The Grey Chronicles


Writing Improved by Reading: A Recollection II

This post is a continuation of yesterday’s Writing Improved by Reading: A Recollection which ended with my recollection during the fourth year in high school. After the high school graduation, summer became a frequent visits to the Provincial Library. Other than browsing for books, I also helped in arranging their new acquisitions into respective shelves. I also discovered that the library had this vertical files of old newspapers and news magazines dating back several decades ago.

Moreover, in one particular shelf complete with lock and key were the prized collection of Dr. Jose Rizal manuscripts in purple bindings (found out later that these were mere reproductions from the National Library). The librarian, who was my aunt, permitted me to view them with her presence after seeing my eyes excited to see them. Some pages in some volumes, however, were complete disappointment because most of the words have been overwritten with bold, black lines. My aunt explained that these were blackened because some selected chapters of Noli and Fili were expunged by Dr. Rizal himself due to lack of money to publish all of them. This simple fact was omitted from our Filipino course!

Most of the summer, I spent reading fiction: espionage thrillers, collected essays and the usual grammar books. Although I promised myself not to write fiction, it was really an exhilarating experience to read the page-turner exploits of spies and double-crossers. Fiction also gave me the style for description: describing locale, persons, or events in discriminating, but tasteful, details. The Provincial Library had hidden shelves in its archive room full of fiction books that most of them had yet to be classified. I helped in grouping these books into particular genre. Some lessons are really learned out of school.

Summer also started my quest to build up my English vocabulary, knowing that words are the currency of writing, if ever I wanted to become a writer, and hoped a good one, what better way to express myself than having a treasure chest of the exact words to convey what I really wanted to express. Furthermore, two books from the Provincial Library, also gave me a glimpse on a stock of idiomatic expressions and quotable quotes which could be used in my writing whenever appropriate. It is really no use to beat around the bush, when simple words or a quote could do it.

When classes resumed, I enrolled in the College of Arts and Sciences for a pre-engineering course while waiting for the results of the several entrance exams I took for prospective schools. The democratized scholarship in the University of the Philippines [UP] had yet to release its results, but I have successfully hurdled its entrance examinations for a quota course, B.S. in Electrical Engineering, and for a non-quota course, Journalism. Without the scholarship, my parents—a school teacher and a housewife—thought that they will have a hard time letting me go to U.P. for college.

The pre-engineering course then although under the College of Arts and Sciences, some of the subjects were taught by the professors of the College of Engineering. Seeing this as an opportunity, I also applied for a borrower’s card in the College of Engineering library hoping to find some good books in there. Disappointingly, the library in the College of Engineering were full of outdated books and was not maintained, in terms of classification, as well as in the Main or the Provincial libraries. As all University students already had access to the Main Library, during my free time in-between classes, I continued reading The Philippine Islands, 1493-1898, edited by James Alexander Robertson and Emma Helen Blair, in 55 volumes. Each day, I always found something new in Philippine history, which will prove useful in my studies later, especially during the Long Grey Line phase.

In my English course, once we were required to make a technical exposition of an industrial process: paper-making was my choice. With access to the vast resources in the Provincial Library, my technical paper was graded the highest as it featured succinct research with the required footnotes and references, which most of my classmates failed to include. She recommended that I joined the collegiate student paper and also try the competitive exams for the editor-in-chief for the university students’ publication. I thought then that I was not yet ready for the University paper, but became one of the publication’s staffer for the college paper. I promised her to compete for the editor-in-chief one day!

In May, I was called to report for cadetship in the Philippine Military Academy [PMA] by 01 April. A few days after, also in May, I received a call back from the UP to pursue Electrical Engineering under the democratized scholarship. In a family meeting, after hearing everybody’s arguments (my father cited the advantages, no disadvantage; my mother let me choose; while my sisters mostly opposed) I chose PMA cadetship. My father never knew that I took the PMA entrance examinations sometime in the second semester, my second try after failing the physical examinations while I was still a graduating high school student, and only knew it when I was called to report for the October physicals. Probably it was pure luck that I chanced upon a United States Military Academy practice examination handbook in the Provincial Library before I took my second try for the PMA entrance examinations, which most of the questions were almost similar to those found in the USMA trial examinations.

In retrospect, my writing have improved considerably while I was a staffer of the collegiate student paper. I noticed then that my sentences were becoming longer, not simply subject-verb-predicate, but contained useful descriptive words to make the statement clearer than before. To a certain extent, reading also probably improved my chances in passing the PMA entrance examinations the second time!

To my surprise, this style would become sort of limiting when I had to write my master’s thesis. Tried hard as I could, my adviser taught it had descriptions which she deemed inappropriate for a thesis! Asking her the specific statements, however, she could not pinpoint them. Lately, I have reviewed the thesis, and to me, the words used were as bland as every thesis could be. I had not even used a single exclamation point to highlight the voice of a statement!


Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 LicenseDisclaimer: These posts do not necessarily represent any organization’s positions, strategies or opinions; refer to this blog’s self-imposed rules: A New Year; New Rules. Unless otherwise expressly stated, posts are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License. Comments are moderated to keep the discussion/s relevant and civil. Readers are responsible for their own statement/s.


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