The Art of the Novel: the ALBWW2018 Experience

The 3rd Amelia Lapeña Bonifacio Writers Workshop was held last July 11-15, 2018 at the University Hotel at the University of the Philippines – Diliman. This year’s workshop focused on the novel / nobela, and I was blessed to have been chosen to be part of the 12 participating fellows.

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The fellows of the 3rd Amelia Lapeña Bonifacio Writers Workshop – First day freshness? :) || Seated, from left: Angela, Angeli, Miguel, Erik, PJ; Standing, from left: Kat, Ernie, Jane, DJ, Rommel, Boon, EJ || Photo courtesy of UP Likhaan

Writing is like baring a part of your soul and putting it into paper in the form of words. You can never get the writer out of the words she puts down on the page, so it goes without saying that my anxiety levels shot up high at the thought of having my words read by no less than some of the finest authors of the Philippine literary scene. As if that wasn’t pressure enough, we were also going to spend an hour and a half of the workshop discussing nothing but my words.

But the nerves eventually all went away as I immersed myself in the experience of learning and basically just having fun with people who were just as, if not even more so, passionate about literature and creative writing as I am. We had lectures on craft and publishing, all providing much insight as to the ways and means of writing the novel. The panel workshop sessions wherein we discussed each other’s manuscripts brought forth allowed the sharing of opinions and ideas that gave a new take to the works-in-progress.

We talked about character development, the many ways of driving a narrative, setting a scene, and pushing forth a message. We talked about tone and voice and metaphors. We talked about world building and the power of imagination. We talked about the importance of research and how to translate it into a fictional story. I found myself very much blown away at the knowledge and talent around me.

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Leave it to a group of writers to use their free time to take a field trip to – where else – a book store! :) #ALBWW2018 hits the UP Press || Photo courtesy of Gela’s phone
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An artistic rendering of one of the panel workshop sessions, featuring me in an animated conversation with the one and only Jun Cruz Reyes, as well as the fabulous Miguel || Art by the amazingly talented Erik Pingol

It was truly an experience! Though, ironically enough, I didn’t get a single word of writing done during the 5-day event, I thoroughly enjoyed the stimulating discussions and was able to take home advice to help me improve my craft. (The free food certainly helped in completing the whole experience. As in. My stomach could not keep up with the immense amount of food.)

At the end of the day, what I’m most thankful for is gaining a place within a community of artists, all intent in using their God-given gift of words to express, to educate, and to inspire. Writing may be a solitary activity, but behind that single byline are so many people who shaped and influenced the writer to bring out the very best in her words. Being amongst fellow word weavers who were going through the same joys and pains of the life of a novelist is truly a gift. I think sepanx (separation anxiety) hit us not long after parting! Haha!

I end this entry as the Amelia Lapeña Bonifacio did her speeches during our welcoming ceremony as well as graduation: Write.

No other words. Just that.

Write.

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Ending the 5-day workshop with big smiles, immense gratitude, and matching T-shirts. :) A big thank you to UP Likhaan – Institute of Creative Writing, for this opportunity! Thank you to all our panelists and lecturers! Thank you co-fellows! || Photo courtesy of Roge Gonzales (UP Likhaan)

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An Elegy for the Lost

I miss you .

 

The way you happily welcomed each new day,

Greeting everyone with a “Good morning!”

Not just with your words, but with your smile

That lit up your face, much like the sun does to the world.

 

The way you wore kindness on your sleeves,

Matched with untarnished sincerity,

Never thinking twice about trying

To see the best in other people, no matter what.

 

The way you pursued the things that meant a lot to you,

With passion and drive to reach for the stars,

Certain that anything less will not be enough,

And that nothing more is just too much.

 

The way you felt so secure in your own person,

Self- assured but never arrogant,

Not minding what other people thought or said,

Just content to be able to do what you wanted in life.

 

I miss you,

And I mourn for the loss of you every day,

Wondering if you’ll ever find your way back to me,

Or if I’ll ever be able to finally move on.

The Decision

The Decision

 

You’ll probably never get to read this,

(because you never read any of my stuff )

but I still want to write it all down.

