by Ruben D. Escudero, Jr.

Somewhere, sometime in the wilderness far away, there was an egg that fell from the Molave  tree one night when the rain flaunted its heavy and relentless downpour.  Strangely, it didn’t break. Peculiarly, it rolled instead through and through the fluffy-dewy moss and finally nestled beneath the shrubs where it found warmth and comfort as the rain continued to show off its might while the darkness seemed to last eternally.

“Oh, gosh, I thought I would die, that was quite a fall,” sighed the egg.

As the sunlight passed through the prism of mist after the rain in the morning, the egg began to shake until it eventually cracked and hatched dramatically. As the sun finally shone its full grandeur, a little bird just came out from the shell, so fragile and sweet.

“I’m just so happy to finally get sight of the light,” giggled the bird. “Is mother home?” the bird asked. But he soon realized there was nobody around and all he could hear was an echo of his own voice that blended with the melodious buzz of the cicadas lurking somewhere in the shadows. He saw big trunks and fallen trees around but the shrubs were a secluded haven. He felt something tumultuous racing in his heart and a pang of emotional upheaval began to devour his heart – alone, helpless, and scared in a world where he had no one to compete with but only his own self. In his innocence and isolation, he became melancholic and to his eyes, the world seemed a monotone vale clad with rather dull- somber hues. He cried and sobbed until his eyes shed tears no more for he never felt the warmest of touch and the tender-loving care of a mother especially the times when the latter was needed the most.

“Oh, I’m starved,” soon realized the bird shortly after his drama moments. As soon as he was about to move his head, he saw from the corner of his right eye a nest of food. Although he could hardly move, he reached for the food and ate. The following morning when he woke up, he was surprised to see again the nest of food and there were nests of food mornings after mornings. Until he became to wonder.

As time passed by, he learned many things on his own including to tame and stabilize his emotions. Although, at times he would be scared, especially during nights when darkness seemed endless, he would always fight back, ergo, he learned to conquer fears on his own.

He realized he had strange features than any other birds he knew. He had eyes like marbles yet soft, with beak so sharp ready to devour every prey, and a set of wings so wide and strong. Although he could fly, he was not confident to fly so high and he never ever tried. He was strangely different he felt and the fears and doubts that embosomed his heart seemed to last forever.

One day, he was amazed how high the Molave tree had grown and he marveled at it since to his eyes, it was the proudest tree in the wilderness. He tried many times to fly high to reach even the first branch of the tree but he couldn’t defy the strong wind and his wings crumpled him down. He could not rise above his own doubts and fears.

1, 2, 3, fly…he whispered but a few moments later…”blag!” he cried again with pain.

He hopped and flew so many times but his fear and doubts pulled his wings down. Until, he thought, “I should not remain captive and hostage of my own fear forever.” With that thought in mind, fueled with perseverance and strong determination, he took a few steps back, bowed down his head, summoned all the courage in his heart, and finally flapped his majestically extensive wings apart against the backdrop of the rising sun, and flew as high as he could battling against the strong wind and defying the fears that once dragged his wings down until finally, he reached the highest branch of the Molave tree he once marveled at.

As soon as he flapped his wings peaceably down, he turned and faced the eastern sky. “It’s amazing up here,” he whispered as tears slowly sliding down from his eyes. From up there, he could see the sun rose and danced gracing the nature’s vividly verdant and immensely infinite  tapestry. “Oh, what a breathtaking panorama I now behold!” he shouted and the echo reverberated in his ears. Right before his eyes was a paradise, a vision he had never seen down there in the shrubs. And as he gazed down, he couldn’t believe how high he had flown. Having realized of the reason that drove him to be up there, he turned around again and just as about he would hop down to another branch, he was flabbergasted of what he had just seen…

A bird of his semblance perched on top of the opposite branch smiling and crying right before his very eyes. He could hardly believe what he saw. He blinked his eyes, flapped his wings, and settled back. Unknowingly, tears were slowly welling in his eyes again. As soon as the first dew of his tears fell down from his eyes, the bird from the opposite branch hopped and drew closer to him, and with wings widely spread, hugged him, “Don’t cry. I have never forsaken you, I have always watched you down there from the moment I  carried and swooped you down and laid you beneath the shrubs trough the fluffy moss to hide and protect you from the raging storm that night.  It was the only safe place for you. Big trunks of fallen trees braced by other trunks sheltered the shrubs and those trunks  as well as the shrubs kept you safe and warm. And now, you have just found your true home where eagles reign supreme. Remember, it’s your love that brings you home,” mother eagle said.

I could feel my heart racing. I touched the send button and, swoosh…sent! It was already11:48 in the evening and as I looked through the window, a gentle breeze wafted my spirit while up above, the sky was subdued sans the grace of even a single star. Although I was dead tired, my thoughts wandered and wondered and my eyes defied to shut off.  I checked my phone again but its light flickered, battery was almost drained. I turned it off instead and pacified my heart and mind. I needed to liberate myself from the thoughts that tormented and tortured me mentally and emotionally. I needed to lift this veil of anguish that besieged me so I could see a flicker of hope. Until, unknowingly, I fell asleep.

