Like Christmas, my 2nd book should be on its way | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Like Christmas, my 2nd book should be on its way
The book cover for “First Draft”
Like Christmas, my 2nd book should be on its way
The book cover for “First Draft”

It certainly feels right to end the year with Christmas. It doesn’t seem like an ending at all, but rather, another beginning. Christ is born! As we prepare for His coming year after year, we renew ourselves, too. By tomorrow I will have celebrated 83 Christmases. I should feel brand new, but instead I wonder where all the years went. And in what way should I count them? In the number of Christmases or years I’ve lived through? Longevity seems in my genes, in that sense more karmic than through any self-effort.

Shall I then count instead my four children and five grandchildren as though they were accomplishments? My three boys, two in America, have all but disconnected themselves from me; I have not seen them since the pandemic. They are precisely the reason I find solace in the words of Kahlil Gibran:

Your children are not your children

They are the sons and daughters of life longing for itself. They come through you, but not of you

And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

For that matter, nothing really belongs to us, most especially not people.

A life-changer

Despite all that, it gets easier to just gloss over unhappy situations in old age, when memory fades, serving only selectively; old wounds somehow heal. Indeed, I see only a generous share of happier times. All my years in fact suddenly become more happily memorable the older I get. No matter how bad things have seemed, they could only have been worse. And there seems no deadline, no cut-off period, for good things to still happen, for new friendships and connections, for instance.

In my mid-70s, I joined First Draft, a group of 10 women who liked to write, put together by our idol and mentor Gilda Cordero Fernando. As late as that seemed for me, it felt like a life-changer.

We met once a month, taking turns hosting meetings in each other’s home, eventually moving to restaurants. Gilda required each one of us to bring an essay to read, usually a first draft, on the unanimously chosen universal subject of love. This monthly baring of our understanding of love to one another, with all its joys and pains, proved cathartic for all and made for an ever closer bonding. First Draft for me was all about friendship and the discovery of the great satisfaction of having written.

One meeting, Gilda prodded me to send my assignments to the Philippine Daily Inquirer. I took her up on it, and one after another my essays saw print. One day, Thelma San Juan, then Inquirer Lifestyle editor, asked me to be a weekly columnist and a contributing editor for a new section, for seniors. I was thrilled; Gilda herself was the star writer for it. Although terrified, too, I had to be blind to not see the opportunity. I had found my niche; I had, for the first time in my life, a more or less regular job.

Finally did it

Letty Magsanoc, the Inquirer editor in chief whose brainchild it was, had been right; the section became fairly popular, with both young and old. It had a successful run for nearly a decade, almost as long as our First Draft’s lifespan, until one by one, we senior writers for the section had to face the reality of how much closer and closer to the end we were coming than anyone else.

Minyong Ordoñez went first, and a few years later Gilda herself stopped writing, and would herself pass on. For some time Conchita Razon and I held the fort, and Gil Yuzon joined us. But not long afterward Conchita herself retired to do the family book, and never came back. Thelma, too, retired and set up an online site. That left only me, and the section would soon go altogether. I’m still writing my column, still doing it weekly, but it is published mostly on digital now.

The ladies of First Draft, meanwhile, had been trying to put together a collection from our essays, but many things, like the loss of Gilda and member Rita Ledesma, not to mention the pandemic and other personal affairs, got in the way.

Well, we finally did it, through the selfless efforts and dedication of three of our own members: Lorna Kalaw Tirol, Karina Bolasco and Mariel Francisco. The books arrived at our homes as promised—five days before Christmas!

My own second solo collection also has been taking so long. But, as I’ve said, there’s no cut-off point for good things to happen. Like Christmas, my second book should be on its way.


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