A TRAVELER’S POINT OF VIEW: The Story of a Book Written During the Pandemic
DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / Nov 29) – If the pandemic – which has now mutated into another variant known as Omicron spreading wildly across Europe and countries in southern Africa – can be called a “blessing in disguise “, it would be because she gave humanity a chance to relax, albeit in a situation of panic and deep insecurity. The lockdown that followed forced people to stay at home and follow strict protocols to avoid spreading the virus.
Unless writers have mental illness brought on by the depression caused by the pandemic leading to boredom, the pandemic has given them plenty of time to catch up on their need to finally deal with unfinished manuscripts. Or write that book they wanted to publish because during the pre-pandemic period they had more urgent things to do. Finding the time to sit down in front of a computer and start expressing your thoughts on the screen was a luxury then.
For two years I had wanted to write a book about my attempt to make sense of the next 500e anniversary of the arrival of Christianity in our islands. In 2017, the Philippine Catholic Bishops’ Conference (CBCP) began announcing plans for celebrating the anniversary.
My fear at that point was that if there weren’t other voices addressing a more critical view of the 500 years since the introduction of Christianity by the Spanish colonizing brethren, the celebration would put more emphasis on the ‘triumphalist angle of the event, citing mainly the positive contribution of the Spanish colonization. I thought I could offer such a point of view by writing a book.
However, this project initially took a long time to do rigorous research and accumulate as much historical material as possible, from history books (both written with a colonial and post-colonial perspective) to ethnographic studies providing the context. culture of our ancestors when the colonizers encountered them, to theological-missiological articles that help shed light on how early approaches to evangelism were employed. Obviously, this manuscript had to be interdisciplinary, drawing on discourses from history, anthropology and theology.
Once all the documents and related literature were gathered, one had to go through them and finally find a way to make sense of these voluminous documents. And start writing the text, going to great lengths to make sure that no mistakes were made when quotes are made, so that you don’t forget those important quotes when copying the quotes (to avoid even unintentional plagiarism. ), to check if the data (names, dates, locations) was accurate and complied with the rules required for footnotes and endnotes. In the process, of course, there’s endless editing, deleting, and adding new sentences or whole paragraphs.
From 2017 to early 2020, I ran around, juggling a number of tasks that, instead of decreasing, were constantly increasing, most of which needed urgent attention. So there was little time to catch your breath, sit down with a clear mind, and start the book project. On top of that, I had to make sure that my regular doctor’s weekly appointment was never missed. In short, I didn’t even find the time to start doing serious research.
And then the pandemic entered the scene. In February 2020 – when the virus had already spread from the city of Wuhan to the rest of Asia – I still had an engagement with the secretariat of the Episcopal Commission on Indigenous Peoples (ECIP) which had organized a forum Bishops-Beliyan with Higaonon shamans in the city of Butuan. It was not until March that the stay-at-home orders began to apply.
Like everyone else, I asked myself: how long would this pandemic last? Was it really going to cause thousands of infections, resulting in deaths, especially for the most vulnerable sector of humanity (namely the sick elderly). I belonged to this category, so naturally I had deep anxiety. So, for the first two months (March to April), I felt helpless and couldn’t do anything other than pray, read, surf the Internet, and do some gardening.
However, in May I kind of recovered from the early shock of all the exaggerated stories of what this pandemic could cause. And I remembered that I had a delay in knowing how to write this book. And once I got a grip on myself and was sure I was ready for this challenge, I started collecting all the material I had in my own personal files and our library, as well as what could be viewed online. After a month, I had a voluminous quantity and I was convinced that my review of the related literature was already sufficient.
The actual drafting of the continuous text took place from June to August. I slept after midnight or got up early at dawn when the mind was high and thoughts were racing through my head. Fortunately for me – a single person living in a well-supplied religious community – I didn’t have to worry about looking after babies and preparing meals. Our daily schedule mostly involved prayer sessions as we sort of returned to our semi-monastic tradition of praying five times a day.
As online courses and webinars weren’t quite popular yet, I didn’t have to prepare lessons, lecture, and proofread assignments. The only main task was therefore to write the book. But despite the luxury of time, it was an uphill struggle. It took a lot of discipline, attention to detail, and patience to deal with conflicting data from various sources. It was such a relief when I finally finished the first draft.
However, it would take a whole month to edit and check for grammatical, topographical and other errors. And also to provide a guide for the publication, because you have to take care of the details – Table of Contents, Bibliography, Index, etc. Which made me think that indeed, the devil was in the details!
In September, I was ready to submit the manuscript to the Claretian Foundation, Inc., which I thought might consider publishing it. A series of communications with them resulted in us asking ECIP to cover half of the printing costs, and luckily they agreed. And so the work of packing the book for publication began.
By April, printing of the books was completed and within weeks copies were shipped from Quezon City to Davao. Once I had a copy of the book in my hands, I took a thorough briefing and thanked Heaven for giving me the opportunity to write this book. Shortly thereafter, Claretian Foundations launched this book online which bore this title – HANDUMANAN (Souvenir) – Digging for our Indigenous Source. The books were then available for sale through Shopee or Lazada (online) and at various outlets.
Months later, the publisher submitted the book for the Cardinal Sin Catholic Book Award for 2021, and just a few weeks ago, in an online ceremony, he received the award for best book for spirituality. . While the prize is deeply gratifying, it is at least a consolation, that despite all the problems and difficulties that I have encountered in this difficult struggle, it has given me a gift that truly warms the heart of any author.
The story is not yet over. Even after Handumanan was started, I felt in a hangover state. I needed to relax and one way was to go back to the computer and write something lighter. I then thought of writing a novel in Cebuano-Bisaya. I had written three novels so far and they were always a source of pleasure in the writing process.
Writing and finishing of the first draft of ANG DAGAYDAY SA PANAHONG NANGLABAY was a walk in the park. Compared to Handumanan, Dagayday was a joy to write and it gave me some kind of entertainment. It only took two months to complete as I started in early July and finished in early September.
ALETHEIA Publications took it over and printing took place two months later, and next week the first books would now be available for distribution and sale. More on this in the next column.
[MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Redemptorist Brother Karl Gaspar is a professor at St. Alphonsus Theological and Mission Institute (SATMI) in Davao City and until recently, a professor of Anthropology at the Ateneo de Davao University. Gaspar is author of several books, including âManobo Dreams in Arakan: A Peopleâs Struggle to Keep Their Homeland,â which won the National Book Award for social science category in 2012, âDesperately Seeking Godâs Saving Action: Yolanda Survivorsâ Hope Beyond Heartbreaking Lamentations,â and his latest, âHandumanan (Remembrance): Digging for the Indigenous Wellspring.â. He writes two columns for MindaNews, one in English (A Sojournerâs Views) and the other in Binisaya (Panaw-Lantaw). Gaspar is a Datu Bago 2018 awardee, the highest honor the Davao City government bestows on its constituents.]