A Letter To My Fellow Adulting Millennial

Behind the story: This article was originally published on Rappler on July 18, 2017 but I actually wrote it months before supposedly as contribution to a 2017 planner. I decided not to push through with submitting it for the planner because 1) It’s too long for a page, and 2) It might not reach as many people–and, well, that was my goal.

I wanted to inspire at least one millennial out there who is in the place of uncertainty and probably self-doubt. I was hoping it could be some sort of a metaphorical group hug to my fellow millennials who experience the pains of adulting but continue to soldier on.

It’s a combination of everything I’ve heard from my peers in our life talks. And while it’s always scary to be this vulnerably honest, the fear is always outweighed by the potential impact it can make.



A Letter To My Fellow Adulting Millennial

Dear FAM,

I hope it’s cool with you that I’m writing more than 140 characters this time. I just want to talk about something you and your squad have surely discussed in your recent meetups (or in your Facebook group chat if your planned cocols remain…planned).

Let’s start with me guessing that you just got out of college and that at first you were so, so sure about who you wanted to be. It seemed logical to find work related to the course you took up. Because you planned for this, right? And your parents are quietly waiting. (Plus, admit it, you just couldn’t wait to post about your employment status on Facebook. That would be a major event.) So off you went and applied for your first job.

Fast forward to saying yes to your first job offer, meeting your first boss, slaying your first month at work, and treating yo self after getting your first sweldo. Yasss, gurl. This is what it feels like. And this—this is you now.

If your mind were a Twitter profile, the pinned tweet would be a banner showing your job title in glittery text and matching confetti. Suddenly, your work becomes who you are, and you begin to see others through that lens.

So, what’s the problem now? Well, not much, other than sometimes finding yourself staring blankly at your computer screen (at night, at the ceiling) thinking what the hell this is all for.

Then again, should you really be surprised?

You knew it was going to be like this. This is the world your professors warned you about in the same way that it is the world you’ve always wanted to be part of. You’ve always admired those working girls wearing pencil skirts on a daily basis just ’cause they looked so chic and so sure of themselves. Your older friend who once excused himself from a hangout “because I have work tomorrow” sounded so cool when he said it. This is what the 16-year-old you would have wanted.

But now? Now, all it offered you is a welcome gift of never-ending work and taxes to pay. Now, it dawned on you that there are no more certain summer breaks and sem breaks to speak of. From the moment you entered the office on your first day of work, you were automatically registered to play in a game called Basically Showing Up At Work Because What Else Can Be Done With My Life And Then Just Doing This Until I Decide To Retire And Eventually Die.

Welcome, player! Would you like to continue?

Press play for a quick mini game called Asking The Big Questions That Make You Uncomfortable!

Are you just settling for this job? Why are you browsing Jobstreet when you barely need it? Is this all you can do? Why aren’t you happy? Or maybe you are. Wait, are you? How can you be sure?

Time’s up! Let’s compare your score with your friends’ through their social media accounts, shall we?

Look, it’s your ex-blockmate Dani who seems to be having fun in Singapore. (She even created a personal hashtag for her trip, because, y’know, the trip wouldn’t be legit if it didn’t have one.) And, gurl, Rachel is glowing up! Makati office life really suits her. Oohhh, that ramen looks so good beside that…cactus. Wait a minute, what? Your classmate in highschool just got engaged?! You couldn’t even say hi to your crush.

Pause.

You glance at the bowl you’re holding. Yep, you’re eating noodles again. It’s still two days before the 15th, so you have 48 hours left to endure first world-level deprivation. No fancy cafè dining for now, meaning Jollibee = heaven. No biggie, though. You’ve been doing this for almost six months ’cause you’re the kween of living paycheck to paycheck.

Wow. Six solid months.

You realize that half a year of working in the same position does start to feel routinary afterwards. “Everyday is just a series of not quitting,” you’ve been telling yourself as some sort of motivation since Day 1, yet now you’re toying with the idea that probably anytime after six months is the perfect opportunity to go out there and experience something else.

But where to? And what is it that you want to do anyway? The crazy thing is that you don’t even know anymore. And nothing sucks more than finally having freedom to achieve your dreams yet suddenly not knowing what those dreams are.

But here’s what I’ve learned from all the bookmarked articles that I’ve (thank God, finally) read about finding one’s passion and purpose: It’s not supposed to be that hard.

Simply put: You do you, gurl.

Do the thing that makes you light up when you talk about it with another person because you’re that excited about it. Do the thing that makes it so okay for you to pull an all-nighter and just laugh it off when you suddenly realize, “Luh, umaga na pala.

 

Some people forget what used to make them feel this way. If that’s you, then dear, please remind yourself of all the wonderful stuff you are capable of. Remember the very reason you were excited to go out and conquer this so-called real world.

I’m pretty sure there’s something you’ve always wanted to do—better yet, something you have been doing so effortlessly well that it didn’t occur to you that its other name is passion.

And, man, you have the rest of your life to figure that out.

Until then, continue to act like a real responsible human being. Learn not to hate Mondays that much, try to wake up before your alarm goes off, and never tolerate mediocrity in your work. Stay woke. Deserve your wildest dreams.

