WRITING about common events seems hardly exciting to most as it reflects the trivial and the mundane, but to Cebuano fictionist and essayist Erma Cuizon, such things can be transformed into new experiences.

In her second book of essays, Vital Flow (UST Publishing House, 2001), Cuizon explores a wide variety of topics and ordinary things that people fail to notice. Each of her essays begins with a personal experience or an observation which later propels to bigger themes like the socio-political events in the country and women’s various images in a patriarchal society.

Such is the case with her friend’s car trouble incident, where a small boy in their town expresses shock when he discovers that women, too, can drive. Using this experience as a springboard, Cuizon voices out the prejudice against women. Connected with this theme is her essay, “Prevailing images,” where women are stereotyped as mother, wife and temptress. On the other hand, “Sweet Patience” and “A Fighter of a Kind” exalts women whose patience never wavered in fighting for what they believe in. Cuizon also says that women become brave when they are being pushed around, such as in the case of former president Cory Aquino.

In “Writing as female,” Cuizon muses on people’s need to know whether a piece of writing is written by male or female as though there are specific and different gender-sensitive languages used. She expands the idea that women’s writings are viewed as insignificant since they write about homely things, in contrast to the male writers who talk about technology, society, and war.

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But not all of her essays dwell on inequality. “Plugged In” muses on how technology disconnects people instead of connecting them. People, as she observes, use the Internet and cell phone to talk to others rather than to connect with them personally.

She also reflects on desire to escape the pains of mortality. In “The World Apart,” she narrates the news she reads of a girl who climbed a radio transmitter structure in San Roque, Cebu, reminding her of another girl she saw standing on the road in the middle of the rain, spreading her arms as if to fly. She wonders, “what deep-seated pain one must have in life if one were willing to turn into a bird?”

Cuizon’s sensitivity in observing common experiences and small things such as driving or writing makes her see the profound truths about life. With her simple language and “gentle reflections,” she is able to see something extraordinary and capture the essence of life without being caught between indigestible sentences.

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