Saturday, May 23, 2009

a writer has passed

The Hall of Justice was a cold place where everything seemed to reek off absolute severity. But when I entered his office and met him, the atmosphere changed. Atty. Ernesto Superal Yee, born on 29 October 1953 in Tanjay, Negros Oriental, is not only a gentle person but a guiding one. I can clearly remember his first words being said to me: “Are you happy?” And like anyone who knew important people but never got to meet them personally before, I shrugged and said, “I think so.”

He can be very sharp with his words, too, though restrained. And as a lawyer, who worked as the Clerk of Court V at the Regional Trial Court, Branch 32 of Dumaguete City, I guess he needed to practice such stern approach once in a while. Besides, I just witnessed this state of being during the National Writers Workshops. Ernie, as what many writing fellows would like to call him, was one of the few who questioned the point of “The Other Ending” poem that I’ve written for a campus competition a year ago. He was one of the many who questioned the unreasonable changes in things such as the two-week stretch of this year’s workshop instead of the usual three. He was the one who lambasted my fiction and magnified its weaknesses during my stay in the city as a fiction fellow in the same workshop. But on the night that followed, on the culmination night specifically, he was also the one who offered Tanduay flat to each and every fellow on the long table at Hayahay Resto. Ernie is cool. All those air of superiority is just his way of reminding that we should set our ego aside.

A few weeks ago, during a short break from a session of the 48th workshop batch, I gave him a copy of Dark Blue Southern Seas, the literary folio of the Weekly Sillimanian, of which two of his works were published in it. I wrote as a dedication, “Thanks for swimming with us in this sea” and he responded, “I hope we could do this literally—but I am old!” He laughed like a child. His infectious mirth removed the serious mood around the antiquated room of Katipunan Hall brought about by the previous workshop discussion that his dear “sister” Susan Lara and I laughed along. I went back to my seat and in my mind I thought I’m glad I’ve worked with him.

The good times just kept on coming. Ned Parfan, also a writing fellow in the past, shared to me that on our way to Montemar to visit Mom Edith Tiempo and listen to her lecture Ernie told him that his new poetry collection is now in the hands of publishers and hopefully will be due out this year. It was such exciting news. Even though his arthritic fingers caused him to stop creating music through the piano, a veritable treat to the ears, he was able to write prose and poetry. You know those little things in sentences or verses that are more melodious than those produced from strings because they are drawn straight from the mind and heart?

But as unpredictable as the passing of time, a distinct note in the air faded. I received news in the afternoon of May 23 that Ernie died of a heart attack in the morning, in his bed. I was really in shock—probably even surrealistic especially when you didn’t really know what to feel. Because a few hours earlier on the same day, I was reciting his poem out loud to a few people who have a heart for musicality in words. And for Ernie’s works, this is certainly something not new. His poem, “A Prayer for Yuan,” is a favorite poem of mine that truly resounds the beating of my heart’s tune. Here is the last stanza that I’d like to share to everyone:

Lord bless this one with a heart
Burning with compassion and sympathy,
Accepting as to why some trees, like his uncle,
Choose to bear flowers instead of fruits.

Sir Ernie Yee, the flowers you bore in this land were beyond the superlatives of beauty. A poet's spark may have died all of a sudden but during its living brilliance it gave way for others to light their own candles. Thanks for all the help.


Anonymous said...

I'm remembering Sir Ernie fondly now. Thank you for writing this. I'm from Duma45.

f. jordan said...

He may be sharp with his words during the sessions but it's just his way of reminding us that we, as fellows, should set our egos aside.

What's your name?

Anonymous said...

I remember Ernie the most, before he worked at the RTC. His love for music and the arts made him put up a choir group, aka Tanjay Youth Chorale. I was lucky to get to know him, not only as a mentor and coach, but also as a great friend. Bye Dodong...RIP.