(Appeared in the Dumaguete Metro Post 2nd February 2014)

This February I celebrate ten years of literary writing.

It isn’t exactly an anniversary in the strictest sense. If I was to really trace the beginnings of my literary growth, I’d be diving deep into the murky memories of my word-building days as a little boy in Kindergarten. But creative fancy for  me back then was  a simply past time, done out of boredom. I only got a taste of what it was like to labour over a literary work when I was in grade 6. That was ten years ago.

In our Filipino class in Notre Dame of Kidapawan under Mr. Jaime Padecio, I was made director for our group in the required original stage play. Our assigned script writer was Martin Evangelista.

The future SK Provincial Federation Chairman’s qualities were not able to help him in squeezing out a play. So he asked me for help, and before I knew it I found myself engrossed in weaving together the first complete literary piece I’ve ever written: a full length play about a vengeful young man out to kill his father’s illegitimate daughter, his half sister, over whom he becomes obsessed until he falls in incestuous love with her.

I’m not sure if it was written on a February, but it was most likely staged on that month, as it was a final requirement for that class. In any case when I decided to celebrate a decade of calling myself a writer, I chose February as it also happened to be National Arts Month.

The ten years that passed have been eventful, with pleasures and pains along the way. After that grade 6 play, I went on to write more class plays in English and Filipino. When these stage plays were competitive, I invariably won best script.

I also wrote feature articles for NDKC’s English school, Green Armour, and when in fourth year High School was made features editor.

On the side I scribbled down stories – my first complete attempts at fiction – on a notebook that classmates passed around. Among our high school batch, my at times erotic tragedies were something of sellouts.

But my writing was still intimately married to my being a man of the stage, and I continued to divide my creative energies between literary writing and acting.

It was such that I first made my name in the Ateneo de Davao as an actor. I played the villain in a stage adaptation of Don Pagusara’s epic poem Magindala, and I was told that my portrayal was, well, warmly received.

Nevertheless my literary debut in Davao proved far more pleasurable. A story of mine was published in the school’s literary folio, Banaag Diwa, when I was in first year college. The story as about a student molesting a badjao girl, and it understandably caused a stir in the Ateneo campus.

Later I’d get my first wider publication, when sir Dom Cimafranca decided to publish another story on Dagmay, literary journal of the Davao Writers Guild. The feeling of being published was far more thrilling, so when I was in second year college I decided to focus entirely on writing.

I’d get my first literary training in the form of the Ateneo campus writers workshop in 2010. The experience of being a fellow invariably made me more critical of what I write, but I came out of the few months of hesitation to write, this time with more discipline.

I would later on be fortunate enough to be fellow to the Iyas Creative Writing Workshop in Bacolod in 2011, then later the Silliman Writers Workshop in 2012. The greatest blessing in the ten years, however, was my getting second place for Fiction in the Nick Joaquin Literary Award in 2013.

Readers will forgive the indecent bragging when I say that behind the decision to celebrate my ten years of writing is overwhelming gratitude. There’s still much to do and to achieve, and I have long term writing projects in store, but central to my celebration is thanking all the people who have been indispensable throughout the years.

My ever loyal readers, including my mother and grandmother,who have supported and continue to support me and my writing. Thank you for the love, and sorry for the typos and grammatical errors. Please blame the editor.

The teachers who discovered me: Ma’am Nilda Tan in High School, sir Dom Cimafranca in college. The early mentors in Davao who had seen me grow: sir Dom, sir Mac Tiu, sir Don Pagusara, the director sir Noy Narciso, my first workshop panelist Ms. Jhoanna Cruz, and literature teachers like ma’am Rhodora Ranalan. In Dumaguete, my unparalleled teachers in Creative Writing: sir Ian Casocot, sir Sawi Aquino, sir Philip Van Peel, ma’am Andre Soluta.

The various panelists in workshops who have, in their small and big ways, contributed with their suggestions: Mom Rowena Torrevillas, Dr. Genevieve Asenjo, ma’am Jhoanna Cruz, ma’am Susan Lara, among many others.

The unmistakable influence of writers whose works have made me see possibilities: John Iremil Teodoro, Macario Tiu, Leoncio Deriada, and most of all Bobby Villasis.

The editors and others who gave me opportunities I will never cease being grateful for: Ma’am Elsie Coscolluela for accepting me in Iyas; Dr. Evelyn Mascunana of Silliman for letting me get a Graduate Teaching Fellowship; ma’am Alma Anonas-Carpio of Philippines Graphic for accepting my submissions; ma’am Christine Ortega for the Taboan delegation and for the constant support; Dr. Don Real and Dr. Rose Pinili of NORSU for giving me the chance to fulfill my childhood dream of teaching literature; to ma’am Annabelle Adriano and ma’am Irma Pal for letting me write for the Dumaguete Metro Post; to Bobby Villasis, for so much more.

The people with whom I’ve worked with in creative pursuits: Martin Evangelista, who unsuspectingly started it all; my old friend Christian Cabagnot, and my even older friend Andrea Abellera, with whom I collaborated in writing some plays in High School; members of Ateneo de Davao’s literary club SALEM, who helped me with some drafts: Harry Dubouzet, Glyd Aranes, Karen Dicdican, Pido Montecillo, Alex Abando, Greysh Tubera; fellow Kidapawanon Paul Gumanao for serving as both benchmark and friendly rival; Iyas co-fellow Jayson Parba for giving me the chance to prove myself as a translator; Iyas-Silliman co-fellow Mich Tan who helped with some works and whose own growth influenced my own; Bamboo Ranada whose insights into theater remain invaluable; Dumaguete partners in crime Mike Gomez and Arkay Timonera for tertulias and yaga-yagas.

Bean Connection for providing a great place to write. Mental, Forever21, Lee, and Maldita for my wardrobe, Twinings, Sans Rival, Neva’s, AM-PM, Bread Camp, and Jules of My Lady Salon in Davao for my hair.


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