One day in a seat that wasn’t supposed to be mine made me realize three things: one, eating food that is supposed to be someone else’s doesn’t taste as good as I thought; two, it’s difficult to do somebody else’s job, especially that you know that you’re not “there” yet; three, well… my favorite realization of all: the best things in life are free.
Panulaton 2015: a venue where great minds gather together to exhibit their talents and skills in writing. Attended by a whopping 500 participants, Panulaton is considered to be one of the biggest events in the lives of wannabe, could-be, supposed-to-be and soon-to-be writers.
I was there. I wasn’t supposed to be there. But, I was there.
It’s been ages since I involved myself in a competition. I missed the adrenaline, the nausea, the pressure, and most of all, the glory. However, I was seated in that seat that wasn’t supposed to be mine in a totally different point of view. That day, I was a teacher.
That moment when Ma’am Maryan asked me to critique one pupil’s paper, I was dumbfounded. Yes, I know how to write, and yes, I’m really good at it, modesty aside. But, teaching writing – creative writing, to be exact – is a whole different story. That one pupil looked at me with anticipation, waiting for me to share my bits of wisdom, and there I was, in that moment I’ve always dreamed of, clueless.
However, looking at that pupil’s eager eyes brought me back. I remembered the time long ago when I was like her – determined and wanting. That fire sparked something in me, and I was alive. I took a pen, and… all she found was a sea of red marks and X’s.
One by one, hour by hour, victors were announced and recognized. Winners from our group emerged, and it felt wonderful. However, my eyes never diverted from that one pupil whose fire kept on burning. She knew she might not have a chance. She knew that there are better competitors. But, she kept on hoping. She kept on praying. Then, her name was called.
Disbelief dawned upon me when she was cheered by her teammates. Yes, I helped her. Yes, I gave her tips. But, I honestly thought she still had a long way to go before she gets her first medal. She looked at me, thanked me. I smiled, acknowledging her expression of gratitude, but guilt crumbled my cringing heart. I totally did not deserve her thanks.
This moment brought me back in my younger years: where I dreamed and kept on dreaming. I was that one pupil. And that one pupil became a teacher. My mission now is to keep the fire in my students burning.
That one pupil awoke in me as I was given a chance to ink my thoughts one last time. Flash Fiction Writing was the task, and we were given an hour. I dusted the long-kept storybooks in my head. Myriads of ideas came rushing in, but I was caught in a bump in the road. Trying to reset the engine of my brain, I meditated on what to write.
Then, that one pupil looked at me smiling – sending a message that I could do it. My engines roared and I was on a roll. My ideas turned to words inked on a blank sheet of paper. The pictures in my mind converted into a story. As I placed the last period of my story, I smiled with satisfaction.
I left Punta Villa without reaching the conclusion of the events. However, that little flicker inside me kept me hoping and praying for positive results. I wanted to win. Not because winning makes me feel good about myself, but because of my students. Because of that one student who conflagrated my urge to do more. Magis, as we always say in school.
One day in a seat that wasn’t supposed to be mine made me realize three things: one, eating food that is supposed to be someone else’s doesn’t taste as good as I thought; two, it’s difficult to do somebody else’s job, especially that you know that you’re not “there” yet; three, and still my favorite realization of all: the best things in life are free. Winning the medal was one thing, but the most precious thing was seeing someone grow in front of you in that very short amount of time, and seeing yourself grow in the process. (Nneka Marie C. Solis – GS Chinese Teacher)