Selected Stories & OtherWritings
OF THE six stories in this work, three are set set in Labuan, a coastal fishing village northwest of the city of Zamboanga, the author’s hometown. And like most of his stories, they tell of the passion, love, comic-tragedy of the fishermen, the farmers, the common folk. The other three, one a slow-moving and pathetic tale, “A Smell of Ilang-Ilang” takes us to university city of Dumaguete, where the author was graduated from tertiary school, after dropping out of several academic institutions for over two decades after high school graduation; the two others of much more violent and tragic stories, leaning heavily as if on one end of the handle of a weighing machine” “Spots on Their Wings” (Don Carlos Palanca 1st prize story) and “The Old Bridge”
plunge the reader into the wild and savage country of the Moro land, the Liguasan Marsh of Cotabato, Mindanao.
PRAISE FOR ANTONIO ENRIQUEZ
#The sixth story, "The Smell of Ilang-Ilang" focuses on a lonely man's difficulties in dealing with his little daughter's illness after his wife has abandoned them, and went abroad. Flavio Larracochea's sense of loss and failure causes him to shrink so much into himself that he is barely able to get the dispensary staff to attend to his feverish daughter. When Dra. Sofronia Mananquil asks after his wife, Flavio lies, pretending that his family is still whole and prospering. His deceptions gain solicitude and sympathy but back [in his apartment], Flavio recognizes that "all those lies about his wife were an admission that he had completely and finally lost her: lies growing not out of unreality but of the grim truth of his loss!" (p. 105)
"Spots on Their Wings," revolves around a group of engineers assigned to set up a watershed in the Cotabato interior, who find themselves embroiled in the complexities of the Muslim-Christian conflict. The story culminates in torture and murder, sparked by the men's having shouted obscenities at Muslim women bathing naked in a river.
The differences between Muslim and Christian cultures are the most obvious elements of contrast in the story. More subtle are the contrasts woven into the narrative structure and setting. The core of the story is set in the mountains and jungles of inner Cotabato --- lush, untamed, dangerous territory. The flashback is framed by the leader, Alberto, narrating the men's experience in the totally secure confines of a modern restaurant in Zamboanga City.
There are as well moments of contrast told in lyrical, sensual language. In a dreamlike scene Alberto and his team cross a meadow in the early morning. Alberto, walking ahead, looks back and sees a captivating sight --- a swarm of tiny butterflies surrounding the group, covering them in a waist-high sea of spotted yellow wings (p. 109).
The delicacy of this scene contrasts sharply with one scene on a boat ride down a river. At twilight, in a strange, white, cloud-like mass in the distance, a roar arises from the cloud, a ripple runs over its surface, and the cloud becomes the wings of a flock of white catala parrots that had been feeding on the leaves of the trees growing along the bank. The parrots fly off, leaving
... the denuded trunks and boughs ... silhouetted against the sky like black skeletons. [Alberto] leaned back then, his mouth completely shut, appalled at the
thought that underneath the awesome, white mass of great catala parrots certain death awaited the luxuriously green and thickly foliaged trees. (p. 110)
There is power in this collection. Enriquez's skill with language and narrative structure; his ability to weave the Chavacano vernacular smoothly and naturally into his English narration (a glossary at the end of the book aids the non-Chavacano-speaking reader); his "seer's eyes" that delve into human souls and unearth the conflicts that torment them --- all come together to create stories that disturb in gripping, sensual and sensitive ways. One looks forward to reading more "texts of bliss" by Antonio Enriquez.
--- Ma. Teresa Wright, Department of English, Ateneo de Manila
University: Philippine Studies 39, (1991) #3
#South of the city of Cotabato lies the famed Liguasan Marsh, on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao. It is probable that the author, who worked for a time with a surveying company in the province of Cotabato, has taken his material from actual experience, but the episodes in the novel --- whether in the city or in the hinterland --- depict less of the charm and hospitality of Zamboanga in particular than of the tensions and frustrations of people in that part of the world. A strong antagonism is seen between Christians and Muslims, and the novel --- while not at all sentimental --- reflects the point of view of the Christians.