When you made the Decision three years ago,

when you chose to walk away from it all

to go after what you really want

to be the person you really want to be,

I thought you were crazy.

And yet, some part of me understood.

Some part of me was envious even.

Because you were able to make the choice I never could.

You were brave enough to make the Decision.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to gather as much courage.

I don’t even know if it’ll make a difference if I do.

But I’ll try to be brave in my own way,

so that come one day,

I’ll be able to embrace the Truth as you did.

A Pledge to the Written Word

I did it. I finally did it.

I’ve finally made the decision to put writing first for the coming months. God knows I’ve always put it last, compared to all my doctor stuff, but now that I finally have time on my side, I’m going to put it first. I want to see what happens when I give it my full focus, when I give it my 100% and more, when I give it priority.

A writing mentor of mine once advised me to treat writing as a job because that’s what it is. It’s a job. But I could never fully treat it as such when I only turned to writing when I can have ample breaks from my medical life. I think I’ve lost a lot of writing opportunities because I was so busy trying to become a doctor. Furthermore, I think I also  failed to give my all into my academic work because I was likewise concerned over the stories that were demanding to be written and yet had to be downright ignored. But that’s another blog entry to be told…

I miss the good old high school days when I could seemingly manage to do multiple things all at the same time and with much success. Academic and extra-curriculars at school gave me a relatively full daily schedule that was more-or-less balanced out by the privilege of being able to go home as well as enjoying weekends off. Somehow, back then, I was able to keep my spot on the honor roll, while heading two student organisations, representing the school in a number of competitions and seminars, maintaining a semblance of a social life, and getting ample time to write. In the words of my dad, I am truly amazed at how [Past Angeli] could do all these things…  I keep reminiscing about those times, trying to figure out if there was something I lost over the years or if there’s something I’m doing wrong now. God knows I’d like to know.

I still think it’s possible to one day be able to reconcile my two loves – medicine and literature – without ever compromising one over the other. But for now, for the sake of my peace of mind, I’m going to go at it one at a time. I know that I still want to pursue residency, but applications for regular training aren’t until September – October, so I’m giving myself the remaining months to enjoy just being a writer. My heart’s always been with the written word, so I think it’s only right that I give myself a chance at this.

It’s not going to be easy. In fact, a few months may still not be enough, but it’s way more than I’ve ever had. But because this has always been a dream of mine, I’m willing to put in work to make things happen. This, I pledge.

Exploring Horizons

I spent a good amount of the day thinking, so much so that I had absolutely no progress with my writing, reading, or studying. I have absolutely 0% progress with that latter, since I’m still having an internal debate with myself. With certain opportunities opening its doors to me, I just had to take some time to explore my horizons.

How do you know if a certain thing is for you? I hate these moments of indecision so much. I’m so afraid of making mistakes, so afraid of choosing wrong, of getting my spirit broken and wounded yet again when it still hasn’t healed completely. As much as I don’t want to compare myself to my peers, I can’t help but do that, and be envious of the determination they possess, of the paths they’re exploring, of seeing the path they know is theirs. I’m envious of their pursuit of their dreams.

I used to have dreams. I think I still have them, but they’re currently all so blurry in my mind. I miss the days when I have such a clear vision in my head, something that’ll provide me with a drive to succeed and better myself. Right now, because of the gift of time, I’m inclined to think long and hard about what I want to achieve, and so far, I unfortunately still can’t give a 100%.

Some part of me is thinking about going back to school, but circumstances would require me to pursue a public health degree and I don’t know if I’m up for that, not because I’m not interested in it, but because I’ve never imagined myself in that kind of work. Thinking about it terrifies me.

One thing I’m really sure about, though, is that I want to spend time writing. God knows how desperately I want to complete my long overdue novels. Maybe I should take a complete year off and just write? Mom and Dad say I have to at least do something medical so as not to lose hold of my knowledge and skills. I’m amenable to doing hospital duties, but I think what I just want for myself is an OPD post, something to do in the day, so that after work, I can go home and comfortably write.

