The Propositions of Convergence: An Introduction

from Meandering Through, a literary criticism that I wrote back in May 2015

My time as a BS Applied Mathematics undergraduate in this university is about to come to an end. I’ve spent several sleepless nights in four years, forcing equations and theorems inside my head and proving how they came to be. And with this habit, the best way for me to comprehend mathematical concepts is by directing my understanding of these outside of the supposed context. The last sentence of the textbook we’ve been using ended the discussion of controlling convergences with this: “Just because we cannot find the link here and now does not mean that it is not there.” It must be said that many mathematicians expect convergence all the time; it’s more convenient to us to find solace in the fact that convergence happens in stasis. Divergence, its opposite, may excite us – after all, volatility is quite a challenge – but we know for a fact that we cannot guarantee any coherent statement in the absence of stability.

So maybe what I have right now with regards to the genre comprising essays is a convergence of thoughts with no definite conclusion on what this really is. Four anthologists before me that I will be mentioning here have attempted to provide concrete features of this genre, and many of them are contrasting, if not cancelling out, each other. But I have taken to a few interests that this genre seems to comprehend. I am personally intrigued in the notion of build-ups, how everything adds up to a certain extent of logical cohesion or an engaging rendering of an experience. And since the genre I’m about to talk of is hard to encapsulate, some kind of accumulation of ideas is necessary in order to drill into this entire world which a lot seemed to call “creative nonfiction.” It must be said that the way we try to locate a specific aspect particular to this genre alone is an exercise of meticulous exploration. What can this fascination of mine with opening sentences and their ability to draw in a reader with the proper subtext and intriguing vagueness pave? Perhaps the way for a certain amount of clarity on the subject matter or at least of what the author wants us to know may suffice. Then again, it may not. 

This is an anthology of literary essays, particularly because “literary” has come to the point that it has to be something not necessarily journalistic in terms of its endeavors, and neither has the “essay” been reduced to a mere narration like in memoirs and biographies. As d’Agata had prompted, we are not in search of facts but rather of art. The term “meandering” has been promising in the features of this genre, as noted by Mary Paumier Jones – like a river crashing against the banks, eroding a few parts of land from the sides, and splashing against the rocks, the essay meanders through ideas, reacting in light and against the essayist’s own views, bringing with it insights from other factors not usually considered, and providing tension against this whirlpool of musings.

While the study of this genre is better framed with a diachronic approach rather than a synchronic one, I still think that we are provided with an impetus that we try to make sense and deal with, leading us to the search for the true definition of the essay we can entirely ascribe to.  But this certain unveiling, this subtle exposition lends me the doubt that anything written with facts can be an essay. Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo focuses on the essay as the genre having a true story to tell – by way of facts and information, confessions and observations. In Creative Nonfiction: A Manual, she generally describes creative nonfiction in a nutshell as “nonfiction prose which utilizes the techniques and strategies of fiction.” Fact-feeding fiction, I must say, and so here is the first proposition: because there is a need to distinguish fact from fiction, and the facts we write about is something we can easily check ourselves, the essay learns to digress from mere information. 

Perhaps this is why Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo sees personal essays as some sort of descriptive narrative. Using techniques taken from fiction, what more can Alfred Yuson’s Confessions of a QC House-Husband provide than a detailed day-to-day experience of a man in such a specific vicinity and lifestyle? In its comical tone, we are provided with a caricature of a frustrated husband who is aware of the mundaneness that he seems to go through. Perhaps this can be seen as some sort of vulnerability that the essay is searching for. We are also engaged in Resil Mojares’ I Never Sang for My Father which captures the author’s musing on the memories of his father which seemed rather contradictory to the perception of others. Full of insights and reflections, the essay is seen through different angles: from the son’s own experiences to the father’s personal background to the interaction between the two. 

The essay is then seen as some kind of evaluation, of proving and disproving, not with explicit means of argumentation, but some sort of exploration, an almost philosophical journey had it not been for the nuances of rendering the experience of the narrator, the essayist himself. Therefore, Lee Gutkind provides us the second proposition: Because there is a need to separate the informal from the formal, in as much as we should separate an argument from a personal musing, the essay wanders between the universal and the personal thought. An argument convinces people that this must be the proper way to comprehend a subject matter; a personal musing is a defense on itself as to why the essayist has thought of such. 

