If I am able to finally publish the book probably next year, I may have to credit the feat to the coronavirus and the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic it sparked. That is why I am tentatively titling the planned collection of the Cebuano poems I wrote and posted on Facebook this year as, “Mga Balak sa Panahon sa Pandemya.” In a span of four months when checkpoints to limit the movement of people in the lowlands were set up, I went up the mountains near our house early in the mornings to bask in the freedom that only the countryside could offer when the going gets tough in the cities.
I would wake up at around 4 a.m., go out of the house at around 5 a.m. and look for places up the mountain where I could sit and view either the sea in the east or the “crumpled paper” terrain going west. As people mostly teenagers either rode on bikes or hike following the rough road that leads to Campo 7, I would look for a refuge where I could write using my cell phone. From May to August my creative juices flowed until a serious hypertension episode downed me. I counted the poems: there were 38 in all, that is if my effort to recover them now paid off well.
That reminded me of my younger self roaming the countryside with a backpack that contained a notebook where I wrote some paragraphs for the next “great” underground novel that I never got to complete. In some peasant abode, I would strive to write a chapter and imagined myself to be another “Servando Magbanua,” who wrote the only underground novel (in Tagalog) I read at that time. The plot was like a revolutionary version of Noli Me Tangere. Or was it really “Servando Magbanua” who wrote it? In the underground where aliases are a dime a dozen, I can’t be sure. And “Servando Magbanua” is obviously a nom de guerre, one I was enamored with. I don’t really know the person who used it.
Writing is, should I say, a habit. I don’t know how many notebooks containing some of my writings got lost in the countryside but that never stopped me from putting my ideas into words. When I was arrested and placed under solitary confinement, one of my requests from my captors was for me to be provided with a Bible, a notebook and a ballpen. Alone, I wrote to maintain my sanity. Some of my works eventually found their way to the old SunStar Weekend.
And writing, too, is a discipline. I wrote my first book--the one on Tudela, the hometown of my father, with strict guidance from “editors” from the University of San Carlos. Which reminds me of an advice from friend and author Earl Parreno on how to finish a book, which is to not lose focus. Earl, who has written a book on Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, even had himself stay for days in a hotel to complete a book.
So I will have to focus on this book publishing idea in the coming days, and this could mean I would be distracted a bit from my column-writing schedule. But as they say, “you win some, you lose some.”