On seeing her

I have some vivid mental images of her. We were in second grade. It was a humid June morning; my section felt uneasy in our seats confronted by a foreign being that didn’t look like most of us. Our grade two teacher, Ma’am Ureta, was staring at her while her mother was explaining to our class adviser why her daughter missed the enrollment. After roughly 15 minutes, she was asked by my teacher to say good bye to her mother and to occupy the empty seat three desks from where I was seated. She was wearing a lavender shirt, a pencil cut skirt, and a backpack made from woven rattan strips. She looked so different from your usual public central school kid. Her skin was a lot fairer, her face radiant unlike most of us then who looked sullen if not hungry having missed breakfast or were too poor to afford it. She looked well-fed. I, in particular, was a few strands away from looking malnourished. I am not sure if we instantly clicked, but our friendship spanned nineteen years. In a year’s time she looked like most of us, public school kids. Playing under the midday sun with us charred her skin, the sweat left her hair sticking and reeking in that quintessential odor of kids unaffected by life’s many hardships that luckily only the adults worry about.

Today, I saw her again. This time, her face looked even more, I am not sure, luminescent, I suppose. She looked happy and content. Tired, yes, after having gone through the rigors of med board reviews, but there’s something that seemed to well up from within her.

And I love what I saw. I am very happy for her. I envy her in fact. She has within her the best gift a woman can ever have.

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.