Para kay B [o kung paano dinevastate ng pag-ibig ang 4 out of 5 sa atin] by Ricky Lee: Filipino vernacular as literary mastery

the novel over breakfast. photos by caro.mango

the novel over breakfast. photos by caro.mango

Every trip to the P.I. there’s always the intentional trip to the bookstores. National, Power, Fully Booked, UP, Solidaridad, museum gift shops, used book shops in Mega Mall. It’s not at all that I am a total bookworm or anything. It’s just that I am still looking for that Filipino author that is up to par, for me anyway. And you know many Filipinos I have had this discussion with agree. The Filipino-English fiction writing is my most un-favourite. It’s … too flowery, generally corny, and inherently verbose. Kind of like what Carlos Celdran says about the Filipino aesthetic in architecture and design in general, overly decorated. I mean for me in terms of visual aesthetic, pwede yan. I am into it. Kaso lang, when I am reading corny ass musings of a msyogynist about some concept that clearly springs out of deep colonial mentality– IN flowery, verbose Filipino-English… eew sobra na yan no! That’s super nakakainis. I won’t na mention any names.

Needless to say, I am still waiting with bated breath for the Filipino Jhumpa Lahiri, or Arundhati Roy– Ria breaks out the book over breakfast. She asked me if I can read Tagalog. Hmmm. Parang hindi ata. See the spoken vernacular is so different than literary Tagalog. And there’s no real in-between. She says this one is different. And Ria is very well-read, is a writer herself, and a taste-maker in her own right. She says this one is in Tag-lish [Tagalog – English]. I am so intrigued.

After I drink my Batangas coffee, fresh mango and papaya with a squeeze of calamansi, and tsokolate suman (from the organic market in Makati of local produce and food products from all over the philippines–truly amazing), I gave it a go.

“Para Kay B (o kung paano dinevastate ng pag-ibig and 4 out of 5 sa atin)” is Ricky Lee’s first novel. Ricky Lee is an old-skool screenwriter. He’s super award winning. Wrote tons of screenplays of classic films, one that I remember from my childhood is Himala starring a young Nora Aunor, directed by none other than Ishmael Bernal. It’s got all the classic Filipino elements in a film: the Virgin Mary, a miraculous healer, suicide, cholera, rape, immaculate conception, and people praying, going up a barren hill on their knees. Anyway so there’s the context. Ricky Lee is amazing already… Para Kay B is his first novel.

“Me quota ang pag-ibig. sa bawat limang umiibig ay isa lang ang magiging maligaya. Kasama ka ba sa quota?”

The man, Ricky Lee - illustration by Ivan Reverente

The man, Ricky Lee - illustration by Ivan Reverente

Ok so I am reading real slow, because this Tag-lish is proper. Like it’s more Tagalog than English. It’s really the spoken language in the Tagalog regions. I am on page 21. I have to say I am so impressed! Ricky Lee is bomb. The imagery, the humour, the flow of the kuwento. Siempre, I have to read line over and over, kasi I want to savour every sentiment [and also to make sure I really understood the Tagalog].

This mastery of the vernacular is something that I have never seen, er experienced. This is it folks. This man has officially, in his first long, long, long -awaited first novel, defined the contemporary Philippine narrative.You know I am not a writer, so there is no possible way that I can even try to do a proper review. And besides, I haven’t read the whole thing either. I am just saying…

This is also something that would completely lose its soul if it were translated into straight English. To access this gift is going to be the BEST reason why you need to learn Tagalog. Hands down. And don’t worry, this book is going to be a permanent fixture in the KAPISANAN library, we will wait for you to learn so that you can read it. Eto na to mga kapatid. Wala ng iba. And the good news is, he wrote 3 novels all at the same time, the next 2 are coming out soon!

~ by caromango on April 18, 2009.

9 Responses to “Para kay B [o kung paano dinevastate ng pag-ibig ang 4 out of 5 sa atin] by Ricky Lee: Filipino vernacular as literary mastery”

  1. FERRR-FECT. Manga, papaya, suman and a gooood book. Bring that one home!

    We should do a book of the month club. Anyone over there have links to the publishers like Anvil, or OMG National or Solidaridad? I’m sure they would BITE at the change to sell books in bulk to Canada.

    But if you talk to Solidaridad, don’t tell F. Sionil Jose you don’t like his writing (that’s my guess BTW).

  2. yeah i am totally buying this book for the library at KAPISANAN. i am further along now and it’s just getting better. OMG. crying. laughing. so good. i will look into the publisher links.

    And oh sh** how did you guess it was F. Sionil Jose?? LOL!

  3. HA! Maybe because I’m already at the end of the Rosales Saga – last book to go. I still like Sionil Jose, but I do see what you mean after multiple gratuitous sex scenes in the books! Easy there!

    Not too sure what to tackle next. Maybe one of our readers can suggest something while I brush up my Tagalog for the Ricky Lee.

  4. Correct me if I’m wrong but as far as I can rememeber that sort of taglish talk with a bit of slang is considered Conyotic, and people who do it are called Conyos. Most of the language used back in the Philippines are basically bits and pieces of Tagalog, English and a hint of Spanish.. sometimes combined together.

    Something like:

    “I want to make ligo na kasi grabe ang warmth.”
    “Can you make sabay with me kasi super dilim na e.”
    “Yaya, you carry nga my maleta, Im so pagod na kasi.

    This pseudo-language is very quite interesting and is very recent. I probabaly start hearing people say stuff,like the ones mentioned, around Mid-year of 2000(Also the time when cellphones and texting was also on the rise).

    And I also realize that in Spanish, Conyo means Vagina. hahah

  5. that’s interesting. i wonder if the means the death of language… or just par for the course as far as all languages go. I know this, if its Taglish (or Conyotic) it makes it a lot easier for me to understand. That’s a good thing for me, but not for the preservation of language I guess.

    At least I’ll be able to read the Ricky Lee book.

  6. Bro…the word “Conyo” means Boobs! not Vagina in Spanish…

  7. Sorry dudes this vernacular is not the conyo one. It is the “masa” vernacular – not conyo kids vernacular. It’s mostly Tagalog. Except with some Tagalog conjugation of English words, like “dinevastate” —

    And as far as I know and have confirmed here in Manila, conyo is vagina. Another correction, conyo does not mean Taglish – there is Taglish, and then there is conyo Taglish. Are you confused yet? We haven’t even mentioned Sward Speak. LOL!

  8. Wow.. just Wow. And to think that I’ve spent most of my life in Pinas and I still am confused on what’s going on back home.

    Maybe we can just say they have different forms of language there, from the purest forms to hybrid ones.

    -It’s like grabe naman the diverse salita there.

  9. […] few more from the vast world of the internet to help you decide: knowread/knowrite’s review, kapisanan’s take, and fellow filipino book blogger bookmarked’s reading of the […]

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