• SERAFIN ‘JOPY SAN JUAN’ PLOTRIA, JR.
(Editor’s Note: As Negros Weekly closes its pages for 2023, we picked broadcaster, Serafin Plotria Jr., as our Person of the Year. He is the station manager of 94.3 iFM, the FM station of Radio Mindanao Network in Bacolod City, and writes the “Ulihing Tubo” column for this news magazine. He is the author of “Puno Sang Aligotgot”, a Hiligaynon short story that won third place in the 71st Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature)
I am dyslexic. At least, that’s what I believe my condition is. During my elementary years at A.L. Jayme Elementary School in Brgy. Mansilingan, Bacolod City, I failed in every spelling quiz as I struggled in writing words correctly.
Despite the difficulty, I have this passion for writing. I always dream of being a writer. My journal entries back in high school were full of spelling errors. Not to mention that my handwriting script was, and still is, an art in itself.
Being terrible in spelling and having poor handwriting did not stop me from pursuing my dream to be a writer. In college, I enrolled in Mass Communication program as a step towards my goal. Still, I continued to struggle. The content of the essays I wrote back then were full of misspelled words and grammatical errors. I thought I was a hopeless case, and I started to give up my dream of being a writer. I left school for a while and pursued other career paths.
In 2005, I eventually went back to school to complete my MassComm degree. I decided to give it one last push. I joined the campus publication to breathe new life into my writing. I even had small victories in writing competitions for campus writers. But that was it. I felt that there is something missing in my craft. Is it my writing style? My content? My approach? I started having doubts on my own abilities that I took a step back from writing. Instead, I focused my interest on radio broadcasting.
I would say that 2018 was the year of my writing “rebirth”. Instead of writing in English, where I struggled with the words, I chose to write in Hiligaynon. My exposure to local culture and life convinced me to go local and indigenous. The state of our Hiligaynon language and other important local cultural gems is a disheartening reality that poked me in the eye. By putting our own indigenous culture in the backseat, we are allowing our cultural souls to slowly die the same kind of death seen by many great civilizations thousands of years ago.
So, after more than a decade of hiatus, I picked up my pen again and wrote, not because I am good at it, but because I want to and I must.
Writing Hiligaynon poetry, known locally as “Binalaybay”, gave me a fresh doze of writers’ elixir. The Peter Solis Nery Foundation honored my works and gave me the Peter’s Prize medallion. I ventured into writing short stories in Hiligaynon the following year. I won two more prizes in the new category of the same award-giving body.
Four years later, Padya Hubon Manunulat, a collective of Hiligaynon writers based in Western Visayas, awarded me a silver plum in their maiden writing competition. It gave me hope that, finally, I could write.
Then, the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards came in 2023. For many Filipino writers, taking home a Palanca Award is more than just a peer validation of his craft. It is a personal proof that one can truly write.
Making it to the cut this year made me rethink my writing. Maybe, I have it in my veins, after all. And I can sense that it is just starting to make its real presence felt in my being, dyslexic or not. | NWI