Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Dean Francis Alfar
His Novel Approach

First posted 08:24am (Mla time) Sept 11, 2005 / Inquirer News Service
Editor's Note: Published on page Q8 of the September 11, 2005 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer
http://news.inq7.net/sunday/index.php?index=1&story_id=49881


THERE are many unexpected, perhaps even fantastic things about Dean Francis Alfar. He is, after all, very particular about definitions. The tall 36-year-old is a partner in Kestrel IMC, an integrated marketing communications company, as well as publisher of Kestrel Studios, which publishes comic books locally, what Dean refers to as “grafiction.”

Yet the standout quality in Dean goes beyond his being a passionate, prize-winning comic creator or a comic book fan. It goes beyond his owning the Megamall branch of Petty Pets. It goes beyond the malong he occasionally wears to formal affairs—such as the awards night. “I am of Muslim descent, from the Alonto family of Lanao. I’m actually a datu, and my Muslim name is Salahuddin Alonto. I was raised as a Christian but I am proud of my Muslim heritage. The malong I wear bears the colors and patterns of my family.”

The confident, opinionated UP graduate wrote drama under the tutelage of the late Wilfredo Ma. Guerrero, and gravitated to fiction about the fantastic, like science fiction and fantasy, what he called “speculative fiction.” Dean says “our country has a long tradition of the fantastic, with the old stories, myths and legends of times past. I believe that the fantastic is part of the Filipino culture, and deserves a place in Filipino literature as well.”

It goes beyond the eight—eight!—Palanca Awards he’s won, or the fact that his wife Nikki won her own Palanca this year (third in Short Story for Children). Is an Alfar writing dynasty in the offing? “Already, our daughter Sage (who is 3) is making up stories on her own. I wouldn’t be surprised—in fact I’d be delighted—if she took after her parents. However, that’s her choice to make in the future—but we can hope our genetic code kicks in,” he laughs.

It’s in that Dean has won the prestigious Grand Prize for Novel, which is only handed out every four years, and he is incredibly grateful and humbled by the company of other novel winners. “I actually feel like one of my characters, living in a magic realist scenario. It’s surreal in a good way.” He wrote “Salamanca,” as part of National Novel Writing Month, where authors all over the world would attempt to complete a novel in a month’s time. Dean wrote after work every day last November and the product was “Salamanca,” which he describes as revolving around “the love story of two people, beginning in Palawan in the 1950s and ending 50 years later in Manila.” Up next for the busy Dean will be more speculative fiction, including an anthology from Filipino authors, more comic books, keeping his blog hopping (http://deanalfar.blogspot.com) and perhaps even another novel. Now that is certainly something fantastic. RSDV

Excerpt from “Salamanca”
by Dean Francis Alfar
Grand Prize, Novel


The first two things Gaudencio Rivera was made aware of—within hours of arriving by carabao-drawn cart at the secluded town of Tagbaoran on the island province of Palawan—were these: that the most beautiful woman in creation dwelt by the river, and that it was pointless to even dream of being loved by her. He was informed that her name was Jacinta Cordova, and that her beauty was of such purity and perfection that the walls of the house she lived in had turned transparent long ago, to allow both sunlight and moonlight to illuminate her incandescence. The man who told him this—old, stooped, and possessed of an explosive whooping cough—threw in a trembling imprecation against the vagaries of youth, laughed, then insisted that his geriatric appearance was just a trick of light.

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