PSF6 Review: “Eternal Winter” by Maria Pia Benosa

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On September - 3 - 2012

This post is a part of our story-by-story review of Philippine Speculative Fiction volume 6. You can see the introductory post, and our disclaimers here. Bold font is Mia Tijam, everything else is Paolo Chikiamco.

Mia: I’m in the mood for bullet points so let’s tick this way (because we like bulleted documents anyway):

1)      As much as the opening line was very interesting, it was stilted. How about instead:

Just like her, Rico thought, to leave the house in the morning without a word or a kiss, only her panties LEFT—stretched beyond their years, hanging off the radiator to dry— to say hello to him…

Pao: I like it the way it is actually, since I like interjections being immediately next to the word they spring from, but your version works too.
 

2)      And I always say to leave the onomatopoeia out, like with panties going hrrrrnhh, hrrrrnhh. That is scary and can traumatize all the fantasies about panties from here on haha. But hey, if the Shake,Rattle&Roll franchise would go more daring, Eternal Winter’s panties can be an episode. :p

                OK, yeah, the hrrrrnh, hrrrrnh threw me off a bit. Not a sound I’d associate with garments, unless they were in a washing machine.

3)      The story follows the classic formula of post-cataclysm-unto-post-apocalypse in the tradition of Noah’s Ark.  The scenario in the story is very real and very possible and hell if it isn’t happening more so now, and the sad-but-true thing is that we’ll read this now and when this happens in the future we’ll all say “Hey, déjà vu!”  Man, I’m really apocalyptic and believe in post-technology haha.

I’m always happy to see classic genre formulas applied to a Philippine setting, but in this case I don’t think enough was done with it. The story does a good job showing us the state of affairs between Rico and Luna, but it’s not long enough to really develop Rico’s relationship with his job, or to give us a real atmosphere of encroaching doom (as in, say, Batacan’s “Keeping Time”.) I wish the story had been longer so that, even if the plot was conventional and linear, we could get that kind of development.

 –Dude, it’s the external reality (Baguio- Apocalypto Environment) mirroring the internal reality (Marriage-Apocalypto Environment) and vice-versa. If you’re seeing it this way, then this parallelism wasn’t tight enough apparently.

 – Apparently not, for me at least. The world is coming to an end, just as the marriage is coming to an end? I didn’t feel that sense of foreboding with the world, while with the marriage it was quite explicit.

4)      I love the “dramatic” scene(s) in the end: It’s very Pinoy, HK, and B-Movie flicks with the speech/dialogue cum action; like the speech before a bad guy kills somebody or before somebody dies or is saved hahaha.

Since I didn’t really feel there was much of a buildup, those final scenes didn’t have much “oomph” for me. It seemed more to me like the end of Act 1 than the end of the story – I’m much more interested in the situation that Rico found himself in at the end of the story than I any situation he was in during the story.

 –Dude, it was drama that was funny because I just couldn’t take it seriously.

 But for dramatic effect for 4, better if that “Fuck you!” was deleted. “Show don’t tell” rule yo.

 I agree. This would have been a good part to go with something inarticulate. The curse plus      the subdued ending made the final few paragraphs meek instead of strong.

5)      I like how this story touches on the triumphs and follies of Nativism— a) The Native Culture as Cassandra; b) The Native Culture as being consigned to “unrealistic” by the present and the future because of “unwillingness to communicate and be cooperative” which is sometimes synonymous to “against conformity” ;  c) The Native Culture as “stubborn ass rebels who refuse to get with the program” therefore becoming extinct—  how we can all forget our ties to what is our cultural core because of the way things are like technological advances and globalization et al and only return to what matters when it’s too late.

 I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard any Filipino refer to members of indigenous groups as   “natives”, though. When I’ve heard them being denigrated, the names of the cultural groups      themselves served as ample epithets (or the name of one group improperly applied to another). Granted, this may actually be the practice in areas that border indigenous communities, or maybe it was an attempt to draw parallels between rich and the colonizers of old, but it just seemed odd to me.

 –Let me clarify: “Nativism” is a framework and when I said “Native” (Culture), I was using the term used in post-colonial criticism when referring to the NON-Western/Colonized/Hybrid/Synthesis Culture being discussed (and in the story’s case it was the Kankan-e or Kankanaey which is one of the many Igorot Tribes).  Historically, since the Kankanaey have been reached by modern amenities then they consequently put stock on education and desire more socio-economic developments for their large population (which would as much as possible not harm the environment nor go against their core values).

So, there’s that minority and the Baguio Hegemonic Culture in the story. Luna’s character— after being immersed in this Baguio Hegemony— decided to return to her Kankan-e roots (because of the conflict/s provided by the story).  

 And when you’re coming from the extreme end of Post-Colonial Re-Framing, an example of “Nativism” would be, “If I really want to be true to my culture, then I will not write in English but will write in my native language(s) instead.” Kaboom! Gets?

 –No, I get that you were using “native” in an academic way – what I was referring to was the use of the term “native” by characters in the story: “he’d decided he wasn’t going to argue with her about the natives and the birds.” “She’s one of the few that the natives will deal with!” “they don’t need to deal with the natives anymore” and so on…

 –Ah! Kasi naman use reference! Ha ha. That’s how it is really, the Hegemonic Culture does use “native” to refer to the, er, natives, because it’s always a challenge to  the majority  from the time of Genghis Khan, Cesar, Magellan, Mayflower Compact, The British East-India Mates and so on until Benosa’s Baguio to pronounce the proper names of the native minority. Ano ba, Katutubo nga raw eh. In English: Natives! :p

 6)      Really, the story is an elephant that says “MOVE! BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!” The storytelling has generally good enough composure but it’s not something that sticks to me.          

A few further points I’d like to raise:

  • I found the prose and dialogue to be awkward at times, particularly Luna’s rant about midway through the story, which is a shame since that’s a key segment in the story.

–A consequence of not yet having the stamina, composure, experience in this kind of storytelling. All a matter of time for the author.

  • While I really liked the opening segment, and felt that it integrated world-building with the day-to-day stressors of Rico very well, the flashback-expositions in the latter parts of the story don’t fare as well. I understand having Rico dwell on memories about Luna during the final exodus, but did we really need that segue to the Korean immigrants?

–The segue to the Korean immigrants is texture for the Baguio setting because the city has turned out to be the Little Korea of the Philippines based on Korean population.

 –Oh, I didn’t know that! Still, I think that there’s mention of Rico and Luna’s friends earlier, and in the second-to-last scene of the story, I still feel the flashback-exposition hurt the momentum more than it added to the context.

  — And so we always learn something haha. But like I said, it’s a story that didn’t really stick to me as I had to re-read it while going through our critique.

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