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.

April 21, 2005

Benedictus Maledictus

Isn't it funny that after the outpouring of emotions and tears over the death of beloved John Paul II, the world still expects to have a pope as fatherly and benign-looking as him. Instead, the College of Cardinals elected a man whose face can terrify any believer. His name is Joseph Ratzinger, a 78-year old German who headed the Doctrine of the Faith. His Germanic blood really shows. Strong. Aggressive. Uncompromising.

Well, he was a Hitler youth back then. And he has that heavy atmosphere around him which unlike that of JPII cannot ignite a spark of electrical spirituality or any mystical experience. I doubt it if one sees this man, you would jump up and down crying with tears flowing down your cheeks like rivulets. And if I see him kissing a baby, it might remind me of the Grinch. But it's still early to judge. Perhaps it is best to wait and see if his aura will rub on others- hopefully in the right way, that is.

April 08, 2005

Told the World of His Love

(to the tune of "Tell the World of His Love", the theme of World Youth Day 1995)

For God so loved the world
He gave us the greatest pope
John Paul II our father,
His most precious one.
He gave us a message of peace
and preached to those who'll hear
He brought the message to everyone
in a voice loud and clear.

Let us tell the world of his life,

the greatest pope the world has known.
He searched the world for those who
have not yet heard and led them home.
He filled the world's darkest corners
with his smile from up above
He walked every step, every mile, every road
and told the world,
Told the world of His love.

The reason why so many Catholics and non-Catholics loved and mourned the death of Pope John Paul II is because he gave the world what other popes and leaders had not- that is HOPE....