ALMOST three years ago, I was invited by the then editors of this paper to become one of their regular columnists.

Frankly speaking, I hadn't the slightest idea what a columnist does to begin with. Although I must admit that writing has always been a passion for me and words have been like a musical instrument that I love to play. Still, I thought to myself, "Was that enough to empower and sustain me with this new-found field?"

Post your reaction to the Manila hostage crisis

So there I was, freshly hatched from College and was hoping to gather meaningful experiences that I could add on to my credentials and skills other than taking care of the sick. After all, not everybody could write and not everybody could have a regular column in a community paper. I thought to myself that I could sell myself better to prospective employers once they realize that I am a writer of a newspaper. What an innocent assumption it must have been?

After finally convincing myself to say "yes" to the window of opportunity that opened my way, I was informed that my column would exclusively dwell on caring for the sick being the nurse by profession that I was. Then I had to come up with a column name that was both smart and easily remembered.

I had a lengthy list to begin with from "Nurses' Notes" to "RN charts" and so on. I could not quite decipher what would have been the best. It wasn't until the editors decide that the column's name would be "Careline", and so it was conceived.

So I was given the scope and the column's name. What was next? I had to find a topic that was appealing to the community. Being a neophyte I was bombarded with so many things in mind but eventually, I ended up writing about diabetic foot care.

I wanted to impress not only the editors but ultimately the readers of the paper as well. So I wrote everything I knew about the topic from the predisposing factors to the treatment modalities and so on. Honestly it took me more than a day to complete my first article. And when I finally finished, I excitedly sent it right away to the editors.

My excitement was cut short when it was mailed back to me with the following remarks by the Editor: (1) Too lengthy. Limit your column to 300 words if possible. You are publishing a column, not a book. (2) Do not write about children; we have a columnist for that. (4) Do not prescribe or offer medical advices; you are not a doctor (5) Do not use medical terms; you are not lecturing nursing students. Make your column readable even to grade 5 pupils. (6) You have to submit your column as scheduled to make it visible and regular.

As far as I could cull from my memory, the only positive comment that I got from my first output was that my grammar, according to Sir JB Deveza, who was among the editors then, was flawless for a beginner.

It was also suggested that I read the write- ups of other health columnists like Mr. Literatus or those columns on the net so I could follow their 'pattern' and style of writing.

Also during that time, there were two of us local health columnists that write for Sun.Star. The other health columnist was Dr. Elizabeth Poyogao, a practicing pediatrician and it explains why I had to refrain from writing about Children's Care as that's her forte.

My skill in writing was nevertheless polished over time as I began covering community events and the scope just kept on expanding.

Perhaps the most unexpected surprise that came my way for the past three years of writing was the degree of popularity the column has brought me. Friends who I haven't seen in a long time and even strangers popped up in the online version to congratulate me or simply to say hello.

Secondly, who are the types of people reading the paper? It would be the intellectuals. No offense meant to broadcast media, but the print media is selectively available to the literates and academicians. Anybody can see or hear news through the television or radio. But not everybody has the interest of reading news on the paper. So I felt like a star to these intellectuals.

Perhaps I could say that I took it one notch higher in professional writing, when I was employed on a contractual basis as an Editorial Assistant of this paper last summer.

Aside from maintaining my column, I began writing news stories. There was a major shift from expressing solely my opinion to the exclusive delivery of a story objectively as it happens.

I started attending press conferences whenever the need arose due to limited manpower of the editorial department then. I embarked on the role of proofreading the output of intern journalists in the absence of the editor or as delegated as situations warranted.

I learned through daily encounters what it takes to be a journalist- the attitude, humor and emotions involved. That reportage is not just about lame stories of mundane things. It's about documenting history as it unfolds. It's about upholding truth at all cost by a balanced reportage. It's about substance in giving life to every word you write.

As my term as an Editorial Assistant ended, I believe that my experiences with the paper have sharpened not just my skill in writing but overall myself.

It's true all efforts would be rewarded as it has been suggested by the current editor-in-chief that I revise my column and that the topics focus solely on issues related to nursing. It was also suggested that I continue writing news stories as a correspondent.

I know writing is very far from the licensures I've hurdled. It's entirely a different field. But amidst the differences, I find a sense of contentment and happiness in the process.

I won't be writing forever that's for sure. But it feels good that forever is not now. (paul_careline@live.com)