Monday, January 27, 2003

a film worth watching again and again

When I perused the pages of my newspaper this morning, I was delighted to read that Oro, Plata, Mata would have a special 20th anniversary screening on January 30 at Greenbelt.

This masterpiece, directed by Peque Gallaga and written by Jose Javier Reyes, is a milestone film in Philippine cinema, and ranks as one of my favorite Filipino films (sadly, I must confess that that list is painfully short). The film is set during World War II on the island of Negros, and traces the painful ruination of two affluent sugar clans in the face of the Japanese invasion.

I was 14 years old when I saw this, but it affected me deeply. Sadly though, there have been few great films since then.

Make some time to see it.

hinirang: dragon eyes

I finished my latest Hinirang story last night, Dragon Eyes. From the story:

The union of my mother and father was determined by Heaven long before they met each other. The marriage was arranged by a professional matchmaker, consulted by both sets of parents who wanted to increase the trickle of blessings that fell sparingly upon both their houses. My parents’ birth signs combined foretold much wealth and harmony and both families rejoiced.

But sometimes Heaven is wrong, or more properly, what is written in the sky can be misinterpreted by matchmakers who did not want to stand in the way of so much hope. The year my father planted me in my mother’s womb was the same year he began to spend more and more time in the other provinces, trying to add to the family coffers, but spending more at various teahouses whenever he returned. In an area the size of Lújìng Béishú words travel faster than horses, fueled by jealous lips and destructive tongues.


While writing this story, I found myself wishing that I could write in Chinese, to have better control of idiom and nuance, to be able to state exactly what I wanted to say. But I realized that even if I could, it would still not be enough, since I did not grow up in that culture, and thus any effort I made would, by brutal analysis, be the observations of an outsider.

One of things I enjoy about setting stories in the milieu of Hinirang is the fact that I can write stories from several cultural perspectives plus the portmanteau viewpoints of persons who have crossed cultures. In real world terms, I can draw upon and write about the Filipinos of various regions (including the Muslim nationals who have their own wonderful cache of stories), the Spanish, the Chinese and even an occassional tale from the Japanese, German, Portuguese, Malay and Arabic traditions. Such wealth!

One of the things I decided (style-wise) to keep consistent is this: when the story is about a Katao (Filipino) and there is dialogue, the dialogue appears in Tagalog and is not translated. This will alienate non-Tagalog speakers, but I believe more in preserving the integrity of the story's voice. Perhaps later, when these stories are collected in a book, I'll provide some sort of appendix or a full translated version. At this point though, I only translate the titles.

Some time soon, Nikki and I will also gear up for a set of children's tales from the Filipino and Muslim tradition, hopefully to be published towards the end of the year.


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