Quantcast
Latest Stories

Kris Aquino as Massacre Queen and other 1990s Philippine inside jokes in Linmark’s new novel, ‘Leche’

By

The winner of the Mr. Pogi Hawaii 1991 finds the opportunity to visit the Filipino communities in the United States mainland.

But Vincent “Vince” de los Reyes, the first runner-up and an honors graduate of University of Hawaii in Manoa, gets to visit the Philippines for a week, including a live interview with Kris Aquino.

De los Reyes’ return to his homeland after 13 years takes place in 1991, when the country is beset with power blackouts, the specter of the return of Marcos, and the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo after 600 years.

“Leche” is Vince’s account of his stay in the Philippines at that time, complete with tourist tips, snippets from a book (“Decolonization for Beginners: A Filipino Glossary,” written by his UH teacher Bonifacio Dumpit), his bangungot journal and vintage postcards bought from National Bookworm.

The novel “Leche” (355 pages, published by Coffee House Press) is by Filipino-American R. Zamora Linmark, who holds a dual citizenship. It is a fitting follow-up to “Rolling the R’s,” his 1997 novel about the young Vince, his siblings and classmates as they adapt to Hawaii after living in a town in the North. Now Vince has gone out of the closet and supposedly wizened up to the world. But not Manila, as Vince’s misadventures will show us in the novel.

“Leche” has been described as “quirky and funny” (Publisher’s Weekly), written “with the incandescent irreverence of a papal heretic” (Chris Abani, author of “Graceland”), “hilarious and relentlessly seductive” (Sabina Murray, author of “The Caprices”) and “a lively satiric return to early ’90s Manila” (Kirkus).

It was a finalist of the Lambda Literary Awards and is required reading in many Asian American writing classes.

Largely unknown

But “Leche” is largely unknown in the Philippines as it was published by a small American publishing house and local publishers are afraid to touch it (“Maybe because of Kris Aquino,” Linmark told me). But that may change as Anvil Publishing has finally decided to carry and distribute it.

Which is a good thing, because Linmark is an astute social observer and sponge and a very entertaining and enlightening tour guide. He tells us about balikbayan boxes, bangungot, Dovie Beams (excerpted from “Mondo Marcos”) and other B-movie starlets, signs of the times, Santacruzin’ and Leche, an old church turned martial-law museum and gay bar.

There are inside jokes that foreigners would have to Google.

“His grandfather used to say it all the time. ‘Leche,’ he’d say, the word leaving his body like a switchblade—small, beautiful, deadly. His voice deceptively dulce so that one never knew what he is thinking or feeling, if he were angry or sad or remembering, just like the word that has come to mean different things to different people. Leche. ‘Milk’ in Spanish. But to Filipinos, ‘Damn You.’”

“Leche” is also about Kris Aquino—then the Massacre Queen of the Movies turned Oprah Winfrey of Philippine TV—whose omniscience and omnipotence in the novel gives Vince the shivers. She is the only one bravely identified in the novel, something that will create a buzz once Anvil brings the book out.

Whirlwind trip

Otherwise, the book also talks about the bold star turned crusading nun; an award-winning director; a taxi driver turned “fubu”; the drag queen owner of Leche; and other characters out to drive Vince to the edge.

Vince is taken out from his comfort zone in Honolulu and into a whirlwind trip to the heart of darkness. From the constricting and secret fraternities of gays in Honolulu to the chaotic fiesta of Malate. From the airport to Manila and finally back to his hometown in San Vicente, aboard Philippine Airlines, crazy taxis and Killer Pogi, a minibus he took on his way home. Like Linmark, Vince confronts his being a Filipino, Fil-Am and American.

“That’s right, I’m a zebronkey,” Vince says to Kris about his mixed heritage.

“Oh, zebronkeys. I miss them,” answers Kris.

It is also a long history trip as Vince passes by the airport, CCP and Clark Air Base, remembering the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II and Martial Law from the stories of his father and grandfather, even as he fights his own internal wars throughout that one-week trip.

In the end, he comes home to an empty ancestral house, a fitting metaphor for the exilic life.

“Fighting off tears, and with a heart that doesn’t know when to give up hope, he searches room after room, wall after wall, for holes punctured by nails upon which used to hang gilt-edged picture frames,” Linmark writes toward the end.

And as it was, it’s the postcards we send each other, the photos and home movies we share, and the words we write that become our home. And for Vince, “Leche” is a home worth returning to.

“Leche” is available in National Book Store and PowerBooks.


Follow Us


Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter


Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Books , Kris Aquino , Leche , Lifestyle , Zamora Linmark

  • WeAry_Bat

    In the end, he comes home to an empty ancestral house, a fitting metaphor for the exilic life.

