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February 7 2012 3 07 /02 /February /2012 13:59


A. R. Enriquez





Bio: A (Antonio). R (delos Reyes). Enriquez


RIGHT AFTER finishing secondary school in Zamboanga City, 1953, and save for a few terms in college, Antonio Enriquez spent his time shuttling from one casual or odd job to another.

In between jobs and out of them, he spent the time with short vacations, and often

in the fishing village of Labuan, northwest of Zamboanga city. He learned to ride carabaos and bulls, hunt on the beach for turtle-eggs and slugs, and drunk tuba –native coconut wine with farmers and fishermen, and was an avid listener to the village’s story-teller, a third-generation progeny of his grandfather’s cocalan –coconut land worker, a Visayan migrant from the East.

But what he loved most was deep-sea fishing off the coastal waters northwest of

Zamboanga city and hunting wild fowls and wild game in its hinterlands. His favorite

fishing grounds borders the feared smugglers’ lair, the islets of Balug-Balug and

Sangbay, southwest of the Moro rebel and terrorist sanctuary, Basilan Island. There he landed all sorts of game fish: pompano, barracuda, sail fish, and even the giant págui, or ray fish, and sharks off the Pilas Group. He bird-shot wild pigeons and mallards in the great swamps of Basilan Island, and, with a short-barreled carbine, hunted wild monkeys and boars in its forest and abandoned logging concession areas.

It was however years later, working with a Manila geodetic surveying company in a

watershed project in Pikit, Maguindanao, then a sanctuary of outlaws in the early ‘60s, and now of MILF rebels—which changed his life: achieving some direction and purpose, as he led a surveying party crisscrossing the pristine Liguasan Marsh and hinterlands of Maguindanao and climbing Mount Pulangi, where once a band of Moro outlaws forced them to abandon a geodetic triangulation-site. That change forged a special bond with nature and the rustic life, their mystery and danger, beyond the periphery of city—and civilization.

            Thus, all those years of adventure on land and sea, experiencing the rustic and ‘uncivilized’life, and wildness of nature, slowly gestated...just waiting to be written.

So, some years later after he returned home in 1964 from the Liguasan Marsh, his first short story, “The Outlaw,” appeared in the prestigious Philippines Free Press. Almost a decade later there appeared two  of his collections of short stories, Spots on their Wings and Other Short Stories; Silliman Press, 1972; and Dance a White Horse to Sleep & Other Stories, UQP Australia, 1977; the latter regarded the first book of fiction that broke into foreign publishing by a Filipino writer writing from his homeland. And several years later his first novel of course was set in Liguasan Marsh, called Surveyors of the Liguasan Marsh, University of Queensland Press, Australia, 1981; indeed, a change and a beginning. A year before New Day Publisher, Quezon City, came up with The Night I Cry and Other Stories; followed in 1996 by The Unseen War and Other Tales from Mindanao, Giraffe Books; and also from Giraffe Books, The Voice from Sumisip and Four Short Stories, 2003.

A second and third novel also came out: The Living and the Dead, Giraffe Books, 1994, and Subanons, UP Press, 1999. And his latest, after a spell of eight years, the epic novel, Samboangan: the Cult of War, U.P.Press, 2007.

He is a recipient of literary awards in fiction, like the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature, short story category, and its grand prizes for his novels; other awards include UMPHIL for “fiction in English,” UP National Fellow for Literature, S.E.A.- Write Award, Bangkok, Thailand, and Hawthornden International Retreat for Writers Fellowship, Scotland, U.K.

Unpublished novel:

1) bio-novel: Not All Slept in the Dark Nights; 391 pp.; September, 2003.

            A (Antonio). R (de los Reyes). Enriquez (b. 1936) was raised in Zamboanga City, and educated at the Ateneo de Zamboanga, then an ‘all boys’ institutioin. He resides in Cagayan de Oro City, Misamis Oriental, with his wife Joy Viernes, a son, and three grandchildren, since the family moved here middle of 1979.







Calandracas #1contains six short stories which first appeared in a different format in the excellent series of the Asian and Pacific Writing no. 8 of the University of Queensland Press. Two essays on writing, “To Forge a Voice” and “Writing in English”—show the author’s propensity to mint the tone and rhythm of his native tongue Chabacano to English, and his unwavering conviction on the latter that non-native speakers of English can write as well and excellently in that medium, as Salman Rushdie, Chinua Achebe, Joseph Conrad, and Vladimir Nabokov have done, among others. “It’s a matter of blending the peculiar syntax of our native tongue to that of English,” author A. R. Enriquez says, “and listening to the song of your language while writing in English.” The result: a reader’s unconsciousness that he is reading the English text, not the author’s lengua franca Chabacano. Much, much deeply seen in the stories, “Asocena” and “The Icon.”