And if asked to describe this generation, let your response be: “We’re not the lazy, entitled screenagers you expected us to be.”

Slaying this game with you,
Your FAM

Link to the  original post: http://x.rappler.com/x/rosebarroga16/1500377214593-A-Letter-To-My-Fellow-Adulting-Millennial

How I Met My Mentor: Megan Tan

photoon6-25-15at10-25am

Photo grabbed from the website of ‘Millennial’

The bio: Megan Tan is the host and producer of “Millennial,” a radio documentary about maneuvering your 20s—and embracing the discomfort that comes with it.

How I found her: I discovered my love for podcasts only in 2016, when out of curiosity (and boredom with the same artists I was listening to) I checked out that section of Spotify. The first podcast I ever listened to was fun and cool enough, but I felt like I needed something that would speak to me at that time. I just got out of college then and was unemployed. I felt uneasy thinking about this scary period vaguely called the future. Seeing some of my batchmates update their work description on Facebook—I’ll be very honest—put a ton of pressure on me. So, while I was searching for the perfect podcast, the name showed up. And being naturally drawn to anything that attempts to define this generation I am proudly part of, I clearly had no reason not to listen.

Why she makes the Internet a better place: Because she has no filter. In this day and age where everyone has some sort of personal branding to build through curated posts of their carefully presented selves, it’s refreshing to find someone who presents her raw self to the point that she almost becomes vulnerable in the process. I remember listening to one of her podcast episodes while riding a bus to Manila to start my first day on my first job. It was nighttime, it was really cold, and the view outside the window was a dreamy backdrop. In the episode, she was talking about deciding between choosing a job offer or her own passion project (the podcast itself), and I just sat there staring at luminous lights, wanting to cry happy tears about how accurate she describes the self-doubt, discomfort, anxiety, and everything else that I also felt in my own journey.

What she taught me: Let’s face it. Adulthood is never going to be easy. Actually, you know what? It might only get scarier year after year, and this whole figuring out thing never ends. But here’s something we can hold on to: We’re all in the same boat. Like Megan, a lot of us feel the same fears every now and then. Ever looked at your Instagram feed and felt a little jealous about how other people live such fabulous lives, and you’re there being unproductive spending half of your day in social media? News flash! Those fabulous people feel the same fears, too. (Except Beyoncé. Probably.)

Also, there’s the beauty of going after what excites you, regardless of what people believe you are capable of doing. It’s a bonus that I have a background in journalism and Megan herself practiced photojournalism and had the same dilemma of whether or not she should join a publication like her peers would expect. And her choosing her risky passion for radio (She started recording the whole thing in her closet!) over the safe, expected choice inspired me to always go after what I really want—which is not very clear at this time, but I am slowly discovering in every major step.

The major takeaway: This whole journey of achieving our #goals will most likely be frustrating, but we’ll get by. After all, we’re the “entitled” generation who were told by our parents we could do anything we set our minds to 😉

Where you can find her: @meganleetan or @millennialpdcst on Twitter; millennialpodcast.org for the website

What you should check out as soon as you finish reading this: Season 1 of the podcast! It will always be my favorite since it’s very personal and it really hits close to home.

 

How I Met My Mentor is a series of posts about individuals who have provided no-nonsense and awe-inspiring content amid the noise polluting the World Wide Web. It is my hope that these so-called digital mentors serve as a reminder that there is no such thing as “too much internet” when you’re talking about great content.

If you have a digital mentor in mind whose work you think should be shared with the world, shoot me an email using the contact form embedded in this website.

To read my previous How I Met My Mentor posts featuring goal setting mentor Arriane Serafico and ‘Shots of Awe’ creator Jason Silva, click here and here.

How I Met My Mentor: Jason Silva

jasonsilva_2

Photo grabbed from Jason Silva’s website

The bio: Jason Silva is a futurist, philosopher, filmmaker, and host of National Geographic Channel’s “Brain Games.”

How I found him: Everything started with a petty observation I had while watching the said show: “Hey, look. This host is cute.” And you know what happens after a comment like that. You instantly google the guy to see what else he’s up to, you fall into the abyss of non-ending stream of links, and voila, you find a whole new world to discover. I ended up watching a video (and another, and another…) on his Youtube channel “Shots of Awe,” where he philosophizes about the future, creativity, imagination, love, and even death, among others. Anyone who sees at least one video from that channel will surely get awestruck.

Why he makes the Internet a better place: Because he thinks the Internet is indeed a magical place! I don’t see a lot of people who are very optimistic about the future and technology in general. Even a quick browse in your news feed would usually lead you to articles suggesting how, say, artificial intelligence could take over the world and spew catastrophe—which actually seems possible (thanks to Netflix series Black Mirror‘s artful imagining of the potential dangers of technology) but is not the only possible outcome. You can use fire to burn your enemies or to cook food, I remember Jason saying in one of his videos.

Also, social media can get really, really toxic with everyone sending their thoughts out into the void without control nor warning, so it’s always refreshing to hear at least one voice that reminds you to always be in awe of life itself. I especially love it when I get a Facebook notification saying Jason is going live. When I click it, there he is recording himself going on a mind-trip with a friend and just spontaneously talking about life and death and how art and love can temporarily serve as our religion—probably even an antidote—to our own anticipated decay. At the end of it, you find yourself getting drunk in awe and wonder. And just like that—through eavesdropping on a deep conversation from some part of the world miles away from where you are through a “digital wormhole”—the mundanity of your day becomes more bearable.

