THE SENSITIVE but practical pen owes to a sensitive but practical woman, Bella Angeles-Abangan, the byline of what is perhaps the longest-running newspaper column in Filipino in Philippine journalism history, Lakbay Diwa of Tempo.

Lakbay Diwa, a column born out of Abangan’s desire to inspire readers about everyday life, tackles themes such as love, personal conviction, and hope. For example, her article, “Pagsisimulang Muli,” attempts to motivate readers who have experienced a great loss or failure to take the first step toward recovery by starting the day with a positive attitude: “Ang araw na isinilang ay malaya nating magagamit upang bumangon at magbagong buhay. Iyon ay ang NGAYON!”

This coming December 15, the 23rd Ustetika Annual Student Awards for Literature will bestow the Parangal Hagbong on Bella Angeles-Abangan.

The Parangal Hagbong is now on its 10th year of recognizing Thomasian writers who have greatly contributed to Philippine literature and the humanities.

The word “hagbong” comes from the old dialect of Quezon province, signifying a crown-like object made of leaves joined together for the purpose of honoring to someone.

Abangan was spurred into writing by her grandmother, who was fond of telling stories when Abangan was a child.

Her love for writing grew even more when she became a columnist of Victorino Mapa High School’s The Mapazette, from 1948 to 1949. (Fellow Hagbong awardee, Cirilo Bautista, also served the same publication as literary editor.)

She studied for two years at Philippine Normal University (PNU), where she became assistant editor of the university’s publication, The Torch, and managing editor of The Yearbook.

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Abangan said she has always been more comfortable writing in Tagalog.

“I had the chance to interview President Elpidio Quirino when I was writing for PNU’s The Torch. Then my adviser, Victor Torres, told me to write in English,” Abangan told the Varsitarian. “I felt like I couldn’t do it since I was so used to writing in Filipino.”

At 76, after 60 years of writing, Abangan can look back to writing career honed by life and experience.

“I can make a story out of everyday experiences, like when we went to the Philippine General Hospital and I saw a person sitting on a wheelchair. That was already a story for me,” Abangan said.

Marriage with UST

In 1951, Abangan received the Elementary Teacher’s Certificate from PNU. But her undying search for new knowledge brought her to UST in 1952 to take up higher education.

With her gift for words, she joined the Varsitarian from 1954 to 1958, becoming its Filipino Section editor and writing the column, Yeso’t Pisara.

“My experience in the Varsitarian was very memorable and beautiful,” Abangan said. “Not only did I learn a lot of things, but I also built rapport with other members of the staff.”

A recipient of the Rector’s Scholarship in 1970 from Rev. Fr. Jesus Castañon, OP, Abangan received her master’s degree in Filipino, meritissimus (excellent) in 1970, and her doctorate, benemeritus (very good), in 1974.

Abangan said the University and its faculty were her muses.

“Jose Villa Panganiban and Antonia Villanueva were my professors in UST, and they inspired me a lot,” Abangan said.

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Educator

Along with her writing, Abangan carved a solid career as an educator. In fact, she was division chief of city schools in Manila from 1987 to 1990. Before that, she had taught at the Ramon Magsaysay High School for nine years and at the Legarda Elementary School for 12 years.

She also taught media and communications subjects at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila for 11 years.

The UST Graduate School Alumni Association presented the First Diamond Award to Abangan for Education in 1998. Also on the same year, she was given the Catholic Mass Media Award for Best Opinion article in Filipino.

Abangan is also into philantrophy, having founded the Lakbay-Diwa Orphanage in 1986. She turned the third floor of her house for residency by 20 homeless children, mostly from single parents.

“I support the children with their educational needs. In fact I already have one who graduated as a teacher,” Abangan said.

Abangan considers writing as her lifeblood. She continues to write her Lakbay-Diwa and the advice column, “Dear Heart,” for Tempo, and “Maganda ang Buhay” for Balita. She is also a contributor for Liwayway, the longest-running Tagalog weekly magazine. Most of what she earns from her writing goes to straight to her orphanage.

Abangan said she enjoys writing inspirational articles on values. Her advice to writers:

“Be very sensitive and always read because it truly helps in writing.” With reports from Raydon L. Reyes

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