Arturo B. Rotor: My Favorite Filipino Author

July 6-12 Edition

Arturo B. Rotor
Dahong Palay
The Superbeings
Danny Boyle's Trance

One of the writers who has a special place in my heart is Arturo B. Rotor, who wrote my favorite essay ("Convict's Twilight") and my favorite short story ("Dahong Palay") written by a Filipino in English. I asked Ateneo Prof. Danton Remoto to tell me more about him, through a text to Remoto Control, his weeknight culture and education radio show on 92.3 NewsFM (101.9 here in Cebu) on June 5, 2013.

Without notes or any preparation, he gave an admirably spontaneous answer. Some of Rotor's books are The Wound and The Scar and Men Who Play God, about doctors. Rotor was himself a medical doctor, with the gift of vividly unforgettable writing. Arturo B. Rotor was a winner in the Commonwealth Literary Contests, the young nation's most prestigious honor for writers before the war

"Rotor has produced but few stories, but they are of such merit that he is generally regarded as one of our best short story writers," goes the biographical sketch in Volume 3 of the Philippine Prose and Poetry, published in 1960 by the Manila Bureau of Printing. Arturo B. Rotor, born June 7, 1907 in Sampaloc, Manila, was a writer, musician and doctor. He graduated from both the U.P. Conservatory of Music and the College of Medicine. "His stories are turned out at such rare intervals that the appearance of a new story of his becomes something of a literary event."

Rotor tells his stories with the "fifth-act" techniques, which was also used by the American author Wilbur Daniel Steele. "He opens the narrative in the midst of the action and then subtly suggests all antecedent material that is necessary for full understanding."

My favorite Filipino short story in English is Arturo B. Rotor's "Dahong Palay." Sebio, a young man whom everybody dismissed as a weakling, vindicates himself spectacularly in the end. An act of superhuman courage will make him a legend in his village for generations. 

"The big axe sang its way through a large arc and then came crashing down on the block of wood with a mighty crash." He wishes fervently "he could summon such strength in those foolish games of strength and skill," with the others.

But "somehow his courage always ran out before a noisy bantering crowd."

The story opens as Sebio is chopping firewood in their backyard, reveling in the magnificent strength in his sinewy muscles. But nobody knows it. People call him "Sebiong Pasmado," a weakling. It was the end of harvest, and the young people are the house of his aunt Binay to help pound the grains. Sebio excitedly goes there so he could see his crush, Merci.
Sebio arrives at his aunt Binay's place, and "he saw that the evening's work had already begun. All about the moonlit clearing that stood at a distance from the house were grouped men and women whose gay laughter and voices carried far into the distance. In the center was a square of concrete where the golden grains of palay had been laid to dry. On one side were five big wooden mortars, around each of which three persons, two men and a girl, stood pounding grain. Each individual brought down his pestle in definite rhythm and succession. One first and then, just as he had lifted his pestle, the next would bring his down, and so on. Every now and then the gifted voice of someone in the group would break the song, and the notes of a haunting kundiman would be wafted into the breeze to add sweetness to the silence of the countryside."

"Sebiong Pasmado!" somebody calls out, and "there was a hilarious outburst from the group and, with blazing eyes, Sebio turned to the cruel joker. But he saw only what seemed to him a surging sea of sneering faces. His face smarted as if from a slap."

He went into the farthest corner, ashamed. Merci came over and gave him some rice cakes. "Oh, for a crown and a kingdom and a universe to lay at the feet of Merci!" he thought. Inspired and smiling, "he was again his likeable self."

Soon it was his turn to pound the rice, and he's overjoyed that he's paired with Merci. But the third person is Pacio, the town bully.

Pacio plays to the crowd, doing tricks with his pestle without losing rhythm, taunting Sebio all the time. He embarrasses Sebio further by challenging him to straighten a metal horseshoe.

Sebio couldn't stand it any longer. He grabs it amidst derisive laughter. "He could feel the heat mounting on his cheeks as he gripped the two ends and strained and strained," writes Rotor. "His lips clamped together, his face went pale, his eyes bulged. He held his breath during the effort. An eternity -it seemed - passed. He thought he felt thd iron give away, and he opened his eyes. He saw that it bent only a little." Sebio's humiliation is complete. They say he has to "eat more," that he has "no strength" and "no fighting heart."

