April 24, 2005

Skyflakes Over Dimas

It was perhaps a month ago when I finally got hold of Vicente Groyon's novel, The Sky Over Dimas. This novel won the 2002 Carlos Palanca Award for Literary Excellence in the English novel genre. Prestigious it may seem, this piece of work is virtually non-existent in major bookstores like National, Goodwill and Powerbooks. The only place one can get a hold of it is from the DLSU Press, and it's subject to availability. Nevertheless, this book deserves a bright place in the hall of fame of great Philippine novels in English along with the works of Nick Joaquin, Sionil Jose and Manuel Arguilla.

One word to describe Groyon's novel is this: GRIPPING. Like a good pulp fiction cum saga, the author managed to spin a huge entagling web of subplots, family skeletons and sketches of the decadent lifestyles of Bacolod. If you are from Bacolod, get this book! The language used in the book is masterful with great command of English, the words lyrical that it rolls in your tongue when you read it aloud, and the flow of his work GRIPPING. It is sentences like this which makes your mind heady with meaty delicious descriptions of Negros life: "He lunged, parried, thrust, and touch‚d through the smokers' arbor, harvesting white blossoms and leaves from the canopy of vines along the way." You cannot help but finish his novel in one sitting. You just have to find out what happened in the hacienda.

According to PDI contributor, Rosario Lucero wrote, "The novel's basic plot is a rescue mission that Negros haciendera Margie Jarabas Torrecarrion calls on her son Rafael to undertake. George, Margie's loony husband and therefore Rafael's father, has been holed up with a worker's daughter in the abandoned manor of Hacienda Dimas for three months now. It's the only kind of reason that would make Rafael, now living in Manila, break his resolve never to set foot in Negros ever again. He dutifully returns to Bacolod, spends a night there before driving to the hacienda located a few hours from the city, and takes his father back in an ambulance."

What happened in between is the meat of the novel. Groyon concocted a vast melange of high-strung free-wheeling Bacolod characters both from the Jarabas and the Torrecarion family trees with their haciendero lifestyles to the sacadas who cannot rise above their station due to the oppression of their masters. Most characters satirize the pretentiousness, superficiality, greed and clannishness of Negros society that is a class unto its own. Everything is laid out exposed under the garish light of public scrutiny- that under that veneer of aristocratic gentility lies wickedness (e.g. enough jelousy to commit murder just to cover up a an infidelity), insanity (e.g. going to a religious store just to shoplift cheap plastic medallions) and hypocrisy (e.g. whole Bacolod society gossips behind the family's back.)

Well, that's much like the Bacolod that I know. Still wicked, insane and the best hypocritical community one will ever know. But the good thing is, Groyon managed to encapsulate (but not distill) all the good and bad of my city into one gripping novel. As my friend one said, "Bacolod is a big city with a small town mentality." And how right he is.

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