On the other side of the shore, Pilar, Camotes is but an ordinary island obstructing my view of the sunset before dusk. I somehow resent why the great orange ball at times does not dip itself directly to the sea. Perhaps I demand a written explanation.
Visiting the municipality-island after a week of midterm tests was exactly the break I needed. I desperately needed to go away from the hustles and bustles of my hometown. At that moment, going there was just the answer. The rural place was quiet and serene. The wide farm lands and old Spanish houses with Capiz shell-laden windows gave the classic tranquil atmosphere. But it wasn’t bakasyon grande per se. Little signal. No internet. No Facebook.
Nevertheless, we had another mission. Along with the curiosity of what in the world is on the other side of the shore, I gave in to my friends’ invitation to teach kids on that island how to write.
Plan Philippines invited my editor friends and me to do a seminar-workshop on campus journalism with a bunch of high school students from Pilar, Camotes. Plan, an international child-centered organization, has been actively working in the island for the past few years.
After an hour’s ride on a wooden boat from Ormoc City, we docked on a small wharf in Pilar. No seaside restaurants, no boulevard, virtually no night life. We hopped on a pickup and rode our way to Cawit, a 20-minute ride from Pilar proper. We passed by farms and little clusters of communities.
“I love this place,” I exclaimed. “If there’s a way I could get myself a computer, a good internet connection (and a girl), I definitely could settle in a rural place like this.”
I have a lot of pensive moments by myself, that’s why I love the rurals. For me, the vanities of urban life are no match for cool air and quiet living. That’s where I could think. My soul nestles on the bounty of ideas that are made from a calm and serene ambiance.
And I love to teach these kids how to write. Passing through adolescence is no easy mandate. Having gone through it myself, I know how it is like to be in an identity freeway dotted with billboards of Facebook there, Big Brother here, Avon there and Playboy here. There’s got to be a way out of Western gimmicks. Letting these kids know how to pen their minds could just prevent them from abandoning rural life for nothing. Not all that glitters is gold.
Call me “eagerly eager” or atat but here is a sense of direction. Here is meaning. Now is our turn to drop compasses to bleak directionless futures, just as similar experiences long ago did in ours.
I have no intention of ‘cloning’ tacit knowledge to these kids. I’ve been clueless about writing before. I’ve been there. Lectures do not transform them to instant journalists. However, I believe they will learn the trick if they don’t abandon the lifestyle. The sword-consuming pen is made out of faithful regularity.
I met Christine Joy, a junior lass who tries to write the editorial for the group. It’s the election period and she needs to pin down the help of running politicians for developmental projects in their schools. Then there are the others, each assigned to write news articles about the significant 2009 activities that happened there. These young minds will be the first resident journalists in Pilar. They are going to start the culture of writing and publication in the community.
To my surprise, they learnt the ropes very well. Christine, her friends Vina, Shine, Yvonne and others wrote news and other articles that I found to be very good as first-timers. In fact, their write-ups were far better than mine when I was their age. I also saw their dedication to work like grownups. Childlike optimism filled me to the brim.
Jose Rizal was right:
Genius knows no country, genius sprouts everywhere, genius is like light, air, the patrimony of everybody, cosmopolitan like space, like life, like God.
Sadly, they themselves couldn’t remain in the island for long. If they want to go to college, they got to step out of it for no university or college stands on their side of the shore. That for me is a prick in the heart. How I wish they’d choose to stay in Visayas State University, another paradise-like place, to develop their passion for the written word. I’d be more than willing to mentor eager minds like these. Then I’ll send them back to glory in their hometown.
To love one’s native place, be it a little less than the first Eden, should be a driving force to invite others to do the same as well. To write is but a tool for such an endeavor. Why?—there are a lot of reasons to fall in love with a place like this.
Stepping on the shores of Cawit made me think that dreams are not always better than reality after all. Carefree toddlers play by the shore. White sand beaches. Clear blue skies. I even saw Mount Pangasugan from afar. The distance from digital troubles soothed the bewildered techwit.
Then with me are three dogs I met on the island—a hybrid pitbull, a Shih Tzu and a Golden retriever—named Nuggets, Timmy and Brandy, respectively. They are nothing like the snobbish Japanese Spitzes I have at home. Down-to-earth, loyal and fun-loving, they remind me that paradise is not so lost after all. The beauty of being and playing with rare friends like them is this: you do not relish the simple joys of life alone. They have become the perfect companions to a wonderful escapade worth writing about.