End Point

I had two options after high school: Creative Writing in Silliman University or Mass Communications in UNO-Recoletos. 

I landed in neither.

To make the long (funny and confusing) story short, I was stuck with a degree in Education bound to end up falling more deeply in love with Language and Literature. However, my muse of being a writer never gave me a rest. They say I take after my father who was a newspaper man and a broadcast journalist. I wanted my dad, the late Satch Conta, to believe that as well, but he was the one who talked me out of walking down his path because he said “you learn journalism from the streets.” I thought back then he was only trying to discourage me from pursuing Silliman University because he had no money to send me to college (he even threatened to disown me if I insist on studying away from home—not like I had inheritance to look forward to after all), or he was only trying to let me see the piercing reality that we were indeed poor because there is no money in journalism.

To make another long story short, I did not fight for my dream to be a writer. To be a journalist.

Or so I thought.

Fast forward to a year after college graduation, I entered UNO-Recoletos High School and met Starlight. At first it was like high school all over again, writing and competing for the school publication. Yet, as I spend year after year with different set of editors and writers, I was given the opportunity to reconnect and rediscover the muse buried somewhere in my heart: it was still wielding a pen.

Year after year with Starlight, I have been constantly reminded to come to terms with the realities that my father had wanted me to face about writing and journalism. Each year has been a journey of unfolding passion and truth. Year after year, dreams and aspirations have come alive. For 13 years, I have been a mother to a growing family of writers voicing out their unique truths and expressing their rare passion. This must have been the “journalism from the streets” that my father was talking about, or maybe he was really talking about the raw realities taking place  in the streets at the turn of the clock.  

To me, Starlight has been “my street” from where I have learned a great deal of unexpected realizations.

Being with Starlight has never been about merits, although achievements came naturally for the many Starlight writers who have poured their heart out in constant commitment to developmental and responsible journalism. As I always tell them, “it is never about winning but in believing you have done your best to give justice to your craft and to your truth.” 

This has made Starlight more than a publication. Starlight is home. Starlight is family. 

It is a home that makes you remember more the horror story of “The Feather Pillow” or of “The Decapitated Chicken,” and the inside joke of “Snow White and the 7 Dwarves”  or “Cigarettes,” rather than coming home from the regionals empty-handed. It is a home that imprints in the memory more of the pigouts in Breakthrough and takeouts from JD rather than the unexpected blow of facts from the competitions back in Punta Villa. It is a home to my symphonic snore and sweet sarcasm. It is home to convos and critiques that came with fact sheets, shutter, literary folio and tabloid. It is home not only to unmet expectations and deadlines but also unsurpassed loyalty and love. These are just the few things to be missed with my life with Starlight.

I believe I have enough memories to last a lifetime to remind me that some dreams never die. I once dreamt of being a writer; I ended up taking part in the dreams of hundreds of writers I have spent with my journey through campus journalism. For this, I am forever thankful.

Being considered one of the best advisers in Western Visayas for three consecutive years is my only token of gratitude to Starlight and all the writers who have been part of it during my term as adviser. Thank you for believing in writing, in your truth, in journalism, in Starlight. Thank you for allowing me to realize that I do not have to be the one wielding the pen in order to be a writer. I am beyond blessed to have been behind the ones who are wielding the pen as they speak their truth because it is in the honor of being a mentor that I have been able to hold dearly my own truth and passion.

Thank you for the honor of being your adviser. Thank you for speaking your truth. 

Loqui tui veritati, always.

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Of Neighbors

I must be blessed to have lived my lifetime (so far) to have friendly neighbors. They are the type of neighbors who gives you coffee before you ask for it, on a day when you believe not even coffee could plaster your broken heart together. They are the type of neighbor who offers you a ride even if you were our of route, on a day when you are running out of time to waste on public transport. They are the type of neighbors who watches out for your house or your kid even on short notice, on a day when you could not be in two places at once. They are the type of neighbors who simply passes by to exchange random stories and queries on matters like the school educational system, on a day that you are dying to have someone to share your suppressed points of information about exactly the same issue. Thanks to my friendly neighbors, this unfair lifetime is half a burden to keep.

