Am I late?

SINGKIT - Doreen G. Yu - The Philippine Star

I did not expect to ever have occasion to use the often misquoted (because he did not actually use those words) line of Mark Twain, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”

On the evening of the first day of the Lunar New Year, my cousin Enrique brought to my attention an introduction to an anthology that mentioned “the late Doreen Yu.” I was on my way home from work and looked at the screenshot he Viber’d to me when I got home and indeed, in a list of Filipino-Chinese writers that included Caroline Hau, Charlson Ong and Ricky Lee was, yes, “the late Doreen Yu.”

It was the introduction to a book, Lauriat: A Filipino-Chinese Speculative Fiction Anthology, edited by Charles A. Tan. As most everyone does these days, I Google’d the book, found out it was published by Massachusetts-based Lethe Press in August 2012. Oh my goolais! I had been “dead” for almost ten years and didn’t even know it!

The book is described thus: “Filipinos and Chinese have a rich, vibrant literature when it comes to speculative fiction, the realms of the strange and fantastical… Featuring stories that deal with voyeur ghosts, taboo lovers, a town that cannot sleep, the Chinese zodiac and an exile that finally comes home…” In this context, I guess my being “the late un-dead” fits right in.

Enrique speculated that the editor must have been thinking of Doreen G. Fernandez (who died in 2002), and I agree, since the editor who wrote the introduction – I Google’d him too and turns out I actually personally know him – had studied creative writing at the Ateneo and was thus surely familiar with the eminent professor, cultural historian and food writer.

I may be basking in reflected glory, but to be “confused” – even inadvertently – with Doreen Fernandez and to be listed in the same line as Caroline Hau, Charlson Ong and Ricky Lee… It’s an honor, and I say so sincerely and not flippantly or with sarcasm.

What led Enrique to the book Lauriat was his reminiscing on the lauriat meal, it being the festive season of the Lunar New Year. Seems like lauriat is the Filipinized term for lao dyet, which is Hokkien for festive/festivity or celebration, an occasion with lots of people, all noisy and having fun and of course with lots of food. Thus a banquet came to be called a lauriat…but only hereabouts.

Like lumpiang shanghai and chopsuey and hototay, lauriat has entered our vocabulary as a generic term for what we call in Hokkien pan toh – a multi-course (usually 12) meal for a 12-person table, although some establishments now have it at 10 people, and not because of social distancing.


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