Chuck Syjuco wrote this letter and sent this to Flips, an e-group of Fil-Am writers. I am reprinting this here for all to know and see that we, indeed, have world-class literary talents in our midst.
For a long time I've been a quiet observer on these threads and discussions following your work, idolizing your achievements, dreaming of one day being able to publish a book and maybe teach creative writing, as so many of you have done before. For fifteen years I've written stories and poems and for three years I've worked slowly on this, my first, novel, drawing insight from your discussions, collecting details from the online editions of our dailies, calibrating my perception of the reality of our beloved country by scouring the myriad blogs.
Due to my frequent but never-frequent-enough trips home to Manila, the work you've all done, and all the encouragement I've received from those of you who've known me and my literary aspirations, I have suddenly, overnight, found myself with a very imperfect book that was lucky enough to be almost-ready and likeably enough at the right time and place.
Often, recently, when people have been congratulating me, my response has been,"I've been lucky." And people would usually scoff, and say that I'm being modest (while inside they're likely thinking me yabang). But what they don't understand is that I don't mean so much that I've been lucky to have won (though, admittedly, lit prizes are tsambahan); what I mean is that I have been so lucky to have had such support and encouragement from my Filipino teachers at Ateneo, at UP, at the Dumaguete National Writers Workshop, at Columbia. I've been lucky to have had the encouragement of writers like Paul Go, Rofel Brion, Danton Remoto, DM Reyes, Clinton Palanca, Marianne Villanueva, Jing Hidalgo, Mom Edith Tiempo, Sir NVM Gonzalez, Jessica Hagedorn, and so many others -- too many others to list here. And that is in terms of direct experience. Indirectly, I've learned so much from all of you who have written such amazing and inspiring stories and poems, even if I've not yet met you.
So forgive me for sounding hokey, or emotional, or even maybe grandiose, but please
accept my heartfelt gratitude. For inspiring me, for encouraging me, and for
accepting me as a writer. The premise of my novel Ilustrado is that we can all be ilustrados, and I could not have won the Palanca nor the Man Asian Prize without all that your words and work have enlightened.
And now, the hard work truly begins.
Salamat. Salamat. Salamat.
- Miguel "Chuck" Syjuco