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Likhaan 3

The Journal of Contemporary Philippine Literature

The University of the Philippines Press Diliman, Quezon City

LIKHAAN 3 The Journal of Contemporary Philippine Literature ©2009 by UP Institute of Creative Writing All rights reserved. No copies can be made in part or in whole without prior written permission from the author and the publisher. ISSN: 1908-8795

Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo Editor-in-Chief Rolando B. T olen tino Tolen olentino Charlson Ong Associate Editors Ruth Jordana L. Pison Editorial Assistant Zenaida N. Ebalan Book Designer ADVISERS Gémino H. Abad Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio Bienvenido L. Lumbera FELLOWS Virgilio S. Almario Ma. Josephine Barrios-Leblanc (on leave) Jose Y. Dalisay Jr. Ricardo M. de Ungria Jose Neil C. Garcia Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo Victor Emmanuel Carmelo D. Nadera Jr. Charlson Ong Pedro Cruz Reyes Lilia Quindoza Santiago (on leave) Rolando B. Tolentino ASSO C I ATE S ASSOC TES Romulo P. Baquiran Jr. Conchitina Cruz Mario I. Miclat




Introduction by Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo

FICTION Águeda by Bambi L. Harper


MediaEx Presents: “Savages” by Dustin Edward D. Celestino


UdT t To et oile ni Zosimo Quibilan Jr.


Berde ni Chuckberry Pascual


Kabagyan ni Rommel Rodriguez

77 77 78 79 80 81 83 83 84 85 86

POETRY On the Necessity of Sadness & Other Poems by Mikael de Lara Co As Adam On the Necessity of Sadness On the Translucency of Yearning Bulan Cure oT ang o&O Two t to Tang ango Ot Po oems ther P by Carlomar Arcangel Daoana Prayer Diva Fashionista’s Soliloquy of a Landscape Garment

88 88 89 89 90 91 93 93 94 96 97 99 99 100 101 102 104 104 106 106 107 109 109 111 112

114 114 116 119 121



Ruins and Reconstructions: Poems by Joel M. Toledo Oppositions Stone-turning Harvest Bird Watching Construction Where the Flowers Have Gone & Other Poems by Edgar B. Maranan Where the Flowers Have Gone New Year’s Eve Holy wood Lovers The Life and Times of a Seditious Poet Pagtulay sa Alambre ni Joi Barrios I. Pagtulay sa Alambre II. Sa Akademya III. Flores del Agua IV. Ang Babae sa Pagdaralita V. Timpla VI. Siyento Beynte-singko Inc estina a t Iba pang T ula ce at Tu ni Frank Cimatu Pagliliyab Si Nita Balibalita Batang Recto Sandaang Hakbang Papuntang Malakanyang Incestina Dalawang Sestina para sa mga Notbuk: Ang Luntiang Notbuk na Sinam kay Bogart Cantos Crónicas ni Kristian Cordero Babilonya Babel Parabula ng mga Barang Parabula ng Uwak


CREATIVE NONFICTION Agaw-buhay ni Eugene Y. Evasco


Ang Galak at Lumbay ng Makata ni Jun Cruz Reyes


Report from the Abyss: Episodes from a Coming of Age in the Philippine Left by Karl R. de Mesa


Talk ingt uD og on a W edding Af ter no on ki to Fu Do We Aft rno noon oaF by Jose Claudio B. Guerrero


CRITICISM he P al D ynamic sB etwe ent he “Na xclusion: T Ex Th Po ca Dy namics Be twee the “Nat Versus E olitic tional” and the “International” in Contemporary Philippine Literary History (1946-2006) by Bienvenido L. Lumbera


T he W ing ed Minot xper imen tation in t he Wi ge Minota r: te Ex rimen iment the aur : (Not es On) E y of Cir iloF .B autist a ry ri F. Ba ta Poetr by Ricardo M. de Ungria


H yper w riting: Isang W hr ough rw Wa th rough alkt ni Vladimeir B. Gonzales


Ang Pagdaloy sa Kasaysayan at Kasaysayan ng Pagdaloy ng Panitikang Lesbiana ng Pilipinas ni Sharon Anne Briones Pangilinan


INTERVIEW Fragments from a Literary Friendship by Rica Bolipata Santos


Notes on Editors and Contributors

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Introduction By Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo


