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A book called “Learnings”

Last Friday, December 11, 2015 the Ateneo de Naga University Press launched Learnings. It is a book that will probably be my last. While I consider the four previous books I wrote uniquely important, Learnings is different because it will challenge the readers to think and look hard at how life should be lived.

The book is a compilation of essays that I carefully selected from a collection of articles that I have written during the last thirty-five years. Many of these articles appeared in various newspapers and magazines.

A few of the articles appeared in my previous book Life As I See It. I included these articles because of my continually evolving view that some of life’s lessons are constant and timeless. In fact, every time I read them, I always learn something new and different. They continue to communicate fascinating insights into the challenges of living life to the fullest.

The articles in this book are the results of my reflections. The people are real. The events are real. The circumstances are real. I hope these reflections will trigger something in the readers’ minds that will lead them to ask questions and develop their own conclusions in the process.

The book is grouped into three sections and the articles in each section are chronologically arranged. Every article imparts a lesson that may vary for each reader.

The first section deals with ordinary individuals with extraordinary traits and important stories to tell. The second offers certain perspectives on events or realities that the readers will encounter in their own life’s journey. The third will walk the readers through challenging human experiences and how I’ve made sense out of them.

Although I am not a journalist, I love to reflect and write about the things that I see, observe, and experience. I learned this from the legendary Fr. James O’Brien, SJ, one of my high school teachers at the Ateneo de Naga, who invited me to join as a staff of the Blue and Gold, the high school paper, and literally forced me to write. That’s how it all began for me.

Through the years I’ve been influenced in my writings by my inherent respect for people and my proclivity to empathize with them no matter what their circumstances are. I am naturally drawn to write about their experiences and, in the process, learn from them. Sometimes I feel emotional when I write. Sometimes I feel at a loss. Sometimes I feel pain. Sometimes I am upset. But most of the time I feel grateful for the experience.

I am also influenced by Carlos Bulosan, the Filipino migrant worker who became a prolific writer in the United States in the 1930s and 1940s. In offering the social context of his writings, Bulosan wrote, “The question is – What impelled me to write? The answer is – My grand dream of equality among men and freedom to all. To give a literate voice to the voiceless one hundred thousand Filipinos in the US, Hawaii and Alaska…”

In my own little way, I’ve tried to write about social and political issues – controversial as they are – to discover where the truth lies and to make those who have been deprived of the truth, to quote Bulosan, “live again in my words.”

Writes Reni Roxas, publisher of Tahanan Books, “This new collection of essays gives us readers a refreshing view of seeing the world. The author draws us into his life and milieu, much like a gregarious uncle who’s invited us to share a cup of chocolate con churros with him in his sala. As we listen to him in his easy-going manner, we hear of an everyday world not unlike our own. A grandson waiting to be born. A pet dog. A brave girl grieving at her father’s funeral. Familiar characters, yet they appear fresh in our minds because we see them through the eyes of Greg Castilla, the teacher, newspaper columnist, armchair sociologist, and humanitarian.”

Says Domingo Perdon, editor of the Sydney-based Bayanihan News, “In this book, the author invites you to capture numerous vignettes, or tableau in prose at that, about life as participant in a cause oriented movement, as expatriate in today’s most advanced country, as member of the academe, and then amazingly as pilgrim to one’s own roots in the Philippines and write about the experience.”

Thus, the book is a hodgepodge of stories. From the beauty of human relationships to the intricacies of politics and from the pain of disappointments to the joy of discovering new perspectives, the book pays tribute to the power of humans to question and find answers to life’s events that from the outset appear to be hard to fathom.

Taken together, the selections in this book reveal my own journey through life’s twists and turns during all these years. The journey may not have always been pleasant, but there is always something to discover that makes the journey rewarding.

Simply put, the book is partly about others, partly about me, and mostly about life and the lessons that it imparts. Thus, the title, Learnings.

Reflects Kristian Sendon Cordero, nationally known Bikolano author, “Naghihingowa na mag-atid-atid asin magbayaw kan saiyang mga rinirimpos na giromdom si Greg Castilla. Dai ini madaling pagsuysoy, bako ining pasil na pagtan-aw. Kaniguan na pagkamoot an kaipuhan nganing an dara-darang kapung’awan o an balon na kapurisawan matawan nin magkakanigong umay asin ugay. Sarung pagranga, iyo iyan an dulot kan koleksyon na ini.”

Rough Translation: “The book is an attempt by Greg Castilla to recall and revere his treasured memories. It is not an easy re-telling or an easy way of looking back. So much love is needed to gracefully acknowledge and heal the loneliness or discontent that one experiences. Nothing but admiration – that’s what this collection offers.”