I have published 3 books in the Philippines since 2013. It was a long journey, but totally worth it. Here are a few reflections on the craft and journey of writing and publishing.
I remember loving books even as a young boy. My parents are ordained pastors, which meant that if there were church events and conferences, they tagged me along. Because those events meant lots and lots of meetings, my father usually let me buy a book or two from the book display outside the church where the conference was being held.
While other pastors’ kids my age would be chasing each other and playing in the playground and yard of the church, I would find a nice place to sit and read the book that I recently bought. I thought nothing of it then, but looking back, I must have looked like a nerd with a book sitting in a corner while the other kids played.
During second grade, our teacher once let us organize three sacks full of books. We opened one sack after another and discovered a hundred or so books from the USA. I didn’t understand a lot of the social context of the books, then, because they talk about life in the USA. But I distinctly remember looking at the black-and-white illustration and text of those books, the musty smell of old books, and the worlds and meanings that those words represented.
It felt like heaven for a second grader.
In addition to being a pastor, my mother was also an English teacher at a public high school. Every now and then, she would bring home some books from the school’s library. She also helped me read and go through my assignments. I am thankful that she had a lot of access to books. During my childhood, we lived in a small town in the province that was more than 300 kilometers away from Manila. We did not have a lot of good bookstores and the mail-order system did not exist then.
When I was in fifth grade, I stumbled upon a Tagalog translation of a Japanese that tells the legend of the 47 Ronin. That was the first time I read long-form text. I didn’t know about Young Adult as a publishing category then. This was the mid-1990s so I’m not sure if YA was as popular then as it is now. This was also way before the internet revolution and the dawn of the e-book.
These kinds of books transported me from the mundane, ‘real’ world,’ and into the exciting realm of the imagination where words are not mere words but conjurers of worlds and persons who do amazing adventures.
As a young boy and then into my teenager years, I loved books and reading. It’s a wonder that I did not wear glasses back then.
When I graduated from elementary, I knew that I loved books; I loved reading. And while I did not yet enjoy writing, it was only a matter of time.
In High School, I became part of the school paper. I wrote articles that probably weren’t very good. But I was developing the patience necessary to sit down, outline my thoughts, and start writing my piece. I didn’t have access to a computer then, which meant that I had to write by hand every single article that I wanted to submit to our school paper.
That was probably a good thing since I am still proud of my handwriting to this day.
When I was 14, I read my first long novel in English. I can no longer remember its title. My memory of the book is hazy but it was most likely a science fiction novel. Then I also read some nonfiction books about my faith and about other topics that captured my interests.
Before long, I found myself going to the University of the Philippines to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science. The idea was for me to become a lawyer later. But I fell in love with words. That fascination with books, of imagined worlds, of words that conjure and mix and shake ideas, continued well through my college years so much that I wanted to pursue a degree in English literature or creative writing instead of Political Science.
But, fortunately (at least I consider it fortunate now), I had a contract with my parents that I would pursue college only within four years. I was about to enter my third year when I started thinking about shifting to a different degree program.
Long story short, I stayed the course and finished my Bachelor’s degree in Political Science. I kept my promise to papa and mama. After that, I knew that I could pursue anything else I wanted to do. It would be more difficult since I need to earn money and support myself.
I had written in the past about my friend Butch and his impact on my love for literature. But another important milestone for me was my first college English professor Dr. Sicat. She *forced* me and my other classmates to keep a journal for a semester. I hated her and that class at first. But eventually, I understood why she wanted us to do it.
To this day, I still keep a journal and have even gone through books about journaling and creativity by Julia Cameroon.
This was really a long, rambling way to say that I got my early start in writing thanks to my mother, my early exposure to books, to my high school paper, eventually to my college professor, my friend Butch, and countless hours of reading books–both fiction and nonfiction.
After graduation, I did not really pursue writing as a profession, or even as a consistent hobby, but it sustained me creatively, emotionally, and spiritually through the dark moments of my 20s