             There is no doubt an attempt to show the forging and the writing in English in his 1982 Don Carlos Palanca grand prize award for the novel Subanons is made here with the inclusion of its first chapter both in English and Chabacano. Its working draft was originally written in Chabacano before finally hammered into English. Enriquez explains, “Too painstaking to come up with finished work in both languages. When I started I felt like I was writing two books, so I opted to write the draft in my native tongue and the final copy in English—if only to finish it.” Except that one would need a sprinkling of Spanish to credibly bore through the Chabacano version. For the reading of the two versions will prove quite an entertaining adventure into the yet untrodden path of Asian-English writing.

            The section “Scraps” is here to keep reader’s attention awake and not fly astray. It reads almost like the “oddities” that clatter internet online newspapers and blogs, you know what I mean.

            For instance, the author’s hometown’s sobriquet is “the city of flowers,’ when in truth “jambangan” doesn’t even mean that! In fact, was there really a garden of flowers in old Zamboanga?






“Tony is regarded as one of the top ten writers in South East Asia and has received many awards [including Hawthornden Castle International Writer’s Resident, Scotland] for his novels and collections of short stories, most notably the 2000 East Asian Write Award, presented by HRII Princess Bajrakitiyabba of Thailand—a great honour that included a ceremonial speech by Nobel Prize winner VS Naipaul.

            This prestigious award was presented to Tony in recognition of his lifetime achievements in writing as well as for his recent novel Subanons , a testimony of the tribal people caught in the crossfire as a result of the Philippine government’s military campaign against the New People’s Army.

            The novel was written in spite of the declaration of martial law in 1972 and the ensuing political turmoil which put most of the creative writing activities of the country on hold.

            Tony is much acclaimed in his home country and is particularly popular in Australia, where his first works were published.”—Lynn Duke,  Stratearn Herald, Creiff, Perthshire



“The stories [Dance a White Horse to Sleep and Other Stories] are varied, from a tale of a fisherman pitted against the sea to a complicated story showing the shifts within a family when the father dies.  They are all set in a variety of locations on the island of Mindanao, giving the reader a full impression of the place and of the fishermen, farmers, teachers, natives, and newspapermen who live there.  The best in the collection ‑‑‑ "Dance a White Horse to Sleep" ... ‑‑‑ transcend the anecdote and illuminate general verities in a clear and absorbing way.  An interesting collection even if read only for its lush, harsh, exotic setting.”—Page Edwards, Jr , Library Journal, New York, New York



“No feeling is too slight and no detail is too small to escape the eye of this consummate storyteller.

     Apart from the skill with which he weaves his stories, Enriquez often becomes melancholy when describing the small, individual cruelties of ethnic misunderstanding or stupidity.  The barrio of Labuan is the setting for the story Asocena (dog supper).  A Zamboangan (sic) boy named Chu witnesses the end of his innocence as a group of Ilocano fishermen steal his farm dog and then use it for one of the casseroles much loved by them but regarded by dog‑loving Zamboangueños as a meal for savages. 


     And yet, any sadness within the eighteen stories chosen for this book is diffused with the tenderness and compassion Enriquez so obviously feels and wants to convey to others ‑‑‑ others who merely see his home as a troubled place.  And the publishers have sought to perpetuate his original intentions by leaving Tagalog and Spanish expressions, too difficult to explain in English, as they were written by the author.”—Jacob Wu, Asiaweek







#From Son:


            “What is really the matter, Chu?” the father asked.

            “Nada, Pa,” he said. “Nothing.”

            “Go on, tell me,” the father said. “You can always tell your papa.”

            Chu kept gazing at the food on his plate.  He was trying hard not to cry, his face strained and looking sadder every minute.  He said, “They killed Leal, Pa.”

            “Who killed your dog?” the father said.

            “Mr. Tomas and his friends,” Chu answered.

            “No! How could anyone be so beastly?” his mother said.

            “They are beasts!” the boy said.

            “Are you sure of this?” said the father.  He had not gone with the boy to search for his dog earlier that morning.              He had thought nothing of it then.  Anyway, the plowing of his farm had to be done first, for he had seen signs in the sky that told him the rainy season was coming earlier this year.

            “Mr. Tomas always bragged they’d kill my dog for asocena     dog meat casserole,” Chu said.

            “Oo, no!” Chu’s mother cried, imagining that maybe now the boy’s dog was already on someone’s plate as stewed meat.

            Chu sprang up from the table, tilting over his chair, and ran out of the house.  The farmer stood up, and his wife said to him, “Don’t do anything rash, Ingo.”

            “I’ll just see if Chu is all right,” he said.

            “Remember, Ingo,” his wife said, “that you will not gain anything quarreling with that sort of man.”






