By ROMMEL BONG R. FUERTES JR. and LORRAINE B. LAZARO
ONCE MOVING to the beat of the music, Benjamin Joshua “Benjo” Gutierrez is now moving to the rhythm of his words.
The former Salinggawi Dance Troupe captain used to participate in cheerdance competitions for the tiger university, but since bagging his diploma, he found himself focusing more on a much bigger fight: a fight to let people know the harsh reality of life, which he faces through writing.
“Nabuhay ako sa cheerleading; ‘yun ang bumuhay sa akin. Pero for me, tapos na ako sa phase na ‘yun. May mas [malaki] na ako na kalaban, may iba na akong ipinaglalaban,” he says.
An avenue for others
As a cheerleader from high school up to college, Benjo, who used to juggle his priorities and responsibilities for both his academics and extracurriculars, has shifted into the world of writing and uses his words to create an impact on his readers.
Venturing into his chosen path, the writer assumes the role of a messenger to show the situation of society and convey a message of action.
Benjo believes that writing is a medium to tell other people’s stories and to present the world in a different perspective.
“Wala kasing malaki o maliit na istorya, lahat ‘yan may ma-i-she-share na hindi mo alam, kailangan mo lang makinig. Tayo ‘yung nagiging way na iparating ang istorya nila. They need our help as writers,” the raconteur expresses.
Coming from a destitute area in Taguig City, Benjo writes about his hometown and the challenges surrounding it. He writes for his community in the hopes of reaching out to the well-off members of society.
“Kasi kung sila (mahihirap) pagbabasahin natin, siyempre ‘di nila babasahin ‘yan. ‘Kakain muna ako, kakayod muna ako, ba’t ko babasahin yan?’… Ang merong mas oras niyan [ay] ‘yung mga nasa taas, sila ‘yung audience ko. Sila ‘yung gusto kong makatok para masabi na, ‘Uy, may ganito tayo. Ano gagawin mo as a Filipino citizen? As kababayan?’” he explains.
Currently, the decorated writer is taking up his postgraduate studies in creative writing at the UST Graduate School and is continuously improving his skills through engaging in writing workshops.
This April, he is set to take part in the UST National Writing Workshop, the 19th installment of the annual summer writing workshop of the Center for Creative Writing and Literary Studies, which will be happening in Baguio City.
Excited yet nervous, Benjo believes that no matter how terrifying the workshop may seem, it will only help him understand the technicality of writing and apply it in his style.
“‘Pag umupo kami doon, gigisahin ‘yung mga gawa namin isa-isa, pero siyempre ‘di tayo gagaling ng gano’n lang, nang wala tayong ginagawang steps [to improve] ourselves,” he adds.
A path for improvement
For him, it was evident during his high school years that he was meant for the creative and artistic field.
“Nung nasa science high school ako, inisip ko na bakit ‘di ako magaling sa ganito, ‘di ako magaling sa ganyan. Feeling ko ‘yun ‘yung way ng uniberso para sabihin sa akin na ‘di ka kasi para sa ganiyan. ‘Di ka kasi para sa science; you’re for the arts’,” he says.
Despite his struggles in science subjects, the innate artist blossomed more in the field of literature and other related areas.
“Matataas naman ‘yung grades ko sa English, Filipino, and ibang writing stuff. [Naisip ko], ‘May talent ako dito, bakit ‘di ko linangin?’” he shares.
The self-taught writer pursued journalism in the University with the hopes of honing his writing skills and further strengthening his passion for it. He adds that he was influenced by his writing idol Lourd De Veyra, an alumnus of the same program.
Throughout his stay in the Faculty, Benjo learned to love the craft more and use it to connect with people and their stories.
“For me kasi, college is not about the high grades you make, but it’s about the number of hands you shake. Lalo na sa ating writers, mas kailangan natin ng connections,” he says.
The impassioned wordsmith emphasizes that writing invests in people and in building connections. In this way, the gates for stories are opened and with them, the opportunity for more eye-opening lessons and realizations that are essential in life.
As an improving writer who continuously sharpens his words and polishes the effectivity of his style, Benjo pushes himself to greatness, as well as those who are afraid to take a bold step and pursue their passions.
“Start today. Unang una, ‘yung takot na ‘yan, takot lang ‘yan, pero pag nagsimula ka ngayon, every day, ‘di mo mapapansin [na] ma-o-overcome mo na ‘yung takot mo. Pangalawa, walang maniniwala sa sarili niyo kundi kayo, so believe in yourselves, in your abilities, in your talent,” he imparts with a smile on his face and a sense of accomplishment in his voice. F
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in Vol. 54, Issue No. 3 of the Flame. View the entire issue through this link: https://issuu.com/abtheflame/docs/pages_-_the_flame_issue_3