Review: Galing Cine Cafe

From solitude to solidarity
by Danton Remoto

Galing Cine Café is a compilation of Nestor De Guzman’s poems in Filipino, published by Lambana Press. The title alludes to the gay bar that first set up quarters on Roces Avenue and has since moved to E. Rodriguez.

In colloquial language, de Guzman captures perfectly the sense of adventure—and the eventual sense of loss—that usually happens in one-night stands. “Maganda ako kagabi,/ ginusto ng tatlong natipuhan./ Disinuwebe ang isa./ Ang una, nag-alok ng higit pa./ Pero mag-isa ring umuwi./ At lalong ginutom./ Bago sumakay ng jeep/ sa tapat ng Act sa Cubao./ Nakihilera ako sa kariton/ ng magdamagang lugawan,/ sinaid ang dalawang mangkok/ na may ginunting na laman, puso/ utak at taba ng baka./ Sa katabing ihawan/ nakatatlong tuhog/ ng nag-uuling na bituka’t isaw./ Nakailang salok/ ng makulay na samalamig.”

De Guzman has a degree in English studies from UP Diliman and has joined Ricky Lee’s scriptwriting workshop. Such training is evident in this poem. The one-night stand is compared with sharpness and wit to the eating of street food. Both are consumed with such wild hunger.

Such desolation could be broken by communion with another person, knowing him deeper than skin. W.H. Auden seems right, after all, when he said: “We must love each other—or we die.”

The personas in the poems of De Guzman are fragmented; they live in the black heart of the city. In the bittersweet poem called “Agahan,” he writes: “Kanina, nang una kitang/ makita, naghahanap ako/ ng kalinga sa madilim na/ sulok./ Ngayon, hinatinggabi sa/ kabilang linya/ ng iyong telepono,/ pakiramdam ay buo./ Pero ayoko,/ ayoko munang mangako./ Mamaya, sa agahang/ muli nating pagtatagpo,/ baka malaparan sa noo,/ malamyaan sa upo,/ maasiwa sa tawa,/ malakihan sa subo./ Kahit anong pilit, di ko/ maalala ang itsura mo.”

The poet also skewers the tabloid media that features only the seamier side of gay life in “Sa Kapisan.” On the other hand, the kotong cops get a well-deserved satire in “Bagansiya.” The cover design and the photographs are not of sculpted men with mestizo features. The men are fat, common, somewhat ordinary, as if to show that gayness is an everyday thing. It also goes against the grain of cute and straight-acting gay men who only cruise other men with similar qualities. The book’s bonus is a series of 10 Filipino versions of foreign poems. The most moving are by C.V. Cavafy who—like Nestor de Guzman—celebrates the frisson of desire in the common and the every day with ease and eloquence. 

Galing Cine Café (P130) is available at Powerbooks and National Book Store.


Lodestar, The Philippine STAR, June 27, 2005