On Being a Writer and a Storyteller

I am a storyteller. After years of trying to discover my writing niche, I’ve come up with the conclusion that telling stories — both fiction and non-fiction — is what I do best. I write long, thoughtful, melancholy prose punctuated by an abundance of commas and em-dashes. I write gently, romantically, and whimsically. Rarely would you find me writing tongue-in-cheek, bitch-slapping pieces. I don’t talk that way (harshly, bluntly) in person so… It would be kinda weird if I start taking on that tone of voice as a writer.

Once upon a time, I was a feature writer in both my elementary and secondary school papers. Once upon a time, I was the EIC and I wrote editorial pieces as well. Once upon a time, I had the privilege to compete in two national level campus journalism competitions — feature writing in Tacloban, Leyte* when I was eleven; editorial writing in Sta Cruz, Laguna when I was fifteen.

I had dreams of pursuing a degree in mass communication but, in retrospect, that might not have worked out for me. I’m too much of a softie. I watched Patricia Evangelista’s Diliman Ted X Talk on “Why We Tell Stories” the other day. Let’s say the universe conspired differently and I would now be working for a newspaper or a television company, would I have the courage and strength to put my life constantly on the line by doing hardcore journalistic reporting?

Perhaps I would, perhaps I wouldn’t.

So yeah, right now I’m a coder and I sit behind the computer most days typing out scripts — HTML, jQuery, PHP, and no, not production nor broadcasting scripts. But you can never take the communicator away from me. And so I continue to write stories.

But to what end? Why put my voice out into the sea of others, into a sea which many now shun, take for granted, or care little about? I mean, come on. I’m thankful for my blog followers, I’m thankful for those who take the time to read these pieces, and I will continue to write even if I had an audience of none — but yeah. Sometimes it gets disheartening when you’ve poured out everything to a piece only to find that you can count the number of people who’ve read that with one hand.

Maybe I should stop writing altogether and do something more productive instead.

But take writing away from me and you’ll leave me dead, lifeless, void of dreams and passion. So I won’t quit. I won’t give up. I won’t.

I chanced upon a tweet from Juan Ekis, a Palanca winning playwright, the other day. He said, “Nakakadepress magbasa ng balita sa feeds [It’s depressing to read the news in our feeds]. This is the perfect time for storytellers to donate healing & affirming stories to our people.” Can I say amen to that?

I realize that is what I can offer as a writer, as a storyteller. I can offer stories of hope. I can offer stories of healing and affirmation. I can even offer stories of kilig if you want, but that’s mostly because out of the overflow of the heart the keyboard creaks.

I can offer travel tales (read: misadventures) which will add color to your dullest of days, I can offer prose which will make you fall in love with words in a thousand and one ways.

I’m going to continue treading upon the path of a storyteller. I know it won’t be easy. I may or may not make it but one thing is certain: I have to keep on writing.

No. Matter. What.

I am actually drawing here, but I tell stories through visual art, too.

I am actually drawing here, but I tell stories through visual art, too.

___

*Tacloban is still a MESS. Hope is starting to rise up from the ruins, but please do continue to pray. Keep those donations coming in, and help out by volunteering if you can. Thank you. You are all good and wonderful people.

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Through the Looking-Glass

Yesterday, I caught myself wondering if literature made any sense. Don’t get me wrong — I adore literature. Especially children’s lit. My favorite books include Winnie The Pooh, Just So Stories, The Chronicles of Narnia, and — though I am just a quarter into reading Lewis Carrol’s Through the Looking-Glass — I will shamelessly admit that I am quickly falling in love with Alice in Wonderland‘s sequel too.

“I’m sure I’ll take you with pleasure!’ the Queen said. ‘Twopence a week, and jam every other day.’

Alice couldn’t help laughing, as she said, ‘I don’t want you to hire ME—and I don’t care for jam.’

‘It’s very good jam,’ said the Queen.

‘Well, I don’t want any TO-DAY, at any rate.’

‘You couldn’t have it if you DID want it,’ the Queen said. ‘The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday—but never jam to-day.’

‘It MUST come sometimes to “jam to-day,”‘ Alice objected.

‘No, it can’t,’ said the Queen. ‘It’s jam every OTHER day: to-day isn’t any OTHER day, you know.”

Excerpt From: Carroll, Lewis. “Through the Looking-Glass.”

The book is full of logical nonsense but I love it. I’m not too sure whether it would be everyone’s cup of tea though.

A couple of months ago, some people caught me reading Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories. It’s one of those books I could read over and over again, Best Beloved, no matter how nonsensical the stories get. I was currently lost in the tale of how the whale got its throat (he swallowed a man who in turn lodged a raft in his mouth pipe using suspenders — which you mustn’t forget — so that he won’t be able to eat normal-sized creatures in the future) and proceeded to relay to them that narrative when they asked what my e-book was about.

Imagine how low my heart dropped when they just laughed and said that it was — excuse my French — bs. I should read more — what was their term? “Sensible books”, I think.

Well, who said Rudyard Kipling was sensible? What about Roald Dahl? C.S. Lewis? Tolkien? J.K. Rowling? Who calls humans muggles anyway?

