IWAS in Hong Kong and Macau last March. Aside from their food and marvelous architecture, I came, to see a dear friend. Her name is Joanna Mok.
I met her in 2007 during the First Xavier University Creative Writing Workshop (XUCWW). I was a Fellow for poetry and she, for fiction. Joanna and I have became good friends since.
Before the actual workshop started we were given a few hours to read the works to be workshopped. That morning, in Malasag Gardens, I fell in love with her fiction. Her works have characters and settings that are both familiar and foreign. Her fiction is natural and universal and therefore relatable. I swooned when I read her short story, The Heart Jar (which was later published by Kinaadman, a journal founded by the incomparable Fr. Miguel A. Bernad SJ to give Mindanao a space and voice in the field of scholarship).
The Heart Jar is a simple but not a simplistic story of a group of friends who set out to travel the countryside to relieve themselves (though unconsciously) of the stress brought about by their city of cement and steel. The story also proposes that nature is the pill that cures the sadness caused by the kind of existence humans in the city have.
In the story, as in most of her stories, dogs are ubiquitous. Mok’s universe — whether in real life or in the lives of her fiction, is filled with dogs. My visits to her houses, both in Cagayan de Oro and Tagbilaran, were filled with anxiety because of her huge dogs.
Writing and dogs — these two have been the constant elements in our friendship.
I hate dogs in general. My childhood was filled with dogs. They were mostly the mafia dogs in the rich village that I had to pass through to get home. I had been bullied by dogs as a child.
The Heart Jar is a simple but not a simplistic story of a group of friends who set out to travel the countryside to relieve themselves (though unconsciously) of the stress brought about by their city of cement and steel.”