In Fact by Lee Gutkind mentions “rounding off corners” and “the need to take liberties” – a digression from Hidalgo’s decisive sticking to fact and information. In the Woods by Leslie Rubinkowski intensifies the dialogue between distinguishing fact from fables, truth from lies, and how failure to do so creates a different kind of mindset for the essayist herself. This intersection between the writer’s inner world and external reality is some kind of convergence – one that gets stuck in the idea that made her believe consuming lies has made her “the kind of writer [she is] nowadays.” Meanwhile, Ruthann Robson’s Notes from a Difficult Case is a juxtaposition of different languages – legal terms, medical records – in an attempt for the author herself to understand where the misdiagnosis went wrong. Another convergence, this time with more layers exhibited by the Robson’s ability to string together varied interpretations of the same subject matter. 

In The Art of the Personal Essay, Phillip Lopate demands for a consciousness in the essay, one that needs interaction from internal and external factors. The third proposition then goes something like this: Because the informal desires the implication of the narrator through fact and memory, the essay also demands a kind of consciousness that subscribes to the context and disposition of the subject matter. And to encounter this human consciousness – no matter how erred or delusional it is – speaks now closer to the essay than any other form of nonfiction. Should the essay doubt anything beyond the personal consciousness of the essayist, it must be deemed understandable. I believe this is what Lopate claims to be the “contraction and expansion” of the essay – a necessary breathing of which its pace depends on the factors that surround it. 

Richard Selzer’s The Knife is the blend of poetic and prosaic language – the act of using the knife in medical procedures is then combined with Selzer’s personal story of how he came to be a surgeon. Virginia Woolf’s Street Haunting is not just about the search for a pencil; it’s about how experiences change the way we perceive. In the same way that The Death of a Moth is not just about watching a moth in silence; it’s about a meditation of life and death and how death seemed to be a certain kind of fixation that the essayist is banking on. Roland Barthes’ Leaving the Movie Theater, on the other hand, provides a striking contrast from the rest: what happens on the musing if the experience remains in a fixed point in time instead of a progression? How do we then separate the literary essay from art criticism? 

This may be the best answer I can come up with:  the essay as a search, an introspection of oneself by covering issues outside the self, not including the self but more on implicating what it means to the self, provides a lens or framing on the context. The fourth proposition is then inspired from d’Agata’s musing on the search for art: because there is a need to bridge the disjunction between introspection and perception, we need to trace the roots of the essay from its conventional ground – that is, by way of narrative, exposition, and story-telling – to the nonconventional, in which form and language shapes how we perceive things.

In John d’Agata’s The Next American Essay, Joan Didion is searching for some logic in the stories she knew in The White Album through her catalogue of narratives, resembling an album, but of things that don’t make sense to her. John McPhee in Search For the Marvin Gardens is creating the delineation between the actual game and the place itself that fell into dilapidation, as well as how the board game’s concept of quick kill is seen in real business, while EB White in Once More to the Lake is searching for some sort of retribution in the passage of time witnessed by him both as a son and as a father. 

In addition to the essays already included in previous anthologies of renowned writers, I also included two of my own. The ability of the essay to digress and redirect itself into different modes of thinking – from recollection to a seamless kind of meandering – allows room for the narrator to prove and disprove the notions that have been forming in his or her mind. It is in this kind of hovering above a certain theme or subject matter that breaks the chronological sequence of events – a type of technique most visible in fiction. In Salt to Taste, it is evident that there is no singular time frame that remains static; moreover, the essay goes back and forth from the present event to the events that had occurred in the past. Meanwhile, The Permutation Act is in defense of the narrator’s personal mindset, so to say. With the essay providing me the ground to talk about college courses in relation to the different factors that personally affected my decision process, it is in this ability of the genre that allowed me to trust in my own understanding. 

I then give the fifth and final proposition: because there is the propensity to meander within the convergence of propositions, the essay desires to seek a certain understanding how the personal affects other context – be it social, political, philosophical or cultural. While it may not be the case that Hidalgo, Gutkind, Lopate, and d’Agata have learned from each other, adding up theories and speculations on how to go about in describing this genre we have come to call as the literary essay, there is still this convergence among languages and context. The essays in this anthology are perhaps just an amalgamation of all the aspects I have noted from the other anthologists who have come before me and have contributed to the definition of an essay. But the propositions are an attempt to justify how they came up with all these understandings. After all, the word “essay” comes from the French verb “essai,” as coined by Michel Montaigne, which means “to try.” May meanderings then make meanings, in case the attempt to converge definitions fail.

