Dog-walk­ing

Sun.Star Cebu Weekend - - Crossline - By Den­ver Ejem Tor­res

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.”

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