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Ople tells OFWs, write to relieve stress

09 November 2016

Attache Jalilo de la Torre gives a Certificate of Appreciation to Susan Ople for holding the Writing as Therapy workshop at Polo Hk.
By Jo Campos

A quiet and tense room filled with about two dozen eager participants was what greeted OFW advocate Susan “Toots” Ople when she showed up for the first Writing as Therapy workshop at the Metrobank conference room in United Centre on Oct. 23.

But as soon as she started the talk, the atmosphere changed into something a lot friendlier and comfortable, with the participants quickly warming up and eager to share their thoughts.

The same thing happened in the afternoon session, with the second set of participants equally loosening up as the three-hour workshop organized by Labor Attache Jalilo de la Torre ran its course.

Ople, a writer and former labor undersecretary, said it was her first time to hold such a workshop with overseas Filipino workers. Her previous experience on the same advocacy was with drug dependents.
Still, the purpose was the same: to encourage participants to put their feelings down, using pen and paper.

Writing as a therapy aims to encourage OFWs to deal with their problems, frustrations or any emotions through writing, whether it is in the form of a poem, a short story, or even just a list of their day-to-day struggles as an OFW. This way, they can vent out all the thoughts that bother them especially homesickness and family problems.

To break the ice, the participants were asked to write on a small piece of paper their problems or what worries them the most. The pieces of paper were then placed in a container, sealed and put away.
Then participants were asked to do some exercises, in-between short inspirational talks.

One exercise involved asking the participants to write a short story about their first love and to describe the person they love in ten minutes. The room was filled with emotion as the participants read what they had written.

Free-flowing writing was also introduced to the participants, which involved getting them to write everything that came to mind without a pause in two minutes.

A participant in the morning session, Sheril Bayucan said, “I got excited after learning that there would be a writing workshop here in Hong Kong. My interest in writing was re awakened. I was there listening and interacting in a room surrounded by people who were just as excited like me. It was inspiring and comforting to have the opportunity to learn from the best. I am very thankful that Labatt Dela Torre and Susan Ople initiated this kind of event and I am looking forward to the next workshop.”

In an interview, Ople described how the participants responded to the workshop thus: “ It was a Sunday after the storm and words poured like sunshine, warming everyone up to life’s endless possibilities.”

She said she was touched by the participants’ desire to learn, and their willingness to share what they had written.

During her lecture, she told participants, “In this workshop, there are no rules. Kung hirap kayo sa Ingles, huwag pilitin. Kung gusto niyong magmura, isulat sa notebook niyo. We are here to communicate.”

She shared how writing has helped her cope with her own problems: “ Matagal ko na itong gustong gawin kasi sa pagsusulat ko din nakuha ang lakas ng loob na harapin ang pagpanaw ng tatay ko. Doon mo ibuhos ang lahat, ang pangarap at hinanakit, ang lungkot at kasiyahan, ang sikreto at suliranin mo. Walang paghuhusga, pero may kapatawaran sa sarili.”

At the end of the workshop, Labatt Dela Torre gave an equally inspiring closing remarks. He praised Ople for her advocacy and passion to reach out to OFWs around the world and share her knowledge and extend support.

The enthusiastic response from participants has prompted Labatt to schedule more such workshops in the coming months.

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