But what kind of world would we live in if all people read were sensible books? True, I devour inspirational and motivational books with a passion. And I owned several copies of Sir E.A. Albacea’s computer science series, too. But a world without Wonderland, without Narnia, without Middle Earth, without the Hundred Acre Woods, without Neverland… I can not even —

Come on, we all have to look at the world with childlike wonder from time to time, right?

Besides, there’s power in great literature. Just look at Jose Rizal’s Noli me Tangere and El Filibusterismo. Who knows how much longer we would have stayed under Spain’s regime if those books were never written.

And what about Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin? Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame? Tell me if these book didn’t affect society or alter history in one way or another.

So ends my literary rant. I will continue to read on. I will continue to write on too, though some say literature is a dying art.

Because we all need to go to that world of pure imagination. And words can still make a difference. Mine will. I am believing they truly, truly will.

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Thoughts on The Hobbit

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The Hobbit or There and Back Again
Author:
J.R.R. Tolkien
Genre: Fiction, fantasy, children’s literature

Summary: Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit who has lived his whole life in a comfortable hole in the ground, finds himself joining a band of Dwarves who, in an effort to take back what was rightfully theirs, have set off to raid dwarfish treasures guarded by the dragon Smaug. Their journey is a long and perilous one. They encounter many strange and dangerous co-inhabitants of Middle Earth — trolls, goblins, rock throwers, elves, a fellow named Gollum, and a skin-changer named Beorn — as they make their way from the Bag-End to the Lonely Mountain. This enchanting book was written by Tolkien as a prelude to the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. The Ring makes its first appearance here.

* * *

Yey! After living 24 years in Planet Earth, I was finally able to dive into the world of Middle Earth. Yes, I’m that lame. I call myself a bookworm but it’s only this year that I’ve allowed myself read (and finish) a Tolkien book. Well, I was only able to read the Narnia books last year, so there.

In my defense, I’ve already seen the movies (LOTR plus The Hobbit part 1). But that doesn’t really count if you’re a bookaholic. Thus, I decided to make it a point to read and finish the Tolkien books this year.

My fifth grade teacher actually read The Hobbit to my class years ago, during our free sessions. She would read it to us chapter by chapter while we drew or did whatever. Bilbo, Gandalf, Thorin and the gang were no strangers to me, because of her. I also found myself reading the book hearing a gentle female Australian voice inside my head, because of her.

On to the review. Oh but who could review The Hobbit? It’s a literary masterpiece! It’s a children’s classic! It’s — it’s —

It’s an amazing, humorous, enchanting, magical book.

Really, I think it would just be better if I shared some of my favourite passages:

This is a story of how a Baggins had an adventure, and found himself doing and saying things altogether unexpected. (Chapter 1: An Unexpected Party)

“Go back?” he thought. “Not good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!” So up he got, and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of a patter and a pitter. (Chapter 5: Riddles in the Dark)

Somehow killing the giant spider, all alone by himself in the dark without the help of the wizard or the dwarves or of anyone else, made a great difference to Mr. Baggins. He felt a different person, and much fiercer and bolder in spite of an empty stomach, as he wiped his sword on the grass and put it back into its sheath. (Chapter 8: Flies and Spiders)

Already he was a very different hobbit from the one that had run out without a pocket-handkerchief from Bag-End long ago. (Chapter 12: Inside Information)

“Of course!” said Gandalf. “And why should they not prove true? Surely you don’t disbelieve the prophecies, because you had a hand in bringing them about yourself? You don’t really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit?” (Chapter 19: The Last Stage)

I found myself greatly identifying with Bilbo Baggins. Just like him, I have embarked on a long and perilous adventure. Just like him, I’ve had my doubts along the way. But just like him, I’ll come out victorious. Ooops. Spoiler alert.

Enjoy the book. It’s a very worthy read.

Thoughts on Les Miserables

On the last Sunday of 2012, La Familia and I hit the Midvalley Golden Screen Cinemas to watch Les Miserables. They had already seen The Hobbit (I hadn’t) so I let them choose between Life of Pi (which I didn’t mind watching again) and Les Mis (which I had wanted to watch ever since I saw it on the list of upcoming GSC movies last October).

Les Mis won, thus our final 2012 Sunday was a very musical one.

While my brother bought us snacks and refreshments, I gave my Dad fair warning. “This is going to be a musical, Pa. Expect the actors to break out into song every now and again.”

I should have done more research because it turned out that “every now and again” would equate into the length of the entire film. Which isn’t exactly bad.

