Excerpt from New Year Reads on Growing Up, ‘Sudden Fiction,’ and a Past Philippines by Dr. Jenny Ortuoste, Manila Standard.net. Jan. 21, 2023
Growing Up Filipino 3 (296 pgs, pb, 2022), collected and edited by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, are “new stories from young adults.” Among the writers are well-known names such as Oscar Peñaranda, Danton Remoto, Ian Rosales Casocot, and Nikki Alfar.
The stories showcase a wide variety of children’s and young adults’ experiences coping with the nuances of cultures around the world while also coming to terms with what it means to be Filipino.
In Tall Woman From Leyte, novelist Gina Apostol tells of a kindergarten-aged child who unwittingly stumbles into the presence of a lady who was “very, very tall, with two feet of hair. Really.”
Accompanied by “uniformed men,” the lady was “beautiful. She sparkled in the sunlight. Gold was on her arms, jewels on her fingers. Diamonds, green stones, a ruby.” Diamonds also glitter on this mysterious creature’s shoes, but the shine extends to her skin, which is unflattering: her ankles are “silvery, like fish scales.”
It is Imelda Marcos, and the toddler spends an hour or so with her, Marcos Sr., and their guests, in an encounter that reflects the reality of how they perceived themselves (as larger-than-life parents of the country) and other people (as the recipients of their benevolent largesse).
In The Fancy Dancer, John Jack G. Wigley recounts how as a boy growing up in Angeles City “a few meters away from the Clark Air Force Base,” he led a conga line of U.S. servicemen and Filipina sex workers dancing through the streets. The memory is raw and honest, and Wigley shares it with us unflinchingly.
Brainard’s own The Dead Boy is a peek into the life of the elite of Ubec City, the author’s alternate Cebu. Bill Lowry is murdered, perhaps shot by a PC who spied on Bill and his girlfriend Bebop necking. The incident compels the narrator, a teenage girl, to navigate her understanding of the meaning of love, death, and the tenacity of life.
The collection is an interesting one, with many gems of good writing that scintillate. I look forward to some of the stories being taught in literature classes in SHS and college.
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