Inquirer Super

A decade of ‘Young Blood’ goes digital

By: Nikka G. Valenzuela

In 2013, physician Korina Ada Tanyu’s harrowing tale of a sickly boy from a low-‍income family appeared on the Young Blood column of the Inquirer. “Filipino Horror Story” was terrifying and gut-wrenching, not just because of how the story goes, but because of how real and recurrent it was.

“I was on pediatric ICU (intensive care unit) duty at [the Philippine General Hospital] when I wrote that piece. I was very tired and overwhelmed. That time, we had to shell out our money for patients’ medicines and laboratories. Sometimes, we even had to shell out money for their diapers. Then I realized that a lot of Filipinos are not aware of what goes on inside public hospitals,” she told Super in an email interview.

So she decided to write the story, submit it to the Inquirer’s youth column, along with her wish that other families be spared from what happened to the boy and his parents. “When I wrote the essay, that story was pretty common. Money was (and still is) a factor in why a lot of patients refused to have their checkup. It also doesn’t help that there are very few well-equipped public hospitals in the country,” Tanyu added. It has been more than eight years since Tanyu’s essay was published, and significant strides have now been made in the health-care system, according to the doctor. Hospital facilities have been upgraded and doctors no longer have to pay out of their own pockets to cover the lab tests of their patients, though there’s still a long way to go.

But even after nearly a decade, Tanyu’s essay continues to strike a chord, much like the confessions, thoughts, hopes and dreams printed on the Inquirer’s Young Blood column. These thought-provoking, inspiring and intriguing pieces are available in “Young Blood Omnibus Volume Two,” a digital compilation of “Young Blood” books 4, 5 and 6. The e-book, which will be released a little over a year after the first volume, will be available starting Nov. 10 on Lazada, shop.inquirer.com.ph, Amazon, Google Play Books and Apple for P795 or $15.99.

“So much has changed, and certainly even more has changed in the ten years covered by the three books in this collection. This is a great collection of authors: award-winning writers, directors, politicians, activists, lawyers, doctors and so much more. Now, one can find these three books in one place at a good price, in digital form, so you could read it anytime, anywhere on any device,” said Ruel S. De Vera, Inquirer Books editor.

The three anthologies are the most popular “Young Blood” books to date, De Vera added. The fourth collection is on its second printing, while the fifth one has sold out. Stocks of the sixth book is running low. “The e-book seemed like the best, most accessible way of keeping books available somehow,” he said. The digital book will be launched live on Wednesday, on Inquirer.net’s Facebook page. Former Opinion editor and Young Blood gatekeeper Rosario “Chato” Garcellano will be a speaker at the event while former Young Blood books editor JV Rufino will talk about the 27-year history of the hit column.

De Vera, who is also Young Blood Brand editor, and Super editor Pam Pastor will host the event. Contributors whose names have appeared in the three Young Blood books will also read their essays. Jessica Marie “Aika” Robredo will read her piece about her late father, Ramon Magsaysay awardee Jesse Robredo, which she wrote at age 15. Mikee Baylosis, meanwhile, will read “The Underdog Club,” a piece that is sure to resonate with fresh (and not-so-fresh) graduates looking to make their mark on the world. The 29-year-old professor started in Young Blood before writing for the IamGenM column of the Inquirer. Lady Hanifah Mindalano-Alonto will also be reading her essay, “What does my hijab means,” wherein she describes a world of difference by whether or not she chooses to put on a head covering in public. Her essay is included in “Young Blood 6.”

Aika Robredo

Mikee Baylosis

Lady Mindalano-Alonto

The three essays just prove that “Young Blood” has a wealth of stories from the under 30 writers. All told, the e-book collects stories from 2005 to 2015, a full decade. “There are situations galore, sufficient reminders to the Reader that the young writers are no strangers to the peaks and valleys of human condition,” wrote Garcellano in the introduction of “Young Blood 4.” Familiar names also crop up in the e-book, like sought-after director Antoinette Jadaone, former Kabataan partylist Rep. Mong Palatino and award-winning journalists and writers.

There are love letters, like Hyacinth Tagupa’s very relatable “Taga-Public,” written as a tribute to her classmates and the many graduates of public schools. Tagupa went on to become a columnist under IamGenM, but according to her, “Young Blood is a touchstone for budding essayists in the Philippines.” The youth column, which appears every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, receives as many as 300 contributions per week. Only a few make it to the left side of the Opinion page, and only a couple dozens on the anthologies. For some writers, it has become a sort of rite of passage to have their essays appear on Young Blood. But for other writers and readers like Fae Cheska Marie Esperas, Young Blood was a “platform” that she “trusted (with her) personal insights.” In 2015, she wrote “Begin Again,” about restarting life after the devastation of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan). “It was only at that time when the genuine feeling of ‘hope’ kicked in, that we Warays can start getting back on our own feet, sustainability wise. True, the year prior to writing the essay, we received help from all over the world, but what would happen next after they leave? It was only at that time I wrote the essay when Tacloban and Leyte were beginning to return to normal. The wounds were still there, aching, but we were on our way to recovery,” Esperas told Super. She had wanted to share her story, to send a message of hope for those need it.

“I guess I want the readers realize that despair is not eternal. There’s always hope lurking in the darkest corners of the room, just waiting for the right time to come out. Hope alone may not solve things, but it’s more than enough to jumpstart your journey to recovery. So yeah, keep the hope alive,” she said. •With the repackaged version of “Young Blood” that would bring with it more readers, Tanyu hopes that first-time readers will pick up a few important things from her essay: from addressing preventable and curable diseases through early intervention, to the state of health care in the country. •“I also want them to see that as long as poverty exists, people will not prioritize health. I want them to realize that both patients and the government contribute to health care–for patients to take responsibility for their health and for the government to actually use the budget for health care,” Tanyu said. Tagupa, meanwhile, hopes that her contributions to Young Blood “become relics as the years pass.” “I wrote about public schooling and then about women’s struggles, and I would really like for future readers’ context to be different from mine when I was writing those. Maybe they’ve gotten a much better public school experience than I had. Maybe women have gotten more safety and security. When that future arrives (and maybe it already has, partly), my essays would feel outdated and readers might say, ‘We no longer experience these hardships.’ But that’s the goal!” Tagupa added.

Join the launch of the “Young Blood Omnibus Volume Two” live on the Inquirer.net Facebook page on Nov. 10 at 5 p.m.