Beginning our monthly series of Q&As with Filipino writers
Great Philippine Jungle Energy Cafe, first published in 1988, has been reissued by Anvil. Available at National Bookstores, Php375.
Alfred A. Yuson a.k.a. Krip has authored 26 books thus far, including novels, poetry collections, short fiction, essays, children’s stories, biographies and coffee table books, apart from having edited literary anthologies. He has gained numerous distinctions, including the 2009 Gawad Pambansang Alagad ni Balagtas from UMPIL the Writer’s Union of the Philppines, the Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan award from the City of Manila, a Rockefeller Foundation grant for residency at Bellagio in Italy, and the South East Asian Writers Award from Thai royalty for lifetime achievement. He has also been elevated to the Hall of Fame of the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature. He co-founded the Philippine Literary Arts Council, Creative Writing Foundation, Inc., and Manila Critics Circle.
Krip Yuson can also be counted on to find paying jobs for underemployed writers, and is the social director of the Philippine literary scene.
The natives called the mountain Talinis for its sharp peaks. The Spanish came and saw the twin peaks as home. They named the mountain Cuernos de Negros, Horns of the Devil, thinking it funnily appropriate that the island the mountain belonged to had itself earlier been named Negros for its dark-skinned aborigines.
If you look at the island on a map, fair chances are you’d recall sometime in your boyish past you bent from the waist and peered between your legs at your Aunt Rita, she of the jutjaw and the well-coiffed chignon and string of pearls almost as large as your marbles, an a scent that drew attention even while you nursed your year’s prized cold.
The outline of Negros Island much resembled an inverted silhouette of a lady with a powerful neck and a high bun on her head. Where the lady’s eye would be, the taller peak of Cuernos de Negros rose to a craggy cloud-capped height.
When Pedro Saavedra, Spanish surveyor and heir to a brewery fortune in Galicia, stood on this peak in 1765 and thus came to the crowning culmination of seven months of geodetic cum geologic work on the island, he took one long sweeping look at the curving coastline to the south, where the island’s head widened to the sea’s hairdressing hands, and breathed deeply the way Galicians of high birth do before their swig of malt at sundown.
Q&A with Krip Yuson
Jessica Zafra (JZ): A publisher has described The Great Philippine Jungle Energy Café as the first magical realist novel of the Philippines. Did you consciously set out to write a magical realist novel?
Alfred A. Yuson (AAY): Uhh, I don’t think so. I’ve never really been into labels identifying literary genres, often eschewing academic terms and trends. It just happened to be the kind of genre that appealed to me, that I was enjoying reading, then and maybe even now. It wasn’t until much later I think when the term magical realist, or metafiction or post-modern for that matter, became familiar. I was reading and enjoying Borges, Cortazar, eventually Marquez (whose work popularized the label for some Latin American fiction), but I was not aware that Nick Joaquin had already tried his hand in it with a few of his stories, written in the early 1950s. So much so that when I began attending literary fests/conferences abroad by the 1990s, and some smart-ass Aussie would question why Philippine fiction in English seemed to be enamored with magic realism, my reply would be to issue a challenge for him to come to Manila, live for a week in Quiapo, and look out the window, so he could witness the Black Nazarene procession as well as some street vendor hawking a tabloid with the headline: “Woman gives birth to fish!”