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A Way of Rounding Things

The first time a close friend invited me to attend a theater workshop, I was a little bit skeptic. I asked her what’s it all about. She mentioned about exaggerated gestures while acting, forming a group in circles and making your own dialogue when you’re picked. My friend could  not help but laugh at my reaction. I had my mouth opened, trying to understand what she said but failed.

“Close your mouth or else a fly might mistake it for a cave, “she said in jest.

She said it was fun, instead of spending the summer of not doing anything. I told her I do read,  a lot, I pointed. But she reasoned out that a theater workshop was something different and that I have to test the waters  to learn it. When I asked her who’s handling the workshop, she said it was her cousin, Jun Matias. By the look of it all she seemed exited, even beaming.

“So there’ s the catch.”

So I asked her who’s Jun Matias aside from the fact that he was her cousin. My friend answered, in near irritation, that he was a theater artist from PETA,  once became a staff for a famous director named Lino Brocka and  that he also writes. I told her I am a fan of Lino Brocka movies, that it was cool his cousin writes but I am not familiar with PETA,  at that time. I apologized  and told her I am not interested.

Together with Richard Reynante, Jun Matias  was the creative genius behindPrecious Pages Corporation and Lampara  Books Publishing(credits goes to Facebook.com for the image)

“You might regret this one day, you know, ” and left.

Luckily, my friend did not take that personally. Our friendship did not tint by shallow disappointments. Besides we were in high school. Our place at that time was still  backward. Summer workshops and self help programs where unheard of. Sadly, there had been a time that I  spent my summer just by reading pocketbooks when I should have tried other arts instead. My friend did finish the workshop and to show my support, I’ve watched their play, which turned out quite well.

A decade later, when local television was full of the weekly shows from Regal Films and Viva Films, I got the chance to catch  Jun Matias’  name. He did write, this time his name on the screen was Segundo Matias, Jr. He wrote  stories where artists like Gretchen Barretto, Rita Avila, Jean Garcia and Aiko Melendez who was just a teenager then but whose acting ability can be lined up with the veteran ones, appeared . The stories were simple, depicting of one ‘s ordinary life, its woes and joys, all compressed in an hour because of the commercials.

It was in the late 1990s’ that his name became such a revelation. I have read in the newspapers that he had been publishing books. Love stories at that, just like the Mills and Boon and Harlequin local versions. But it was in 2003, at  my son’s recognition event that I had one of  the biggest surprises in my life.  An alumnus will give a short speech about his younger days and humble beginnings. Turned out the visitor was nonetheless, Segundo Matias, Jr fondly called Jun Matias. He was already then  a businessman, the man behind the famous, “Lampara Books Publishing,” and “Precious Pages Corporation. ”

(credits goes to lamparabooks.com.ph  for the image)

He had gone a  long way. What more my son and I shared a picture with him and I have to admit I did not know what to say when he handed me the medal so I can pinned it on my son. He was just looking at me. I thought of something like, ” Your cousin is a good friend and I am sorry I did not attend the workshop you spearheaded then . I could have learned a lot.”But did not have the guts to say so.

Lately, I have learned he had chains of  Precious Pages outlets in most major malls in the Philippines. When I visited one of his stores, I even had the gumption to interview some of his staff. They said  he was a good hearted person, fun to be with and easy to get along. In fact they even knew his birthday which was just a few days away then. They asked me if we were related. I told them we were and we came from the same place.

This  store found at the SM Mall of Asia, is just one of the many store outletsthat Jun Matias handles( credits goes  to the phr.com.ph for the image)

Funny, it took decades, for us to meet. I did not plan nor envisioned it will happen, but somehow, fate did find its way.  Before I could not help but ponder the meaning behind all these. Somehow, I know now.

Personally, I am not that regretful of that missed opportunity. I may not be  young, but given the chance I can still attend theater workshops. As for us having a connection, he is a Facebook friend and I did send him a message about what happened many summers ago.  It is also  true that we are related, on my grandmother’s side, as  told by my aunt and my mom . Strange, though that  meeting him  was like  the gift of writing or any other God given gift for that matter. One can set it aside,  forget it even, until an incident or a person perhaps sent from Above, will point out that gifts were given so they can be harnessed, and shared so people can learn, be inspired and perhaps realize that they too have gifts lurking within, waiting to come  out. Meeting him finally, was like finding my creative voice, which somehow, found its way home.

