Stories of love and loss celebrated at Taiwan Literature Award for Migrants

Philippines national Melinda M. Babaran (left), winner of the TLAM Jury Award, is embraced by her mother at the presentation ceremony Sept. 30 in Taipei City. (CNA)

Philippines national Melinda M. Babaran (left), winner of the TLAM Jury Award, is embraced by her mother at the presentation ceremony Sept. 30 in Taipei City. (CNA)

Writers from Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam were the winners at the 2018 Taiwan Literature Award for Migrants held Sept. 30 in Taipei City.
 
Sponsored by the Ministry of Culture, the competition is open to citizens of Southeast Asian countries that have lived or worked in Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan. Submissions must be written in Indonesian, Tagalog, Thai or Vietnamese.
 
First Prize went to Indonesian Loso Abdi for “Tentang Cinta” or “About Love,” a moving portrait of the relationship between a caregiver and a child with special needs. Abdi—who also won the Teen Choice Award for his story—said it was based on the experiences of his friend.
 
In “Latay sa Laman” or “Whip Scar on the Flesh”—one of the two Jury Award winning stories and the competition’s first LGBT themed entry—Philippines national Melinda M. Babaran described how she learned to forgive her dying father. He had beaten her when she was a child, angered by her tomboyish behavior.
 
According to Babaran, she did not have the chance to talk to him in person before he died. “I wanted to tell him how much I love him, and I always pray for him at night,” she said.
 
Louie Jean M. Decena from the Philippines won the Jury Award and Teen Choice Award with “Ang Mahiwagang Kahon ni Itay” or “Dad’s Mysterious Box.”
 
The short story centers on a young girl whose only connection with her father working overseas is through the gifts he sends her in a special package called a balikbayan box—a giant cardboard container popular with Filipinos sending presents to family back home.
 
The winning works enrich Taiwan’s literary field with new energy and offer readers a closer look at the life experiences of migrant workers from the region, according to Chen Ying-fang, head of MOC’s Department of Humanities and Publications.
 
Launched in 2014, this year the TLAM chose eight award winners from a record 553 submissions, according to the event organizer New Taipei City-based Southeast Asia Educational, Scientific and Cultural Association. (CPY-E)