Jack Sagrado’s The Pink Morgue

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Its fancy packaging makes it stand out from the pile of titles in the local literary section. Dubbed as “the Philippines’ first-ever collection of homoerotic mystery and suspense short stories,” the Pink Morgue offers the promise of supernatural, bizzare, creepy Filipino gay writing. Well, please forget the blurb. This book is as campy and as hilariously cliche as it can get.

Let’s have a rundown. In “Old Sapa,” a city guy goes back to the province and meets with his childhood sweetheart. In old horror movie fashion, he bumps into him during a cold, rainy night, engages in hot sex, and wakes up alone the morning after. Of course, someone tells him eventually that the sweetheart has been dead for a year.

In “The Pageant,” a gay couple tries to solve the mystery behind the murder of a gay beauty contestant in Sherlock Holmes-Dr. Watson narrative style. It’s so funny it feels like a journal homework for a basic creative writing class.

“Club Amontillado” is a tacky rehash of “The Cask of Amontillado” where matinee idol Paolo (Piolo Pascual?) Montressor kills blackmailing showbiz reporter (Cristy) Fortunato Fermin.

“The Pink Morgue,” the longest in the collection, follows gay souls stuck and wandering in, well, a rural morgue. The bunch of ghosts tries to make readers laugh through their supposedly witty banters, with the plot focusing on how they persuade a new young joiner who has just committed suicide to return to his body and continue life.

“Fire Signs,” the cheesy offering of the anthology, is a tale on magical couple rings that save lovers from death. “Coming Home,” representing widow-type melodrama, follows a man in his tiring yet fruitful search for the body of a lover who drowned in the sea. ”In The Beginning,” is a prequel that shares how the Sherlock-Watson duo in “The Pageant” started. And lastly, “White Light” recounts a man’s love story as he tries to come to terms with his death. Oh yes, that’s the thing at the end of the tunnel.

Does the author, who calls himself a “premier” writer in the country, intend to make us laugh with all his overused plots and literary pretensions? Maybe yes. Or maybe not. But either way, The Pink Morgue is a light read that could amuse you for a few hours. That is, if you could burn 499 bucks with no regret.

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