The awakening of new writers

Published May 29, 2022, 11:53 AM

by Deedee Siytangco

Meet Anne Marie Caluag, an employee of PAGCOR.

 “No Guts, No Glory.” Anne Marie has held on to this mantra since the pandemic turned the world on its head two years ago. Here she shares with us her transition to creative writing in her own words.

Students and mentor Rick Olivares , in black, at reunion lunch.

“Cliché, archaic, and terribly old school, this famous phrase kept me going as I ventured into unexplored territory, probably as a way of coping with these interesting times that stretched personal limits and boundaries like never before.

Like everybody else, I welcomed the prospect of working from home (WFH), thinking it was going to be less stressful. Boy, was I wrong! Turning on the computer before 8:00 a.m. in my office was a usual thing before the pandemic, and this habit was easily replicated in a WFH setup. Very soon, however, the lines between professional and personal time disappeared, making work feel more tiring and demanding. My office hours went beyond the ‘traditional’ 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and even bled into weekends and days off. 

Having come from a family of writers, I have constantly had to deal with people’s high expectations of my written and spoken communication skills. It was a constant source of anguish for me, which I hoped to conquer one day. That fateful day came while I was idly scrolling through my feeds and a post jumped out. It was from Boyet Sison paying homage to a Creative Writing Class he recently participated in. His post was so convincing I immediately reached out to Rick Olivares, the class facilitator.

Apart from his professorial stint in one of the country’s top universities, Rick Olivares wore many hats in the world of media. He was affiliated with national broadsheets as writer, columnist, and editor at various points of his journalistic career spanning decades. He is also an ABS-CBN News alum. With his impressive credentials I knew that there was a lot to learn from him, so I eagerly signed up for Batch 4 of his Creative Writing Class.

It turned out that the batch I joined was full of achievers. From among my classmates, there were Sandee Siytangco Masigan, a writer, food stylist, and owner of XO 46 Heritage Bistro; Medwin Marfil, the lead singer of famous band True Faith; Jamie Wilson, a theatre actor and creative director; Jaton Zulueta, who runs AHA Learning Center; Michelle Moreno, an entrepreneur and founder of the sweet Kiss Custom Cakes; Craig James,  who is based in London; Chris King dela Cruz, an educator; Francis Abad of  Canva; and the very talented brother and sister  tandem of Laura and Miggy Macabale. Last but definitely not the least, there was Boyet Sison of Philippine Sports Broadcasting whose compelling FB post was the very reason I made a beeline for this class.

I was starstruck at first, but eventually I realized that everyone was just eager to learn. I soon became motivated to actively participate in class. We were made to write stories and articles, and share these with the rest of the class. We were taught how to write creatively from different perspectives and given practical lessons in other forms of media like photography and blogging.

My classmates were encouraging. I soon found myself more and more at ease as I shared my work and swapped life stories with everyone, something I used to be uncomfortable with. I just felt like I had known them for years. To this day we all keep in touch. The pandemic may have severely limited physical interactions but opportunities to socialize online just grew exponentially, and we’re all the better for it. This Creative Writing Class is proof of that.

A few weeks ago, however, a shocking incident dampened our collective spirits when Boyet Sison suddenly passed away. As his death began to sink in, the realization that we all lived on borrowed time weighed heavily in all our hearts.

Our much-awaited face-off luncheon happened on April 30 at XO 46 Heritage Bistro. Our gracious host and classmate—Sandee Masigan—served a delightful array of Filipino dishes. It was nice to meet participants from the other batches. I was pleased to see my fist cousin Bebeth Timbol who joined several of Rick’s classes in the past. The banter was effortless, light-hearted, invigorating.

‘No guts no glory,’ no truer words have been spoken. Clinging to this mantra made me confident to take a leap, which led me to an adventure of a lifetime. I am proud to have been part of Rick Olivares’ Creative Writing Class—Batch 4, which is teeming with stellar talents, wonderful people, who are committed to their craft, and generous in sharing their gifts.