The Quiet Ones, Glenn Diaz’ debut novel published by the Ateneo de Manila Press, won the 19th Madrigal-Gonzalez Best First Book Award in a ceremony held at the Plenary Hall of the new UP College of Fine Arts Building in the University of the Philippines Diliman held last November 22, 2019.
Rica Bolipata-Santos, one of the judges for this competition cycle, praises The Quiet Ones as “a tour de force, an awesome game of fictional juggling, mastering multiple narratives that cascade, skim and collide, leaving the reader breathless, wondering if that was a whodunit, a philosophical foray into globalization, or a poignant story of love.” Described by judge Marne Kilates as “a debuting but thoroughly able storyteller,” Diaz was unfortunately unable to attend the ceremony because he is currently finishing his PhD in Australia. In his place, the award was received by his contemporary and fellow writer Vincen Gregory Yu.
Certainly, the years 2017-2018 saw the publication of a strong crop of Philippine literature in English, encompassing a range of genres. Their citations penned by veteran writers Bolipata-Santos, Kilates, and Charlson Ong, seven (7) other emergent writers were also hailed as finalists during the ceremony: Francis Paolo Quina for Field of Play and Other Fictions, who “brings to his stories the sensibility of a poet as well as the rigor of the literary scholar and writing teacher”; Sarah Lumba for The Shoemaker’s Daughter whose book is “an important contribution to new Filipino fiction that needs to be recognized, especially as a first book”; Manuel Lahoz for Of Tyrants and Martyr, who “delivers fresh insights and anecdotes on the subject [of Martial Law] in his riveting political memoir”; Jude Ortega for Seekers of Spirits, “a new, significant voice in our evolving literature.”; Johanna Michelle Lim for What Distance Tells Us, whose book “lures us with language, entices us into the territories of enchantment not always of the exotic but also the local and commonplace”; Marichelle Roque-Lutz for Keeping it Together, whose writing reveals her as “an able and polished author, a fully evolved, mature soul”; and Christine Lao for Musical Chairs, whose stories are “in the way they were first invented: as lore, as fable, as stories of good and evil but, in this collection, rendered with the complexity of the modern world.”
During the awarding ceremony, Ong moderated a forum with Quina, Lumba, Lim, and Lao to discuss their writing process and the experiences that led up to their first print publication. Amusing anecdotes about readers’ responses to their works, including families’ and students’, were also discussed during the forum. Roque-Lutz, who is still abroad, was represented by writer-journalist Margie T. Logarta. To cap off the awarding, excerpts from the novel were read by actor-performer Acey Aguilar. Lahoz graced the ceremony later in the afternoon.
The Madrigal-Gonzalez Best First Book Award is held yearly, alternatingly awarding works in Filipino and English, and judged by some of our foremost writers and critics.