An aspiring writer who read one of the poems in this blog asked me how to get published in the publication I worked with, Sun.Star. That made me recall those days when I felt a special kind of high everytime I read my own articles in newspapers and magazines.
My passion for writing started when I became addicted to novels and other literary works and felt I could be a writer too. A book, “Reading and Writing the Essay,” became my bible. It was unfortunate that when I transferred to Southwestern University from Science High, our high school publication just closed shop.
But that didn’t deter me. I ended up writing for my own consumption—praising and criticizing what I wrote.
I so loved writing that even when I went fulltime in the underground in the early 1980s, I ended up in the propaganda staff of the party committee of Cebu province. And when I was arrested and placed under solitary confinement for more than a month in 1988, and then later stayed in a military camp for two years, I wrote to keep myself sane.
But my writing was admittedly rough. It was only after I became a journalist in 1992 that I began to refine my craft. The problem is that balancing creative writing with journalistic writing is difficult. The effort to maintain the balance remains to this day.
I am writing about this because I retrieved from the website of Likhaan (University of the Philippines Institute on Creative Writing) the list of the fellows of the 1996 workshop (27th) in Tagbilaran City that I joined in. That was a memorable gathering because for the first time I was forced to deal with the rough edges of the two short stories I submitted.
The fellows were: Temistokles Adlawan, Shelfa Alojamiento
Carlos Cortés, Adonis Durado, Raymund Garlitos, Alicia Saavedra-Go, Rowena Javier, Bro. Reynaldo Legayada, Aniceto Llaneta Jr., Mary Ann Llanza, Venancio Pantinople Jr., Nancy Parreño, Sem. Precioso Villareal, Ronald Villavelez and myself.
Looking at the list of fellows of UP’s Likhaan through the years, one can sort out the big names in Philippine literature. That included our panelists then, like Merlie Alunan and Jun Cruz Reyes.
In my batch, Tem Adlawan was already a big name in Cebuano literature when he joined again the workshop. Carlos Cortes would later publish two novels. Adonis Durado is in Dubai working as a graphic artist although I think he still writesCebuano poems. Ven Pantinople is still working, I think, as an engineer. Sem Villareal and Ronald Villavelez writes from time to time in Cebuano newspapers.
Creative writing workshops are really simple. You write, and the panelists assess your product. But they actually do more: being with fellow writers is inspiring, pushes you to further hone your craft and makes you dream of making it big in the literary field.
That dream has not left me even years after the 27th UP National Writers Workshop in Tacloban City.