Monday, March 30, 2009

familiar corners

The air smelled of old paint. That is the last memory I can think of. Or perhaps, the memory I am compelling to think of as the last. Fine, it is not the last but among the countless indelible remembrances shelved in my head.

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.

2006 – 2007

Wandering the campus that is lined with gnarled trees or reading old news articles at the library’s third floor every break is a routine. I am contented and that’s what matters most. But one day, I have finally put an end to my naivety. I have decided to put into use my skill in writing, or the slightest adeptness of it, to the university’s student publication. Why, in my mind, I was a cartoonist in our high school paper, therefore, I could probably work as fine as a writer! I am also in my second year in college who majors in creative writing but drills most of his head into tomes of physics, biology and psychology text books so I take up the call for new staff members. With Moses Atega’s (or more popularly known as Kuya Moe) thumbs up to the newly appointed editor-in-chief and a satisfactory grade in the entrance examination, I am in. Wow, I’ve received my very first assignment as feature writer which is to make a profile of the Filipino band, Kamikazee.

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.

Well, it will always be like that at the very start. A few months later, I am the very first to write a column as a reward to a staff member who, in a metaphorical explanation, goes from ugly duckling to a beautiful swan, of course, in terms of writing. I can remember it very clearly; the column is about administrations that are thickly selfish and senseless in their overly-crisp coats, likened to the characteristics of the greedy amphibian, Rana catesbeiana. I have entitled it “Bullfrogish Unions.”

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.

2007 – 2008

My being ambitious has led me to become the school year’s features editor. It is surprising, really. But the biggest turnaround yet is that the previous year’s features editor is now, merely, my writer. He is Micah Dagaerag. Thinking about it is humorous at first, like a party joke, but upon receiving his first completed assignment has made me doubtful. This feeling is much more intensified when my other features writer, who is definitely much older and more experienced than I, start to do some things that is not ought to be done.

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.


All of sudden, faces I am always accustomed of seeing everyday are gone. What more, the editorial board is one quirky group. To add more difficulty with us having to accommodate new writers the “bylaws” of the publication, no one from the ed team has no mass communication representative. Two nursing majors, one psychology major, one business administration student and a creative writing major. How’s that for a student journalism publication that now runs for 105 years?

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.


gillboard said...

belated happy birthday!!! And welcome to the real world...Welcome to the jungle!!!

f. jordan said...

Thanks, Gil.

Aiken said...

"what is this? mura man nig highschool!" - watch out kang michelle eve de guzman y salingkapaw de la acacia!