The Gamalinda family

Words run in their blood

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A TREE bears its own fruit and the fruit, when seasoned, reveals the tree's very own roots.
For three generations now, beginning with Thomasian poet and essayist Doris Trinidad-Gamalinda, the Gamalinda clan has established a trademark in contemporary Philippine literature.
"The members of my family had their own share of talent, not only in writing but also in the visual arts and other fields," Doris said. "But, I guess, reading and writing literature has a more special place in our hearts."

The matriarch
As a child, Doris dreamed of studying celestial bodies as an astronomer. She never thought it was written in the stars that she would be a journalist, editor and poet.
Gamalinda considers herself a late bloomer. It took her six years in elementary school before discovering her love for words.
"I did not know that I could write well enough until I wrote my own valedictory address in elementary," Doris said. "From there, I started developing my skills in writing and all I could think about was it's the only thing I'm good at."
Come high school, her ambition became clear and solid: she wanted to become a writer. Gamalinda's first published poem was in the defunct Sunday Times Magazine when he was just a junior high school student.
Her love for reading inspired her to try writing. "I guess you cannot be a writer when you don't have a relationship with the written word," she said.
In college, she became the Varsitarian's Literary editor for two consecutive years, 1947 and 1948, after which she graduated summa cum laude with a degree in Litt.B. Philosophy from the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters (now Faculty of Arts and Letters).
But on her third year in UST, she became Doris Trinidad-Gamalinda, having gotten hitched with Marcial Gamalinda Jr., a law student and a classmate of (Chief Justice) Andres Narvasa.
After college, she became a full-time housewife. Although she continued to write and contribute to magazines and journals, it seems a full writing career had been relegated to the back-burner.
But she seems fated to really become a professional writer. In 1968, when her youngest child turned two and her husband suffered a stroke and had to retire from the Development Bank of the Philippines, Doris took a full-time job as a writer for the Manila Times. Previous to that, she had contributed to the Sunday Times Magazine and the Manila Chronicle. She became the Women Section editor of the Manila Times before it closed when Martial Law was imposed in 1972.
"I was jobless for a while and started scouting for other newspaper companies. Searching for one proved difficult," she said.
Doris returned to journalism when Kerima Polotan-Tuvera of Focus Magazine hired her as associate editor in 1973. She then worked for the National Media Production Center as head of its publications department in 1977, edited the Peoples Magazine in 1978, and the Woman's Home Companion Magazine in 1980. It was under her editorship when the latter became the foremost women's magazine in the country at that time.
Despite her success as a writer and an editor, Doris still considers motherhood more fulfilling and inspirational.
"I married young, raised a family and almost died delivering two of my eight children," Doris said. "Being a mother was the hardest but also the most rewarding challenge in my life."
For more than 50 years now, Doris has crafted endearing poems, heartfelt stories, and touching essays all close to her heart. She considers her works as her expression of gratitude for her gift of writing.
"The pieces of writing I made will definitely outlive me just like what some classic novels and literature did to their authors," Doris said. "In a way, I guess, my works will remain as my voice even if my lips are already sealed."

The son
Among Doris' eight children, Eric Gamalinda was the shy type. She recalls he was an introvert, too reclusive to even rub shoulders with kids on their front lawn.
"Instead of playing outside, he would rather stay home and read books, which I think made him very intellectual," Doris said. "I remember him telling me about his enthusiasm for Vladimir Nabokov,s Collected Stories, one of the first books I gave him."
Like his mother, Eric began as a wide reader before becoming an eloquent writer. He started reading classic and contemporary novels when he was in elementary school, where he graduated valedictorian in 1968.
"I was very much sure that he had filled one large book case just before high school. By college, he had three already," Doris said.
His fondness for reading started to reflect on his works more impressively during college. As a Journalism freshman in UST, Eric had already published his first collection of poems, Fire Poem, Rain Poem, in 1972.
His mother was very ecstatic. "Eric more than impressed me with his writings considering his age then, and I believe the inspiration of his works had a lot to do with his experiences," she said.
After college, Eric pursued a career in writing. He started working for the Mabuhay Magazine and wrote music reviews for Jingle magazine. He also did investigative pieces for the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.
Eric also became a prize-winning poet, playwright and fictionist. His one-act play, Anatomy of a Passionate Derangement, won him his first Palanca award in 1980. His poetry collections, Ara Vos Prec (1985) and Patria y Muerte (1988), bagged the second and third prizes in the Palanca awards.
Mourning and Weeping in this Valley of Tears, a short story written in 1988, and The Unbearable Lightness of EDSA, an essay in 1990, also won Palanca awards.
In 1994, Eric migrated to the US after receiving a grant from the New York Foundation for the Arts. He was the first Filipino to have a story published in Harper's magazine. His works have been published as well in international journals and anthologies in the US and Europe.
Eric edited Flippin': Filipinos on America, an anthology of fiction and poetry by Filipino and Filipino-American writers, published by the Temple University Press.
Zero Gravity, a collection of Eric's poems, was published by Alice James Brooks in 1999
"Zero Gravity rally moved me and made me smile maybe because it had a lot to do with the way he wrote the poems in it," Doris said.
Another favorite of his mother, My Sad Republic, won first prize in the English novel category of the Philippine Centennial Literary Prize in 1998. It is a story of love, obsession, and loss, set against the Philippine Revolution and the Filipino-American War.
Eric was publications director of the Asian American Writers Workshop until 1997. He was an artist-in-residence of various international organizations such as the Association d'Art de la Napoule (France), Chateau de Lavigny Residence pour Ecrivains (Switzerland), Fundacion Valparaiso (Spain), Rockefeller Foundation in Bellagio (Italy), and the Hawthornden Castle International Retreat for Writers (Scotland).
At present, Eric teaches at the Asia Pacific American Studies Program of the New York University.

