Losing a Genius in Ilonggo Writer Winton Lou Ynion
By Rhea B. Peñaflor
Ilonggo writer Winton Lou Ynion’s passion for writing is evident not only in what he has personally achieved as a writer at a young age but as to what he has contributed to the Philippine literature.
His exceptional, lively delivery of all his stories whether verbal or written shows this outstanding gift.
We grieve for we truly lost a genius in Ilonggo writer Winton Lou Ynion.
Indeed, Winton Lou Ynion has always been larger than life. He was way ahead of his time. A very effective teacher, he not only inspired his students in different universities but he has left a living legacy that poverty is never an obstacle to one’s ambitions.
He was exceptionally a self-made person.
Winton’s abrupt, tragic death shocked everyone. He was only 28 years old.
He was only starting to fulfill his dreams as a professional writer and teacher. He was only starting to give the life he wanted to “Mommy,” his surrogate mother who considered him as her own son. He was only starting to reap the product of his hardwork.
Winton was only starting to actually live a good life.
No wonder why Winton was always in a hurry. It was his standard to write one poem, essay or article each day, and read all the Filipino epics and literature that he can muster. His self-discipline and focus is beyond compare. Now, I understand why he chose to live a fast-paced life. Maybe there was a subconscious effort that he has only 28 years and that was it.
At age 27, Winton Lou Ynion was the youngest Philippine Studies Ph.D. graduate of UP Diliman.
When we were strolling in UP Diliman campus in 2006, he told me that he is determined to break the record of the youngest student who finished his Ph.D. The youngest he said was 31 years old. Winton had everything planned. He did as planned. He broke the record to be the youngest doctor of philosophy in UP Diliman.
It was on that same year when Winton translated from English to Filipino the book, “The Tale of Juliet” (Ang Kuwento ni Juliet) by author Jhet Torcelino-van Ruyven. Quoting T. Harv Eker, a number 1 N.Y. Times best selling author of the “Secrets of the Millionaire Mind,” he said, “The Tale of Juliet is a transformational and inspiring account of doing whatever it takes to live life to its fullest potential. This book shows how to discover a higher purpose in life while enjoying the journey along the way.” It was on that same year when the book translated in Filipino was launched in Far Eastern University.
Winton has always been inspiring. He was full of zest of life, and his creative ideas would always amuse and amaze me. He would bring his micro-recorder wherever he goes because he records his thoughts before he forgets them. I was a witness to this when we were walking in the shades of trees inside UP Diliman campus. He would just get his recorder inside his bag and say his thoughts about something he suddenly sees or feels. We were talking about our favourite lines in the telenovella, “Maging Sino Ka Man” and the films, mostly Chinese movies, which we consider as the best films. On some other time, he would share with me what he teaches his students and these are always interesting topics in Philippine literature or simply, creative writing.
We would end up talking and talking and it always seem that we are short of time. I always looked forward in seeing him when I had the chance to do so in Manila. I last saw and spoke to Winton last year when we had dinner in Iloilo City with another Ilonggo writer and poet, Alain Russ Dimzon. He was full of colourful stories and I had no clue that it will be our last conversation.
In 2007, Winton won Gawad Komisyon’s 3rd Prize in Short Story (Tagalog) entitled “Paghuli sa Sigbin Pagsan (g) at’t Pagka (i) sa Tungo sa Pambansang Panitikan” and First Prizes in Short Story (Hiligaynon) entitled “May Isa Ka Babayi” and Poetry entitled “Nagapulaw nga Tanhaga ang Dagat.”
Winton proved himself as a prolific writer when he won the 2004 Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature’s First Prize on Short Story-Hiligaynon entitled “Sinipad sa Balaan Bukid.” The Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature is the Philippines’ most prestigious and most enduring literary awards.
In 2001, Winton was awarded the very first Kawad Komisyon sa Tula para sa Beteranong Makata for his poem, “Kapit sa Kape.” It was on the same year when Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) awarded him the Grand Prize in Gantimpalang Collantes Gawad Surian for Essay on Filipino language in the academe. The following year, Winton was kind enough to help me when I had my first book entitled, “Breaking the Fiberglass” got published. He agreed to read and critique my poems and other manuscripts, and finally write the introduction of my book.
Winton also won the Gawad Komisyon for Literary Criticism on the works of Filipino literary giant, Rogelio Sicat. In 1999, he was a UP National Writing Fellow in Filipino Poetry. He has also received awards for Angel Palanca Peace Prize and Gawad Amado V. Hernandez.
He has also travelled to South Korea, China, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia presenting his papers on literature as well as topics on Tourism and Literary Criticism, among others.
Reading his “obra” makes one shiver. He has the mastery and command of the Hiligaynon and Filipino language. He is indeed, a master storyteller. I would even tell him that even if he removes his name, I would know it was him because he has his own “voice”. The rhythm, beat and the intensity are so personalized that it will only be Winton who can write like that.
I can still recall asking him where he gets his creative ideas after he showed me and I read his Palanca entry which later on won as his first winning piece, “Sinipad Sa Balaan Bukid.” He just laughed and told me, “Tani madaug lang ako maskin 2nd place or 3rd place lang, malipay na ako sina” (I hope that I will win even if it’s just 2nd place or 3rd place, I’ll already be happy then.) But Winton won the First Prize. I still shudder every time I remember that moment in 2004 when we met in Recto, Manila. When he told me that he won 1st Prize, I was as excited and so proud of him. He was only 24 years old when he earned his first Palanca Award.
Winton Lou Ynion is not only a brilliant writer but indeed, a very loyal friend. That is why when our friend, Atty. Carol Salvatierra called me up on a Sunday afternoon of August 16 and broke the news that it was confirmed that Winton was brutally murdered in his Quezon City apartment, I was still trying to reconcile if I heard the news correctly.
I verified and asked her if I heard it right that Winton was indeed, killed. She then asked me if I knew where the house of Winton is in Iloilo City. I told her that I knew it was in Tanza but we can ask another friend who might knew exactly where it is located.
I met with Carol and we looked for Winton’s house not knowing how to deliver the sad news to his family.
When we finally found where his house is, “Mommy,” the one who adopted him right after he was born was already crying. Shiera Brook, his niece and another aunt, Tiyay Nening whom Winton calls “Mama” were also crying. Mommy said that a former co-teacher just broke the tragic fate of Winton.
It was the first time I went to his house in Tanza and their situation is very depressing. Mommy said that they haven’t eaten for there days since Wednesday because Winton has not sent any money yet and they were worried why he has not even texted them at all.
“Tingala ko nga wala gid si Noynoy kapadala kwarta kag nakatext, gali kay patay na siya,” (I wonder why Noynoy hasn’t sent us any money nor texted, it’s because he was already dead.) Mommy told us.
I did not know what to say to Mommy, Shiera or to Mama. It was the first time too that I lost a good friend. It just dawned on me that the last time I saw Winton, he was even telling me about someone who died in his own bathroom because he slipped on the tiles. Until now, it makes me tremble knowing Winton’s tragic death.
Lastly, I agree with Ma’am Zenaida French when she wrote in her column, “Siftings” at The News Today, “Winton had proved his excellence despite the flaws.”
Indeed, what we remember is Winton’s excellence and his contribution to Philippine literature. Thank you, Winton and may your soul rest in peace.
Thank you to Ayala Young Leader Alliance (AYLA) for giving Winton decent rites when his remains was in Manila. Winton Lou Ynion was Ayala Young Leader Congress (AYLC) 2000 alumnus.