I have this unique notebook. I carry it wherever I go—in the comfort of our home, in the jungle that is my workplace, during out-of-town trips and even in the toilet. Being handy, functional and user-friendly, my notebook has become an indispensable companion and one of my most valuable possessions that I cannot live without.
But before you conclude that what I have is a highly sophisticated and expensive electronic gadget, let me tell you that my notebook is not a rectangular device with sleek features, tedious keypads and illuminated screens. What I have is an old-fashioned notebook with bound pages that can be flipped and tossed.
So what’s the big deal about my ordinary notebook? What makes it so relevant despite the fact that a regular writing notebook is considered “prehistoric” in the age of iPads and touch screens? What makes it so special that I cannot part from it?
Well, you can call me an old soul trapped inside my grandmother’s baul but my notebook remains an effective tool in celebrating my lasting relationship with paper and handwriting; it’s a repository of my colorful imaginings, precious ideas and spontaneous thoughts that are sometimes raw and rare, and more often than not, truthful and unabashed.
I didn’t buy my notebook in a bookstore or stationery shop. I took the painstaking way of assembling and binding it manually, using scrap paper and recycled cardboard. For easy access and to record my random thoughts in a breeze, I designed my notebook in such a way that it can be easily tucked into my clutch bag or handcarried when I am on the go. Having an eye for aesthetics because of my interest in the arts, I decorated the cover of my notebook with a decoupage of my favorite prints and images: a vintage Philippine map, Jose Rizal postage stamps, postcards of old Manila and Alibata texts. The design echoes a Filipiniana theme as my simple gesture of patriotism and appreciation of my beloved Philippines.
For several years, I have been using my notebook for various purposes. Sifting through its buff-colored pages gives an impression of honest thoughts and momentary feelings captured by the humble flow of a pen. Also written on its pages are disparate scribbles about everything and anything under the sun: everyday reminders, important dates, list of things to do, quotations and poems. Looking back with each page is for me a therapy for the soul. Every nostalgic reading is like a walk down memory lane.
The versatility of my notebook allows me to explore not only the eloquence of written words but likewise gives me the opportunity to express myself through visual arts. Some of its pages have been turned into a canvas that serves as my refuge whenever I run out of words to scribble. Relying on visual artistry often brings out vivid interpretations on a variety of themes from verdant trees when I am inspired, sunsets when I feel gloomy, bundle of flowers when I am happy, Picasso-like abstracts when I feel disappointed, landscapes when I am bored and a tableau of the Philippine flag whenever I feel like it’s the 12th of June. My artworks make me realize even more that truly a picture is worth a thousand words.
Aside from notes and artworks, my notebook also contains a cornucopia of keepsakes, ranging from calling cards, thank you notes, tags, newspaper clippings, philately gems, wallet-size calendars, photographs and a wide array of mementos that are worth revisiting every now and then. In totality, my notebook is a tangible account of my personal history and iconography reflecting the ideals and signs of the times that made an impact on my life.
Another thing that makes my notebook unique and interesting is the open access to its pages. While diaries are revered as the fiefdom of one man’s innermost thoughts and deep, dark secrets, my notebook is like a scrapbook that anyone can browse. When I began using my notebook, I vowed to be discreet and to put only wholesome things in it because I didn’t want to be lampooned over a controversial or intriguing entry.
Letting other people take a glimpse at the contents of my notebook gives them the opportunity to share their views about the stuff that I have written, drawn or collected. In doing so, creative exchanges follow, varying and engaging perspectives are ignited and we get a chance to acquire more wisdom and inspiration.
Keeping my notebook is not just a momentary whim or pastime. I write in longhand to help promote handwriting and maybe encourage other people to grab a pen and notebook and record their valuable thoughts and feelings and eventually build their own personal history.
I invite everyone to go back to the basics and relearn the fine art of handwriting. It is not expensive; neither does it require modems and peripherals. Pieces of paper with handwritings and mementos bound between covers can never be compared to mundane gadgets with no soul and longevity. I see nothing wrong with being adept with gizmos and gadgetry, but being enslaved by these black and gray boxes is like burning the bridge between our history and our future.
Owning a notebook and scribbling on it are the best way to retrace and relive a life of simplicity and modesty. Let’s not allow modern technology to obliterate the art of handwriting and the functionality of notebooks. Let’s make the formidable duo of pen and notebook a part of our everyday life. Don’t hesitate to turn to the first leaf of those bound sheets and begin to write your personal history the Indiana Jones way.
Rhene Boy F. Brozo, 29, is a school registrar and Industrial Arts teacher at Greenfield Montessori School in Tanay, Rizal.