Alfred Manrique’s Bunong Balikat, 1978

I enter the white space and on the right side corner of the vast expanse of the wall, I am enthralled
with my view of the painting, which makes me imagine the painter on the act of creating his masterpiece,
his mind in clear focus, his back turned to me, his hand on the palette, his fingers smeared with charcoal
and paint, and the paintbrush with the soft brush strokes heavily guided by the hand underneath the harsh
light giving birth to the image before the sound judgment of a humble critic being handed what she wants
to see inside the frames of the canvas: two men, perhaps middle-aged, no names, no familiarity perhaps,
their backs shown to the viewer, the men’s bodies stripped to the waist, an act of defiance, or departure,
whichever, their faces are not shown, their shoulders sturdy like the molave that refuses to break, their
hands drawn and bound behind their backs, no string or ropes seen, just one wrist on top of another,
tightly crisscrossed, arms perhaps shuddering due to exhaustion or fear, probably because of the cold air
during a warm night or the harsh voices, yes, the invisible force that lingers, surrounding the painting,
surrounding whoever sees it, what do I make of this painting as I walk into the gallery, the bold strokes,
the dark shades of color, red and murky browns combined reminds me of blood, oh must I remember that
point in time they keep on telling me must be forgotten, what do I make of the history that made it as my
eyes brush past the entire work, making me linger on the text, especially on the title–Bunong Balikat, it
said–now given that, what does art provide during the times of turmoil, the months too long and too
withered that many have fallen into despair, those moments when nobody hears the gunshots, or the
shouts, or the footsteps of people heaving, then dying, blood splatters somewhere, perhaps, please, no,
later on their bodies brutally tortured, if found, no longer buried, yet mourned after only by the sound of
silence, no longer stifled, until now, by those who remember.

Introduction: Reconfiguring the Narrating Position

The introductory essay to my Creative Writing thesis back in April 2017

To examine the way things are also means to understand one’s disposition in the past. Permutation, as defined in mathematics, is the manner of changing the arrangement of a given number of elements. The idea of permutation is also how I as an essayist have come to understand my own consciousness in exploring different perspectives I have had in terms of past experiences. It seems that to be a personal essayist is to constantly reconfigure one’s narrating position–the point in time, voice, and distance in which the author views things in hindsight. The Permutation Act and Other Essays is a collection of personal narratives revolving around displacement, containment, and rearrangement. While the manuscript emphasizes specific conflicts—a high school contract, a decision to double major, as well as complicated relationships with places and family members—this introduction, on the other hand, intends to discuss the narrating position in the essays and thus come to terms with how I grasp the complexities of the self and its surroundings. Influenced by Joan Didion’s “The White Album” and Jo Ann Beard’s “The Fourth State of Matter,” and informed by critical texts on the essay such as T.W. Adorno’s “The Essay as Form,” the manuscript enacts my understanding of the genre and what I have learned about each work. These engagements with facts and the search for an order that seems most logical allow my essays to zoom in and out of particularities, and also to move back and forth in time. 

Description of the Project at this Point

In their preoccupation with the different ways of ordering and even the idea of arrangement itself, the works in The Permutation Act and Other Essays are inclined to scrutinize the order of certain events, if not to simply justify the way of ascribing things to their positions. This act of choosing to justify these arrangements, whether as a universal truth or as a personal truth made by myself, and how they come to terms with the self in relation to the now, is inherent in the individual works.  The essays in my manuscript revolve around the experience of adjusting to life from high school to college, from the province to Manila, from religion to superstitions, and even from being a girl to being a woman in a family with prominent women figures. While this is nothing new as far as the essay genre is concerned, the need to establish the authority to create a connection, a kind of trust and intimacy, with the reader is this manuscript’s challenge. I started reasoning it in this manner of self-reflexivity: instead of putting my thoughts on a pedestal, safe from people clambering up to dispel them, I placed my thoughts on a petri dish for examination, assessing every bit there is to the truth I once thought of. 

