A rich heritage of arts and letters

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Jan 3 2011

DORIS GAMALINDA. Eric Gamalinda. Natasha Gamalinda. Jonathan Gamalinda.

For these three generations of Gamalindas, being with the Varsitarian runs in the family.

Doris, the family matriarch, led the way when she became the paper’s literary editor from 1947 to 1948. Her son Eric would assume the same post more than 20 years later, before her granddaughter Natasha took her turn as the section’s editor just five years ago.

Like his kin, Natasha’s cousin Jonathan all but escaped the lure of the Varsitarian where he served as assistant art director in 2006.

Adoracion “Doris” Trinidad-Gamalinda started young with the craft, writing as early as elementary when she worked on her valedictory address. There was no stopping the writer-in-the-making since then, as Doris further honed her skills at the Varsitarian during the post-war.

But Doris the Writer would take a break soon after graduating summa cum laude in Philosophy at the old Faculty of Philosophy and Letters. For the next two decades, she would become a full-time housewife to Marcial Gamalinda, Jr., whom she married in her junior year in college.

She returned to writing only after her husband suffered a stroke and had to quit his job at the Development Bank of the Philippines. She worked as the Women Section editor of the Manila Times before the paper was closed down soon after Martial Law was declared in 1972.

Doris then moved to Focus Magazine where she became associate editor in 1973. Four years later, she led the National Media Production Center as its publications head before editing the People’s Magazine in 1978 and Woman’s Home Companion Magazine in 1980.

Though it was quite obvious that writing ran in the Gamalindas, Doris swears she never prodded her children or grandchildren to follow her footsteps.

“I have never imposed my ‘values,’ literary or otherwise, on my progeny. I am ‘mom’ or ‘lola’, always will be. And I hope this is value enough,” she says.

But whether she liked it or not, at least one of her eight children would go the similar route. It was quite evident early in his life that young Eric was no different from his mom. He devoted much of his free time reading, an attitude that introduced him to literature.

In no time, Eric began reaping awards, too. At 17, and a college freshman in 1972, he published his first collection of poems titled Fire Poem, Rain Poem.

Like his mother, he, too, joined the and wrote for the Literary section in 1974. He later became assistant literary editor, and then literary editor in 1976.

After college, Eric worked for the Mabuhay Magazine, wrote music reviews for Jingle Magazine, and penned investigative articles for the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.

His essays, plays, short stories and poems garnered several Palanca awards. In 1997, he became the publications director of the Asian American Writers Workshop. He was also a resident writer artist of different international organizations in Europe and was the first Filipino to have a story published in the Harper’s Magazine, a monthly general-interest magazine in the United States covering literature, culture, finance, politics and the arts.

Eric says her mother never failed to give him advice—though subtly—about his writing from his Varsitarian years up to the present.

Although given this privilege by his mother, Eric tries not to do the same to the batch of younger writers in their family.

“I tell them when I like their work, but I think young writers should be free to develop their talent on their own. My opinion might just inhibit them or make them too self-conscious,” says Eric who taught Asian American Literature and Asian American Cinema at the Columbia University last semester.

Never too late

For Doris’ poetess granddaughter Natasha, being a late bloomer is a non-issue as far as her innate writing talent is concerned. Unlike the other Gamalindas, she did not start writing until she was in high school.

She might be a bookworm like her grandmother and uncle when she was younger, but 25-year-old Natasha felt she was meant for something else other than writing. So far, the so-called search for that “something else” has gone nowhere but in writing. Like Doris and Eric, she is also with writing. She says much of her inspiration came from her late aunt Diana, who wrote poems.

“I was mostly inspired by the poems of a late aunt who was also a writer before she drowned when she was 19,” she says. “I had romantic notions that I was continuing what she might have left behind. When I think about it now, it seems silly, but that’s how whatever it was that drove me to where I am now had started.”

Natasha was a member of The Flame, the Faculty of Arts and Letters’ college paper, and the Thomasian Writers’ Guild when her poem, “Puddle,” was published in Montage, the Varsitarian’s literary magazine, in 2002. She became the V’s literary editor in 2003 and then chairperson of the 20th Ustetika Literary Student Awards in 2004.

Natasha says she joined the V partly to escape the pressure of joining Ustetika. Then and now, budding writers in UST are almost always expected to try their luck at the annual contest, a sort of literary baptism of fire for them.

“I was friends with most of the people I’m competing with and it just felt strange,” she says. “I still wanted to devote my energy into writing, but I couldn’t deal with so much competition. Luckily, joining the V turned out to be one of the best impulsive decisions I’ve made in my life. It might have rooted from chickening out, but I learned a lot in my stay there.”

Like her uncle Eric, Natasha also look up to her lola who never ceases to give her pointers about writing.

“My grandmother has always been a very, very patient reader,” she says. “I make her sift through horrible-rhyming writing exercises and she was always very encouraging. My grandma has always been kind with her comments.”

At present, Natasha is completing her master’s degree in Creative Writing at the University of the Philippines.

Brush over pen

While his grandmother, uncle, and cousin drew pictures with words, Jonathan Gamalinda delved into another artistic field: fine arts. As Doris’ grandson-artist left the Varsitarian last May, he recalls all the lessons he learned during his three-year stay at the publication.

“I must admit that this publication contributed a lot in honing my artistic skills,” says Jonathan, whose father Marco is an accomplished painter. “There, I received a lot of critiques from my superiors unlike in CFAD (College of Fine Arts and Design), where I only got grades.”

Aside from being the V’s assistant Art director, Jonathan drew editorial cartoons for CBCP Monitor, the official publication of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), and worked as a layout artist for the UST Office of the Secretary General.

At present, he is with ArtOne Designs and Communications, Inc., a design agency established in 1991, which specializes in print communication.

Though his expertise is in the fine arts, he did not exactly abandon writing. In his senior in college, he became the first editor-in-chief of Hiraya, CFAD’s official student publication.

“It was not an easy task to revive a college paper,” says Jonathan, who also wrote a column titled Ventriloquist during his term as assistant Art Director. “Although Hiraya was not very successful with its maiden issue, I am proud to be its first editor-in-chief because I saw that Fine Arts students had the ability to write. They just needed proper guidance and encouragement.”

He currently plans to publish a compilation of his short stories to go with his illustrations. V Francis James B. Gatdula and Reniel B. Tiu