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Not Quite There

A memoir, why not?

By: - Columnist
/ 05:33 AM March 11, 2018

I didn’t feel the slightest pressure to write my memoir when Rita told me she was writing her own. I was, in fact, excited for her.

Rita is one of those quiet women who keep their cards close to their chests, so to speak. What I know about her pedigreed background came mostly from outside sources, and about her personal life only from the little she allowed in monthly meetings in which each of us 10 women in a group called First Draft brought a short work to read. We disbanded a few years back, after 10 years.

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Rich heritage

I thought Rita had much to offer about the era and setting—Negros—in which she spent early childhood. I was curious about the rich heritage of the Visayans, their history and culture, especially as families.

Of her memoir, she allowed a few friends to read some passages, but never the entire thing. She printed only one copy for each of her children and grandchildren.

“I wrote it only for them, so that they and their own children and grandchildren might know me long after I’m gone,” she said.

When I told my husband about it, he warned that, if I ever had any plans of writing my own memoir, it had better stand the test of public reading.

I took the time for a quick flashback of my life and, although some of my friends might disagree, I dismissed it as a lousy read. It paled in comparison with my own mom’s life story.

Right then and there, I decided that, if I ever wrote anything so intimate about my life, it would be about mom: a young, once plain-looking girl transformed into one of Manila’s beautiful women in society, a rags-to-riches-to-glory story, although not without its heartaches.

Made for writing

Suddenly, after reading college classmate Marichelle (aka Cielo), writing my own story seems doable after all. Cielo had told me she was writing her memoir when she came on her yearly balikbayan trip last year, and wished for my husband to edit it.

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Well, I have it right here in my hands, a hard copy of her entire manuscript, edited. She asked me to read it, and I have. Another copy is in the page-designer’s hands, being laid out. In no time it will become a full-fledged memoir.

I knew Cielo from college. I joined her class after two years in Madrid, Spain. We must have met earlier, but I was already in junior high when she arrived as a freshman on the small Quezon City campus of St. Theresa’s College, where everybody knew everybody. We have remained friends and kept in touch since.

Her memoir filled many blanks for me. And, although I was surprised by some events, never was I surprised at how she handled every adventure, every twist, every shock. It was so like Cielo, taking everything without allowing much trace of emotion.  She took all of life’s tests and passed with honors.

Cielo was made for writing; she finished journalism and worked as a journalist here and on a daily in Pennsylvania, where she and husband David have made their home. She was made particularly for memoir writing—a fine storyteller with her own life story to tell.

My husband took the job of editing at first reading. “She’s so easy to edit,” he said, and he is “envious” of her verses, of which she gives us samples in her memoir. Indeed, poetry can sometimes say much more in fewer words than prose.

Writer’s call

So many of my peers have kept some kind of diary or journal without knowing what to do with all their recorded memories. No one I know ever told all, until Cielo, who has been characteristically open and unpretentious, although she did struggle dealing in her memoir about her daughters and the men in her life.

“In the end,” my husband told her, “it’s the writer’s call.”

Just a few days ago, she texted both my husband and me triumphantly: her daughters had agreed to allow their “tiger mom” to use their real names, after, she confessed, some “arm-twisting.” As for the men, she texted, “I’d like to withhold their names, because I did not give them a good review. Hahaha!”

At any rate, I myself thought, naming them would not have served a significant purpose.

When I asked Cielo why she wrote her memoir, she said, somewhat petulantly, “Because I am a writer, Chit. Who else should tell my story?”

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