Ricky Lee's Para Kay B (o Kung Paano Dinevastate ng Pag-ibig ang 4 Out of 5 sa Atin) (Loyola Heights, Quezon City: Writers Studio Philippines, 2008; 250 pages) had been gathering dust on my shelf a year after I bought it.
I had been putting off reading it because: (1) it is written in Filipino, and my colonial education goes into autopilot when it comes to choosing what book next to read; (2) I have been busy with teaching and administrative tasks, though that didn't stop me from reading Gina Apostol's The Revolution According to Raymundo Mata -- which is written in English and which I bought around the same time; (3) I harbored some doubts about Ricky Lee's first venture into the novel format, especially because I know him for his screenplays, reportage, short stories, and scriptwriting manual.
And what a surprise it was when I finally got around to reading it a few months back. Like what the film director Joyce Bernal says in her blurb for the novel, I read it cover to cover in just one sitting. Well, I have to admit that Ricky Lee writes very good characters in whatever format he chooses.
The novel tells the love stories of Irene, Sandra, Erica, Ester, and Bessie. As well as Lucas the writer, who is the meta-narrator as well as the author of the "Para Kay B" (that's what the photo of the brown envelope printed on the title page presumably contains). So who among these characters succeed in love?
There's Irene with the photographic memory, Sandra with the keenest sense for fairness, Erica from the place where people do not feel anything, Ester who discovers passion on a roof, and Bessie to whom the manuscript "Para kay B" is dedicated. And there's Lucas.
There'll be no spoilers here, so you might as well get yourself a copy and read who gets their true love. Knowing how the plot turns out is really just the icing on the cake. The novel is really more than just a series of love stories.
For one thing, the Taglish (it's not really Filipino we read here) makes the reading so easy. And, when you get to the last two chapters where the narrative threads tighten, you will feel your heart quicken. Especially that last chapter where the novel turns meta and Para Kay B becomes a quasi-treatise on writing and writing in a country where no one seems to read books.
Quite a challenging read it was. Can't wait for Ricky Lee's next novel Aswang, a sample of which can be found at the end of the book.
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