What he taught me: With every “philosophical espresso shot” that I watch, I feel like I become born again with a fresh perspective about life and the little things. I start seeing nature in its pure poetic beauty as it would be depicted in the videos themselves. I begin to understand people differently—why they cry, why they fall in love, why they create art, and how doing so can “save” them in some way.

The major takeaway: We are faced with one certain outcome: death. The period between being born and that sure-fire eventual decay is this thing called life. How do we make the most out of it? We live by following our bliss. We engage in things that bring us “cognitive ecstasy.” We consume art. We love. We remain in awe of life. We appreciate and improve what we humans can do with our hands. We must, as Dylan Thomas said, “rage, rage against the dying of the light.” That’s how we live.

Where you can find him: @jasonsilva on Twitter; /JasonLSilva on Facebook and Instagram; thisisjasonsilva.com for his website; “Shots of Awe” on Youtube (And I wish he had a podcast, too!)

What you should check out as soon as you finish reading this:“Shots of Awe” on Youtube, of course! My favorites include The Instagram Generation, Existential Bummer, We Don’t Cry Because We’re SadHappiness Lives In The New, FOMO: The Fear Of Missing Out, and Why We Explore. These videos with Silva and Neil deGrasse Tyson arguing about what makes life life and Silva explaining the miracle of life to a cute baby also make me cry happy tears.

The wonderful thing about opening your eyes to this kind of thinking is that you can never go back to being blind, so to speak. When you experience awe as a constant feeling—something that is as natural and effortless as blinking—you basically allow yourself to live your life differently, probably more fully.

 

How I Met My Mentor is a series of posts about individuals who have provided no-nonsense and awe-inspiring content amid the noise polluting the World Wide Web. It is my hope that these so-called digital mentors serve as a reminder that there is no such thing as “too much internet” when you’re talking about great content.

If you have a digital mentor in mind whose work you think should be shared with the world, shoot me an email using the contact form embedded in this website.

To read my previous How I Met My Mentor post featuring goal setting mentor Arriane Serafico, click here.

How I Met My Mentor: Arriane Serafico

arriane

Photo grabbed from her Twitter account @arrianeserafico


The bio:
Arriane Serafico is a design thinking advocate, social media expert, and creative blogger from the Philippines.

How I found her: Her name has always been familiar to me since I first saw it on a promotional poster of a blogging conference held in our university, but I never really made the effort to look her up until I came across a link to her free course about enhancing productivity. Being a broke millennial and a guilty procrastinator, I was the perfect target for it. I immediately subscribed to her newsletter, and from there I basically said “omg same” to everything.

Why she makes the Internet a better place: There’s a reason I didn’t attend the bloggers’ conference I mentioned earlier; I had this unfair perception of bloggers as fancy narcissists. (I know. I’m sorry!) But that changed when I discovered how Arriane uses her blog for a bigger purpose which is helping why-driven women achieve their passion and purpose. I mean, just reading that sentence makes me hear victorious cheers and see confetti. The positivity surrounding the community she created is just contagious.

What she taught me: Joining the “90 Braver Days” challenge was a major wake-up slap to my years-long productivity slump. Every New Year, I would tell myself I’d be a “version 2.0” and set vague, unrealistic life goals and–you know it–I would always end up achieving less. The “90 Braver Days” course taught me that it’s all about the “why” and the ways you stick to systems to make your goal a reality. This barely covers everything I’ve learned in the course, but suffice it to say that this is by far the most effective productivity course I took since I started actively seeking self-growth. Also, Project Ed is a product of my joining “90 Braver Days” and now I’m just inspired to (hopefully) do more passion projects in the future ❤

The major takeaway: Living a life of passion and purpose ultimately lies in your own hands.

Where you can find her: @arrianeserafico on Twitter and Instagram; arrianeserafico.com; thepurposefulcreative.com for her podcast

What you should check out as soon as you finish reading this: Her Braver Goals course! Drop everything and go to this link to learn more about it: http://courses.bravergoals.com/?affcode=26003_v2awdkmv or this http://join.bravergoals.com/?affcode=26003_v2awdkmv#joinnow if you only want the workbook

Investing in your self-growth is one of the best things you can do as an adult, so I would strongly suggest enrolling ASAP 😉 Go for it! ❤

 

How I Met My Mentor is a series of posts about individuals who have provided no-nonsense and awe-inspiring content amid the noise polluting the World Wide Web. It is my hope that these so-called digital mentors serve as a reminder that there is no such thing as “too much internet” when you’re talking about great content.

If you have a digital mentor in mind whose work you think should be shared with the world, shoot me an email using the contact form embedded in this website.

20160930_1932481

Rose Barroga, 21, is an AB Journalism alumna of the University of Santo Tomas.

She is constantly in the pursuit of self-growth and at least eight hours of sleep. She’s still trying to be proud of her rough-sounding surname, and she’s also working on being proud of herself.

She hopes this website helps.

So what exactly is Project Ed?

Good question.

