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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

entry arrow12:12 PM | Excerpt From New Story

I finished my latest story a few days ago, and just in time for the deadline of a speculative fiction anthology being published by a major Philippine imprint, and edited by an award-winning authoress. (Can't reveal the details, because it was not an open call for submissions.) The working title was "A Catalogue of Unimaginable Things," and the story was actually meant for Dean's forthcoming third volume of Philippine speculative fiction. Plans change, of course, and stories have their own way of becoming, sometimes completely different from an author's intended narrative arc. Here's an excerpt:

The Sugilanon of Epefania's Heartbreak

“All of history—and all stories—eventually collide. That is how the Great Laon creates new worlds.”
—From an old script written on bamboo, found in Ilog, Negros Island

In the old days, at the turn of the preceding century, when the last of the encantos and diwatas had yet to abandon our everyday realm—banished first by an invasion of Spanish cafres and duendes, and then finally by the sheer forgetfulness of a people too fascinated by the pomp and gilded guilt of Christian ritual—there was a girl named Epefania. She was young and, for better or for worse, was a plain-looking woman capable of the most saccharine romantic dreams. Such was the very occupation of her fabled life. There are many versions (some would say, chapters) of her tale which incredibly spans centuries, all of them differing greatly in detail and circumstances, but all sharing the same tendency to dramatize her embroidered stories of love found, and eventually, love lost.

In one ancient story, she was the young woman who chided away the sun and the moon and the stars toward the quiet safety of faraway firmaments, where they were not deafened by her endless tales of woe and heartbreak. The world then was a place of mist: the clouds hung low to the ground, and the sun, moon, and stars were all within easy reach—their heat scorching the earth that in most days, people took to caves and underground crevices to hide from the deathly oppression of the heavenly bodies. Epefania, who had only her heartbreaks to talk about, eventually ran out of willing ears to share her romantic commiserations: in the end, she only had the sun, moon, and stars to turn to for company—until they, too, flew away from her tales, to the dark reaches above, where they found the quiet humming of the cosmos a more suitable residence.

In another story, she was an obscure village nuisance whom most ancient storytellers believed to be an insignificant twit serving no gravity to the epic narrative she figured in; they subsequently purged her name from their regular accounting of the tale, and replaced with the passable mythology of a father-figure. But the earliest surviving strands of the same story spoke of Epefania as the woman whose suffocating love finally drove the Manobo hero Baybayan away into adventure around the world, seven times, where he prospered in his long journey by singing old stories from his ancient land to the peoples of Bhârat, the Middle Kingdom of Ch’in, Ōyashima, Ur, Egypt, Nubia, Hellas, Vinland, and Mesoamerica. In his travels, Baybayan sang of Lam-ang who was swallowed by the giant fish berkahan, which became the Hebrew story of Jonah and the whale. He sang of the kidnapping of the sea maiden Humitao by Lord Aponi-to-lau, a depraved act which unleashed the wrath of the sea god Tau-mari-u who proceeded to let loose a great deluge on all the land, which also became the story of Noah and the Great Flood. He sang of the virgin birthing of gigantic heroes, which became the Babylonian story of Semiramis and her son Nimrod. Back in the rugged mountains of Bukidnon, Epefania sang of her love for Baybayan, until she became like the dusk and disappeared into a mango tree.

Somebody once pointed it out to me that if you think hard about these early stories, a young woman and her unwanted heartbreak stories thus created a livable universe out of heavenly chaos; and also spurred the creation of world literature by sending adrift, and armed with old stories, an unwilling participant in her dreams for romance. Heartbreak, it can be said, is the precursor to creation.


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