I deem it fitting to read a local author for August. Isabel Yap is a young Filipino poet born and raised in Manila, but is based in the US today.
Milagroso is set in Lucban, Quezon, in time for the Pahiyas Festival, which honors San Isidro Labrador as their patron saint. The timeline though is set in a far future, wherein people no longer grow real food or raise livestock. Our future relies on synthetic food, mainly composed of bio-plasticine millet or BPM. Manufacturers adhere to the belief that these are healthier, safer for human consumption; aside from its economic advantages, such as providing food even for the poorest in the country.
Marty is one of the luckiest among the natives of Lucban to have landed a job among the great industrial giants producing these miracle foods, and moved to the city permanently. He is very proud for all the products developed by his company. Above all, he is confident that his children will never have health risks or suffers from food-induced illnesses.
Marty remembers the great glass houses they passed on their way to Lucban, lining the fields stretched beneath Mt. Banahaw. Piles of corn and rice, endless rows of pineapple and root crop, stewing in their meticulously engineered domes, more delicious than nature could ever make them. Simply more than God could ever make them.
In contrast though, his native Lucban holds the festival every year in anticipation of San Isidro’s annual miracle of giving real food to a chosen house. Each year seems like a contest, of some sort, whose house will be favored according to his most excellent and well-decorated house façade. And each year, people are crazed to get some real food –to hold them, to smell them, and taste them once again. It was no surprise that Marty’s visiting family, having not tasted real food before, was eager to partake. But Marty was torn between believing this miracle of real food granted each year by a patron and the miraculous food his company produced.
He remembers thinking, It can’t be a miracle, because we’ve already INVENTED the miracle
Our book club is currently discussing Ubik by PKD this month, and among the subjects of the book is synthetic food. That is why this short story strongly caught my interest. It is very rare that writers predict the prospect of food, generally in terms of consumerism.
It is a scary prediction indeed, considering synthetic food as a better alternative from God’s given produce. Where and how will this idea begin? And why will people concede? I do think that this story is a wakeup call for everyone. A call for contemplation on the effects of losing our farm lands and local farmers to industrialization. A call to rethink our choices when picking up our groceries –a choice between instant or the real thing.
Rating: 4/5 stars
Milagroso was featured last August 12 at Tor.com.
Other short stories by Isabel Yap: