Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Hail Cebu! article by Philippine National Artist, F. Sionil Jose

Philippine National Artist, F. Sionil Jose recently wrote an article lauding my birthplace of Cebu. He kindly mentions me. I'm posting an excerpt, and you can read the complete article here:



Hendri also took me to Lahug where the old airport was. It is now a ritzy precinct, with snooty residences and upscale shops and restaurants. Hendri owns a restaurant there — the East West Café which serves Hamba, a pork dish which I gorged on. The café is also a meeting place of the Cebu culturati and it was there where I met again old acquaintances like Resil Mojares and Cecilia Manguerra Brainard.

Cecilia dropped by recently for a tête-à-tête. An excerpt of her next novel was published by Joel Pablo Salud in his Graphic magazine but she did not know about it so I gave her a copy. The novel — her third — is a fictionalized account of a real event: a murder that has haunted her. It is also a story of the violence and conspiracy that happens in the best of families. She is writing it, she said, like a mystery novel and it was at this point that we talked about the narrative — how so many writers, in their attempt to be original, have abandoned the narrative for flashy and fractured prose which soon numbs the reader who then stops reading. I shared with her this thinking: the narrative is what grabs the reader and compels him to read to the very end. How often have I dropped a book, lovingly reviewed by other writers, adorned with obtuse prose and technique but so wanting in tension, I got bored. Cecile belongs to that special tribe of Cebuanos, rooted in the land and writing about it.

Every time I visited Cebu in the ‘50s I also saw Cornelio Faigao — the contemporary of Jose Garcia Villa, S.P. Lopez, NVM Gonzalez. I remember his story of his encounter with American color discrimination very well. He had regarded it with great equanimity and grace. “Of course,” he said, “it was an affront, but thinking about it, I realize they were not discriminating against Cornelio Faigao, the Filipino, but at some poor bastard who looked very Negro.”

Indeed, Cornelio was dark and could be easily mistaken as Negro. It was so different from the reaction of another Filipino writer who returned from America very anti-American because she had been discriminated against for having Negro features.

The list of Cebu’s accomplished writers in English is long. There is also Estrella Alfon, Lina Espina Moore, who already shone before World War II and onward to the ‘60s — Estrella with her short stories, Lina with her longer works fiction critical of Filipino society.

Then there is Monsignor Rudy Villanueva, Erma M. Cuizon, Ruby Enario, Marlinda Angbetic-Tan, Godofredo Roperos, Simeon Dumdum — the magnificent poet who is now a judge.

Cebu is a city that continues to grow, limited only by its size. The Cebuanos, like the Ilokanos, are this country’s most industrious.

Read also
Lunch with F. Sionil Jose
Philippine National Artist F. Sionil Jose Collection Turnover
The Old Mansion Near the Plaza

Tags:literature, Philippines, Filipino, writer, author, F. Sionil Jose, Philippine National Artist

This is all for now,

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