Sunday, February 24, 2013
MACARTHUR by Filipino writer Bob Ong is a short, powerful novel about four boys raised in Manila's slums. I read it early this morning and finished the rest of it after Sunday service.
MacArthur is slang for human fecal material that refuses to get flushed, emerging and floating in the interface between the air and water in the toilet bowel. The metaphor is based on historical data, for what did General Douglas MacArthur say again? "I shall return."
All at once funny and tragic, Bob Ong tells the story of Cyrus and his friends. In the first chapter policemen chase Cyrus after he snatches a fat lady's necklace worth thousands of pesos. Refusing to share the spoil with the corrupt officers, Cyrus swallows the necklace while he's on the run, manually retrieving it when he takes a dump.
There's a back story, of course. Abandoned by his parents, Cyrus is raised by his grandfather, Mang Justo, who works as a part-time barber. Mang Justo is rushed to the hospital and is eventually diagnosed to have end-stage renal disease. To pay for the transplant surgery, Cyrus steals two necklaces and attempts selling drugs. The surgery pushes through, his grandfather is saved, if only for the meantime, and all is well again until—well, you have to read the novel to find out.
This isn't the first Bob Ong book I've read, but I'm still fascinated at his skill at storytelling which he does in modern-day conversational Filipino. Do get a copy of MacArthur, if you haven't gotten one yet.