If you’ve already read About Project Ed (which I hope you did!) and still don’t get much of it, that’s totally fine.

Here’s a clearer picture.

Project Ed (Ed is short for “Editor”) is basically a series of one-on-one coaching sessions conducted mostly via email, social media, and (hopefully) at least one in-person meeting.

Joining Project Ed as a mentee would be like having a personal editor, someone who will give no-nonsense feedback on news articles, feature articles, news feature articles, and even personal essays.

The feedback will be focused more on style than substance. (This is NOT to say that one is more important than the other, of course! It’s just that the content is yours to decide.) Hence, I’ll be giving tips on structure, advanced grammar, word choice, and everything else that can elevate your work and make it publishable.

Project Ed is NOT about

  • doing your assignment, research, or academic paper for you
    • Don’t even get me started on this.
  • teaching you from level zero how to write news, feature, or news feature articles
    • You have your professors—or if you’re not studying journalism, e-courses—to do that for you. (Although if there will be people willing enough to join this project and teach those in detail, that would be awesome!)
  • rewriting your article for you
    • I will be there to provide comments, but the work of rewriting and rewriting and rewriting will be yours to execute. Remember, a huge part of learning how to write better is learning how to rephrase better, and that’s done by constant practice of reshuffling words and phrases until the work looks decent enough for submission.

BUT just in case you have questions on news writing, feature writing, news feature writing, or writing in general, I’ll be more than willing to help bridge the gap and take you in the right direction 🙂

Now, Project Ed is definitely for you if

  • you are a college freshman, sophomore, or junior with an interest in journalistic writing, or even blogging
  • you are NOT in a publication and you don’t have access to an editor or mentor
  • you genuinely want to improve your writing
  • you are actually trying but you don’t know how to go further without someone’s guidance

Project Ed is NOT for you if

  • you don’t respect deadlines
  • you can’t take constructive criticisms
  • you don’t actually feel excited about the coaching process even after reading this post
  • you think it’s “just another workshop where I will just be taught what I already know” or it’s “just another course with boring modules and stuff

Well, let me stop you right there.

The wonderful thing about Project Ed is that it’s not a workshop, course, tutorial nor class that just churns out lectures and leaves you overwhelmed with information. No.

Project Ed is meant to foster an intimate editor-to-writer relationship where the mentee’s strengths and weaknesses are identified by the mentor prior to the actual coaching process. I want to know exactly where you are in your writing journey, what else needs fixing, and where you want to be headed so I can provide sufficient feedback targeted specifically to your needs.

If that’s not what you need right now, that’s fine. Come back when you’re ready  🙂

But if you’re the kind of person who is novaturient *wink wink* and is always ready to take the challenge—all for the sake of self-growth—then you’re in the right place and I’d love to meet you!

Oh, wait. Just a disclaimer before we proceed.

I cannot stress this enough: I am in no way claiming to be an expert in any of the topics previously mentioned. I only intend to share whatever I learned in years of being a Journalism student, a local publication editor, and an adult striving to be better at work and in everything else she does  🙂

If you’re doubting my credentials, that’s alright. I do, too. (I honestly think we all have to doubt our skills every now and then so we’ll never settle for complacency.)

And if it helps quiet your fear that this will be just a waste of time, please feel free to navigate through the site (everything’s here, including my professional profile) and see for yourself if I am even worthy  to teach you. Seriously, it could be the other way around!  🙂

Now, if you’re okay with everything, then you’re ready for the best part.

Project Ed is—wait for it—totally free! (Cool, huh?)

To enroll as a mentee, fill out the sign-up form below. For inquiries, email me at rosebarroga.projected@gmail.com.

 

Make-up: An Attempt At Flash Fiction

Behind the story: First of all, let me emphasize that this piece was only an attempt at writing something remotely related to journalism. The idea of writing flash fiction never came to my mind. I never even knew what it meant until our then Retorika professor, Mr. Eros Atalia, decided that our final requirement would be to recite a dagli—with feelings—in front of the whole class and before panelists Ferdinand Pisigan Jarin and Joselito Delos Reyes.

Really, no big deal.

Now, here’s another thing. For the topic of the dagli, we were supposed to pick an issue of social relevance. And the title should be double-edged. And  please avoid the surprise-the-boy-is-gay kind of story.

If I remember it clearly, most of my classmates dealt with the topic of sex. I think it’s because they thought that creative writing required one to be fearless and open-minded, hence, be able to talk about supposedly taboo stuff.

Alright, fine. I was one of them. And somehow I kind of twisted the forbidden surprise-the-boy-is-gay story into something else. I also tried to *wink* make up *wink* for any possible faults in the story itself by providing a double-edged title, as requested.

And then all I had to do was deliver it. With confidence.

Here’s the piece I had to perform. *disappears into a void*



Make-up

“Boom-boom-boom!” say ko habang nagpapahid ng foundation sa kutis kong pang-mega star. Pulang-pula na rin ang kissable kong lips. Feel na feel ko ng very much na ako ang pinakabonggang sirena sa balat ng universe!

Finally, mapu-push na ng very hard ang pinakauna kong show boulevard dito sa bar. Siguradong hiyawan nanaman ang mga papa sa’kin nito. Umakyat ako sa highest level ng aangkinin kong stage. Nagkagulo ang kalalakihan. Shet, iba alindog ko, beh!