In fact, if I’m really going to be honest with myself, I’m having an extremely difficult time deciding because what I really want is a medical field that will allow me time to write. Yes, it’s such a big part of my life that I really don’t want to sacrifice writing for a hardcore specialty. I love the OR, and it’s my happy place, but a lot of things are making me hesitant about pursuing Surgery or OB-GYN primarily because of the toxicity that will never allow me time to write (let alone time to think about writing), as well as the physical and mental demands of both. The relatively lighter field of Ophtha was what attracted me the most to the field, and it still seems like what can give me the best balance of my two wants. But the field is dangerously competitive nowadays and because I’m so afraid of getting my heart broken again, I want to be 100% certain that I want it before putting myself out there again.

Sigh~ This is so hard. I just want to commit to something. I wonder when I’ll ever reach, or even go near, 100% certainty.

Lord God, help me.

The Year, My Year

“Our eyes are placed in front because it is more important to look ahead than to look back.”  – Anonymous

Hey! It’s been a while, I know, and a lot of things have happened since I last visited my little nook here in cyberspace. Not to worry though! I will try to get entries written more often, now that it seems like I’ve suddenly got a lot of time in my hands.

First things first – seeing as my last entry was waaaaay back during our OB-GYN rotation, I’m pleased to write that I’ve successfully finished my internship, graduated from medical school, and passed the Physician Licensure Examinations last September, making this my first Flight entry as an official doctor. Yay~! I did lots of studying during the interval, as well as a lot of self-doubting, crying, praying, and contemplating life decisions. But after all that, it’s been decided that I do not plunge into residency just yet and instead, come up with this battleplan: The Year, My Year.

You see, I realize that it seems that I’ve been rushing through things all my life. I didn’t get to graduate grade school since my parents thought I’d be fine without taking Grade 7, so I transfered schools to get into high school straight from Grade 6. High school was great, probably some of the best years of my life), and then came college/med school wherein I was given the opportunity to rush ahead again, this time in the form of the prestigious Integrated Liberal Arts and Medicine (INTARMED) program of the UP College of Medicine. I was to spend only two years of pre-Med before diving into the trenches of medical school. Those two years were fun, thanks to great company, but they were also some of my most trying of moments – everything had to be learned at a faster pace, and what made it even more difficult is that I had to act like I wasn’t having a hard time with all of it, especially since I was surrounded by geniuses, knowing that I was nothing like them. Hindi pala ako matalino, nagsisipag lang.

Even while pursuing residency programs, it still seemed like I was rushing, what with, at 23-years-old, I appeared one of the youngest among those in the running. While I think it’s ultimately not the case, a part of me can’t help but think that my age somehow turned against me with consultants commenting  “bata ka pa naman”, or “you have youth on your side, it’s okay”, or even “okay lang ‘yan, magpa-mature [ka] muna”. But, my youth is besides the point – the bottom line is I didn’t qualify now; it’s not for me yet, it’s not yet my time.

Maybe this is God’s way of telling me to stop rushing and just take some time to rest, explore, and grow. He knows just how exhausting it’s all been for me, in more ways than one. There’s never been a race, anyway; we get to our own finish lines at our times. 

For now, I’m eager to claim this year as The Year, My Year. In fact, I have such high hopes for this year that I’m officially making a tag just for it, so as to compile this and all future entries

I’m happy to look forward. 

I’ve been watching old and new Asian dramas just because I have the time now (especially when I get writer’s block). Here’s something from Atashinchi no Danshi, a J-Drama way back from 2009. :)

Why I Do It (and Why I Continue Doing It)

You never forget your first love. Even if you’ve already come into terms with the fact that you’re definitely not going to end up together, your first love still occupies a special part of your heart. I initially had qualms about facing my first love again and to make things even more difficult, we were to spend two whole months together. Dear Lord, how am I going to survive this? 

But here we are. It’s over. My OB-GYN internship rotation is officially over, and I’m exhausted. I feel so drained both physically and mentally, but every day of that seemingly endless pre-duty-post cycle was worth it. I learned a lot. I had fun. And most of all, I got to be a witness (as well as directly assisting) in the everyday miracle of bringing new life into this world.

