16. Published

“I believe that everyone’s a storyteller but the challenge is to have a grasp on what’s worth writing about.”

Advertisements

WHEN I first held a copy of Philippine Daily Inquirer years ago (the largest and greatest of Philippine broadsheets) and realized that they accept column article submissions, I told myself that someday, I should get published there. I fell in love with its opinion column ‘Young Blood’ where the twenty-something and below gets featured. It was then that I dreamt of being a writer.

I’m still a work in progress, every aspiring writer will tell you that. But after getting published, it kindled hope in me to be a regular contributor. It became a catalyst for me to be a better observer, a finer listener, and to pause more. A lot of things are going on and it is our job to translate them into words. Sometimes I sulk after learning that an unexpected thing happened which is natural.

I can say that being idealistic is an important element to be able to write. You have to hope that there’s a better world ahead and you have to be part of the public discourse, a contributor, to get it. You may fail miserably, you can get rejected multiple times but these are all part of the process. I can’t think of a successful writer today who never experienced rejection.

To understand that there’s a gatekeeper who filters all of the submissions makes it beautiful. To understand that millions of people wanted to write but die dreaming about it places writing at a whole new level. I believe that everyone’s a storyteller but the challenge is to have a grasp on what’s worth writing about. We have our own gift, our own passion when it comes to creativity. We all have our own point of view which surely differs from others; different opinions on an issue or an idea. different mindsets.

But isn’t it true that every published work humbles you? It is not easy to generate ideas. You have to keep moving, keep believing, keep working. Yes, it’s work because you spend time, energy, and intellect to accomplish it. But since you enjoy doing it, time flies by without you knowing it.

I still have a lot of dreams but I hope that this will remind me every now and then that they are attainable. And I hope that it will do the same to you.

To just keep going. To write.

An Open Letter To ‘Kita Kita’ (I See You)

“We realized what we’ve been missing, what we’ve been waiting for, what it takes for us to willingly go to a theater and spend a little amount to treat film as an art form, an experience, and arm ourselves with so much respect to our culture and our gifts as a people.”

Dear you,

At a time when we grew tired of being bombarded with films with worn out formulas and endless sequels, you came as a delightful surprise. We felt helpless when the news broke that the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) changed its format all over again and chose to revert to its old self which saw the return of familiar staples in the annual showcase. But being pulled out of last year’s roll of MMFF movies with all the controversy that surrounded it is the best thing that happened to you. 

You are an unexpected visitor in our consciousness and so, I would like you to have this that we may not forget each other as time passes by. Let me reminisce the memories we had the same way Tonyo and Lea (played by comedian Empoy Marquez and award-winning actress Alessanda de Rossi respectively) did. It’s about an hour and a half of a roller coaster ride that you and I experienced together. Let me start counting: 

One. One bicycle ride of Lea in the introduction and it hit me. I remembered a scene in the 2000 South Korean romantic television drama Autumn in My Heart where the main characters were biking on their way home from school. The background music was captivating. Lea’s vibrant face greeted us with a smile. Her eyes were magical. 

Two. Two questions popped inside my head: Firstly, did Alessandra and Empoy really act?  And secondly, is it true that they’re not friends before? It’s as if cameras were positioned in front of them and everything just unfolded, like in a reality show. It’s as if they’ve known each other so well that we felt the comfort in every pat on the shoulder, hands, and sometimes on the face. We saw ourselves in them, on how we deal with our friends and loved ones.

Three. Three elements made you outstanding: unconventional love team, cinematography, sincerity. Infested with ‘pabebe’ love teams around, the pairing of Empoy and Alessandra is something that we’ve never seen before. The visual texture of the film, the pacing, the overall mood are remarkable. As a country that has gone crazy with South Korean dramas, you captured us with pleasing imagery all shot in a foreign land: a garden with various types of flowers, plain green fields, rain. But more than these, you’ve shown us sincerity. Yes, sincerity that we’ve not felt in Filipino movies in a long time. I sensed it in every line, in every laughter whenever a joke is delivered.

Four. Four producers gambled on you. Piolo Pascual, film director Joyce Bernal, Erickson Raymundo and Suzanne Shayne Sarte made it possible for you to exist. It’s a difficult time for producing films. How many film studios have gone bankrupt in the Philippines? How many creatives and writers tried but failed? But they saw something in you. They saw your potential and cleaved to that. They’ve displayed courage all throughout the process which is a great example to us. 