ore than a decade ago, the Nobel Laureate Czeslaw Milosz contemplated what he called “the troubles in the present phase of our civilization,” and the resulting sense of deprivation afflicting contemporary man. Theology, science and philosophy are no longer effective, he said. “They are at best able to confirm that our affliction is not invented … The world deprived of clear-cut outlines, of the up and the down, of good and evil, succumbs to a peculiar nihilization, that is, it loses its colors, so that grayness covers not only things of this earth and of space, but also the very flow of time, its minutes, days, and years.” This led him to turn, once again, to poetry. “By necessity, poetry is … on the side of being against nothingness.” His offering was the lovely volume, A Book of Luminous Things, his personal selection from the works of the world’s best poets. Its purpose, he said, was “to remind readers that for some very good reasons, it may be of importance today.” A similar impulse must lie behind our own efforts to seek solace and salvation— from both the global international crisis, and from a bankrupt national political leadership—in the arts. Our National Artists have shown us the way. BenCab has built—carefully, lovingly, and over many long years—a hilltop museum which offers, not just his own oeuvre, but the art of a people, from the anonymous tribal woodcarvers to the old masters. Virgilio S. Almario—with full support from UP Diliman Chancellor Sergio S. Cao—determinedly mounts annual festivals to revive interest in traditional theatrical forms which, though they might be forgotten in urban centers, remain vital and vibrant in the margins. Edith Tiempo rises from her sickbed to participate in a program that takes each national artist to different parts of the country— starting from his or her own hometown—to introduce them to the common folk. Billy Abueva goes in his wheelchair to be part of the “necrological service” at the Cultural Center of the Philippines to protest a decision that demeans the National Artist Awards themselves. Bienvenido Lumbera abandons classroom and lecture hall to appear on national television and argue the same cause. In Likhaan: the UP Institute of Creative Writing, the late National Artists Francisco Arcellana and NVM Gonzalez, and Lumbera and Almario today, have worked tirelessly, alongside fellow writers, to ensure the steady development of a

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national literature, by providing invaluable support for successive generations of writers, through a myriad projects, among which are the annual National Writers’ Workshop, the national literature portal (, and numerous publications. The latest of these is this journal, of which this is the third issue. Introducing the new journal in 2007, issue editor and present ICW director Jose Dalisay Jr. wrote of “showcasing the best of new and unpublished Philippine writing in two languages, English and Filipino.” The “best” literature—the best art—addresses itself to humanity’s vital concerns and aspirations, offers itself as illumination. And the more urgent the pressures, the more beleaguered the dreams, the greater the need for art truly luminous. Dalisay mentioned another imperative: what we value is writing “with some vital connection to Filipino life and Filipino concerns.” These guided our selection of the handful of stories, poems and essays to be included in Likhaan 3. It needs to be said that the quality of the entries received seems to grow—357 this year (158 in Filipino and 199 in English)—and to improve with each year. But budgetary constraints and page limitations forced us to turn down some pieces which our referees had deemed worthy of inclusion. Where other things were equal, we generally chose for the new. Implicit in the responsibility of a leadership role is the ability to recognize the bold and the innovative, even as it values the traditional and the exquisitely polished. Thus, this year’s fiction collection includes on the one hand, a chapter from Bambi Harper’s forthcoming historical novel, “Águeda,” and on the other, “U d Toilet” and “Media Presents: ‘Savages’,” irreverent metafictions by Zosimo Quibilan and Dustin Celestino (at 25, the youngest of the authors); both Rommel B. Rodriguez’s straightforward realist narrative, “Kabagyan,” and Chuckberry Pascual’s comic, marvelous realist “Berde.” Former ICW director Gémino H. Abad, given a preview of the poems, observed that Edgar Maranan, Mikael de Lara Co, Joel Toledo, and Carlomar Arcangel Daoana are among the finest poets writing today in English … “naming everything that passes, leaving nothing to chance … stones turning in the mind” (Toledo), for what is written and composed is wrought from language, and the naming seeks “the true feeling and the fruited silence, (Co). Everything “the world our made-over home,” (Daoana), our country and her history, the lot of the poor and oppressed, Nature, passion. “It may well be,” Abad added, that, as Howard Nemerov says, the poet is ‘a metaphysician in the dark,’ and feeling is wider and deeper than thought, and what is sought is that most subtle and mysterious fruit from the roil and toil of daily living called grace.” Some of our referees, on the other hand, felt that it is the poetry in Filipino that best represents the “new voice in Filipino writing.” Rolando B. Tolentino describes



Joi Barrios’ poetry as “mapanlaro pero matalas na pagninilay hinggil sa mga politika na isyu,” poetry meant not just to be read but performed in collective action. He calls Frank Cimatu’s poems, amusing yet arresting in their exploration of poetry as high parody, “napapagsanib ng koleksyon ang matulain na pamamaraan at malalimang pananaw sa pagtula, lipunan at kasaysayan na pawang kontemporaryo ang laman ng tula at kiling na pananaw.” And he says that Kristian Cordero’s rewriting of old Bikol stories are a postmodernist intervention, through modernist free verse, a good lesson in how to interrogate tradition, “kung bakit at paano tumula mula sa laylayan at rehiyon.” But perhaps the most interesting of the contributions are the creative nonfiction pieces. Jose Claudio B. Guerrero’s “Talking to a Fu Dog on a Wedding Afternoon” combines a sad little tale of alienation and exclusion with erudite reflections on Philippine church architecture. Karl R. de Mesa, one of the earliest Philippine writers of gothic punk, traces his obsession with the genre to a childhood that strikes him now as surreal, in the remarkably candid “Report from the Abyss: Episodes from a Coming of Age in the Philippine Left.” Eugene Evasco’s narrative of confrontation with death—both his and his father’s—is dark comedy, but it is also an angry tirade against the state of Philippine health service. And Jun Cruz Reyes’s “Ang Galak at Lumbay ng Makata,” a chapter from his forthcoming literary biography of Amado V. Hernandez, is full of digressions and ruminations about, among other things, early history, anthropology (fiestas and burial practices), and gossip about modern writers, both living and dead. This year, an unprecedented number of critical essays have been included. Lumbera’s “Versus Exclusion” is an important restatement of a dilemma faced by Filipino writers for more than a century now, a dilemma made sharper by globalization. Ricardo de Ungria’s elegantly precise, highly technical critique of Cirilo Bautista’s poetry is an interesting contrast to Vlad Gonzales’s spirited presentation of the significance of “hyperwriting” and Sharon Anne Briones Pangilinan’s polemical advocacy for the inclusion of lesbian literature in Philippine literary studies. Finally, there is the interview with Gilda Cordero Fernando by prizewinning essayist, Rica Bolipata-Santos, a worthy successor to Susan Lara’s interview of Edith Tiempo in Likhaan 2, combining as it does a close friendship with the subject and a deep appreciation and understanding of her contribution to the nation’s culture. As fine a harvest as we had hoped for when the project was first conceived each one a brave attempt to create order and beauty from tumult and uncertainty.

