Jenny Romero Llaguno debuts as storyteller

There are those who are tempted to read Jenny Romero Llaguno’s first fiction collection as a veiled biography of her and her late husband Frankie’s lives together. Our answer to that is, where else can one draw stories but from the life that one has intimately known or the lives of others that one has observed with soul-piercing scrutiny?

If that life and those lives can be transmogrified through several layers of imagining, then true art is achieved. And this Romero Llaguno has achieved in her first outing as short story writer.

More known for her participation in the feminist movement, Romero Llaguno originally wrote A Woman with Money & Other Stories (published by Pantas Publishing & Printing, Inc.) in partial fulfillment of her Ph.D. in Creative Writing at the University of the Philippines where she was mentored by J. Neil Garcia and Jose “Butch” Dalisay. Upon being widowed, she returned to UP to finish her doctoral units.

In his foreword to the collection, National Artist F. Sionil Jose wrote: “They (the stories) were produced under this condition and should therefore be accepted not so much as literary creations but as requirements for getting a degree. This, however, does not inhibit Romero Llaguno from releasing her creativity and her understanding of character that is the core of great literary creation.”

He continued, “In performing the requirements of the academe, Jenny Romero Llaguno also emerges from the effort as a creative writer. To read these stories is to know about the life of middle class Filipinos, and their small tragedies and tribulation.”

Romero Llaguno fleshed out conflicted, complicated women, probably her strength.

In her back of the book blurb, she quoted the University of Santo Tomas panel of critics as saying, “The strength…is the ‘unashamed honesty’ with which these women are laid out before us…This short story collection is a welcome addition to prose fiction written by women which offers honest, keen insights into the inner workings of a woman’s mind and heart, her very psyche. Women at different stages in their lives—single, married, working, opting for fulltime mothering and housekeeping; women keeping houses, homes in the country, in countries abroad; coping with, unable to cope with financial problems, extramarital affairs, frustrations big and small, and more—all find under the microscope of this writer.”

In Romero Llaguno’s imagined world, the woman may have money and all that is implied by having wealth and creature comforts. Or the woman may be on the verge of having the family’s power and water utilities disconnected due to unpaid bills.

Jenny Romero Llaguno

Or the woman is turned on by a slow drag across the dance floor. Or the woman may be aroused by the thought of cows being artificially inseminated.

Or the woman may be susceptible to words like, “Darling, I’m so in love with you.” Or the woman walks into a condo unit to find the lifeless body of her spouse, dead by his own hand.

Or the woman discovers her husband’s infidelity and flees an office party where she sees the other woman. Or the woman is married to a man who is faithful only to his ball games and television set.

But the author has proven to be equally adept in depicting men. But men with Achilles’ heel! The man drinks, and boy! does he drink, nursing more than two bottles of beer or demolishing half a bottle of red wine.

Or the man brags about his children studying in prestigious schools and other superficial things a man talks about just so he never has to reveal his own feelings.

Or the man loses big time while playing the stock market.

Or the man would rather go home after hours of driving his wife to the beach.

Some of the author’s male characters are sullen, plain depressed to the point of catatonia.

Would-be readers of this collection must guard themselves from misconstruing that this is a thinly disguised biography of the author’s married life.

Perhaps the question to ask of Romero Llaguno, the fictionist who amazed us with a maiden offering that has none of the sophomoric fumblings of usual first-time storytellers, is why only now when she is already in her (still youthful-looking) 70s?

Perhaps the next best thing is to wish her fair winds for sailing as she embarks on the writing of a second collection. A novella is in the works. At her launching, she was emboldened enough to say that she might try her hand in a novel. To that we say nothing is impossible to a determined woman!

Copies of A Woman with Money & Other Stories are available at Popular Bookstore, 305 T. Morato Ave., Quezon City, and Solidaridad Bookshop, 531 Padre Faura St., Ermita, Manila.



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Founded in March 2008, VERA Files is published by veteran Filipino journalists taking a deeper look into current Philippine issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”

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