SUGARFREE: The Proverbial Pen

(Invited to be a columnist for “Times Focus”. My first entry released today.) 

For a column head, SUGARFREE appears quite tasteless. It’s devoid of imagination, a plain twist to something mundane. Harmless, you may say.

Quite the contrary, in a gastronomic sense, something that is sugar-free is heaven-sent. It can be among the world’s top product innovations that benefit more than 300 million diabetics in the world (although hardly half know that they have the disease). The sound “sugar-free” is music to the ears of a diabetic. It brings one to a certain kind of high. It is that glimmer of hope on a dessert table, that light at the end of the tunnel that promises the same savory sweetness without rendering one’s glucose level shooting up. 

Truth be told, I am among the world’s 300. I am diabetic. That explains the choice of the column head SUGARFREE. Convenient excuse? 

On the sweeter side, I picked SUGARFREE as this column endeavors to be as circumspect in contributing that modest fill in the gaps in appreciating the bitter-sweet realities of life. It aims to strike a chord with a reading market that encompasses a single set of demographics. It may tickle the grey between the ears, shake up emotions, or whet appetites of the hippies and the “young at heart”. However it may come across, most, if not all, that this column offers would be born of a personal opinion that strives to be responsive to and reflective of ideas not just of one. 

When I was invited to be a columnist for the Times Focus, there was hardly any reason to think twice about accepting it. The editor-in-chief was my college teacher in news writing in Silliman University. Not to mention that I was personally drawn to the newspaper – content- and layout-wise. In short, it would be an honor to be a part of the Times Focus. Besides, the last time I did a column was when I was still with the school paper, the Weekly Sillimanian (My last piece saw print in 2003, the year I graduated from college.). I thought this was my chance at infusing some pizzazz to my rumblings on Facebook. But, of course, I know by heart that maintaining a column means steering clear of the human tendency to react in haste (as in social media). 

The responsibility of the proverbial pen in a newspaper is much bigger. Whenever you write, you have to visualize the Sword of Damocles above you. You have to be forward-looking, aware of the consequences. After all, you don’t write for yourself; otherwise, keep a diary. 

My training in college was in journalism. Over time, at both school and work (I serve as Director of the Office of Information and Publications in Silliman), I realized that writing is not merely articulating ideas, crafting them into words, and pumping them through the information highway. You have to be driven by a purpose. You don’t write to merely inform; you take up the pen to broaden the perspective through which decisions, actions and certain choices can be made by the people around you. You develop that going concern to be relevant and of benefit to others. And you have to sustain that reader interest not in the style of writing alone, but in the value-added that your readers “take home” with them, that “Aha!” reaction that they experience, and the lesson that they are able to apply and be guided by. 

But while what you write might be driven with the right purpose, generating that needed following can be another ballgame in itself. You can never assume that all readers of the same newspaper will pore over your piece. The line “To each his own” fits the mold in the extent to which people would affirm, embrace, react or downright dismiss your piece. It is not always that your topic can capture quickly their changing preferences and interest, in the same way that time is not always on their side to read your article from head to toe. 

Nonetheless, you continue writing, for, just like how sugar-free is to diabetics, the genuine sweetness that you derive from it lies in the purpose behind doing it. 

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