My 14th Lamiraw Creative Writing Workshop Experience

I was one of the fellows of the 14th Lamiraw Creative Writing Workshop held at the University of Eastern Philippines (UEP) in Catarman, Northern Samar on July 8-10, 2017. The Lamiraw Writers’ Worshop is an annual event that is being run by the Katig Writers’ Network Inc., a group of writers in Region 8.

It was just a dream for me: to be part of this workshop as a fellow. I considered it as  something  unattainable. I was – and am – convinced that writing workshops are only for those who take writing seriously. However, when the announcement about the 14th Lamiraw Creative Writing Workshop came out, I felt a different kind of warmth within me. I thought I was blushing at the time. I read this as a sign that I wanted to try something that I had not done before – to have my written piece read and critiqued by a panel of published writers. And this only happens in a workshop where  the writers are and "where the real action is."

Preparing for the Screening

I assessed myself if I could write something and make it to the deadline. I wrote an essay and a poem. I expressed my thoughts in Waray, particularly the Ninorte-Samarnon variant.

The essay was an old one. I had some written pieces before that I  kept somewhere. I looked for them and chose one that I could bring to the workshop. I improved it – I provided details where they were needed. Again, I studied how essays are written. I could no longer allow myself to write aimlessly. I had to do it well. I did some trimming here and there. I made sure that I used transitional devices so that my narrative would be smooth and easy to read. Since I was writing a creative nonfiction, I tried my best to be faithful to the actual events as they happened.

I used as inspirations for my poem the experiences and the things I had witnessed while I was growing up in San Roque, Northern Samar, my hometown. I let my friends who are also into writing read my poem. They told me what it lacked. It was a great help – the "beating" that my poem and my essay received during the workshop was tolerable because I had them revised several times before submission.   

After editing my entries, I translated them into English. The translation is for the other participants and panelists who do not understand the Waray language. To make the long story short, I was able to beat the deadline. Then, I waited for the result of the screening.
(1) Top left. As part of the heritage tour, the workshop participants visited UEP's RAB (Rosales, Asinas, Balite) Amphitheatre. (2) Top right. Those were the notes I wrote down as my poem was being critiqued by the panelists. (3) Below right. From left to right: Prof. Yvonne Esperas, Ms. Firie Jill Ramos, me, and Gasa, my daughter (Prof. Esperas and Ms. Ramos were among those who critiqued my essay and my poem. Meanwhile, Gasa was the youngest auditor/participant.) (4) Below left. I took this photo from where I was sitting during the workshop. Unfortunately, I was too busy taking down notes
and listening to the panelists that I was not able to take pictures while the workskop was going on.

The Workshop

There are three kinds of participants in a Lamiraw workshop: the panelists, the fellows, and the auditors. The panelists are experienced writers who assess each piece. They decide on the merit of each written work. They tell the fellows what is good writing or bad writing. (Panelists this year included: Dr. Maria Luisa Torres-Reyes, Dr. Hope Yu, Dr. Lydia de la Rosa, Prof. Yvonne Esperas, Comm. Jerry Gracio, Mr. Lucien Letaba, Ms. Firie Jill Ramos, and Prof. Harold Mercurio.) The fellows are writers whose works are chosen to be critiqued during the workshop. (There were 12 of us in our batch. We came from different backgrounds: some were teachers, others were fresh graduates, and some were students. Of the 12 fellows, 3 were males and 9 were females. As fellows, we did not pay any registration fee; food and accommodation were also free of charge. In addition, we were given a transportation allowance/subsidy.) Auditors are the participants who listen to and observe the discussions. They may also participate by sharing their insights about a written piece. Just like the others, auditors have workshop kits where they can read the fellows' entries. This year, auditors included alumni of the previous Lamiraw workshops.

As fellows, we had to read all manuscripts: short stories, poems, and essays. The fellows were encouraged to give comments on each piece. After a work was discussed and evaluated, it was only at that point that the writer behind the piece was revealed.
I felt mixed kinds of emotions during the workshop: my hands were cold, my face and my ears felt hot, and at one point I thought I was having diarrhea. This was what I was feeling when my entries were about to be critiqued. But, as soon as that phase was over, I was able to relax and breathe well knowing that another entry from a different fellow would be discussed.

Despite the massive blackout in the region because of the two earthquakes that struck Leyte on the 6th and the 9th of July 2017, the workshop was successfully implemented. We had a wide and comfortable accommodation at  Balay Padi in Mondragon where we had electricity from the generator until 12:00 midnight; we had abundant food from UEP Kapihan; and the UEP organizers headed by Dr. Leonila Longcop always had ready smiles for us even though our sessions lasted until eight o'clock in the evening (plus they were very helpful every time we needed their assistance).  Most of all, each one of us – whether fellows or auditors – learned many things from the workshop. We can use them in our classes and as we continue to write in our own languages.

Waray (Ninorte-Samarnon) Translation

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