Posted: April 9, 2015 Filed under: From the Archives, Literature, Personal
I recently rearranged my old literary files. In the more than ten years that I’ve been writing, I’ve accumulated a large amount of handwritten drafts, outlines, and revisions comments. Some of them date back to my earliest childhood, while a large bulk of them are from my prolific high school years.
Here are some photos of them.
My old Notebook of Aphorisms, in continuous use since my earliest childhood. Its earliest writings, written in pencil, are some of the oldest extant pieces of writing I have.
Printed copy of ‘Cassandra,’ a stage play I wrote for English class when I was in first year high school. This script was actually written by Christian Cabagnot (who directed the play), a loose rewrite of my original, which was admittedly riddled with unnecessary archaisms – I was young. The eponymous character is a beautiful but cruel young woman who makes men think she is in love with them, only to humiliate them by standing them up in dates. She changes when she meets Alexandre, who does not seem interested in him, and she takes him as a challenge. In the process she realizes her flaws and changes, slowly falling in love with him. He too sees her growth and learns to love her. They become a couple, but in typical Karlo David fashion I make her die: one of the men she jilted comes back to kill her. It was heavily influenced by the opera Carmen. Characteristic of my early writing, the names of the characters are either French or something unusually European. It did win best script in the class competition, practically my first award.
My first ever short story, scribbled on one of the notebooks I used in class when I was in third year high school. It was never titled, but it was the first of a recurring theme in many later works: the main character makes friends out of a guy and a girl, he falls in love with the girl and the guy becomes his best friend, but this best friend and the girl turn out to be attracted to one another. The main character selflessly works to bring them together, and they do end up happy as a couple. But he cannot take the pain, and when the friends seek him to thank him for bringing them together, ohmygosh he hanged himself. Told mostly as a flashback: main character is about to hang himself, flashback flashback, then he hangs himself. This time my characters have Japanese names – I was beginning to watch anime, and it dominated my imagination. Most of my stories from this period also have Japanese names.
The notebook of ‘serialized’ short stories I wrote when I was in third year high school (that was the golden age of my high school writing). I say ‘serialized’ because I wrote one story on the notebook every week (two or more if I was feeling like it), and my classmates would pass the notebook around to read the latest story. I even charged a subscription fee for it. This one is on the last page of a story about a girl named Sumire (I told you, Japanese names), who was just rescued from an attempted rapist by her crush in class (wow the drama), and she and her saviour end up having sex in the classroom – remember I was writing this in a Catholic school. The story was ended with my old signature, a stylized representation of the Chinese character for ‘human’ (a reminder to myself as a writer that I was human, and while my works may live on I would die – reverse Shakespeare). Each story was followed by a comments page. Remember this was before Facebook.
Drafts of two articles for the Green Armour, student publication of the Notre Dame of Kidapawan’s High School, also written when I was in third year. The one in the foreground is a criticism of the bad English observed among students (I used to be a prescriptivist), the one at the back is a criticism of public displays of affection (essentially I was complaining because all the snogging couples at our school were ugly). Together they are the very first works of mine that got published (I still have a copy of the print version).
I also ‘serialized’ a novel and an epic poem in class in fourth year high school. This is the comments page of the first chapter of the novel (it was about a thirteen year old with a PhD in quantum physics and his budding love life). The epic poem was about the rebellion of the Nephilim against the Abrahamic God. In the end I never finished either, though I’m still open to reviving them. I miss all these people who wrote on the comments page!
Manuscripts for Alfonso. This work has seen three attempts, first as a novel in English in fourth year high school, then later in two other attempts as a full length play. I finally finished it, this time in Davao Filipino, while I was in Silliman. I planned to include it in my MA thesis, but at 96 pages it was far too long. The third act of the second attempt is in this blog.
First page of a journal required in a Filipino class when I was in second year college in the Ateneo de Davao. My teacher was ma’am LY Veneracion, and the small binder filler was full of encouraging comments from her as she read each short attempt at clever randomness. I don’t know if ma’am LY knew, but this first page was partly a translation into Tagalog of the first lines of Yoshida Kenko’s 14th century essay ‘Tsurezuregusa’!
