Culture, Etc.


When I was a kid in elementary school, I was branded by my teacher as a “visual person,” meaning I experience things and express these experiences visually, rather than verbally. I was always one of the quiet ones in class, preferring to draw on my notebook than participate in classroom jousts. Asked once in class what were my  “ambitions” I said I wanted to draw for a living. My teacher qualified, “So you want to be an architect?”

Not knowing otherwise, of course, I eventually adopted my teacher’s interpretation of my “ambition.” In subsequent class recitations, during family gatherings, in “slumbooks” or “autographs” — my ambition in life was to be an “architect.”

I did not know any better. Kids of my generation, because of the orientation the teachers were giving them, geared their dreams in life toward “ways of earning a living.” I did not know you could be a visual artist by profession, so I assumed everybody who drew were architects. We certainly did not know anybody in our subdivision who was an artist. Visual art (painting, scupture, graphic arts) came to us as this archaic thing, something that was done during the rennaisance in Paris or Florence or some place and time worlds away from Daraga, Albay.

High school came and architecture lost its appeal. I still wanted to draw, though: I drew caricatures of my classmates and basketball players. But it was reading that once again sparked my curiosity, awakened me to the possibilities of the creative imagination. It did not hurt, too, that my mother taught elementary school english and my elder sister wrote novelletas in her spare time. Reading Miguel de Unamuno’s essay Solitude in English class, among other things, furthered my interest in reading and creative writing. College temporarily sidetracked this interest (I took up Geology in first year), but soon I picked up where I left off in high school, haunting the stacks of UP Main Library during spare time, or often even in lieu of my classes.

Yet despite the interest in writing, the thing about my being a “visual person” that my elementary school teacher said still bugs me. In writing, I often find myself disliking metaphors and allegory, and would often go for descriptive narration. I do have a strong sense of irony and am often chided for my sarcasm, and it fuels much of my writing.

But lately, after I took up photography as a hobby, I noticed myself again seeing things “more visually” rather than processing it in terms of how I would describe it in writing. Lately when I see or experience things, like for example, a violent dispersal of a rally, I imagine freezing that horrific image in time. Or I imagine how a movie camera moving through the scene to capture the emotion visually.

I find this alarming, because I cannot imagine not writing, and would want to continue doing so for as long as I can. But I guess, my teacher was right: I am a visual person. And now it makes me wonder what I would have become if my teacher had not interpreted my “ambition” as that of wanting to be an architect.


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