I woke up in the morning determined to transcend above my own doubts. From afar, the city was but a foreshadowed tapestry behind the veil of liquid velvet. Despite the heavy downpour, I forged and hit the road and weaved through the busy streets of the city so I could reach school before time with one goal in mind.

“Hope springs eternal. If I lose an ounce of it, my students will lose it, too,” I told to myself. I only had that day to wrap my journalism training up in preparation of the first ever virtual Division Schools Press Conference after the hiatus due to the pandemic but many of them informed me last night that they would be backing out for they feared they could not make it notwithstanding the one-week trainings and preparations.

We may have fallen short of the preparations but part of me was tightly holding on to hope that my students would just forge on. I was trembling most terribly last night. They felt they lack journalistic competence and that they were afraid they could not perform to the best of their abilities and could not give what I expected. This was what bothered me the most. Hope was truly ebbing away.

Unlike the previous years, I matrixed and commenced the trainings at least two months before the competition. That was to make sure that all categories of campus journalism must be discussed most comprehensively and that there must be a room to hone students’ journalistic skills given that there is always a science behind every category of it. For me, journalism is both an art and a science and given the technicalities behind it, skills in writing cannot just be taught and polished overnight. A diamond was once nothing special and spectacular; it requires time and pressure before it shines. That process goes the same with my students, figuratively speaking.  Although I have articulated and underscored to them in ordinary parlance all the most salient features of journalism and taught them the basics in writing, glaringly, they needed time. But we ran out of time, quite obviously.

Their spirits were at low ebb. They were losing hope and I was losing a part of it, too. “Today, only those who possess the bravest of hearts and sincerest determination can possibly succeed,” I uttered silently. Well, I could not blame these students if they quit. I had no one to blame to other than myself. They are quitting, that’s what I believed as of that very moment.

As soon as I entered the room, I could tell I was deceitfully betrayed by my own intuition. I smiled. I   could feel my heart racing and dancing. And the hope that once waned and faded fast away from me had bloomed again and reignited my spirit. I was extremely happy to see familiar faces beaming with smiles.

“What inspires you to change your minds?” I asked.

“The Eagle story, sir,” one student said in most candid fashion.

I sent the eagle story last night when I felt like I was in my lowest of lows upon knowing that many of my students wanted to quit. Who could better understand their plight, struggles, and sentiments other than myself? I admit, coaching them was extremely taxing because as I said, they were all newbies and from time to time I had to discuss to them the basics of grammatical categories in both English and Filipino languages. But more than teaching them the technicalities and motivating them to employ creative ingenuity in writing, I guess, what matters the most in an endeavor like this, is to refuel passion so it continues to burn and to unlock potentials that I knew these youngblood possess.  I wanted them to embody and exemplify the ideals of a fine-brave campus journalist as soldiers of truth and vanguards in battling against the proliferation of fake news in any of these technological-social platforms that in a way manipulates, poisons, and corrupts young minds. For me, that is way too precious and far more commendable and applaudable  than winning an award or receiving recognitions. That is what I envisioned as a teacher and a journalist myself. That is what I trained them to be for that is the beauty  my eyes see in that trainings. Amidst acceleration of information manipulation, responsible journalism has remained a bastion of truth where freedom springs from.

Luckily and surprisingly, they all have risen above their fears and doubts and hoisted high the banner of journalistic excellence during the Department of Education’s Division Schools Press Conference bringing home silver and bronze in News Writing, Editorial and Column Writing, Feature Writing, Sports Writing, Photojournalism, Editorial Cartooning, Mobile Journalism, Documentary Film, Infomercial, and Radio Broadcasting.

Moreover, in the recently concluded Regional Schools Press Conference, my students won Second Place in Documentary Film, Fourth Place in Sports Writing, and Fifth and Seventh Places in Feature Writing.

As a coach, I couldn’t be more proud of my students’ outstanding accomplishments  both in the Division and Regional levels and I most sincerely thanked them for bringing honor to our school and to the whole community that our school represented for.  I was most profoundly touched how they persevered to be on top of their games and for not just simply doing their part but giving their best and showing mental fortitude. Indeed, dedication and perseverance are hallmarks of a true soldier of truth and these attributes have been embodied by my students, unequivocally.

As I keep on holding the light high enough so it illuminates the lives of many, I wish these young and budding journalists persist to endure  so they could finally live what they have been dreaming of.

“It is only now after liberating myself from the dungeon of despair and freeing my heart from the bondage of fears  and doubts that had long chained and held me a captive that I have finally realized what I’m capable of doing. I could reach the zenith and I am meant for greater things.  Look, I have a set of wings that could take me up in the sky and beneath, the world, from up here, truly looks incandescently marvelous, all at once,” said the eagle perched on the highest branch of the Molave tree beside his mother as the velvet sky turned orange and crimson when the sun gradually hid its mystic-splendiferous glow.

Mother Eagle replied, “Bagwis, my child, your heart has always been a fortress that holds courage and bravery. You have withstood dangers and fears and braved the storms many cannot weather. Yours is a fortified soul; fly and keep your spirit soaring high!  This world has so much to offer and for as long as you allow your heart to love and  dream, your wings will take you there to the place where you truly belong and surely, that place is your home where love reigns supreme.”

It was 7:08 in the evening and while I was still savoring the sweet moments of my students’ tremendously impressive victory,  I touched the send button and, swoosh… sent!