More From “How My Cousin Manuel Brought Home a Wife,” by Charlson Ong (in THE BEST PHILIPPINE SHORT STORIES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY, edited by Isagani Cruz)

In this section of the short story, Cousin Manuel describes for the narrator what he found in the Amazon:

“You wouldn’t know how it’s like until you get there, Carlos,” he said.  “I grew my hair long to gain power, put on weight, and found my center.  Everything I am now I owe to Consuelo,” he beamed and I could swear that for an instant, cousin Manuel’s face emanated an unearthly glow even as the midday sun shone through our tinted car windows.

“I am his black star,” Consuelo declared and I caught the twinkle in Manuel’s eyes.  I remembered at once how my cousin used to drag around his telescope through which he’d peer at the sky at odd hours of the night.  He was an astronomy buff back then and could name every one of the constellations which he pointed out to me save for an object he dubbed the “black star.”  I remembered Manuel telling me that he’d made an astounding discovery and that he was willing to name the “undetected quasar” after me for my entire personal savings worth 250 pesos.  Yet try as I did, I simply couldn’t sight this black thing Manuel had seemed genuinely ecstatic about.  Years later, while reading about Imelda Marcos’ celestial musings, I wondered whether cousin Manuel wasn’t imagining seeing some black hole in the horizons way back when.  The International Astronomical Society never acknowledged Manuel’s letter informing them of his discovery and he’d soon traded off his telescope for a super-8 movie camera.

This story is simply one of the funniest self has ever read.  A little further on, the narrator observes:

I realized soon that cousin Manuel wasn’t as trim as his designer suit made him appear initially.  He was a bit on the plump side and ate like a recently released hostage.  Either the months in the Amazons had really pumped up his appetite or the guy was trying to gobble up enough local cuisine for another twenty years of exile.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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