Nagsigawan dela cruz pati ‘yung dalawang pogi sa bandang likod. Lasing na pareho. Nalasing yata sa beauty ng lola mong feeling girl.

Nilapitan ako nung isang kuya mong boy. Sugod kung sugod naman ‘tong si pogi. In need yata ng bagong motor. Sinama niya ako sa kuwarto, saka siya dali-daling nagpaputok.

Boom. Boom. Boom. Nabingi ako sa sarili kong ungol.

Sunod kong nalaman, nakahiga na lang ako rito sa malasutla at makitid na kama. May flowers. May kandila. May salamin sa ibabaw.

Wala nang mas kakapal pa sa make-up ko ngayon.

 

 

When A Wattpad Writer Wins

Note: Some of the surnames were removed to protect the privacy of certain sources, since the original article was meant for academic purposes only.

She stands skittishly on the left side of this luxurious ballroom, where glamor is spelled by glass and silk. Sophistication fills the atmosphere, thanks to people prancing in it. Like an honor student on her graduation day, she counts down to the time her name resounds in every stranger’s consciousness. And when it does, she inhales deeply, sighs shortly, and walks promptly to the stage. Extending her right hand, she shakes those of the somebodies carrying the surname that defined all this grandness.

And just like that, she gets hold of her Palanca grand prize for a nobela. And, yes, this 20-year-old Wattpad writer crammed her way to seizing the prestigious award.

The almost-magical scene still lives in Charmaine Lasar’s mind like it was a dream she had last night. More distant and probably strangely reminiscent was a memory from months back where she encountered well-known Filipino writer Eros Atalia in what seemed like just another forum held at their high school in Batangas.

“Sir, paano po ba manalo sa Palanca?” the wide-eyed writer asked Atalia during a question-and-answer segment. Atalia answered, “Read a lot.” And the girl did.

‘Di ko alam kung naging kasalanan ko o ano,” Atalia says jokingly, still in awe of the news that a Wattpad writer actually won a Palanca—like he did several years before. “At ang ganda-ganda (noong nangyari), kasi pwede palang manalo sa Palanca ang isang Wattpad writer, na kinabog niya ang established novelist,” adds the author of Ligo na U, Lapit na Me.

The news was initially a big question mark for the fourth year Accountancy student when she got a text in the morning of August 17 from a certain “Ms. Leslie” telling her she just won the grand prize for the 65th Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards. Charmaine or “Maine” to her friends, was told she should call right away after receiving the message. But her mind suggested a more natural reaction: jump and scream like a kid.

Sabi ko, “Kurt, magpa-load ka!” Tapos umiyak siya (8-year-old brother) kasi akala niya may nangyari.

Bakit, ate?

Bilis, nanalo ako!

The minute she brought down her phone, she went straight to her computer and reread her novel Toto O, which is about 13-year-old Toto who left his home in the province to go to an industrialized city but eventually found out that life there isn’t much better after all. “Ano ‘yung dahilan kung ba’t ako nanalo?” she told herself as she revisited what she thought were the best parts of her story.

Tapos dun palang ako naiyak! Ewan ko kung naiyak ako sa story or naiyak ako dahil nanalo ako,” she says to me humbly. She then folds her arms and subtly rubs her almost-watery eyes. From where we were sitting, the afternoon sky looked sorry with its shade of gloomy blue. And as if wanting to join her in her personal rain, the sky shed tears, too.

Her thin frame hid under a gray shirt and a black jacket that kept her warm but also gave the impression of toughness. The image, though, was easily wiped out the minute she gave me a weak, awkward handshake when we said our first hellos, that I imagined if I squeezed her childlike fingers they would break.

But I thought to myself these were the same hands that typed 33,000 words in a genre she never had the chance to practice for and had to finish within only 30 days.

Maybe she could attribute a huge part of her success to deactivating her Facebook account for a week to focus writing her novel, like a real responsible millennial. Or probably it’s the more obvious answer: writing more than 30 short stories of different genres on Wattpad—horror, romance, and usually inspirational—taught her to do just that.

After all, because of her experience in joining contests within the Wattpad community, she already earned the title “Queen of Wattpad Writing Contests,” she says in jest.

Wala akong background sa pagsusulat ng novel. Wattpad lang,” she adds, sharing that because of her frequent victory in the competitions, some fans would even ask her to stay away and, as she would say in her rough accent, “give chance to others.” “Di ko alam [kung] anong kaswertihan [ang] meron ako.

Wattpad is often dubbed by critics as an online writing platform that produces only “low quality works”—in the harshest terms, even “garbage.” While some are aware of its positives like the “democratization of space for literature,” some people in the formal writing community still can’t help but comment on the nature of stories posted on the site.

Maayos at sincere ‘yung attempt ng mga writers ng Wattpad na magsulat ng literature. Mas honest pa nga sila, feeling ko, sa mga ‘writers’ na kailangan mag-churn out ng libro sa loob ng time frame,” says Alvin, a literary editor in his college publication during his senior year. “Pero since available sa everyman, dahil nga online at libre‘yung quality [ang] nagsu-suffer.”

