Short story on Matigsalugs bags Gawad Bien Lumbera award

Dec. 05, 2023
Image from NCLA’s Facebook page

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – A story of a Matigsalug family who lost their land to a rich owner in the time of the pandemic and how they made it costly to the owner won second prize for Cebuano short story in the recent 2023 Gawad Bienvenido Lumbera National Literary Contest.

Ferdinand Balino, a development worker, researcher, and former teacher, was awarded second prize for his story Pandemya sa Kinabuhi (The pandemic of life) by Gawad Bienvenido Lumbera which aired the results last November 20 on the National Committee on Literary Arts (NCLA) social media page.

Balino’s story focused on a Matigsalug couple who faced a dilemma when they succumbed to selling a piece of their land like what other families in their tribe did. What follows were problems such as their lack of access to their own land, and how the source of their water was redirected to the private rest house that occupied their land and to a village hospital. The problem gets deeper when children in their village, including theirs feel sick because of contaminated water.

The story draws on what is happening in the outskirts of Lumad communities in Davao City such as in Marilog District, where rest houses and small restaurants have sprouted among the villages.

Balino has visited some of these places during the pandemic and heard of stories about some rest houses losing their water after the water pipe was cut down.

“They suspected it was the Matigsalogs in the area who did it,” Balino told Davao Today. “The truth is, the Lumad are being discriminated, and my work, which is fictionalized on my experience, showed how the Lumad fight back, especially the women.”

In writing the story, Balino also wants readers to reflect on the Lumad conditions now against discrimination and the loss of their land and culture as city dwellers occupy their lands and discriminate against them.

The Gawad Bienvenido Lumbera was created in 2022, to promote short story and poetry written in regional languages. The literary fest awards entries in eight language categories — Bicolano, Cebuano, Chavacano, Filipino, Ilokano, Kankanaey, Kapampangan, Kinaray-a, Pangasinan, and Waray.

Lumbera, National Artist for Literature, has written extensively on Philippine literature and promoted regional literature as part of national literature. He has written poetry, plays, essays, and books.

The NCLA said the winning entries will be published in a book.

Balino has also won the Palanca Awards for Literature four times in two language categories, Cebuano and Hiligaynon, including first prize in 2009 for short story in Cebuano. (

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