I know one day, when I get the chance to write a short book for kids, he will be the publisher and his autograph will be the first one I will have.

Because now I know that  life indeed  has a way of rounding things.

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My Second Language

My eldest daughter Samantha had always this thing for languages,  English, Spanish, French and Korean.  She had always been a wide reader since she was a kid , a bookworm and she had lived with that title until now that when we had moved, my other kids and I had complained that most of her things were books that needed to be hauled because some were hardbound bought on sale . We were talking about my second article that  was just posted on the online magazine missoandfriends.com which also happened to be the shortest and most commented post on my blog .

“I had a chat with one of my American  friends the other day. She told me that I write well considering English is not my first language. ” Sam told me . I was not really surprised.

I grew up in a family where we watched mostly American shows and documentaries. My dad sees to it that we rarely watch Tagalog sitcoms and movies that sometimes  he and my mom will have a short argument about it. My mom reasoned out that we are Filipinos and that we should learn to appreciate our own but my dad would jokingly reply that we should not patronize everything that is Filipino. He does not want us watching tearjerkers like “Flordeluna, “Gulong Ng Palad,” and “Inday Badiday’s” Show  about local  gossips and intrigues that we have to go to my Aunt’s house just to watch these shows.  He even added he would rather see us watching educational game shows , the Oscar Awards, The Grammys and other documentaries because we get to know a little bit of history in them. I could recall telling my dad that I was a having hard time understanding them, obviously because my vocabulary was limited. And he would just laugh at me , saying,” Then do not take it word for word. Jut pick the word you understand and take it from there. “
“What if I understood  it  wrong, what then?” I was young and  afraid to hear feedback if I spoke in English and somebody would correct me afterwards.
” Then you are learning.  Just practice until you become better, ” He said.
I cannot remember a time that my siblings and I talked in English. Coming from a public school, I can remember when we were not allowed to talk in our dialect so we can practice our English which was not followed diligently simply because it was hard. We sounded different due to our cultural accent  that sometimes  when we ran out of words, we  just laughed  because we felt stupid trying to learn a language that was not our own.
So how did I learn to communicate well then, be it oral or written for that matter ? Allow me to share some of those tips.
1. Never stop reading. You do not have be a total bookworm like my daughter, but if you are then that is just fine. Have the time to  read even short posts, quotations , articles , print advertisements. Even comic  or music magazines will help. You do not have to buy new ones . My kids and I are fans of book sales , that when I take them out for a treat, I let them choose books or magazines that cost as low as ten pesos. The idea is to read and  learn new words, sentences and phrases.
2. Start  watching American shows and movies. Choose family and kid friendly ones, either animated or not. The plots, the twists and turns plus the story’s dialogue  are great topics for you and your kids to start a short discussion  even after you had  watched them. You not only bond as a family but learn from each other as well.
3. Be open for opportunities. There are a lot of short courses where you can improve your communication skills, workshops where you can honed your talents. The internet has lost of venue for that . Just be careful on  what groups you join or the people you interact with. Choose a community where you can share your opinions  but still be mindful of basic courtesies.When I had been a stay at home mom for 12 years, I thought I will not be able to work again. I am an undergrad and my chances of getting work so I could send my kids to school were very slim. But when there was a free call center training in our place, I grabbed that opportunity and applied. I was discouraged because of my educational background but there was one interviewer who gave me that chance and encouraged me to take advantage of it. And the rest, was, what they all say, was history.

It took awhile for me to learn. But with every feedback, coaching and mentoring came humility, focus and understanding. It may have not been easy but the rewards were tenfold. Now after six years of hard work,  most of my clients over the phone would know that I am not an American but would commend that the clarity and spontaneity of how I communicate can be mistaken from that of another country, of another culture.  In which I am grateful but would admit to them that I have never been to any other country other than my own.
It is true that English is my second language. It may had helped me tremendously to be financially independent and creatively share my true self.
But it also helped me realize that our  world is  not really that big for me to forget where I originally came from.