In the middle of last year, I bid adieu to writing for a variety of reasons. Grudgingly, I shut down my blogs Alas Filipinas and Filipino eScribbles and decided to just face my fate: that I’d forever be another faceless wage slave this side of the planet. There was no escaping my dreadful situation, I thought. I can never have the conveniences a writer should have (solitude, natural light, comfortable seating, etc.). And I am always faced with the reality of sacrifice: that I am an unprivileged family man, and my family should come first before anything else. My dreams therefore should go out the window because it is not possible to serve two masters at once.
I thought that, at the very least, my life would go back to normal, that I’d begin to think and act just like everybody else, that I might be able to garner more friends compared to the number of fingers on both hands, that I might even become a productive employee at last, haha. But in only a few weeks after that hurtful decision, I immediately went back to writing. As I took solace in the verses of José García Villa, Manuel Bernabé, and other Filipino writers in both Spanish and English, I realized that, despite my problems with both reading and writing, I still couldn’t gravitate away from books. And the itch to write was still there. I devoured as much time as possible amusing myself with tomes and tomes of lore and non-fiction. I also dug up old verses of mine kept in various old bags stashed underneath our family-sized bed; I thought that it was the right time to reread, review, and edit them all up, which was what I did. And while I was doing that, I started writing new verses both in English and Spanish. I also experimented with Tagálog (using the original orthograpny). Eventually, I started posting some of them on my social media accounts. They didn’t become big hits, of course. But at least, they somehow managed to ease up the itch and kept me sane.
Also, when I gave up on writing/blogging, I was still under contract with our city government to produce at least two local history books. That was something I couldn’t free myself from. Luckily, I was able to write one which got published and launched early this year, the biography of Abelardo “Captain Remo” Remoquillo, a World War II hero from our place. It was a dream come true, something that I thought would never happen anymore. Quite ironic for someone who publicly gave up writing (the second book’s still in the works, another story altogether).
No, Captain Remo’s biography didn’t catapult me to published greatness, but it was still a dream come true nonetheless. Publish or perish, critics always say to writers. To my mind, that book was my ticket away from becoming a spurned genius. And somehow, it inspired me to publish some more!
As the months piled up, so did ideas from books and news, both fake and true. The war between Yellowtards and Dutertards became more appealing (and appalling) than the war against drugs. ISIS was on the move and has even reached our shores. An imbecile who was voted to Congress sought to change our country’s name. So during these tumultuous times, I kept my silence. I rarely visited my social media blogs and stayed away from online wars. But the ideas kept piling up. They have welled up inside my head so bad that it almost became unbearable to even sleep. I became more and more restless, especially during days when I’m trapped for hours inside a bus in EDSA. As I have written before, my tired mind felt like an empty glass pitcher that’s been gradually filling up with water, then placed inside a freezer until it froze and expanded, breaking the pitcher in the process.
Should I write again?
During one lunch hosted by eminent Filipinista scholar Señor Guillermo Gómez Rivera for my family at the Casino Español de Manila early this year, my wife Yeyette told him of my troubles. Upon further analysis, Señor Gómez said that I must have suffered from a nervous breakdown, only that I didn’t know it! My golly. He confessed that when he was my age, he suffered the same thing, and it took him two years to recover. Two years! His advise to me was non-medical but spiritual: to pray the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Apostle’s Creed, all in threes every day. That is what he did, and it worked.
Last summer at Villa Escudero, Gemma Cruz Araneta (who doesn’t know her?), my youngest daughter’s godmother, warned me of the dangers a writer could face once he stops writing. She said it is no different from a pianist who doesn’t practice that much and then suddenly goes back to playing the piano again. With disastrous results. It’s that bad.
Little by little, I realized that what I really gave up on was blogging. But I haven’t really given up on writing (as evidenced by those poetic pieces that I post on social media from time to time as well as my first book). Because it’s something that I just couldn’t. No matter how good or bad I am on it, in spite of my fear of mediocrity, it’s something that I couldn’t part myself from.
I just had to go back. The soonest. I had no plans of becoming like that apocryphal pianist.
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When I thought of going back to blogging, I was struggling with the decision if I should revive my two blogs. I already said goodbye to them. And it was definite. But in the end, I decided to just create a new one.
EL FILIPINISMO will be a combination of ALAS FILIPINAS and FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES. They will be written in both Spanish and English. My blogposts, however, will not be bilingual, meaning that there will be no Spanish translations of my English texts and vice versa because I find it too tedious and time-consuming. There will be times that I will write only in English, and there will be times when I will write only in Spanish. Or both. But English will certainly dominate this blog because it is in this language that I was trained to write. Admittedly, I write comfortably in it, and I immediately point a blaming finger towards our educational system which has trained me and my generation and the ones who came before us. But enough of that for a while. Although English blogposts have more chances of getting the spotlight on this blog, the importance of Spanish as a Filipino language will always be highlighted and emphasized.
This banner, created by history blogger Arnaldo Arnáiz, features the fabled “Cruz de Tunasán” streaked with sampaguita flower buds. As we all know, the sampaguita is our country’s national flower. On the other hand, the Cross of Tunasán, deemed miraculous during the Spanish times, was mentioned by José Rizal in his novel “Noli Me Tangere”. Both cross and flower are also symbols of my family’s adoptive hometown of San Pedro Tunasán in La Laguna province. The name of the blog is also peppered with tiny “tags” or keywords which deal with subjects that I will write about the most on this site.
