Like most diligent High School students, I was part of our school paper. I was even the Editor-in-Chief right before I graduated. I even dabbled in some, rather cheesy, poetry… you know, the kind that you write for a girl you like. Thankfully, there’s evidence that such cheesy poems existed ever.
Those were my early start, but writing in high school probably doesn’t count for much. But even at a young age, I’ve been a reader. I didn’t know about literary awards back then. We live in the province of Isabela, which is two mountain ranges and about 10 hours away from Manila; so I didn’t have access to people who could recommend good novels or literary outputs to me. But I still learned how to read long-form books while in High School: some novels, graphic novels, and nonfiction books among others. This was before the widespread popularity of the Web and the Internet.
Dr. Sicat and my Hate-Love Relationship with Journal Writing
I went to College and took BA Political Science at UP Diliman. My first English teacher, Dr. Sicat, required us to write five pages of journal writing everyday! Imagine that?! Five pages of letter-size paper every single day!
She didn’t really read every single page or thought we put on our journals. I sometimes cheated and wrote lyrics of songs I liked. Most of the time, though, I tried hard to write in English and express myself. Oh, but I hated that subject all semester long.
The next semester, though, I had a change of heart. I finally understood what Dr. Sicat was trying to teach me–expressing myself and my thoughts in this language. By writing everyday, even though I felt stilted and “trying hard,” I developed confidence in my ability to think and write in English. So, I took my old notebooks from that first semester, got the unused parts and recycled them as a place to let my thoughts run free.
It’s a long story how I got to be friends with Butch. But he has been a great part of my life–as a mentor, brother, and friend (oh yeah, best man at my wedding, too!). He introduced me to all sorts of literary things. He’s the reason I read C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, and Silmarillion.
By the end of my second year in College, Butch and I, together with other friends, had talked about literary things, theories, and I finally knew where to look for good stuff to read. I’ve also started reading some poetry, short stories, and even got introduced to some Filipino writers. I even took additional English subjects–poetry and Business English as electives.
I would have transferred from Political Science to Creative Writing or Comparative Literature had it not been for my agreement with my parents–I was only allowed 4 years in College.
The pen or the guitar?
I learned to play the guitar when I was in second year High School, but I only got serious with it upon entering college. I practiced my chords, scales, and was even part of a fledgling band. I was so into the guitar that I was practicing 3-4 hours at least three times a week.
Within a year, I felt my guitar skills growing. But if I were to be really good at it, I still had a lot to go.
And I also wanted to be a writer. Badly.
So I had to make a choice: the pen or the guitar?
And I chose the pen (or the computer keyboard maybe).
I still play the guitar occasionally. But I have taken writing as the bigger part of my life. In fact, I consider it as an important part of my calling.