Monday, April 22, 2013

(Delayed) Notes from Baguio

So here's the thing about traveling: even though you've been to the same place several times, there's always something new there. It's de-familiarity: nothing in the city evokes a sense of home. Sure, you don't need a passport to go there but it's still strange enough to warrant a second glance, a necessary photograph. Maybe it's the people, maybe it's the experience, maybe it's the Maybes. Going to a new place allows you to explore the possibilities, to unravel strings of stories and wonder if anyone would pick them up.

See, here's the thing that I love about writing workshops: you are traveling with a group of people with whom you probably don't even share a common anything with, and at the end of the week, of three weeks, you are tied together by the most precious and tenuous of threads: words. You have bared your soul to these people, allowed them to reflect back to you your deepest fears, your quietest dreams, the still center of your soul, and hope that you are found wanted. That your words matter.

And sure, it's easy to tell someone that they suck. It's easy to dismiss someone's work simply because the world is filled with stories, and sometimes we're just inundated by the sheer volume of words that people surround us with: emails and Facebook status messages and Twitter updated and Pinterest labels and Tumblr posts and even this blog, this small corner of the Internet. But here's the thing: it matters. One of my favorite writers always reminds us to imagine others complexly and I think perhaps that's the key. It's easy to dismiss because we don't try to bridge the gap. But at a workshop, you have to bridge the gap -- with your stories, with your poems, with your dialogue. These are the tools we wield effectively and, in the right hands, powerfully.

So for that week, from March 31 until April 7, I learned about how others wielded their words -- and how I wielded my own. I'm coming back from that odd and precarious position of wondering if I'm even still a writer, if I could still even write. And if anything else, that workshop reminded me that there's still joy in the act of storytelling, that there's still pleasure in crafting something that's worth more than paper and ink. Whether you're writing to figure something out or because you have an agenda, whether it's personal or political, the point is that we're all using something that has the potential to create gods and legends. And that's both a comforting and a frightening thought. The human imagination is a powerful weapon.

And perhaps the change isn't as obvious: there were no drunken debauchery or drugged revelries (well, if there were, I didn't participate in them). But sitting in an old bar at the end of Session Road with two National Artists for Literature on one side of the table and friends on the other, listening to an old 80s band jamming Baguio songs at one in the morning, sipping of a bottle of beer, is probably enough to remind me that I'm part of this community, and I'm part of this opportunity to change things and to make things better for the people around me. I might just be using my words, but they are the only things I have of value, and I'd like to use them wisely.

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