The grandchildren
Doris considers the family as having two fortes in artistic expression: literature and the fine arts. Two of her grandchildren may yet prove her right.
Natasha Gamalinda did not start writing creatively until she was in high school. As a kid, she was an avid fan of books such as Enid Blyton, the Nancy Drew series, Oliver Twist, and the Secret Garden.
"I had a lot of interests then, including painting, photography, and even cooking," she said. "But all those dissipated into thin air and I ended up walking down the path of becoming a writer where I could write all of my potential 'me-when-I-grow-up."
Aside from her grandmother Doris, an inspiration to take up the path of writing was poet Nerisa Guevara, who was Natasha's high school teacher in her elective subject at St. Scholastica's College, Manila. (Guevara is now a faculty member of the Faculty of Arts and Letters.)
"We looked like a cult back then, a bunch of weirdos who held poetry readings wearing all black and reciting poems by the candle light," Natasha said.
All these unforgettable experiences she carried over to UST when she became a member of the Thomasian Writers' Guild and published her poem, "Puddle," in the 2002 Montage.
"I think I can consider that as my first real poem because I bled writing it," Natasha said. "It was only during this time that I was wholly aware of both my form and my message."
Natasha became the Literary editor of the Varsitarian in 2003 and chairperson of Ustetika Literary Awards in 2004. Right after graduation in 2004, she contributed to the kid's section of the Philippine Star . Two of her latest literary pieces are published in Tomas 10, "Partly" and "Writhe." Currently, she works as an Information Officer 1 in the University of the Philippines System Information Office and a writer for the UP Newsletter, while taking her master's degree in Comparative Literature in the same university.
Meanwhile, College of Fine Arts and Design (CFAD) senior and Varsitarian assistant Art director Jonathan Gamalinda has always known he has a love more for the paintbrush than the pen.
Despite the fact that many of his elders were into writing, Jonathan still chose to be with his father, Marco Gamalinda, Doris's third son, an artist and interior designer, during the latter's many art sessions.
"I was like his ‘mini-me,'" Jonathan said. "Whenever he brings out his canvas to paint, I also bring my own smaller canvas, and then I attempt mimicking his work."
Unlike Doris, Eric and Natasha, Jonathan did not own a chest of paperbacks and hardbound readings. He preferred reading the comics (Daredevil was one of his favorites). He preferred illustrating rather than writing the poems even in high school.
"I have always thought that illustrating poetry is one of my strengths as an artist," he said.
By the time Jonathan was in high school and reaping awards at the Angelicum College's annual on-the-spot painting contests, his cousin Natasha was already the Varsitarian's Literary editor, his uncle Eric had already published six books, and his grandmother Doris had been awarded the National Book Award by the Manila Critics Circle. These feats somehow intimidated the young Jonathan.
"Those achievements were tough acts to follow and I felt scared that I would not be able to uphold a similar reputation for me," Jonathan said. "So I opted to take Advertising to alleviate my frustrations."
Jonathan's father himself was a product of UST Advertising Arts. Marco Gamalinda has won several awards for his designs from the Design Center of the Philippines.
Taking up the course in 2003 proved to be a wise choice for Jonathan. Besides the over 200 illustrations and cover designs he has made so far for the Varsitarian, Jonathan has done editorial cartoons for the CBCP Monitor, the official publication of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP). He is also the external vice-president of the advertising agency, Kulaydoscope Productions Group, and the layout artist for the UST Office of the Secretary General. Two of the works he is most proud of are the graphics and art he did for the 2nd USTv Students' Choice Awards and for the 2006 UST Baccalaureate Mass.
"The feeling is unexplainable whenever you see your work put other people in so much amazement," Jonathan said.
But Jonathan said he's not closing his doors to a writing career. Currently, he is editor in chief of CFAD's official student publication, Hiraya.
Both Natasha and Jonathan signal the continuation of the Gamalinda dynasty in the humanities.
"I never expected my children and even my grandchildren to turn out as writers myself," Doris said. "It appears to me that I have unconsciously passed the torch to them, which I think would make writing the tradition in our blood." A. I. P. Bonifacio