Works Included in my MA Thesis

I had just selected the works to be included for my Master’s creative writing thesis today.

The thesis, entitled ‘Davao Filipino and its Literary Possibilities,’ will be a collection of short stories and plays in Davao Filipino, with a critical preface attached to it.

The works to be included are as follows.

Short stories

‘Cause-Play’
‘Kuyaw’
‘Pamulan’
‘Touch Move’
Pagbalik

Plays

‘Sa Pagkaubos ng mga Bukid’
Pag-Asa ng Drug Pusher sa Davao
‘Palitan’
‘Selim’
‘Gigi’
‘R&B (Reality and Budots)’
‘Pangayaw’

‘Kuyaw’ is about Abel, who suffers from bullying and copes with it by finding sexual gratification in gruesome scenes. His ability to not only tolerate but actually derive pleasure from the sight of death gives him a sense of superiority over his oppressors, and he develops this fetish with increasing gruesomeness until he finds it spinning out of control. The story is told in the first person and is narrated by Abel.

‘Pagbalik’ is the oldest among this collection’s works, first written in 2010 with the current version written in 2011. It is about Kyle, who is on a van, on his way back to Davao, where he studies, from Kidapawan, where he lives. He is distracted all throughout by the fact that his two best friends, Eugene and Jenny, who were left behind in Kidapawan, had ended up as a couple, and he is even more troubled to know that the two are expecting a child. As he struggles with these revelations a mysterious child keeps smiling at him from in front of the van. The story is told in a stream of consciousness manner with Kyle’s thoughts represented as they come to him.

‘Cause-Play’ is about Mayumi Bondad, self proclaimed top cosplayer of Davao. Proud, greedy, and fiercely territorial, she recalls her struggles with a rival cosplayer, CJ Gumapac, which culminated in a heated encounter in Hong Kong when the two were there for a competition. Now she is on her way to joining, and she was confident of winning, another international cosplay event. She seems invincible until her actions come back to haunt her. The story was originally written in English and was translated to Davao Filipino. It is told in the very limited third person, focused entirely on Mayumi’s point of view and even using her diction. It is based on a true story.

‘Touch Move’ is about Lenny, autistic son of a political clan in Kidapawan, who finds himself helping his family by devising Machiavellian plots to ensure the family’s political ascendancy in the city. His remove from the tactics he plots out comes back to devastate him when he helps the family take care of one of his grandfather’s illegitimate children. The story is told in the first person, and is narrated by Lenny. It is based on a true story.

‘Pamulan’ is about Teo, a teenager living in baranggay Meohao, Kidapawan who suffers mysterious bodily pains that could only be eased by bathing his body in the moonlight. His older visiting cousin, Carina, uses her knowledge as an ethnographer to help Teo with this illness, to get to know him, and to get to know the pleasures of life she herself had never known. Based on an earlier story written when I was still in third year high school, ‘Pamulan’ is told in the third person, with an omniscient narrator.

‘Pangayaw’ is about William and Janice, a young couple who are studying in Davao. Janice, a Manobo scholar from Arakan, wishes to break up with William, the son of a wealthy political family in Kidapawan, and William does not know why. It is only after he leaves that Janice reveals to her friends how their past has rendered their love impossible. The one act play takes place in a McDonald’s branch in Davao and happens in real time.

‘Sa Pagkaubos ng mga Bukid’ is about Romnick, a young security guard at Ateneo de Davao who has recently been on good terms with an Atenista MassCom student, the pretty and wealthy Charlene. While his roommate along Davao’s Quezon Boulevard, the fish vendor Janbert, cajoles him to talk more about the budding romance, to both their surprise Charlene arrives for a surprise visit. In the ensuing encounter Romnick realizes the divided worlds in which people live. The one act play takes place in Romnick’s room and happens in real time.

‘Pag-asa ng Drug Pusher sa Davao’ is about Franz, a drug pusher bedridden in a hospital after being hit during a shootout with the police. His mother, a school principal who has not seen him for years, arrives to see him, and the two exchange awkward and cold greetings. The conversation leads to honest revelations, and mother and son admit their mistakes and reconcile. But Franz’s actions come back to haunt him and crush his fresh hopes. Written in 2011, this one act play is the oldest among the collection’s plays. It takes place in the ward of an hospital in Davao, and happens in real time. It is based on a true story.

‘Palitan’ is about an exchange of hostages between the last battalion of the New Peoples’ Army in Mindanao, who have kidnapped field botanist Sophia Zaide, and the provincial government of North Cotabato, who have caught NPA member Balong Palabra. Leading the exchange is the governor, Dieudonne Balajadia, who is taking part in the exchange in the face of criticism from the National government. The journalist Nikki Madriguera covers the exchange as it unfolds from the apparently simple exchange to what turns out to Balajadia’s Machiavellian plot against the NPA. This short radio play – my first in seven years – is set in the outskirts of Kidapawan’s baranggay Linangkob, and happens in real time.

‘Selim’ is about the eponymous character, a high school student leader in Kidapawan who is being interviewed by the journalist Lulu Bejar. Selim is establishing a Mindanao-wide organization of student leaders committed to bringing peace in the troubled island. In the course of the interview he talks about his girlfriend, Zoey, a Christian whose land owning family is involved in a land grabbing dispute. While the interview takes place Selim hears devastating news. The play is a dramatic monologue, set in the living room of Selim’s house.

‘Gigi’ is about Gilbert Sirolo, the young first councillor of Kidapawan and a full blooded Manobo. While Gilbert is busy with paperwork and with a conspiracy with his friend the vice mayor, his dark problem suddenly rears its ugly head again: he transforms into Gigi, a demented dancing drag queen who spurts out lewdness uncontrollably. The violent disorder his own mother is suffering, or even a possession, Gilbert does not know what is causing Gigi’s emergence, but his own lack of control over his feelings ultimately dooms him. The one act play is set in Gilbert’s pad, and happens in real time with many dance numbers.

‘R&B (Reality and Budots)’ is a short, experimental play, involving the popular musical form – and associated dance style – of Budots, performed not only with the usual mixture of extracts of sounds from pop culture, but also of sounds from gruesome, terrible, and religious sources. First written in English in 2011, it was translated to Davao Filipino and is the only play in the collection whose instructions are in that language.

Of the twelve works to be included, only two works have been published, although I intend to seek venues for the rest. But then again, publishing in the Philippines is struggling overall. We’ll see.

The selections were made in consultation with my thesis adviser, Silliman’s Prof. Philip Van Peel. It’s been fun seeing the good Belgian, who could only speak Cebuano, struggle with – and actually enjoy – reading Tagalog pieces!

Sir Philip’s personal favourite: ‘Cause Play.’ My own favourites: ‘Kuyaw,’ ‘Touch Move,’ and ‘Gigi.’

The works are all available for anybody who wishes to read them. Just send me a request.

Here’s to making Davao Filipino a literary language!

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