As a toddler, I was exposed to toys that constitute to a child’s brain development such as colorful building blocks, shape and color sorter, and several picture books. According to my parents, at age 2, I already knew the correct orientation of a magazine if it’s overturned. I learned the alphabet even before I started school at age 4. My mother used to read me my children’s books to pass the time rather than spend it watching the television. I developed my passion in reading when my friend, Abby, in fourth grade introduced me to paperback novels. I used to own a collection of R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps and Francine Pascal’s Sweet Valley High. I was already in high school when I started reading romantic novels by Judith McNaught and Jude Deveraux.
Sometimes, in school, I’d sit on the corner of our room and doodle at the back of my notebook. I would write words and phrases that eventually make up a sentence or a poem. My first ever published poetry was about my perception of health as a young kid. It was featured in one of Jollibee‘s Newsletter back in the 90s. I don’t remember exactly when I wrote this, but perhaps young enough to receive a monthly bulletin for kids. It went something like this:
Health is wealth
That should be kept
By every child
Who wants the best.
Eating fresh fruits
And vegetables, too
Will make you strong
The whole day through.
I didn’t know (nor did my parents) I had a flair in writing until another one of my works received an unexpected recognition in September 2001. In preparation for our English week, we were asked to write a poem about something we find inspirational. Incidentally, my parents’ birthdays were coming up, so I thought of writing a poem as my simple gift for them. It was like hitting two birds with one stone. My piece, Come What May…, was about my love and gratitude towards my parents. If I remember correctly, I didn’t have trouble writing that poem. It’s as if I had the words arranged in my head, and all I had to do was put it in paper.
Miss Joan, my English teacher, must have really loved my work because apart from giving me a perfect grade for it, she had my poem showcased at the exhibit. She even wrote a personal note to express her thoughts on my composition:
At that time, I thought I was lucky to have been given the opportunity to display my creation in public. I didn’t get that much recognition in school until one day, in April 2002, I received a letter from the Poetry.com. I was completely perplexed about this for two reasons: (1) I didn’t write to them; (2) I didn’t even know such a website existed, but my parents did. Yes, it was the look in their faces that somehow gave me a hint of what was going on, but not quite. I had to read the letter twice in order to understand what it said. In the midst of confusion and surprise, I was ecstatic to learn that my parents submitted the poem I gave them to the website, and that it was chosen to appear in the next volume of The International Library of Poetry! I wrote a four-liner, six-stanza poetry, so we had to slightly adjust it to satisfy the requirement of 20 lines per entry.
I didn’t believe all these were happening until I received a package from Poetry.com right in our doorstep. It was a hard-bound, print copy of the volume where my poetry was published to:
It was the best example of the cliché, To see is to believe. My family immediately flipped through the pages to look for my poem, and when we did, I think I cried. It was tears of overwhelming joy. As if it wasn’t enough, I learned in the letter attached to it that my poem was granted the Editor’s Choice Award! And while you’re at it, mine was the only entry from the Philippines in that volume. Filipino Pride: Represent!
My family and I were in jubilation. I could tell that they took pride in one of my greatest achievement in life. It went viral among relatives and friends. It would be an understatement to say that it felt like I won the lottery. A few weeks later, I was invited to give an inspirational speech in school to encourage kids my age to continue doing what they love best, dream big, and live the dream because you will never know what life has to offer. I believe that every human being possesses a gift. Not all people discover their gift at an early age like I did; some don’t even realize this at all. If you do, develop it, and make good use of it. God will definitely appreciate it when you do.
At 15, I didn’t think of it as anything but a simple gesture, yet it took me to places I have never imagined. Allow me to leave you with this inspirational quote by a fellow dreamer, Walt Disney:
All our dreams can come true; if we have the courage to pursue them.
—Walt Disney (1901-1966)
I’m curious. How about you? What is your greatest achievement to date? :)