Marianne Villanueva was born and raised in the Philippines. She is the author of the short-story collections Ginseng and Other Tales from Manila, Mayor of the Roses, and The Lost Language. Her novella, Jenalyn, was a 2014 finalist for the UK’s Saboteur Award. Her individual stories have been finalists for the O. Henry Literature Prize, nominated for the Pushcart, and included in Wigleaf’s Top 50 (very) short fiction of 2016.
Excerpt from “Dumaguete”
When Carlos’s mother decided to take him to Dumaguete, on the other side of the island, he didn’t question her. One day she said, we have to go, and they did, walking with their overnight bags to the bus station, whose uneven ground was pooled with muddy brown water in which he could detect shapes darting, tiny black minnows. He stumbled once or twice but his mother never paused or looked behind her and he hurried to catch up.
He wondered why she hadn’t asked the driver to take them. Nanding had returned home after dropping off Carlos’s father at the office. But his mother had asked the security guard to call them a cab. The cab driver had stared at his mother as they got into the back. Carlos wanted to hit him.
His mother had dressed carefully for the trip. She was wearing one of her floaty dresses, and high-heeled white sandals, the better to show off her toes, which were long and thin and elegant and nothing like Carlos’s, who in almost everything had taken after his father.
We are going to Seven Seas Resort, his mother said. You will like it. They have a pool.
Excerpt from Statement
When I wrote “Dumaguete,” my son was in grade school. I’d taken him and my niece to visit Dumaguete. Everything in the story comes from that trip. It was a beautiful, beautiful time in my life: to be a mother and a writer–that was the most joyous feeling.
The mother in the story is not happy, which is where the story deviates from my experience. But I wanted to capture the feeling of a marriage that was more about power and control than it was about partnership. There are many marriages like that, in all parts of the world, and the wives generally get the worst of it. I also felt that the boy in the story is as much a victim as his mother. To be in the midst of two opposing forces is to be split apart.
Bad marriages are devastating to children. The boy in “Dumaguete” is very sensitive and very alive to his mother’s moods. That’s why it is so painful for him to watch her.