The Pencil Diaries

by Evans Yonson

(Note: Today I begin a new series called The Pencil Diaries. Every Friday from hereon I will be writing stuff about pencils.)

Barcelona – The Filipino is fond of pasalubong (gift bought/brought from somewhere especially from vacation or abroad). If you are travelling or have stayed away from home for awhile, family and friends expect that you have something for each of them once you get back. This is one of the reasons why in most international airports, Filipino are seen to have big luggages. We always maximize the allowable weight for check-in luggage. And we sometimes get away with more extra kilograms. I have had my share of buying and bringing pasalubongs for the whole family, several close friends and even my students. But I have soon realized that this has become the most looked-forward part of my arrival. My arrival has now been replaced by material things. I put an end to that many years ago myself.

Sometime ago, one of my older brothers called me up and asking me what I wanted from China as pasalubong. I thought of something not expensive and yet not bulky. Out of the blue I said pencil. In the next months, he would call me and I always told him pencil. Before the year was over, my brother had a dozen pencil for me from all his travels abroad. This is how my pencil collection started. To date, I have already more than 100 pencils. Most of these I personally bought during my trips. Some are pasalubongs from my siblings and friends.

Some of my pencil collections that started more than 10 years ago.

It’s funny how every pencil has a story to tell. There is always a story behind the pencil that I have in my collection. In today’s entry, the three pencils are as significant and important as with the rest in my pencil cases. It took me almost two years to get these pencils, which I never really expected to receive one in the first place.

When I came back to Barcelona in 2008, I wanted to do something worthwhile in the near future. It was something that I wanted to do later on but not so soon. I have already volunteered before for Madrid’s bid for the 2012 Olympics, which they lost to London. And again for their 2016 bid that came so close but eventually went to Rio de Janeiro. I wanted something in Barcelona and found out about the 2010 European Athletics Championship. I filled out the online application form and waited for their response that took about 6 months. I never really expected to get a response that fast because after it was 20 months away from the real thing.

In April 2010, I finally got a call from the Organizing Committee for an interview. So, I went and had an interview. I was given a slot for the Media Services department. I attended the volunteers’ orientation training a month after that. In this training, they handed us our first freebie. My first orange pencil from the Championship.

Each pencil was given in separate times. I never really expected it at all.

When the Games started, I was assigned to the TV/radio compound doing coordination stuff with foreign broadcasters and their crew. At certain point, I was screening TV camera crew and their reporters before entering the venue. I worked for two weeks in the morning. Getting up early every morning for two weeks was something new to my body but I had to endure it because I was after all a volunteer. There were several perks that came with the work: life and hospital insurance, free transportation for two weeks, food, clothes, access to almost all corners of the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Stadium, and tickets to the Games. But what made the experience even more rewarding was meeting new friends and establishing contacts with foreign people.

Volunteering for the Media Services department gave me access to lots of places in the Barcelona Olympic Stadium.

I received my second orange pencil while working in the TV compound. As a token for working with them, they each handed us one writing instrument. We were running from one TV company to another in this compound. At the start of day, I would fill-up our office’s freezer with lots of bottles of water. Imagine 37-40 degrees of summer heat. Europe was very well represented in this Games. There were broadcasters/crew from Germany, France, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Czech Republic, and even Turkey and Israel. Good thing almost everyone speaks English, well almost. TVE, the Spanish national television company, needed an interpreter. My supervisor, Sonia volunteered me to the job -translating for the Spaniards and the Germans was a breeze.

Seeing broadcasters from all over Europe and how they work was quite an experience.

With Tina, Sonia (TV compound director), and Mar.

On our last day, Marta (supervisor for media volunteers) handed us even more freebies and our certificate of appreciation for being volunteers to the Games. With the envelope came my third orange pencil. It was always tiring at the end of my shift but seeing Marta at the Volunteers Center and smiling at us, every ounce of weariness simply went away.

With Tina, Marta (our supervisor), and Argenis (Argentinian volunteer).