Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Great Ilonggo Novel

As a teenager, I always dreamt of writing the “Great Ilonggo novel.” A novel about growing up in Ilonggo society that is so exquisitely written and painfully honest that it would remain in the hearts of readers forever. My models then were J.D. Salinger, author of “Catcher in the Rye” and F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of “The Great Gatsby.” These two classics, which delved into the hypocrisies of New York the high society and the treacheries of the Eastern seaboard elite, made a deep impact on me when I was a teenager and I resolved to write a similar novel about the travails and joys of growing up in Western Visayas.

Apparently, someone has beaten me to the draw. He is Vicente Garcia Groyon. And the book is “The Sky Over Dimas” (De La Salle University Press, Inc., 2003). What gets my goat is that Groyon is not even an Ilonggo but grew up in Quezon City. Another irritating fact is that he is a LaSalista. But that aside, the “Sky Over Dimas” is one good book, arguably the best fictional novel ever written about Ilonggo society. The novel, which chronicles the lives of a dysfunctional haciendero family in Negros, is both funny and moving. I will let eminent writer Alfred Yuson describe the book for you since I could not word it better than him: “Groyon’s familiarity with the Bacolod matrix of manners – surreally rich scions, weird personalities, outrageously decadent lifestyles – has endowed him with the rich material to mine and /or undermine for his fiction. The Sky Over Dimas reads exceedingly well, with its stylized construction serving the clear and illuminating prose as fine form perfectly following fluid function. It is clearly a worthy addition to the ranks of Filipino novels in English.” The book won the grand prize for the Don Carlos Palanca Award for Literature.

If only I didn’t play computer games as much and worry about having to earn a salary for my family, I would have probably written a better book. That is why I am excited to learn that a bill was recently passed in Congress that would grant financial assistance to aspiring book authors. The measure, which was authored by Iloilo City Congressman Raul Gonzalez, Jr., is a brainchild of his younger brother, Dr. Dennis Gonzalez, who is currently Chairman of the National Book Development Board. The “Brothers Gonzalez“ shepherded the bill thru the House of Representatives and are now lobbying for its passage in the Senate.

Book readership, especially among the young, is declining in the country. TV and radio has replaced newspapers as the main sources of news and information. Browsing around Iloilo City’s bookstores, one would notice a dearth of local books. These are the conditions which the bill hopes to address when it is enacted into law. By giving incentives to book writers, effectively freeing them from the day-to-day concern of earning for their family, more aspiring writers will be encouraged to take sabbaticals from their regular jobs and write their novels.


Anonymous said...

groyon's novel about Ilonggos is a load of crap! First of all it is about a haciendero in bacolod, which is negros occidental...that makes the novel a negrense novel and not an ilonggo novel...ilonggos live in iloilo city and iloilo province, negrenses live in negros.

so, you dont need to be disheartened. go ahead, write a novel about the "true" ilonggos.


Anonymous said...

there is a misconception that fictional work has to be written by people who are mirror images of the characters in the stories.

hullo! fiction! not memoir!

and outsiders just might have more objectivity than people who have lived in a place all their lives and can't see the forest for the trees.

that's my one peso for the day.