excerpt from MY LIFE IN 50 DAYS, Day 27: My Booklets of Poetry


In 1992, I went to the University of the Philippines and studied comparative literature and creative writing. There, I was educated with a grueling progression of research, Shakespeare, advance humanities, the classics and of course, how to write metered poetry. I did not enjoy it. More often than not, I was loaded with more books to digest than spending time collecting calluses from my then dependable Remington typewriter. When I was, I was merely writing for instructors and have faked inspirations to pass the course. It all became a drill. A monotonous construction of thoughts that died right off the edge of slumber. Well. I survived that fairly well. I burned the midnight oil writing a serious poetry in between takes, so to speak. These were the Babysteps poems. Poems that spoke of drug addiction, the Catholic faith, incest, family love, destructive love, tons of sex, imagination applications and projects I submitted in the writing workshops. I was a nineteen-year-old groper searching for his own poetic voice. I experimented a lot in the shades of Sylvia Plath, Maya Angelou, Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman. I did not succeed in that but their words delivered an eloquent stimulus in my onset of sole nostalgic expression. I tussled with That Night In Antipolo, Grandfather’s Guitar, Schooldays and Romancing Jocelyn contriving to pencil in a more narrative mode, unlike with 3am, Rapunzel, I am My Own Charlatan and Diva which was more Dickinsonian in intonation that fundamentally my own. Nonetheless, these were the firstborns, the early attempts, thus, I included therein the B-Sides; the untitled verses I wrote behind my notebooks and the ones I doodled unceremoniously in my journal during muddy daylight hours. Writing has become my playground.  And I carried my papers like a prayer book everyday.

By far, I consider the time of editing of these babies to be memorable. It was the summer of 1995, almost Holy Week and there I was, under the “pigeoned roof”, in sister’s room in Zambales, with my Remington, round the clock hearing the pigeons croaking madly next to my irrational typewriter by the window. I almost dedicated the entire collection to the amusing birds but it was to Francis Martinez to whom I bestowed my first assemblage because during the first two years of my poetic voyage, he was there, painfully going through every word and listening to it breathe or intrepidly calling it dead. He was a comrade, a teacher and lover back in UP and now a published writer himself and the resident professor in the College of Arts and Letters.

This is Manila and Zambales, where I was born twice and died once.  A cat’s life.

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