--- E.C. Knowlton, World Literature Today, World Literature Today, World Literature TodayWorld Literature Todayformerly Books Abroad (A Literary Quarterly of the University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma, 73019 U.S.A.)
Selected Stories & Other Writings
Of the six stories in this work, three are set in Labuan, a coastal fishing village, northwest of the city of Zamboanga, the author‟s hometown. And like most of his stories, they tell of the passion, love, comic-tragedy of the fishermen, the farmers, the common folk. The other three, one a slow-moving and pathetic tale, “A Smell of Ilang-Ilang” takes us to university city of Dumaguete, where the author was graduated from tertiary school, after dropping out of several academic institutions for over two decades after high school graduation; the two others of much more violent and tragic stories, leaning heavily as if on one end of the handle of a weighing machine— “Spots on Their Wings” (Don Carlos Palanca 1st prize story) and “The Old Bridge” plunge the reader into the wild and savage country of the Moro land, the Liguasan Marsh of Cotabato, Mindanao.
A Song Of the Sea
The city man and his three companions were fishing very early that morning off the west coast of Labuan, a fishing village in Zamboanga City, island of Mindanao. With him was a “fishing guide” called Tacio, an old man who knew all the best fishing grounds in the Sulu Sea, and a boy helper that baited the fish and unrolled the tangled nylon lines.
When suddenly Mr. Castro jumped up on his feet with the ťansi fishing line burning his soft hands. A huge fish streaked the water with its great fin just behind the bamboo outrigger and they could see its ash-colored body about half a meter under the surface of the sea like an ominous shadow.
“Help! Help!” cried Mr. Castro to his companions. “Big...very big fish.” He was nearly jostled overboard as the three men rushed to him and grabbed the line to pull in the great shark. Only they did not know it was a shark until with the hook hurting its mouth (for now four, not one man, were pulling in the ťansi line) the shark lifted himself out of the water like an exploding bomb. Then the old man shouted at the boy to pull up the iron anchor which was hanging halfway in the water, so that the ťansi line wudnt get entangled round the anchor‟s rope. As the great shark came alongside the outrigger, they saw that it was as big as the motorboat for its fin alone was over two feet high from the water surface. For a few minutes they all stood in the boat and were dumb and speechless watching the monster not seven meters away behind the bamboo outrigger. Ash-backed, small-mouthed, and pig-eyed the great shark was. And then before the boy had completely pulled up the iron anchor, the great shark suddenly wheeled and plunged under the boat; the line again sizzled hot in their hands and then went slack, and the shark was gone, it vanished apparition-like in the depths of the dark sea.
Although old Tacio and the city man were so disappointed, they went on fishing since there was yet more than five or six hours of good fishing. In fact, they caught two game fishes, a ray fish and a sword fish before they decided to call it quits and return to shore.
The old man Tacio started to sing as he steered the fishing motorboat toward shore with a soft westerly wind blowing behind it.
“Whats your father singing, boy?” said the man from the city.
“About a good fishing,” said the boy.
“Do the fishermen in your village,” said the man, “always sing whenever they come home from fishing?”
“No,” said the boy. “They sing only when the fishing is good, or when they thank the gods for their protection in the unpredictable sea.”
When everyone was taking siesta -afternoon nap, Nonoy slipped out of his room, and went down to the vacant lot. Instead of the shortcut through the fence, he took the long way to the street, going down the foot-worn path flanked by an old barbed-wire fence, with holes here and there made by stray dogs and pigs, along each side of it. He went along the footpath so that when he came to the vacant lot hewud come up from above the neighborhood kids instead of from behind. His slippers lifted puffs of dust in the vacant lot, as he quietly approached them.
Their shoulders hunched stiffly forward, Maria and two kids, who came from the cocalan -coconut lot neighborhood were huddled, squatting together, on their heels.
“What are you doing?”Nonoy said.