The fact that young people are now more into reading is a good thing, says Jasper, also a literary writer who joins creative writing contests in his university. However, he says there might be a need to elevate the discussion and topics in Wattpad stories once writers become more mature. “Nakikita naman natin sa komersyo ‘yung mga aklat na ‘I’m dating a gangster’ o ‘I’m dating my teacher’…Sana [lang talaga], magbago ‘yung panlasa nila na hindi lang sa mga ganoong sulatin nakukulob ang mundo nila,” he says.

The writers themselves are admittedly aware of this perception, and some of the most cruel comments tend to make or badly break an aspiring writer. The most painful comment that almost stopped Lasar from writing? “May boyfriend ka ba? Halata kasing wala, kasi ‘yung sinulat mong romance, walang walang romance,” she recalls.

Iniyakan ko ‘yun. Feeling ko, kung di ako inalalayan ng friends ko, tumigil na ako sa pagsusulat kasi nakaka-discourage,” she says, openly telling the tendency of fans and haters to either hinder or help their favorite and most hated writers. “Kapag sikat ka, ‘yung mga fans mo, sobrang supportive na…bulag na sila sa lahat ng pwedeng ipuna sa story mo. [Pero] sa contest, maraming pupuna.” She says these are usually corrections like “ng” to “nang” or “din” to “rin” and correct use of punctuation marks.

But one comment by a Wattpad writer and friend of hers triggered her move to change this negative perception. It was her wanting to prove critics wrong that pushed Lasar to elevate her work to the national stage.

Atalia, known for his inclination to popular literature or coined by some as “literature for the masses,” says it’s important to understand who Wattpad writers write for. “Malinaw ‘yung target audience ng mga bata—‘yung community nila. Hindi nila tina-target ‘yung mga nasa literature department na kumuha ng creative writing. Hindi naman nila ginawa ang Wattpad para sa atin eh, para sa sarili nila…Tapos papakialaman natin, hindi nga nila tayo pinapakialaman?

Atalia’s statements are peppered with jokingly uttered curses as he reiterated there’s no need for “academic intervention” on Wattpad writers—at least, in the context that no person can dictate what is good literature and what is not.

But would it help if Wattpad writers tried to take up formal writing courses? Yes, says Ella, an AB Literature student in the same university.

Already an established Wattpad writer with a huge following before she even enrolled in the University, the 19-year-old said in an interview with The Flame, a local publication in UST, that it was her father who suggested she might want to take up AB Literature.“Gusto ko maging doctor, kaya lang nung high school ako, sobrang baba ng grades ko sa Science…so my English was better daw. Tapos ‘yung dad ko sabi niya sa akin why not try to improve your writing?”

Famous as being “modernongmariaclara” in the Wattpad community, Ella discovered that she could still improve her skills further through formal training. “Kung sa Wattpad, madami ka nang matututunan, dito pa kaya na you are surrounded with writers na rinirespeto mo?”

Her blockmates did not treat her any differently upon discovering she came from the infamous writing site. Some of them even bought her books, shares her favorite Literature professor Rina Garcia Chua.

“From the very first moment I read her Who Am I? essay for young adult literature, I knew that she’s not an ordinary Literature student. She wrote so fluidly, succinctly; I understood that I was reading not a student’s work but a writer’s—someone who has the discipline to sit down and write…She’ll be big in the future.”

And so with Wattpad writers, Literature professors, Palanca winners, and students of creative writing now mingling in the same sphere, nearly cultivated is a bit more understanding and appreciation for this debatable game changer.

Harvey, who personally knows Ella and was himself a Palanca winner, believes that Wattpad is a “noble platform” and is happy about Wattpad writers excelling in their own ways. “There is always a sense of second-degree satisfaction, knowing that someone like my own, a literature major new to the field, has been doing some serious writing—and in writing, is being read.”

He adds, “What we learn in the academe only are the theories, criticisms, different trends, and styles. What we learn in real life, however, is the verisimilitude of human experience.”

But making everyone say the same thing will never be easy, for the issue of academe versus practice has always been present since the rise of these institutions.

Maria, who is taking up a Creative Writing course to improve her craft, said she would always prefer the traditional way in learning how to write creatively. “While ine-embrace ko as a student of creative writing ang Wattpad bilang bagong platform na mahusay at malikhain ang pagkagawa sa sarili nitong paraan, naniniwala pa rin ako sa tradisyunal at mas tangible na uri ng pagsusulat. ‘Yung published. Mas credible pa rin sa akin ang mga ganon.

Even so, Lasar keeps this motivation to change people’s perception of them as her fuel to keep the pen ablaze and write a better future for her beloved writing community.

Nale-legitimize na ba ngayon ng Palanca ang Wattpad writers? Pwedeng tanungin. Kung ako ang taga-legitimize, tatanggapin pa ba ng institusyon, ng literary circle? I doubt it,” says Atalia, again passionately. “Bakit? Eh ganun katigas ang ulo ng mga nasa akademya eh. Baka hindi pa tanggapin sa ngayon.