There might also be a chance for Tagálog to make it here. But be forewarned: I write my Tagálog correctly, i.e., they will be written in the original orthography. So haters (of the UP nationalist mold) beware.
There was also the thought of buying my own domain. But I shrugged it off. Two years ago, my other blog LA FAMILIA VIAJERA which is now handled by my wife suffered a little online accident. Travel blogger Berniemack Arellano of HabagatCentral also experienced the same fiasco earlier that year. When he shared his troubles regarding having one’s own domain, he made me and my wife think twice about buying one for our family travel blog. And that is why EL FILIPINISMO is on free hosting (thank you, WordPress). Berniemack was right. This is all about the simplicity of blogging. Why buy a domain when we can blog our hearts out for free? Less the hassle, less the headache. The most important thing is that I am able to write down my thoughts and ideas, and then share them online.
Other than that, I am reminded of a time when me and history blogger Arnaldo Arnáiz of With One’s Past visited travel blogger Glenn Martínez at his stylish home in San Mateo, Rizal. Despite his blog Traveler On Foot‘s popularity, Glenn refuses to buy a domain for it because it will have the tendency of becoming “commercialized”. This is not to say that I’m totally shutting my doors to having my own domain. I’ll just cross the proverbial bridge when I get there. The most important thing for now is to write.
But what difference then is writing from blogging? One could still write even without blogging. But then, I will no longer have an audience (publish or perish, remember?). I guess it is safe to say that all writers are “pretentious”, but not in a bad way. Because a writer too is an artist. And like all artists from other artistic fields, a writer should also have an outlet in order to impart his views. Nobody writes for himself. That’s preposterous. A writer and his reader are inseparable. One cannot exist without the other.
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Definitely my biggest challenge right now is my complex regional pain syndrome, the major reason why I had to stop blogging last year. I had physical therapy to get rid of it, but to no avail. Surgery is the only possible solution, something which I couldn’t afford to have at the moment. Surprisingly, my wife and a few friends (including Captain Remo’s nonagenarian brother Vicente) discouraged me to go under the knife because it might debilitate me for good instead of healing me. I am in constant pain, even as I write this. Under my physical circumstances, going back to writing is a bad idea, especially since I am still employed in a private company. Other than that, we are still financially disabled, and I am on a rickety, malware-infested laptop that’s been suffering from the dreaded Blue Screen of Death for several months now. But a writer’s got to to do what a writer’s got to do. There is no more turning back. I feel that I have a mission to accomplish, and I will do it. I’ve wasted so much time already. So consider this blogging/writing endeavor of mine to be my suicide run.
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When I shut down my blogs last year, comments and messages from concerned friends immediately poured in. All of them, of course, were saddened, and they made it known to me in one way or another. And during the dismal months between then and now, I always received encouragement from others that I should and can go back to writing. I think this is the perfect time to thank each and every one of them, and what better way than to mention their names: mi comadre Gemma (“Tienes el don. No lo desprecies,” me dijo); Imus City Councilor Raymond Argüelles who revived my interest in historical research and gave me another chance to prove myself that I’m good at it by recruiting me as one of his city’s history researchers; my brother for life Arnaldo who was the one who created the snazzy banner for this new blog of mine; Aris Catáquiz who, when I met him during the thanksgiving Mass for his mother’s electoral victory early last year, personally expressed his dismay when I closed down FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES (I didn’t even know that he was reading it!); Atty. Ceferino Benedicto, Jr. who pleaded that we keep in touch the moment he learned that I stopped blogging; John Christian Canda, a history buff who never gave up on me even though I gave up on myself. Señor Gómez who never doubted that I would go back to writing; Poli Laurito (he’s an FB friend for years but I’ve yet to meet him; he pleaded that I don’t bring down my blogs so that people would still be able to access them); Glenn, who never fails to give me words of encouragement whenever I’m down; Ate Che Paderes-Dones who offered to bake me a cake just to cheer me up (I still have to pay her a visit, though); my mother-in-law Teresa Atienza-Perey who is always there for my family through thick and thin; mi compadre José Perdigón who was deeply saddened when I declared my intention to stop writing; Roberto Rico (Gracias por creer siempre en mi); and my spiritual brother Michael Wolf (Guillermo Lobo).
Finally, there’s my wife and kids who put up with me throughout my eccentricities and mood changes. They gave me everything that I needed, from coffee to a good massage, in order for me to write comfortably. Whether I become famous or not, it doesn’t trouble me anymore. Having a wonderful family steeped in Christianity is more than a family man could ever ask for. That is accomplishment enough. ¡Gracias y os amo mucho!
Finally, this blog is not about me. While I might write about daily experiences and personal thoughts from time to time, this blog will deal mainly with the struggle to uphold the Filipino National Identity. Because I beieve that this identity, which is based on our shared Hispanic past that is strongly rooted to the Spanish language and the Catholic faith, will be the source of both social and spiritual salvation of our people.
¡A Dios sea toda la gloria y la honra!