Showcased Writer: Fernando Manibog

fernando_manibog_photoInterviewed by: Bre Hall

“Warm Sand, Endless White” in Issue 12

Fernando Manibog holds a Ph.D. in energy and resources from the University of California-Berkeley, a master’s degree in international relations from Johns Hopkins University, and a bachelor’s degree in Asian studies from De la Salle University in Manila, Philippines. He has recently completed graduate certificates in journalism and evaluation from Georgetown and George Washington universities. He was an energy economist at the World Bank in Washington, D.C. for 27 years and presently works as a part-time consultant. Currently, he takes writing workshops at the Bethesda Writer’s Center, participates in creative writing groups and studies at the Studio Theatre’s Acting Conservatory. His work has been published in Silk Road Review, Mary: A Journal of New Writing, Green Hills Literary Lantern, and the Bethesda Writer’s Center Workshop and Event Guide.

What compelled you to write your nonfiction piece, “Warm Sand, Endless White”?

My archenemy from elementary school provoked it. We in the diaspora were trying by email to organize a big reunion in our Philippine hometown when suddenly he asked: “How many of us are still around?”  I was shocked by the responses.  Husky Nora and Hunky Rudy, Frisky Nick and Flaming Jimmy—they and many more have died in their early-50s, done in no doubt by too much pork fat and fried rice.  Only the carrot and celery eaters were left standing. When I got the final invitation, a big snowstorm hit Washington D.C.  So there I was, an empty nester digging mounds of snow alone, missing those fiery characters from my childhood—my kindred spirits who ignored many rules to grab the pleasure of the moment. I had to write about it.

How and when did writing become part of your life?

College, I guess.  I enjoyed writing term papers.  So much that classmates bribed me to do theirs. But my Aha! moment came when my Philosophy professor assigned us a paper on existentialism, and graded my piece an “A minus with a grudge, because this is a literary, not an academic piece.”  Not wanting to go hungry for the rest of my life, I peddled the academic writing part, and secretly wrote journals to quench the literary part. It was only in these past 10 years when I finally got out of that shell and started taking creative writing courses at the Bethesda Writer’s Center.

Do you write strictly nonfiction or do other genres interest you as well?

Fiction has interested me recently. It is tough, I must admit.  I fearfully watch the hard, lonely work of the budding novelists in my writing group.  I have so much to learn from so many amazing and exciting writers out there.  How did they do that?

Does your background in energy and resources ever appear as a part of your writing? If so, how?  If not, why not?

Oh no, never. I am trying to ramp down that office-bound Ph.D. part of me actually.  It was a professional life that was wrenchingly surrendered to pleasing others. Life’s last trimester should be fully and creatively mine—to play.

On a daily basis, what inspires you to write?

People.  I love watching people as they morph behind appearances and pursue their barely concealable goals.  I love them funny or strange, heroic or vile.  I can’t stop wondering what 11 million tons of gray matter could possibly hide and might reveal.  That’s from 7.3 billion earthlings each having about 3 pounds of brain.  Except that dreams and secrets are probably not in the head, but in the heart. And that can’t be measured. So I write to find out how deep and eternal it all can be.