Here is again a new episode of our
in Philippine Literature: Short Stories project by Mel U of The Reading Life
and I, and this time we feature the short works of Filipino doctor, musician,
writer Arturo Rotor. Mel U will post his thoughts on one of Rotor’s acclaimed
stories, Zita, while I will present to you the much shorter Dahong Palay. We
invite you to join us in this project, or share the stories you have read by
the same featured author. Readings
in Philippine Literature is going to continue for a long time. :) Readings
Dahong Palay tells the story of Sebio, a young man who works in the rice fields but is perpetually teased for his lack of strength before a crowd. The words for emphasis there is “before a crowd” since Sebio seems to get a paralyzing stage fright when challenged into a demonstration, but on his own, he possesses impressive strength nobody else knows. When a poisonous green snake called “the deadly dahong palay” attacked Merci, the girl Sebio is attracted to, he lunges himself (quite clumsily) to defend her. In exchange, he got a snake bite and a gory self-treatment procedure that shows just how (unnaturally) strong Sebio is.
For Sebio had taken the sharp knife and had slashed across the two pin pricks. Dark blood oozed out slowly. Then he grasped the red-hot iron and before their horrified gaze plunged it into the wound. The glowing point sizzled, drawing the blood out of wound. The smell of burning flesh filled the air.
Of course, the procedure leaves a strong impression on its fictional audience, and I trust Sebio and the author, Rotor who is a medical doctor, to know what they are doing.
|Photo by Rey Sta. Ana (Image Credits)|
On a personal reflection, dahong palay seems to refer to three objects in the story—the animal, the instrument used as a farmer’s tool, and the way the rice field workers are eating Sebio up with their perpetual teasing and poisoning his mind and feeding his insecurities. In general, Dahong Palay is a light read filled with moral values, written in a non-preaching kind of way. I encourage you to read the full story here. It is only seven pages, then share with us your thoughts.
As for the author, born in Manila, Rotor started writing short stories in his senior year in high school and went on to win third prize in a shirt story contest organized by the Women’s Outlook. He must be a talented Filipino, having enrolled simultaneously and graduated from the University of the Philippines Conservatory of Music and
Even during his internship at the Philippine General Hospital and a short medical stint at the Iwahig Penal Colony in
the literary side of his well-rounded career continues to flourish. He edited
the Herald Mid-Week Magazine and wrote stories that appeared in the honor rolls
of Jose Garcia Villa. His stories were later reprinted in The Wound and the
Scar (1937), the first publication of the Philippine Book Guild, despite
Rotor’s protests that someone else’s work should have been selected. His other
best known literary works include Confidentially, Doctor (1965), Selected
Stories from the Wound and the Scar (1973), and The Men who Play God (1983). Davao
As a doctor, he further trained in St. John Hopkins’ medical school and published a paper on a rare form of hyperbilirubinaemia (jaundice) that is now known as the “Rotor Syndrome”. Not only that, a vandal orchid (Vanda merillii var. rotorii) was also named after him. He became dean of the
College of Medicine of the University of the . In
1966, the Philippine government recognized his literary accomplishments by
awarding him the Republic Cultural Heritage Award. Philippines
For past posts on
on Philippine Literature: Short Stories, please visit this link. Our next Filipino short story writer will be Vicente Rivera Jr. Readings
Have you read short stories about poisonous snakes? What were their effects on the characters?