September 2008

Likhaan ix

Bambi L. Harper



was twelve by the time I left the Hospicio de San Jose on the Isla de Convalecencia in the Pasig River, having been taught whatever the nuns deemed necessary to be a good Christian woman and ready to help out in the house at least. Mother Marta, the Superior, called me to her office, announcing that I had learned everything the good nuns had to offer. Apparently, she had submitted an assessment to Señor Villaroel, my patron, in her spidery elegant handwriting with the conclusion that I had a head for figures if I put my mind to it. Reading this the master reasoned that my education could continue just as well under his supervision. Possessing the necessary books and having himself been educated in Oxford, he must have felt better equipped to teach me English, until such time as I was old enough to work in an office. I would be trained further to help ’Nyora Dolores, his sister, with household accounts and assist in keeping track of income derived from their various properties. My best friend, Cobang, was also going home to La Pampanga, a province half a day by casco from the landing at the Bridge of Ayala. At fourteen, she was considered old enough to receive male callers with honorable intentions. It seemed

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that her stepmother had even picked a potential husband for her, a young man who had studied at the Ateneo Municipio and intended to be a lawyer. The night before Cobang had not been able to sleep. She’d dreamed that she had walked through a forest to get home and it had begun to drizzle. For an instant, she was happy thinking she would see her Mama again. But when she arrived the servants stood silent around a closed coffin and the knowledge that her Mama was dead came back like the after taste of a bitter purgative. She awoke with a headache convinced that her dream was an ominous augury. I too slept little and poorly, listening to Cobang turning and tossing. “Promise, promise, you’ll never forget.” Cobang’s eyes brimmed over with unshed tears and her tender mouth trembled as she tried to hold back her fears. In the dark we held hands trying to reassure each other until the sky glowed with the dawn and we heard the stealthy breathing of the walls, the whisper of the nuns’ habits as they made their way to the dark chapel to chant Matins. We embraced and kissed, searching each other’s eyes for some sign of permanence we knew we would not find outside these walls. As for me, I could not imagine what awaited a girl without looks, without family or money. “Make sure that you write to me at the address in Intramuros. We will be friends forever, Cobang. I will never forget you,” I vowed. On that hot March morning with my Lola waiting outside the parlor, I curtseyed in front of each nun, bringing their right hand up to my forehead in the gesture of respect as they made the sign of the cross over me, glad to be out of their control but filled with a sadness I could not fathom. While I had not liked being cooped up behind those walls, it was also these very same walls that protected us from whatever lay beyond.

*** MY NAME IS Agueda. When I was born in the servant’s quarters of the Villaroel’s in Intramuros, I was so small and wrinkled they did not think I would live so ’Nyora Isabel poured water on my forehead and pronounced, “I baptize you Agueda in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” Who she named me after I never found out. It was probably the first female name that came to her mind. Shortly after that my mother, who was not my Lola’s daughter but her son’s wife, packed her clothes in a tampipi and was not seen again. Lola always maintained she died but I never quite believed her. Even if Lola never mentioned her, the fat maid, Rosa, would sometimes reminisce, saying she was not a whit like me, small and darkhaired but had long, light-colored hair. Only my eyes are like hers, large and slanting which was a good thing, she’d add, because otherwise I’d be too plain. Rosa said she lived across the river in a place called San Jose de Trozo where the houses were giring-girings, not grand like the Villaroel’s. 2


