September is a special time for literature in the Philippines, when the Philippines Graphic holds its annual Nick Joaquin Literary Awards (NJLA).
As the country’s oldest and only weekly magazine of national circulation, the Graphic holds the distinction of being the only publication in the country today that has kept the tradition of regularly devoting ample pages to short fiction and poetry written by Filipino creative writers.
It is a tradition that harks back to the American period in our nation’s history, in the 1920s, when the literary works of budding and established Filipino fictionists and poets were provided space and prominence in many a newspaper and magazine.
Offering a robust Tagalog literary section, the Graphic debuted in 1927 as a weekly magazine owned by the grand old man of Philippine popular publishing and “Komiks King” of the Philippines Ramon Roces, with Tagalog novelist Agustin C. Fabian as editor-in-chief.
During the Japanese Occupation, the magazine underwent its first shutdown and was revived in 1948 as Kislap-Graphic, before it was returned to Graphic, this time publishing the works of Filipino writers in English.
The 60s saw the weekly magazine, now owned by industrialist J. Antonio Araneta, bloom as a political and literary publication. It was closed down again, together with dozens of newspapers and magazines, with the declaration of Martial Law in 1972.
Some 18 years later, in 1990, the Philippines Graphic was reborn through its third owner—the late media mogul-businessman and philanthropist Ambassador Antonio L. Cabangon Chua and his family.
At the helm as editor-in-chief was National Artist Nick Joaquin, ably supported by fellow multi-awarded poet, fictionist, and author Jose “Pete” Lacaba; staff members Jhomar Kho Indanan, Raul “JR” Alibutud, Dana Batnag, Carlos Conde, Bayani San Diego, Guillermo Altre, and Malou Francisco; and senior writers Greg Brillantes, Adrian Cristobal, Blas F. Ople, and Manuel F. Almario; with Juan P. Dayang as its first publisher.
For 14 years, the Graphic, under Nick Joaquin recognized the top three contributors of short stories by way of the annual Graphic Literary Awards. Upon his death in 2004, the Graphic Literary Awards was renamed the Nick Joaquin Literary Awards (NJLA).
To this day, the Philippines Graphic, through the NJLA, is the only publication that gives out awards of recognition to the top three best short stories contributed in its literary section.
It offers plaques and cash prizes of P50,000 (first place), P30,000 (second place) and P20,000 (third place) for its short story awardees. It also gives a material prize for the “Poet of the Year.”
The Graphic thanks PRU Life UK, one of the leading insurance companies in the Philippines, for its unstinting support for the NJLA and for its active participation in the promotion of Philippine literature.
PRU Life UK, the 2017 awardee for the Graphic’s Patron of Literature, is joined this year by BHotel in Quezon City, San Miguel Corporation, and SM in sponsoring the NJLA.
Together with Graphic’s sister publication, the BusinessMirror, this year’s celebration will launch the Asia-Pacific NJLA, expanding the publication’s reach to English-speaking fictionists and poets in the Asia-Pacific region.
Upholding the tradition of recognizing excellence in Philippine literature and in celebration of National Artist and former Graphic EIC Nick Joaquin’s centennial birth anniversary, the Graphic will bestow plaques of recognition this year to the country’s National Artists for Literature.
The 2017 NJLA will be held at the BHotel in Quezon City on September 13, at 7 p.m.