11 June 2011


Locus Focus: Take Fifty-Five!

Welcome to the Foreign Shores Challenge!

Today I am hosting not just Locus Focus, but also the June Giveaway in which I offer one reader the chance to win a book from the Philippines. This means that while the settings I feature in June will definitely be foreign to those who are eligible to enter the giveaway, they won't also be foreign to me. (Okay, it's cheating a bit . . . but we're still friends, right?)

The seventh book up for grabs is The God Stealer, a collection of short stories by F. Sionil Jose, the title work of which is his most anthologised piece of short fiction. I'll have a proper post on the whole collection up soon, but today let's just focus on the setting of the jewel in its crown. (Pun not intended.)

The God Stealer
by F. Sionil Jose

. . . at a turn of the hill, they came, without warning, upon the water-filled rice terraces stretched out in the sun and laid out tier upon shining tier to the very summit of the mountains. And in the face of that achievement, Sam Christie did not speak.

After a while, he nudged Philip. "Yeah, the terraces are colossal." And he wished he had expressed his admiration better, for he had sounded empty and trite.

The first view of the terraces left in Sam's mind a kind of stupefaction which, when it had cleared, was replaced with a sense of wastefulness. He mused on whether or not these terraces were necessary, since he knew that beyond these hand-carved genealogical monuments were plains that could be had for the asking . . .

Below is an image of the famous rice terraces that shocked new visitor Sam Christie into silence: the "hand-carved genealogical monuments" which are Ifugao's most famous attraction. Seen through the lens of F. Sionil Jose's imagination, it is also Ifugao's greatest mystery.

This is just one mountain among many. Imagine thousands upon thousands of terraced slopes stretching as far as the eye can see. Wild, green ziggurats carved by men using the most primitive tools. A stunning achievement . . . until you remember, like the stupefied Sam, that just beyond the mountains are many square miles of plains . . . or until an Ifugao native like Philip Latak informs you that the villagers can't even grow enough rice in these paddies to feed themselves. This is a rice bowl with more grandeur than actual grains.

But to Philip, it is also home. And to Sam, it is the last exotic stop he must make before he returns to his own home in the United States. Although the two men are best friends, they've only known each other on the neutral ground of Manila--the capital city to which Philip fled when he decided Ifugao life wasn't for him and in which Sam can find nothing authentic enough to be a proper souvenir of his Philippine sojourn. Knowing that it is Sam's last month in the country, Philip agrees to help him buy a real hand-carved wooden "rice god" from an Ifugao family in his own village. And so the two friends board a bus that will take them to the ancient mountains, believing that they're both doing it for the same reason.

Of course, they are wrong. And Ifugao--damningly familiar to Philip and completely unintelligible to Sam--becomes the crucible in which their friendship is tested once and for all.

Do you think their bond survives it?

Now it's your turn!
Leave the link to your Locus Focus post in the linky
and take some time to check out and comment on those of others.
I can't wait to read what everyone has to say! =D

This Week's Other Locus Focus:

Carl Hiaasen's Biscayne Bay @ What Kate's Reading

Image Sources: a) The God Stealer by F. Sionil Jose, b) Banaue Rice Terraces


Syrin said...

If I do win the give away, it is going to be a hard choice picking which book I want. And if I don't win, I may end up picking up a couple regardless. Your love for the country is shining through, and therefore making me fascinated.

Shannon Young said...

This is a beautiful picture. You create such an interesting image of the mystery of this place.

Enbrethiliel said...


Syrin -- This is something I thought I'd never say on a blog I purposely named after cheese, but your comment has humbled me! I'm a lot like Philip in The God Stealer, more likely to be critical of my home than to praise it, and the type who can thrive for years in another country without the thought of a holiday at home. So to read that something is shining through my nonchalant, cynical facade was really unexpected!

Shannon -- I'm just the middleman here, I'm afraid! The photograph was taken by someone else and the sense of mystery is siphoned directly from Jose's imagination. I'm just happy I could share it with so many others. =)

Kate said...

That photo is just amazing. You make the book sound really mysterious and fascinating! (But don't enter me in any giveaways...never mind the cost of postage, I'm happily swimming in too many books right now!)

Enbrethiliel said...


It's not even the most impressive photo there is! If you enter "Banaue Rice Terraces" into Google Images (or your search engine of choice), you'll see what I mean. =)

"Mysterious and fascinating," aye? I'm a better writer than I thought! LOL!

(While my first instinct is to be modest and say that Jose made it sound "mysterious and fascinating" before I ever did, my own physical descriptions of the rice terraces were greatly inspired by my memories of the Ancient Aliens series. So I guess I get some credit, too! =P)

Thanks for linking up again this week, Kate! =)

RonJoe 'Geezer' said...

Greetings From Southern California

I am your newest follower. I invite you to visit my blog and follow back if you want too.

Have a Nice Day :-)

Enbrethiliel said...


Thanks for the visit, Geezer. =)

Lesa said...

As a gardener, I am completely gobsmacked!!! And speechless, nearly-- and I'm wondering about the water-- doesn't rice grow in water?

Enbrethiliel said...


Yes, rice grows in water. Those are rice paddies carved into the mountains! Flights and flights of artificial ponds! =D

I wanted to use a picture of them glistening in the sun--as Sam sees them--but those I could find weren't as impressive as this one.