PROJECT GRACE-UP

NATIONAL LGBTQ+

WRITERS WORKSHOP

Adrian Carl Pescador

Aidz graduated from Ateneo de Manila University in 2010 with a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies, Psychology and Education tracks, and a Minor in French Studies. After stints in corporate he is now working toward his master’s degree in Creative Writing at UP Diliman. He primarily writes fiction with queer protagonists.

The Story

A delirious pastiche of forms, the story employs the screenplay, the drag show, graphic art, and the classic first person narrative to tell a most self-ironic confession on HIV/AIDS, framed within a caricature of a figure in queer sex culture, the discourse of consent, and a critique of the culture industry that forms the consciousness of the narrator resisting romance in its form within the community and movement. The ultimateness of this twink lies in his comic reckoning with the condition, refusing to receive it in tragic terms, and finding ways to redeem oneself through other forms of identification, like camp, and modes of seriousness and solidarity that can only be found in allyship and of course, friendship. In his introduction to the discussion of his stories, the author confided that his concern as a writer is how to demonstrate life possibilities for PLHIV to contest prevalent notions of the condition as a death sentence. The dialogues yielded the concept of the queer in writing as extratextual as much as textual, that the writer must think of the politics of interpretation one has to mobilize because being queer itself is a political act of performance. To be a queer writer then is to express this mode of being as inevitably aesthetic. What is queer is oneself. It is not just the form that is queer.

The Workshop

With this story, along with the other workshop piece—titled “Neon Lights”—the author seeks to contribute to the growing body of Philippine HIV/AIDS writing. This tradition is distinguished not only by its “ontological break” from the first wave of (mostly Western) AIDS literature—written in the 1980s and 90s, when the disease was untreatable and amounted to a death sentence—but also by its being grounded in the realities of contemporary HIV-positive Filipinos (some of whom have come to call themselves “Pozzie Pinoys”). Pescador’s stories exemplify two different aesthetic approaches to the same empirical subject matter—camp and fragmentary on the one hand, and humanistic and organic on the other—but they share in the same political interest to challenge the stigma associated with the disease, and to show just how the way of mindful empathy, which is the way of art, is a viable way in which to live in full dignity with it. Though stylistically divergent, both stories are arguably stories of character, and are in their own ways beautifully realized and memorable. In the end, the workshop enjoined the author to consider rounding his queer characters further, by granting them agential action within their complex purview of choices, including those that seem to be more overinvested and underexplained (because, for instance, socioeconomically overdetermined).

Featured Work:

In His Own Words: Where I Come From

            1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and on and on it goes, as from childhood we are taught to count and measure matters of our existence, but never to infinity. Not only are we unable to count to infinity because it is an unfathomable number, and philosophically, an unquantifiable construct, but because we as mortal beings lead finite lives. It is in this practice of assigning numerical value to concepts and objects that we measure our being and confront our mortality. Some may accuse it fatalistic, but it remains still an undeniable reality that we begin to die the very moment we are born. This truth applies to everyone, and yet, when people might perceive this truth to apply to themselves or to others varies conditionally. From person to person, the realization of mortality arrives at different times and by different catalysts.

            For me, this realization arrived in 2016. By then I, and all public records, had counted 28 years of a mostly nondescript existence. In spite of self-deprecating jokes granting myself a life expectancy of four or five decades at most based on habits of excess and vice, I naturally assumed there were more years to come. More months, more weeks, more days to count—more chances to change, more opportunities to succeed or fail, more people to love or loathe, just, more time. And then, the gradual downward spiral of my health happened as I tried, slowly and strategically, to end my own life—a fruitless response to a betrayal I should have seen coming.

            My own realization of mortality did not come in a flash-like moment. It was not a light bulb flickering on above my head and just suddenly, fully, knowing. Not at all. Far from it. It was an arduously protracted and painful process of vacillation between denial and acceptance, desire and revulsion, as my body deteriorated and I suffered in silence. When I finally reached that point of no-turning-back, having recollected the life I had led, and having convinced myself I had done okay enough as I could ever have despite all my regrets, I was ready to face death without fear, to embrace whatever unknowable mystery might come after life.

            Yet I lived to write these words you are now reading. A large part of that was my own choice, to live and persevere rather than wait to die after witnessing the pain I was causing my family and close friends, as saccharine as that might sound. Their collective hope and persistence for me to get better and continue living helped me go on. A larger part of that was the good fortune of my own fallible, fleshy body, for the moment, acceding to my renewed will and desire to recover. And I recovered, with the unforeseen side effect of once more fearing death, but also with another, of having better focus to make the days, the years that remain, truly count.

            It was during the nine-month recovery period in 2017 that I decided to finally pursue what I had wanted all along, but always avoided by compromising in order to please other people, allowing for my desires to be circumvented. That is to say, more succinctly, I decided to write my stories and learn to improve my craft. My nine-month period of recovery was really a full-term gestation to allow for a rebirth. And if not rebirth, because that can sound quite trite, full acceptance, not just of the inevitability of death, but of life’s possibilities, whether they be finite or infinite. This renewed sense of existence drives me to write, and to write the different stories of all the characters who populate the ever-evolving, fictional universe I imagine in my mind, for how ever long I may still have the ability to put words on paper.

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