Taking the #MRTChallenge

Note: This article was submitted in a news writing class in my junior year of college. We were asked to take the then popular “MRT challenge” and write a news feature article about it using the first person point of view. The dates mentioned were in 2014. Surnames of sources were removed to protect their privacy, since the original article was meant for academic purposes only.

For five years now, vendor Mona Liza has been riding the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) Line 3 just to deliver packs of sweet delicacies from Boni Station to North Avenue Station. She braves the unforgiving sea of commuters every single day so she could sell her goods at a small mucky corner outside the TriNoma gateway.

This routine might seem conventional for people who also bear the struggle in riding the infamous MRT. But it isn’t so easy for Mona Liza, more so for the child she carries in her womb.

It was thrilling to learn that Mona Liza was already seven months pregnant and about to give birth to her third child. Sadly, it was not the case for other passengers with whom she rides the train.

Banggaan talaga. Walang priority,” says the 38-year-old mother, adding there was even one time where she rode the train and some of her products fell down onto the railway tracks. “Nalaglag nga ‘yung paninda ko noon kasi nga banggaan talaga. Problema, ang tagal dumating nung tren kaya ang haba ng pila.

I was unlucky enough to take the “MRT challenge” last September 24 at exactly eight o’ clock in the morning. I stood in line for at least 25 minutes and waited for the next coach to arrive. As a first-timer, I would say that the system in terms of directing the flow of passengers was rather confusing, but I figured it out eventually.

One of the MRT passengers I had the chance to have a little chat with was Amabel, who usually waits for at most an hour whenever she rides the train from North Avenue Station to Ayala Station. “Mahirap siyang transportation kasi ‘yung pagod at yung haba ng pila, parang pahirap ng pahirap,” says the 29-year-old human resource assistant.

Though she notes that there is an existing system that regulates the stream of passengers, she says that this is also encumbered by the heavy population. “Habang patagal ng patagal naman, nagkakaroon sila ng sistema. Kaso ‘yung sistema kasi, hindi rin gaanong nafi-feel kasi dumarami ‘yung pasahero.

The MRT, which has a rated capacity of only 350,000 but serves about 500,000 citizens everyday, deserves a rating of three out of ten, says 35-year-old Edward.

When asked if he has seen significant improvement in his five years of riding the train, Manlangit responds, “Oo, nagbago siya. Naging worse.”

In fact, in the afternoon of August 13, GMA News reported about a defective coach of the MRT that slammed through a steel barricade of the Taft Avenue Station in Pasay City and injured at least 50 passengers, including a six-month-old baby.

After the incident, the MRT administration apologized for the inconvenience and said in a tweet that they were “undergoing necessary intervention for the technical problem encountered.”

Recalling this ill-timed incident, I dared to step inside the train, which I now consider, albeit with exaggeration, a world that is different from what is beyond it.

mrt3

In this bizarre world that I speak of, fresh air is not only a necessity; it is a luxury. As I was in the part of the train where male passengers were situated, the kind of air I was forced to inhale and exhale had already been infused with a concoction of peculiar smells.

There’s the scent of male deodorant coming from a student whose armpit was only about five inches away from my face. Of course, the trip wouldn’t be complete without the whiff coming from manong who looked like he just came from an 8-hour work of carpentry. Then there’s kuya who just could not help but smoke before taking the train so he could deliver that distinct smell of Metro Manila straight to my olfactory senses. Fresh air was rare. And sadly, it was only normal.

But it seems like (former) Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya and I were not talking about the same train. Last August 27, he rode the MRT and called his ride “pleasant” and enjoyable. I cannot blame him. Who gets the chance to enjoy a ride beside the train driver at a non-peak hour?

Certainly not Edolly Ann, who shook her head in disbelief when she heard Abaya’s statement. “Ayos, kasi sila may bodyguards. Eh kapag sumakay kami, dikdikan talaga,” says the 23-year-old sales clerk. “May pa-ganun-ganun pa sila. Kalokohan.

It was also not the case for fourth year college student Jealyne Mae, who gave the MRT a grade of five out of ten. “Sobrang siksikan, so (may) mga accident na minsan nahahawakan na ‘yung maseselang parts ng katawan mo,” the 20-year-old education student says.

I will have to agree with Jealyne Mae.

In my experience, a torrent of commuters gushed as our train arrived at Shaw Boulevard. I was literally suffocated given the limited space left between me and manong, who earlier was at least two feet away. This time we were skin-to-skin. In this particular world I entered, the idea of having personal space does not exist.

Being in that miserably awkward position, one might find it hard to resist blaming the government, the system, and the MRT operators.

On the contrary, an MRT station guard* says no one should be blamed. “Natural lang ‘yan,” the guard says of the transportation situation. “Maaayos naman ‘yan. Marami lang talaga tayo. Hindi lang kinakaya ng MRT.”

Similarly, 25-year-old treasury personnel Louis thinks that the problem lies in the outlook of passengers in the transportation system.

mrt.jpg

Hindi lang nila matanggap na sa ganung binabayaran, naghahanap pa sila ng sobra. ‘Yung basic service, naibibigay naman ng MRT,” says Louis, who gave the MRT a seven-out-of-ten rating. “May mga sira, pero hindi naman kailangan magreklamo.