Five. Five times I tried to stop myself from crying. Five times I saw those sitting at my left shed tears because of you. 

Six, seven.  Six or seven times I reminded my mother who’s in her sixties to refrain from giving her comments to some scenes for it might distract the other audience members. In the past, we would humorously tell her to not sleep inside the theater or she’ll miss the flow of events. But for the first time since she got her senior citizen I.D. card which gives her the privilege to watch movies in all theaters in our city for free, she did not fall asleep watching you. You got that hook. 

Eight. Yes, for eight instances I watched your trailers. It is also the number of times I hoped that you’ll be a blockbuster. I felt how your writer and director, Sigrid Andrea Bernardo, attempted to offer us a novel recipe that we can enjoy and be proud of. And she succeeded. No pretensions. No awful chemistry. No forced twists in the story. 

Nine. You left me with nine trademarks that will forever stay with me: cabbage, teddy bear, banana, heart, bell, bowls of ramen, Sapporo beer cans, paper cranes, and baby dragonfly. You gave each of them a different meaning that has never entered our imagination before. You thought us how to look at the minute details, the small things, and know how to value them. 

Ten. Ten million pesos was the amount of money that has been spent to bring you to life. But you know what? Because of that amount, we got to see ourselves better. We realized what we’ve been missing, what we’ve been waiting for, what it takes for us to willingly go to a theater and spend a little amount to treat film as an art form, an experience, and arm ourselves with so much respect to our culture and our gifts as a people. 

They say that your success banked on word of mouth. But I believe, it is because of word of heart. Our hearts finally spoke after a long time of silence and we just listened to them. You are a relief, a refreshing reminder of who we are as Filipinos. You made us believe again on our creative capacity, on our genius when it comes to storytelling, and on our distinct voice deep within us; that we may see and love even with our eyes closed.

Thank you for everything.

Sincerely yours,

Kabayan

14. Having a mentor

“A great mentor does not just point to you the negatives but also the positives. They should meet you at your best and remind you that there’s still tomorrow even at your worst.”

CAN YOU consider your boss a caring mentor? How about your teacher at school? Or does your trainer constantly motivate you to reach your full potential?

We all need honest and sincere people in our lives. They are those who are willing to take the risk to divulge to us the areas where we can improve on, the part of our work where we miserably break, the shortcomings that we overlook. We need another set of eyes from those who truly want us to progress and not be stuck. Not for anything else, not for their personal gains, not for their biases, but because they feel that it’s the right thing to do and because jealousy and selfishness are not in their vocabulary. We receive absolution from them whenever we feel like we committed mistakes that we’re guilty of or whenever we fail them.

While it is true that there are times when we suffer just seeing our mentors, those moments that they share with us their lives is more important. They are supposed to inspire us. We listen to their feedback and adhere to their advice after careful analysis in our head.

Various books have been published about leadership, mentorship, and success. Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers said that those who succeed in life do not just have talents. There are a lot of people who are talented but are not successful. He discussed the value of timing, influence, culture, and environment for one to stand out and reach their peak. And in the environment, our mentors are included.

Their presence in our lives is a game changer. Mentors pave the way for us to have a glimpse of another point of view. Another point of view means comparison. One gets to have the choice on what path to take, when to pull the trigger, and better understand the consequences of every decision.

A great mentor does not just point to you the negatives but also the positives. They should meet you at your best and remind you that there’s still tomorrow even at your worst. They’ve been there and done that. Their experiences are unquestionable only if you know each other very well. Trust is vital for any relationship to work.

If you have a mentor that you look up to, be grateful. Not everyone is given a chance to have one. They help us create things and with grit, make a difference.

13. Family dogs

“It was in his second month with us that the answer to why some owners sleep next to their dogs came to me.”

I USED to hate dogs. I used to cringe every time I see one wandering on the streets under the open sky, near our house, or even inside my room. They’ll bark at you unceasingly if you’re a stranger to them. Some will bite you without any notice or voluntarily and confidently share their saliva by licking your feet, your hands or sometimes your toes.

I can still remember how I told myself that I will never touch a dog again. In my childhood, one afternoon, our family dog bit me on my right cheek while I was eating a crispy fried chicken leg. My mom immediately approached me and tried to disinfect the wound with soap and running water. Her grip of the nozzle is still vivid in my memory. I couldn’t understand the gravity of what happened and the possible consequences of being bitten by our dog then. I didn’t know that it has to be taken seriously.

