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The Laurel Fantauzzo phenomenon

lifestyle / Super
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The Laurel Fantauzzo phenomenon

Illustration by  Mok Pusung and Maximillan N. Villanos

Illustration by Mok Pusung and Maximillan N. Villanos

Reader’s block has been around ever since the phenomenon of writer’s block came into public consciousness.

For Laurel Fantauzzo, writer and writing instructor, reading is easier than transforming thoughts into words.

“I guess it depends on what I’m reading, reading is much easier than writing,” she told Super. “Sometimes, I’ll read something and I’ll just resist it for some reason, it’s very abstract. I have to work hard for it.”

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But her sleeper hit, “The First Impulse,” is a hard read because it chronicles the tragic romance of Alexis Tioseco and Nika Bohinc.

“The First Impulse” is even harder to put down because of its searing narrative and graceful prose.

The tale of Tioseco and Bohinc, both brilliant film critics, first figured into the public spectrum when a police report came out detailing their grisly murder.

On Sept. 1, 2009, Tioseco and Bohinc where murdered in a robbery inside their home in Quezon City. It was an inside job; reports note that their new maid gave access to the robbers. Tioseco was Filipino-Canadian while Bohinc was Slovenian.

Instead of becoming mere crime statistics in the Philippines, Fantauzzo took on the monumental task of shedding light on the story of these lovers.

“When I learned that Alexis strongly identified as Filipino, and stayed here out of love and devotion for the country and its cinema, had been really betrayed by the country’s economic violence and fiscal violence, it really haunted me,” she said. “The injustice loosened upon Nika really haunted me, that she would take the risk for love and go here and be completely betrayed in the worst way imaginable.”

This tale hit home because Fantauzzo is also mixed-race Filipino.

“I was the only child that my mom took to the Philippines, against my will when I was 12, in 1997,” she said. “I didn’t know at the time that Alexis and his brother were brought here from Canada by their Filipino father.”

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Citizenship aside, her prose takes a page from writers like Truman Capote and Gay Talese, both of whom championed creative nonfiction and a keen eye for details.

It took Fantauzzo six years to write “The First Impulse”; seven years if editing is included. She revised chapters when she was talking to her publisher because police found a suspect in the Tioseco-Bohinc murder case.

The closest thing to writer’s block, in Fantauzzo’s case, was the ‘difficult’ writing process involving the bulk of material.
“The Tioseco family gave me an electronic stack of e-mails that showed their grief and futility after the investigation,” she said. “Looking thru the case files, talking to the investigators; it was very heartbreaking learning the context of their entire lives and then coming into contact with legal system built to betray families and neglect them. It was very harrowing.”

The book’s title is “borrowed” from Tioseco’s famous love letter to Nika to explain his love for Philippines and cinema.

“Alexis wrote, ‘the first impulse is always one of love,’” said Fantauzzo. “He was talking about film criticism, he was also talking about the nature of love.”

At the end, this Palanca award-winning writer’s nonfiction debut is worth a read.
“If you care about love, if you read about following the mystery through its possibilities, then book will intrigue you. I hope.”

“The First Impulse,” from Anvil Publishing, is available at National Book Store.

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