Earlier this week, the “maybe” on the invitation to meet up with the creator of Xerex got me thinking, “This might be the last thing I do.” From my girlfriend’s house I went to Philcoa and soon I was in Bookay-Ukay, walking around this well-lighted bookstore with a handful of other people.
The prospect of meeting the creator of Xerex was larger than life, and looking at his girth made me smile a little. The crowd outside the bookstore was already drinking beer (Red Horse, tubig ng Tunay na Lalake) and eating buko pie. The night was warm, and Justin Bieber was playinon the radio inside the store. The man who introduced himself as Xerex is a fairly-known figure. Later generations might know him as a figure of speech. When he produced a sheaf of bond paper and sat on the couch in front of the cashier, the people in attendance entered the store and sat or stood in front of the master, like grandchildren expecting Lolo to tell a story. Perhaps it was, and perhaps we were.
He started by giving us a background of Abante, the work of Virgilio Almario and other Pinoy writers who were undoubtedly TNLs (despite not using Belo Men products) and Palanca Award winners. These people created Abante in response to the times. The year was 1988—just two years after the EDSA Revolution, and the establishment of such a tabloid was a revolution of sorts. After living for so long under the New Society, people were testing boundaries, pushing the limits. They did so without fear of being arrested for their expressed thoughts.
By then, business was failing, and soon another company bought Abante. It began to look more like a tabloid. Yellow ribbons soon gave way to yellow journalism. Sensational international stories were borrowed from American tabloids like Sun. Women wearing only stars graced the covers and the centerfold. A sex column was thought up.
There was no one person responsible for Xerex Xaviera. No one person wrote it. There was always at least three people, he said. Including the security guard. But then, Xerex wasn’t only about sex stories. It was also for sharing stories. At the height of its popularity, the writers were merely choosing which story to publish, and transcribe, censor and modify the language into something to make a Palanca winner proud (sandata, anyone?).
Soon trouble was. Feminists, moralists, and churchmen condemned the tabloid for its sexual content. Apparently, it was responsible for crimes, such as rape, incest, and prostitution. The speaker clearly emphasized that rape, incest, and prostitution were older than Abante. He was deeply grieved that the women’s party Gabriela lobbied against Xerex, for he, himself, is an activist of sorts.
For that, he illustrated by telling us the reader story that he never approved for publication. It was a story of a young woman and her father. (Now, one can read about sex stories using drugs, sex stories featuring rape, sex videos, and pain. Xerex was so vanilla.)
Before it was getting too late he allowed us to ask questions. I am afraid that some details I related previously were mere answers to questions asked of him. The connection just crystallized in my head. He also gave us a heads up on Xerex Xaviera Illustrated. Hindi yata bagay na wakasan (wakasan, as in one story per episode) ang Xerex Illustrated.
Good thing I got this cheap book from Bookay-Ukay:
Here’s his dedication:
“Sex is the sweetest expression of the self.”
Good thing I went here. The next day I lost a job.