After going through careful examinations in the hospital, my mom told me to be brave because I had to be injected with Rabies vaccine just to make sure. I took more than five shots. All the doctors were fond of saying the same thing every time they held my arms: “Be a man… It’s just like a bite of an ant.” 

But one day that fear vanished inside. Everything changed when my younger brother bought an apple head Chihuahua in a pet store in the neighboring city. My family named him Chua and he greets me whenever I get home. He runs so fast that those sleeping in our living room have no choice but to be awakened. No, it’s not because of his short loud cry but because he runs over them. He’s a consistent and amenable welcome committee member.

Wagging tail. Tiny paws. Hanging tongue.

I would play with him as he nuzzles my leg and my anxieties would temporarily exit my mind. My initial distaste for him transformed into delight. It was in his second month with us that the answer to why some owners sleep next to their dogs came to me.

With the right fit, fun will show itself naturally with them around. Give it some time.

12. Discovering that you are a creator, an artist

“Fail. Stand up. Discover the creator, the artist in you even if sometimes it’s scary.”

IF YOU see yourself as a creative, do not give up. If you believe that you are an artist, embrace and nurture your craft. If you think that every cell of your body directs you to do more, to work on your passion, to reach the farthest limits of your imagination, try. And if an idea pops up in your head out nowhere, while you’re brushing your teeth, while taking a bath, while pouring tomato sauce on your plate to make your special dish, while walking, jogging, or sprinting, while waiting for the one that you love in a cafe, Japanese restaurant, or on a bench somewhere, while reading a book, or while riding a bicycle, a car, or a seesaw in a park, listen.

The world is filled with people who call themselves artists and poets and writers but do not know when to listen and be brave enough to spend their time to give their art its own form, life, and space. They do not want to feed themselves with new perspectives. Everyone is born a creator but not all of us are courageous enough to face its inexplicable faces, its inescapable enigma.

Fail. Stand up. Discover the creator, the artist in you even if sometimes it’s scary. I know because it frightened me to write this.

But we both know that there’s no other way.

10. Impromptu hosting

“You have to be sensitive to their needs like a mother to her child; be aware when to emphasize your thoughts and ideas.”

HAVE YOU ever been asked to be the instant host of an event?  Well, it’s thrilling. But if it’s in your blood, you should always be ready. It should not be a burden to you.

It brings a different feeling whenever you stand in front of a lot of people. Their eyes are glued to you. Their ears and minds waiting for your every move and instruction. It’s about being in control and a catalyst for laughter to surface in a room of desserts and awards.

Conjunctions are essential; witty lines are required. As the life of the show, you must have a mastery of what’s supposed to happen next. But as an impromptu host, the challenge is tenfold. You have to gather in less than 2 minutes all of the information that you can get. You have to familiarize yourself with the kind of audience you have: their likes and dislikes, their inhibitions, the limits in culture and religion. Or else, you’ll fail without you knowing it. You have to be sensitive to their needs like a mother to her child; be aware when to emphasize your thoughts and ideas. Timing is a valuable commodity; facial expression matters.

After all, hosting is acting. It’s a performance for the audience to have a good time, to enjoy and forget some sections of their lives. Yes, even if you’re notified shortly by your boss while sitting next to her in between your sessions with your mud pie topped with vanilla ice cream.

9. Birthday bash!

“Because each year is not promised. Open yourself up. Choose to be free.”

ALTHOUGH IT’S something that has been planned weeks ago (and even if it’s in my Outlook calendar), still, attending a birthday bash at work adds a sense of enjoyment inside.

There are games and songs and Q&As and strangers in a room full of balloons, cakes, and gifts wrapped in variety of colors. But do you know what’s more exciting than these things? It’s the chance to be reminded that one day in the past, you were born, may be, surrounded by relatives and nurses and doctors who were all smiles looking at you – the newest arrival, the cutest creature, the innocent one. It’s hard not to put value into it. It’s difficult to comprehend everything that had to happen for someone like you to exist: your parents met, they fell in love, decided to raise a family, hardships and challenges in between. They never cowered to face life head on to nurture you, to give you the best life they could give, that you may grow up to be a good person. Again, good. Good which sometimes we take for granted because of the menacing distractions around us.

And so, if you’re in your twenties, or thirties, or in your senior years, give yourself a break, play and jump and laugh just because you want to as you completely cross-out the 365 days that have passed. Because each year is not promised. Open yourself up. Choose to be free. Be birthday bashed!