Blaan author triumphs at the National Book Awards


Blaan author triumphs at the National Book Awards

The National Book Development Board (NBDB) and the Manila Critics Circle (MCC) have announced the winners of the prestigious 41st National Book Awards. Among the awardees is Elizabeth Joy Serrano-Quijano, a writer of Blaan-Ibaloy heritage from Matanao, Davao del Sur. Her riveting work, "Dili Pwede Mogawas ug Ubang Mga Sugilanon" (Can't Go Out and Other Stories), has earned her the accolade of Best Book of Short Fiction in Binisaya. This recognition underscores her exceptional contribution to the Philippine literary landscape.

“For me, my victory feels like a triumph for the Blaan people as well. My stories are not about me or from me; they are merely reflections of the narratives of my Blaan brothers and sisters here in Matanao, Davao del Sur,” said Serrano-Quijano.

Blaan author triumphs at the National Book Awards

She views this accomplishment as a collective victory for the Blaan community, as it signifies the first publication by a Blaan author. Although her narratives are crafted in the Binisaya language, a reflection of her upbringing in Davao, she nurtures the aspiration to write in the Blaan language in the future. She hopes that her achievement will inspire others, especially young Indigenous People (IP), to share their unique experiences and narratives from their cultural communities.

Serrano-Quijano believes in the critical importance of reading. However, she acknowledges that reading is a privilege and not accessible to all.

"I firmly believe in the paramount importance of reading. However, reading is a privilege that not everyone can afford. We cannot engage in intellectual pursuits on an empty stomach,” she said.

Blaan author triumphs at the National Book Awards

“Many young individuals are compelled to contribute to household chores and farming or to look after their siblings, leaving them with little to no time for reading. This is why I am a staunch advocate for socio-economic development within the IP communities.”

Serrano-Quijano believes that if basic necessities like food and education are provided, these individuals will find the time to read. She asserts that one cannot write without being a reader, emphasizing the necessity of reading. However, she also stresses the importance of physical and mental well-being for reading.

She asserts that development cannot be achieved without social justice. She hopes that the Lumads receive the attention they deserve to realize their potential, especially in writing. She considers herself fortunate, as her parents provided for her needs, allowing her to read and write from a young age.

Blaan author triumphs at the National Book Awards

Serrano-Quijano's work, "Dili Pwede Mogawas ug Ubang mga Sugilanon", is an anthology of 10 narratives penned in Binisaya/Cebuano. These stories have been translated into English by John Bengan, a recipient of the esteemed Palanca Award. Notably, Bengan was also a contender in the short fiction in English category at the 41st National Book Awards.

Dedicated to delving into the experiences of the Mindanawan, particularly the Blaan community, Serrano-Quijano has skillfully interlaced a postcolonial undertone throughout her narratives.

The citation noted that this is very evident in her “eponymous story that constitutes her more sustained effort to produce a narrative that boldly tackles socio-economic and political issues, providing a strong critique of the often-unrecognized experiences of war and struggle.”

The reader is also guided by the presence of acronyms, glossary, foreword, translator’s note, preface from the author, and blurbs from literature and arts professors.

The National Book Awards is an annual event that honors the most outstanding books written and published in the Philippines, celebrating the diligent creative efforts that go into book publishing. The ceremony to honor the winners is slated for February 2024.

A total of 235 titles were submitted across 34 categories in seven languages: English, Filipino, Binisaya, Bikol, Hiligaynon, Tausug, and Waray. There are 35 winners because the category of Non-fiction Prose in English has two winners.

Eleven Mindanao books written or edited by Mindanawons made it to the finals; six of them were winners in their categories.

Serrano-Quijano expresses her profound gratitude to all those who have lent their support and placed their faith in her abilities. She hopes that she will not be the only Blaan writer, but that many more will follow, including individuals from the Manobo, Tagakaulo, and Bagobo communities, as well as others from Mindanao.

She encourages continued support for and engagement with the narratives that mirror our times. She extends her heartfelt thanks to the Ateneo de Davao University Publication Office, Dr. Macario Tiu, and the Davao Writers Guild for their significant contributions.

At present, she holds the position of Program Head for the Bachelor of Science in Development Communication at the Southern Philippines Agribusiness and Marine and Aquatic School of Technology, located in Malita, Davao Occidental.

Blaan author triumphs at the National Book Awards

She is known for her narratives centered on Indigenous People, the environment, and women and children. Her works have been featured in numerous publications, including World Literature Today and Words Without Borders. She has been a fellow at several writers' workshops, such as the Davao Writers Workshop 2018, the Iyas La Salle National Writers Workshop 2019, and Palihang Rogelio Sicat 12.

Honored as the Women of the Future Southeast Asia 2022 in Arts and Culture (category), she holds a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication from Holy Cross of Davao College and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Development Research and Administration at the University of Southeastern Philippines.

The 41st National Book Awards aligns with the Philippines' two-year preparation period as it prepares to make its mark as the second Southeast Asian nation to be selected as the Guest of Honour at the world's largest book fair, the Frankfurter Buchmesse, in 2025.