After years of absence, Wilfredo “Oyet” Pascual, Jr. is back home in the Philippines. It doesn’t matter that it’s only for a week tucked in between trips to Laos and South Africa. As it has always been, we pause from our labors to renew ties and tell stories --- our homage to him who brought us together and changed our lives forever.
Some 18 years ago, a reedy thinly moustached man in oversized unmatched clothes invited me to dinner. He spoke of poetry over canned sardines and tuna flakes as the yellow tongues of a dozen candles licked at the shadows of his unlit apartment.
From that place spawned a noble project we called Lahar and a dozen poems of which today only 1 survived. Then a period of friendships tested and him barking at me on top of a belfry in Bibiclat, Aliaga, Nueva Ecija telling stupid me to look for certain signs in the ancient bell so we could know if its them Franciscans, Dominicans or Augustinians who had it made.
We travelled our separate ways after that and when we met again, he was deciphering the Spanish text of photocopied old birth records from Vigan and chasing Nora Aunor. That photocopy we later watched in Bangkok as a documentary called “Dara Ken Lasag”. I told him I wanted to do something like it. He told me to go look for them old records in them old churches. I did and started shooting churches which got me to eating noodles.
The shooting that I did eventually got me invited to Lagalag. And my blogged churches and noodles got me a place on the Mondo Marcos book project.
Oyet, the man who taught me everything, is a 2-time Palanca Grand Prize winner and a Free Press Grand Prize winner for essay. He is now based in San Francisco, California and occasionally returns home in Nueva Ecija where it all started…
PHOTOS EXPLAINED: (1) Wilfredo “Willy/Oyet” Pascual, Jr.; (2) Bulan in the foreground sat in as Oyet discuss creative writing with members of the Mt. Carmel Montessori Center high school newsletter; (3) Balong and his Ninong Oyet.