Kerima Polotan (KP) was not the first choice. Sionil Jose was. He was the first Filipino writer I ever read and he awakened in me a fierce longing for justice that hasn’t quite been quelled by age. It was no accident that we was also Ilocano, like me and that he was introduced by a boy I took a liking to (but that’s a different story). However, beyond matters of taste and preference, I just had this feeling that these two writerswere completely different.
They were separated ideologically: one was pro-Marcos and the other wasn’t. I, on the other hand, avoided being pro-Marcos. To this day I cannot get myself to have a photo taken with Imelda. Part of me already knows that it’s silly but another stubborn and adamant side won’t give in. History, or rather the books we read that pass off as history, can often cement our prejudices and once they’ve been built and hardened, the edifices erected are much harder to take down. In KP’s case, it took her death to make me curious. Unfortunately, she died within the same time period as another literary great, Edith Tiempo—tiempo nga naman, what awesome timing! Even in death the limelight seemed to have been borrowed from her. But who was she? Google yields nothing. People haven’t read her and they don’t want to. Those who hear of her are turned off by what one online writer calls her version of Imelda’s hagiography.
Polotan must be recovered from the depths of judgment and there is no better place to start than to read her stories.