Writing, a passion I never knew I had

The author: ‘My father was my avid listener.’

By Vicky Potenciano-Vitug

When I was a little girl of grade-school age, my father would always ask me to tell him stories of how my day went.  My father, who worked in a bank for 40 years, was always interested in the lives of his six children.

Always, and with a smile on my face, I would tell him stories not so much about myself but of other kids.  It’s because my day was usually spent inside our ‘sari sari’ variety store while watching other kids play out on the street.  I felt then that my life was not as interesting cooped up in a small cubicle of a store surrounded by bags of rice, crates of soda bottles piled on top of each other, and rows of canned goods.

As I told my father the stories of others, my eyes would lighten up. As a storyteller, I was able to convey their happiness while they were playing, their disappointment when they were fighting. I realized I could empathize with what they were feeling as they engaged in playful ‘awayan,’ ‘inggitan’ and after that their ‘batian.’

My father was my avid listener. He was the first to tell me I had some kind of a “gift.” That I could tell a story that would make him sit down and listen.  While I may know how to narrate a story verbally, I didn’t know how to put it in writing. For one thing, I had poor eyesight that made handwriting a chore. Plus, I had a short attention span.  I got bored easily.    

Now in my twilight years and with lots of time to spare because of the pandemic, I rediscovered this “gift.” This time, however, I was writing down narrative after narrative, of people I’ve met over the years, of stories I have long known but simply filed away in the back of my mind. With my father long gone and no one to listen to them, I began to write them for myself — on my computer screen. Reaching out to long-time friends, writing about their lives, and self-editing became a past-time amid this horrific pandemic. I felt trapped and bored from binge-watching, cooking appealing (though not necessarily delicious) dishes for my family, and gardening.

In early 2020, the coronavirus took two of my siblings. I was in grief and everything felt dark and gloomy around me.  Indoor activities became my refuge, but it was not enough. The isolation brought about by this pandemic made things worse.  I missed our regular social meets in our church and line dancing with my friends.  

With ‘loving and supportive’ husband Vic.

Memories of my siblings are forever etched in my heart, but it seemed the claws of death wanted more.  In early 2021, another loved one died, not from COVID but from heart failure.  That pushed me closer to the brink of helplessness and loneliness.  Thankfully, I had ‘happiness’ lessons to live by bequeathed by my parents, especially my father.  He taught me what to do in case of the dark clouds in life:  Always, always look for good hobbies or any activities that will divert your attention and focus on the experiences that you enjoy the most.  He would say, “I know you always find happiness by helping others or making people smile.” And, with a big smile and a hug, he would add, “You just made me happy.  See what you did.”

What a nice, warm way to put it.  He made me grin with happiness too!  Did he just shoot two birds with one stone?

One day, a blessing came:  A friend of my late brother Dodie who wanted to write about him asked me for an interview.  As I started writing my responses to the interview questions, it dawned on me that I enjoyed writing especially sharing stories that inspire and motivate.  It reminded me of my father’s advice on how to deal with sadness. My father was a great happiness influencer.  I miss him terribly.

My dearest Papa and also my Ate Lucy ignited my passion for storytelling.  A passion, that, with the use of my pen (now a laptop), I can share life’s experiences and teachable moments. Hopefully, make others learn something or pick up morsels of wisdom. Thanks to my loving and supportive husband, Vic, who is my unofficial editor.   And, grateful to The FilAm for seeing to it that my stories are read widely.  

As long as I am able, I will keep writing meaningful stories as a tribute to my late parents, Panchang and Anong, and my late sister, Lucy Imatani!  Here’s to more stories worth sharing.

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© The FilAm 2021

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