Maria looked up. She said,
“We‟re burying the tansí -hummingbird.”
“Why are you burying it?” asked Nonoy. “Esta muerto -Is it dead?”
“Oo, esta muerto ya,” said the two cocalan kids in the Chabacano dialect. “It‟s dead already.”
Toward the newcomer, the two boys craned up their grimy faces, with no mark of greeting for him, but full of excitement for the tansí. Then the pair bent down over the small hole, between them and the girl, on the ground. Inside the hole was a hummingbird, its feathers ruffled and dusty, lying on its side. Over the breast its feet were drawn up.
Nonoy looked into the hole. He said,
“You‟re hurting it.”
“Are you dumb?...Un bobo?” said the girl Maria. “It‟s already dead, and nothing hurts it anymore.”
“But its still alive...Vivo pa gáne,” said Nonoy.
“Aaiieeee, its very much dead,” said the girl.
He had seen its eyes, dark and limpid, in their sockets still, when he looked into the hole.
“Its eyes are still alive,” said he. “It is not dead yet. Mira! Look, Maria, its eyes are very bright...it‟s still very much alive.”
“Está muerto por largo tiempo ya,” Maria went on stubbornly. “It has been dead a long time already.”
She looked down into the hole, which theyd dug earlier for the bird‟s grave. Over the two boys‟ and Maria‟s shoulders and heads, smelling the sun in their hair, Nonoy peered at the hummingbird. Set to one side of his shoulder, in a sharp angle, was his head, so he could better see the eyes of the tansi bird. Theyre still alive, he thought. Its not dead yet.
At this point, they started to bury the hummingbird in the hole. Using their fingers, the two cocalan sifted loose earth from a mound to cover it, patting the loose earth gently with the palms of their hands. Nonoy noticed that the pair
shaped it just like the abandoned graves he saw at the Gusu Cemetery, where his grandmother was buried in one of its tombs. Off to a clump of banana trees the girl went, and a minute later came back with a cross made from a soft, fresh banana bark. She stuck the banana-cross into the mound, and over it placed red bougainvillea flowers she had picked by the fence earlier. While the two cocalan kids hunched over the hummingbird‟s grave, pretending to say prayers for the dead bird, Nonoy turned and walked off the vacant lot.
At the garden in front of their house, he turned left and stepped before a faucet braced by a wire against a fence post. He turned it on, and washed off the dust on his shanks and feet. He didnt want his mother to see his legs so dirty. A small pool formed under the faucet, as Nonoy, legs apart, stood beside it. Dirt water flowed freely down his legs onto his slippers and directly under the faucet. After turning off the faucet, he went over to the lawn in front of the house, and on its thick patch of grass brushed off the mud from the soles of his slippers.
From the lawn one could see the window of his parents‟ room. Through the window he thought he could tell she was in the house, lying in her bed, weak and sick. He crossed the lawn, went up the wooden steps, past the door he had left ajar, as he slipped out unnoticed earlier that afternoon. He took off his wet slippers, splashing water from his shanks on the hard wooden floor, and walked on tiptoe toward the door of her room.
Playing Soldier, Soldier Boy
Nonoy Alcantara went to that war when it was almost over with a picture of his girl smiling sweetly through the plastic of his wallet. He came home a year later with a medal and some ribbons, but he knew he was a hero because he was a Filipino fighting in a UN uniform and not for the leg that was unfortunately grazed by a shrapnel.
After they decorated him for that shrapnel wound, he was confined in an army hospital with Greek and Turkish doctors and nurses and in the beginning it was all right. But at the end of summer even the jovial Greek doctors threatened to report him to his co for feigning his leg was not yet healed since it belittled their medical profession. And the Turkish nurses wanted to rape him in his bed to see if he wasnt just dawdling, though theywud have raped him just the same. He was such a cute boy, the big Turkish nurses thought, mistaking his small frame and youngish-looking face of Asians for that of a boy.
