Many Stories

Originally posted in The Freeman
by Nancy Unchuan Toledo

I have yet to meet someone who did not enjoy a good story. Stories call to us, to the deepest part of ourselves where not even the blinding lights of the city and the deafening sounds of technology can penetrate. Even in the Philippines where the book sales are so low compared to the literate population (and where according to author Jessica Zafra authors are considered bestsellers if they can sell a mere 3000 books), there is great appreciation for a good story and for a story told well. The ability to tell stories, to capture a moment in lived experience or in one’s imagination and to be able to recreate it to another is something innately human. Everyone has a story and every story is precious. In fact, stories have their sacred place in the history of every culture all over the world.

I grew up in a world of stories—of my parents’ school days, of my grandparents’ childhood, of grandaunts and uncles long dead, of my yaya’s tales of the dili-ingon-nato (or the supernatural), of my sisters’ teachers and classroom antics, of my cousins’ adventures and of old people’s histories. And while the stories I heard allowed me to map out a world that I was already beginning to grasp, the stories I read showed me that there were worlds beyond the world I knew.

And so I soaked up mysteries, ancient gods and heroes, miracles, adventures, fairytales, fables—all sorts of strange and wonderful new worlds that presented themselves to my impressionable mind. And I learned to distinguish which ones were real and which ones weren’t, which ones were good and which ones were a complete waste of time, which ones I liked and which ones I loved—and the one thing that was constant about it all, in the good books, the great books and even those awful books—that each story had a voice and that voice had something to say about a significant human experience. Some authors said it better than others. And some said it is such a way that I would find myself reading and rereading a particular line or paragraph marveling how someone could come up with something like that and wishing that I had done it first. And I would get lost in a daydream continuing the story long after the last page had ended.

And then, if the story was really good, I would tell it to someone else. And I remember that I loved that challenge of making the story just as engaging to someone who heard me as to someone who’d read the book. And when I was adventurous enough, I would write down stories of my own and let my friends read them. And they were always very appreciative. Because they were loyal and probably because they hadn’t read a lot of stuff and had nothing to compare me to. And it was then that I realized that stories could move people and words could change the world. And I knew then that I wanted to be a part of that world in some form or another.

Because that world had become so much a part of me. It changed me and it continues to change me still. How much poorer my life would have been if I had not met Nancy Drew, Archie, the Wakefield Twins, Edmund Dantes, the March Sisters, The Pevensie kids, Taran Wanderer, Elizabeth Bennett, the Murrys, Atticus Finch, Holden Caulfield, the Scarlet Pimpernel, Kane and Abel, Thomas Merton, Therese of Lisieux, G.K. Chesterton, James Martin—to name a few.

Writers and characters and stories accompany me in my attempt to better understand humanity, to accept differences in cultures and ways of life not like my own, to grasp the meaning of life, to ask the unanswerable questions, to communicate the abstract, to change the world, to deepen my faith in the Greatest Storyteller of them all.

About Nancy Unchuan Toledo

When Nancy started teaching high school at age 21, she didn’t really think she’d make a career out of it. She was right. Ten years later and she realized teaching isn’t her career, it’s her passion. Writing is her passion, too, and she writes a bi-monthly column for the Freeman. Mostly she writes about her family, her friends, her students, her experiences in teaching, her love of books and her faith. Because those are the things that she cares about the most–although not necessarily in that order.

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