How I started writing
When I was 3 I had a friend named Lorraine. She lived next door, and back then I thought the world of her.
I was not too fond of going out to play in the streets with my raucous neighbors. The sound of barking dogs were enough to send me scampering back home, and Thumbelina proved to be a more fascinating companion. Nobody liked a precocious child who burrowed her nose in fairy tales and volumes of Childcraft. That, and Chinese garter – a strange contraption designed to mangle and tangle my gangly legs.
Lorraine, who was a good 6 months older than I, did not share my fascination for books but she was a constant presence in our house. Our mothers, who were both pregnant at the time, were godmothers to the other's daughter. In this small provincial town in Pampanga, neighbors knew each othe and were either the best of friends or the worst of foes.
Lorraine liked dolls. She often brought her Barbie knockoffs, who I christened with what I thought were the loveliest names back then. There was Odessa, with brunette locks and an immobile left leg; Sylvia, the steely blonde with piercing eyes; and Athena, the redhead with a bob edgier than a Vidal Sassoon cut.
I did more of the talking back then, as I am probably wont to do now. I regaled Lorraine and the dolls with tales of Thumbelina, of the epic adventures of Peter Pan, of the love story of Vega and Altair. She politely indulged me as I talked my head off while she combed her dolls' polyester locks – my body was in Pampanga, but my mind in Neverland. But I treasured having a friend who, now looking back, indulged my habit of acting out the fantasy worlds in every story I read.
Those playdates became a weekly habit. I started appreciating Lorraine's dolls, and she started flipping through my illustrated fairy tales. This came as a delight to our mothers, who looked forward to every weekend not only to trade baking recipes and gardening tips, but to see their daughters growing up to become best friends.
Later during the year, our mothers gave birth. Finally, Lorraine and I now had something in common – being big sisters to our baby brothers. We doted on them, leaving our dolls and books to gather dust in our respective homes.
It did not last too long, though. One day, in the middle of the summer of 1990, Lorraine did not swing by our house all weekend. I was looking forward to tell Lorraine about my baby brother wiggling to the tune of Vanilla Ice's "Ice Ice Baby," but she never came.
My mother told me Lorraine and her family left for a province up north, to a town named Lupao. They would be away for a good amount of time, and that I had my baby brother to keep me company – and preoccupied.
I silently nodded and turned to the reading nook with tears welling in my eyes. I had not asked my parents to buy me books in a while, so there was nothing new to read, no new world to escape to, because there was no longer a need to. Friends make the universe you are in infinitely more captivating than those you once dreamed of going to.
I found myself rummaging through my father's briefcase, looking for his stack of A4s. With tears in my eyes, I dug a pencil into a blank sheet of paper and wrote what would be my first attempt at fiction.
Ate Lorraine went to Lupao.
She left her house and took her dolls.
Ninong Edwin drove their red car.
Ninang Ellen brought chocolate cake and kuya Quick Quick carried his ball.
Little baby Eric slept all the way.
On their way to Lupao the road grew into a dragon with a gray body and white stripes.
He said "Fee fi fo fum... I smell chocolate cake and children's bones."
He swallowed the red car, it went straight to his belly.
He blew out fire, burning all the trees growing up to the sky.
This is Ate Lorraine's trip to Lupao.
It was a cruel story to write. Back then, all I thought of was to scare her so that she would never leave. But she did, as she never got to read the threat that came in the form of a morbid limerick, so in her absence I wrote more to cope. I imagined all sorts of things – from the growing colony of dwarves living in the mushroom villages at my backyard to the terracotta jar that served as a portal to different worlds where unicorns and werewolves were at war, where skies ranged from glaring red to a permanent state of pink.
Lorraine came back a few months later. Our friendship, like an unwound instrument, needed some restringing after her absence. She made new friends in her new school, and I was already deep into the lure of pen and paper, having found delight in my newfound power to create – and at times, destroy – worlds out of words.
All that, until I grew up and found myself becoming a journalist. But that's a different story, for another time. – Rappler.com
2 girls playing image via Shutterstock