LITERATURE professor Augusto Aguila ventures into dark territory in his latest short
story collection that tackles sexual transgressions and academic scandals.
Carnival of Hate: Stories (UST Publishing House, 2016) consists of eight short stories
that deal with topics “not usually seen in Philippine fiction,” as Ralph Galan, assistant
director of the Center for Creative Writing and Literary Studies (CCWLS), points out in
Perhaps representative of the collection is “The Whole New Nameless Thing,” about
closet-gay Keith who has had a one-night stand with Nina and in the aftermath, has a
conversation with an owl-shaped clock on the wall, Mr. Owl, and a pink rectangle on the
curtains, Ms. Rectangle.
The two inanimate objects, and the three’s deepening exchange, both serve as
metaphor for Keith’s guilty conscience and the naked truth of this sexuality.
The collection’s title story, “Carnival of Hate,” is a re-imagination of “Inferno,” the first
part of the classic Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri. Here, “Dante” that would travel
Hell is instead Dickson, a gluttonous vice-president of a company who has recently died
from bangungot. A Virgil resembling the Australian actor Eric Bana ushers him into the
What mostly serve as impetus of the narrative are not heavy descriptions of Hell but
rather the titillating dialogue between Dickson and Virgil.
“F A B” deals with the life of James Valderama, an honor student whose family has
joined the nouveau riche through the efforts of his father, a celebrity lawyer.
The story revolves around James’s membership in Valkyrie, a fraternity in his university,
as he has been recruited by its mysterious leader named Tyler.
Because of their high living, Valkyrie members indulge in sex and drugs, and “F A B,” as
the title implies, is a social critique of the lifestyle of the fab and the nefarious.
“The Shop” involves a probinsiyana who seeks greener pastures in Manila. Lina, a 19-
year-old girl from Mantoc, finds employment in a shop that sells sex toys named Private
Heaven (“PH”) in Malate.
Although Lina, dubbed “Zoe the school girl,” initially has a fine run at PH, she soon
becomes bound to her tragic fate because she works in a place of transgression and
Aguila exposes conflicts among members of the academe in two different stories. “The
Contest” tracks the unraveling of professional relationships between teachers following
an oversight in a literary contest, resulting in bitter division and disarray.
In “Smokescreen,” Aguila tells the story of a flamboyant faculty member named Richard
Teodoro “Ricketts” Revelacion who receives the ire of his colleagues for his “sharp
tongue and street humor” and for commanding his colleagues to do things for him.
Tragedy as fact of human life is framed in “A Condition of Worship,” as the protagonist
named Jerry longs for the affections of the much younger Justin. His expectations are
raised following a visit from a voluptuous saint named Saint Voodah who prophesizes
that a sign will appear in the volleyball game where Justin is a player.
Jerry is soon distraught when the sign from Saint Voodah ultimately works against his
A similar situation occurs in “The Prankster” as teenager Toby is ever eager to play
pranks on the elderly by announcing that he is “The Son of Satan.” However, he must
face the consequences of his own actions as a shadowy figure enters his life.
Carnival of Hate has been lauded by New York-based writer Tim Tomlinson who
compares Aguila’s stories to celebrated works such as Lino Brocka’s film “Maynila sa
Kuko ng Liwanag (Manila in the Claws of Light), Donna Tartt’s novel “The Secret
History” and Thomas Mann’s novella “Death in Venice.”
Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo, CCWLS director, describes Aguila as a writer who is “able to
face the monster without flinching […] determined to stare it down,” and his collection is
a “powerful fiction” that exists in the “dusty corners of the world.”