The entire collection engages with me as the essayist experiencing a sense of placelessness and being constantly preoccupied with significant autobiographical details that are beyond my own understanding. This is most apparent in the titular essay, “The Permutation Act,” wherein the idea of arrangements comes into fruition as I explore the struggle to situate oneself in a complex society where every decision has a constraint. The need to understand how past events are affecting the present and the future also goes in hand with the need to understand how the self has reacted to these specific events in the past. While the entire focus of the essay is my journey from a Math major to a Creative Writing major and the effects of every aspect of this decision, it cannot be helped to notice digressions to history, the news, and scientific facts, all having contributed to the narrator’s perception of things. These digressions are related to the larger permutations in the essay in such a way that a need to rearrange—or “permutate”—allows the work to shift perspective when a fragment seems complete in itself but not yet enough to end the essay. 

These digressions can also be seen in the next essay entitled “From Afar.” The essay has a fragmented form with alternating narratives of witnessing the younger sister’s epileptic attacks and the narrator attempting to distract herself. These elements of disruption—the self mindlessly adding numbers, to list down possessions, to sort through words—only intensifies the frustration of the essay to substantiate the relationship with the ailing younger sister. The attempt to place one’s purpose in the family with an epileptic sister further heightens the tension between distance and proximity, and these digressions only present another means to establish the complexity of the relationship at home without having to do so directly. 

The third essay entitled “Bicol Have I Loved” is about coming to terms with religion and superstition, the city and the province, and how they clash if not coincide with each other. While it is currently in the narrative form, it chronologically attempts to figure out how the childhood fantastical wonder transformed into a disillusionment with reality. The essay also supports the idea of placelessness in that the self tries to meander through how her perception of Bicol has changed throughout the years of living in different places, most recently in Manila. It also grapples with the idea of not only the motherland, but also the mother’s land, and the feminine themes of domesticity and the Virgin Mary. The need to belong to and to accept, if not reject, the liminal space, the in-between, heightens the tension of the essay. 

All in all, even though the works in The Permutation Act and Other Essays revolve around the usual coming-of-age, these are nonetheless explored from a specific point-of-view: a girl who came from a science high school and resided in many places while growing up before studying in the university as a major in Applied Mathematics and later on in Creative Writing as well. What I believe ties all my works together is the idea that I am always trying to arrive at a clearer understanding of my thoughts, whether the times I wrote about were simply a part of the usual growing up confusion or if they were really grounded in those moments that were specific to me. I had to know how related these events and concerns are to each other. I wanted to look into the petri dish once again, and by doing so, I had to consider rearranging the order of things to see for myself if they made any sense at all.

Background of the Writer and the Project

It is inevitable for me to notice that my writing is fixated on understanding why things happened the way they did. When it comes to how I deal with the personal essay, I have always obliged myself to go back to the scientific way of thinking by creating a hypothesis at the start and then by testing it with different permutations of events. Adorno said that “science and art have separated from each other,” but not entirely, since the genre interweaves them both, allowing expression in art to be motivated and resisted and for scientific criteria to be a standard and yet a critique at the same time (154–155). But it is also in this regard that I believe that they could interact with each other: the scientific inquiry focuses on the “how,” while rumination tries to answer the “why” of a particular subject matter, and both of these can be utilized in an essay when the “what” of a matter does not seem to suffice—some kind of dramatic failure in looking for a theory that can be applied to many scenarios in life because that is how proofs should work. 

In explaining my process for the earlier works, I realized that this train of thought that I have often utilized connects philosophical thought and scientific inquiry. While scientific inquiry confines itself to a strictly one-way methodology, putting constraints on the pursuit of the result, the essay enables itself to proceed in two ways: by narrowing the scope and at the same time, by providing a larger context that the essay is trying to meander through. For example, in my essay “The Permutation Act,” I mentioned the death of Kristel Tejada, the UP student who committed suicide because of her inability to pay for her studies, and the rallies incited by it, and while I never met her myself, the way the news explained her suicide as a correlation of her leaving the university did not feel right to me. However, her death in 2013 provoked me to question my own education and this is perhaps why she mattered to me, and to some extent, to my essay. I could not help but be intrigued by her desire to continue her university studies despite the lack of finances. The entire complexity of social issues and familial problems brought forth by her death was enough to confuse me. 

Joan Didion also felt a similar confusion in her essay “The White Album” when she analyzed an interview transcript with a nurse from a Kaiser hospital who refused to offer treatment to Huey Newton, an African American who was shot. The nurse insisted that she could only treat members of the Kaiser hospital, and Newton was.