“And don’t get it into your head to go there,” Rosa would warn me, “because there are many bad people, tulisanes and bandidos and contrabandistas and the smell is awful.” I promised myself that when I was older I would go and look for her in case she thought I had died or had forgotten her. What did I know? I was only eight the summer before I was sent to the Hospicio. Before I was born the Spanish soldiers took my father away and shot him in Bagong Bayan because he was a Katipunero. He worked as a bodegero with a man who was the head of this secret society and the Guardia Civil found all kinds of daggers and secret writings in his house. When I asked Rosa if he was handsome, she laughed, shaking her head, “No, poor child. Except for your eyes and your white skin, you look like him,” meaning, I guess that he was short and scrawny. “Besides, he was too serious like it cost him to smile and there was no fun to be had in this world. That’s why I never trusted those Katipuneros.” Whatever did my fair-haired mother see in him then? I grew up secure in the old Villaroel mansion in Intramuros, clinging to my Lola’s cotton-stripped saya when I was younger, hiding in its folds, my eyes downcast if anyone spoke to me. Later when I grew bigger and could help with the cleaning I grew unafraid even of the ghosts Rosa assured me lurked in shadowy corners. My Lola told me Intramuros was so old it was full of spirits of those who once lived here and who were lonely. There was the jealous governor who stabbed his wife centuries ago, both of them buried beside the altar of the Recoletos, united in death if not in life. Or the young Mexican priest who strangled his superior and was hung in the courtyard of San Agustin church, cursing God before he died. Right in front of the house a soldier slew a young servant girl who had ran away because she did not return his love. The soldier must have been very ugly or very cruel because how much of a choice does a servant have? When the wind blows and the rain comes pummeling down, the old people say you can hear the voices of despair and loneliness in the wail of the wind. Sometimes at night when all the lights were turned off I’d shut my eyes and listen closely and it seemed I could hear those voices still crying after hundreds of years. Rosa liked to say that there were other kinds of spirits that were never human. Spirits of trees that demanded you bow and ask permission before passing by or cutting their branches otherwise they’d put a curse on you and you’d grow sickly and die. Then there was the kapre that lived among the gnarled and tangled vines of the Nonoc in the backyard. Rosa never went there alone convinced the kapre would drag her up the tree and no one would ever see her again. There were also spirits inside the well who waited for you to lean over to pull you to a watery grave. But the spirits I liked best were the ghosts of those who once walked these streets in

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their fine gowns and powdered wigs, who sailed great ships and battled pirates. Sometimes Rosa would run out of stories and push me away with an impatient shove, “Bata ka, learn how to read. There are many books that will tell you all the stories you want.” The people in the house were the only family I had ever known. There was ’Nyora Dolores who, as the clock in the hallway struck the quarter hour before six, would suddenly appear at the kitchen door, ramrod straight, all in black, heavy gold chain with the large scapular medal of Del Carmen hanging from her neck. No one ever heard her footsteps, silent as those of the ghosts in the house. A heavy curtain of silence would descend as her eyes darted sharply to check that we were not just lazing about and she would pass a finger over surfaces to make sure these had been dusted. Señor’s breakfast tray would quickly be thrust at Rosa by my Lola while Iniang and Nando dashed to the pantry to gather the brooms and dust cloths. ’Nyora Dolores put the fear of God in all of us, except for my Lola who said she really had a soft heart. Behind her came ’Nyora Isabel, who had fair hair curling around her head like a halo, singing “Naci en Binondo de contrabando. Naci mas negra que un carajay. Siendo mi padre un carpintero. Siendo mi madre ’Nyora Kikay.” It was like sunbeams sparkling. ’Nyora Dolores would give her a sharp glance, saying “Isabelita, por Dios. We’re going to mass and you’re singing that dreadful song unfit for children’s ears.” But ’Nyora Isabel would wink at us behind her sister’s back and laughingly put her arm around ’Nyora Dolores, “Vamos, vamos, Lolita. Otherwise we’ll be late.”

’Nyora Isabel liked laces and ribbons on her clothes and always smelled of perfumed water, but even if they weren’t going to mass, she never stayed long in the kitchen. She’d look around vaguely, pat my head, and remind me to water her plants before she’d leave and continue singing or go back to her book. There was a piano in the sala set against a wall with a worn tapestry of fat women holding lyres. Bronze statues stood on marble columns on either side and in the evenings you could hear ’Nyora Isabel playing, not gay tunes that reminded me of sunshine, but the slow, sad melodies of moonlight. Rosa told me ’Nyora Isabel was still waiting for the young Spanish gentleman who promised to marry her but went off to Spain in ’98 and never returned. Once in a while a letter would arrive that put a smile on her face the whole day. So we all hoped he would come back. I often prayed to St. Joseph for her because he is the saint for finding a good husband. St. Anthony is for finding lost things and there’s St. Jude for really desperate situations. I would beg St. Anthony to find my mama for me but he never answered. There were also masses said for the souls in purgatory to shorten their suffering but you could pay the money to the priest even before you died so someone would say mass for you for all eternity. 4


