That describes my status at the Mindanao Gold Star Daily. And yet, back in 2019 I began my first column with the word Déjà vu. That was because, ever since the early 1970s, I’d spent much of my life writing for a string of California newspapers culminating in 23 years at the Los Angeles Times.
Here’s how that introductory column described my unfortunate departure from an otherwise comfortable position: For me, the recession hit home the day I walked into the newsroom and my editor said, “let’s take a walk.” When I saw where we were headed, I knew immediately that the year would be one of the “not-so-good” variety, for looming straight ahead stood the frowning director of personnel with a pink box of tissues in her hand. If you’ve ever been laid off, you know the feeling of dread that envelopes you like a dark cloud bearing thunder; who am I now and what will I do?
For a time I freelanced for magazines, did a stint in radio, and even published an award-winning memoir. But the return to my first love—that refreshingly familiar gush of ink in the veins—came only after this newspaper started publishing “Expat Eye.” It happened not too long after my lovely Filipino wife and I fulfilled our long-time dream of moving to Surigao City, where almost immediately I met celebrated local historian and former port director Fernando A. Almeda Jr., who once wrote a column for this paper. One thing led to another and, voila, here I am!
So what does being here mean to me?
I guess I’ve already mentioned the gush in an ink-addict’s veins. Beyond that, though, MGSD has given me a home. Transmigrated into a new culture peopled by foreigners with foreign ways, this newspaper has provided the opportunity of describing the scenery along the way. Which has helped me feel connected, confident, and calm. Perhaps most importantly, it has helped me stay focused.
For writing, I now realize more than ever, has always been my calling, my way of being in the world, the thing that most lends continuity to a life filled with flux, flow and flaw. Fellow writer Alan Rifkin recently posed a question on Facebook. “Have any writers out there,” he wanted to know, “formally, gracefully or otherwise, gone and stopped? If so, what filled that terrifying… space?”
I understood exactly what he meant, for that boundless void can indeed be terrifying. At 72, I feel blessed to have found a new way to fill it. Though I have never set foot in the building housing this newspaper, nor met any of the others whose bylines it shares, I feel like I’m part of a family.
And so I offer the Mindanao Gold Star Daily congratulations on the 32nd anniversary of its founding. May it continue to serve the community that spawned its birth. May it, as Dr. Spock would say, live long and prosper. Finally, may it be here always to fill that terrifying space where otherwise only silence would reign.
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David Haldane’s latest book, a short-story collection called “Jenny on the Street,” is available on Amazon. A former Los Angeles Times staff writer, he is an award-winning author, journalist, and broadcaster who divides his time between homes in Joshua Tree, California, and Northern Mindanao, Philippines, where this column appears weekly in the Mindanao Gold Star Daily,.