In the university, the preoccupations of the Creative Writing program were built on how the students were conscious of their craft. The self-reflexivity of the essayist to understand her own point of reference was emphasized more than the technique or mode of telling in the work. When examining my essays in detail, I noticed that I enjoy providing insights, articulating my thoughts that tend to preoccupy myself. But the challenge is to make them coherent and organic with the observations and factual details that supposedly led to these insights: I like making sense of why a rally or a protest felt weird for me to join or why I feel as if the Virgin Mary made the church pew I was sitting on break into pieces. The different modes that an essay interrogates with can vary—journalism, memoir, narrative, introspection, observation, etc.—and thus be challenging to read. And yet it is in this manner that the essay proves what it is: that it is less entertaining or trivial reading and more of a challenge for others to think along with the essayist. 

Adorno said that even if the essay exists through “a sealed and flawlessly organized science, and by a conceptless, intuitive art,” it also disregards the traditional linear concept of method—a one-way route or flowchart—and dismisses the idea that such philosophical thinking has brought the work into an ultimate conclusion (156–157). In making the personal essay the middle ground for organized science and artistic perception, I need to ground the condition of how to use both. I am personally intrigued by the notion of build-ups, how everything adds up to a certain extent of logical cohesion or an engaging rendering of an experience. Many aspects of my life lead to the confrontation of the topics I discussed in my essays; such identity-mapping only circulates around my background as a double major, an eldest daughter, an Atenean, and a Filipino—all haunted by realities that surround the self. 

Issues Faced while Writing

As suggested by the title of this introduction, the main issue that I had to face was reconfiguring the narrative position. Two other issues were my choice of language and the form that would suit the subject matter of my essays. 

Halfway through the revision of the manuscript, I realized I needed to clarify the viewpoint of the “I” in the now. Most of the fragments that comprise my manuscript were written on my notebook at different times of my life, which is to say there is a varying degree of consciousness and emotion permeating all throughout. In order to ground the time of telling, I had to mark specific dates on my essay. When I first wrote “The Permutation Act” for my class in Introduction to Nonfiction, my intention was to trace back the chain of events that lead to my double major. However, using it as the first essay in my thesis manuscript meant clarifying the subject position as to why the “I” was still trying to look back into the past. It was to my surprise that the essay has transformed from a “tracing back” to a “proving on.” I became more interested on the impact my decisions made for the future by looking at the arrangement of how things came to be.

With regard to the second issue, I was also told that my language becomes vaguer the more I attempt to expound on an insight. Perhaps it had been my habit to be wordy in my sentences the way we do in science papers. The use of jargons in research discussion manipulated its way into my writing, and even in the absence of highfalutin words, I found my sentences lacking whenever they become too simple in syntax. However, that was where such clarity could be found. I had to vary my style, to turn away from what had been a habit, in order to give way for better sentences. With regard to language, I was more accustomed to using Filipino than English. Being a bilingual writer is quite a challenge for me as it is another layer on top of my background as a Math and Creative Writing major. 

Perhaps the recurring problem I encountered all throughout my works was the maturity in tone. Even if I was sure that the subject matter I chose was what I really wanted to talk about, I was hesitant about the voice that I used. In the second essay “From Afar,” the digressions from the narrative relieve the essay of the intensive build-up of occurrences and articulations. Properly inserted in an established context, it must be stated in the moment—sort of like an inserted thought, reflection, or an aside—before the essay continues. The need to separate ranting, whining, and complaining from establishing a proper opinion had to be reconfigured in order to make my essays “grow up.” Training myself to exclude myself from the narratives, to only say “I did X and Y” when it really caused something, took up a lot of effort from me, but it was in this way that refined and enhanced my style. Nobody wants to be remembered as the boo-hoo essayist, and neither do I. 

Review of Related Literature

Throughout my stay in the Creative Writing program, I began to see the essay as the genre that thinks of different arrangements, that keeps on finding ways. But before I was able to do so, a lot of works have influenced my way of writing and understanding of the genre. Joan Didion’s “The White Album” and Jo Ann Beard’s “The Fourth State of Matter” are works that inspired my essays, precisely because they have a kind of form and language that I also want to explore. On the other hand, Patti Miller’s “The Storyteller’s Seat: The Narrative Position” and Tim Bascom’s “As I See It: Art and the Personal Essay” are readings that are formative to my perception of the genre. Those also led me to how I view the essay as the interaction of thought and memory that unfolds through the voice of the narrator inherent in a particular place and time. Finally, T.W. Adorno’s “The Essay as Form” elaborates on the issues of the genre, presenting the essay as a mix of the philosophical inquiry and scientific methodology. 