Some of the random thoughts in the Filipino journal. On the top was my immediate reaction to finding out Ateneo de Davao’s student literary folio Banaag Diwa 2009 came out, with my short story ‘The Barefooted Girl‘ in it. I obviously had no idea how controversial the story would be. In the entry underneath, I speculate that the colloquial Tagalog word ‘todas’ may be derived from the German ‘todes,’ ‘death.’ Of course they may simply be false cognates.
Outline sheet of ‘Pagbalik ,’ which would come out in Banaag Diwa in 2011. I originally submitted it as a requirement to ma’am LY’s class. I can say that this piece of paper is historical: ‘Pagbalik’ is probably the first short story written in Davao Filipino to be published.
Manuscripts for the story ‘Kei,’ which came out in the Davao Writers Guild’s Dagmay in 2010. The story had earlier gotten me into the Ateneo de Davao Campus Writers Workshop (the workshop comments are to the right). Again, these files may be historical: ‘Kei’ may be the first published work of fiction about and set in Kidapawan. The outline is revealing: I forgot that I had an alternative title for it (‘this stream has no fish’), and that I originally gave the main character a family name.
Original draft of the poem ‘Super Swerteng Uyab,’ which came out in Dagmay in 2011. It had earlier been titled ‘Uyab 2011’ (because camp was the intention from the very beginning). Ricardo de Ungria discussed it in a small lecture in Ateneo de Davao on that year, comparing it to a poem by Rolando Tinio and Vlad Gonzales. Again this may be historical, as the poem may be the first published poetry in Davao Filipino.
Original draft of the story ‘In the Manner Accustomed,’ which won 2nd place in the Nick Joaquin Literary Awards in 2013. Since that first story in high school I’ve always drafted my stories handwritten on notebooks. This makes me a very fastidious ‘basher,’ as Kurt Vonnegut describes writers: I have to make sure the sentence sounds good on ink before I proceed to the next one, then when I encode it, I go over each one of them again. Look at all the erasures!
Files for ‘Killing the Issue,’ including workshop manuscripts. By far my most successful work, this play has gotten me in its original standard Tagalog into the Iyas Creative Writing Workshop in Bacolod in 2011 (the green envelope is the workshop kit for Iyas), in its English version into the Silliman Writers Workshop in 2012, and it won 2nd place in the Palanca last year. And I laboured to achieve all those: there are about six versions of the play, from the rough Tagalog draft I penned when I was in third year college, to the still overly verbose English version in the Silliman workshop manuscript to the right. I even had to ask my artist friend Harry Dubouzet to illustrate the set so I can picture it out clearly.
Fulfillment in writing for me has always been personal, and these files record my growth – they even reflect the gradual improvement in grammar and change in my penmanship over the decade. I don’t think I’ll ever be famous as a writer (it’s practically impossible to be famous as a writer in the Philippines, where nobody reads Filipino writers, not even Filipino writers), so I don’t think these files will ever be worth anything. But they mean everything to me, and I will continue to keep them as I have always done since childhood.
My archives are not complete though! Copies of some of the most important works in my literary growth are missing from it.
So to all old friends and acquaintances reading, if you happen to have copies of anything I wrote long ago, please give it to me, or at least give me a copy. I will thank you profusely here if you do. If you have copies specifically of the following plays by me I am willing to pay good money for each one:
‘Sa Ilalim ng Kapa’ (written when I was in grade 6, it was my first ever play. People from NDKC’s grade 6 Bro. Obed section of 2003-2004, I implore you.)
‘Tantrum Teahouse’ (written when I was third year high school, it won best script for the play competition in Filipino. This one goes to those from NDKCs 3rd Year St James section of 2006-2007)
‘Walang Kupas’ (a commissioned play, written when I was fourth year high school. I gave it to Anne Mary Rualo, who asked for it for their class play, but last time I asked she no longer had a copy. I do not know if she gave anyone copies of it).