Postcard from Manila by Marivi Soliven Blanco
Second floor of the Burger King at the corner of Timog Avenue and Mother Ignacia street on a cloudy afternoon in mid-December. I am watching two wildly different scenes play out a few feet from our table. On my right, a Burger King waiter is teetering on the purple plastic tunnel that encases the slide, trying to swaddle the steel bars of the children’s climbing structure in rolls of blue foam. On my left, a pair of actors are reading dialogue at a casting call for a film being produced based on one of my short stories. The story involves adultery, death and castration, but none of these transpire in a fast food joint. So why are auditions being held at Burger King?
Because in Manila, that’s how we roll.
I sit a discreet distance away from where the actors were being filmed as they read their lines, but try to eavesdrop on the scripted dialogue. No such luck. There is more going on over at the jungle gym repair site than at the audition. I leave after half an hour, but not before one actress comes over to shake my hand and thank me. I’m not sure what she is thanking me for, since I don’t make the casting decisions and am in fact hoping another actress gets the part. Nevertheless, it is nice to be acknowledged. Nice in a Donald Trump-ish Thank you for the opportunity sort of way.
How did I reach this Donald moment? Luck and serendipity. About a year ago, Marissa Aroy, a documentary filmmaker sent out a call for Filipino horror stories. Spooky Mo had been published some months earlier, so I sent her a copy of my horror story collection in exchange for a DVD of her documentary. Soon after, she wrote back to say she wanted to turn one of my stories, “Talunang Manok” into a film. If she could find funding for it, would I sell her the film rights?
Figuring it was a long shot, I agreed. My literary agent sent me a contract to sign, with the caveat that since it was an indie film, there would probably be very little money involved. Months later, Marissa won a Fulbright Grant to produce the film in Manila, and suddenly the deal was on.
Recently, a thick envelope arrived in the mail, containing a a copy of the film contract, a rather sheepish note from my agent and a check for the sale of the film rights to my first story. A check for 75 cents.
Marivi has taught writing workshops at the University of the Philippines, Diliman, the Ayala Museum and the University of California at San Diego. Short stories and essays from her 15 books have appeared in anthologies and creative writing textbooks. She won two silver medals for children’s fiction at the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for literature in 1991 and 1992 and her first novel, In the Service of Secrets, won the Grand Prize for the Novel in English at the 2011 Palanca Awards. It is set to be published by Penguin Books in May,2013.
She has served on the board of San Diego Writers, Ink, since2009.
*not an actual image of the author’s guest bathroom