Last Saturday, I hauled myself to the Mater Dolorosa Parish in East Rembo Makati to give an ‘inspirational talk’ to youngsters aged 10 to 16 on the rewards of pursuing the arts. The talk culminated the second day of a three-day arts workshop organized by the Heights literary journal of the Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU) and co-sponored by the Ayala Foundation.
We were a two-man panel. Beside me Ali Figueroa, AdMU philosophy professor and freelance writer, designer and theater guy. He’s also a member of the Bukas Palad choir, that group of songsters who popularized the song Tanging Yaman. You might have seen him on TV when a certain local channel signs on in the morning.
So there we were, Ali and I, trying to give impressionable youngsters some bit of hope that, despite ourselves, the arts and its disciplines can be viable sources of livelihood. For entertainment purposes, Ali sang while I did a bit of over-the-top acting. (Inspirational talks to young people are challenging because of the age range and the relatively limited attention spans, so apart from being inspirational, the interaction had to be fun.)
The points I stressed at the talk were:
1) Invest in your chosen craft. Develop the habit of learning proactively. If you don’t end up having a job in the arts, your investments aren’t wasted. Everything you’ve learned will have some use in other things. It may be difficult for the young mind to grasp this concept, but I assured them that they’ll realize this as they grow older.
2) Even if you’ve become better at your craft, there’s always room to grow. Someday someone will tell you that your work doesn’t mean spit, so the best thing to do is to find out if these criticisms are valid and if they matter.
3) If you want to be better at what you want to do, just keep doing it. You’ll only reach some level of excellence if you want it badly enough, and if you work on it.
This wasn't the first time I interacted with young people from the D and E economic bracket. As part of our Filipino finals in college the class entertained the kids of the residents of Tahanang Walang Hagdan, a charitable institution for the physically disabled. That was the first time I heard the word 'kuya' attached to my name. Last year, my friend Angelo had me teach basic art to kids at the Children of the Sun Home in Pandacan, Manila. These special opportunities are undeniably humbling, reminders of how lucky I am to have been put through a good school and blessed with talents and a stable job. The fates of these kids are undecided, but there is that hope that I could touch at least one soul to give that extra push, rise from that destitute state and be someone. Someone better.