By Neni Sta. Romana Cruz
9 January 2016
Philippine Daily Inquirer

In my years of introducing the craft of writing to young writers, I am always excited, the way I am when my own books are poised to roll off the press: when the final step of the writing process happens for them—seeing their bylines in print and allowing the general public aside from family members and classmates to read their work that has undergone revisions over and over again. They are always told to make sense of the tiring drafts they are told to do, and to make sure, as an act of courtesy to readers, that the final piece of writing is as close to perfect as possible.

“In Our Own Words (Vol. 2)” is a collection of the year’s best writings of students who attended the 2015 workshops of Where the Write Things Are, a two-year-old writing center that boasts of a roster of only-published authors during its summer workshop and its monthly sessions. Of course, children’s book enthusiasts will know that the center’s name is a tribute to Maurice Sendak and the classic “Where the Wild Things Are.”

How could the writers not be inspired by these familiar bylines that came to life and with whom they interacted? Here is our 2015 roster: Manix Abrera, Dean Alfar, Kristine Canon, Grace Chong, Celeste Flores Coscolluela, Conchitina Cruz, Roel Cruz, Mabi David, Raissa Claire Falgui, Cyan Abad Jugo, Gabriela Lee, Glenda Oris, Samantha Sotto, Michael Jude Tumamac, and this writer.

As a fitting finale of the writing process, the young writers were honored in an afternoon ceremony at a launch in Gold Tantoco’s Prism Gallery on Dec. 13. There, they read excerpts from their work.

It is a definite gauge of the writers’ continuing enthusiasm to write and to critique each other’s work that a Facebook group called Teacher Roel’s Writing Hangout was born. They needed a venue to continue their writerly conversations after our May workshop. Call it an overflow of writing energy that needed direction and structure. The current 25+ FB members even held a spoken word event.

More on the young writers with whom we have been privileged to work:

A returning student is Cleo Karrel Llige, who loves poetry and wrote an ode to dogs. Bruce Ancheta wants to be a robotic engineer, but at the moment loves writing about food (“The Buffet” is his contribution). Hannah Arribas flew to Manila for the launch all by herself from Cebu where she lives; she read her poem in Filipino, “Salamat Po.”

Layla Ortega addresses a wolf in her poem. Bryan Andrew Ong wrote one titled “Tea Leaves.” The youngest and initially reluctant student, Vito Dueñas, amused the audience with his complaint of a poem dedicated to his sister Sachi. Of course, Sachi had a retort of a poem, lamenting that he tops the list of people she always has to ask to stop whatever…. Mikaela Dizon wrote a reflective essay on “Beauty”—not surprising as she has always loved literature even as a small child and loves every opportunity to write and escape to different worlds. Arianna Flavier has a poem titled “Unspoken Words”—“unwritten, unsaid, unused.”

For the first time, too—obviously a sign of the times and also of the influence of Manix Abrera—we have a comics section, featuring the creations of Maja Gomez (“The Tales of the Galactic Duo and Their Celestial Guardian: Dessert Planet”) and Tres Nocos (“A Day in the Life of Pawblo Purrcass”). There are more writers worthy of mention than this space allows.

Interesting to me was meeting the granddaughters of two well-known writers. Each time I asked both student and grandma with a degree of intimidation: What can we teach you that your writer in the family cannot?
Rocio Mercado was enrolled by Monina Allarey Mercado, and she chose to write a play, “Friendzoned,” as it is a genre she loves. During the reading, she acted out the scene involving two characters with much flair.

Mica Magsanoc I always tease about the burden of the name she carries and the sensitive essays she writes that she says cannot be published in the Inquirer lest Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc be accused of nepotism. (How can that be with the talent obvious?) Her piece is a sympathetic letter to Shylock.

A tradition that began in last year’s initial issue, with Jonathan Rañola art on the cover, is matched this year with Kora Dandan Albano’s “Ang Makinilya,” a mixed-media artwork dated 2015. How apt that those words emerged from Kora’s old-fashioned makinilya (typewriter).

Truly, there is nothing more empowering than seeing one’s byline. It encourages one to write, write, write and read, read, read. It’s always amazing to us all that what works for the young writers always works for writers of all ages as well.

For the sake of transparency, I must confess—and certainly with much pride—that “In Our Own Words (Vol. 2)” is a publication of Imprint Publishing and Where the Write Things Are, two fledgling initiatives of my family.

For more information on its course offerings, contact +639176240196 or writethingsph@

Neni Sta. Romana Cruz ( is chair of the National Book Development Board, a trustee of Teach for the Philippines, and a member of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.