All that time there in the hospital and in that war Nonoy received piles of letters from home. Both his sisters wrote him and even his Papa who never wrote a letter in his life wrote him, too. He knew it was his mother who urged his sisters to write him and he received letters nearly every day then, and his mother wrote
him very long letters and sometimes included pressed petals of her orchids from the back garden. His girl never wrote him and that made him quite sad. She dint even write after he was wounded in the leg in that war, and the week before he left the army hospital he threw away her picture and bought a new wallet, of genuine leather with a distinguished brand: swank. But not before he gave himself in to the Turkish nurses. One had a man‟s moustache and a hairy armpit that smelt like his Uncle Felipe‟s who never took a bath in his life but merely rubbed himself with a wet towel fearing he would catch cold if he did.
A Smell of Ilang-Ilang
His thin shoulders hunched and his feet heavy, Flavio Larracochea went hurriedly down the footpath toward his apartment from his literature night class at the University—his class record and yellow hardbound book of Walter Sutton‟s Modern Criticism held loosely against his flank. Going down the footpath, his school things almost fell from his arm. He gazed toward the window jalousies of his bedroom and scolded himself, muttering inaudibly, If anything has happened to my little baby, Iwl never forgive myself. With this grim thought in his mind, he now turned the doorknob of his apartment and walked into the lighted sala receiving room and put his books down on the dining table. He walked into the half-dark bedroom and, cut off from the outside world, became suddenly aware of some kind of evil infiltrating its walls.
Switching on the light, he saw his three-year-old girl lying quietly in bed, exactly as she had lain there before he had left for his night classes. He went up to her and put his palm over her forehead. The little one looked up at him, and a faint smile came to her eyes.
“How is my little girl?” he said. “Is your fever still high, hah?....Ay, you seem hot.”
“Am I still sick, Papa?” said the little one.
“Oo, o,” he said. “Your forehead is quite hot.”
Flavio withdrew his hand and sat on the edge of the bed beside her. He should not have left her alone to go to his classes, even though she had only a slight fever. He must have been a fool! You can never tell about little children‟s fever, for it goes up quickly and the least you expect it. But responsibility to his academic duties, to his students, had seemed more important at that moment, that infinitesimal moment when his daughter‟s fever was quiescent and static. But ever ubiquitous, it was without his knowledge on the verge of rising. He couldn‟t remember any time in his life when he had shirked his duties, even if it meant suffering the inadequacies and playing-favorites of his boss. In fact, there was a
time, he recalled well, some three years ago, when he worked even harder, certainly much harder than he ordinarily worked in that drab office.
Ay, he thought, even if on that same day Iwud be scandalously kicked out through its back door.
“What‟s the sense of working so hard now?” his co-employee, and best friend, said. “I don‟t understand. You will be through at the end of the week. It won‟t change anything, Flavio.”
“It makes a difference to me,” he said. “I don‟t care what Mr. Magno does, it‟s what I do that‟s important to me.”
“You mean, you want to leave with a clean record,” his best friend said. “Is that what you mean?”
“Yes,” he said. “Oo, o” thinking then, And other things besides, which I cannot explain, which perhaps I cannot even comprehend yet and even if I do couldn’t tell even to my best friend. And, now, sitting on the bed, he thought quietly: And which even now, three years later, I couldn’t know; perhaps not to know to the end of my days.
He then stood up from the edge of the bed, saying,
“I‟ll heat some water. All right?”
The little girl said nothing. Her big, dull eyes, with dark and ashen circles under them, like the smear of an eyebrow pencil, merely smiled faintly at him. She remained quiet, her head on the pillow, neither moving nor turning toward him.
Flavio walked out of the bedroom, his heart grave and heavy. In the kitchen, he switched on the light too and put a kettle of water on the stove. When the water was hot and not even waiting for it to boil, he picked up the kettle and poured some hot water in a bowl. He added a little tap water into it, and took the bowl of warm water to the bedroom.
He pulled a chair up to the bed and set the bowl of warm water on it. After pouring a little alcohol in the water, he sat down again on the edge of the bed. He told his palangga -favorite, he would give her a sponge bath.
