Fantasy, Set in the Philippines: Self’s “Isa”

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Hinoba-an, Negros Occidental, the Philippines: December 2010

A few weeks ago, when self was attending a reading in USF, Barbara Jane Reyes, poet and teacher, told self she was teaching “Isa” in her class this fall.

YEEEESSSSS!!!!

Five families lived on Isa. At first, there was a way to walk on the ground between the houses. But gradually the water rose and that was when we began to use the rope bridges.

In self’s story the water keeps rising and rising and rising, until gradually all the other islands get submerged. And there is only one left.

The families on Isa send out an expedition to see how far the water reaches. The journey takes them far away, and they realize that they’ve long passed the edges of their known world.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Pleasures of Sourness

Does our taste for asim come from our sour green landscape? From the proliferation of sour-towards-sweet tastes in our fruits and vegetables? Certainly we Filipinos have a tongue, a taste, a temper for sour notes, which is one of our chief flavor principles. We not only sour our soups (sinigang) and cook sundry dishes in vinegar (paksiw, adobo); we also use vinegars (nipa, coconut) and citrus (calamansi, dayap) as dips and marinades.

—  Palayok: Philippine Food Through Time, On Site, In the Pot, by Doreen Fernandez

P.S. Señor Sigig, a Filipino food truck, was just featured on Bay Area food program Check, Please! Owner says everything is marinated for at least 48 hours. But the lines!

It’s Filipino/Mexican — there are burritos and nachos. Open every day for lunch and dinner. Average price of a meal: $12.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

“Appetites” (The Café Irreal, Issue 31)

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Bakery, Kanlaon City, Negros Occidental, The Philippines

  • When she was a toddler, cook cut everything into tiny morsels so that the girl’s mouth would not stretch and become wide and ugly. The girl ate only the sweetest pastries, only the smallest and most tender eggplants. Cook herself grew these in a corner of the garden, which every summer sprouted with little trees with purple-tinged leaves.

— “Appetites,” published in The Café Irreal, Issue 31

Gil Sorrentino/ Stanford Creative Writing

Dear blog readers, creative writing workshop made self very tense because she honestly had never met any American writers until she got into the Creative Writing Program, and they intimidated the heck out of her. One of her (male) classmates got up and danced on the table before the start of the workshop. Self can only say: she had never seen anything like it and was so amazed. Because if any of her college classmates in Manila had done that, they would have been arrested. Banned from campus. Reprimanded. But here, she got to enjoy the man’s dancing. LOL

In addition, her classmates wrote about things like going hunting. Or going on road trips. She made herself read Jack Kerouac just so she could understand Americans better. The other writers came from different states: Arizona, Texas, North Carolina, Louisiana. Self was from the Philippines, and she for the life of her could not even open her mouth. Once there was sharp disagreement about one of her stories and self couldn’t even get up the gumption to explain what she was trying to do. Much to her everlasting shame, a fellow writer had to stick up for her and defend her, and then was so overwhelmed by the task that she left the workshop and had to hide in the Women’s Room for a while. And self followed her there but had nothing to say. Self was such a blithering idiot. This woman was kind enough to pick up the cudgels for her and all she could do afterwards was stare helplessly at her? She absolutely had no courage.

Seriously, every time she opened her mouth, she ended up putting her foot in it.

Gil Sorrentino was one of three professors who took turns leading workshop. He was this amazing, experimental writer and before self met him, she didn’t even know what “experimental fiction” was. His most famous book was Mulligan Stew. He led workshop on the day self’s story, Ginseng, was up.

Told from a “we” point of view, and self was so nervous.

After all the discussion, Gil looked at her and said, “What the narrator doesn’t understand is, after everything is said and done, the man still has his pride.”

Self realized that Gil had more sympathy for the old man than for the detached and critical narrator.

She didn’t realize it at the time, but the fact that Gil felt he had to defend the old man was an amazing thing.

Ginseng is narrated by a man whose father is gradually sinking into dementia. The narrator keeps describing all his symptoms while getting more and more amazed: why does the old man insist on putting on a Panama hat before he takes a walk?  Why does he carry around that fancy walking stick? The narrator felt only exasperation.

Self always imagined the narrator as a man because to write about an old person from a woman’s point of view and to be that detached was something self felt she couldn’t pull off.