#From The Icon:


About this time, in the house, the boy was lying on the mat on the bamboo floor beside his mother's bed. He could feel his mother asleep in her bed. He felt it through the dark as though he could see through it. He could not sleep himself, and in his mind he was thinking: Mama is sweating and her face and shoulders shiny with beads of water and she smells of fresh broken grass and crushed pot flowers. Her face comes closer and her hair tickles my nose and she crushes me against the damp bed sheet round her and the smell of broken grass and crushed pot flowers become stronger in the nostrils tickling the nostrils and the man says, Bring the boy here, Pilar; the man lying there in the bed, and he says, Come on, bring him over, and Mama says, What for, you sweet big man? and he says, Let him watch, Pilar, let him watch, ha, ha, ha …. and he could not finish for the laughter that comes like little shrieks from down his chest as if he were coughing not laughing with his chest heaving. Mama won’t let me and she says something to the man I don’t know what the something is for the sound in her voice isn’t in the saying of it, not even in the speaking of it. O, you're crazy. You, stop that now, sweet crazy man, but the man doesn’t stop the laughing, chest heaving, the sweet big man lying naked on the bed.

In the city we had a gate, too, the boy was thinking. But the gate was for all the doors and at night it creaked, opening very loud, but not so in the day. When it creaked in the night Mama would get up from the bed and creep darker in the shadows and open the door and go ahead back into the room, our room. Tio Felipe he saw him now come into the room, saw him move toward the bed.

Don't wake the boy up, Mama says.

You have a kid? the man says in the city. Tio Felipe crept into the bed, his slippers swishing on the floor Is that your boy? the man says.

Tio Felipe made a little noise getting into the bed and the boy thinking Calla la boca, Mama says. You'll wake him up. Inside the mosquito net a wind blew as a foul breath and the bed creaked for the suppleness of the bamboo slats. I must not cry, Lito told himself. There is nothing to cry about.

Is there no one else here? the man says.

The mosquito net was blowing in the wind though there was no wind. A foulness touched it as of the foulness of an invisible breath in the mouth.

The bed is silent now, Lito was thinking. And I must not cry and it is quiet now. The man curses, his voice hardly above a whisper, and Mama hushes me. She says, If you don't hush now --- but now he could not stop himself from crying. He cried with his throat not making any sound, and then the crying rushing above the throat and he cupped his hands over his mouth and to the wind and the mat on the supple bamboo floor he cried, O, mi tio. Mi propio tio     






#From Dance a White Horse to Sleep:


            Immediately behind the hearse, a white horse snorts and prances while Ciano holds the taut reins in his fists. I fling a black cloth with papalolo’s medals and ribbons on nit across the back of the horse. The beast springs sideways and nearly breaks away from the funeral line. Then I walk off to stand beside the hearse and watch the horse calm down a little, still snorting, and begin to prance again in a circle of space. Only the man holding the reins is in that empty circle. The muscles of the horse ripple and jerk nervously underneath his wet immaculate sheen. The white horse moves and dances on the streets, his hooves leaving their imprint on the asphalt. This is a very nervous horse, Ciano said. And he becomes jumpy in a crowd. Bien nervioso.

            But I need a white horse, I said. It’s for papalolo’s funeral.

            This horse is crazy, he said. I won’t be responsible for him tomorrow.

That’s all right, Ciano, I said. I need a white horse, a big and handsome white horse.

The asphalt melts under the bright sweltering sun, and the medals on the black cloth shine and glitter under its oblique rays. There are privately owned jeeps and many shiny cars. The windows of the cars are lowered, and inside the women fan themselves feverishly. Behind the jeeps some fifty Zambtranco buses lump and block the traffic from Buenavista to Canelar Street.

At this moment Tia Clara comes slowly down the stairs on to the redbrick path. Tia Margarita and Tia Concha follow her a few metes down the path, and then halt before the old moss-covered fountain in front of the pink house. Tia Clara goes on, quickening her steps. From the street we can hear her steel-stiletto heels clicking on the red bricks. She walks rapidly toward the iron gate, and except for this change of pace she remains poised and calm. I watch her approach the horse, the men opening a way for her and the crowd melting back. She has not slackened her pace, but a shimmer of anger now flashes in her eyes and through her wasted, hollow-cheeked face. The tenant, Ciano, holding the reins, stands stock-still and unmoving, waiting.

Tia Clara only stops when she reaches the white horse and the tenant. Looking quaint and delicate in her terno, she speaks, the words pouring out like torrents through her thin and wrinkled lips: “Oy---you, Ciano, what is this horse doing here?” The tenant says nothing, though now he’s beginning to sweat and the muscles around his eyes and cheeks twitch and quiver. Tia Clara goes on, her voice much lower now but with more heat and anger, saying, “If you don’t tell me, puñeta! I’ll have you-----” This time the sweat breaks from his face and comes down his chin, like tiny rivulets. His mouth is half open, about to speak, for the years of servitude and tenancy of his father to Don Flavio Gonzales y Villa flow in his veins, the servile blood of one who is a tenant himself, but now among the few living on land remaining from the original vast Gonzales holdings of the Spanish era. The tenant cringes and cowers before Tia Clara, the reins hanging limp in his hands. Tia Clara’s angry voice comes like an echo of the past: full of blood and thunder.





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