(My Journey with Words)
Since I was young, I vented my anger and happiness on words sometimes, I painted. But my skill in painting and sketching just vanished into thin air. I don’t know why, but it was the same time that I was into fiction.
My first encounter with written words were from Liwayway, GASI and PAPI published comics where I found myself dreaming of Malinche, Gumagapang na Sindak (Slithering Fear), Reina Sierra, Pokwang and a lot more. Then at 6 years old, when my grandfather thought I could gently lift the pages of his precious books, I began to read in English, the Illustrated Bible, Judah Ben Hur, Reader’s Digest (direct from the US), World War 2, Mark Twain’s Huckle Berry Finn and Tom Sawyer, Philippine Prose and Poetry, 1950 edition (I think), Noli me Tangere and El Filibusterismo and so many others.
My world was a jumble of letters that turned into coherent words. And I dreamed of becoming the next Elena M. Patron, one of the great comics’ novelists, or even Paz Latorena. Aside from the steady supply of comics and books, we were gathered every night to listen to ghost, fairies and enchanted stories and of course Grandmother and Grandfather would start their stories with “Noong panahon ng Hapon” (During Japanese Time) or “Bago dumating ang mga Kastila (Before the Spaniards came…)
I had my eyeglasses early on because even at night, during the long blackouts in San Jose, I would strain my eyes to read and be amazed of woven words. Years passed and I began writing short stories in Liwayway Magazines, Mirror, Young Blood Section of Philippine Daily Inquirer and other women’s magazines. I got paid. And I thought I would make a living in writing. It was just an adolescent dream. As I progressed from short story writing to writing documentaries of the struggles of women, children, peasants, I realized there are very few full time writers. My articles ignited the fire of activism inside me. I became one of the “insurgents”. Finally, I realized, my pen was sharp and my written words hit harder than my spoken voice.
In 2011, after I finished my Master’s in Women and Development, my youngest son and I migrated to Thailand to follow my husband. Here, I flirted with words again. I cannot live without words. In our first Christmas in Thailand, we went to Maesot to visit the Filipina missionaries working with the migrant Burmese. Karens and other highlands children without documents. There, I first felt that Christmas was not for the rich but for the poor and stateless children whose voices were muted. I wrote the story of the three missionary women. It was published by the Global Pinoy, Philippine Daily Inquirer on January of 2012. I later learned that the editor of the section was Monica Feria; a classmate and friend in WD. And as they say, the rest is history. When Monica went on Sabbatical, she was replaced by Mrs. Margie Quimpo Espino, who encourage me more to keep on writing. For four years, I wrote to Global Pinoy, featuring Overseas Filipino Workers, migrants from the lowliest jobs, to students, scholars, singers and to the most complicated. Their struggles as migrants proved that Filipinos shine everywhere, even though he is just a common truck driver and a NASA scientist. During those years, I realized how the Filipinos are trained for export. Though, many chose to migrate, but their reasons remain the same: the government is not competent to provide enough jobs for qualified people; we were underpaid; red tape etc. It was a litany of scourge and hate. Yet deep inside them, they are still Filipinos at heart and mighty proud of being one.
Global Pinoy opened doors of writing opportunities for me. I had a brief stint with Rappler and the New You Magazine. My effort was noticed by the Philippine Embassy in Thailand and I was nominated for Media and Migration Advocacy Award in 2014, but I lost to Manila Bulletin. Anyway, it was indeed an honor and a humbling experience for me.
Through the Global Pinoy, I was able to have connections to other media outlets. I met a lot of people whom I only interviewed through email and Facebook. I established friendship with them. Some of my best friends and confidantes were the people I featured. But the inevitable happen. On April 2, 2016, the Global Pinoy Section in the newspaper and online was stopped due to cost-cutting measures. It is with a heavy heart that I have to cancel the interviews supposedly for the Global Pinoy. But it did not deter me from looking to another way to write. I am a poet. I published a collection of poetry entitled Maps of Dreams and Memories by Aquillrelle last year. Many of my poems are included in anthologies. Yet, I was still sad because I really love communicating with people and you can only do that as a journalist.
But my love affair with the Inquirer does not end yet. I was endorsed through email by Mr. Dennis Maliwanag to the Inquirer. Net United States Bureau based in Daly City, California. In a week, I already published two stories online and more are coming hopefully. Though, I am limited to Fil-am communities, but hopefully I could cover other stories too.
I still have rejections. But as a writer, one must be used to that. Rejections make you a better one. Your goal is to improve your craft. Writing is not a static job. It is always exploratory; adventures that will never end. These make me stick to my craft; creating and re-creating myself through the people I am writing about.
Aside from writing feature stories, I also write poetry and academic papers. I write because it is my reason to live. I write because it is the hardest way to earn money. I write because I want to give voices to the people. I write because when I was young I was fed with Alphabet soup by Royco.