In an article posted on September 8, Inquirer.net reported about Abaya’s “planned improvements” for the MRT including 48 new coaches, replacement of rails, and an automated ticketing system by 2015. The Transportation Secretary said they were also considering the purchase of new elevators and escalators, and the construction of a more convenient footbridge at North Avenue.

However, Abaya said maintenance operations will be managed by MRT and Light Rail Transit (LRT) personnel unless the government decides to take over. Until then, the current maintenance provider will continue to serve the MRT and renew its contract, which when bidded out would still undergo a three-year procurement process.

With hopes of witnessing actual improvement in this rapid transit system, 51-year-old Elson says, “Kung ‘yun matutupad nila, mas maganda. Kaso wala pa eh.”

Sana (maramdaman) rin nila ‘yung agony ng pasahero para patas rin,” says Louis, adding that improvement only takes initiative from both the government and the people. “Magi-improve naman siya. Kailangan lang maghintay.

This waiting that Louis suggests will not be as simple as the 45-minute ride I took from North Avenue Station to Taft Station. It could go on for years, or worse, decades before the commuting citizenry gets to experience a decent ride—one that does not have to be a completely different world inside.

mrt2

But as long as the trains continue to choo choo in the same old rotten tune, people like Amabel, Jealyne Mae, Edolly Ann, Edward, Elson, and Louis will also have to suffer the literally filthy transportation system.

Until actual transformation of the transportation system occurs, Mona Liza will have to hold tight—as firm as her grip to safety hand rails—to her wish that the precious baby boy she’s expecting may never have to experience this predicament once he grows big enough to face it.

Wanlu: Of Being In Sync And Insane

Note: Gillan Ropero, a friend and fellow UST Journalism alumna, helped in the writing of this article. We were asked to produce a feature story from a mock press conference featuring the subject.

Walking unassumingly into the dim-lighted hall, he makes his way into the microphone platform wearing a plain black shirt, a good old pair of denim jeans, and a necklace with a black circular pendant.

For a guy whose life almost depended on maneuvering of fully clad hand puppets and delivering of punch lines in varying tones and accents, Wanlu, or Juancho Lunaria in his life behind the spotlight, sure dresses too simply, almost camouflaging into the dark walls of the hall. Without ado, he talks about his life story and the characters he brings to life through his hands.

“A lot of people don’t know this but I joined Talentadong Pinoy when I was just starting out as a ventriloquist. I was just a beginner when I [became] a Hall-of-Famer,” he shares matter-of-factly, revealing not only the fact that he learned puppetry about five years ago but also his ability to speak in a learned fashion.

As it turns out, Wanlu is actually a dentistry undergraduate. “Not a lot of people know that (I was an amateur ventriloquist) because, of course, I acted like I was a professional,” Wanlu quips, exhibiting throughout the conference his deadpan humor that tickles even the rarely-smiling person in the room.

Perhaps it was the magic he had in his hands since 1988, when he first became friends with it, that makes him a master of what makes people giggle. Or maybe it was in his voice, the very attribute that now allows him to meet famous fellow ventriloquists like Jeff Dunham and Terry Fator. Probably, it was his charm that was already there in his childhood—only that time, no one was able to witness it apart from himself.

A boy who was always left alone in the house, Wanlu shares his freshest memories as the bunso in the family. “I was forced to talk to myself, which trained me unconsciously for ventriloquism,” he says with a chuckle, openly admitting his nonetheless still “not so bad” childhood.

But it wasn’t his childhood dream, of course. “I [would have been] a cellphone snatcher,” Wanlu says jokingly, eliciting claps and heaps of laughter from the audience. “I’ve always wanted to entertain people,” says the practicing magician, who was actually a gas boy and a jeepney barker before he almost gave up in his first few tries as a ventriloquist.

He confesses how his agent at first opposed his venturing into stand-up comedy. “The very first gig, I remember, my agent told me ‘Wanlu, di para sa’yo ‘yan. ‘Wag mo gawin ‘yan.’

But Wanlu never tried to quit. “I always felt ventriloquism was something unique I could offer to them. I was quite confident that if I worked hard, I would get the results [that I wanted],” he says with a hint of amazement on how the craft has gone mainstream. “Now even a magtataho knows the word.”

He again fills the room with spontaneous eruptions of hilarity, delivering every punch line and joke with proper timing and mastery through his puppets Nicolo, the charming little boy with witty banters, and Congressman Dominador, who portrays a comedic dirty old man ridiculously called Cong Dom.

For this thriving artist, ventriloquism is no longer a job but a mission—an advocacy to provide amusement through making his own Pinocchios come alive with just minimal movement and a little play on voices.

This mission does not cease for the striving puppeteer, who reveals to the audience one incident that proves how “crazy” he turned out to be for his adopted kids.

Before he and his wife go to sleep at night, he shares, he bids good night to his kids and, yes, to his puppets. To this, his wife teasingly remarks, “Sira na talaga ulo mo.

“If you want to succeed, you have to fool yourself (that) these are real characters,” says Wanlu, confidently admitting his so-called insanity. “When I first started, natatawa naman ako sa sarili ko. Kung natatawa ako sa sarili ko, [siguro naman] matatawa rin sila sa akin,” he says, adding that his driving force is himself.

“When I find myself funny, I want other people to be, too.”