Thursday, April 18, 2024

It Starts with a Word: Silliman Writers’ Bloc

By Sarah Madison Repollo | November 23, 2023

Two laptops lay open at a restaurant table. Their owners, along with other residents of the dining booth, stare back at each other in relative silence, small talk breaking out here and there. The quiet breaks only as a muffled question escapes one of the men, the word “write” slipping from his lips. With a singular word, the first-ever meeting of the Silliman Writer’s Bloc organization is set in motion.

Word 1: Why

Silliman University is deemed a “Writer’s Hub” by many. Edilberto and Edith Tiempo, accomplished Filipino writers, established the longest-running creative writing workshop in Asia, right here in the seaside campus. Silliman University National Writers Workshop (SUNWW) is an annual event, meant to hone writers’ crafts and refine their skills. Even beyond Silliman, countless famed writers called Dumaguete home—with the likes of Bobby Villasis, Ian Casocot, and many others further adding to the city’s fame.

“Why?” one person at the table asked, breaking the casual conversation on personal writing styles.

Heads turned in the direction of the query.

 “Why was this group created?” he repeated from across the booth. The organization’s head, Neil Yasi, a fourth-year political science student, pondered, searching for a reply.

Neil talked about how the Dumaguete writing scene has gradually faded. With the general public hearing not even whispers of local writers’ clandestine gatherings, the students at the table agreed that things have become even more exclusive—specifically to a few social cliques and literary courses. While the status quo still allows writers to flourish, Silliman Writers’ Bloc’s main mission combats such exclusivity by aiming to build a community of creative writing within the university, providing both aspiring and amateur writers an avenue to polish their writing and enjoy the craft. 

Word 2: Who

After the talk about purpose, the students snapped back into the casual atmosphere from before. The sharing began as interest in each other’s writing heightened. Laptops were exchanged, books were read off of, and phones lit up; original literary works were shining on the screen. 

As if in a sharing circle for a spiritual retreat, one by one, the attendees read things they’d previously written. Poems, short stories, and heartfelt essays circulated the booth. For every entry, one question was answered by each person.

“Who?”

Who were their works written for?

For most, it was for others. Crushes, exes, people who meant something at some point in time to them.

For the rest, they wrote for themselves.

One member perked up at the topic of conversation, eventually speaking their mind to the group. He stated that writing nowadays has become “pretentious,” and the table erupted in mutual agreement. The attendees discussed how writing in Dumaguete City has decreased in inclusivity, the written works themselves starting to be created with a narrower audience in mind. Harder words, harder topics, and harder-to-reach writers were thought to have been some of the major turn-offs causing the city to plunge into a near writing deficiency.

One attendee mentioned how some forget who they’re truly writing for—beyond romance, friendship, and even themselves, the general public is a writer’s main audience first and foremost. 

Words 3, 4, 5: Just Having Fun

With the meeting’s more serious side coming to an end, the students became further acquainted with one another. 

One side of the table engaged in intense debate over the more fantastical elements of writing, while the other more reserved members dove into personal experiences and how they impacted their literary works. A waiter was called from time to time, and drinks were ordered to tide over the students as the conversations stretched into the late afternoon. The meeting continued, on and on. By the time the sun began to bid farewell, the awkward atmosphere from the meeting’s start had long since disappeared. 

What was left behind was a newly found student organization, with strangers-turned-members congregating in the far side corner of a restaurant table, just having fun.

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