“Si Amapola” and an author’s continuing literary advocacy

Si Amapola Sa 65 Na Kabanata is the long awaited novel of Rickly Lee

Words by: Joan Lopez-Flores

Out with his second fiction novel, “Si Amapola sa 65 na Kabanata,” acclaimed screenwriter, mentor and author is dedicated in pursuing his book advocacy of bringing books to more Filipino readers.

I was there. I personally witnessed the outpour of support that was almost breathable in the air, the buzzing excitement, the non-stop photo ops even before anything official began, the SM Sky Dome was already-packed at exactly 4pm with a still long line outside of people wanting so badly to be at that most-awaited event on November 27, 2011. I could have been one of those people waiting in line just to be at the book launch of my writer idol, but I was privileged enough to be among those taught by the master writer himself in one of his free scriptwriting workshops, which gave me the “ticket” to be asked if I wanted to volunteer to help during this book launch of his second novel. I couldn’t be happier to say “YES!”

I’m talking about the launch of the second fiction novel of celebrated film and TV writer, mentor and literary author Ricardo Lee, entitled Si Amapola sa 65 na Kabanata. The follow-up novel to his debut Para Kay B (o kung paano dinevastate ng pag-ibig ang 4 out of 5 sa atin), which came out finally after 3 years of hard work from the author and anticipation from fans is a breath of fresh air in today’s mostly non-fiction, self-help material-dominated local literary landscape.

The book was described by the author himself as a political satire with a gay aswang for a hero when he was starting to write the novel, but he also said himself it is now hard to categorize the novel in a single genre (Aside: In the maiden issue of Talk Talk Tilaok in April 2010, we were also privileged to have master writer Ricky Lee grace our first Heart to Heart Talk section story. In the same article, he has begun to talk about the same novel, only then, it was originally entitled “Aswang.”). Indeed, as with all of Ricky Lee’s works across genres of communication and media, Si Amapola is yet another out-of-the-box story told in modern, contemporary style that’s hard to put down.

We at Talk Talk Tilaok are yet again privileged to hear from the writer himself on his views about his recent book launch, his experience while writing Si Amapola, and his drive to continue equipping Pinoys with better, bolder and more exciting reading materials—tools to hopefully dispel ignorance and uphold the unique literary prowess of the Filipino.

T3: What was the first thought you had in mind when you were finally done with your most recent novel, Si Amapola sa 65 na Kabanata?

Ricky Lee: Three long years. I felt so relieved. Para Kay B took only a year. It seemed so much easier to write than Si Amapola, which turned out to be more complex than I thought. Originally I wanted to write a political satire, but it just kept growing and growing, and before I knew it, it was no longer a political satire, it was something else, something much more. I had to let the material go where it wanted to go.

T3: Or maybe a more important question would be, how or what did you feel while you were writing Amapola? Can you please give us some details on the process you went through as the author?

Ricky Lee: The entire time I was writing Si Amapola I swung from feeling high and feeling low. There were times when I was worried that it might be too long for the average Filipino reader, that it would be too complex, too far out, too quirky.

But I’ve always been a quirky writer. I was never content to just write within the box, or to be labeled as such and such. Madalas mahirap talaga i-classify ang works ko.

Just like in Para Kay B, I listened to a lot of friends, readers, consultants. I consulted doctors, history professors. But in the end I took over and for the last four or five months before the final draft, I refused to talk to anybody about what revisions I was doing with the novel. Maski ‘yung ending, walang nakaalam sa mga kaibigan ko. I kept it to myself.

T3: Why Amapola? Why not any other character? Please let us in on what made you decide on your novel’s main character.

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