I had to read Didion’s “The White Album” several times before I understood the frustration felt by the essayist herself. In the middle of the ruckus caused by the events of the 60s, Didion finds herself attempting to process a certain order, motivated by the need to disprove the psychology report mentioned earlier in the essay. Like her, I wanted to string together fragments from different time spans, and even if my style was nothing similar to her journalistic endeavors, I sought to make use of news articles and issues around me. By recalling social and historical narratives in my first essay, I also wanted to imitate the way she would explain “that an attack of vertigo and nausea does not now seem to me an inappropriate response to the summer of 1968” (14).

Although different in form, both Didion and Beard exhibit a kind of poise in their works—a certain calmness in the midst of disorder, whether in their minds or in their surroundings. Beard in “The Fourth State of Matter” recalls the college campus shooting that traumatized everyone around her. It is her voice that commands such strong control of her emotions while establishing the context of her relationship with her officemates, her ex-husband, and even her collie. The simplistic style of her sentences lends to the fragility of her mind, thus shaping the reader’s perception of the catastrophe and how overwhelming it was for the essayist at that particular moment as she goes through the tragedy slowly. While Didion’s essay is separated into fragments, each vibrant in their own form while confronting the main conflict of the essay (the narrator trying to make sense during a time when nothing did), Beard’s work is narrative in form, describing the experience she goes through during the campus shooting, the dying of her dog, and the divorce from her husband. 

While the subject matter may intrigue the reader from the very start, it is not what the essay relies on. Interest is sustained by focusing on how the essayist deals with the introspection regarding this matter. Bascom mentioned that a personal essay is really dependent on the consciousness and not the experience. He stated that readers should be able to “realize that we are in love with the essayist’s way of seeing, not just her knowledge of a subject.” Furthermore, with regard to the relationship between the readers and the text, Bascom claimed that the readers should follow the mind at work in the essay:

In truth, as readers of creative nonfiction we are after style as much as subject. We search for the stamp of the personal—what German artists used to describe as a distinctive manner or mode—and we respond to it as we feel it transforming our experience.

Miller in “The Storyteller’s Seat: Narrating Positon” stated that a voice in revelation should also be a voice in retrospect, and that it is not the “what” that matters when something is revealed but rather the “how” (43). While I believe that not everything can be said and should be said on a certain matter, the maturity that an essayist should be conscious of also shapes the narrative position of the essay; creativity and imagination help it in rendering the facts. The same operation is at work when I’m writing my essays: after knowing what I want to talk about, I select the form and narrating position that will help me clarify my thoughts even more. Did I want to talk about my frustrations as a double major when I applied for it or when I finally finished the first degree? Would my disillusionment with Bicol be more apparent if I did it in a chronological way of telling or in a nonlinear, fragmented manner? Should I go for a straightforward prose when talking about the fear I felt whenever my sister had epileptic attacks or would dislodging the narrative be more authentic in rendering the traumatic experience?

Because the essay was criticized for having been too similar to the demands of science, ethics, and art, Adorno emphasized its ability to invoke a certain kind of intellectual freedom. Since the other genres—poetry, fiction, and drama—do not implicate the writer’s background, he defended that the mind at work in an essay will always have to work on something that is already pre-existing. Yet even though the essay is not intent on forming something new, it is about creating an order on things and analyzing whether that order works or not. (Adorno 151–152).  

Goals for the Manuscript and the Process of Completing It

There are three things that I aspire for my manuscript: maturity in the handling of the subject matter, clarity in language and tone, and variation in style. Perhaps I will attain some kind of satisfaction when my manuscript is able to get the right amount of ambiguity and honesty needed, whether the self manages to leave that liminal space between adolescence and adulthood or not, along with many other realities mentioned before.

With the maturity in the essays of Didion and Beard, I also aspire to be consistent with their attitude in writing, one that perseveres even in times of distress. This endurance to withhold emotion even when their realizations are telling them not to is the kind of poise that I desire. I hope to be more calm and collected whenever I fail to arrive at a certain conclusion or whenever the rearrangements of my thoughts only lead to more problems. Although my writing does not aspire for a composition that resembles a scientific paper proven elegantly, I wish to make use of the disorder that permeates throughout my attempts to piece events together in my life. I take this as a challenge—to accept the possibility of failure and to engage with the fragments and permutations—allowing them to interact with each other by observing clarity in my language. Only when I am able to clear my thoughts will the poise in my essays come through. Furthermore, I intend to see to it that the works have variations in style: from linear narratives to fragmented ones, from simple to lyrical prose. 

