Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Storytelling ...

"The sum of our stories are our collective unconscious ... of who we are ... as human beings ..." - Isabel Allende

I believe that everybody has a story to tell.

I remember listening to my grandfather who used to tell us stories when we were children, of how his own father, in his youth, carried him across the river because he had no slippers, so he could go to school. He would recount his love story of the woman he loved from high school, the kind and wise, Lola Cristina, who willingly gave up her scholarship, though she was the top of the class to my Lolo, so he could finish his studies to become a good provider. He would talk of the Japanese war and the death it had caused, even at his own hands.

My grandfather came from a family of intellectuals and musicians, who were traditionally poor because of their craft. They would sit around talking for hours on end and chew on the stories that each one gave. Our last name was originally "Per" as my mother tells us but because my kinsfolk were known for their talent in entertainment, it would soon become "Princesa" because we were known throughout the village as the musicians, storytellers, entertainers of that time.

And Lolo would quip up his stories during family gatherings. Even if it was repeated more than once, I never tired of listening. I liked looking at the animated face of my Lolo and I liked looking at the equally animated faces of my cousins as the imaginary dog with sagging breasts, "Tapik tapik" would come running down a deserted street and bare its teeth to the horror of the younger children and then screaming would ensue. We would gather round Lolo and just listen. And he would oblige us and tell us how beautiful and handsome we were, us, from his loins, to his children's, we were his wonderful progeny.

He would tell us the stories of the characters in his own Ranao-Ranao in the now-city of Ligao. And he would sing the songs about him and Lola that the villagers sang. Of the songs, sung about my Lola about her parents. Their love song.

I love stories ... not just Lolo's but everybody's. I am a word junkie and even more a story junkie. I love listening to old people tell their stories of how it was in their time. I love hearing of people's stories now, of their triumph, of overcoming struggle, of living life, of love, of death, of everything.

Sometimes, I am hooked to a telenovela because I like to follow the story from beginning to end. So, I don't start one lest I don't have the intention of finishing because that is also another penchant of mine - finishing what I started and making sure that I end things in the proper way, never abruptly and never in the middle. It would feel like a cliffhanger and I would never be able to rest in peace if that were so.

When I read a book, I can feel the characters come alive and until now I can see Ms. Marchmont from Charlotte Bronte's Villette sitting up in her bed, whispering her last spirited words to her maiden as she realizes that her sorrowful life had been wasted in fret and that she had just to accept the will of God to embrace the love that she had once had when Frank was taken from her. That in her old age and 30 years of loneliness and sorrow, death was now her consolation to be reunited with him. And alas, as the wind blew its screams that night which had envigoured the body of the once beautiful Ms. Marchmont, the following day, the same wind from her life was taken.

I watched today the Spirit of Storytelling - a special by CNN hosted by Becky Anderson. It related how the ancient art of storytelling has never ceased to exist because as Nobel Peace Prize winner, Nadine Gordimer said "we project ourselves as a way of exploring ourselves" to the people, to the character in our stories, those people that may be mainstays in our lives and of those that were just passing but made an impression on our lives. Paulo Coelho, Allende, Doris Lessing and Gordimer share their stories and our stories as they echo that which has been known, there are universal truths in our lives, our stories resemble one another. Coelho said there are four stories to tell: (1) Of two people and their love; (2) Of three people and their love; (3) Politics; and (4) a journey.

Gordimer quotes William Butler Yeats "What do we know but that we face one another in this place?"

And that is a story worth telling ...

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