Since it's application season for fourth year high school students, I'm among the many who applied to take the ACET, or the Ateneo College Entrance Test. Along with the application form, students have to submit a personal essay on what particular event or accomplishment in their life made them the person they are today. Here's my answer.
It could have been how beautiful the horses looked as they splashed in the waters, their chocolate brown coats glistening in the pale morning.
It might have been the two children whose arms and necks were browned by the sun, sitting at the base of the carabao’s neck, their dark, deep-set eyes following mine as I rode past them.
Or maybe it was the way the waves danced along the shore, teasing, pretending to run away, but always coming back to it with a soft, gentle kiss.
But really, it was everything from that little trip to the seaside that made me into the person that I am today. I had been waiting almost my whole life to fly to the island where my lola grew up. When she would tell me stories at our long wooden dining table, my feet would itch to climb the same coconut trees, run along the same dirt paths, kick the same sands, and cross the same fields. I finally got to do those things I’d dreamed of doing around three hundred and sixty five days ago in the warm month of April.
I took a little bit of everything from the small island of Ticao back home with me, and let those things simmer and settle in the veins of my self. From the corners and shelves of the old wooden casa I found a love and curiosity for old things. The dusty frames which held the still faces of my lola’s fathers captivated me with their mystery, interesting me in my family and Philippine history. The kissing trees and the sky with its blues made my hands flash and want to sit at the wide window, capturing their beauty on paper with pencils, pens, and watercolor markers. A love affair with the ocean and the secrets its deep waters held slowly spread throughout my body, and I gladly drank in the entirety of this vast, endless beauty. I ached to live among the island natives and toss the warm earth with them; I wanted to show them that they are worth more than they think to me and to this country.
I went back home quite reluctantly some days later, with only an art journal and some voice recordings as proof of my visit. I thought that I could memorize everything about Ticao if I tried, but in my heart I knew that my memory was not to be trusted. So instead, I took what I could and gave them homes in my art, my stories, my poetry, and… my self. Because of this, I can recreate that dot of an island anytime I want; I just have to bring all the pieces of memory back together.
I am Sofia Paderes, and I like old people and old things.
I am Sofia Paderes, and I hate losing books.
I am Sofia Paderes, and I am in love with everything about the ocean.
I am Sofia Paderes, and my favorite animal is the horse.
I am a girl who takes things apart and spreads them around in what she creates. It’s up to you to find these pieces and trace them back to where they came from. If you take what I create and look closely, you might get lucky and find a little island off the coast of Masbate.