The Gift of Words

by Seneca Moraleda-Puguan

Martin Luther once said, “If you want to change the world, pick up your pen and write.”

I believe this is true. Writers have the chance to make a difference, the ability to bring hope, the gift to change the world.

Recently, I just had the opportunity to do so.

In celebration of the 123rd Philippine Independence Day and 26th Migrant Workers Day, the Philippine Embassy in Seoul, South Korea and the Philippine Overseas Labor Office-OWWA organized an essay writing contest and an original song composition contest open to all the Filipinos in South Korea with the theme, “Lakas ng Pinoy sa Korea sa Panahon ng Pandemya” (The Power of Pinoy In Time of a Pandemic).

As a Filipino in South Korea, it was a wonderful opportunity to speak a message of hope to my fellow Filipinos who are going through difficult times brought about by the pandemic.

And so, I wrote – not just an essay but also a song.

For the essay writing contest, I wrote a letter to my children, something I truly love doing, telling them about the strength Filipinos display in the midst of a challenging season. I entitled my essay, “Beautiful Heritage.” Here is an excerpt:

“We, Filipinos, are a people used to storms lashing our nation. Year in and year out, typhoons named from A to Z devastate people’s lives. We are a people accustomed to disasters, tragedies, hardships and trials. This pandemic is just one of the many crises we have faced as a nation. We get wounded in the battles we are confronted with as a people, but we always bounce back. We rise up. We don’t give up. We don’t quit. We keep fighting and we finish strong.

You know why? We are a people of faith. We put our trust in the God who is sovereign over everything and rescues those who call upon His Name.  We are a people of love. We are motivated by our deep love for our family, and we will do everything we can to give our loved ones a better life. We are a people of passion. Wherever life brings us and in whatever we do, we give our best. We are a people of sacrifice. We lay our lives down for another. We are a people of joy and humor. In the midst of trials and heartbreaks, we still manage to put a smile on our face, and we laugh our way out of our sadness and pain. We are a people of hope. We see the silver lining in the storms of life. We are Filipinos. This is who we are. This is who you are.

You were both born in South Korea. Your daddy and I are forever grateful for the blessing, comfort and convenience that this nation gives to our family. It has provided us with privileges and opportunities that living in our home country will not be able to give. This may be the country of your birth, but we want you both to take pride in the country of your roots. We desire for you to be proud calling yourselves Filipinos. Yes, we are blessed to be in this nation, but this nation is also blessed to have us. Our people are a blessing to the nation of South Korea. You are a gift to this land.”

My essay won third place among 56 entries.

My husband and I love music. I sing and he plays the piano. Joining the songwriting competition was an opportunity we didn’t want to miss.

We have been praying for a platform to encourage the people around us, and this was an answer to our prayer. One evening, I wrote the lyrics. My husband helped me with the melody. We recorded the song using our phones.

And we were privileged to have our song heard by hundreds of Filipinos in South Korea. These are the words of “Dakila Ka, Pinoy” (You’re a Legend, Pinoy) which I pray would touch your heart.

Malaking unos ang dumating

Buong mundo’y napilitang harapin

Sakit at hirap na dala nito’y

Kinailangang kayanin.

Maraming buhay ang kinitil,

Mga plano ay naglaho,

Kabuhayan ay natigil,

Mga pangarap ay gumuho.

Subalit sa kabila nito’y

Lakas ng loob kang humaharap

Sa di makitang kaaway

Ikaw ay lumalaban.

Katatagan ng loob,

Pagmamahal sa pamilya,

Tiwala sa Panginoon,

Dumadaloy ang pag-asa.

Di ka natitinag,

Liwanag ay maaaninag,

Lahat ay kakayanin,

Dakila ka, dakila ka Pinoy!

Milya-milya man ang layo

Patuloy na lalaban

Walang makakapigil

Paulit-ulit na tatayo.

Anumang bagyo ang harapin

Ano pa mang suliranin

Walang makakatalo

Dahil ika’y Pinoy!

Our song won first place among nine equally amazing and talented composers.

When I shared the song with family and friends on social media, many expressed gratitude for the encouragement it has given to their downcast souls and broken spirits.

I have been writing since I was in kindergarten. I wrote poems, letters and essays. I joined competitions. I have written in school papers and local newspapers in the Philippines.

I learned that we write, not to impress but to express. We write, not with our minds but with our hearts. I am grateful to the God who created the world with words, the one who blessed me with the gift of words.

Indeed, as William H. Gass said, “The true alchemists do not change lead into gold; they change the world into words.”

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