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  • Andrea Pasion-Flores

Six Questions for Charlson Ong

Updated: Jul 15, 2021

Charlson Ong talks about his new novel White Lady, Black Chris

t. Looking at mass gatherings, he questions class divisions within Philippine society. (Image by Javier P. Flores)

1. What is the inspiration for White Lady, Black Christ?

The stampede in 2006 of people massing for a show business event disturbed me a lot. It was such a needless loss of life, where 73 people were killed and 400 were injured. Yet, I suspected that after a brief period of blame mongering the whole bloody, blundering business would quickly fade from public memory, the victims forgotten, maybe deemed complicit in their own misfortune. Perhaps a novel that kicks off with such a scene might serve as a remembering of sorts.

2. In this novel, you juxtapose a stampede in the beginning with events like EDSA 3 and the massive crowd of devotees of the Black Nazarene. The image of the crowd is very strong in the novel. Why?

Thinking about the tragedy one realizes how mass gatherings are so much a part of our public lives from religious to political to entertainment events. ‘People power’ has shaped much of our present day affairs conflating religious and political discourses. Yet, perhaps, the most iconic mass gathering, at least in Metro Manila and Luzon, is arguably the annual, Traslacion of the Black Nazarene that draws almost a million devotees. Not even the ongoing global pandemic could totally shut down the event in January, 2021. The traslacion says tons about Filipino religiosity and concept of masculinity and for all the countless miracles attributed to the icon