Working at the Weekly Sillimanian (tWS) for three straight years is no laughing matter (as if there’s something funny to laugh about it, eh?). One of the oldest university publications in the country, tWS still has its quirks and dents that one will either be amazed at its printed blatant mistakes or be reasonable for the multitasking and heavy-lidded students that steered the paper. I am a witness to both sides. Three years may sound so short a time but they approximately reach a thousand days of legwork, edit, banter and study. Here is a chronological tale that, I guess, is worth etching on the deceiving private pad that is the cyberspace.
The day comes and I am set to conquer my fear of interviewing or even facing people. But fear has proven itself to become more potent when mixed with too much confidence—I inform my editor and ask for help. And out of nowhere Marianne Tapales and Rodrigo Bolivar II appear by my side at the entrance of Coco Grande Hotel where my very first interviewees are accommodated. Talk, talk and talk and everything is done. Actually, most of the talking is done by my companions who are obviously much more excited to do the write-up than me. I finish my very first feature article in my lifetime in one night. The following day, I beam with statutory pride on my way to the office, a hardcopy of my article in hand.
“What is this,” Michelle Eve de Guzman says, the editor-in-chief.
“What is this? Mura man nig high school!” She says as she continues talking loudly at the torture chamber about how juvenile my work is. I have even expected a much dramatic paper-tearing scene but got nothing of the sort.
Great. I am standing flabbergasted in the torture chamber, the infamous area of the publication office wherein all hardcore layouting and editing are done, and listening to a woman I barely know demean my skill, or the slightest adeptness of it. I should have stuck on making caricatures, I mumble to myself outside the office. And what is a creative writing major doing in the field of journalism? Pestot.
Everything goes well then. I meet up a lot of people, know a lot of things aside from the literary demands of my course and discover the limits of my capabilities. That is why when the school year is inching its way to the end, I think I am more capable than purely writing.
It is not easy. I receive countless comments that have defeated even the acidity of Michelle’s comments. What more, the remarks do not only come from the outside but also from the people inside the office. Anthony Odtohan, the latest editor-in-chief, asks in our first editorial board meeting: “What is wrong?” I respond, “I don’t really know, Odie.” As if all sensibility in the world is crushed by my unguarded manifestation of stiltedness, our news editor John Boaz Lee suddenly retorts, “Maybe he is just very new to this, Od. Let’s just see what happens next.”
Yes, let us see what happens next. Events take place one after the other, more distressing than the last. I know I looked cool to many at that time but like the glassy surface of the lake, the smooth face is but a façade that housed countless creatures. This particular school year is the determining point in whether I will pursue anything that I have thought is right for me. It is a good thing that I still have my words with me; they guide and comfort me as I venture into the night of solitude, help me create lines after lines that seemingly console the line etched upon my frail condition. The demands of Ian Cascot, through LitCritters Dumaguete, help a lot too. And if not for June, solitude would have been more throbbing, more in tuned to the struggle of the Duende deep inside me.
But we persevere. We defy what others thought wrongly of us. We laugh at our mistakes and, of course, worry about them too. All of us get along together in an instant that screaming at someone’s face is nothing (as long as it is deemed necessary). In some way, there must be this common thread woven into each of us that makes us connect, blend with our own eccentricities and almost freakishly, think alike. I feel comfort and relief that I have never thought existed. It feels weird at first but, on the long run, the company becomes a routine. The early morning comments about the messy floor, the midafternoon snacks, the midnight chikicha games, the unplanned overnight respite at the office, the Ravenhearst challenges, the self-coercion of facing final requirements, the almost-everyday gossip sessions, life is going for the better. I thought, thank goodness I have met these caricatures.
Then the month of March comes. The routine must be broken. Well, it has to be. Like any novel I have read, it has to end, to reach the blank leaf page that stares right back at me. But this is no end of total resolution, an absolute finality, because even though the sun sets each day, it will rise again, from a distant but promising horizon, and illuminate to us anything that is needed for the day.
I know you people have stumbled upon these words already but I will reiterate them again: Junie, never stop dancing in the rain. Mars, enlighten everyone. Pilipeh, never stop drawing the line—it must flow endlessly. Gus, walls can be the support that holds your roof. Budjai, be as soft as a petal, rocks are not everything. Marianne, some things need not be labeled as secrets to fulfill their purpose. Paul, share your love with your widest embrace. Camille, what is inside matters the most—if you know what I mean. And to everyone else, just keep on hopping.