A work of a lifetime

YESTERDAY, I paid a visit to my ophthalmologist friend, Dr. Mario Moscoso, for check-up. My eyes, I complained, had gone dysfunctional. I could not read and write for an hour without straining them. Without my eyeglasses, I could no longer recognize familiar people.

“I hope it’s not serious, Doc,” I said anxiously. “My work depends on my eyesight. Come hell or high water, I have to write for a living.”

That must have amused him that I had not stopped writing at age 69.

“It’s not just for the money,” I continued. “Writing is my way of fighting mental deterioration.  I tend to be forgetful now.”

I am now under medication, but still straining my eyes to write this column.

Writing for a living since the year 1970 is not a curse but a blessing. It’s my writing career that has seen my son through elementary, secondary and nursing schools.

If I were to live my life over, I would probably opt for a more financially rewarding career without giving up writing. I know of lawyers and doctors who also write.

But why should I regret having chosen journalism when it has always been my destiny? I guess every man is what he is because of past circumstances.

In my case, it all began in my 6th grade when my English teacher rated my themes more or less “90”.

In my third year at the Antique National School, I took and passed the qualifying examination for staff members of the high school organ, The Madia-as, bagging the position of news editor. From then on, I set my eyes on a writing career, which I thought was, and still is, honorable. Not everybody could write for a living.

I remember when my late dad had asked me to take up Veterinary Medicine in college because there was great demand for vets in government. I enrolled for the course at the University of the Philippines (UP) but quit on my second year because I had no aptitude for it.

I shifted to a four-year AB-Journalism course at Manuel L. Quezon University in Quiapo, Manila.

In my first ten years in the profession since 1970, I handled various jobs as ghost writer for an entertainment columnist, press relation officer for movie companies, editor of an entertainment tabloid, stage show producer and freelance journalist in Manila. I came to Iloilo in 1981 to edit Panay News, which was in its infancy as a weekly.

The transition from typewriter to computer has not been an easy learning experience for an old wordsmith. But having overcome the difficulty, I look forward to  riding further the technology wave.

Admittedly, however, making a living writing is no easy task in this country. It’s the rare writer who can splurge off his or her earnings. For those of us who simply love the job, survival is good enough.

You must be familiar with the saying that those who can write, do; those who can’t, teach.

But I think that’s unfair for teachers who can write. Had I earned an MA or PhD degree, I would have taught for a living, too.

Of course, there are many others like us with the ability to create new realities out of thin air — unheralded painters, singers, actors and other talents who thrive on the need to express themselves even in thankless jobs.

Making a living out of one’s ability is a form of self-expression, which is the stuff that human civilization is made of.  There is dignity in producing something that others consume. ([email protected]/PN)

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