I wanted to create a logical system out of the seemingly illogical narratives and utterances, to take advantage of one’s ability to reason out, create juxtapositions, posit metaphors and analogies and such, and finally, to prove the effectivity of a self-made system that inhabits my mind.  Lastly, I hope my manuscript achieves the capability to engage with the thoughts, disproving and affirming my own insights in relation to my surroundings, and more importantly, to be aware of how it came to be as such. 

Works Cited

Adorno, Theodor. “The Essay as Form.” Notes to Literature, vol. 1, translated by Shierry Weber Nicholsen, Colombia University Press, 1991, pp. 151 – 171.

Bascom, Tim. “As I See It: Art and the Personal Essay.” Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies, vol. 2, no. 1,

Beard, Jo Ann. “The Fourth State of Matter.” The Boys of My Youth, Phoenix House, 1998, pp. 74 – 96.

Didion, Joan. “The White Album.” The White Album, Simon & Schuster, 1979, pp. 11 – 48.

Miller, Patti. “The Storyteller’s Seat: Narrating Position.” The Memoir Book, Allen & Unwin, 2007, pp. 36 – 55.

Update in September

It is raining in Florida as I write this. No sight of the hurricane yet, only strong winds blowing through the trees outside my unit. Beside me is the love of my life, gently sleeping under the sheets. I have work tomorrow unless there’s a weather advisory or the office building is closed. The CEO has asked me to prepare the minutes of the meeting and the presentation deck for the board of investors. (And there goes my creative writing degree.)

I don’t have plans for this blog anymore–I’m officially done with grad school and the job search; hence, no more promotional posts to increase traffic and engage clients, improve click-through rates and what-not. I’m still not sure if I really want to get back to writing and submitting literary pieces here and there, but this is a good site to start procuring my previous works.

That being said, it’s funny how I don’t remember most of my pieces. A friend messaged me once if he could use “Ayon sa Balangkas” as a workshop piece for his literature students; I asked him if I wrote that and what it was all about. We laughed at the absurdity of the question. At times, I try to read some of the essays I wrote in 2017 and I cringe at how they all seem boring and ugly to me now, wondering how people found them beautiful and worth publishing and how I even managed to write them in the first place.

It’s a slow and painful act of forgetting, even more painful that I’m still trying to remember. An attempt to recover. So let me start from the very beginning, from the first time somebody thought my works could get published, the very first time somebody believed I could write, until the last time I wanted to get my works out in the open.

Fil-Am book recommendations

Buried histories contain a part of Filipino identity. They have the ability to explain why many Filipinos easily forgive and forget, why poverty remains in so many cities, and why we treat other nationalities the way that we do.

From my BOSFilipinos blog post for April. Read it here.

I did crowdsourcing for book recs from my friends. It was really nice hearing about their own opinion on why their suggestions should be read by the Fil-Am community. I threw in a couple of my own recommendations too. Really timely post for the Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month this May!

Job search hacks: Because every ending is another beginning

Job hunting IS a job. It’s even tougher for an international student, with lots of companies hesitant to sponsor (“It’s not worth the hassle, fees are too expensive, we’re on a hiring freeze,” so on and so forth with the excuses). I graduated with my Master’s degree(s) loaded with confidence in my job search–a week or two passed and I felt my self-esteem dwindling. In the end I felt scared that I wasn’t enough for any opportunity that passed by. But persistence and faith got me through.

