Wilfredo Pascual’s excerpt from a work in progress
Moderator, Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo
Wilfredo Pascual’s current project is a collection of essays that seeks to explore the interstices of cinema and history. It interweaves two main narratives: the story of Elena Jurado, a Cebuana silent-film actress who went to the US in the early 1920s; and Pascual’s own account of his search for Elena Jurado. In the process of writing the project, Pascual eventually realized that the work is a rumination about time. He wanted to know why he was so obsessed with the past and what was his own place in the world.
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WHAT I WRITE, HOW, AND WHY
I was once asked to name places that had the most impact on my writing. I thought about this for a while. It’s impossible for me to answer this question. I’ve been to many places in the Philippines and the United States, traveled to seventeen countries, lived and worked abroad for more than twenty years. I ran away from home when I was twelve. It’s not so much any place but the experience of being in transit, of getting lost or stuck, or passing through borders that has shaped me as writer.
The catalysts in my essays are never the same. Sometimes it’s a combination of things. Often it’s a hunch, something irrepressible. Or a compulsion. Sometimes it’s only after I’ve written several stories that I begin to realize what it is exactly I want to write – and only then can I say I’m just beginning to write the story. There’s always an underlying purpose and often this unfolds in places of fear and discomfort inside me. Or in absurd associations, a feeling that something is coming full circle, you start seeing it everywhere. I tend to accumulate bits and pieces of images, ideas, different structures and patterns – a ball of tangled threads. So when I sit down to write it’s as if I’m carefully pulling a random string not knowing which strings are worth weaving, which ones are the beginning, the middle, the end. It’s tricky pulling these strings. You could end up pulling the entire universe. You have to choose carefully, know when to cut them. I write personal essays, meaning years of prep work or cultivation have taken place before I even begin to write it all down – movies, maladies, math. There’s a feeling that something is coming together. When that happens nothing is banal.
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