One of my favorite passages is when Sebio is passing the rice field, fresh from the harvest. This is first-rate writing at his lyrical best: "A few weeks before, the grain had lain mellow and golden in the all-enveloping light of the full moon. Now only short, thick stubble, wisps of straw and traces of the delicate, elusive fragrance of the ripe palay remained to remind one of the hectares of slender, heavy-laden stalks of grain that had once rippled in graceful undulation with each breath of the harvest wind."

You are an immortal spirit who is One with God. That is your true Self. You are a co-creator of the universe. You are God, and God is you. "This Presence within you, this God-Self of you, wants you to be radiantly happy, because perfection is the true nature of it's expression."

John Randolf Price, through his 1981 book The Superbeings (Fawcett Crest, NY), takes down the words of a highly evolved soul named Jason and many other Avatars and reveals them to the world:

"It wants you to be prosperous, because abundance is the nature of its manifestation. It wants you to be happy, at perfect peace, loving and loved, wise, successful, confident, enthusiastic, joyful, strong and free - because it is through these patterns of itself that it expresses Its true nature of wholeness, completeness and harmony. You have the power within you at this very moment to realize the fulfillment of every desire. Through the love, wisdom and power of your indwelling spirit, you have the ability to bring about any necessary change in your body or affairs."

This power is working for you because it is working through you. "You are a center of consciousness through which the power of God flows," Jason continues. "It sees total fulfillment for you, as you, and this Perfect pattern of fulfillment is manifest now as true nature. You are the Self-expression of the Infinite. God has fulfilled Himself as you." This slim book, which I serendipitiously found in a garage sale in downtown Cebu last February, teaches that the fundamental element is forgiveness. You are cleaning up your mind "by giving up all grudges and negative feelings towards others. All others. Everyone. Without exception!"

 You are clearing up the channel through which the Creative Force of God is bringing to you all your needs and desires.

"Your true nature has within it the Wisdom of the ages" and "it is conscious of substance as the spiritual essense, the creative energy, behind all visible manifestations." You are receiving prosperity because "this consciousness of abundance is already within you, and by contemplating the creative substance that is continually flowing from this creative mind. Know that substance is wealth, substance is prosperity, substance is abundance. Recognize that the idea of overflowing supply, lavish abundance, is a part of your true nature. Remember that you are God in expression."

This is how a man named Daniel E., who grew up in poverty, became a successful businessman. "You impress substance by choosing clearly what you want, affirming that your desire is already fulfilled in spirit, visualizing the fulfillment, releasing the substance to do its perfect work, and acting on any ideas that come to you. With these steps followed faithfully and gratefully, substance must manifest accordingly. The mental pictures of your heart's desires will be objectified."

"You help the world when you help yourself," reminds Jason. "We are all one, all waves in the same ocean, and one man's consciousness of abundance and well-being with its outer manifestation releases more light into the race consciousness for the benefit of all." That means you are choosing "total freedom of lavish abundance" and you recognize divine substance as the source," so your are "rich and free," as you are created to be.

"When a man comes to himself and comprehends the fact that he is son of God, and knows that in himself lies all the powers of God, he is a master mind and all the elements will hear his voice and gladly do his will," according to The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus The Christ. When "Fear and "Unbelief" are "caught and turned aside, the will of man will know no bounds; then man has but to speak and it is done."

The key to mastery is Faith. "You already possess the Gift of Faith, because it is one of the attributes of God individualized within you, as you," says Price. You are calling "this spiritual faculty into expression, into purposeful action in your life." Believe that "Literally, you can do all things through faith because faith is the connecting link between heaven and earth, between cause and effect." And "The incredibly awesome force of this power will penetrate into the depths of consciousness."

Faith "is the foundation upon which the realization of truth must be built. Remember that your Superconsciousness is whole and complete." So "When you call the Power of Faith into expression, it attracts universal energy and substance to become a powerful inner force. When it reaches spiritual maturity it begins work to restore the subconscious mind to its original state of spiritual consciousness, to be in harmony with your superconsciousness." Then "you can speak the word" and "all your desires will be automatically fulfilled, and your service to mankind shall not be limited."

John Randolf Price has successfully used the powers of the mind to achieve his dreams. Then, imperceptibly at first, everything he had gained came crashing down. Bad luck seemed to haunt him. What went wrong?

