Thursday, December 1, 2022

A step in the right direction

CNF Workshop Batch 2022 Closing Program

During the closing program of the 3rd La Salle National Creative Non-fiction Workshop for Doctors last November 24, Dr. MJ Guazon Uy, speaking in behalf of the workshop fellows, said,
This CNF Workshop felt like a pilgrimage to unknown territory, where we had to navigate the terrain with the craft of language and fresh perspective. As physicians, we are not strangers to rigorous training; we are actually comfortable with it. Will this workshop make us feel more comfortable now to call ourselves, ehem, writers? Who knows? Having been invited to share the company of physicians who write is a step in the right direction. But only until we continuously feed the unrelenting demands of this art, shall we be called its true followers.

I spoke in behalf of my co-panelists, workshop director Prof. Marjorie Evasco and Dr. Joti Tabula. 

I joined my first CNF workshop as a participant in 2020. It was the first real workshop I had attended, discounting the journalism seminars I used to attend in high school, now light-years away. It was also the first online workshop I’d been to—during the early days of the pandemic. I was self-conscious about the background. I angrily hushed my brother, who lurked in the corner of the 28-square meter condo unit in Mandaluyong, because I thought his swallowing would interrupt the discussion. I wrote my piece entitled “The Medical Library.” I was reviewing for the diplomate exams in medical oncology, which kept getting postponed. My life was suspended. I had nothing else to do but write. 

In this sense, I have the best of both worlds. I have experienced being a participant. I would later be promoted to the rank of the panelist. I feel that I do not deserve it. It still bewilders me—being with the likes of Prof. Marjorie Evasco and Dr. Joti Tabula, who are writers and caretakers of the language I aspire to become. But I love reading. I love words and how they can create new worlds or make sense of old ones. They are full of possibilities.

For me, each year, such as this, is an exercise of leveling up my game. How else should I frame my comments when all I really want to say is that “I like this part”, or “I don’t think this sentence works”? 

But being with brilliant people—made more luminous by their utter humility and deliberate unawareness of how good they are—is an education. I continue to learn how to close-read the texts. I am wide-eyed, anticipating a detail I may have missed but which Prof. Marj and Dr. Joti have caught. They are sharp readers. They are also compassionate and gracious. They know the piece’s strengths and weaknesses. Our sessions have been generative moments for me, inspiring me to say to myself—quoting Dr. JB’s title—“Tonight, I Must Write.”

With my co-panelists, I share the pride and joy of meeting you all this year. Thank you for taking the time to write. That takes courage and strength. That also requires motivation, as it requires you to carve a special time in your otherwise activity-filled calendars.  Thank you for the trust!

Many thanks, too, to Prof. John Iremil Teodoro and the Bienvenido N. Santos Creative Writing Center for championing the life-giving cause of encouraging physicians, deadened by clinical work, to create a breathing space for them to write. The fact that several of our workshop fellows have published books, poetry collections, won awards, and journal pieces offers proof that the Center’s efforts are well worth it.  

I got the chance to meet the workshop fellows of the last three batches last Sunday. Now that's for another blog post. 

(Many thanks to Prof. Marj for the Zoom screenshot.)

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