November 11, 2010

Some writers are as harsh on their bodies as they are harsh on their critics and enemies. If not researching on their material, they sit all day or all night working on a manuscript as if it they are monks on an altar. Some even forgo bath for days just to finish the work. But I would hardly qualify as the hardnosed type. I would work on something slowly but deliberately. Research, then turn-around-time, then research again. When I was working on my book, I had to make sure everything was in place. It took a lot of time to finish, lots of energy spent.

Outside of this “turn-around-time,” the writer’s life could also be stressful. You have to earn a living, or if you are a student, you have to study. And in a country like the Philippines, most people think that poets and writers are weird. Just as you have to contend with eccentric fellow writers, you have to deal with non-writers or worse, non-readers. Practically, nobody understands you. And this could take a toll on your stress-level.

Massage therapy methinks, has become more writerly. I heard from a fellow Bikol writer that a certain spa here in Naga is frequented by named authors. Last year, after we sat as panelists for a writers’ workshop, we proceeded to such a place. We enjoyed the sauna and the touch therapy by the massage practitioners. I thought to myself, a therapist is in a way also performing poetry or art. It’s a supernatural and cosmic experience to interact through touch in a manner that would transcend to the soul—soothing it. Touch becomes language, and to be more awkwardly graphic about it, touch becomes tongue and the body, the ether.

And just as poetry involves poetics, touch therapy involves culture. Name a place and culture, and chances are they have their own version. The Bicol region here in the Philippines is popular for its parahilot in Magarao, Camarines Sur. The place is teeming with sprain experts and their knowledge is transferred from generation to generation like folk wisdom or oral lore. I came to know of a man named Ligid and he was a master. The first time I visited him was when I was in my early teens, after a karate spar mate gave me a good back kick. I also gave him a roundhouse kick and we both fell down. It was a simultaneous strike but I was in a disadvantaged position so I got hurt. Ligid held my injured side and did some rolfing and other handworks for a few minutes, all the while telling me almost everything that comes into his head, from birds to the latest news. Then he let go of me and said: “Habo ko na kayan.” (I don’t want that anymore). Afterwards, I felt better and a few days after, the pain was gone.

Of course the Magarao sprain experts are more intense than your usual shiatsu practitioner. The former deals with real pain, while the latter with stress-induced muscle spasms. Although one is not barred from availing of the services of the former for relaxation purposes. But you need not take a bath after the treatment, or else its efficacy would be compromised.

Therapist or not, it pays to have a little massage trick in one’s sleeves. It could get useful when a female writer-friend would get so stressed after a writers’ workshop or after working on a manuscript. And you just happen to be near.