Like Sylvia Plath making stories out of heartbreak and finding the beauty out of sorrow, Mariejo Mariss Ramos types her feelings away when her heart starts aching.
But it is not the pain of an ending relationship that motivates her to write. Mariejo said that it’s the little things that send her heart to sorrow, like Manila vendors fighting for their space in the old Quinta market, or a commuter who has given up hope on elections.
“Writing is catharsis—at least for me,” said Mariejo.
While the 25-year-old reporter’s works are published regularly on the news pages of Inquirer, Mariejo’s outlet is the Young Blood column. It’s a sizeable space on the right hand side—on the opposite end of the editorial—of the Inquirer Opinion spread.
“Friends would always tease me that a brand-new heartbreak means a brand new Young Blood essay, and I can’t say they’re wrong!” Mariejo said.
Her essay, titled “Daily Grind,” is a closer look into the mundanity of city life, while “Lesser Evil” is about exercising democracy even after the votes have been cast.
“My two Young Blood essays were heavily influenced by the political climate during the time they were written, especially the 2016 presidential election. But I wanted to focus then on the little things, on the ordinary—the ambulant vendors in Manila’s mean streets, the random interaction of a jeepney driver with his passengers, the daily chaos of urban life, etc.—things that can also influence one’s worldview.
The two opinion pieces are among the 79 essays in “Young Blood 7” (Inquirer Books, 2019, 237 pages). The book is the seventh edition of the collection of outstanding and daring essays published in Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Young Blood column from 2016 to 2017.
Heartbreak, it seems, is a common denominator for the writers whose essays were selected in “Young Blood 7.” And there were many sorrowful events in 2016 and 2017, from extrajudicial killings, to the proliferation of fake news, the destruction of Marawi, the attack on free press and the nonstop profanities, blasphemies and rape jokes on TV.
Shortly after deposed dictator Ferdinand Marcos was buried in Libingan ng mga Bayani, Jumarvin Ridulfa wrote “Filipino first, Ilocano second.”
The 25-year-old data analyst originally from San Vicente, Ilocos Sur, wrote that “Solid Philippines” should precede Solid North and other regional partisans.
“[I was motivated] to write not just to tell a story, but to [remind people] what should matter more,” said Jumarvin. He wrote in his essay that it was ingrained in his head the idea of Marcos as messiah, the greatest president the Philippines ever had.
It was through the help of the internet that he learned of the truth about martial law and Marcos.
“But knowing was the easy part. Defending the truth from people so caught up in their opinions was the real battle. Hi, mom and dad,” he wrote in the essay.
Jumarvin said that he received positive feedback from his professors and other readers. However, his parents, who were the target reader of the essay, probably did not read the piece.
After the anti-Marcos rallies led by university students, then Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar called anti-Marcos protesters “temperamental brats.”
There is no shortage of temperamental brats in “Young Blood 7.” The stories of these highly-opinionated, 29-and-under writers are both political and personal.
Escolta, selfies and social media, elephants—and the lack thereof, sari-sari stores and fathers and the homes they made are just some of the heart-tugging stories in the book with an illustrated cover in living coral.
Some of these essays were submitted not just from different parts of the Philippines, but also from abroad. In this bold new book, readers will find tales from Ozamiz City in Misamis Occidental, Portland, Oregon, Hutchinson, Minnesota and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
From the point of view of Filipinos in the motherland, Mary Anne Wangen is living the American dream. But in her essay “I, immigrant,” she talked about the cost of moving to the United States and giving up her writing job and working in retail.
“When I wrote the essay, I was having a bad time at work. I love the job that I was doing, but it was difficult working with people from a different culture. I was seriously thinking about quitting, but the thought of not being able to support my family back home stopped me. I also thought about all the things that I went through to get to where I was. I realized that if I made it through all those obstacles, I would make it through this one as well,” said Mary Anne.
The journalism graduate turned to writing because she was more comfortable expressing herself this way. Weeks after she wrote the essay, she submitted her “rant” to Young Blood on a whim. She thought she had nothing to lose.
The Opinion desk receives as many as 300 essays per week from senders—writers, mothers, high school and college students, young professionals, bikers, mountaineers, travelers, math lovers—but only a few essays see print.
In the book’s introduction, Gibbs Cadiz—who was recently appointed editor and gatekeeper of Inquirer’s Opinion section—wrote:
“Since its beginnings in 1994, Young Blood has unfailingly appeared that way in the Inquirer, in the heart of the paper no less, the thoughts, dreams and expressions of young Filipinos sharing prime space with the likes of Conrado de Quiros (before he had to go on medical leave), Randy David, Solita Monsod, Cielito Habito, Ambeth Ocampo, Manuel L. Quezon III, John Nery.
“While some of the country’s most prominent and influential thinkers, writers and pundits take stock of the daily lay of the land, to their right, every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday, young Filipinos do the same, sometimes of politics and society too, but more often of that singular time they’re living in at the moment, as avatars of the very qualities of youth that Samuel Ullman described as ‘a matter of the will, quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions… the freshness of the deep springs of life.’”
Perhaps one of the most chilling stories in the new collection is “Shout my name.”
Bernardine Burgos de Belen wrote the piece in memory of her uncle, activist Jonas Burgos, who was abducted in Quezon City over 10 years ago.
“During that time [of writing] I caught myself trying to remember him. I tried to piece memories of him. And that’s why I wrote. So I don’t forget. So we wouldn’t forget,” said the 19-year-old creative writing student from the Ateneo.
Much like the temperamental brats of 2016 and 2017, the battle cry of Bernardine and the other 76 writers of “Young Blood 7” is “never forget.” Their stories will not be easily forgotten or revised, as these pieces are immortalized in newspaper print and book form.
Edited by Gibbs Cadiz, Ruel S. De Vera and Pam Pastor, “Young Blood 7” gathers 79 selected pieces from the essays that appeared in this space from 2016 to 2017. The book will be launched at 6 p.m. on Saturday, April 27, 2019, at National Book Store, Shangri-La Plaza, Mandaluyong City.