CONTRIBUTOR: Lakshmi Isabelle Gulle
The book Bagay Tayo by Jerry B. Gracio is a collection of mini-essays that are brought together to create a memoir—and a very sincere, truthful, and uncommon love story.
For five years, Gracio has been waiting to be reunited with his lover, Raymond Reña. They are literally separated by stone walls and iron bars—because Raymond, nicknamed “Pitbull”, is in jail because of drug-related charges.
Interestingly, it was Jerry who had Pitbull arrested and jailed. As Jerry explains, Pitbull’s fate would have been worse otherwise: a future of more crime, violence, and maybe death.
Pitbull agreed, and so both of them have been waiting patiently for the day he is released and they are reunited.
In a way, Pitbull is, quite literally, a prisoner of love. And so is Jerry.
[Pitbull has not been convicted of any crime. It’s just that, in the Philippines, court cases can really drag on so long.]
Jerry is the head writer of teleseryes for ABS-CBN and a 3-time Palanca awardee.
Jerry and Pitbull have been together as lovers for 13 years. For the latter five of those years, because of Pitbull’s imprisonment, they have had to continue their relationship long distance. They only see each other on days when Jerry is able to visit Pitbull in jail — as long as his (Jerry’s) busy work schedule allows it.
In the book, Jerry tells of the challenges and the many times he and Pitbull fought and almost separated.
In the first chapter, Gracio writes that theirs is not an “ideal” relationship, but it is never easy to love. Even if the one you love is a man, woman, or even a dog.
Bagay Tayo tells the story of how they met, how Reña got the nickname “Pitbull,” and everything else that happened after.
Gracio said he didn’t believe in love at first sight until he saw Pitbull holding an unlit cigarette outside a run-down theater. They went to a videoke bar and Pitbull told his story of how he ran away from his home in Nueva Ecija and was just wandering the streets of Manila. He planned to spend the night at the theater (like he has for several nights already) because he had nowhere else to go and no place to sleep. Jerry was moved by the story and told Pitbull he could spend the night at his house.
Sometimes Pitbull asks Gracio if he fell in love with him at first sight, to which Gracio replies, “Na-in love ako sa k’wento mo, hindi sa’yo.” (“I fell in love with your story, not with you.”) But as Gracio says in the book, that wasn’t true. It’s only part of the truth. Stories lure us in, until we discover everything about them. And we find ourselves loving not just the story, but the storyteller who will continue to share with us stories about their life.
Gracio shares the story of how Pitbull made coffee for him day and night. Gracio preferred brewed coffee, but Pitbull didn’t like the complexity of making it and found it easier to just boil water and add the instant coffee mix. Pitbull was strong, but not so much his coffee. The first time he made one for Gracio, he added cream and a lot of sugar. Gracio was polite and said he liked it, even if the cream was almost making him gag. So Pitbull constantly made coffee like that, and Jerry had to endure drinking coffee that tasted like syrup. Until finally he couldn’t take it anymore and told Pitbull that cream makes him want to throw up and he doesn’t like so much sugar.
Gracio got used to instant coffee because of Pitbull, and now his coffee is still sweet even though it’s not Pitbull who makes them anymore. But Gracio says coffee seems bland now, and somehow more bitter and acrid. Coffee tastes different when Pitbull makes it, even better than Gracio’s favorite brands of brewed coffee.
He still kept drinking sweet coffee even after Pitbull went to prison. After he got involved with drugs and Gracio had to send him to jail for his own good.
But it just wasn’t the same; coffee tastes different when he’s not with Pitbull.
“Bumiyahe ako ng halos walong oras para madalaw siya at makita sa loob lang ng dalawang oras. Pero hindi nasasayang ang mga oras na nasasayang kapag nagmamahal.”
(“I travelled almost eight hours to visit and see him for only two hours. But wasted time is not wasted when you love someone.”)
No matter your perspective on relationships, heterosexual or otherwise, it’s remarkable how Jerry and Pitbull are now on their 13th year together despite everything they’ve been through. Gracio still visits Pitbull in prison regularly and they write letters to each other, both waiting for Pitbull to finish serving his sentence and finally be released.
Jerry Gracio writes his words so smoothly that you can forget you’re even reading and just become absorbed in the story. The book is written in such a way that it’s like you’re just having a conversation with the author. There is no hint of hesitation; you can feel the author’s heart and soul on the pages. It’s a clear and casual way of storytelling that involves amusing lines that are distinct to Filipino humor.
This book reminds us how beautiful love is. Not just romantic love, but also the love of friends and family.
“…kung hindi tayo maniniwala sa kapasidad ng pag-ibig na baguhin ang buhay ng tao, saan tayo maniniwala? Para ano pa at umiibig tayo?”
(…if we don’t believe in the capacity of love to change a person’s life, what do we believe in? Why do we even love?”)
UPDATE: According to Jerry, the judge handling Pitbull’s case has approved a plea bargain. Once Pitbull passes a final evaluation, he’ll be released — hopefully in a month’s time. So let’s cheer them on! Let love win!