imyeyes-banner-sqIn My EyesBy Edward B. Antonio

IN MY EYES: Reading through kerosene lamp

My first love is not with a girl or a woman, fellas.

It’s reading.

When I was young and electricity was still unknown, my mother would lit a kerosene lamp at dusk which we used on the dining and reading tables. My little table would be busy with the assignments until 11:00PM and all was dark until 5:00AM. That’s how we were taught how to economize power.

While having our dinner, we would be entertained by the radio dramas (our radio was battery-powered), of the more famous radio stations in Laoag City. The more popular dramas were “Leonardo,” “No Puso Ti Masugat” and the spy thriller “Jim Rocha: Agent 660” where Pete Agag’s voice was a household name. Another favorite voice was that of pretty Daisy Pasion, my college colleague who later became Daisy Pasion-Deus. I don’t know where she is now and I’m challenged to look for her whereabouts later in the FB.

These and other reading materials, particularly the readings authored by Hans Christian Andersen, Edgar Allan Poe, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Guy De Maupassant, Charles Dickens, Alexander Pope, the Brownings (Elizabeth and Robert), William Wordsworth and of course William Shakespeare thrilled me no end and when I went to high school, I started writing.

If you are into it, it’s addicting, as if it’s your daily food where you go starve if you do not write.

Writers nowadays don’t end up rich, but they become popular. In the early times, writers would rake a fortune with their blockbuster books, but when the ICT gadgets flooded the world, book reading became less popular, unless you want to delve into the opposite of things such as those published by modern-day historian Ambeth Ocampo.

Ambeth Ocampo is such an intriguing historian who focuses more on the other side of history and heroes that while reading one of his Looking Back series, I nearly dropped my coffee mug when he wrote that Graciano Lopez Jaena, the editor of La Solidaridad, was a most untidy person. He said that while in Europe, he wore only one coat that had become unkempt and smelly. An alcoholic, his favorite food was sardines and he didn’t even bother to use a spoon in devouring the contents. He used his bare hands and then would wipe the smudges using his coat.His fellow patriots bought him a new coat which he proudly used, but several days later, he was back in the streets with his old, smelly coat. The patriots later learned that he mortgaged the new one to buy his favorite whisky.

Another intriguing revelation that he wrote was the circumstances  behind the death of General Antonio Luna. Of course we know of the story how he was tricked into reporting to Emilio Aguinaldo in Cabanatuan, how he was killed, how Aguinaldo’s mother inquired if he was still moving after the attack and how his sidekick Paco Roman also suffered the same fate. But I did not know that if he were able to bypass Cabanatuan, he would have been ambushed by General Gregorio del Pilar, one of those assigned to do the job had Luna smelled that something was fishy along the way.

Ocampo’s writings are a favorite decorations on my study table. Aside from his Looking Back series, I am also fascinated by the revelations in his books: “Bones of Contention” and “Rizal Without the Overcoat.”

For example, he wrote that while Bonifacio was incarcerated, dying of his wounds, his wife Gregoria de Jesus was taken to an adjacent house where he was allegedly raped by the arresting team leader sent by Aguinaldo. The book also reveals what happened to his bolo, if it’s “Cry at Pugadlawin” or “Cry of Balintawak” or is it Mt. Buntis or Mount Nagpatong where he was killed. In “Rizal Without the Overcoat,” he said that hours before his death on December 30, 1896, Rizal wrote a lot of letters which he hid under his clothes but they were never recovered. Another intriguing story is that his widowed fiancee, Josephine Bracken, fought alongside the Filipino freedom fighters and later tried to claim his husband’s belongings in vain. It is also written there that Bracken went back to Hongkong brokenhearted, suffered from breast cancer and died and buried in a pauper’s cemetery.

You see, it’s reading and writing where my world revolves, fellas.

It’s Neil Sedaka’s song writer where he became famous for his song, “My World Keeps Getting Smaller Everyday” where he sang: Round and round I go in circle/Trying to be free/Since you went away the world is closing in on me/Everyday I face tomorrow/Knowing you’ll be there/I see your smiles in every little things we used to share/The memory of you is everywhere/And my world/Keeps getting smaller everyday/I run but I can’t run away/Yo’re with me everywhere I go/And I foumd/You’re in my heart and in my mind/There’s no place left on earth to stay/My world keeps getting smaller everyday.”

If you read, then write.

Jot down your ideas and exercise your brain.

Ka Sabas, a polished columnist who recruited me to write in a tabloid more than 10 years ago, was the trigger why I ventured into writing. He said I maybe starting raw, but writing is really like that. We start raw and end up polished. Ka Sabas has so far published several books already and he has been challenging me lately to publish one. But I said I need to write more and to write, write and write and then select the best ones.

Jason Fried says in his book Rework that in Basecamp, a company in which he is co-founder and CEO, one of the abilities that they are interested in when hiring people is their writing ability, no matter if they are sales people, programmers, or designers. The reason is simple: Clear writing is a sign of clear thinking. Good writers know how to communicate, they make things easy to understand and they know when to leave out the unnecessary.

Laura Jonson writes: Although it may appear at first that the people who have the most to benefit from writing are writers, managers, businessmen, journalists, or keynote speakers, that cannot be further from the truth. Each and every one of us can take away something from developing and honing our writing skills, even if it’s just a simple practice of keeping a journal.

But the best quote comes from Francis Bacon (1561-1626), an English philosopher, statesman and a lawyer when he said:

“Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man and writing an exact man.”

And what else can I add?

“Reading maketh a writer and writers beget readers.”

Keep on reading, fellas.

And happy writing, too! #