Two novels by National Artist for Film and Broadcast Arts and acclaimed screenwriter Ricky Lee were launched at the Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival at the Philippine International Convention Center on Wednesday, Aug. 9.
Although Lahat ng B—the sequel to his bestselling book Para Kay B—was launched in December and had actually already sold around 6,000 copies, Lee was convinced by representatives of the country’s biggest indie filmfest to hold another launch in its new and temporary home, the PICC.
The venue was perfect as the multi-awarded screenwriter wrote the script of iconic films Himala, Moral, and Anak, among others. He has mentored most of the active screenwriters in local TV and film industries through his four-decade-long free screenwriting workshops. He is also the author of books such as the epic Si Amapola sa 65 na Kabanata.
In an exclusive interview with PhilSTAR L!fe, Lee said that he wrote Lahat ng B because so many people had been asking for a sequel. He said, "Kaduktong siya [ng Para kay B]. Kumbaga, parang culmination and kuwento ng lahat ng characters ng Para Kay B. Para siyang tribute to writers and writing."
They were all agog about the launch at this year's Cinemalaya, and made an effort to invite celebrities such as Candy Pangilinan, Agot Isidro, and Dolly de Leon, as well as actresses Jessa Espina and Lance Reblando to read excerpts from Lahat ng B.
Also launched at the event was Noelle Q. de Jesus’s authorized English translation of Para Kay B (For B), Lee’s debut novel. It is "the first published English translation of [any of] his work, to date."
De Jesus is the author of two short fiction collections Cursed and Other Stories, published by Penguin Random House SEA and Blood Collected Stories of Ethos Books Singapore.
In a video played at the book launch, De Jesus, who is based in Singapore, talked about the English translation of Para Kay B. “It was probably the hardest thing that I’ve ever done.” She cited three things: "1. Ricky Lee is alive, and he cares deeply about his work. 2. He reads and he understands English. 3. I wanted very much to please him."
Ultimately, however, she "had to learn to ignore those three things" and do what she "thought was best for the translation."
"The manuscript for For B took around four to five drafts in a period of a little more than three years," De Jesus said, "to the point that I feel I know the text intimately—certainly as well as the author does—possibly even more so.”
What made the project tricky, De Jesus said, is that Lee writes in Taglish, with a ratio of something like 20% English to 80% of text in Filipino.
"He uses colloquial expressions and idioms. He uses incomplete sentences sometimes. He does not use quotation marks for dialog. And sometimes, he’ll even shift his point of view. These same things that made it tricky, also made it fun," she said.
Lee said that there are many and various ways to translate a piece of work.
De Jesus agreed, saying, "Everyone has a different way of translating, and that process will vary from project to project and purpose to purpose."
"It is not confined to transmitting meaning. It also means being faithful to the very unique voice and language of the author and working to recreate that in English," she added.
As to her process, De Jesus shared, "My process begins with a very quick and impulsive dirty rough draft. At the new set draft as a base, and with the original text, go through painstaking efforts to tweak and fine-tune and rewrite. So, the finished translated text has the same texture and the same effect as the original."
Lee noted that he respects the creative freedom of his book’s translator, for as long as she is faithful to his voice and tone.
De Jesus said that she’d balk at translating a 19th-century Filipino novel. However, “Ricky Lee is a contemporary storyteller. And because his voice and world view resonated with me, I wanted to do it. I really wanted to do it,” she shared.
De Jesus added that she could see in her mind people reading and enjoying reading For B. According to her, she thinks these are for people who are foreigners or people who live outside the Philippines; don’t know Filipino at all, or do not understand Tagalog; are or Filipinos in heart and soul but “don’t necessarily pick up a book in the Filipino language.”
“I knew there could easily be a new and different global readership for Ricky Lee. I really wanted to have a role in making that happen. I’m so happy that I’ve had that chance,” De Jesus said.