I believe job hunting is both luck and skill. You need to find that one company that you can see yourself giving your best efforts in after sending out hundreds of applications and going to countless interviews. I know; I’ve been there, which is why I would like to pass on what I know with regards to the job search here in the U.S. as oftentimes we allow ourselves to let fear overcome our spirit. Here are some tips I can give to those who are still looking:

1. Contact recruiters and headhunters. Most of them have temp and contract-to-hire roles, but at least you can work while searching for a full-time job. Also, there’s a chance for you to get absorbed by the company provided you do well in your job. Email the recruiters with your resume and a short cover letter after checking their websites for opportunities. Remember that you do not work directly for the company; rather, you work as a contractor under the staffing agency. The ones in MA are the following:

Robert Half
Beacon Hill Staffing
Labor Ready
Hire Alliance
Winter Wyman
Michael Page
Monument Staffing
Addison Group
Kelly Services

2. Join Slack forums. Search for groups online. There’s one I know for marketing and media professionals and another for tech/coders. They usually have a job opportunities channel where people just post openings from their companies. It’s a win-win situation on both sides: they get a referral bonus and you get a job. But of course, be sure to talk to people first to get to get a feel of what it’s like working at their company. Ask questions, too! Who knows, they might be strongly compelled to forward your resume directly to the hiring manager.

3. Search for Facebook groups. Check for professional networks. Do a combination words such as [your city/state] + “young professionals” or “job board.” Like Slack, many people post job opportunities online. Some of them post networking events which I’m sure wouldn’t hurt to try. If you’re more of an introvert like me which makes you less comfortable in crowds, opt to invite professionals you’re interested to talk to for a coffee chat or a phone call. Limit those conversations to less than an hour but make them meaningful as much as possible.

4. Sign up for job matching platforms. Indeed and Careerbuilder may be helpful but remember everyone can see those posts which makes for about 100 resumes submitted into those portals. Resume scanning softwares make it even harder for you to get your application viewed by the hiring manager despite your tailored resume showing your years of experience and keyword matches. Try Wayup for internships. I used RippleMatch which was really helpful in landing me phone calls and interviews. Shapr is a mobile app that works like Tinder but for professional networking. Whichever platform you use, always make sure to follow up and keep in touch with people.

5. Cold call or cold email. This is something you can do almost everyday. Look for databases of employers and LinkedIn accounts of hiring managers. You can personalize an introduction of yourself and explain why you want to contact them–be it for advice or for a job referral. The worst they can do is say no. But if they say yes, then it’s worth the try, right? Mika Reyes, Product Manager at LinkedIn, gives another networking hack on her blog on how to find people who are hiring.

So take your pick! Feel free to do all of these tricks or to just choose one or two that suits your personality. Hopefully it will work out in the end. And remember to always send a thank-you note regardless of how awkward or how great you think your interview went. Here’s to your success in the job search, that you may find something where you need to be and where you want to be. 🙂

The Life of a Consulting Intern

Building genuine connections with people was worth it in the end. That’s what I’d realized upon looking at my internship experiences. My time at Corentus was no different. If I had not reached out to an intern and friend who happened to be working for its CEO at that time, I would not have had the chance to get my foot through the door. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone in order to grow even more that’s why I took the chance when he connected me to his employer and upon meeting the co-founder of Corentus, she and I knew we would get along right away.

I’ve always heard of the big four management consulting firms: KPMG, E&Y, Deloitte, and PwC. Somehow I’ve also dreamed of walking inside the halls of those tall buildings in Boston. But for me to accomplish that, I need to gain some sort of experience and insight. It takes patience to get a job or an internship—and you’ll need the right connections for it.

Our team started working on doing an environmental scan of the management consulting firms that offer almost the same services as Corentus. Since Corentus offers team development, team coaching, and team building modules, in addition to strategic consulting and business advisory, we had to search for companies and their competitive advantages over Corentus. In the end, we narrowed it down to five companies and from there we recommended that Corentus should also be able to focus more on its online course offerings and free resources to attract more viewers and hopefully more clients.

We also worked on a business case challenge for young professionals, specifically grad students, who want to break into management consulting. We planned all the logistics and arrangements in order to attract about 50 participants in total. When we presented this to the co-founder, she was ecstatic as well. However, due to personal reasons, she decided to postpone the initial date in March and have it moved to April. Nevertheless, our team enjoyed brainstorming the challenge.

Several side projects were also handed to us over the course of those three months. My favorite was the proposing website recommendations for Corentus. They have not updated it for quite some time. I listed a set of proposals on how to improve the website, ranging from SEO keywords to adding a search bar and to even rearranging the content on their navigation bar. In the end, we had several marketing proposals for Corentus that we submitted in order to improve their management.

I hope the next batch of Corentus interns will learn as much as I did, if not more. I also hope that they will regard these takeaways as advice for them to improve their work not only as students but also as young professionals ready to take on the world of management consulting.

– Introduction I wrote as part of the Guide for Interns that we submitted for our last day at work