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Sunday, October 30, 2011

I Got Published in Youngblood!

What do you think? 
Never in a million years did I expect that any of my work would grace the Philippine Daily Inquirer's "Young Blood", a column that features thoughts on social, economic and political issues from the twentysomething and below.

I think you have to tilt your head a little bit to read this.

I was editing news articles yesterday when I got word that my article got published. Mr. Dex Baldon, a colleague and fellow blogger from Bicol Blogger Republic, sent me a message on Facebook congratulating me for a job well done. Flabbergasted, I didn't know what the congratulations were for. And then, I saw the link in the message to an article named "Golden California" on the Inquirer website. I literally exploded in front of my laptop.

This came to me as a complete shock because I didn't think that PDI would run any of my work at all. I thought that my brand of writing would not make the cut, especially since I e-mailed the story to PDI way back in August and got no response ever since. I dismissed my attempt at being published in Young Blood was as an impossible feat. That's one reason why I was so shocked. Three months without any sign of me getting published and now here I am, blogging about it and so happy I could die.

But the idea of gracing the Young Blood column wasn't entirely my initiative. Sir Ariel Guban, one of my esteemed professors, told me that I had the chops and convinced me to write something that was Young Blood-worthy. Overwhelmed, I followed his advise since it wouldn't hurt if I tried.

Shout-out to BUCAL and Budyong y'all!

I am still in an advanced state of stupor right now and basking in this moment as if I won the lottery. The best part of getting published in Young Blood are the e-mails from people who've been inspired and have realized a lot of things because of your published work. I 've got dozens of e-mails since "Golden California" came out, and the responses were eternally awe-inspiring, to say the least.

After getting published, I must say that all of this has boosted my self-worth as a writer drastically and has convinced me that I could actually write to affect people. The best feeling in the world is when all your hardwork and sleepless nights get rewarded with lives touched.

This is one of the most monumental events in my journalistic career and it gives me great hope that, through my writing, I would be able to help people realize a lot of things in life and do something transformative to society.

Here's my published article:

‘Golden California’


