by MAR PUATU
Review by Bernard Selling
In ''Grandfather, the King,'' Mar Puatu has written a fascinating account of a time of turmoil for the Philippine nation. On the surface the book is an autobiographical account of his growing up under the wing of his grandfather, a politically powerful, personally charismatic landowner in the pre-modern Philippines.
More than that, however, the book is an insightful account of the clash of cultures which stirs within the soul of a sensitive and impressionable young boy. The almost voodoo-like nature religion of the ancient past as well as the rich sensuality of the landscape and its people find their voice in the grandfather's (and his grandson's) delight in foods, flowers, forests and flesh.
The author's liquid prose wraps itself around the reader like a snake in the jungle, or a vine engulfing a ruined villa, or a woman's tongue whispering of the past, while twining itself around a willing worshiper.
At the same time, the more recent past, the island's Catholic past, provides members of family, especially the grandson, with a host of torturing do's and don'ts. Grandfather, the king, however, reacts with a bemused sense—that family, culture, even country have begun to take life much too seriously.
A must read selection.
(Bernard Selling teaches workshops in autobiographical writing and is author of Writing from Within, In Your Own Voice, the forthcoming Taking Center Stage, and a novel of the Renaissance, Ludovico's Conquest.)