    “Fighting off tears, and with a heart that
    doesn’t know when to give up hope, he searches room after room, wall
    after wall, for holes punctured by nails upon which used to hang
    gilt-edged picture frames,” 

    With the tacit approval of the remaining siblings, our lola’s house in the province was demolished.  How will I ever tell my baby girl of the ancient house, whose rooms and layout I could draw and perhaps to scale. 

    Her life would be of condos and subdivisions, beach hotels and farm tours.  The commoditization of residential and leisure life, just as they had commoditized transportation routes.  One day, Filipinos will wake up to realize everything they have has been metered like power and water.

    • imnotoverityet

      the musings of an over privileged woman without a sense of border less vision of the outside world…what a farce

      • WeAry_Bat

        dear tsimay, kahit umi-ingles ka lumalabas pa rin yung baho mo.



Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
Advertisement
  1. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  2. ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  3. This is not just a farm
  4. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  5. Clams and garlic, softshell crab risotto–not your usual seafood fare for Holy Week
  6. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week?
  7. Sarah Geronimo and Matteo Giudicelli sing ‘All of Me’–and we all swoon
  8. 12 other things you can do at Pico de Loro Cove
  9. Moist, extra-tender blueberry muffins
  10. The truffled mac ‘n’ cheese, eggs benedict, chicken leg confit are excellent
  1. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  2. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  3. Marcos grandson to wed beautiful Rocha scion
  4. Sarah Geronimo and Matteo Giudicelli sing ‘All of Me’–and we all swoon
  5. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  6. How Vitamin B can be a remedy for ‘manhid’ and neuropathy
  7. France makes work beyond 6 p.m. illegal
  8. Ever heard of HydroBob?
  9. 90 percent of Filipino households don’t practice proper toilet hygiene, sanitation
  10. Boots Anson-Roa to wed in Eddie Baddeo
  1. Mary Jean Lastimosa is new Miss Universe Philippines
  2. Did Angara ruin Pia Wurtzbach’s chances at Bb. Pilipinas?
  3. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  4. Manila in shock over model Helena Belmonte’s death
  5. Vinegar test helpful vs cervical cancer
  6. From Jeannie to mom of suicide victim
  7. San Vicente beaches hidden but not for long
  8. Borgy and Georgina are back; others are off–again
  9. Sen. Angara: I thought Pia Wurtzbach gave a good answer
  10. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?

News

  • Anti-gay demo in Ethiopia cancelled
  • Obama launches measures to support solar energy in US
  • Nebraska toddler gets stuck inside claw machine
  • Philippine eagle rescued by Army turned over to DENR
  • Gunmen attack Iraq military base, kill 10 soldiers
  • Sports

  • Vietnam says it will not host Asian Games
  • Nadal passes clay landmark with 300th victory
  • Wawrinka waltzes through with Monte Carlo walkover
  • Power Pinays smash India in Asian Women’s Club volleyball opener
  • PH youth boxers off to stumbling start in AIBA World tilt
  • Lifestyle

  • Ford Mustang turns 50 atop Empire State Building
  • Pro visual artists, lensmen to judge Pagcor’s photo contest
  • ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  • This is not just a farm
  • Clams and garlic, softshell crab risotto–not your usual seafood fare for Holy Week
  • Entertainment

  • Cannes film festival launches race for 2014 Palme d’Or
  • Jones, Godard, Cronenberg in competition at Cannes
  • Will Arnett files for divorce from Amy Poehler
  • American rapper cuts own penis, jumps off building
  • Jay Z to bring Made in America music fest to LA
  • Business

  • Total says makes ‘very promising’ oil find off Ivory Coast
  • ‘Chinese Twitter’ firm Weibo to go public in US
  • World stocks subdued, Nikkei flat on profit taking
  • Asia stocks fail to match Wall Street gains
  • Fired Yahoo exec gets $58M for 15 months of work
  • Technology

  • Netizens seethe over Aquino’s ‘sacrifice’ message
  • Filipinos #PrayForSouthKorea
  • Taylor Swift tries video blogging, crashes into fan’s bridal shower
  • DOF: Tagaytay, QC best at handling funds
  • Smart phone apps and sites perfect for the Holy Week
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 17, 2014
  • A humbler Church
  • Deepest darkness
  • ‘Agnihotra’ for Earth’s health
  • It’s the Holy Week, time to think of others
  • Global Nation

  • Malaysia quarantines 64 villagers over MERS virus
  • DFA: 2 Filipinos survive Korean ferry disaster
  • PH asks airline passengers to check for MERS
  • Syria most dangerous country for journalists, PH 3rd—watchdog
  • Japan says visa-free entry still a plan
    Marketplace