Thank you, Sir Ricky Lee.
For going all the way to UPLB (University of the Philippines Los Banos) back in 2012 for the original staging we did of your novel “Para Kay B.” It was a small production. You didn’t know any of us but there you were gracing us with your presence. When I asked you to sign my script, you wrote, “You should write more,” and I did. I believed you, and in doing so, believed in myself more.
For giving birth to Ned and Bujoy, whose story I’ve probably seen more than a hundred times. They were the ones who showed my juvenile heart how delightfully agonizing love is.
For acquainting me with the “tao sa loob,” the me that lived inside of me; for letting me know him, and for reminding me to always listen to him. Thank you for giving me the courage to keep boxing with my personal boxes.
For making sure we had rice every session of our workshop after that one time I jokingly complained about why there wasn’t rice for breakfast. And for having it prepared every time I paid you a visit at Xavierville (Quezon City). Thank you for always keeping us full.
Thank you because, as much as you don’t want to admit it, Batch 15 remains your favorite. There, I said it.
For the standing applause you gave after watching my play “Pilipinas Kong Mahal with All the Overcoat” at the Virgin Labfest. I will always keep with me the words you gave me right after that show: “A great story takes a personal experience and elevates it to the level of national discourse.”
For the three memorable occasions I had sitting next to you while watching the stories you wrote—during the screening of the digitally restored “Labs Kita, Okay Ka Lang?”; at the press preview of “Himala The Musical” (2017); and at the UST (University of Santo Tomas) staging of “Para Kay B.” I couldn’t have felt any luckier.
For that one time you asked GianCarlo Abrahan to send me a picture of you and Jolina Magdangal when she visited your house. You knew I would get jealous, so you told Gian to tease me. But instead of envy, I felt warm and fuzzy because you thought of me. Thank you for not forgetting; for always remembering (except that time you couldn’t identify which among the parked cars was yours).
For always trusting me whenever you have theater projects. Thank you for always asserting that Gershom Chua and I are your cowriters for the musical we wrote. During the countless phone exchanges we had for play revisions, you unknowingly reminded me of how good life and love are, especially if they go beyond ourselves—if they go for others, for culture, for history, for our motherland, and for the Filipino race.
For always encouraging me to start writing screenplays. And for assuring me that you’re there to help when I do. I owe this to you.
Thank you for being a generous and selfless educator. During the initial screening for your writing workshop, I was amazed at how much so many people wanted to make the cut. All of us braved the stormy weather (then intensified by a bomb threat) just to be there. To me, that was proof that you have inspired countless Filipinos to write. It was a manifestation of how many of us wanted to be mentored by the maestro.
Thank you for being my inspiration in teaching others who also want to tell stories. I promise that no matter how high gas prices go, I will continue leading more dreamers on trips to their own versions of Quiapo.
Thank you for teaching us to be good people. Not all teachers can do that.
‘We are essential’
Most of all, thank you because your recognition as a National Artist serves as an acknowledgment of every writer, and of the value and power of telling stories. It is true:
Writers don’t need the glare of the spotlight, which you usually shy away from. But it is also important that the heart that wills pictures to move be recognized. Thank you for being a reminder that we are essential, because social viruses never run out.
So, allow me to say to you the very same words you wrote on that “Para Kay B” script you signed during our first meeting: Congrats, Sir. You did a beautiful and difficult job!
Along with Kuya Jerry Siapoc, I will forever honor you through every trail of ink my pen leaves on paper.
Eljay Castro Deldoc is a playwright, teacher, and screenwriter. He was part of the 15th Ricky Lee Screenwriting Workshop. His first anthology of plays, “Pilipinas Kong Mahal with All the Overcoat at iba pang dula,” is now available (email [email protected]).
Drew Espenocilla is a graphic artist, copywriter, and travel content creator. Visit his channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/BicolanongLakwatsero. (Translated from Filipino by Drew Espenocilla)