With a face towel dipped in the warm water, he began to rub her small chest underneath her old dress. It was the same old dress his wife Julie May had sewn, before she left him and their child a year ago. That was the day after theyd their worst scene, a noisy scandalous scene in their front yard, at two o‟clock in the morning. She had fled from the apartment and prostrated herself on the untended lawn, her arms spread-eagled like a female crucified Christ, screaming at the top of her voice for her dead father. There was nothing he could do then, as there was not a thing he could do now to bring her back, not even to take care of their child For what could one do with a mad woman, who had lost her shame, not even screaming at him, but for her dead father for his love, he thought, as his hand rubbed the soft, tender skin of the little one.
The Old Bridge
The surveyor Alberto Gonzales and his men came out of Pulangi about two o‟clock in the afternoon. Alberto took off his b glasses and was handed the binoculars by one of the dark-complexioned boys, who had come with the middle-aged Ilocano, him who brought the surveying instruments on his cart. Looking through the binoculars, he saw Engineer Morales and one of their laborers, a river behind them, swollen and murky, and beyond an old bridge. The pair, Engineer Morales and the laborer, wading their way hard in the dark water coming up toward the road. The old bridge was some meters away down the swollen river, and, being very old and broken down, its iron girders and wooden planks gone, was no use to anyone now.
Alberto returned the binoculars to the dark boy, and shouted at the laborer:
“Where is the canoe?”
“It‟s on the other side yet,”said the laborer.
“Did you signal the canoe-rower to come for us, Kiko?”he said.
“Oo, o,” said Kiko, the laborer.
Alberto and one of his men standing by the cart were waist-deep in the water. Slush-coated leaves and flood debris floated in the receding water, twirling and lingering round them and the cart before they shot past into the flooded muddy fields.
Along each side of the road whitish bubble-foam clung to the tall talahib reeds.
Engineer Morales and the laborer Kiko waded through the murky water alongside the river, turned to the road that had become a small stream, and then made their way toward Alberto like two dwarfs waist-deep in the water.
“O, Alberto. How is our tower?” said Engineer Morales.
“It‟s already finished, Engineer,” replied Alberto.
“We were there”—pointing with one hand to one side of his shoulder— “waiting,” said Kiko. Then, he waved his hand toward the other side of the swollen river bank.” For a long time already. And added as a joke:
“We thought you got lost.”
“We also thought the same of you,” said Alberto Gonzales.
Engineer Morales did not say anything, instead walked up to the cart, where the others were waiting, too.
“O,” said Alberto.”Who is driving the Land-Rover?”
From the cart the packs and surveying instruments were transferred on the canoe, and, with long bamboo poles, the laborers and the rower pushed it down a little in deeper water, as Alberto and Engineer Morales jumped in. The current was quite strong in the middle of the river just before where the old bridge had broken down; so the rower and the laborers leaned heavily against the bamboo poles and pushed the canoe hurriedly upstream, and drove it along a curve
through giant-leafed hyacinths, which choked the banks and then floated back downstream with the current, beyond the old bridge. Across on the dirt road, the driver Totoy stood behind the Land-Rover. After another trip in the canoe, everyone had been brought across the river to the waiting vehicle.
While going along the highway back to their quarters in Pikit, the Land Rover going very fast, the laborers sitting at the back thumbed and pounded the sides of the motorcar with their palms open and fists clenched. Against the wind, they sang loudly, and Alberto could hear one laborer Teng singing louder than anyone at the back. He was singing a tavern song at the top of his lungs:
While the cups are always full to the brim,
Maiden that’s a virgin who knows how to pipe.
We pass a life of gaiety and fun
With one pretty maiden, instead of the wife.
Listen to him sing, thought Alberto. As if nothing had happened back there in Pulangi. You‟d think he would clamp his mouth shut this time even for refinement. But what would you expect from one shameless? O, listen to him sing. Like the devil of an Ilocano!