Another Note to Self

Where are you now?

If your life were “measured in coffee spoons,” perhaps you are soaked in your 23, 725th cup of coffee, still wondering if coffee beans truly were magical to have kept your cracks sealed for quite a long time. You have been your own blend of coffee-hot or cold, instant or freshly brewed, black or creamy, for here or to go-but still stuck in a room for a caffeine fix. It seems like you have been doing a good job embracing your imperfections.

I know you are running out of metaphors and oxymorons, sarcasm even, to put your realities bluntly, but I know too that no matter how much you hide behind either your vagueness or your wordiness, you would not let your points go unplotted. You are probably somewhere in between grid lines of a map of thoughts and feelings that mean the globe to you, figuring out where your words may find their home.

I figure out you are in bed, still making yourself believe that “there is no such thing as too much sleep.” You think the only sanctuary for your lost realities is in your dreams, but you know too, that is not true. Putting rainbows and butterflies around monsters in your head only turns nightmares into bad dreams, and never sweet dreams. You are very well aware of that but you slumber anyway, because horror to you is farce. I must say I am proud of how you always see hope flickering in darkness.

Are you running off to detours and roads not taken again? I won’t be worried of you getting lost at all because you are a natural in getting lost. You will eventually be found if you decide to be found, and stay lost if otherwise. I guess you have gotten familiar with just about enough road signs and pit stops to conquer the roads you are about to wrestle the dust with. Directions won’t be necessary because you know exactly where you are and where you are going. You always say running away narrows the distance, and I don’t know how that works still. I am putting my bet on finding a home in all the lost places.

Where are you now?

You are right on spot. You are where life has taken you. You belong where you are and where you are going to be.

I shall say this again: you are okay and you are still in the position of being the best thing that has ever happened to me; you are okay and I will constantly be happy to be YOU, for what it is worth.

It has been 35 years, my dear self. With you is where I belong. I am proud of you. Don’t ever lose your ground.

Thoughts

Allow me to give thoughts a thought, because I just might have been taking thinking for granted lately. Soaked in my own murky thoughts, I might have missed a million messages brought by the wind that could have saved me from countless worries. Too saturated, my mind keeps on missing signals that could have led me to a better train of thoughts. I guess it is really possible to get lost into one’s thoughts.

Most days, I prefer the haste, so my mind won’t have to dive into thoughts that I might find myself unable to surface out from. Some days, I choose to let my mind wander off and allow my thoughts to be lost in confusion, because confusion eases me more than clarity does. In days when I choose to be challenged by my tangled thoughts, I take the long road and find pleasure in wasting time trying to free each caught up strand from each other. The moment I liberate intertwined strands of complexity from wrapping unto each other, only then that things become clearer to me. 

This is what I meant by being tamed more by confusion rather than clarity. If all things were clear to me, why would I even take time to analyze how realities come to be? 

Most days are like travelling on a bullet train. I do not have the time to see the sights or give life a thought. Most days I refuse to think. Some days, I feel like taking a joyride and take in the scenery by every breath. I feel like giving every detail about my existence a thought. This is how my thoughts are. This is how I would like to think.

However…

All the time, it is a constant decision whether to sink or swim. All the time, it is a sea of thoughts I cannot fathom.

This is just, well, another thought.

North Star

I have always been inspired and enriched by insights I gather from ASCD. Today, I am privileged to be enlightened about “The Whole Child for the Whole World” through Sean Slade. These are my grateful thoughts for Day 1 of the Annual Educators’ Congress where I have been invited by Rex Bookstore to be empowered by for the success of the Filipino whole child in the 21st century.

Back when I was 25, I believe I have had to face numerous crossroads requiring me to make up my mind, to doubt my future even, and to take risks. I have had to endure struggles in making, keeping and terminating social and personal relationships. At 34, being an educator for 13 years, I have found the need to reflect how I have been prepared in school to have been able to straighten the crossroads and to leap above the struggles that I faced in the real world after I have finally left school. 

