The red shawl failed to hide the Gabriela print on her tight red shirt that exposed those curves and female protrusions that she so confidently flaunt around, perhaps not really aware of it and if she has been, I bet she would still confidently show them off.

Even her military-colored capri pants did its job perfectly; shaping her just right. Except for the fact that she is a well-known writer (stress twice on the word well-known), her hair—with streaks of whites prominently running from her forehead down— everything about her I was not expecting.

Over the past years, I was an anti-Ninotchka Rosca. She's the woman described to me by a Philippine Daily Inquirer article as someone believed to have the penchant for drama, actually over-drama, that she was rumored to have her name changed from something else to Ninotchka.

I thought of her as someone really officious and dominant and anything else but meek. I thought of her as a ruthless bruha always ready to rip-off the sorry flesh of hell-scared souls. I thought of her as someone I can never stand a minute. I thought of her as someone like Salman Rushdie who, a friend has told me, never talked to people.

I thought of her as someone who would never ever sign reluctant fan’s notebook. I thought of her as someone overrated.

And so I confess: I am the reluctant fan. Actually, a reluctant and shameless fan who thought of not going to Kanto Bar and meet Ninotchka in the flesh but decided anyway to get through into the already thick crowd of women activists, men activists, gay activists, and all sort of activists, poets, writers and journalists.

Sweating perhaps because of excitement, I sat beside Sun.Star Davao’s wonderwoman, Stella Estremera, and Ms. M Roque—while everyone around waited in great expectation for the recipient of the 1993 American Book Award for excellence in literature (for her book Twice Blessed) to finally, er, talk to us. I was there to give myself a chance. No…actually, to give Ninotchka a chance.

She was easy to spot. Had I been somebody out to hurt her, I could have perpetuated such a plan effortlessly. Had I been somebody out to hurt her, I could have just crossed the already crowded room--grabbed her long hair or sprayed her face with capsicum gas until she choked and get a temporary blindness and that would have been sweet and perfect.

But no. I am no longer anti-Ninotchka Rosca although I still believe that she chose the name Ninotchka—name herself Ninotchka—for the reason that it sounded—weird?

And weird how everything I painted of the woman inside my head over these years changed the moment she opened her mouth. I mean, that I am reading her latest book did not change much of my unfair perception of the person but a brief encounter did. Like, while I was looking at her from my table, her back against us, I felt that she was talking to me. Well, her hair, actually.

And so she was there before us--wearing that Gabriela red shirt and a military-colored capri pants and I could not help but think of the definition of the word contradiction. For how can one woman, who experienced the pains of being sent to jail during the Marcos years, wear the color of the dictator’s machinery of oppression and death?

While I was asking myself whether or not to go to Kanto Bar for the Ninotchka event, I was thinking of a number of questions to possibly throw her, topping them was to know how much creativity does one person has to have to ever choose a name like Ninotchka. Or, was it liberating to name oneself Ninotchka?

But everything I had inside my mind turned into a blur when she spoke in a demeanor comparable to that of a—virgin. I swear, she’s so sweet that listening to her speak would make one wonder of how really bad Marcos was to ever jail someone like her. She looked so harmless and she spoke as if she cannot even prick someone else’s pimple…hello!

But of course, back then, she was considered a threat. For how can’t they not be threatened of someone who confessed to not having a life at all? In her opening statement, Ninotchka said: “Walang buhay…I can’t tell you the story of my life or you might be scandalized.”

Then she sniggered.

At the end of the event, I found myself pushing through the still thick crowd to get Ninotchka’s signature. When it was finally my turn, I could not think of anything to tell the woman but this:

“I am supposed to bring a book you wrote but I found out that it’s already signed…can you instead sign my notebook?”

“What’s your name?”

“Jepoi…that’s p-o-i… J-E-P-O-I.”

“What does it mean?”

“It means nothing. I am a Jeffrey.”

And this she wrote:


Anonymous said...

I don't know her but of how you gracefully describe ninotchka, she seems like a woman carrying bags full of 'soul' experiences. Na curious ako sa kanya.. I'll google her. hehe.

Anonymous said...

I hope you have a cbox so I can just leave messages anytime. =)

tin-tin said...

sorry, i don't know her. don't judge a person by the book? hehehe. bket walang picture niya? jepoi pala name mo. heheeh

bananas said...

Rian, cbox? Ill think about that. Gusto unta ko ba pero sige lang...thanks sa suggestion, btw. Well, Ninotchka can be googled. lingaw na siya...

tin, hindi mo siya kilala? sorry...di ka rin niya kilala. the feeling is mutual. niya? po-post ako.

bananas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
tin-tin said...

thanks sa pagpost ng picture. di pa nga kme magkakilala. pakilala mo ako minsan ha. hehehe ;p

Anonymous said...

hi! pls visit for new updates.tnx

Kiks said...

Ang galeeeng, Jepoi Banana Tree. You've finally met her. Ako, nasisilayan ko lang sya sa di kalayuan pero hindi kailanman nakaututang dila.

You're definitely right - she's a wonder! She can animate words in both spoken and written formats.

Have you read her At Home With the World? Ang galeeeeeeng!

Enough of Ninotchka fanatica. ;-)

ruff nurse-du-jour said...

Oh my god I didn't know that! Though I have to admit that I almost died when I was a baby. Do you think that counts? Do you think that event's got something to do with what I'm currently experiencing? Or am I approaching my death? I hope not. =(

Thanks for the visit bananas. I appreciate the comments. Though I got a wee bit disturbed, it was still very insightful! Thank you thank you so much!

bananas said...

Hi kiks. Reading it. Incriminating ba ang pagbabasa non? Hindi naman diba? hahahaah...

Hay nako. You have to read teng's blog. He also wrote about her night with Ninotchka. Nakakaloka talaga.

Hello ruff. I actually dont know how to answer ur question but u have to be calm, please--it's just death. hahaha...loka, pero ang alam ko, applicable yon sa mga geriatric patients.

Huwag kang matakot...manalig ka. hehehe

ruff nurse-du-jour said...

Thanks bananas! Haha, you're currently online din pala. Ang bilis ng reply. =)

Haha, dont worry, no problem here. I guess I'm already getting immune to the feeling/experience of death/dying. Watching patients die on the hospital day in and day out, indeed, has a purpose I guess. (Pero nakakaiyak pa din minsan.)

And yup bananas, nananalig ako! =)

[Added you up in the blogroll btw, exlinks?]

Kiks said...

Nothing to be worried about, Bananas. I'm sure even Conrad de Quiros has read it.

chase / chubz said...

kinsa na xa?
heheh sori ha. wa ko kaila niya.
from the sound of it she had a very rough time in the past.
i'll try to look for a copy of her works.

Anonymous said...

ha.. ha.. at least kaila nako niya because of you J.........POI

musta na ba?

Anonymous said...

I must really apologize for that evening. We'd just returned from exposure at Mandug, Tigatu(sp?)and Waan. My clothes were soaked through with sweat and dirt and I was morbidly aware of how stinky I was. If anyone noticed, please forgive. Although I did take a bath when it rained the previous night, the day was impossibly hot. In other words, I was stinky, dirty and totally disheveled -- and really, really far from being a sex object. Not unless one has strange aesthetics.