This site has evolved from a personal blog to an advocacy-related site. I interviewed various advocates and featured advocacy-related news and stories in region 12 and other parts of the country. I hope that the stories that I featured on this site will inspire you as readers.
‘Gusto Maglupad ni Bangsi’: An interview with Xaña Angel Eve Apolinar
Xaña Angel Eve Musa Apolinar is one of the promising young writers in Sarangani Province. She is not only a writer and an advocate for children and reading but also a youth leader whose influence made significant impact in the province.
Apolinar hails from the Municipality of Maitum. She likes to write about her hometown as it reflects her identity. She is a 4th year student of Bachelor of Arts in English Language Studies at Mindanao State University GenSan. She is currently the chairperson of the Sarangani Writers League.
In an interview, Apolinar shares about her writing experience and the inspiration behind the story of her first storybook - Gusto Maglupad ni Bangsi.
Yadu Karu: When did you decide you wanted to become a writer?
Xaña Angel Eve Apolinar: There was really no moment of taking time to actually pause and decide, “Ah! I want to be a writer when I grow up!” But it would be unfair, too, to say that I am a natural at this. My ability to write is because of my exposure to books and writing exercises in school. At that time, I did not even think of it as a profession that someone could be. It was just a habit to pen down my thoughts – and one thing led to another. I became a campus journalist, won a spoken word contest, published a few literary works, became a member of a writing organization, and now will be launching my debut book.
YK: Have you ever dreamed about this? Or is this merely an unplanned event in your life?
Xaña: When I was a college freshman, I had this conversation with a close friend, Kuya Logos, that I aim to be a published writer before I graduate. I was focused on Creative Nonfiction back then, so the goal was to be part of Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Youngblood column. But when I saw the announcement for Usbong, I dared myself to write a children’s story. There was the same dream to be published, but now in a different genre.
YK: Reading other people's work is an important part of being a writer. What works have had an impact on your writing?
Xaña: Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince is my favorite children’s story. I like the idea of writing a story that is thought to be for a specific audience only, but can actually be meaningful for all ages, too.
YK: Can you share with us your creative (writing) process?
Xaña: I often have random bursts of creative ideas – in public transportation, in a fast-food queue, in a noisy club, or even in bed when I’m about to sleep. Ideas may be in the form of a poetic phrase, story plot, and even metaphors. When this happens, I will immediately open the Notes app on my phone. I tend to store them in this repository until I find the right time and inspiration to use them.
I have to be basked in creativity in order to be creative, so I listen to music, read books, look at artworks, thrift-shop, talk to children, and even take photos. These allow my mind to breathe and find beauty in the things around me. In turn, this beauty (as I like to believe so) reflect my writing.
When I’m working on a creative project, it is important to discipline myself to sit down and focus on the task at hand. I also let my trusted friends read and critique my work. Constructive criticisms are vital in ensuring my growth as both an artist and a person.
YK: Your published book, 'Gusto Maglupad ni Bangsi,' is your first storybook. Can you tell us about your writing experience?
Xaña: It took us four years to finish the book, and it wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for the people I was working with. One important lesson I got from this specific writing experience is the power of constructive criticisms and revisions. The story was first centered on the theme of kindness, but after consultations with the editorial team of Aklat Alamid, it now evolved into a tale that teaches people of all ages to dream high, work hard, and explore life outside of one’s comfort zone. It bears more weight to encourage young kids to not only have an ambition, but to also work hard to reach that ambition.
I also sought advice from the children of Maitum, especially those who are residing in our coastal barangays, Binisaya speakers, and fisherfolks to ensure that I am using the accurate language and descriptions.
YK: Is it difficult to pursue a career as a storybook author? Is this something you intended?
Xaña: I think it is still too early to say it’s difficult, for now. It’s a tedious process to be published as a storybook author, especially one who has to be conscious of the content (plot and illustrations) to make sure that it is suitable for kids. But based on my experience prior to launching, it has been a worthwhile endeavor.
YK: What are some of the challenges you've faced as a children's author or as a writer in general?
Xaña: Killing my darlings is one of the many challenges I had to face as a writer. It takes a lot of courage to delete or revise a line, a character, or a plot from the story especially if it is something that you put a lot of thought into. However, I like to believe that it’s a marker of my growth as a writer when I can transform something unacceptable into a published-worthy literary work.
I am also a slave to writer’s block. I juggle a lot of things - being a writer, student, youth leader, and breadwinner - that when I finally have the time to sit down and write, I lose inspiration. This is when my repository of ideas commits its purpose.
And finally, there is always pressure to produce meaningful work. It is not enough that I am just writing. I have a responsibility to challenge, critique, defend, and inspire people with my words.
YK: How do you incorporate your sense of place and identity to your writing?
Xaña: While there is no denial to the unending debate of the relationship of the art to the artist, in my case, my works reflect my self. My experiences, identities, and lived trajectories are subtly embedded in my words. These are even manifested in “Gusto Maglupad ni Bangsi,” where the setting and main characters are heavily anchored in my hometown. Flying fish is the main product of Maitum, the pawikan is one of our protected marine resources, and Bangsi’s story is a portrait of my self.
YK: Since you’re an advocate, how can you effectively advocate for causes in your writing?
Xaña: There are nuances that surround children’s literature and other genres. Publishing a children’s storybook as my debut book is a manifestation of my advocacy for children and reading.
However, I have to admit that I still do not have published works that reflect my advocacy and stand on societal issues. I am aware that being a writer bears social responsibilities, and I am still in the process of owning up to it.
YK: In what way do you help promote Sarangani literature?
Xaña: By writing about my hometown and my experiences, I am contributing to narratives that shape Sarangani. This is my way of promoting our literature and placing our province in the literary map of our country.
YK: So far, what is the best piece of advice you've received from another writer?
Xaña: Sir Jade Mark Capiñanes, one essayist that I look up to, once wrote that writing is all about giving. A writer should be generous – with her thoughts, experiences, decisions, and even regrets. Write and give as if you won’t run out of things to offer. Give like a child, unaware of the give-and-take paradigm that adults follow. Share your literary works to the world for everyone to reflect upon. Just write. Just give.
YK: What are your writing goals for the future?
Xaña: I am focus now on finishing my thesis, if that counts. But kidding aside, I aspire to complete a poetry book that will summarize and mirror my growth as a person. I also aim to contribute to anthologies across the archipelago.