After an almost two-month stay in Los Angeles, I found myself in LAX awaiting my flight back home to the Philippines. My Mom and Dad, who sat beside me, looked awfully crestfallen. The prospect of “abandoning” my parents in a foreign land, more than 2,000 miles away from family and friends, was heartbreaking. I knew how they’d feel alone even in a city with a population of 4 million.
I arrived in the United States last summer – my first time to be there. As I was traveling with an immigrant visa, the plan was for me to stay there for good and become a US citizen. But I was only a year away from graduating from college, and we thought it was best if I stayed in the United States for just a couple of months to comply with immigration formalities, secure my green card and then return to the Philippines to finish my studies. I’m now a journalism senior, and as soon as I get my diploma, I’m heading straight back to California.
“Mauunahan mo pa kaming makauwi sa Pinas,” my Mom blurted with a tinge of envy and regret. Since she set foot on the United States three years ago, she never has had a chance to return to the Philippines. And Dad, a US citizen, has been back here only four times. He has been residing in California for more than 10 years now. Despite their being homesick and even though they can buy expensive plane tickets home, neither of them can afford the luxury of going to the Philippines, even for a short visit. That would mean taking a break from work and relinquishing time that could be spent earning money.
“We’re very lucky, son,” my Dad would often tell me in LA, “many people would kill just to come to America.” I know. I’ve seen people selling practically everything they owned for a shot at working in the “States,” as we refer to the “land of milk and honey.” But I didn’t have to make the same sacrifice.
If the seemingly endless lines in front of the US Embassy in the Philippines are any indication, many Filipinos are willing to go through hell and high water just to escape the pitiable life they have in the Philippines. Our economy looks so bleak that many resort to a US visa as their golden ticket to a better life.
But the two months I’ve been in the States was long enough for me to see that establishing a career or working in the “Land of the Free and Home of the Brave” is not as glamorous as it’s bruited about.
My parents are care providers in a facility for the “developmentally disabled,” or people with disabilities that hinder daily functioning, independent living and economic self-sufficiency. The facility serves as a home not only to the developmentally disabled clients but also to my parents. It’s my parents’ responsibility to look after those residing there, cook meals for them, clean the house, and make sure that the residents don’t harm themselves or their fellows as most of them have self-destructive behavior.
Throughout my stay in the facility, I saw firsthand how looking after childish grownups can be so painstaking and sometimes even unsafe. Apart from doing housework, my parents have to frequently pacify the clients when they get into fistfights, or go after them whenever they attempt to run away, or intervene when they threaten to hurt themselves physically.
“This is what the American dream looks like, son” my Dad sneered as he scrubbed the toilet with his tired hands.
Ever since I was a small child, I’ve always thought that “living the American dream” meant achieving a self-actualizing, quality life with little difficulties. Turns out, the American dream, at least to our family, is more of a struggle to break away from poverty than an express-lane journey toward the realization of personal aspirations.
A minimum-wage employee, Dad often laments how the meager pay often cannot compensate for the lack of self-fulfillment, depression and physical stress he has to bear with his work. Mom, on the other hand, sleeps for only four or five hours a day because, aside from her day-shift at the facility, she also takes on the graveyard shift as a cashier at a gas station.
My folks’ occupations are exhausting, to say the least. But as my parents aren’t young anymore, fresh graduates and teenagers evidently have the edge in terms of landing higher-earning jobs, so they haven’t got much of a choice but to stick to their jobs. I guess what keeps them going is the idea that they are providing for their loved ones more than enough by Philippine standards.
Financial stability for their families is the reason many Filipinos flee to the United States. The exodus of Filipinos seeking greener pastures in the States can be likened to the 1848-1855 California Gold Rush. Much like the “forty-niners,” Filipinos are being drawn into the United States by the glint of “gold,” though not anymore necessarily “in the American river.” At present, there are over 4 million Filipinos residing in the States. But for most of them, hitting the “mother lode” is a lot harder than they can ever imagine.
In Los Angeles, my parents are into their own version of the California Gold Rush. Unseen behind all the balikbayan boxes, dollar remittances and exciting tales of places visited, are my parents’ sacrifices, most of all a life of loneliness, away from almost everyone and everything important to them – most especially family, kin and friends. No long distance calls can completely compensate for what they painfully miss.
To provide for a better life for their family, Dad and Mom missed the joy of seeing their kids grow up or the warm company of people they’ve known through their whole lives and became closest to. They forgo home-cooked Filipino meals and had to give up the rustic life in the province. They have to adapt to the ways of other peoples, other cultures.
True, you have to sacrifice so many things when you choose to go abroad in search of better opportunities and greener pastures and, ultimately, in pursuit of a better life for your family. Always in the main, it’s a choice between providing for your loved ones while being away from them, or being with them in poverty.
At LAX, I could feel how painful it was for my parents to see me leave. I kissed them both, hugged them tightly, boarded the plane and then was on my way to Manila with a heavy heart.
Back here in the Philippines now, I know this is my last chance to make the most out of life in the country I was raised in. Pretty soon, I’d be off again to the States, to carve out my own path to a better future. A lot of Filipinos wanting to go overseas just don’t know how daunting this challenge is, even in the States.
After I graduate and before I finally leave my home country and join the Filipinos’ present-day version of the “gold rush,” I’d like to have more time to reflect on and appreciate the things I’ll be missing out, like swimming in the river behind our house or being with my friends.
I’ll not only be building a life of my own, but also raising a family soon. It worries me that my future kids won’t be able to speak Tagalog or value the Filipino blood that runs through their veins.
During my stay in Los Angeles, I came to understand that it’s only fair for the Filipino pursuing the American dream to realize his “Filipino dream” first. And with less than a year left, this challenge could prove to be a great ordeal.
Andrew G. Gahol, 21, is a college senior taking up journalism at Bicol University. He is also the editor-in-chief of Budyong, the official student publication of Bicol University College of Arts and Letters.

Here's the link to my Young Blood article, please check it out:

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Thank you, 1st Annual Bicol Bloggy Awards!

What do you think? 
Official poster created by my brotha from anotha motha, Carlo Copada

Homegrown Bicolano bloggers and student bloggers (as well as gold and silver mice) amassed the Bicol University College of Arts and Letters Amphitheater yesterday for the 1st Annual Bicol Bloggy Awards.

The 1st BBAs was the first ever gathering of Bicolano bloggers  and a night to celebrate Bicolanos and their online bodies of work. The goal of the affair is to uphold convergence and interaction in the Bicol blogging community and the rest of the world.

This blogger also managed to bag "Blog of the Year" and "Best News and Media" for his blog (You guessed it!) The Culture Shack. Thank you so much, judges!

I am very overwhelmed by the honors that I've receieved from this event and I just would like to say that this is exactly what I needed especially now that I have chronic writer's block. It's this kind of personal impetus that affirms my worth as a writer and I am genuinely thankful that fellow bloggers, professional bloggers at that, were able to appreciate the one thing I do best. 

