“Eleksyon, 2010. Isang baklang impersonator, si Amapola, ang naging manananggal at nakatanggap ng propesiya na siya ang itinakdang magliligtas sa Pilipinas. Ang naghatid ng balita: si Emil, isang pulis na Noranian. Ang pasimuno ng balita: si Sepa, ang lola sa tuhod ni Amapola, na nanggaling pa sa panahon ng Kastila at may unrequited love noon kay Andres Bonifacio.”
In English; it’s election time in 2010–and a gay impersonator, Amapola, becomes a manananggal and receives a prophecy that says he was fated to become the savior of the Philippines. The bearer of the news? A policeman named Emil, who turns out to be a big fan of Nora Aunor. And the root of the prophecy? Sepa, the great-great-grandmother of Amapola, who traveled through time from the era of Spanish Colonization–and who has unrequited love for Andres Bonifacio.
I have to say, I liked this better than Para Kay B, Ricky Lee’s first novel. Although, thinking about it, the two novels do share a similar format, in which we get vignettes of story-telling tied together by a bigger arc. In this book, it’s the prophecy that Sepa foresees: that Amapola will be the one to bring forth change in the country–that she will begin the campaign to have everyone, including “monsters” like them, be accepted by society.
What the synopsis doesn’t say though is that we’re not dealing with just one protagonist in this novel. We have three–for the most part anyway. See, Amapola has split personalities: aside from the gay impersonator, we also meet his straight persona Isaac, and his closeted persona Zaldy. Though Amapola appears in the title, it’s not just his story–and he is not the only one who sets things into motion.
As I mentioned before, Amapola employs the use of self-contained vignettes that tie together in the end. For the most part, it’s a great ploy to keep the book a page-turner. Until, that is, you start jumping from one character to the next. Once we meet Emil, Sepa and Giselle (Isaac’s girlfriend), we also get involved in their lives–whether we want to or not. Personally, I would’ve have preferred sticking with Amapola and his other personalities. They were entertaining enough for me. Emil’s chapters, in my opinion, bordered on depressing. And Sepa’s were just disorienting. Giselle’s chapters prove to be entertaining too, but they’re ultimately distracting when you mull the whole story over.
My opinion on the book is that it suffers from having too many voices. Distinct voices, yes, which shows you how well Ricky Lee knows his characters–but the distinctness of each character only serves to underline the disjointed narrative. And when you’re reading a book to entertain yourself, like I do, you don’t really want to tax your brain.
I’m not saying that the book is confusing. It’s not. It’s pretty straightforward. And it’s well-written. It all just boils down to the fact that it has too many lead characters vying for the spotlight.
Si Amapola sa 65 na Kabanata is available in bookstores nationwide.