How Ambo Lost His Hair and Gained and Lost a Halo
Ambo had the curliest black hair in Labuan, a small coastal barrio in Zamboanga. He was, however, very humble about it, since he was a quiet and religious man. He believed that God had given him his early hair. But his wife, Paniang, was just the opposite of him; she was vain, a very proud woman. Her pride was as big as her lumpy physical attributes, in other words she was „fat.‟ To her friends and neighbors, shewud always boast how Ambo had the curliest hair of all the men folk in Labuan.
One afternoon in July, Ambo came down from his kaingin -slash-and-burn farm completely bald. When his wife saw his bald pate, she had a fit and nearly choked herself with her screams. From that day on Ambo wore a broad-brimmed buri hat, never taking it off once, as if it covered not only his baldness but his nakedness as well, wearing the buri hat even in the kaingin shed and inside his house. When he met Padre Barretto, the parish priest, he merely tapped his hat but didnt take it off, contrary to the custom of the barrio kaingineros. However, Ambo immediately repented, believing that he had committed a sacrilege on the person of God‟s representative. So, he now took the longer route back to the barrio, thus avoided meeting the priest again. But Ambo was most careful in his own house,
for once when his hat fell off, exposing his bald pate, his wife had an attack, not unlike an epileptic‟s.
A week later, his wife finally said, “You must do something about it, Ambo.”
“But what can I do?” he asked.
“Perhaps Mino, the herbolario -shaman can help you.”
“Mino charges very much, Paniang, and we dont have the money.”
“Ive thought about that, too,” said his wife. “You can have the money Ive been saving.”
His wife went over to one of the four bamboo posts that supported their house, and reached a hand down into the hollow. When she drew out her arm, silver coins from the bamboo hollow filled the cup of her hand. She placed the coins, which were all her savings, in his reluctant hands and turned away. Ambo thought he heard her sigh deeply.
Ambo went down from the house, walked toward the river bank, and, until he reached Mino‟s house, thought of his wife sacrificing all her savings to restore his curly hair. He wished, for her sake, Mino would be able to help him.
Mino, the herbolario, was sitting on the bamboo rungs of his house, chewing an unlit cigar. Ambo stopped right below the bamboo ladder.
“What can I do for you, Ambo?” asked Mino
“I came here to seek your cure,” said Ambo.
“What troubles you?” asked Mino.
“I‟ve lost all my curly hair,” said Ambo.
He took off his buri hat and showed him his bald pate. Mino didn‟t laugh; not even a smile crossed his face. He did not even say anything. He had been in this business for a long time, and he knew that even a smirk could mean a few pesos less from his regular fee.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Born and raised in Zamboanga City, Antonio Reyes Enriquez is the author of several books of short stories and novels. He has been published in his homeland, the Philippines, and abroad. His short stories have been translated into Korean and German and Chabacano.
It was his fearful and unforgettable experience in Liguasan Marsh in Maguindanao that likely started his career as a novelist; Liguasan Marsh was the setting of his first novel, Surveyors of the Liguasan Marsh. However, his „happiest moments‟ in his grandfather‟s land in a coastal village of Labuan, west of Zamboanga City, which encouraged him to write about farmers, fishermen, and the rural folks. Labuan village is the setting of most of his stories; as in his short story collection, Dance a White Horse to Sleep and Other Stories. Both the aforementioned novel and the story collection were published by UQP Press, Queensland, Australia: regarded as the first breakthrough into the international scene by a Filipino writer writing in English from his homeland. A much awarded writer, among the notable awards: UMPHIL; U.P. National Fellow for Literature lifetime award; S.E.A. Write Award, Hawthornden International Retreat for Writers Fellowship; and Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for the short story and its grand prize for the novel.
The University of the Philippines Press released December 2007 his historical novel, the epic Samboangan: the Cult of War.
He and his wife Joy, with son Julien and grandchildren Anton, Nikka, and Mikee live in Cagayan de Oro City, since moving from Zamboanga City in the late 80s.