I am presently at sea. I hope this will reach our shores.
When my mind was still younger than my blood, I dreamed of being a literary man. I used to write poems and short stories. I was also fond of playacting in my former school’s choral recitations during occasions such as Buwan ng Wika, English Week, and others. My school often chose me as a contestant for literary competitions. I once served as literary editor of our school publication and was the youngest writer in our region.
My ultimate dream is to win a Palanca Award and to taste the best bubble gum in the world.
I love to hear stories. As a writer who grew up safely within my parents’ fence, I capitalize on others’ emotions to fuel my characters. I want to see things and to try to explain these in my own way. I always want to share something new with the world, so I strive to look for it.
I have always tried to find the high-end experience, so my system found its norms in things people consider weird. I was a student writer in a Catholic school, and my main genre in poetry and theme writing was demonology and the occult. I neatly wove these topics with human faith and away from our principal’s and guidance counselor’s office.
I love kiamoy, a dried fruit that tastes sweet, bitter, salty and sour. It is acidic enough to wound your tongue if sucked improperly. Since I cannot sing but still want to be in the group, I studied rap and learned to keep in pace with some of the songs of the fastest one: Gloc-9. I entice my girl friends with my own version of “Torpedo” and “Sikat na si Pepe.”
As a high school student, I observed that the ladies love sports, especially basketball, which, unfortunately, because of a nose that broke in my infancy, I never learned to play. To keep up with the macho reputation of our varsity players I studied Parkour, an extreme sport from France that involves stunts, jumping and dealing with urban obstacles. Neither could I catch up with them in their ball games nor could they keep pace with me in my introduced sport craze. I learned the sport well enough to build my team of around 30 members. The frail young man suddenly became an extreme sportsman in front of the ladies.
I am that black spot on your brand-new sheet of paper and that Irish pennant peeking out of your clothes. I hate monotony. Likewise, I have great respect for the uniqueness of every person. As a high school student, I encouraged my friends to capitalize on their uniqueness. I once recommended that students with bad reputations—such as those who were involved in drinking sessions and alleged sexual relations—but who I knew to have great potential in art and writing, be sent to contests. It caused my teachers to get mad at me. As educators in a Catholic school, they had the primary duty to maintain the image of our institution, which is represented by students especially in events such as interschool competitions.
They seek uniformity to maintain standards. So instead of looking for new talents, they selected the conventional top students, the cream of the crop whom they used to cook in every dish during special occasions. However, the judges were looking for a new delicacy. The cream of the crop did not suit their taste. So my classmates won the contest and the teachers could do nothing but congratulate them. In their joy and new profound self-respect, one of my classmates reached the regionals—a level that was then hard to be won by us because of too much conventionalism.
Until now, my former school regularly has a representative in the nationals.
As for me and my literary dream, I never really became a writer or a theater performer.
I did not even pass the entrance exam at the Philippine High School for the Arts (PHSA) in Laguna. I admit I grieve for it still.
I would have published a book with the help of a mentor serving at the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), but I traded my pen for a few pieces of silver and gold to help my family, and I hope there would be lots of them.
I planned to take the entrance exam at the University of the Philippines after graduation from high school, so I could take a course in foreign languages or linguistics. It happened that we had not enough money at that time for the entrance exam. So I ended up in an institution that helped me earn much more than the exam fee. It would have helped me meet new people and hear new stories from different cultures.
Ironically, I learned to stick with the conventional in order to survive, to be part of a whole and march in that cadence. I am proud of the corps to which I belong. Finally, I am not alone and odd anymore.
I hope to find my best bubble gum in our next ports.
I may not have made it to the NCCA office in Intramuros, PHSA in Laguna, or UP Baguio, together with my literary dream. I may not have learned Spanish, Nipponggo or Swedish, yet I still do not regret anything. Our ship management office is just in front of the NCCA office. Last summer they sent me to Laguna for training sponsored by the Singapore Maritime Officers’ Union, where I won humble recognition. And lastly, my girlfriend, who broke up with me after I boarded my ship, will now study in UP Baguio. I will have to visit her there when I disembark. My new profession helped me not just meet but also visit people from different cultures.
Now that my blood is much younger than my mind, I have learned to accept realities. It doesn’t matter what plan or identity you will take. Just lift up your faith and walk with it. Learn to maintain camaraderie and brotherhood. Never betray a friend; promises to be broken should not be made. No man is an island, yet he can be a continent if he wants. Always value your God-given talents, yet never forget to keep your feet sunk in the dust, because if not, to ash you shall return. And if the Devil whispers and makes you grow proud of yourself, remember: “You are unique, just like everyone else.”
Kristopher Raymund M. Endrinal, 19, is a second-class cadet of the Philippine Merchant Marine Academy in San Narciso, Zambales.