My Lola told me that after the old Señora Angela died and went to heaven after vomiting black blood, her eldest daughter never removed her mourning clothes or the gold medal that had been her mother’s. Sometimes I imagined ’Nyora Dolores in her black dress sleeping on her bed like a corpse inside a coffin, her arms crossed over her flat bosom, chiseled features sharp even in repose. I could not perceive her wearing anything else but black even to sleep. I never knew what the Señor did aside from smoking his water pipe and reading in his room that was full of books in Latin and foreign languages. The room had a funny, sweetish smell mixed with the odor of mildew because the wooden shutters remained closed the whole day. Shelves were stacked on every wall from floor to ceiling with volumes without apparent order, dark, cracking, redolent of leather with titles in gold and gilt-edged pages. There were no newspapers in the house; ’Nyora Dolores said they had no need for the vulgarity of the present and Señor was only interested in history, make-believe stories, and poetry. But Manang Azon, the coachman’s wife, remembered the many parties when Señor worked in the Ayuntamiento. They toiled long hours, dicing ripe fruits for preserves: crunchy guavas, pitted odiferous jackfruits, sensuous mangoes, and piquant santol. These were served as ice cream toppings that Mang Emong churned out of a machine, spending hours turning the wooden handle. Endless varieties of sauces rolled out of the kitchen made of chicken broth, rich drippings, coriander leaves, eggplants, and baby tomatoes depending on the season. In the summer they served cold fish with alioli, the rich scent of olive oil filling the whole house. When the weather cooled, pigs were roasted on a spit, their skin brown and crackling. But that was long ago when he was young and the old Señora was still alive. Then after the government had the three priests shot, Señor stopped working and stayed home and the family closed the doors and windows of the house, stepping out only to walk to mass. This was in ’72, more than thirty years ago. Many friends at that time sympathized with the native clergy and they were sent away because the government thought they were going to start a revolution. It made Señor very sad but the government could not show that he had done anything wrong except that he had been a classmate and friend of one of the martyred priests. A lot of money changed hands so that Señor would not have to return to Europe where he had studied at the university in Madrid. His mother believed everyone there was a Mason who was sure to go to hell. My Lola, on the other hand, never spoke about her past. It was as though she had never known another existence except this house and its inhabitants. And yet she must have been young once and had a husband. ’Nyora Isabel once said that as long as she could remember my Lola was living in the house and taking care of all of them, even the old Señora when she was dying. Lola was a young girl when she came to work for the house, not more than ten years old.

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Manang Azon, who was younger than my Lola, said that one day my Lola’s belly grew bigger and Señora Angela gave her paregoric because she thought Lola’s stomach was full of gas. Lola did not complain of nausea or swelling legs, nor did she tell anyone when, in her appointed time, she gave birth. She bore the pain quietly, going about her chores until she could stand it no longer and went to her room. Manang Azon heard this terrible cry in the middle of the afternoon and opening the door saw a bluish bundle between my Lola’s legs. And that was how my father was born. I don’t know that he ever knew who his own father was. When father was executed my Lola stood among the crowd, holding a cloth to her mouth to smother her moans and looked away when the guns fired. She had watched the soldiers take his body away and toss it into a cart like a discarded rug. My mother, who was pregnant with me, had stayed home. Sometimes close to sunrise Lola would open the little wooden door almost hidden among the mossy stones to wait for Ah Huang, the Chinaman, vending his fish and vegetables. Even as she grumbled about his thievery, I sensed Lola loved her early morning chats with el Chino Huang. He sported a long pigtail reaching almost to his hip and wore long black loose trousers and a white cotton shirt closed with whorled loops. Across his shoulders he carried two baskets hanging from a pole he’d set on the ground and Lola would proceed to lift the flaps on the heads of the fish declaring the gills black and swearing the fish had been dead for at least a week. Huang would get very excited, waving his arms about and saying it wasn’t true and that Lola was only trying to cheat him of his few centavos’ profit. “No, no Huang, it is you who charges too much for garbage. You will poison the Señor and the ‘Nyoritas and then where will you be? As for your vegetables, these are so wilted you must have gotten them for free.” This exchange would go on for quite a while until finally Huang smiled and Lola smiled back each convinced of having made the better deal, as coins changed hands. When I was a baby, according to Lola Ipa, the Americans came and took the place of the Spaniards who had been here for hundreds of years even if not a single Spanish king had ever set foot on the islands that belonged to them. Before that there had been a revolution and the Americans had sat in their great ships on the Bay and watched the Filipinos lay siege to the city. Soon there was no food to eat. People expected the rebels to storm the walls and murder all the white people. But one day they woke up and there was silence; the rebels disappeared and the Americans walked in. Everyone was so exhausted from the rout that they had no energy left for fear despite the rumor of brutality that had preceded the Americans. They are animals, some said; they rape pregnant women and shoot children down like dogs. They bayonet old people and pillage towns, burning entire barrios. However, none of that happened in Intramuros. It was much worse, the master



said. The new rulers seduced the people and took their souls and afterwards the people wanted nothing more than to be like them. From the grilled window of our room in the servants’ quarters I could, standing on tiptoe, see the paved courtyard in the shape of a horseshoe and the stone steps ascending to the kitchen. It was still dark when my Lola made her way up those steep, worn steps every morning to prepare the heavy chocolate the Señor liked to drink. I remember shivering in the cold of the dawn that bit through my thin cotton camisole as I tagged along after her. The courtyard outside our rooms led to an arched doorway where Señor’s three horses were stabled. There used to be three carriages and more horses according to my Lola when Señor was working, but now there was only that one carriage. In the early mornings you could hear the horses neighing and stomping while waiting for Mang Emong to bring their grass. Beyond their area were huge wooden doors with a transom that opened to a narrow cobbled street lit by kerosene lamps at night. Sagging houses of stone and wood like ours were built right onto the street with weeds sometimes growing out of their tiled red roofs. High ivied walls extended along the side of the houses enclosing gardens where only the tops of a chico or a santol tree peeped out. With their closed capiz shutters it was as though they were all hiding secrets that no one remembered. Before I was sent away to the orphanage, aside from my Lola and me in the servants’ quarters, there were Mang Emong, the coachman, his wife Manang Azon and their three children in the room beside us. My very best friend as I was growing up was Nando, Mang Emong’s eldest son, who is three years older than I. There was nothing about me Nando didn’t know since he was there from the beginning. In a third room were the servant girls, Rosa and Iniang, who were Mang Emong’s nieces. Rosa was fat and laughed a lot and liked to make up stories but her sister, Iniang, was thin and wiry with a mouth that drooped. Rosa had long straight black hair down to her knees that she washed once a week with gugo. I would massage the warm oil from a young coconut and ran a comb with wooden teeth through it. Her hair was soft and shiny like silk and she was very proud of it. Iniang said that Rosa took inordinate pride in her hair which was a temptation of the devil and all that primping distracted her from her work, but I didn’t think so. Rosa claimed men like women with long hair and she meant to get herself a husband to improve her lot. My Lola Ipa’s lips and gums were crimson from the bonga she was forever chewing as she spat orange colored saliva from the side of her mouth. It was my job to mince the bonga nut for her and wrap it in the leaf of the buyo with a piece of apog. If I was very, very good she’d let me chew on it too but the taste was bitter and ’Nyora Isabel said it was a filthy habit and no handsome man would ever look at me if I had red gums.