I am grateful in more ways than one. As one of the organizers, the whole affair was exhausting to say the least. We barely had two weeks to set the whole thing up and our budgetary shortcomings weren't helping either. I let out a big sigh of relief at seeing the project being successfully carried out and everyone having a good time. And though it was our first time spearheading an awards night of this magnitude and we practically had no idea of organizing a decent awarding ceremony, I think that the 1st BBAs turned out pretty goshdarn awesome if I do say so myself. It was a labor of love for all most of us who worked hard on making this event a success and we couldn't be any happier with the output.

Congratulations once again, AB Journalism-4A and AB Journalism-4B for a job well done! Congratulations as well to the award recipients! See you all again next year!

Here were the awards given last night at the 1st BBAs, you might want to check 'em out:


Blog of the Year: Jdejesus Cabrera - "In A Bucket" -

Blogger’s Choice : Goldimyrr Repolles - "Musings of the Midnight Writer" -

Best Blog Design: Claire Raborar - "Lakwatsera de Primera" -

Best Personal Blog: Maria Kristina Tormes Abiog - "Speckles n Spectrum" -

Best Photoblog: Roxx Luzada - "She Roxx Photos" -

Best Filipino Blog Abroad: Claire Raborar - "Lakwatsera de Primera" -

Best Filipiniana Blog: Goldimyrr Repolles - "Musings of the Midnight Writer" -

Best Hobby & Recreation Blog: Kerby Rosanes - "[Sketch Pad]" -; Sherwin Magayanes - "Byahero Snapshots" - (tie)

Best Sports Blog: Halley anne – "built from scratch" -

Best Travel Blog: Claire Raborar -"Lakwatsera de Primera" -

Best Culture and Arts Blog: Gibbz Cadiz – "Gibbs Cadiz" -

Best Entertainment Blog: Gibbz Cadiz – "Gibbs Cadiz" -

Best News & Media Blog: Dex Baldon - "Wow Legazpi" -

Best Food & Beverage Blog: Chris Aquino - "Raving Mad" -

Best Fashion Blog: Rhyz Peralta - "Pretty, Cute and Outrageous" -

Best Beauty Blog: An Dre Ahh - "Bee's Kyoote Blog". -

Best Technology Blog: Marvin Ryan Vista - "Batch Processed" - 

Best Commentary Blog: Jdejesus Cabrera - "In A Bucket" -

Best Advocacy Blog: Goldimyrr Repolles - "Musings of the Midnight Writer" -

Best Literature Blog: Jason Chancoco - "Hagbayon" -

Best Humor Blog: Jdejesus Cabrera - "In A Bucket" -


Blog of the Year:  Andrew Garcia Gahol - "The Culture Shack" -

Blogger’s Choice : Franco Honesto Lasay - "The Designerati" -

Best Blog Design: Joy Matocinos - "Kuhang Maligaya" -

Best Personal Blog: Franco Honesto Lasay - "The Designerati" -

Best Photoblog: Caryl Lee Gamis - "Kwadradopiya" -

Best Filipiniana Blog: Lorena Fuellas - "Rosaryo" -

Best Hobby & Recreation Blog: Kathleen Barquilla - "DeMachina" -

Best Sports Blog: Joanna Pinon – "iSPORTSPAGE" -

Best Culture and Arts Blog: Caryl Lee Gamis - "Kwadradopiya" -

Best News & Media Blog:  Andrew Garcia Gahol - "The Culture Shack" -

Best Food & Beverage Blog: Josyl Caballes - "Foodo" -

Best Fashion Blog: Cervin Bariso - "eFiorucci" -

Best Beauty Blog: JV Rapirap - "The Guyliner" -

Best Technology Blog: April Dawn Guerrero - "U-Techmo" - 

Best Commentary Blog:  Eric Rivera - "Arkitekturang Bikolnon" -

Best Advocacy Blog: Walter Miralpes - "Green Republic" -

Best Literature Blog: Marjorie Mae Noble - "Noble Reads" -

Best Humor Blog: Salvador Literal, Riza Latigay - "Dorizays" -

Best Love and Relationship Blog: Salvador Literal, Riza Latigay - "Dorizays" -

Best Movie Blog: Siviorjah Orozco - "Miss J's Movie Jam" -

Best Music Blog: Maria Kathleen Navarro - "Musikath" -

Best Religion Blog: "Dawnism" -

Best Environment Blog: Walter Miralpes - "Green Republic" -

Best Science Blog: Mary Joy Red - "SCIRE" -

Best Architecture Blog:  Eric Rivera - "Arkitekturang Bikolnon" -