Ago 5, 2007

Philippine Fiction in English

Twice last year I was asked why I insisted on telling my stories in the English tongue. Twice, they compelled me to taste honesty from my own throat. The first time, an activist asked. I answered, perhaps to her satisfaction: I had no choice; I’m about as sorry as you are, but the stories come to me in English. Second time, a journalist. I replied to him: What do you expect of me? I know little Portuguese and much less Khmer. But he wore follow-up questions that bulked up his sleeves, so I invited him into my mind. He lunged into it and bounced off the truth: I reserved Filipino for matters of greater significance than fiction. For example, curses. No, not cusses: please! I mean curses. I mean, when you have a singular harm brewing in your heart and your palms dance thinly over each other, every finger erect, none ever touching, just dancing, one palm facing the other, right over left then left over right, rolling the in-between incense thick into a spectral pancake. Then with the precise pangungusap, you let loose the disc of incense to wheel all the way to the intended soul. I wished him well, that much I recall. I still don’t know if the journalist understood what I meant by a curse because we never got to talking again. I see him around, but he seems keen on keeping his questions out of reach. And, it’s true. Ever since he left my mind. He seemed keener.