Clearly, there had been no traces of Geometry, Chemistry, Physical Education, Literature, and the rest of my basic education and tertiary curriculum, when I had to battle for survival in the big world. However, this does not mean Algebraic expressions and balancing equations have not contributed to the person I have become right now. Although the subjects may not have mattered a huge deal for direct reference in problem solving and decision making, still the educational experience in itself that I have been trained, taught and molded by all the subjects in school had challenged me fair enough to have been able to think freely, independently and critically, to see realities creatively, emphatically and passionately, and to deal with generalities not with indifference but with kindness, responsiveness and eagerness.

Fast forward to my present classroom, I see the future more clearly now as to where I would want young people to be. 

The classroom of the future has become the classroom now, and the classroom of the future at the moment shall soon be the classroom of now in the future. However, the timeline and transition are not the main concern why we envisage young people to fit the mold of a whole child who is “healthy, safe, engaged, supported and challenged.” What is clear to me is, what I do now in the path that I shape for the young people shall open routes for an educational journey that is wholesome and enjoyable. If every child sees learning more as a happy pill for living life to the fullest and not a meter stick of excellence, I believe this shall change the world up.

Students derive their motivation to stay in school and keep their focus in learning from different sources. Most often than not, they feel exhausted, misguided, confused and clueless about the whole idea of having to memorize terminologies, solve complex equations, write essays and research reports, while they film videos, conduct interviews, play sports, perform on stage, speak to an audience and create models. This is because aside from the workload in school, they also have to confront issues about  physical and emotional well-being, social and personal acceptance, self-esteem and potentials, and time management. The sad thing is, educators feel the same but most students do not want to see that the feeling is mutual. They blame the educational system that they do not have power to change, when it is in establishing collaboration with their teachers and school (and it is not a matter of where the connection shall be initiated at all) that can serve as shortcut to skip setbacks of learning. 

Still, this sad reality is an opportunity to be challenged as to what every classroom teacher can do to be free from these worries. The beginning of liberation is to shift the scale that gives weight on academic achievement to student engagement. Taking on this challenge is not possible with the desire of the teacher alone nor the cry of the students for learning to be fun. Commitment has always been a huge shoe to fill as far as educational goals are considered, so what is it going to be now?

I have been searching for answers from the universe why I teach, why I started teaching and what I am preparing young people for or to be. 

Today, I think I have found my North Star.

Like Meth

There is none like you, Meth. You are uncategorized and untagged but unbelievably special and of worth. 

Like the Meth that whitens dark areas and like the Meth that stimulates the senses, you have been both an antioxidant and stimulant for you have made grey skies clear and have induced positivity to mundanities. But you are the Meth that is not synthetic at all. You are raw, pure and true. You are Meth.

Thank you for reintroducing me to sincerity, selflessness, thoughtfulness, honesty and loyalty, even if knowing each other may be too short to judge if all of these classic values that I have experienced with you would last a lifetime. Well, why would we need a lifetime if we get to hold on to moments one at a time, right?

Do know that the little things you do for and share with others, although sometimes taken for granted, ignored and judged, have and will always earn their way to etch a bit of purpose when there used to be none at all, on moments that eventually matter. 

I am glad that I have met someone like you, Meth. 

May you live each day with that spark of hope, that glow of joy, that touch of words, that beat of music, and that passion for living, which you consciously or unconsciously scatter like magic dust to people who cherish you. People like me.

Hey you, Happy birthday. 😘

Wired

I don’t have to read the books to fully understand. There will always be countless whys. I do not need to get everything figured out either. There will always be pieces that won’t ever fit. No matter how I try to hold the facts together, I always reach the point of asking “how come?” I never have had the audacity to question or condemn. Even if it is neither hate nor reproach that I feel, but pain and remorse for not being able to do something, anything—I am more comfortable silently sorting my thoughts rather than thinking out loud. I cannot even keep pace with the subtlety that I wish to achieve. In the end, I think I know the answers but still I ask, “why?”