It's 1991. A gay Filipino American returns from his home in Hawaii to his native Manila, where he is jousted by absurd encounters, thwarted desires, cultural and political upheavals and painful memories.
Vince, introduced in Linmark's Rolling the R's (1997), hasn't been in the Philippines since 1978, when he and his siblings left for Honolulu—six years after their parents flew off to escape the Marcos regime. Sensory overload greets him. The heat is stifling, he's accosted by strangers attractive and not, a mysterious sleeping sickness is claiming men and a volcano is about to erupt. Having arrived with members of the Filipino balikbayan culture, who cart unwieldy boxes stuffed with food cans, shampoo bottles and designer jeans, he acclimates to a different social setting when his good looks draw the attention of showbiz types. A film and pop-culture obsessive, he becomes part of a world including President Corazon Aquino's movie-star daughter, known as the "Massacre Queen of Philippine Cinema." The title of the book, which translates not as milk, as in Spanish, but as a four-letter word, is as cheeky a novel as you'll encounter. Broken up by postcard correspondence, dream sequences, glossary entries and "Tourist Tips" ("Staring is a favorite Filipino pastime. Don't take it personally"), it's nothing if not breezy. Linmark isn't funny or cutting enough as a prose stylist, though, or innovative enough as a postmodernist to achieve the tour de force he's after. As lacerating as he tries to be, his satire is rarely more than mild, and his attempts at magic realism fall short. But the book's nonstop energy and nonstop attitude are addictive. And in Vince you won't find a less predictable tour guide.
A lively satiric return to early '90s Manila, seen from both sides of the Filipino American divide.