I first heard of the short story collection, Southern Harvest, and its author Renato E. Madrid through my former college instructor and much admired writer-musician Lorenzo Ninal in a couple of his old columns for Sun.Star Cebu. How Ninal described the writing prowess of Madrid had me convinced that the latter is one talented Cebuano writer. Renato E. Madrid, by the way, is the pen-name of Fr. Rudy Villanueva, a Catholic priest, a prize-winning fiction writer, and a renowned composer and conductor.
In his foreword for Southern Harvest, Nick Joaquin, another accomplished Filipino writer, described Madrid as “look(ing) oh so prim and proper but he has got a maniac under his skin. That also goes for his stories. They are polished on the surface--but what volcanoes lurk under!” Coming from Joaquin, that’s another statement (or two) that adds to the intrigue and feeds the excitement to devour the collection.
What’s more interesting is how the particular short story, Southern Harvest, started off beautifully but with a certain foreboding: “In the failing sunlight the hills were jagged paper cut-outs as Teresa looked at them; the garden’s single lowland pine, rooted straight on a bed of its own fallen cone, seemed only one indistinct crease of the mountains very far away.”
Southern Harvest, which is Madrid’s first collection of the stories he wrote originally for the old Philippines Free Press and Asian Leader, was published in 1987, featuring 10 short stories. Yes, it is that old, around the time when I was still struggling to walk and speak. When Ninal said it is no longer available in the market, true enough it isn’t when I checked a couple of online stores like Amazon. But there are special local bookshops that know when to spot literary jewels and find ways to make rare books accessible.
When I saw that Southern Harvest was available at the lovely La Belle Aurore Bookshop, I immediately grabbed the chance to buy it, along with other Filipiniana books that are hard to come by. Although I teased to the owner about wishing I could buy all those Filipiniana books, I am not well-off enough to do so and that would be too greedy for me, too. Thankfully, there are several titles there that have double copies, including the Southern Harvest. For a partial listing of books that can be found at La Belle Aurore Bookshop, please visit its Facebook page.
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Literary Gems is a new element at Simple Clockwork, featuring books I have bought from La Belle Aurore Bookshop or wanted to buy there or should be read. These books could range from classics to romance to children’s books. The bookshop is located at Hernan Cortes, Mandaue City, Cebu. It will be opening its second branch soon along Junquera St. in Cebu City.
- Nancy -