The story begins:

  • My father is 83. Once he was very handsome, but now he has plump hips and breasts, with dark, pointed nipples on top of two triangles of brown, leathery skin. It is impossible for me to think of him as still a man in the usual sense, in the sense he has wanted me to think of him for so many years.

At VCCA, a long time ago, one of the other writers found this story, she doesn’t know how. He found a copy of the journal that had published it on one of the shelves of the VCCA library and showed it to her. AMAZING!

By now, self has read many, many American writers. She loves Jim Harrison. Part of the reason might be that she loves Yellow Dog and another reason may be that Harrison writes novellas. His stories are set in Michigan’s UP and they are so specific to that place but also so universal. She never got into Kerouac. She adored Cynthia Ozick and Grace Paley.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Mirror: The Daily Post Photo Challenge, 2 September 2016

  • This week’s challenge is all about reflections.

— Jen H., The Daily Post

Here is self’s first take:

Noelle Q. de Jesus reading from her first short story collection, Blood, at the San Francisco Main Library, 100 Larkin Street, 23 August 2016:

(The table is a reflective surface)

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Noelle Q. de Jesus (in red and black top) and Edwin Lozada, who organized the reading: August 23, 2016, San Francisco Main Library

A man is reflected in an Ed Ruscha work at the de Young Museum in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, about a month ago:

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An Ed Ruscha at the de Young Museum, August 2016

Final photo: the sculpture garden at the de Young Museum, August 2016. That refective ball is pretty fabulous!

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Sculpture Garden, outside the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park, August 2016

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Simeon Dumdum, Jr: “Cattle Egret”

Excerpt From CATTLE EGRET

— by Simeon Dumdum, Jr.

You’re riding on a carabao
(Oh, what a day and what a life)
As birds would settle on a bough

Light cuts the sky with a long knife
And morning drops its load of dew
(Oh, what a day and what a life)

— from the collection If I Write You This Poem, Will You Make It Fly (Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2010)

Simeon Dumdum, Jr. is a judge in the central Philippine island of Cebu. His other poetry collections are The Gift of Sleep, Third World Opera, and Poems: Selected and New (1982 – 1997)

The white Cattle Egret is found throughout the Philippines. It perches on grazing cattle and rids them of lice. Its native name is: talabong, tabong, tagak kalabaw.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Still On: Anne Enright’s THE GREEN ROAD

The Green Road is taking self to some very unexpected places. Such as: New York City, 1991. Which turned out to be a watershed year for self as well. Just read her story “Lenox Hill, December 1991” in Charlie Chan Is Dead, Vol. 1, edited by Jessica Hagedorn.

Here’s an excerpt from Enright’s novel:

DAN – New York, 1991

. . .  if the question was whether Billy was still sleeping with Gregory Savalas, then the answer was that they had barely slept together in the first place. Billy was a blonde boy, on the sturdy side, with a thug/angel thing going, so there was a line of sad bastards queuing at his door; half of them married, most of them in suits. And Billy hated the closet. What Billy wanted was big, shouty unafraid sex with someone who did not cry, or get complicated, or hang around after the orange juice and the croissant.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Still Reading THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN

Gaah, this book. Doling out the suspense in teaspoon-size increments.

Anna is the current wife of Tom, who used to be married to Rachel. These three live near each other (Can you imagine? Bring on the pain!). The women in the story get their own points of view (Is this a feminist novel?) The male characters are either: a) louts; b) stinking ex-es; c) handsome unscrupulous jerks or d) clue-less. Hey, maybe this IS a feminist novel!

One day, when Anna is stuck at home minding the baby, she feels nostalgia: “I miss being a mistress.”

Yes. One day Anna’s flirting with Tom at an office party. Next thing you know, she’s a lonely stay-at-home mom.

On the idea of mistresses: there are a lot of them.

In Manila, self was included in an anthology of short stories all dedicated to “the mistress.” The title was Querida, something like that. (Suddenly, self realizes she never got her contributor copies. Why?)

This was Dearest Mum’s reaction to a short story self had written: “That’s not realistic,” Dearest Mum said. “There’s no such thing as an ugly mistress in Manila.”