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During the day there was little time for rest. I’d help Lola with her cooking, shelling beans or picking stones from the rice in a bilao. The kitchen was my Lola’s kingdom with a stove made up of a stone platform that had four tunkod with clay pots resting on them. When it was time to cook dried branches of wood were lighted under them. It was always full of ash and had to be cleaned often. Resting on containers of water for protection against ants and cockroaches and strange bugs were two wooden food cabinets in a corner of that kitchen. In the mornings, I would tag behind Rosa and Iniang helping them hung the wash to dry in the azotea that had an aljibe for collecting rainwater. Begonias with reddish furry leaves filled glazed Chinese porcelain pots resting on the stone railings of the azotea where in a corner beside the stairs was a strange bush with shiny leaves in a big brown jar that was supposed to be an orange tree from Hong Kong that had never bloomed or given any fruit. From the kitchen door, I could peep into the dining room at a forlorn massive table that could seat more than a dozen guests but looked melancholy with only the Señor and his sisters eating their simple meals of native vegetables and boiled fish, no longer the rich and fragrant cuisine of the past. The living room beyond had wooden carved arches and dark gleaming floors crowded with heavy furniture full of curlicues that were a chore to clean because the dust got into the little curves. Nando was in charge of keeping the floors shiny with a coconut husk that he’d step on and slide back and forth, back and forth every day while the maids swept after him. It was a shadowy room where the windows were opened only in the early morning when we cleaned, then closed again. Then you noticed the faded burgundy colored drapes with gold tassels that hung over the bedroom doors. The rest of the day weak sunlight filtered through the wooden persianas and capiz windows keeping the room in perpetual twilight. On mildewed walls hung paintings grown dark with age in gilded frames of grave faced men and women who looked as though they never had much fun. The entire past of the Villaroels was in that room. The family traced its ancestry in the country to Don Fermin, a captain who made his fortune on the galleon ships that plied the route to Acapulco every year bringing the silk and porcelain and ivory and spices of the Orient. At the beginning of the century when the trade ended, the captain married a Chinese mestiza, Doña Elena, whose parents wanted to improve their social standing, tempting him with the many commercial properties they owned in Binondo, the Chinese district. Although he could have retired and lived off the rents, Don Fermin invested in opium and converted the inherited properties into dens through his wife’s Chinese connections. Of their three sons, only one lived, the other two fell victims to the curse of money made at the expense of other people’s sufferings. The more the victims suffered from their addiction, the wealthier the Captain grew or so the people whispered.



One of the portraits must have been of the old Captain himself, Don Fermin, with fleshy jowls and a huge moustache that curled at the ends. Dark bushy eyebrows arched over small black eyes and his thin hooked nose with flared nostrils and a half smile on his lips reminded me of a pirate sentencing a sailor to walk the plank. Beside him was a portrait not of the mestiza Sangley he married but a buxom foreign-looking woman sitting on a high-backed chair with a royal blue curtain draped behind it, her dark red hair in ringlets and her pudgy fingers holding a music score. No one seemed to know who she was any longer but Rosa said Manang Azon overheard some visitors say that she was an opera singer that came with an Italian troupe and was Don Fermin’s true love. My Lola snorted, shaking her head, muttering that the poor woman was Don Fermin’s mother. Which is true? Colorful tales or dull stories with no mystery to them? In later years, Don Fermin decided to invest in an hacienda in the Bicol region beneath the shadow of the volcano Mayon, a fertile land where a river meandered through the trees. They harvested coconuts and dried the husks which they sold to American and British companies for foreign markets. The farm grew everything they needed; it had vegetables, chickens, pigs, and cows. Once a week one of the kasama, peons who worked the land, would bring whatever provisions the family required. Beside the plantation of the Villaroels was the hacienda of a widowed Spaniard whose only daughter, Doña Angela, wanted to enter the convent. Her life centered on the authoritarian figures of the parish priest and her father who at best was a benevolent tyrant. Not having much of a choice, the sainted woman acceded to the parish priest’s advice, her father’s dictates, and Don Fermin’s importuning. On a round table beside the sofa was a large silver-framed photograph of tall and bony Doña Angela, with her hair pulled up in a bun, staring straight at the camera, her mouth set in a firm line, as though saying: “you don’t fool me at all.” She looked very much like ’Nyora Dolores, stern and unyielding. Beside her picture was another photograph of a slim young woman reclining on a divan in a white gown, a fan of ostrich feathers in her hand, smiling dreamily at the camera. This one looked more like ’Nyora Isabel. The dedication was faded but the name Concha was legible. It was said she was Doña Angela’s sister who played with the spirit of the glass and the spirit fell in love with her and wouldn’t leave her alone. In despair she killed herself by drinking rat poison. That was one of Rosa’s favorite stories but sometimes she’d alter the tale and Concha became a young girl whose young man married another. Despondent, she entered the convent of the Poor Clares, cloistered nuns who spend their entire life praying and saw no one from the outside world. Rosa’s stories were not always consistent but they were entertaining. My Lola Ipa finally said that Rosa had filled my head with romantic nonsense and maybe Señor was right and I should be sent to school at the Hospicio to

