Personal history

“The concept of forgetting one’s personal history, which is part of many initiation traditions, is clearly set out in Journey to Ixtlan by Carlos Castaneda.” -Zahir, Paulo Coelho

I led our chapel’s choir when I was 8.

Our choirmaster also volunteered me to read God’s words for the church. Those were experiences that stuck in my head. I thought then that I have the best voice among the other choir members. I thought then that I already knew enough.

But I hadn’t. Not yet. Not enough for the choirmaster to go after me when I missed meetings and practices. I could easily be replaced. There are other girls who wanted to sing in our chapel too, and they have better voices than me.

I joined a poetry contest in Grade II.

It was in Filipino and I didn’t win. I didn’t even get past the elimination round! But it was the very first time I subjected myself to the scrutiny of my teachers and some schoolmates.

I joined again the following year and won the lowest prize. I tried again the succeeding years until I won the first place.

To anyone, this is a classic story of trying repeatedly until success is at hand. But there’s more to the story. After winning the first recognition, I immediately thought that I’m the best orator there is (at least, in our level). So when we had a declamation contest again, I thought I can easily do so without too much practice. But I was wrong. The day of the contest came and I was given the chance to participate even though I did not pass through the eliminations (I was absent). I did not take the chance not because I find it unfair but because I wasn’t prepared. I didn’t know my piece. I didn’t memorize it well. I would just be shaming myself.

It was a lesson though that stuck with me. I need not be proud. I need not be easily content. I need not take things, especially those I really want, for granted. I have to work and maintain.

I won a writing contest in all of the schools in our district. I would not forget that moment: I was joking around, sipping a bottle of soda, blabbing that I would win. I was in the very act of clearing away the things in my lap when the speaker announced my name. I was so happy then. And proud. I thought I’m already good. I thought I could already surmount the contests that would follow. That thinking went into my head and so, when I represented our school paper in the regional level, my name wasn’t mentioned. It was both caused by writer’s block and desire to get the better of me.

A year after my first operation, I entered high school with another batch. My new classmates were all a year younger than me and nonchalant about my case. I wouldn’t blame them. I, too, ain’t proud of myself.

I didn’t pass the entrance exam for our high school newspaper. I may have had failures before but this was one that troubled me the greatest. Just when I underwent a formal teaching in journalism, I had failed to be in the paper. Suddenly, I didn’t want to be a writer anymore.

I had been with two friends since Grade II. They would sit with me and have lunch with me either in our classroom or in the canteen. But the first time I can honestly say that I have been a friend was when I was in college and my grade school friend died. I went to their town, even though I didn’t know their exact place, to attend her wake and burial.

I’m not sure if it was love. I can’t say that it is the truest of love. But I fell for my bestfriend’s cousin even though our communication was through phone lines only. And I regret that he get married five months before I graduated in high school.

I rode an airplane when I was 19. I was with somebody else that time; Mama just fetch me upon my arrival at the airport in Riyadh. I didn’t think it was something to be cheered for even though half the people I knew then have never ridden on a plane. I actually just watch the movies available on the ride. I forgot now what they are.

I also learned how to swim that time. Mama enrolled me in a swimming class at the recreation area of their hospital. That made me happy because I wanted to know at least one sport and, that time, mindful that I cannot excel onto something that requires balance and coordination, swimming is my last option. I still wasn’t able to learn it then.

Love conquered me a year before my college graduation. The relationship lasted for three years. two of it spent in the computer and phone lines. But that was it. Love had conquered me and it still is today.