I HAVE been partnering--indirectly I should say--with the Department of Education (DepEd) for years now, doing lectures during its annual press conferences mostly on my expertise, which is writing editorials. This one is a two-way street actually. I get paid and students learn from an expert (the expert part is meant to be a joke). And I lasted this long on the “circuit” because I want to spread the word: writing is both fun and useful. The more new writers I develop, the more fulfilling lecturing is for me.
I have been to the accessible schools in Cebu City and to the less accessible ones in the province. “Far and near” would be the apt phrase. I have lectured from the school level press conferences up to the division and regional levels. When you lecture, you also get to judge the writing competition that follows. The lectures are dispensed with at the national level and you get there only to judge (I was a judge three years ago). Even then, you get a glimpse of the writing capabilities of students under the education department.
What makes the task taxing is, of course, the judging part. Try reading almost a hundred writeups in English and Filipino (and lately Cebuano) in such a limited time as two hours to choose the winners and you get what I mean. And I don’t want to shortchange the participants by merely browsing—who knows there are diamonds in the rough out there raring to be discovered? This is apparently why this has become a passion for me. I don’t want would-be writers to follow my lead: become a writer without inspiration and guidance from the education department.
I have just been to the division in Carcar to help them prepare for the regionals. Before that I went southwest to Aloguinsan town for the first time. I learned many things from those trips and not just about writing. In Aloguinsan, for example, I now know why this tourist destination, known even internationally, could not attract more visitors than it should. The problem is not about aesthetics but geography, something that is difficult to address by the locality or even the congressional district alone.
Aloguinsan is in an awkward location being a town away from Toledo City in the north and mountains away from Carcar City in the east. I was told the national highway going south does not follow the coast but instead goes snaking around mountains. The result? Trips by buses passing by Aloguinsan to Cebu City are rare at night. Which was why I felt isolated when darkness fell and I still had to finish my judging chores. I failed to factor in the possibility of going home the next day instead of going home that night. So I had to ride a habal-habal to Toledo City to catch the V-hires there. At least I was home before midnight.
In Aloguinsan, I only managed to roam the national school compound. I would have wanted to stay in a resort there and travel through the famous Bojo River and experience the hospitality of the local tourist guides organized in the past by my good friend and fellow Porohanon Boboy Costas. Maybe next time.