Monday, May 30, 2011

people know themselves better

May 17 – Dinner with the Great Doyenne of Literature

Wi-Fi was suddenly alive in the mountains. What to do, what to do? I wondered. To make good use of it, I began updating my Twitter with accounts and teasers on what had been going on in the workshop’s discussion between fellows and panelists. Ian Rosales Casocot, who officially managed the SU NWW account, read one of my updates and sent me a message: “Can you live-tweet the workshop session?” I agreed. I received the account’s user name and password, and I was, instantly and (un)officially, part of this year’s workshop working committee. Yes, people, apparently a part of the world knew a thing or two about the anatomy of that male appendage a few days later.


The golden anniversary never ran out of dinners. This particular Tuesday, there was the Director’s Dinner. We got off the white war bus, the frequent transport of many workshop fellows now, and entered Silliman Hall, a slim figure of architecture that was constantly courted by the boulevard sea breeze.

New alumni arrived like Ed Cagagnot and DM Reyes among others, and right below the raised platform was one of the workshop founders herself, Mom Edith Lopez Tiempo, who sat on a chair that was said to be as historic as the event we were all celebrating.

After the presentations and by-the-year batch photo sessions, which was led by photographers Gregg Morales and Urich Calumpang, the highlight of the night followed with Mom’s words.

Transcribed into text by Alfred “Krip” Yuson based from a video recording by Nerisa del Carmen Guevarra, here’s an excerpt of her speech on the anniversary of the workshop:

What else do you want me to tell you? You can ask of any writer and they will try to come up with the goods. Would I dare to say that writers indicate to everyone what it is to be openly human, would I dare to say that? Yes I do, yes I do.

Tell me of any other entity of society outside, of course, of the cultural centers… tell me who can say as much? Ask the writer any question you want answered. The writer is not all-wise, but he welcomes being asked something he cannot answer. He will like that because he tends to even more extend himself beyond the group of writers like himself.

What else can I say to you except that I am happy, happy to be with you as I have always been happy all these 50 years with writers, and I hope that each one of you will be happy to say that, ‘Oh, I was last night with a 92-year-old woman who claims she is a writer.

For fellows, and us alumni, who were there to witness such graciousness, it was not that difficult for gratitude towards Mom to surface as tears welling up in the eyes.


There was another line from Mom’s speech that struck me hard that night, if I heard it correctly: “People know themselves better because there are writers.” Though I still cannot completely substantiate myself as being one, Mom Edith was right. I felt indebted to the writers that I looked up to, then and now. In some ways, their words both cleared and sometimes muddled up my thinking. And that’s fine with me. At least I am thinking.

(fifth of eight parts)

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 |

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