My country’s take on magic realism

I started reading works by Latin American writers when I entered college. They appealed to me because they quenched my thirst for Literature both fantastic and profoundly real. South America served as a nutrient-rich petri dish for this kind of writing because of the political experience of the region. Chile, Bolivia, Columbia, Paraguay, Uruguay have their comical, albeit not in a funny way, dictators who inspired writers to write stories that, in turn, never stopped inspiring and entertaining the world. They related their unique national experience in novels and stories that define what superb narration about angel, saints, whore, and men of adventure is.

Which makes me wonder why Filipino writers have not produced a body of work that could rival if not equal those written by Latin American authors. The travails of this country on its way to nationhood are more than sufficient an inspiration for a book that can be as great as Ciento Años Soledad (One Hundred Years of Solitude).

On a closer look, however, this country is not found wanting with magic realism, the Filipinized version, that is, although ours is darker and more malevolent in nature. In this country magic realism does not exist in books neither is it told by a village elder while the rest of the village is seated around a bonfire. Filipinos live in it every day; we are so accustomed to it that we need not consciously brand it as such. For us nothing is fantastic with being stopped in the middle of the road, being forced to get off, being shot at point blank. In this part of the world, in this plane of existence, nothing is magical, everything is real. Chillingly real.

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In the Philippines, there are minor gods who sometimes act like God. They are centerpiece angels whom the people worship until they are replaced by their kins. They build bridges and roads, provide employment, and if the situation demands, decide who will live or perish from the face of the world. They are the powers-that-be. And will remain so. No one has enough guts to question and challenge these gods; some who were foolish enough attempted to overturn the table but ended up being sent to hell and were never seen since.

This country is a stuff of fiction, a fiction of a sloppily imitated über-verisimilitude. The people on this island country fixate themselves with the tube where they see themselves being mirrored. They are mirroring the image they see which in fact is a mirror image of themselves. This is repeated to point infinity. No one thinks this is absurd for absurdity is a fact of life. What is rational is an anomaly. What is anomalous is rational.

And so the island people find themselves feeling nothing before an atrocity in front of them. They feel desensitized before a massacre of magnitude never thought possible. Everything is a show. None is fantastic because everything is fantastic.

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