Oh, Dearest Mum, you are hysterical!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

X-Men: Apocalypse and the Egyptian Mummies in the British Museum

Self took this post down for a while but then she decided to put it back up because she just went and saw X-Men: Apocalypse for the second time and — Evan Peters, hell yeah!

BTW, the movie improves on repeat viewing. But why Mystique keeps carrying a torch for Magneto is really, really frustrating. Every time she talks about him, with tears in her eyes — aaargh! That’s why it was such a breath of fresh air to have Quicksilver around: imagine, a man who feels no subliminal attraction for any of the female characters, whatsoever!

Below, her original post:

_____________________________

About a week ago, in London, self walked all the way to Shaftesbury Avenue after spending three hours in the Egyptian galleries of the British Museum just to watch X-Men: Apocalypse in the Odeon in Covent Garden.

She also thought it would be a good excuse to check out the Covent Garden area. See? Like killing two birds with one stone.

That turned out to be an excellent idea. Because the movie began with — ancient Egypt! Some dude was harnessing the power of the sacred pyramids — or something — to give himself eternal life! Of course, self had no idea that Egyptian leatherface was actually the beautiful Oscar Isaac.

Anyhoo, watching the movie was like entering a zone, where everything happening had a connection to ancient Egypt (mind-blowing, right?). Of course, it also reminded her — when all the Egyptian stuff was done — that there was an actor named Evan Peters who plays Quicksilver.

Honest-to-God, how could she have forgotten this guy? She loved his scene from the earlier X-men movie, X-Men: Days of Future Past, so much. But there were just so many X-Men crowding her thoughts, not to mention James McAvoy. In almost every scene. James McAvoy. And there was Nightcrawler. And the Archangel. And Jean Grey (looking exactly like Sansa Stark; self almost expected Littlefinger or Ramsay Bolton to put in an appearance). Not to mention Fassbender emoting and singing to his daughter. And J-Law being very capricious about when she wanted to be blue or not. So, finally. EVAN PETERS! She nearly jumped out of her seat. She was so happy to see him again.

Anyhoo, the point of all this. The point of all this is that she also has a short story that involves Egyptian hieroglyphics. It appeared in a fabulous magazine called Isotope, and was edited by Chris Cokinos. Isotope was a magazine that featured both science writing and  creative writing. Self’s essay, “The Lost Language,” appeared in Isotope in 2007. A year or two later, it went defunct. And now, nobody can read that story anymore! WAAAAH! (She does have extra copies of the particular issue with her essay. It’s back in her house in Redwood City, CA. Which is a long way away — across an ocean, in fact. Across a continent, even — from where self is currently: Oxford, UK. But if anyone wants to get a copy, she can promise that, as soon as she arrives back in California, she will get her hands on those issues and mail it to whoever wants one. Because it seems such a terrible waste to keep those issues mouldering in her closet, taking up space and being useless)

Here’s how it begins:

Filipinos once had an ancient written language. If I were to show you what the marks look like on a piece of paper, they would look like a series of waves. Or like Egyptian hieroglyphics. Like the eye of the Pharaoh I saw in my old high school history books.

The rest of the essay is very digressive and is actually pretty funny. There was a time when all of self’s short stories were so filled with angst and pain that she actually rejoiced when she wrote “The Lost Language.” At last! She was capable of showing a little more range!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

While Self Was at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre

She worked on a number of things. One was a collection of her dystopian science fiction. She placed one of those stories while she was still in Annaghmakerrig (luck of the Irish!)

She also worked on “First Causes,” her sequel to “First Life,” and got a very quick response. Though the magazine did not take her story, saying it was a little too “out there” for their magazine, the editors “nevertheless” wanted me to know: “This is indeed a very good story and we have no doubt it will be picked up by some other magazine.”

YES! YES! YES!

Ridiculous to get so excited over a rejection letter. But —

YES!

Self had worked particularly hard on the ending, and on the dialogue between the main character, Dragon, and his nemesis, Big:

There’s a bluish-greenish shadow on Big’s back, right between his shoulder blades. I see it when he disrobes for inspection.

What is the cause? Is it Tumor? Is it Plague? Is it Virus?

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The Pod, Viewed From Somewhere Near Whitechapel, London

Stay tuned, dear blog reader. Stay tuned.

 

 

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