He asked a highly evolved person, a true Superbeing, who told him: "A rubber check is an unkept promise. Had you been conscious of other unkept promises- either promises made to you and by you - either in your personal or business affairs? Or perhaps unkept promises that you personally or businesswise at all, but which aroused in you some sense of injustice or irritation? And might there be in your subconscious a negative conviction that 'Divine Supply is somehow distorted and diverted by human folly' - in effect saying that human folly controls Divine Wisdom?"

The counsel was: "You might find it useful and enlightening to get into a meditative state and in imagination go as Daniel into the Lion's Den." Face those fearsome creatures and "Command them to be still and to comfort you and reinforce your soul's true mission." To become One with the Power, the Superbeing told him, "I would rest in the abiding place in which it is an unshakable certainty that now every thought and everything needed is being given."

John Randolf " realized how important this man was in moving me back to the Path." A listening attitude is a critical element. The core is "Claim your good. Imagine your good. Speak the word for your good. Then care not if your good ever comes to pass."

The sounds weird. Of course you would care! "But the caring, which is another word for worry and concern, was actually diverting the power flow," he says. "I was told to choose what I wanted, see it as an actuality, call it forth into visible form and experience - then not be concerned about the outcome, regardless of how desperate the need."

He has seen the Power at work, but I "had only scratched the surface," he says, "relying on mental work, rather than hooking up with the Dynamo within."

Gibbon, in the Decline and Fall of The Roman Empire, had seen this Power at work as early as the first century. Rising into this new consciousness is "what the saints, the mystics, the masters and the Superbeings have done," says Price. "Glance at a bookshelf," he continues, "and chances are you'll see -- in addition to the Bible -- books by such authors as Ernest Holmes, Charles Fillmore, Joel Goldsmith, J. Sig Paulson, Emmet Fox, Tom Johnson, Catherine Ponder, Robert A. Russell, Ralph Waldo Trine, Ernest Wilson, Marcus Bach, Ervin Seale, James Dillet Freeman, Jack H. Holland, Joseph Murphy, Eric Butterworth, Emilie Cady, and many other spiritual leaders who are doing their part to lead us all back to the High Road of Truth."

"The development of the cosmic, or spiritual, phase of the mind," declared Dr. Richard M. Burke, author of Cosmic Consciousness, in an 1894 address to the British Medical Association, "would one day lift the whole of human life to a higher plane."

Price, founder of the Quartus Foundation think tank, cites the work of Phineas Park Quimby and quotes the Bible, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Plotinus, St. Augustine and Henry David Thoreau: 

"If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected at common hours. He will put something behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him, or the old laws will be expanded and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense; and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings."

Simon (James McAvoy) is a security specialist in a London auction house. Sometimes, he presides over a bidding but his real job is to keep the items safe, sort of an auction house Secret Service agent. Then, in the middle of the bidding for Rembrandt's Witches Flying In The Air, a group of commando-style thieves broke in. Springing to action, Simon ran off with the painting, put it in a bag and, with the other security personnel, went to the basement to drop the bag into the chute which connects to a vault. But the leader, Frank (Vincent Cassell) was there, waiting for them - with a gun. In the scuffle, Simon was hit in the head and fell unconscious.

Later, he wanders down the street, dazed, blood still on his clothes. He was hit again, this time by a car. The concussion had triggered a new set of fragmented memories. He was beginning to remember flashes of betrayal. "Why did you leave me?" Simon screamed to the young woman driving the car, a complete stranger, his hands on her throat, unable to control the evil rising to the surface.

Frank has vanished with the painting. When he got to their hideout, he zipped the bag open. Inside was an empty frame. The painting was gone. Then comes a new revelation and a new twist. Frank kidnaps Simon. They had executed the inside job flawlessly except for one detail.

"Where's the painting?" demands Frank.

"I can't remember!" pleads Simon.

They torture him, pulling off his fingernails. Finally, they realized that Simon was telling the truth. The only one who knows where the painting is has amnesia. Frank got nowhere with the doctors, amnesia not being responsive to any drugs.

Then he had an inspiration: a hypnotic regression. Simon chose a hypnotherapist in the area at random. He went, wearing a wire so Frank and the others in the van outside would hear everything, with a cover story that he was trying to remember where he put his car keys.

