I was never one to read love stories. Filipino ones, especially. In my mind, that category was confined to thin paperback romance novels with tasteless titles and promiscuous covers. Para Kay B has neither. Since 2008, recommendations have remained short and succinct: “Basahin mo. Maganda.” But I never got around to it, until this year. Afflicted with a related hangover, I resolved to track down a copy, mostly because I wanted to understand why, why, why. By the time I found a copy though (an ironic thanks to Maki), the hangover had passed, and I simply wanted to enjoy the book.
And enjoy it I did, not merely for its humor (which always guarantees immediate satisfaction), but for the very recognizable truth it contains. In Para Kay B, the realization of love transpires in an instant, within a single gaze or an instance of touch: “And they knew.” But what this kind of love lacks in span or length, it makes up for with an extended aftershock. Only 1 out of 5 lovers, the novel declares, will find happiness. And so all the characters in the book struggle—with unexpected disappearances, regrets, the endless searching and waiting that follows—pining with all hope for that single coveted slot, for another chance at bliss.
This novel follows a convoluted concept, with twists and turns unimaginable to the unsuspecting reader. Structured as five stories within a novel within a novel, Para Kay B masquerades as Lucas the Writer’s first manuscript, the product of years’ worth of heartache. “The love story…is the tribute the lover must pay to the world in order to be reconciled with it,” Barthes declares in A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments. In this case, we are given five.
To be honest I did not like all the stories. I had issues with one-dimensional characters, too-familiar metaphors, cop-out endings—but nearly all of these were resolved by the last chapter. From the start I expected it to reveal a shocking truth, but still “Ang Totoong Kuwento sa Totoong Kuwento” blew me away. It was genius, meticulously prepared for, brilliant. And yet the trademark humor remained, highlighted by the sheer absurdity, the un-confines of metafiction. It was mindblowing.
Refreshingly inventive and embarrassingly true, Para Kay B is accessible to anyone who has ever felt the pangs of love and the indelible persistence of memory. Basahin mo. Maganda.
Bigla, naging parang magic ang lahat. Tumigil ang mga daliri ng mga relo sa buong San Ildefonso, pati ang malaking wall clock sa simbahan at ang bundy clock sa lumber factory ni Mayor Ignacio, habang ang mga dahon, mga damo, mga punong niyog ay nakikiramdam.
Pero me mga bagay nga na di nagtatagal. Maski pag-ibig.
Nawalan ng tunog ang lahat. Sa mga bahay at mga bukid, kalsada at ilog, sa simbahan ng San Ildefonso, maging sa gubat kung saan kabilang sa mga trabahador ni Mayor Ignacio na nagpuputol ng naglalakihang punongkahoy ay ang ama ni Irene, ang maririnig lang ay ang tibok ng puso ni Irene.
Ayaw ni Ester na ang anumang bagay ay sumobra sa dapat. Buong buhay iisa lang ang patakaran niya: Never go out of bounds.
…totoo ang sabi nila, ang great love mo, hindi mo makakatuluyan. Ang makakatuluyan mo ay ang correct love.