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Love, in all its permutations

Posted by Marie on Friday, December 16, 2011 in , , , , , ,
Fourteen Love Stories - Jose Dalisay Jr. & Angelo R. Lacuesta (editors)
Fiction; ISBN 971-542-412-0; Flipside Publishing, University of the Philippines Press; 2004.

"Which is why, perhaps, the love story is a strange affair. As affairs go, there are good ones and bad ones, the ones we forget and the ones we remember, over and over again. But the well-written love story is an enigma, a strange beauty. Like any story, a path is laid out, but like any affair, the outcome of that journey depends on many circumstances. One reads it and wonders how and why it works, why one is unspeakably drawn to an obscure unknown. One relishes it while it is being discovered, uncovered, but knows with absolute certainty it will end."

I'm glad that the editors of Fourteen Love Stories chose to present the stories chronologically because this gave me a chance to appreciate the changing regard of Filipinos on love and relationships over the decades. But in the end, I can't help but group the stories according to what I'd felt about them (not a good way to review a book, I know, but I'm not aiming for a proper critique =P).

The first group are the ones I had appreciated and enjoyed like artworks in a museum. Indeed, I found myself connecting some stories to certain artists: "Dead Stars" is Luna's "Tampuhan", "Midsummer" is a sensual Amorsolo,"Wedding Dance" reminds me of Botong Francisco's murals, "Tanabata's Wife", to Bencab's sculptures, and Polotan's "The Virgin" to a Manansala jeepneyscape.

I very much enjoyed reading this next group because they reminded me of friends or people I know. This lot includes Ford's "Love in the Cornhusks" (reminded me of one of my parent's kasambahay), Gonzales' "Breathe" and de Jesus' "In Her Country" (a college friend), Fres-Felix's "Alma" (my boss' mistress), and Cordero-Fernando's "The Dust Monster" (a book club friend).

Not surprisingly, the two stories I've identified with  the most were those by writers of my generation. Sitoy's "Weight" is about the subtle pressures of life that chips away one's idealism. It also made me miss the Quezon City of my college and post-graduate life, as well as the naive enthusiasm I had then. My favorite story in the anthology is Katigbak's "Passengers". It is a story of love and loss, told through bus rides. I connected with a lot of things: the girl's fondness of commuting in dingy buses, the narrator's horror of being a new driver stuck in the hellroad called EDSA with suicidal bus drivers, Metro Manila bus routes, the 'techno-dreck' which are the official soundtrack of these buses, and even that infinite parallel universe thing.

There were two I couldn't relate that well: Melvin's "A Normal Life" and Villanueva's "How Could You Smile". The latter is a story of infidelity, something I had no personal or familial experience. The former is about a love affair between an older, more sophisticated woman and and a much younger man. I don't really know what to feel about these two stories. Do I sympathize? Or maybe abhor? But I still enjoyed reading them, though with a certain detachment.

Considering that the wealth of Filipino stories written in English spanned eight decades, I’m amazed that the editors, Butch Dalisay & Sarge Lacuesta managed to choose only fourteen stories. That they limited the pick to only those about romantic love probably didn’t help much, as the Filipino is race that is in love with Love – one just have to flip the local channels or browse through the thousands of Pinoy romance pocketbooks to realize that. But chose they did, and they chose well. 

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