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straighten out my mind. Often enough as I grew older, I’d hear Señor tell my Lola she had to send me to the nuns in the Hospicio to study or else I’d grow up to be a maid like her and never amount to anything. “Is that so bad?” she’d retort, “Where would you be if I weren’t here to cook and help your sisters?” Lola was the only one who talked back to Señor because she had been with the family so long But Señor didn’t give up. “Times are changing, Felipa. Who knows what these Americans will bring? If the girl learns to read and write and speak in English she will be able to find work easily.” Farther down our street, Cabildo, next to the cathedral was the square called the Plaza de Armas. When the sun was barely risen over the horizon in the bay you could hear the bugle call and see the Gringos march like wooden soldiers, their sergeant going, “Hip, one, two, three. About face!” in a very stern voice. The soldiers did not look like us at all. Nando and I would sometimes see them when we’d buy sugar cane strips from the Chinese vendor squatting in the shade of the acacia in the plaza across the Cathedral. They were brawny and tall; some had hair the color of unhusked palay and pale eyes like a cat’s. There was even one with hair the color of ’Nyora Isabel’s red roses and pale spots all over his face and arms. Once, a soldier with a pockmarked face gave Nando and I brightly colored lollipops, hard as rock that I licked for what seemed like hours without reducing its size. The soldier smelled of sweat and clothes that had not dried properly and neither Nando nor I could understand a word he said. But it was not often that we ventured that far from the house. In the afternoons of my childhood, when the sun was suffocatingly hot everything shut down and a deathly silence descended. It was as if the whole world had gone to sleep like that kingdom in the fairy tale. Occasionally you’d hear the clip-clop of horses’ hoofs or the wild laughter of the mad beggar woman or the howling of a dog. After my Lola, Rosa, and Iniang were done with their darning or ironing we’d all have our siesta and even the horses ceased their snorting. But sometimes when everyone had dozed off, Nando and I would escape to roam the somnolent streets of Intramuros when it was so silent you felt a magic spell hovered over the city. We’d climb up crumbling stone battlements that enclosed us like a womb encircling the Fort and the convents and churches of the Friar orders and the old houses. There was once a moat that ringed the walls to keep enemies away but the Gringos said it did nothing but breed mosquitoes that made people sick. The soldiers drained the water and they found cannon balls and rusty Spanish swords at the bottom. Now there’s nothing but mud. Nando and I would run around the terraces and battlements pretending to duel with tree branches for swords. Nando was always the brave revolutionary



fighting the evil Spaniards and since I was younger, I was inevitably cast as a bad Guardia Civil who always lost. “I’m tired of this game,” I’d end up whining. “Why do I always have to be the loser?” “Cause you’re a girl, that’s why and besides, I’m older,” Nando would state with a superior air. “Whoever heard of a hero in a camisole?” “Well, I don’t want to play this stupid game anymore,” I’d declare eventually after losing for the nth time, throwing away my make-believe sword. “You’re a rotten sport like all girls.” “I am not so,” I’d stomp my feet in frustration, wishing I were at least as old as Nando so I could beat him up. “You’re just a bully.” With that I’d start to sniff which even at the age of seven I knew had an unusual effect on Nando either because he thought my Lola would smack him for making me cry or because he really couldn’t stand girls crying. “Stop your babbling. Look at that snout on your face,” he’d say, abashed. Confident I’d won the fray I’d change the subject. “Let’s peep into people’s houses and you can tell me stories instead,” I’d say. This was another favorite game of mine, looking at the old houses, some with patched up windows, others with roofs askew. I would wonder what fine ladies had once lived in them and how they must have danced in the great halls in their shiny satin gowns gleaming with diamonds around their necks. “See that house across from us that’s all boarded up? They called that ‘The Fortress’ and old Don Jaimito used to live there all by himself with his nurses. Señor said it got its name because its thick doors and walls had resisted the attacks of the English soldiers during the British Occupation, survived earthquakes and floods and typhoons. It’s even listed in the Guia de Forasteros as the oldest house in the city. But most of the rooms were unused except for the entresuelo where Don Jaimito lived with his two nurses. “The house used to be the grandest in the city and there were fancy parties on New Year’s Eve and a gathering of all the important people after the yearly procession of La Naval in October. It was so grand that there was an orchestra in the courtyard to greet the guests and another in the ballroom just for the dancing.” I glanced at the imposing façade of carved stone and the crumbling great entrance that revealed the ravages of time and neglect and felt a strange sadness. “Don Jaimito was what people call slow in the head. It was said he was born on the night of the full moon and the fairies took a liking to him weaving a spell so that he would never grow up.”

