This isn’t a sob story. I hate those. This is just a statement of facts. Almost.
No one ever read to me as a kid. The image of a child being tucked in bed with a night lamp close by and his/her parent(s) reading while the child looks up in enchantment was entirely foreign. My overworked parents were government employees – my mother was a teacher who was given too many students and after-school tasks to handle (including possibly risking her life during turbulent elections as part of the underpaid voting staff), and my father was a soldier who got called and posted somewhere during the years of Martial Law. My grandmother spoke a local dialect I didn’t know well enough to understand.
I didn’t even have a single children’s book to read on my own and fall asleep with, let alone what others might call a family library. Aside from school textbooks and local comic books that I saved up my weekly allowance for, I read nothing else. Oh, yes, my parents eventually put aside some of their earnings so they could buy me and my three sisters the 1981 edition (I think) of the Encyclopedia Britannica. (That huge set was destroyed by the floods of Ondoy in 2009, along with my small collection of books from university days.)
With the state-controlled media swamped by US media, I was only exposed to the generally loud and garish images of Looney Tunes and Disney. And then, for a time until the dictator Ferdinand Marcos shut them all down, the robots of Japanese anime series (a separate post on that one day).
So elves and fairies I knew were fluffy and cute thanks to Disney. Dwarves were adorable as they sang and whistled happy melodies while digging.
Orcs I didn’t read about until high school when my closest friend, Arman, introduced me to the world of Tolkien. He got me to take up membership at the British Council in Manila. There I devoured all that I could get my hands on, not just of Middle Earth (illustrated accompanying books included), but of authors I’d never heard of. It was there that I “met” Craig Raine and the late Elizabeth Bartlett (whom I really, really “met” by traditional mail – I received letters and books from her!).
I was both awed and disappointed with Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Lord of the Rings years later. Oddly, I felt some sympathy for the orcs. Or rather, the actors who portrayed the orcs.
On 5 August 2014 (I enter dates when I start and finish a piece), I began a poem called “To be an Orc.” It has taken a long time for it to find a home. So when I was informed it was not only seeing publication for the first time, but on top of that it had actually won something, my first reaction was “What? Am I dreaming?”
I wish to thank NoiseMedium for finding my work worthwhile of publication. I hope you all visit their amazing website and read “To be an Orc” as well as all else that they have lovingly gathered there.
An aside. I wish to express my strongest objection to the extra-judicial killings supported by the new leadership of my country of birth, the Philippines. I urge you to read, sign, and share THIS PETITION with all your friends, family, social media circle, as well as anyone who you think might might help put out this urgent matter. Thank you.