Pre-Duty days were spent charting countless of new and follow-up patients at the OB-GYN General Service out-patient department. Normally, I liked seeing patients in this kinds of environment, since it’s relatively more benign and there was no pressure of urgency, but there were days when the OPD still went a bit out of hand. Intense. One particular day had us charting way past 5pm in the afternoon. I didn’t get the chance to eat a proper lunch! Still, our days at the OPD gave me the chance to learn from the rich pool of patient cases in UP-PGH. I know the basics of pre-natal check-up like the back of my hand, and can confidently do internal examination and the Pap smear test. What a far cry from my old self, who basically panicked at the thought of having to do IE. (Read about my memorable LU IV OB-GYN experience here: Crepes, Cramps, and Contractions)

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Service B-est! :) Endless charting at the OPD is nothing when you’re with awesome co-interns and residents! || Photo from Biel Faundo

Duty days were, of course, where the action was. It was real roller coaster ride going through 4-5 straight OBAS (OB Admitting Section a.k.a. OB emergency room) and LRDR (Labor Room – Delivery Room) duties. All those unbelievably toxic duties! In the OBAS, we practically defined fast charting. And every time our resident would yell out “Admission!” caused a rapid call to action to ‘admit’, which entailed inserting an IV line, drawing blood, making the patient’s identity “flag”, and of course, the insistent reminder to fill up that patient info slip (the perpetual Kaalaman form). I was unfortunate to have two Labs Master duties, both on High Risk Fridays. This meant that I had no other task during the duty day, except to run up and down to and from the Department of Laboratories to submit specimens and retrieve and take note of results. And when there is a suspected pre-eclampsia patient, stat Alb meant stat Alb, and make sure the labs know it!

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The benign color spectrum at the LRDR :) Thank you, thank you to our stellar clerks and our awesome residents for everything! And of course, thank you to all the mommies who allowed us to be a part of an important milestone in their lives. || Photo from Gienah Evangelista

 

On the other hand, LRDR duties were spent on labor watch. Whew. All that toco-monitoring! All that TIC (Temporary-In-Charge) work, what with all the LR backlogs I had the weird tendency to get decked Young Primigravids (ie. 18-year-olds and below who were pregnant for the very first time), so you can only imagine how my patience was repeatedly tested by these obviously-too-young-for-this types. They generally had a low pain threshold, so they didn’t take labor too well. I had to repeatedly counsel them about the responsibility they were to face as new mothers, and that they had to stop thinking only about themselves from that point on. Another life was going to be at the mercy of their hands, come the birth of their child.

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I love Pay duties. I love witnessing the “ideal” side of things. But most of all, I love Complete Bed Rest duties. Yaaay~ || Photo from Gienah Evangelista

 

I definitely wouldn’t miss the 24-hour monitoring duties at the OB ward, not to mention the grabe-naman-tama-na-po list of To-Do’s that required me to line, line, extract, and line some more. The end of OB-GYN also marks the potential end of my OR career, should I choose not to go into a cutting specialty in the future, so there’s that to think about. And yay, no more 7AM Summary Rounds! No more I-don’t-know-anything Gyne Onco and Tropho Rounds!

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“Nasaan na ang pasiyente? Higa na sa kama! Tanggal ng pambaba!” 

All-in-all, I’d say that I had a pretty fruitful OB-GYN Internship rotation. I had a blast helping all the new mommies. There were definitely days when I would repeatedly question why I continue to do this doctor thing. God knows how extremely difficult duties can get. And though you are granted a day of rest what with the true post-duty status, it can never be enough, ’cause before you know it, you have to go on duty yet again. It never ends! It was definitely a bloody business, but I learned that as long as you push hard enough and don’t give up, good outcomes can definitely be expected. It was all definitely worth it, considering everything you’ve gained at the end. #BabyOut

Hinga ng malalim, pigil, and push! Only 70-something more days left of Internship! Let’s do this!

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