Bittersweetland Excerpt 1: Attitude towards Food


Excerpt 1: Attitude towards Food

Atty. Raymundo T. Pandan, Jr.,  2022 Palanca Awardee for Best Novel

“Adrian was digging in, his shoulders rising emphatically. He glowed before the warming plates that floated like silver sailing boats over a sea of blue flame. He ticked off the familiar dishes: lechon, chopped and served with its sweet-sour pork liver sauce; pepper steak sliced thinly, with baked potatoes; heart sauerbraten in gravy (the one Guillermo original); embutido in chunks the size of a boy’s thigh; turkey relleno; roast beef; tuna casserole; fillets of oversized lapu-lapu, served with Russian dressing; out-of-place cocktail sandwiches (but which the waiters found the easiest to swipe); vegetables and salads. His palate and his eyes satisfied, he joined Ina, heaving his plate off the table while the ubiquitous Spanish matron smiled appreciatively, keeping her eyes on the overdone bustle of the drunken servers.”

Author’s Commentary: The Negrense love for life extends to his love for food and its cooking. We are understandably proud of our cuisine, sometimes to the extent of putting down other regional cuisines. A Negrense feast is not a feast for the mouth but also for the sight – that is why premium is always laid on a full, groaning table. None of the tidbits and small servings which are prominent in a certain style of cooking. The Negrense ethos is found in this attitude, up to this day.

In 2023, Negros Season of Culture collaborates with Atty. Raymundo T. Pandan, Jr., to publish excerpts of his literary masterpiece, “Bittersweetland”, in select monthly editions of the NSC website. We begin with this excerpt about the Negrense’s attitude towards food, in this month of March, the food edition of the NSC website. All excerpts will be accompanied by an Author’s Commentary.

Atty. Rayboy Pandan receiving his 2022 Palanca Award for Best Novel.

“Bittersweetland”, the Author and the Award

In this life, only a handful of things are sweeter than the taste of victory. But for lawyer and accomplished author Raymundo Torres Pandan, Jr., winning last year’s Palanca Award, already the third of his writing career, has yet to lose its charm. Deemed as the local equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize, the Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature is the highest literary honor in the country. Attorney Pandan had previously won in 2006 for English Poetry and in 2012 for Children’s Poetry, until last year’s awarding where his entry “Bittersweetland” took home the grand prize in the “best novel” category. 

Despite a decorated professional career as a lawyer and professor, Rayboy, as he is affectionately known among his peers, still considers writing to be his baseline passion. Born with a voracious appetite for reading, which eventually blossomed into a masterful ability of crafting words together, he once served as editor-in-chief of the Guidon, Ateneo De Manila’s school paper and one of the oldest in the country. But confronted with the glooming reality that a career as an author would less likely allow him to earn an honest living, Rayboy decided to continue on to law school. “But I never stopped writing, never stopped submitting my works while I was in law school. Not frequently, but I never stopped writing,” he recounts. 

“Writing is like exercising. If you stop for one day, your muscles will feel it. So, I write very early in the morning before work. I write everywhere. Even when I’m traveling,” he continued on when asked how he finds time and inspiration in between his professions. And this level of commitment to continuously create, matched by his invaluable experience as an educator, is what he brings to the table as project director of Iyas National Workshop, which is one of only four writing workshops funded by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts. Rayboy places utmost importance in keeping the flames of young writers alive, since he believes that literature will continue to persist even in this age of technology. “Iyas pushes the boundaries with five different languages – English, Filipino, Hiligaynon, Bisaya, and Kinaray-a – in four different genres – fiction, poetry, drama, creative non-fiction.” he proudly exclaims.

Atty. Rayboy Pandan with his mentor, fellow writer and Palanca Award Hall of Famer, Dr. Elsie Coscolluela.  

Sharing the shelf with his Palanca trophies is his 2015 Cirilo F. Bautista Prize for his novel, “When Will This War End?”, which he considers special as it was judged by the best novelists and critics in the country and had to contend against both English and Filipino novels alike. While his inclusions in the canonical poetry anthology, “The Achieve of, the Mastery” and “One Hundred Pink Poems Para Kay Leni”, are more of what he regards as his personal milestones, which he will long cherish.

His latest masterpiece, “Bittersweetland”, is a “story of self-realization in the midst of tragedy” as he describes it, and is set to be published sometime this year. He recommends it for the “intelligent, sensitive, and open-minded” reader and hopes the book reaches a worldwide readership since the message “should resonate with those of us who hope that man will endure, and will even flourish,” as Attorney Pandan so beautifully puts it.

Text by: Mayumi Espina
Photos by: Bem Cortez

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