story through a seminar/workshop on child labor she attended. Being an educator who loves math and literature at the same time, she also shared that she can’t help but allude to math concepts when writing stories for kids. In the same way, she uses literature to teach math to her students. “These disciplines really influence each other in the way I teach,” Gadong remarked.

Her grades back in school may have showed her knack for numbers, but she knew that writing will always be part of her being. While pursuing a math course in college, Gadong would still seize opportunities to write for the school paper or join literary contests. Aside from fiction, she also writes non-fiction pieces in English, Filipino, and Hiligaynon.

Even as a professional, she would participate in writing workshops to hone her skills. She attended the San Agustin Writers Workshop in Iloilo City, the Iyas National Writers Workshop in Bacolod City, and the Ateneo National Writers Workshop in Quezon City.

A mother language writer

Gadong advocates writing in one’s mother tongue. It’s something that she was inspired to uphold after exposure with writing mentors such as Palanca Hall of Fame awardee Leoncio P. Deriada, who is a fictionist/playwright/poet, as well as other West Visayan writers whom she spends most of her time with.

One of her writing influences is John Iremil Teodoro, a published author in Kinaráy-a, which is an old Visayan language. “I learned the sensibilities of West Visayan setting, cultures, and traditions from him,” Gadong explained.

In 2015, Gadong and other West Visayan writers gathered to create Hubon Manunulat, an organization that provides an avenue for young Visayan writers to write in their mother tongue. The group regularly holds zine festivals, book summits, and writing conferences for aspiring writers and literary enthusiasts.

In 2016, she won her first Palanca award — second prize for her Hiligaynon short story Nagakaangay nga Panapton.

While her accomplishments both in math and literature seem astounding, Gadong asserted that solving equations and weaving stories are not just inherent skills. Rather, these are practices that keep the mind healthy and the psyche in check.

Named after businessman and philanthropist Don Carlos Palanca Sr., the Palanca Awards continuously seeks to cultivate Philippine Literature by providing incentives for writers and serving as a treasury of these literary gems. It is considered the gold standard in writing excellence, highly-coveted by Filipino writers, young and old alike. For complete list of winners, visit www.palancaawards.com.ph.

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