Conjuring an image of love is not a skill that I believe can exist; until I savoured Che Sarigumba’s spells in Puso pa rin ang Nagpasiya. This is neither your typical romance novel nor Korean TV series. I was literally on the edge while reading it. Edge of my insanity and life’s absurdity, for you will not be able to fathom how she can vividly portray reality through fiction.
In this social spectrum (which is a real life dystopia) where we are tagged as cynics when we do rigodons against tokhang and romanticism is endemic in spitting out their ado, the discourse must consistently be taken to a higher level.
This is where Sarigumba is an expert. Her pen (and there is no intention of any psychoanalytic interpretation here) has the power to preserve the dignity of the Filipino language while playing along with the mellifluous melodies of the heart. This novel will drive you in the midst of the proximity between the rational and the affective aspects of your being.
So let us begin on how will this book change your perspective on friendship, revenge, love, family, and anything under the sun that you can think of (yes, including a more savage version of “50 Shades of Grey” or maybe the people from the academe will prefer to use a term from Freud, Lacan, or Jung, but let me clarify that I personally chose to see Sarigumba’s novel from the perspectives of Foucault, Derrida, and Barthes).
The novel started like how Camus did (yes, in a philosophical manner), but the difference is that Puso pa rin ang Nagpasiya retained the Filipino psyche.
Sarigumba shows her sensitivity as a woman in the emotions which give her work its heart. Beyond the bound of friendship (if it does have its boundaries), her characters trigger an atmosphere of unconditional love. If you have ever experienced being broken (and I mean metaphorically), dealt with someone that you thought will be your Romeo but turned into a Casanova or a de Beauvoir morphed into a Lolita, this will pave your way in taking the risk again—and again—in the matter of falling in love, and later on thanking the author for her masterpiece that empowered you to enter in a trance-like state that seems to last longer than expected.
Let me tell you a story that can show the effect of this novel (and this is a real one). A lady who was given a copy of this novel internalized everything in it, including the author’s dedication that says “Hayaang puso ang magpasiya upang makamit ang tunay na kaligayahan [Let the heart choose so you may have true happiness].” A few days after, the lady entered in a one day relationship (for she discovered that she was a rebound and they broke up immediately #sadlife). If that lady took her gauntlet and decided to follow her heart after reading this book, how heart-warming this book can really be? Did she waste her time in doing so? Definitely not, for a heart that was broken was once loved (got that from Ed Sheeran). Should she take her revenge? It is only for her to decide.
Revenge sounds good, it really does. Who will not like to put his hands on the person who hurt him or any of his loved ones? Sometimes, the answer doesn’t really matter, but getting even might just really be a part of our just mindsets.
I don’t know with Sarigumba (I tried to be anti-authorial as much as possible, but there is a need to address her, sorry, Derrida) but she might have this power to read minds, one that can scrutinize every inch of humanity’s labyrinth (the heart) or she might just really be not from this world.
In a fragmented reality wherein conscience, family, and morality are in constant microscopic lens, her novel cuts across all landscapes. If we may consider her magnum opus as a phenomenon, it can be a plague that will strip all the hypocrisy of the heart and bring you face to face with the truth: That we are all in constant touch, but afraid to confront it. It tells us that we are all aware of the flaws of the system, but some still prefer to be staunch knights of a self-proclaimed fanatic of a former dictator.
By the way, let us leave them with their illusion; let us proceed with the novel. A theory of Freud (a name that is always associated with sex) might be proven by this novel, he should have read it first before he wrote whatever he got from Shakespeare and Dostoevsky, for Sarigumba’s eloquence in writing the adult scenes (which E.L. James might consider too spicy) justifies why she won an award for this book from the National Book Development Board in 2009.
There is one more reason why you will have a love-and-hate relationship with this novel; her pages twist itself several times. If you have tried to swim in an ocean of whisky, the aftermath of which will give you a thousand times more hangover. You will have no clue of what is to come. And if you will not be careful, you will get trapped in this maze, the same which will lead you to her predestined location and later on will have no choice but accept that love does really exist (and it knows no name) and sacrifice will not always bear a bitter end, but deserves something (or someone) better.
This work of art must never be enclosed in mere language. The world needs to see the mind of Sarigumba though her work. Its sentiments are near to the Latin Americans. The language is seemingly Spanish, but is actually a hybrid form of it, the English which is now widely used in the archipelago became also a part of its mindset, but the psyche remained the same—resilient, like a Molave.
These characteristics are all part and parcel of what Sarigumba had created, an additional magnum opus for Philippine literature, which in few years’ time (maybe in three or four years) will line-up with the novels written in Spanish, English, and other languages.
Yes, you got it right, in few years’ time. Maybe she will be the first to refurbish the Filipino roots by connecting us to our origins and our deepest emotions by means of literature.
Puso pa rin ang Nagpasiya by Che Sarigumba, lifestyle editor of Pilipino Mirror, was published by Vibal Publishing in 2016.