Foreword: The Wonder of my Father
by Rosanna L. Henares Angeles, May 1, 2003
I read a passage in the novel “The Hours” by Michael Cunningham that describes perfectly what my father Hilarion M. Henares Jr., a columnist and writer, means to a lot of people. In his more lyrical, satirical and whimsical moments when he writes of people around him, his family and friends, even his enemies, assume an almost mythical existence. In his fictional world, Jose Concepcion becomes the Immaculate Concepcion, self-appointed representative of God, who sets up a flour mill to give us our daily bread, and who demurs that that he and twin brother Raul have only 2/3 of the power of the Holy Trinity, saying, “It would have been different if we were born triplets instead of twins.”
In this world, Frank Chavez becomes Sir Galahad defending his Queen Cory. Opus Dei becomes Opus Diaboli and the Holy Mafia. Cesar Buenaventura becomes Our Man Squint and The Villanous Convexity of a Face. And Elena Lim becomes a combination of Shirley Temple and Mae West (“When I am good, I am very good; when I’m bad, I’m even better”). And Father Kinik Bernas is the august head of the “Council of Trent.” His column becomes a morality play where nationalists and libertarians are the heroes, and fascists and pro-American assholes are the villains. I now talk of the wonder of my father.
The passage in the novel “The Hours” speaks of Clarissa’s judgment of her lover Richard, and is quoted and paraphrased here to confront my father, Larry Henares, with the most fascinating facet of his nature as a writer and essayist.
“Larry will not ask the name of the movie star; he actually does not care. Larry, alone among his contemporaries, has no essential interest in famous people. Larry Henares genuinely does not recognize such distinctions. It is, we surmise, some combination of monumental ego and a kind of savantism.
“Larry cannot imagine a life more interesting or worthwhile than those being lived by his acquaintances and himself. And for that reason, one often feels exalted, expanded, in his presence. He is not one of those egotists who miniaturize others. He is the opposite kind of egotist, driven by grandiosity rather than envy. In his more lyrical moments, he insists on a version of you that is funnier, stranger, more eccentric and more profound than you suspect yourself to be. In his more whimsical moments, he makes you capable of doing more good and more harm in the world than you’ve ever imagined.
“It is all but impossible not to believe, at least in his presence and for a while after you’ve left him, that he alone sees through your image to your true essence. He alone seems to weigh your true qualities, and appreciates you more fully than anyone else ever has. The qualities he attributes to you are not all necessarily flattering. A certain clumsy, childish rudeness is part of his style. Yet you marvel how essentially true, albeit exaggerated, is his characterization of you.
“It is only after knowing him for some time that you begin to realize you are, to him, an essentially fictional character — one that he has invested with nearly limitless capacities for tragedy and comedy, not necessarily because that is your true nature, but because he, Larry, needs to live in a world peopled by extreme and commanding figures.
“Some people may have ended their relations with him rather than continue as figures in the epic poem he is always composing inside his head – basically the story of his life and passions. But others (his family, friends and enemies among them) enjoy the sense of hyperbole he brings to their lives. They have come even to depend on it, the way they depend on coffee to wake them up in the mornings and a drink or two to send them off at night.”
No doubt, as these articles and broadcast commentaries will prove to its listeners, Larry Henares the writer is an upper rather than downer, capable of ushering you to the exciting world of his making “that is funnier, more strange, more eccentric and more profound than you suspect it to be.”
And so he refers to Secretary Ramon Diaz as Raymond THE ASS: US Ambassador Nicholas Platt as Hoy Kulas Platypus; Opus Dei guru Bernardo Villegas as Alopecic Misogamic Gynander; Danding Cojuangco as Crocodile Dundeeng; President Ramos as Igno Ramos; Prime Minister Virata as The Sunshine Boy; Kokoy Romualdez as The Midnight Cowboy; Small Dick Romulo; Needle Dick Gordon; “His Immensity” Louie Beltran; and Maximo Soliven as Mad Max, Blue Max, Beta Max – and so on into the long and hilarious cast with which he peoples his world.