It all started with a diary named after a character in One Tree Hill.
Kristelle Rizardo Omar has been dabbling in her diary called Haileystones (named after Haley James Scott) since she was an 11-year-old 5th grader. And she hasn’t stopped since – especially when she read the note her homeroom class teacher wrote on one of her journal entries: “You can be a great writer someday.”
“That was the first time I hear[d] the Hallelujah chorus ring in my ears,” she described.
Since then, she found herself having a strong passion for writing, thanks to her inspiring mom who supported her all the way.
Haileystones became a home to her thoughts and feelings. “Everything I write down actually happened to me, it’s what I feel and how I react to things,” Kristelle shared.
She wrote about her absentee father, her crush, high heels, her very first zit, and the little and big things alike that happen in a teenage girl’s life. She even wrote her insights about politics and the seemingly endless crusade for peace in Mindanao. She said that as she wrote (and read) more about the world around her, she found herself caring more about it. “If I don’t start [being concerned about these topics] now, then when?”
It didn’t take long before her journal became a column in the Mindanao Times, a community newspaper in Davao. There, she joined a pool of veteran journalists, politicians and scions who write for the opinion page. She was 14.
In November of 2008, Haileystones became part of the Saturday reading routine for parents curious about what their teenage sons and daughters thought. It became a “tool” for parents to understand their kids during those “hard times.”
“The parents really like the fact that they had insights into how their children feel, because, apparently, teenage years are really really hard [to understand],” Kristelle said.
This eventually gained Haileystones a number of readers who were as young as she. “My dad made me read you,” a girl, who was older than her, wrote on her Facebook wall. Kristelle’s thoughts and writing style appealed to her fellow teenagers. And now it’s about to get even better.
Kristelle, now 17 and giddy to further explore college life in UP Mindanao, continues to celebrate youth in her first book (with the same name as her column) published by the Mindanao News and Information Cooperative Center (MNICC). Her book compiles 40 of her best stories about her family and feelings, her crazy life as a teenager, politics, and the things that happen in school.
In this article, SEAYSS talks to Kristelle about her crazy writing adventures, her high heels, why she’s excited to be in college, and what her plans for the future are.
What’s the craziest thing that you’ve ever written?
“The Ten Things I Hate About Boys” is probably one of the silliest things I’d ever written. I knew nothing about boys at all since I grew up with just me, my Mom, and my yaya. And so I just started writing about how much they stink, how they always seem to wear the same T-shirts, all that sort of stuff.
It was fun to write at the time, but God… The thing with me is that, since Haileystones started out as a diary, and in your diary, you tell the whole truth, I just decided to go for it. Everything I write down actually happened to me, it’s what I feel and how I react to things.
I’m also very interested in a lot of current affairs, especially with politics and government. [Back] when Prospero Nograles was Speaker of the House, the whole of Davao City was full of his name on streets, on signs. Mom and I used to play a game in the car, and we would count how many Nograles signs you could see around the city, and whoever got the most won. I got to twenty-two once. I thought it was funny so I wrote about it, but now that I look back, I think “Wow, I could get sued for this!” but then I remember that I can’t get sued yet, because I’m not eighteen. Oh, well.
What gets you most excited about college?
College is fun! I had a lot more freedom than when I was in high school, and the lessons are infinitely more interesting. Kids should learn to choose a course they love, and the rest will follow. If you worry about employment in the future, just remember that your course choice would most likely end up as your profession, and you would have to deal with it for the rest of your life, so you might as well pick one that, when you wake up in the morning, makes you think that it’s the best job in the world. Like, for example, I could never be happy if I was an Applied Math major, so I went for Communication Arts.
What are your fashion must-haves?
I wear heels like nobody’s business, but don’t go yelling at my Mom for letting me wear heels, though. It’s not her fault her daughter is so vain when it comes to her porma. Oh, wait, it is. She gave me heels when I was nine and I haven’t stopped since.
If I could, I would wear high heels everyday, even to bed. I mean, I’m not small by any means, but I’m the shortest in our family! My ten-year-old cousin, Jiko, is the only one shorter than me, but he’s ten! He’ll end up taller than me very soon. It’s just sort of what I was known for in [high] school, this girl with the highest heels. But in UPMin, the campus is really not suitable for heels. My heels would sink into Abortion Road, so I just line them up and stare at them now.
What’s your rule of thumb when dressing up?
Just make sure everything fits right and looks good on you! I have a huge butt and… it’s really difficult to find jeans that fit. When I was a kid I hated it, but now, I’m fine with it. I’ve heard people complain about having no butt and then I think, oh, okay, I’m being ungrateful. I might as well embrace it!
For someone your age, you seem to have already been through a lot of things; would you say that you’ve grown up too fast? Or is there still a young girl inside you?
I grew up too fast, yeah. I lost my Dad when I was fourteen, then I lost my Mom about five months later, at fifteen. I thought I had seen the worst of it when I lost my Dad, which was devastating in itself, because I was very attached to my Dad but then my Mom’s health was deteriorating fast, and I had to act mature and responsible for myself immediately, because almost everyone else in the family was a mess. I was the only child, so when I would enter the hospital room, everyone’s eyes would look at me, pitying me. I couldn’t stand that, my Mom seeing me fall apart in front of her, because in her last days, I couldn’t touch her. Even if you tapped her hand, she would cry out in pain. And I remember thinking “Oh, God, if you have to take her, couldn’t you take me with her?” because my Mom was, and still is, my best friend. But I had to be an adult then and there, and I took it as something I could to alleviate her pain. It was only when she had finally gone that I bawl my eyes out.
But, I’m glad to say that I’m doing fine now. I’m enjoying my classes, my family supports me, I have great friends. There are days when I still miss my parents a lot, especially when it comes to stuff like my prom, or graduation. I’m working on it, because it never really goes away, but it made me stronger, and I think, I managed to get through that alive. That is a feat in itself.
How do you see yourself after college?
Well, I plan to either get a law degree or an MPA in the future. I still want to write, definitely, and still be part of the media (though I don’t think I would make a good actress or singer or dancer!) Nothing is set in stone, I could change my mind in the next three or four years. But I do know that, when I get older, I want to start a foundation for people afflicted with cervical cancer. It’s something that I want to do, to give back. Cancer is a horrible disease – I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy – but I want people to know that they’re not alone, that there are people willing to help out.
Haileystones is available in bookstores in the Philippines. Kristelle’s column runs in the Mindanao Times every Saturday; visit http://www.mindanaotimes.net/
(Photos by Iva Caballero and Althea Gopo)