Home Columns Wordsmithing as a Hobby and Lending a Voice

Wordsmithing as a Hobby and Lending a Voice


This article was triggered by a question of a friend and inspired by the article of the publisher of the Asian Journal, Sim Silverio, on how he ended up to be a writer. The friend had asked me why I write so well. My response was: I don’t know if I do write well. I know that I want to write, thankful that there are print media outlets (like the Asian Journal) that print my articles, syndicate them; and now picked up by social media outlets. The article of Mr. Silverio led me to introspect on how I, myself, began injecting ink into my veins or, shall I say now, how my fingers itched to race across the keyboard in a dash to capture my thoughts onto the computer screen.

I don’t recall when exactly my embryonic tendency to write started to develop. I know that I believe I was in Grade III when a teacher named Miss Lasquite praised my opening lines for an essay we had to write on How I spent my Summer Vacation. While most of my classmates started with different shades of ‘Last Summer…,’ mine was ‘The sand was burning under my feet, but the lapping waves mercifully drenched them for comfort…’ This lady teacher did not know how that praise still reverberates in my mind till today.

Moving forward, in my first two years in high school, I was in the minor seminary. I had two English teachers who would lead me to enjoy stitching words together. Bi-spectacled Mr. Manny Salenga would come into our classroom with just a piece of chalk. He would write ten words on the board every meeting. It was fun for me to learn that loquacious means talkative; bellicose, warlike; pugnacious, loves to fight; and many more words that, to me, are big. Of course, later on, I would learn that to write is to communicate and not impress, and to communicate to use the simplest words. Mr. Salenga also taught us the rudiments of poetry. Invictus by the English poet William Ernest Henley has ingrained in me that ‘I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.’

In my second year, our seminary was transferred to an isolated mountain in Bakakeng in Baguio City. This was before the mountains became inundated with urban structures. We, seminarians, were the only human beings far and wide at that time, and there was nothing to do except to pray, study, eat, play, and pray some more. We had this librarian who was also our English teacher. Tall and lanky, he had this scrapbook which I found fascinating, and he proudly lent me (but only in the confines of the library) time and again, glad that someone like me would take an interest in it. He was a writer for the Philippine Free Press, and he had cut out his printed articles and pasted them in this scrapbook. It contained his thoughts about the Vietnam War and his stands on politics. He also had mundane articles like those ‘sastres’ that place their ‘etiqueta’ on the back pockets of pants that men personally order should be paying the wearer advertisement fee.

With Mr. Reyes’s encouragement, I became the second-year class representative writer for our seminary gazette, which, at that time, had to be cut in a stencil. Cutting stencils must be a ‘what?’ to generations of today but that was my first exposure to press production. I was also so inspired by Mr. Reyes that in his class requirement for us to write, at least, ten book reviews, I wrote 101 mostly on the lives of saints. If Mother Teresa was famous then, I would have written about her prophesying that she would be a saint.

When I left the seminary for my third-year high school, I was so shy with girls, like I was two years behind my classmates (call it a setback from being a seminarian). I compensated with writing love notes, the writing part I learned from the seminary, the love part from the heart. Then I found out that many classmates and friends, though they did not enter the seminary, were also shy in approaching girls of their amore. I wrote their love letters to them. When they became steady with their paramour, I was thanked furiously, and I felt good never revealing to the girls that I wrote those letters even when they would tell me that they fell for my friends because of those sweet lines. And when they fought, guess who wrote the reconciliation or asking for forgiveness letters.

Now let me backtrack a bit. As soon as I graduated from elementary, at first, I did not know why my father enrolled me in a typing class. Together with a Michael del Rosario, now the McDonald magnate of Baguio City, we were two little boys among pretty secretarial adult students pounding dd..kk..ff..kk..ll..etc. on Remington typewriter, which goes ‘ding’ at the end of the right margin.

I will forever thank my father, bless his soul, for that forward-thinking of his. Although I had now to compose and type his business communications, I became a researcher and typist for can-afford students who would prefer gallivanting than do their essays and baby or full thesis.

Raffy Mallari, a close friend and a mentor, got wind of a rich student from the lowlands who needed to write a paper on St. Thomas Aquinas and needed it quick. Thank goodness, I had saved my book reviews for Mr. Reyes. In a day, with some rewordings and tweaking, this student had a ten-page, double spaced term paper. She paid me handsomely though I forgot how much pesos I charged per page. It turns out that rich people have precious friends, and soon I was churning requirements and developing further my wordsmithing prowess in the process.

This went on till my college days.

Close to finishing my college days, I also became a freelance writer and photographer for the Baguio Gold Ore, where Peppot Ilagan, the managing editor, as a mentor, further enhanced my voice as a writer. I then also started to develop a scrapbook like Mr. Ruperto Reyes.

This scrapbook came to fore when I applied for a vacancy to teach feature writing in Zambia, Africa (how I got wind of the opening is another story). Together with my photography portfolio, I convinced the Zambian panel that they were filling two positions by hiring one lecturer. It was like hiring one, get one free. In short, I got hired, and teaching feature writing for four years was the best learning absorption I ever had.

Several books published further on, and I am still writing, now as a hobby, and of course, venting on issues I feel like venting on.

Thanks to the Asian Journal of San Diego, the Northern Edition of Baguio City, and other social Media outlets that pick up my stories and fanning and syndicating them all over.

And if you came to this end, I feel blessed. Thank you very much. # nordis.net

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