by Vikki de los Reyes: MD. Epidemiologist. Aspiring Writer. Former radio star.
As I enter the production booth, I see a bunch of eight-year-old girls like me. There are around ten of us. We are all in our nicest dresses; me, in my newest one, a pink and white striped sailor dress with the cutest bow. Being the fourth of five siblings, and the third of three girls, hand-me-downs are a virtue my financially struggling family very much values. But, my parents bought this new dress for me as a treat for doing well in school.
Auditions for a radio commercial are going on at DYRP, the local radio station where my parents work. I’m supposed to audition for a young girl’s part—my first audition ever. I have seen my older siblings do this before. It’s really neat to hear their voices on the radio. So, the talent scouts call us one by one. We recite our line for this cold-syrup radio commercial: Siling ni Mommy, ‘Neozep syrup, hindi delikado sa sip-on ko’. (My mom said, ‘Neozep syrup won’t hurt me.’) We do it several times in different ways. After all of us finish, we wait for the results. The talent scouts pick me! It feels really good. Now, I will get to hear my voice on the radio, too. It also feels good that I will carry on the family tradition—everybody gets to work in radio. Receiving my very first paycheck is a moment to remember.
My mother started working in radio at the age of fourteen, and my father at nineteen. They are both actors and writers. Since they both write, it seems the typewriter is never idle. Our house is full of paper: white blank pages, pages full of writing, and sheets of carbon. It’s normal to hear the sounds of typing, sorting, and stapling in the wee hours of the morning in our home.
Now that I’m nine, I get the news that I will star in a radio soap opera my parents will write. This is really no big deal. I see my starring role as just another chance to play in the sound booth. Dropping by after school is like usual, anyway. I go to school every day and walk three blocks to the studio for radio taping at night. I don’t always have to come in… only when I have a part to play.
Once in the booth, I wait for my turn. They set up a stool for me to use, since I can’t reach the microphone. They play the opening music, and we begin the recording. Of course, really having no choice, my mom assures me (ahem) that I am a very good actor. The soap lasts for six months.
I love hanging out in the taping booth. Watching others prepare for their parts before they perform fascinates me. I call everyone my Uncles and Aunts. They bring their kids, and we play. Radio life is very much like a family.
My parents write stories, and I get to be a part of bringing them to life. The shows are popular. Whether a comedy or a tragedy, people stay tuned.
I’m ten years old. My father, who also works as a policeman, dies of a gunshot wound. My mother stops writing stories. At the age of forty, she needs to look for a more stable job. Before we leave radio completely, though, we join a bible study at the station. A missionary uses the image of his hand, firmly grasping his bible, to teach us how to read it. His fingers represent hearing, reading, studying, and memorizing; the thumb, meditating. This is my first time attending a bible study, and I am among adults. Eventually, my mother becomes a believer, and the bible studies are held in our house.
As an adolescent, I need something permanent to hold on to. I decide to follow Jesus. No turning back, I say.
My brief stint in radio was full of childhood joy and wonder. It also taught me the value of stories and storytelling.
What an even grander thing to be a part of His story! Every day that we wake up is a new day to experience God’s mercy, grace, and love. Thank you, Lord, for this challenging, mysterious, glorious life You have planned for us!
All the stages of my life were spread out before you, the days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.”~ Psalm 139:16, The Message