IF YOU HAVE $10 and an Amazon account, I guess you can order Mel Turao’s book, “INSATIABLE: A Literary Biography of Peter Solis Nery”.
Oh, but I can also understand your poverty.
And I can understand your lack of taste for exciting biographies.
But mostly, I understand your poverty.
I mean, when the book was launched during my Dinagyang show in Iloilo in January 2018, many of my fans begged for a free copy.
I said, No.
I mean, not only is the book brilliant; it is also about my life.
When Mel decided to write my story, I promised him full access to all the information I have, including secrets I have not yet revealed to the public.
Do I want everybody to know how much I inherited when my husband died?
But, I disclosed that to Mel so that he would understand why I was angry when my husband died.
And why I felt largely disinherited.
Mel was privy to my written account of the last hours of my husband.
I mean, I was planning to sue the hospital for what I call “medical mismanagement”, or medical malpractice, or whatever you call it.
So, in the days following my husband’s death, I wrote an account of our hospital stay.
And I wrote it like a deposition complete with timelines, symptoms, objective observations (I’m a nurse, remember!), and what the doctors and nurses did.
I also gave Mel a copy of the autopsy report.
I think he’s only the third person I showed it to.
The first was my husband’s surviving sister — my sister-in-law.
I gave her the autopsy lest she thinks I killed my husband.
I mean, I wanted to make sure nobody thinks foul play was involved.
I mean, as a nurse, I have learned to cover my ass.
So, cover my sweet ass I did.
I also gave the autopsy to the pro bono lawyers I found when I was thinking of suing for medical malpractice.
But they decided my husband’s case didn’t have enough for them to go with.
They hinted I could still pursue suing the hospital, but I have to retain a lawyer.
In short, they want me to pay them.
I decided to cut my losses.
I mean, I already lost my husband.
I already lost most of my inheritance.
I didn’t want to lose more money paying a team of lawyers who “didn’t have enough to go with”.
So anyway, I gave Mel a copy to make sure somebody in Iloilo understands how my husband died.
Just because my husband was gay, (evil-thinking) people always wanted to know if he died of AIDS.
At least, the autopsy report clearly showed that my husband was negative for HIV when he died.
And just to spare you of the question, let me say it loud and clear:
I am HIV negative as of yesterday, June 9, 2019!
Mel’s book is interesting — to say the least.
It’s not the biography I wanted to see.
But his excuse is that phrase “literary biography”.
So, it is really a literary obra, like a masterpiece.
Even if I don’t like it, how can I question something like that?
I don’t think there’s anything like it in Philippine history (and Philippine literary history) so far.
But to be modest about it, I can say for sure that there’s nothing like it in Western Visayan history ever.
Mel is an award-winning poet.
A fine fictionist.
A published author.
And after “Insatiable”, an accomplished literary scholar.
He did, after all, study the life and poetics of one great Peter Solis Nery, a living icon and one of Western Visayas’s literary best (if not yet the best).
Mel labored in research for some six months, at the very least.
The writing project, including the research, took Mel almost a year.
Now, if somebody spends nine months studying the life and works of a certain literary author, I think that makes him/her a literary scholar.
And if his/her study is published in a book, then that counts for the qualification “accomplished”.
Let us start this Mel Turao series in Panay News with the opening part of his Foreword to Insatiable.
You didn’t really think I’d give you the whole book for free, right?
Still, I want you to enjoy Mel’s wicked mind.
His masterful use of language.
I’d like you to discover him again through the telling of “my life as art”.
INSATIABLE: A Literary Biography of Peter Solis Nery
by Melecio F. Turao
No other writer could have written this book better than Peter Solis Nery himself. His autobiography would have been as much anticipated as his next full monty. But for reasons known only to our author (something that I like to guess, occasionally), he chose me to do the book instead.
If not trust, perhaps friendship may have had something to do with it. I can’t claim Peter Solis Nery’s close allegiance. I only met him in 1993 at the Premyo Operiano Italia Poetry Recitation Contest, which our author unanimously won. He had had a writing grant from the Cultural Center of the Philippines by then.
I’d hear Peter Solis Nery’s name being said in the same breath as Nenen Geremia Lachica’s, Alex de los Santos’s, and Felino S. Garcia’s. They were “ahead” of us, so to speak, with the way our writing turned out at the UP Summer Writers’ Workshop in Miag-ao.
Leoncio Deriada’s rule of thumb in the face of poor English at the time was, “Write in your native tongue. You can never go wrong with that.”
Peter and I belonged to that generation of young, sleepless, hungry Ilonggo poets who snuffed their Blakean ambitions in favor of rural ballads and bucolic encomium. Strangely enough for an English lit major like me, the conceptual shift deepened my ties to the local tradition.
The Miag-ao workshop resulted in a resurgence of Ilonggo and West Visayan writing — anthologies, readings, performances — throughout the 90s to early 2000. (To be continued/PN)