The hynotherapist, Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson), plumbed the labyrinthine depths of Simon's mind. There was fear, that most formidable of all obstruction. Simon was afraid that they would kill him once they where it was, and so he was subconsciously resisting. Elizabeth got him past that. Then came another totally unexpected turn of events: he was falling in love with Elizabeth.

Frank accused her of manipulating them. She countered that there's another, even more bizaare, development. This time Simon was resisting, says Elizabeth, because he's jealous of Frank.

Inevitably, Simon eventually remembered. But there were also new revelations. Elizabeth, realized Frank, had known since the first session where the painting was. Simon's new-found memories, meanwhile, had also summoned disturbing images from his past. Elizabeth was forced to confess the truth as she, Simon and Frank drove to the underground garage where the painting lay hidden in the car of the murmured young woman.

Simon had been in love with a woman, Elizabeth began. It was his therapist whom he was seeing to help him get rid of his addiction to gambling. It had taken hold of him so deeply that he got into trouble. It was then he realized he can solve all his financial problems with a single painting. That's when he met Frank, and that's when they planned the heist.

Trouble was brewing on another level. Simon had gotten close to his therapist. "Too close." They fell in love. It was beautiful.

Then, he began to be possessive, dominating, irrational. One day, it all came crashing down. In one of his bouts of jealous frenzy, he hit her. Simon apologized relentless, wearing her down. She let him in, and he almost strangled her. She began fearing for her life.

Strangely, Simon was still continuing with the therapy. So she put him in a deep hynotic state and embedded a mental command.

"You will forget me," Elizabeth had told him. "You will forget about us

Rembrandt's Witches Flying In The Air

Jonathan Aquino's Journal

June 12, 2013
12:28 a.m., Wednesday
Lahug City, Cebu

I just had an epiphany. I think that human misery is when we get too personally involved with what happens to us. We live in a world with vast numbers of people living "in quiet desperation," to quote Thoreu, because I think they focus on themselves too much. I know this, because I've been through hell this past month, and I've been too engrossed in my own suffering. It never occured to me, not until just now, to detach myself and see it from outside my subjective view

From now on, I'll focus on developing that sense of calm detachment like Bagger Vance. I just started reading the novel by Steven Pressfield, and I'm awed by how deeply it has already touch my soul

I have decided to leave Cebu. I need time for solitude and emotional healing. Some of the most transformative events in my life happened here, yet also some of the most painful. I've been under too much trauma, and I viscerally feel that it has changed me, and what I think of humanity, forever. I feel that sense of endlessness, knowing that nothing will be the same again. The wounds in my soul will heal, and the pain shall pass, as all the things pass. But the scars will be my constant companions

I'll be donating some of the books I bought here to the public library, including Herbert Burkholz's The Sensitives, a page turner which I just got yesterday. I just had to read it even it's out of my budget - because it's about telepaths. Of course I'll be writing stories about them.

I love the library: no stupid rules. I feel more at home there than anywhere else in Cebu, except the sea. I think it's only right that I leave them the books I bought from this city. But not everything.

Some of them will stay with me forever


  1. "Gabi gabi na lang sa pagtulog ko,
    ikaw lang ang panaginip ko..."

  2. "...kung ako'y gising na,
    ikaw pa rin ang nasa isip..."

    ~ Chad Borja
    "Ikaw Lang"


  3. "Mula nang makilala ka aking mahal,
    di ako mapalagay,
    sa kakaisip ko sa yo..."


  4. "...maging sa pagtulog napapangarap ka,
    pagka't ang nais ko sana
    kapiling ka sa tuwina..."

    ~ Dingdong Avanzado
    "Bakit Labis Kitang Mahal"

  5. "...ikaw sana ang aking yakap-yakap,
    ang iyong kamay lagi ang aking hawak..."

  6. *

    "...ikaw ba ay nararapat sa akin,
    at siya ba'y dapat ko nang limutin..."

    ~ Ogie Alcasid
    "Bakit Ngayon Ka Lang"

  7. Today I posted a title. It just used to be the issue date on the title field. Now there's more spice. So sweet


  8. “Music has always been a matter of Energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel. I have always needed Fuel. I am a serious consumer. On some nights I still believe that a car with the gas needle on empty can run about fifty more miles if you have the right music very loud on the radio.”

    ~Hunter S. Thompson

  9. .

    "I just had an epiphany..."



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