When Kim was two, she drew a perfect apple, left-handed. She was also an early reader and learned to write early too. I noticed she had difficulty writing just after starting preschool. I observed her in school and saw that her teacher was forcing her to write with her right hand. I confronted the teacher and told her Kim had been writing long before she started school… she is left handed and there is nothing wrong with it.
Kim kept on drawing and was later making little books with stories whose characters were stick figures. I knew then she would live her life as a creative and I felt nothing should keep her from being one.
Then she went on to writing poetry, then small stories, then essays for school. I told her about the Philippine High School for the Arts (PHSA) where young artists live and study about their art. She wanted to attend that school and take up creative writing. I was working in Manila when the submission of applications was approaching and I gave her a call and told her to compile her work and ask for Mommy’s help to send the application. I found out she did it on her own, without even asking for money from her grandmother. She split the amount with a classmate who was applying for visual arts. She was not even 12 then.
One of my proudest moments was when she was shortlisted among thousands of applicants and called for a written exam and interview. From the province I took her to the Cultural Center of the Philippines where the exam would be held. There were hundreds of students from prestigious schools. We were from a small village in the province, and Kim was from a small public school.
Weeks later, I got a call that Kim was on the waiting list. I was over myself with joy and pride! The waiting list, is that to be proud about? Yes! There were hundreds of applicants and only six slots for each major. She was 8th for Creative Writing! The school told us to stand by because some parents change their minds when the reality of a boarding school hits. Then later another call told me she was in. I would never keep Kim from achieving her dreams, not even my fears as a parent of having her 12-year old daughter attend a boarding school in the mountains of Makiling. For her dreams, I just had to trust that all would be well.
It was at the PHSA that she learned how to play the guitar. That was where she bloomed creatively and basked in the arts all around her where young artists are learning side by side with her. She wrote her first collection of poetry which was highly praised by her adviser. That she lost her scholarship a year later for failing at maths did not make me change my mind about her being an artist. We already knew what she could achieve. We already knew that she is gifted, and the one year there was already worth it.
She dived into songwriting, and at 16 she had already composed about 10 songs, both lyrics, and music. And they were not bad songs either. Had she decided to pitch them to record labels I know she would have gotten a good sum. But for her, they were not good enough. She has a high sense of standards for her art and she was not settling for anything less.
When she was 18, my friends told me how she coughed up a song in 15 minutes for a workshop. Then three years later, she applied for the 1st Elements, the most prestigious songwriting camp in the country. She recorded her audition song while recovering from a four-day dengue attack. We got an email that she was again shortlisted and was being called for the actual auditions in Silliman University in Dumaguete. The auditions would be with the Maestro Ryan Cayabyab and the organizers of 1st Elements. Needless to say, she passed that with flying colors too. She joined the all-expense paid weeklong training under the best and brightest musicians in the country.
Later she was commissioned to write a song for a short documentary. That it was a pro-bono project didn’t matter. What mattered was that she was able to prove that she could write a song at will, and that’s how musicians make a living. Another huge milestone.
All of these were happening during Kim’s tumultuous youth. Despite being an intelligent girl she was not doing good academically. She was doing great in subjects that she liked and flunking others that she didn’t. It was PHSA all over again. I told her that not everyone is cut out for college and she should take up Music instead. But she didn’t want to be a hungry musician. So she went on.
Two bands and almost 20 songs later, Kim and her band Snubear launched their independently produced album ‘Anecdotes’. The songs got great reviews and they did a tour in Manila. Kim composed the music and lyrics, sang and played keyboards for all the songs on the album. This is a girl who only had one year of piano lessons when she was ten.
Kim is getting married in May. I know many of my friends and family are disappointed that she is not yet done with university even after shifting three courses. I still believe in her. I know that detours don’t make failures of people. Kim is relentless in living life on her own terms. That is why I’m not too worried about her. She’s a strong young woman and she has what it takes. It might take her a bit longer than others but who cares? Life is not a race.
If my daughter is authentic to herself, if she is a good person and not doing any harm to others, then for me that is enough. For me, that has covered what matters most. What she achieves beyond that are only bonuses. And I know there will be lots of bonuses as she goes on in her life.
This morning she sent me a message that says she is going back to school after her wedding. And that she is shifting to another course. Imagine my shock! Fourth course is no joke. But when she said she is taking up Composition and Arrangement I finally sighed with relief. Kim is going back to music. Her courage to me is astounding. She would practically start from scratch in uni. But when she said ‘expect me to graduate after four years’, I smiled to myself. All is well.
My daughter is on her way. And I am thankful for this moment.
My message to parents is this: Allow your child to be who she is. Never be in her way. Allow her to make her own decisions, make mistakes, and live her own life. You could only provide advice and guidance. Show that you are authentic to who you are, despite your failures and flaws, show her what matters, and you will see your child become their true self. Be part of their blossoming. Don’t cut them in the bud.