Sunday, February 1, 2015

Elmer's feast

The cover of Elmer A. Ordoñez's Snows of Yesteryear: A Family in War and a Sentimental Education, an "autobiography disguised as a novel."

The last day of January 2015 was a double book launch day in different parts of sprawling Metro Manila. There is no longer a sleepy hour in terms of road traffic on EDSA. There was the fiction anthology Fast Food Delivery at Greenbelt 4 Makati City at 3 p.m., then Snows of Yesteryear at Solidaridad Bookshop in Ermita at 5 p.m. By 12 noon in Sison, Pangasinan, where the Victory Bus I was riding in en route to Cubao from Baguio City made a 15-minute pit stop, I decided I'd just head straight to Dr. Ordoñez's launch and buy my copy of Anvil's FFD another day.

I had only one body, which was still in recovery from surgery, and I could only manage an event at a time. It was a wise decision, considering I had my backpack on my back, a walking cane on my left hand, a bag of 40 pieces of brownies and two Mario Parial paintings that my husband Rolly had carefully packed in preparation for a Parial retrospective where they would be included. Eeek! Bag lady forever!

But the gods and goddesses of literary Olympus looked kindly on this traveler. I entered Solidaridad past six and climbed its two flights of stairs to catch Dr. Ordoñez fielding the last two questions from the audience concerning his latest book.

I make it a point to be at friends' book launches. I know the difficulties writers go through in order to write, to support writing, to finish a manuscript and to find a publisher. When others try to inveigle me to be involved in so-called "book projects" with an eye on a launch day, I pull back, decline politely (on rare times, impolitely, if the "client" is over-demanding). A book is a work of love; one's life, one's strife, one's passions and convictions are in it. It cheapens the writer if demands on meeting strict deadlines so a book party can fall on a propitious date are made.

I'm glad for the cool, laidback Prof. Ordoñez. He finished his manuscript, then saw it in printed form after turning a young 85 in December. The good news is he has another book in the back burner. I say, "Bring it on" and "More power to prolific octogenarians!" Thanks for setting such a fine example, sir.

P.S. Puwede bang bumati? Mila D. Aguilar, thank you for seeing me to my door. I love a writing community, especially one that looks out for the members' health and safety.

The author whose book's title comes from French poet François Villon's line "Where are the snows of yesteryear?" In Dr. Ordoñez's case, he refers not only to "those wintry times in foreign climes, but on a life--from early years in Manila and Pasay, the war years, and my intellectual formation through adulthood, marked singularly by struggle for a just, democratic and sovereign country..." Photos by Babeth Lolarga

That's my kumpare Amadis Ma. Guerrero on the right, I suppose doing a shotgun interview of the book author.

Happy also to see another former colleague, friend and lover of letters Alejandrino "Al" Vicente who's also in the midst of writing a collection of short fiction (or is it a novel?).

National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose and wife and muse Tessie also have reason to celebrate because their bookshop turns 50 years old in June this year.

The author's political color is evident in his guests who turned up last night: Ka Bobbie Malay and her mahal, Ka Satur Ocampo.

I get my chance to pose with the man who wrote a generous intro to my third poetry book, Big Mama Sez: Poems Old & New. Thanks for this memento, Geraldine C. Maayo, a devoted student of Doc Ordoñez.

Doc signing my copy
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