Another book that would have lingered listlessly in Mt. TBR had it not been chosen as a book club book of the month. But no regrets. I was way overdue on reading a Filipino novel. And I’m a little glad that I did not have to read an emotionally charged Filipino novel replete with profound thoughts, penetrating cultural criticism, social relevance, and historical allusions, something with a convoluted plot spanning 6 generations. This is a light read. Campy, entertaining. Just about all that my mush of a brain can take these days.
And it’s written in Taglish. Kaya madaling basahin. Walang mga salitang mahirap arukin. Kahit hindi ko alam ang ibig sabihin ng burirak, kahit papano ay na-gets ko ang storya at tema ng nobela.
Each of the first 5 chapters is a love story. Some of which are love stories that delve on the idea of bawal na pag-ibig. The second chapter is a bit hard to take because of the incestuous theme. Medyo kadiri. Ang favourite ko ay ang 3rd chapter, yung tungkol kay Erica. Feeling ko para siyang Latin American magical realism chuva na hinaluan ng kabaduyan ng ABS-CBN at GMA 7 telenovelas. Parang Ricky Lee is poking fun at the realm and genres in which he makes his living as a scriptwriter.
The main theme that ties the 5 stories is the idea, ang teorya ng narrator na may quota ang pag-ibig. Sa 5 na iibig, 1 lang ang magiging masaya. Does the novel prove this thesis? I guess you’ve got to read the book to find out.
The best way to enjoy this novel is not to take it too seriously. It’s not meant to be intellectualized too much.
After all, Ricky Lee’s intention is really to make this novel as accessible as possible to the masses of Filipinos who might not otherwise read novels.
Imagine, nag FGD at nag-interview pa siya ng iba’t ibang tao in the process of writing this novel. Hmmm, and that could very well be the failure of this novel as well.
Feeling ko okay siya from chapters 1 to 5. Natuwa ako. Lumobo ang ilong ko sa kakatawa. Kahit medyo exagg and slapstick. But after those first 5 chapters, it became one gooey, incomprehensible mess. Masyado nang gumulo. Confusing. Drawn out. Ang labo. Maybe that is the point when the FGDs and other people’s comments got in the way. Parang nawalan ng control ang author over the story. Parang he tried to have an ending that would please everybody, which of course is not possible. This is also the point that you really have to consider that Ricky Lee has a strong cinematic perspective. That ending, with all the characters popping out of the woodwork might work best in a movie. But in a novel, it seems awkward, over explained. Medyo mapapakamot ka sa ulo, asking yourself, anoraw?!? Inadjust ko na lang ang thinking ko. In the movie in my mind, I imagined it to be something like Bayaning Third World. So ayun, natanggap ko na rin ang ending kahit papano.
Sa tutuo lang, ang nobela ay hindi lang tungkol sa pag-ibig. It’s also about writing, the power of the word, the power of the writer to move the world, to change history, to alter memory; to express ideology or not to; to arrange time, place, character according to one’s liking or to others’. To paraphrase what the novel’s Writer (also a character in the book)says, sa pamamagitan ng salita, he can stop movement, he can reveal the secrets of people, make rain fall, punish corrupt officials, and totally eradicate poverty from this county. But in the end, that power is finite. Futile. Powerless against reality. Kahit anong galing, ganda, o saya ng sinulat mo, haharapin mo rin ang tutuong buhay kung saan hindi mo kontrolado at malamang hindi mo gusto ang mangyayari. I like that message. And it's a message I, as somebody who has romanticized the power of that word, needed to hear. It struck me maybe because lately I’ve been finding myself in that quandary. Minsan gusto kong walang gawin kung hindi magbasa ng libro. Masarap eh. Masaya. I can escape into other worlds and feel for other characters without having to take the personal risks and all that drama. But the truth is real life has to be attended to. Kailangan magtrabaho, maglinis ng bahay, maglaba, madumihan, pawisan, makisama sa mga tutuong tao na hindi lahat ay gusto mo o gusto ka.
Our book discussion will happen in a few days. Ngayon pa lang, marami nang mga atungal at papuri. Iba ibang reaksiyon at pananaw. Gusto ng iba ang nobela. Ang iba, nangookray na. Nakikinita ko na, para silang si Bessie at si Ester magtatarayan at magdakdakan. Kaya parang si Sandra, tanggap at enjoy ko na rin ang real life. Parang tutuo.