Saturday, May 01, 2004

Quijano de Manila is Dead

I expected it would happen soon enough, but when I saw the tribute in the Inquirer, it caught me by surprise. National Artist Nick Joaquin has passed away at the ripe old age of 86. He died Thursday morning, of a heart attack.

For those who don't know him--or know of him-- because they didn't take their Humanities classes seriously, here are the important things to know about the newly-dead:

Nick Joaquin was a Filipino, a journalist, storyteller and playwright who lived through World war II and Martial Law. When he wrote (in English, under the pen name Quijano de Manila) about people and events, his writing was clear, and only lightly spiced with humor and irony. His readers often felt that what he wrote about transpired before their eyes . When he wrote stories, however, his English took on a lyrical and (some say) Spanish-mystical quality. It was no less clear, but it grabbed you by the throat and took you on a kaleidoscopic stream-of-consciousness rollercoaster that left you in a kind of reader's ecstasy. You didn't notice until a lot later (refrigerator moment) that the paragraph you've just read spanned two-to-four lucid pages.

This was a man who loved Manila and made it a setting for many stories. If you ever wound up reading them, you'd know why. You'd be tempted to fall in love with Manila yourself.

One of his most widely-read stories, The Summer Solstice, was turned into that movie with the horrid trailer, topbilled by Edu Manzano, Dina Bonnevie and Rica Peralejo. Two other stories stand out as "required reading" in any Philippine school with a decent Humanities course: May Day Eve and The Woman with Two Navels.

I've never met him. But Joaquin, along with such Philippine luminaries as NVN Gonzales and F. Sionil Jose, taught me how to write.

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