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Meet Apol Lejano-Massebieu


Rochita Loenen-Ruiz
The Netherlands
March, 2008



In a village called Aigues Mortes, in southwestern France, my husband and I decide to live on land that has belonged to his family for seven generations. It is part of a nature reserve, and laws prevent us from building anything of concrete. To get around this restriction, we bring in two mobile homes, put them together in an L shape. In the rectangle they half-enclose, we construct a wooden terrace. The indoor living space is tight, just barely enough for two, yet despite this inconvenience, the place is without doubt a writer’s dream.

--from Culture Shocked: A story of Recovery by Apol Lejano-Massebieu—

Taken from Apol Lejano-Massebieu’s prize-winning essay, the above paragraph provides a small introduction to the work of this talented young writer who moved from The Philippines to the South of France. “Culture Shocked: A story of Recovery” won second prize during the 2007 Carlos Palanca Literary Awards Competition.


 
Apol Lejano-Massebieu
 
In 2007, Apol’s short story entitled “Pedro Diyego’s Homecoming” was chosen as the opening story to the year’s Philippine Speculative Fiction anthology. The following excerpt demonstrates, the strength of her narrative voice which sets the tone for a fantastic collection of stories from Filipino writers all over the world.

Pedro Diyego was born with wings on his feet. They grew from the bones of his ankles and spread out in a fan past his heel, plumes of brown flecked with white that made it impossible for him to don footwear.

His mother Mereditha tried to remove the feathers when Pedro was still a child. They were a family of some means, owning a decent-sized tract of land and their own rice mill, so that she didn’t think it was proper to have her only son going around barefoot like the farmers’children. But how little Pedro shrieked and cried, as with eyebrow tweezers his mother yanked! And he did it for so long and so loudly that the chickens in their wooden coop in the backyard stopped laying eggs for at least a week.

--from Pedro Diyego’s Homecoming, Philippine Speculative Fiction volume III—

Apol Lejano, the writer:

Apol’s introduction to the writing life began when she was 18 years old. She was part of a theater group and had the opportunity to take up playwriting with PETA. Rene Villanueva and Charlie de la Paz (workshop instructors and writers themselves) talked about the science of writing, and the idea of writing as a scientific approach appealed to Apol.

The possibility of the artistic experience having a process made it interesting for her. This idea influenced her so much, she decided to take up creative writing classes in UP after the workshop was finished.

It was around this time that she began writing for BATIBOT. Her stint with BATIBOT was quickly followed by assignments to write lifestyle pieces for Today, but even then, she never stopped to think that this could be a possible career.

From being a regular contributor to Today, she was offered a post at Bride Philippines and In Style (a high society lifestyle magazine). Starting out as an in-staff writer, she later moved on to become assistant editor at this publication.

Looking back, Apol credits Sunday Times Magazine editor,

Jo-ann Q. Maglipon, with communicating and awaking the passion for writing in her. She remembers the demand to know how to write, how to report, and how to do the work as it should be done.

Jo-ann was an exacting mentor and from her, Apol learned to read her work over and over, and to do her research well.

For two years, she worked intensively with Jo-ann, taking on the function as Managing Editor for the Sunday Times Magazine. This was a function she held for the next years.

After working with the Sunday Times Magazine, Apol moved on to become editor-in-chief for Good Housekeeping. She was editor-in-chief for a period of two to three years, and after spending a total of five years, she decided to move on to Summit, a publishing unit with an intensive and demanding pace that she kept up for five years before she burnt out.

Sometime after this period, she founded Real Living, an interior design magazine with which she stayed for about a year.

Taking a break after an intensive period of eleven to twelve years of writing for various magazines and publications, Apol went to Boracay where she met her husband-to-be. She was then in her late twenties, and the three month break that she took was the first time she’d been away from the writing world.

Pierre had been working in Boracay and when he went back to France, they decided that they would just see each other in-between. For two and a half years, they carried on a long distance romance with occassional meetings. After two and a half years, she decided that it was taking up too much of her time and her energy and was on the point of ending it, when Pierre proposed to her. With her decision to accept his proposal, Apol knew a new chapter in her life had begun.

Talking about her move to France, Apol says:

“The move to France allowed me to write. It was the move to France that influenced the writing of Culture Shocked.”

Winning her first Carlos Palanca in 2007, marked the beginning of her publishing career as a writer.

Apol says: “The move was hard, but I enjoyed the solitude. It was also this move that helped me stop living a hectic life and start to live inside my head. If I hadn’t gone away from the city, I would never have begun to write fiction.”

Apol cites her story, Pedro Diyego’s Homecoming, as being one of her personal favorites. It reflects the longing for home and what she calls the immigrant’s angst.

In her fiction, Apol prefers the magical to the realist. She talks about how Filipino culture is rife with the magical, and how the magical is part and parcel of our culture and our daily life. In choosing to write Speculative Fiction, Apol cites Conrade de Quiroz who writes about the magical realism tradition of the Latin Americas and how this magical realism tradition fits in with Filipino writing because of our culture and our traditions which are similar to the Latin Americans.

She sees the rise of Speculative Fiction and Genre Publications in the Philippines as a positive sign, and as one that she intends to take full advantage of.

Apol Lejano, the businesswoman:

One would think that Apol has enough writing to keep her busy. However, there is another dimension to this Filipina. Aside from writing, she has her own business which includes the making and selling of handmade jewelry and cloth dolls.

In the Philippines, she worked with traditional products, twisting wires and shaping things out of metal. In France, her work evolved towards softer material which she feels is reflective of her inner self.

“My mother-in-law is a great craftswoman,” Apol says. “And she gave me this sewing machine and some fabrics.”

From there, Apol started to experiment and create her own crafts and jewelries out of fabric. She would make her products and put them on display at the online shop, Etsy.

She started her online shop in early November of 2007 and by late November it was doing quite well. In December, she received bulk orders from the US for her homemade products.

Among her products are little fabric dolls which are influenced by Alma Quinto’s big soft sculptures.

Apol says: “Fabric art attracts me.”

Considering what she has accomplished so far, I asked Apol if she felt that she had found her place. To this question, Apol replied:

“Not yet. I love where I am because it allows me to create and it allows me to know myself a lot better. I’ve always had a clear idea of who I am and where I want to be. But with regards to place, I consider it to be inside my head. I am the one who calls the shots in my own life, and I feel that I am getting closer to this idea of where I want to be inside my head.”


------o0o----------------o0o------

Find out more about Apol Lejano-Massebieu at the following places:

http://www.lapomme.etsy.com
http://www.lapommeblogs .blogspot.com
http://www.provenciana.blogspot.com

Ap ol’s work has appeared in the following publications:

Philippine Speculative Fiction volumes two and three; Sawi, Funny Essays, Stories and Poems on All Kinds of Heartbreak;

Very Short Stories for Harried Readers;The Philippine Free Press;The French Literary Review, and Philippine Genre Stories Issue No. 4.

Provenciana, will be released in book form sometime mid-2008.


--------o0o-------------------o0o-------

Author s and books wishes to thank Apol Lejano-Massebieu for taking the time to share her story with us. For comments or suggestions please feel free to send mail to:

rcloenenruiz@gmail.com

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