For my thoughts:

  1. BE WARNED THAT THIS IS A MUSICAL. When you enter the cinema or hit play in your computer, you should already condition your mind that the whole cast will be singing and there would be no speaking. Okay, there were perhaps five or six spoken lines in the movie. But all other lines were sang out loud so don’t go holding your breath while waiting for them to cease singing. Some lines seemed to be awkwardly sung (and it would have been better if they were simply spoken out), but again, Les Mis is a MUSICAL.
  2. Mind you, the singing was SUPERB. Who would have thought Wolverine — err, Hugh Jackman (Jean Valjean) — could sing like that? Crowe, who plays Inspector Javert, could have put in more emotion (I felt his singing was rather flat) but Anne Hathaway (Fantine) more than made up for it with her very emotional performance.
  3. I liked how the film added a deeper dimension to the musical by giving the viewers close ups thereby magnifying the characters’ emotions. What I mean is, when you watch a show on Broadway or on any stage, you only get to see the characters from afar. Yes, you feel their voices. Yes, you are moved by their actions. But seeing their anguished faces up close — so close you can already see their nostrils flaring — WOW. This was probably one of the reasons why watching Hathaway’s “I dreamed a dream” was so chilling.
  4. The movie is deep. I read somewhere that Victor Hugo’s book was less Valjean-centric and that the other characters had more opportunities to shine, but I like how his quest was wrapped up in the end. As Hathaway sang, “To love another person is to see the face of God.”
  5. And while Les Mis is a drama (what would you expect from a film with the word “miserables” in the title?) I am thankful for the comedic relief that Sacha Baron Cohen (Thenardier) and Helena Bonham Carter (Madame Thenardier) brought into the film. I found it hilarious how the “loving father” kept messing up his precious “Colette’s” name! Fun!

So even though one of my officemates confessed that he walked out of the movie theatre after one of the more dramatic scenes played out (he grew bored) I’ll watch Les Mis again, if I could. After all, it made my parents cry. You can get insights on fathering, love, and dying for a cause there, too.

Les Miserables is next on my reading list this coming February. Let’s see how the book plays out and if the movie indeed did Hugo’s masterpiece justice. I’d like to dig deeper into the characters and see how social and religious issues are tackled in the text.

How about you? Have you seen the movie? Hated it or loved it? Share you thoughts!

Thoughts on Life of Pi

A young man. A boat. A tiger. An unbelievable journey. An ending that will keep the wheels of your mind turning.

If you haven’t seen it yet, you MUST see it – watch “Life of Pi” folks. You will not regret it. And watch it in 3D if you can.

This is a slightly overdue review. Well, it’s not really a review. It’s more of my thoughts concerning the movie since I don’t really write formal critiques. But I shall be writing more pieces like this this year so as to challenge myself to think more critically.

I saw this movie last year with some friends. It was our pre-Christmas treat and what a treat it was!

“Life of Pi” is a film directed by Ang Lee based on a book by Yann Martel with the same title. It tells the story of — what else? The life of Pi. Or Piscine Molitor Patel, to be exact. The first part of the film paints a portrait of his childhood — his evolution from Pissing Patel to Pi 3.1416, his encounters with different religions, and his life living with a zoo as his playground and backyard. The second (and major) part documents the 227 days in which he is shipwrecked in a lifeboat with none other than Richard Parker — the tiger. And the third part —

Well, the third part I shall leave it for you to discover. All I can say is that it involves Japanese men and a thought-provoking final question.

So what are my thoughts regarding the movie?

  1. The cinematography was EYE CANDY. I found the opening scene a bit too slow for my liking but it did paint a picture of the easy and serene life Pi had pre-shipwreck. And the animals were great. And the scenery made me want to go to India. Fast forward to his 227-day stay in a lifeboat — can a shipwreck be any more breathtaking? The reflections of the sunset, the glowing undersea creatures, the HUMPBACK WHALE. Oh. My. I’d consider being lost at sea if it weren’t for all the danger and battle for survival involved.
  2. Suraj Sharma, the Indian actor who portrays the teenage Pi, deserves a standing ovation. Considering most of his scenes involved “just” himself and a CGI tiger (monologue anyone?) — let me just say that Suraj Sharma is one actor to watch out for.
  3. The film had just the right mixture of drama and laughs. I guess we’ll have to hand that to Martel because most of the humorous lines came from the book itself (I am still halfway through the book — yes, I am reading it because I still can’t get Richard Parker out of my mind).
  4. ************************ WARNING – SPOILERS AHEAD **********************

    The ending. At first I thought the film was just about an adventure. I thought it was just about surviving with at tiger in a lifeboat. But no. It was more than that. It will really make you think. It will make you think about what Pi’s father had said to his son — how animals have no souls and what we see in their eyes is a mere reflection of our own emotions. But then it will make you think of what Pi himself said in the end, “And so it is with God.” Well, reading other reviews, I found out the final question also wasn’t just about Richard Parker and Richard Parker alone. It also questioned Truth as Truth, considering all the different religions Pi had involved himself in. That’s why I’m reading the book. Knowing the ending sort of spoils the “surprise” experience, but going over the pages with the twist in mind now allows me analyse all the different encounters and lets me see beyond their face values. So which truth is truth? Does it matter? For me it does. But in the end, it’s all up to us to decide for ourselves.  
    ***************************** SPOILERS END HERE ******************************

What about you? Have you seen the movie? What were your thoughts about it? Any favorite scene? (Make sure to add a spoiler alert for the sake of those who haven’t seen it yet! ^_~) Do you plan on seeing it after reading this impression-slash-review? Share your thoughts in the comments section. I would love to hear from you!