Death of handwriting


I was quite surprised to learn that my friend, Rogelio Braga, this year’s Palanca second prize winner for best short story written in Filipino still writes his works using pen and paper. With all the electronic gadgets to input all the information, one can actually write a prize-winning novel without having to cut a single tree. However this essay will do away with lecturing (or giving a sermon) on the better way of saving the environment by considering how we transmit information, or in the case of writing, giving a physical form to what is inherently cerebral undertaking.

On the contrary my reluctance to totally abandon script as a method to transform my thought or anyone’s into its more tangible version has less to do with environmnetalism as it is with the romantic aspect of writing and the beautiful feeling of my ballpoint licking the surface of a paper, leaving cursives that say more about my identity than all the combined adjectives I have used to describe myself.

This is not to say, nevertheless, that I am still doing hand. I don’t anymore, which I think is unfortunate. I type directly in my computer. According to Umberto Eco we are depriving history, or in case extra-terrestrial beings visit our planet in the future, any evidence that our thoughts pass through raw stages before they become the fluid collection of words we see in print.

Writing in script reminds me of the painstaking activities my classmates and I had to go through as we were learning how to write when we were eight years old. Our grade two teacher would write each letter on the blackboard, the mothers and children, the upper and lower cases respectively, and each of us had to fall in line to show her our imitation of her handwriting in cursive. One will have to be careful especially between T and F as the upper case F has a serif while the other has none. Or that there is an extra curl for capital letter C and the lower case is a simple semi-circle.

But with the advent of computers, smart phones, and PDAs, the art of handwriting is relegated to the back alleys of yesterday. My youngest sister who is eleven years old and is studying this time at the same central school all my other siblings including myself graduated from, surprisingly still writes in beautiful cursive. I wonder how things would have been had she studied in Manila and had been exposed to all the modern comforts we all ignore.

As for me, who is made too dependent on my computer, I cannot imagine myself writing on a piece of paper, but who knows? In the event those aliens come here earlier than predicted and start sacking our planet, I could revert to pen and paper and write something about them. Whenever I hear of people still writing their drafts on pieces of paper, I could not help but feel nostalgic about the not-so-distant past when I used to also do the same beautiful cursive and find satisfaction in seeing my unedited thoughts in my imitation of my second grade teacher’s handwriting.


5 thoughts on “Death of handwriting”

  1. i also do not know why my recollection of what i’ve been through when i was growing up in mindanao is so crisp. scary at times, but helps me a lot in writing.

    thanks for the link. i enjoyed reading it. very true.

  2. funny how you have vivid recollections of grade school. i don’t have much, ( must be alzheimers)tho’ i know it was lots of fun, not as much homework as gradeschoolers these days. :).
    great that grade schools still put the emphasis on handwriting. kids growing up in big cities, i think they miss all the fun of life in the province, like knowing what it’s like to just wander around in the neighborhood where everyone knows everyone else or nowing what the natural world is like. you’ve probably heard of those NY kids who were asked to draw a fish and drew fish sticks instead because they hadn’t seen a real one.
    re gadgets, there’s this funny guy on the Guardian who writes about the recent launching of the iPad with the title “iPad therefore iWant? Probably. Why? iDunno”. quite hilarious :):

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