YOU STAY on a job for close to two decades and chances are, opportunities for change just pass you by. Or, you do find yourself staring at the giddy precipice of change from time to time, feeling that all you need is a nudge to send you plummeting to something new. But you realize that the nudge just wouldn’t come along. And you just don’t take the leap yourself.
But sometimes, true to the wise words of the saccharin-laden love theme from the movie “Chances Are,” “after all these stops and starts we keep coming back…” not to “these two hearts” but just one – I keep coming back to my own. My heart and the undeniable passion to write.
Three years ago, I woke up to a page on one of the two broadsheets we read at home. It was the nudge I was waiting for. Something I could no longer ignore.
It was an open call for writers for the Supreme section of the Philippine Star, at the Dusit Thani Hotel Manila. Supreme is the hip, happening, “young” section under the huge Lifestyle section of the paper I read from cover to cover.
I arrived at the holding room and found myself to be just one in hundreds of aspiring – and it has to be said, really young – writers eager to snap up the chance to add “contributor” to their multi-hypenated existence.
Tim Yap, Supreme section editor and supreme multi-hypenate himself, ran the open call. He gave us three pieces to write under extreme time pressure. He gave the first assignment and at the end of the few minutes we were allowed, collected our work before proceeding to the second one, and so on.
The first assignment was our manifesto, in 150 words or less, in three minutes. Or was it 10? All I remember is that I just wrote away. And reminiscent of how I was as a student, I stood up and passed my paper before the time was up.
The boardroom still abuzz over how unexpected the first topic was – “Did you get to write something, like, really write? I mean, so out of left field, right?” – Tim asked us to reach into our bags or pockets, and find something to write about. I thought, anybody from advertising was going to nail this one. Haha! I reached deep into my Adidas UEFA EURO 2008 bag and found my then-brand new kikki.K DAILY NOTES notebook. I wrote about it for the next 10 minutes.
The feature on an item taken care of and our pieces collected, Tim told us to pair up with someone in the room (“Look to your left or right”). For our third and final task, we had to conduct an interview and then write a feature about it, all in 30 minutes. I ended up working with the lovely Toni Alexis Araneta.
We broke for lunch (at least for me), came back, and for the next two to three hours, remained holed up in the boardroom like a bunch of revolutionary writers who had decided to go into seclusion or hiding together. After making Toni Alexis’s acquaintance, I met a couple new friends – Lester Cavestany and Iñigo Del Castillo.
The Supreme team came back and true to American Idol Hollywood Week traditions of old, separated the room into two, sending half – the names they called out on a roll – to the room across the hall. Toni Alexis, Lester, Iñigo and I stayed behind. We later found out that we made the cut and those sent away weren’t as fortunate.
Then it was time for the interviews. They called us in five at a time to face the panel. The interviews were conducted really lightly, dare I say almost casual, with all five of us made to interact among ourselves and with the panel, and then on situational one-on-ones. They had in front of them as a guide our written works, by now bearing marks they had made – a “star” meant the piece was stellar or outstanding and a “heart” meant that it was something they just couldn’t help but love (grammar rules be damned). Some pieced had both a star and a heart.
Of my three pieces, the one that clearly stood out was my feature on Toni Alexis. They said I write really well about people.
Talk shifted to what we would most like to produce for the paper. Without a second’s hesitation, I spoke about my love for food, cooking and wristwatches with fervent, impatient enthusiasm. Tim went on to ask how interested I would be to be sent on an assignment that would look into what goes on behind the scenes of the many cooking shows that had cropped up on Philippine TV. Ideas immediately went into overdrive in my head as I tried to remain calm and punctuate my responses with subtle bursts of aha – spoken as if the vowels were being rationed.
“You can go to the first show on Monday.”
Then Pepe Diokno interjected, “But Tim he has a full-time job!”
And I still do, thankfully so. But it has never extinguished the flame that has always been inside of me. Who knows, right?
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