Locus Focus: Take One Hundred and Twenty-One!
Another June tradition for me--or for those who want to be precise about things, a June coincidence--is reading one of the six preselected new titles for the June Giveaway, and deciding that it isn't the good candidate I thought it was. This year, there have already been two. And one of them gives us another coincidence: it is not just the second Philippine novel that gets to be featured on Locus Focus without going in the giveaway pool, but like the first, it also has the same unusual word in its title.
Confessions of a Volcano
by Eric Gamalinda
Seiji had warned him about Miyajima. Summer was the worst time to visit. The park was overrun by backpackers from Europe and the States. You could smell the sacred deer from a mile away, and the sun beat down with such ferocity as to stun all things animate or not.
. . . Daniel was relieved that there weren't too many people on the ferry. Maybe it was a slow day at the island. But when they stepped out a few minutes later he was aghast to find the place teeming with boisterous tourists. Luisa seemed the least disconcerted. She ran straight to the deer park, holding her hat down with her hand. "Look, Daniel!" she exclaimed, pointing breathlessly at the languid creatures loitering under the pines. "Let's get something to feed them!" She bought a pack of biscuits from a kiosk and emptied the contents in her hand. A herd of deer and began nuzzling against her hand . . .
If I had known that I'd just be taking you all back to Japan again this weekend, I would have picked one of the European settings in F. Sionil Jose's Viajero (Option #33) for Locus Focus #120 last week. But never mind. Let's be carefree and touristy today, and enjoy the smell of those sacred deer!
It's easy to see why all the tourists in Japan want to see Miyajima. Not only is it a beautiful nature preserve, an island whose mountains are lush with a natural forest and teeming with tame deer and mischievous monkeys ("We will not be responsible for your cameras and money; please protect them from the monkeys"), but it also boasts a lovely Shinto temple whose bright tangerine beams provide a contrast (but never a clash!) to all those earthy greens, blues, and browns. The tourism developers who added the multi-level gardens spotted with koi ponds were surely inspired by that colour scheme . . . only to restrain themselves when it was time to choose the colours for the cable cars, which are mostly white.
Can a tourist really complain that other tourists are ruining his sightseeing experience? Probably not, but Filipino tourist Daniel isn't too happy with his first experience of Miyajima anyway. On the other hand, his new friend Luisa, a Filipina worker he met on the train in Tokyo, seems quite at home in the anonymous crowd. Instead, it is two Japanese men who get to ruin her day, when they corner her on the island's "Monkey Mountain" (Oh, Lord, is this significant?) and ask to see her passport. As the humiliated young woman explains to Daniel, plainclothes policemen often approach foreign women and ask to see proof that the latter are in Japan legally and not working as "entertainers" in clubs for men. It is not the first time it has happened to Luisa and it won't be the last. Yet she can't really complain, either: she may be legally employed, but it is at one of those clubs, with about a dozen other Filipinas who aren't.
It can't be fun to have your experience of another country's beauty and culture interrupted by locals who think the worst of you--not because of anything about you personally, but because of arguably valid stereotypes about your country. Even if those things are not true about you and you have proof that can win you an apology, you'll know that it takes more than a single person to shatter a prejudice that exists because of thousands. But please enjoy the rest of your vacation!
A final note . . . You're not supposed to feed the deer on Miyajima!!! Luisa's buying them a whole back of processed junk food is not a bit of touristy seasoning for the story, but a comment on her character. For the deer's sake, I hope we're all clear on that! =)
Question of the Day: Do you like visiting so-called "tourist traps"?
No Rafflecopter here because Confessions of a Volcano doesn't get to be a giveaway novel, but I have something more exciting for you. Brandon of Siris has written his own Locus Focus post on the Opera House from Gaston Leroux's Phantom of the Opera!!! Let's all go over and give him some comment love!
Image Source: Confessions of a Volcano by Eric Gamalinda