Friday, November 23, 2012
The Yellow Bar is based on a true story
Here's the true part:
Felipe's family had the biggest house in Culi-Culi due to the successful notions and home goods store that they had. During the World War Two occupation, the Reynaldo's were kicked out of their home and forced to become servants in their own house for the Japanese pilots. As the war years went on, these pilots would become kamakazi. Felipe (Pepot) was just a child at the time. He told me how the pilots lived, celebrated, and ultimately went to their deaths.
After the horrific Battle of Manila and the return of the Americans, a relative began selling homemade booze (lombanog) to the American GIs and the Yellow Bar was born. The bar ended up being the most popular bar for visiting servicemen in Manila for over 30 years. (The stories he told me about the Americans at the Yellow Bar after the war could make up of book of its own, and may be my sequal one day.) By the time I met and married my wife, Leonor, in the 1980s, the Yellow Bar was long closed and had been converted into the local wet market, but it's art deco entrance still remained– loose chickens, cats and dogs dodged in and out its door. It was intriguing. It deserved a story.
I decided to approach the novel though 10 year old Pepot's eyes- a simple story of how a family survives World War Two. Although it is set in 1940s Philippines, I didn't want it to be an exotic travelog about the wonders of that island nation. (Let a future James Michener write that.) No, it needed to be easy to relate to. Therefore you will find very few Tagalog words and references to quaint social customs, such as balut. The Reynaldo's story could have happened anywhere, to any family.