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.

2016: a farewell

7 years ago, 16-year-old me unknowingly made a decision that would change her – our – life forever. As she embarked on the journey that would shape a great deal of the person she would become, she felt like the end goal was lightyears away. 7 years was definitely a long time. 

But look where we are now, 16-year-old Angeli. 2017 is but hours away. This is our year. 

~

I spent the first hours of the last day of the year, December 31, 2016, as the duty intern at the UP-PGH Cancer Institute. As the dawn set in, and I started my scheduled monitoring of the patients undergoing chemotherapy, the patients as well as their watchers began greeting each other a happy new year. When I entered one of the rooms to check on the patients’ vital signs, one of them, Mr. S, a middle-aged man undergoing chemotherapy, smiled me and enthusiastically greeted me, “Happy New Year na, doktora!” 

It was a mood uplifter in the middle of yet another duty night at the hospital. I smiled back at him and greeted him back. I proceeded to take his vital signs and ask him again how he was doing, how he was feeling. Mr. S just smiled and gave me a thumbs-up. He then told me how excited he was about being able to go home to spend the celebration of a new year. His chemotherapy session ended that morning and he was being discharged right after. I gamely shared my own gratitude for being able to go home to celebrate. Internship has been really tough in that you sometimes have to accept that you’ll be absent for a lot of things going on in the world outside the hospital, but when you get those rare times off, you have to make the most out of every second and spend those moments with the ones that mean most to you.

The sun was beginning to rise and for a short quiet moment, before returning to the Intern’s Corner, I found myself gazing at the mini-playground found in the middle of the Cancer Institute. Little by little, the expanding sunlight brought into view the humble garden that serves as a sanctuary of some sorts to the warriors fighting the battle known as cancer. The light signals the end of yet another duty night and I am overcome once again with gratitude. It was time to head home. 

~

That’s how I’d like to summarize my 2016. Tons of gratitude for being able to come home.

 Home has never been a singular concrete place. It is that feeling of belonging, of acceptance, of love, of simply being yourself. And after the rollercoaster that 2015 had been, 2016 was spent slowly finding my way back home. 

So, thank you, 2016. It hasn’t been easy, but I’m definitely glad to be here.

I’m definitely glad to be here to face the coming year and make it what it is meant to be: my year. 

2017, here I come. 

Stepping Stones

"The river rushes ever so fast,
ever so constantly.
It is a struggle to make the crossing. 
Take one stepping stone at a time,
one foot after the other,
slowly, but surely...
Make the great leap to the other side."

- Stepping Stones, 07/18/16

Celebrating 5 years of this amazing flight through life, I present the new look of theangeltakesflight! Cool, yeah? :) Credits to Shari Altamera for the shot taking waaaay back in 2012 during our trip to Guimaras Island, and to my lil’ bro, Chino Dumatol for the great editing work!

We’ve been medical interns for three weeks now! And so far, so good, I think. It felt bittersweet to be back in the hospital after a month’s break (the happenings of which I have yet to fully chronicle), and though part of me will always yearn for the chill life, another part is actually glad to be back.

Opening the year with a week at the MICU and a week at the Gen Med ER was tiring! Thank God for awesome residents, great duty mates, and amazing block mates to make things bearable and, at most times, fun. It does make a big difference. I’ve still got a lot to learn, but I’m very eager to continue growing to become the very best doctor that I can be.

It’s definitely not easy. Once again adjusting to daily grind of the pre-duty-post cycle, as well as the countless number of orders to carry out, chart and conduct, proved to be a challenge for the brain and body that still weren’t satisfied with a month of restless vacationing (blame it on the novel that has STILL yet to be finished!). To make things worse, at the back of my mind, I’m still really worrying about STILL not having a clear picture of what I want to do after internship and boards. What path to take? What path to take?

Still, as with every journey that requires a giant leap of faith, you can only take one stepping stone at a time, one rotation at a time. With hard work, prayer, and some miracles here and there, anything is possible. The right path has yet to open for me, and I only have to believe in it!

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Presenting the Ladies of UP-PGH Interns 2016-2017 Block J!  Here’s to a great year with you, girls!

We’re currently on our Orthopedics rotation, and while I’ve never pictured myself in the field, it’s been okay so far! Then again, I haven’t had an ER duty yet, so yeah… I maybe speaking too soon. Haha! Here’s to a benign duty tomorrow! Hoping for the best! :) Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be spending the rest of my pre-duty day, getting some writing AND studying in.

Soar high!

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Donning the Intern’s coat really does make a difference! It makes me feel more responsible in the way that I have to be extra mindful of my actions as well as decision-making! Patients and watchers designate me with the title “Doktora” without any hesitation now. With the extra kulit bantay even jokingly calling me Doktora Kim Chiu (after the Chinita actress) and promising to help me find my Xian Lim (said actress’s love team partner). Haha!

 

 

2015: a tribute

It’s December 31st of 2015, the year that, in a matter of hours from now will soon be known as the year that was. It’s the last day of the year and so, like many others, I can’t help but look back at the things that have happened.

What a year it has been, this whirlwind of events and emotions. It definitely had its fair share of up’s and down’s, laughter and tears, victories and failures. There have been so many surprises, not all of them good, not all of them bad.

I got to see the Pope personally, albeit only for a few seconds. I earned my bachelor’s degree in Basic Medical Sciences. I visited new places and tried out new things. I fell in and out (and then in again) love with both medicine and literature. I was eased into the world of the hospital, a big leap towards the future I always thought I wanted for myself. I discovered things that I wouldn’t mind doing for a lifetime as well as things that I wish I would never have to do ever again. I experienced great joy in the company of the people who matter most as well as terrible melancholy in the loneliness of heartbreak. I felt helplessness in the most inopportune of moments as the physical, emotional, mental, and even spiritual pains became too much to bear. I was able to stand up again and, in spite of my continuing recovering, am still hoping that complete healing would indeed be possible. I learned (and am still continuing to learn) how to distinguish what is true from what is not, but I have yet to fully accept how there are things that you just can’t change, no matter how much you want them to. But, I also learned that there are certain things that you can count on to never change, things that you can always depend on to be there for you, through thick and thin, though all the whirlwinds you will ever have to face.

I’d like to think that 2015 has helped me grow up, helped me figure out a lot of things about myself, about other people, about the world, but I think it has left far more questions than answers. Here’s to hoping the new year will be able to bring certain things into light.

As I bring yet another chapter to a close, I am both excited and terrified (mostly terrified) about writing the next one.