It all began when I was in fifth grade. Our English teacher and adviser asked if I would like to join the school’s English publication. Back then, I didn’t really understand what it meant. But campus journalism seemed fun. Also, Mama said, Why not? And so I did.
The following week, I was told to go to school early, so I could attend the training sessions in the morning. I belonged to the afternoon shift then, and going to school early meant having to wake up earlier than usual. It didn’t thrill me at all. Plus, it also meant missing my favorite morning shows on MTV Channel. Worse, I found the training sessions boring. Editorial writing? Duh.
A few days into the training, the coach approached me, telling me that we were attending a series of lectures on campus journalism in another school the next day. She instructed me to bring packed lunch and extra cash and inform my parents that I’d be out for the entire day in the next two days.
It wasn’t the first time I was participating in an activity outside school, so of course, Mama was okay with it. In fact, she was excited for me. She thought it would be cool for me to learn more about writing.
What we didn’t know, though, was there would be a competition at the end of every lecture. I only realized that on the first day of the event. I was scared because I hadn’t really prepared. I had only been training for a couple of days, and the only type of article I’d been thoroughly taught about was Editorial.
But since I was so scared of Ma’am Luz, our coach, I joined the contests anyway. All of them. Despite having limited knowledge about campus journalism, I tried my best to be creative and spell words correctly and ensure my handwriting was legible. And I followed the lecturers’ instructions.
I ended up bagging five awards, including top spots in Feature Writing and Editorial Cartooning. Ma’am Luz was so happy, and she kept bragging that it was my first time, that I had only been training for a few days, and that I was just in grade five. I was too young to be there. At that time, it was usually the graduating students who were set to compete. Of course, school paper advisers from other schools were impressed.
That went on until I reached sixth grade and then high school. The only difference was, out of stubbornness, I decided to join the Filipino publication in high school instead. Just for a change.
I kept getting awards in high school, and I always made it to the Regional Schools Press Conference, which meant a lot to every honor student. Just being a participant there meant having extra points for extra co-curricular activities, which of course was included in the computation of the grades among those running for honors.
In my third year, I made it to the National Schools Press Conference. Not just that, our team actually won first place in Scriptwriting and Radio Broadcasting. At that time, I was already the editor-in-chief of the publication. It was weird, for the position was usually given to graduating students who needed the points the most.
It all continued in my fourth year. I did not make it to the National Presscon that year, but I was able to also win in other essay writing competitions, both in English and Filipino.
Because of my victories, it became too easy for me to decide what course to take in college: journalism. Some of my teachers weren’t too happy about it, thinking it would be such a waste of talent. They thought I should choose another program, preferably something more practical like accountancy or engineering. I told them I didn’t like to be like everyone else in our batch. Plus, writing was my thing.
Then, graduation came. Again, I graduated top of the class-number one among around 600 students. I was once again named Journalist of the Year. I got other awards, too, but I can no longer remember all of them. Let’s just say that at that time, I was convinced that I was really good at writing. I was ready for UP Baguio, where I was about to major in Communication.
At UP Baguio, things seemed fine. In fact, a professor encouraged me to write more after reading my first output in his class. He praised my essay for its creativity and boldness, and he liked it despite having some grammatical errors. He liked my other submissions, too. That year, I also fell in love with literature. Finally, able to have a legitimate library experience, I tried to expose myself to more literary classics.
A few months before the end of the academic year, I made up my mind: instead of pursuing journalism, I’d be a creative writer. And so I submitted my application for the Creative Writing program of UP Diliman. Apart from grade requirements, there was a writing test as well. Fortunately, I passed. I transferred the following school year.
I was so thrilled with my new program. However, it was also there that I began developing a lot of insecurities. My classmates, who were mostly from prominent private schools and who grew up speaking English and reading good books, intimidated me. I admired how eloquent their prose and verses were and I was jealous. Around them, I realized how unpolished my language was.
But I did not give up. Despite getting a lot of negative comments regarding how awkward some of my sentences were and being reprimanded over grammatical errors, I did not give up. Instead, I pushed myself harder.
During my last semester, a professor told me that I had actually been improving. Hard work was paying off. Not bad.
Then I graduated and went to work as an article writer in Makati. It was not my first job. Even before that, I was already working as a writer for a production company. I had gigs with several companies, too. In the years to come, I would do editorial work for other companies as well. So I’d learn about other forms of writing, particularly the types of writing that could pay the bills.
But even then, I made a commitment to myself that I would still read a lot and try to improve my creative writing skills. I would polish my craft. I knew I had to work harder, given how behind I had been compared to other writers my age. I was okay with the idea. In fact, I found it exciting.
However, life happened. I had to deal not just with work but also with family-related dramas and messy relationships, which were so draining and time-consuming. I also struggled financially, especially when I decided to leave my family’s home.
Suddenly, I had little to no time to write. It was hard. I wanted so bad to create, but there was just too much happening around me and I was overwhelmed. Yet, I realized, why would I let people around me dictate what I could and couldn’t do?
And so I fought. I fought for the chance to write again. I fixed my life and turned it into something that would let me do things that I really wanted to do, even if it meant losing certain people along the way. In my head, I was simply choosing myself and my dreams.
It’s already been three years since I made that difficult decision, and I am happy about my progress. It isn’t that much, since I still have to mind other things like work and grad school, but still, not bad. I have produced a couple of strong pieces in the last three years, published a piece in a magazine, and made it to a national writers’ workshop. And, just last week, I received an email saying that my essay has been accepted in a major literary journal in the country.
Moreover, I am still writing. I don’t stop. No matter how busy I am with work and personal life, I still find time to create. And I’ve never felt more confident with my work.
Of course, I still have bad days. A lot of them. There are still moments when I simply feel bad about everything I produce. However, I don’t let these moments completely distract me from my goal: to be a writer who writes, not a writer who just keeps on whining about writing.
So I go on. I take small breaks when things seem too much. I pick up something else to do like reading books I like and need. Of course, I indulge in unproductive activities, too. I watch shows and films on Netflix and elsewhere. I listen to a lot of sad songs on Spotify and sing my heart out loud on WeSing. I eat a lot and sometimes just do nothing. Sometimes, I just sleep.
And once I am fine again, I continue to write. This time, more energized, focused, and determined. It is during these moments that I become more certain about the reasons why I am writing in the first place.
I write because it’s what I want to do and because I’ve already given up a lot of things to get this far. I write because I believe in my stories. I write because I have faith in its ability to amplify the voices of the marginalized and document what’s taking place not just in me but also around me. I write because it matters.
I write because I believe helps me get to know more about myself. By writing, I get a chance to scrutinize facts and narratives and memories until they make more sense until I heal from whatever wound they previously caused me.
Sometimes, I even write in order to forgive. That’s because writing allows me to take a step back from experiences and process them more objectively and more thoroughly.
I write because I can’t imagine myself doing something else. I write because although it’s so hard that it fleshes out all my flaws and insecurities, it also occasionally brings out the best in me. I write because, by writing, I get a chance to immortalize people and things. I also get to immortalize experiences.
I write because even if it’s usually unrewarding, just being able to produce something can also feel great. Even if it takes a lot of work. Even if the process is sometimes painful.
I write because I believe that I’m meant to do this, so even if there are still a lot of work to do and a lot of things to learn, I am ready. I write because I am willing to make the necessary sacrifices.
I write because I’m a writer, and no, I don’t want to be anything else.