Para Kay B (O kung paano dinevastate ng pag-ibig ang 4 out of 5 sa atin). Ricky Lee. 2008. Tiprint Corporation, 249p., 17cm x 12cm
Lee’s first novel consists of the different love stories of five women; and out of the five, one of whom is supposed to have a happy ending as the subtitle suggests. This explores the different struggles of these women when it comes to finding love and what makes them truly happy. Each story is carefully woven in a tapestry of one’s ideal love versus love in its real essence.
Lee has painted his words with such lucidity that you, as readers, can concretely imagine what Irene, Sandra, Ester, Erica at Bessie look like and even smell like. The visuals given by the author provides stimulus to your senses and would make you feel like you are also present in the bittersweet world where these women exist. Because of the descriptive passages manipulated intricately by author Ricky Lee, he was able to go beyond the boundary that is evident between the writer and the reader.
What makes this book more interesting is Lee’s creativity in placing philosophical yet striking moments in the book. The perfect example was when a character in the story itself was complaining to the writer about the lines she delivers, about the story’s main plot, and even about how hers would end.
This novel does not revolve solely on love but it also touches on social realities like political killings, poverty, and gender inequality all bearing weight in the current situation in our society. It would also be vital to highlight the roles of gender being portrayed in Lee’s masterpiece. He was able to underline issues on the women’s role at home, in the work force, and in the society in general.
Ricky Lee’s out-of-the-box presentation of love and remorse, of love and waiting, of love and society, of love and family, and of love and happy endings has made him a daring writer who can break the cliché and the conventional. Lee has written more than a hundred film scripts since 1979, earning for him more than 50 trophies from award-giving bodies. He is a writer with modern and realistic tones. His body of works has spanned over twenty years which include writing short stories, plays, essays, teleplays, and screenplays. A rare achievement for a writer, two of his short stories won first prizes at the Palanca Awards for Literature for two years in a row. Thereafter, he never joined any literary contest believing that writers should not compete with each other.
Looking at the book, its cover already serves as a stimulus to make anybody pick it up and discover the world of the words printed inside it. How the 3D effect of the big letter ‘B’ can already imprint a sense of interest to its audience. How the color rose generates a certain painful vibe when you specifically connect it to the falling stunt of the man in the middle. How the handwritten subtitle seems to be talking directly to you—paano dinevastate ng pag-ibig ang 4 out of 5 sa atin?
The use of a scribbled typeface or a handwritten font in some parts of the book gives it a personal appeal to the readers. There is just one part where the style played a cumbersome role. In the division titles of every part, some words couldn’t be read clearly anymore. Also the frequent use of taglish or the combination of the English and Filipino language depicts a more colloquial, Pinoy over-all feel to the story. However, including both an English and a Filipino word in one sentence can sometimes be a bit awkward to read. Especially since Lee has used deep Filipino words in the dominant part of the novel.
Amusingly, Para Kay B appears to be a breath of fresh air amidst the clichéd and mainstreamed plots of love stories and romantic genres being portrayed in the Philippine book industry—from the wedding denouement scene to the I’m-so-stupid-to-make-the-biggest-mistake-of-falling-in-love-with-my-best-friend setting. However, it is a bittersweet one. There is a patent scheme where Lee tried to deviate from the accustomed romantic novel pattern where the writer’s perspective is either playing the third-person role or the acclaimed protagonist in the story right at the beginning of a story. It is actually interesting to find remarkable twists towards the conclusion of the novel. But the weight that Lee has put on this particular bend is somewhat inadequate. There seems to be a hole in the road that leads the readers to empathize with the twist.
In general, Para Kay B has the capacity to give its readers a haunting feeling of empathy to Irene, Sandra, Erica, Ester, and Bessie’s love stories. Most especially, to the story within the story part of the novel. Lee’s characters appear to be so compelling because more than their captivating personalities, they seem to present in front of its readers’ very eyes the reality behind the matters of the heart. That no matter how painful, sickening, and even ominous love can be, deep inside our hearts, there is still that hope that it’s going to be worth it. The distinctive approach of Lee on the subject serves as a reset button for its audience. This novel is indispensible for people who are waiting for someone to come along, for someone who has allowed herself to engage into something that is morally wrong, for someone who is afraid to come out of the closet, for someone who is willing to play the martyr protagonist. This novel is for someone who loves, period.