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Ricky Lee has written over 200 scripts and has won numerous awards in his 44 stellar years of writing career, yet he thinks this: “Hindi ako nababagay.”

He said he always felt inept for living and did not blend in well in his hometown, Daet, as he was extremely shy. His schoolmates experimented on vices and he was an adopted child.

But it is in books, reading and writing that he found solace. It’s when he had control and it’s where he felt he belonged. When he started writing, it became his method of fitting into a world where he felt out of place.

It’s quite a contrast from what one would expect from someone like Lee. If anything, he’s far from being a misfit as he is considered a legend in Filipino films and literature.

This same concept of ‘not fitting in’, however, was reflective of Lee’s new book, Kung Alam N’yo Lang: Mga Kwentong Pambata Para sa Hindi na Bata, recently launched, July 29, at Fully Booked in Taguig. It is a compilation of stories told in the perspective of children but tackles topics that  might be better off discussed by adults. Hence, “mga bagay na hindi magkakabagay.”

Ang pagkukuwento ay pagsasama-sama lang ng mga bagay na hindi magkakabagay,” he said.

May it be nursery teachers carrying guns in their husbands or a writer at present day still in love with a manual typewriter, it’s all about telling the story as it is, no matter how unconventional and how ‘disconnected with each other’ it may be.

Lee’s first big break was when a publisher commissioned his short story about the Mayon volcano with a prologue and epilogue about the Spaniard’s invasion. This first and latter parts of that story were removed, as the editor deemed it unfit for the whole narrative. Lee would later realize that he should have fought for what he wanted.

“Being ‘boxed’ (or limited) meant fitting in but not being entirely truthful, a dilemma of sorts for most writers ‘including myself’,” Lee said.

But perhaps this is what set him apart and regarded as one of the best writers of all time. He was always the outsider and he understood its role in writing relevant stories.

Trabaho namin ang magwasak ng mga kahon. I always tell my workshoppers, writing a story is about starting against the box. The writer destroys so he can recreate. Ang manunulat ay laging kalaban ng sistema, laging kalaban ng kanyang mundo dahil ang trabaho niya ay laging huwag makuntento, upang gamit ang kanyang imahinasyon at ang katotohanan sa paligid, ay makapag-isip siya ng mas maganda pang mundo,” he explained.

In a world of differing views, opinion, perspective, and goals, being different from each other becomes confusing and troublesome. But the 69-year-old has something else in mind.

Alam natin na nabubuhay tayo sa mundo na hindi nagbabagay-bagay ang mga tao. Hatred and all. May mga kailangang labanan, at mahalaga ang galit. But in the end, lumalaban at nagagalit tayo dahil gusto nating eventually magkabagay-bagay ang lahat,” Lee ended.

All our respect to you, Sir Ricky Lee!

Photo by Angela Casco

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