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I may not have understood everything Nando said but I didn’t mind. I liked stories. “How’d you know all these, Nando?” “You want a story or you want to question me?” “No, no. I was just thinking it’s too bad I never saw him.” “Well, it was before your time. Anyway, the fairies also gave Don Jaimito a heart of gold and he always kept candy in the pockets of his baggy suits that hang on him as though there was no one inside. Whenever he saw the children at mass—for this was the only time it seemed he would leave the house—he would call to us in his loud honking voice that sounded like a goose calling and stretch out his hand with a piece of candy in it. Most of the other children were frightened and wouldn’t even look his way but I would always take some because I used to go with Señor to visit him.” “Oh. Señor knew him?” “Sure he did. The Villaroels know all the other rich people. The Señor used to go over there and visit once a week. They would sit in the courtyard that had a fountain with gold fish only the water was murky because no one cleaned it anymore. Señor sat in this large wicker chair fanning himself while Don Jaimito tossed fistfuls of rice at the hens pecking about with neither man saying a word. Then Señor would bring out a book and read aloud whatever he thought interesting it didn’t seem to matter. I don’t think Don Jaimito understood anyway. “Don Jaimito had two dozen beautiful tin soldiers enameled in blue and red with gold epaulets and silver swords that he arranged in opposite rows according to color on the ground. Often when we arrived he would be sitting on a stool holding a soldier in blue, for that was his favorite color and he would go, “Pow! Pow! Pow!” pointing at his nurse who acted as the general for the other army in red. As soon as he saw us he would stand and order his attendant in garbled words to put his toys away. He seemed to know that Señor was there to read him a story. “When it was over he would gurgle and honk and point and soon one of the nurses would appear with some lemonade and cookies that he would distribute to each of us. In all the time we visited him before his death, we never saw a single member of his family or any other friend visit him.” “Why didn’t any of them stay with him, Nando? I’d stay with you even if you were an idiot.” Nando pushed me away roughly. “You don’t belong to a great family. That’s the way they are. They were ashamed of him, I guess. Besides he didn’t know how to behave as befits an heir to a great fortune. When the family moved to their new house somewhere near the new governor’s palace a young servant girl was left



behind to tend to the cleaning, but Don Jaimito began to imagine that she was an enchanted princess disguised as a maid. He would ply her with candies and pull at her arm so she would join in the games of tag and since he had no sense of day and night, this could be at midnight. All the lights would suddenly go on and everyone nearby could hear honking sounds of delight. It was becoming quite a scandal and it was only a question of time before the family was told something out of the ordinary was going on. “Old ballroom dresses of taffeta and lace were rescued from armoires and pinned on her to fit and at merienda time there was this strange tableau in the courtyard with Don Jaimito wearing an admiral’s hat that must have belonged to some ancestor long dead and a young servant girl in her mistress’s finery slurping tea. He would chase her around the fountain until she allowed him to catch her and they would tumble to the ground in a flurry of lace petticoats and satin skirts. “One summer morning so hot that you sweated while sitting still, we saw this black carriage drive up and a somber man with a goatee flecked with grey, slim as a bamboo in a heavy dark suit, wiping his forehead constantly with a white handkerchief entered the house. He reappeared moments later, servant girl in tow with all her belongings in a knapsack and drove off in his imposing carriage. We were all astounded at hearing the howls that bellowed from the house. This went on for hours until finally someone called the parish priest to exorcise his demons.” “Why would there be any demons?” “I guess they thought he was possessed but Señor said, ‘Pobre Jaimito, he was only lonely and meant no harm.’ Even Rosa said he died of a broken heart.” “What happened to the servant girl?” It seemed to me that she too must have been sad. “That’s not important. Servants don’t count. You should have seen the flowers at his funeral. There were so many wreaths the florists must have run out of supply. All the servants in the neighborhood got to see him the following morning and some came from other streets out of curiosity. We all went and I looked at him in this great big bronze coffin and there he was like a mannequin, all gray and silent. Only his nails were purplish-red and it looked like someone had colored his lips so he wouldn’t look so dead. “’Nyora Dolores and ’Nyora Isabel opened the camphor chests looking for black lace mantillas and black lace fans and they looked like grand ladies that day. Señor even had this funny top hat on and a coat with a tail.” “Isn’t that what the men wear at weddings?” “Well, they wear the same things at weddings and at funerals. You never know with the rich.”

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“Maybe it’s easier to be poor since you won’t have to think about what to wear.” “Don’t be silly. There’s nothing worse than being poor,” Nando said, very seriously. “And everyone gave their condolences to this lady with a hooked nose like Don Jaimito only she had yellow hair piled on top of her head and she talked funny through her nose. As we were leaving, she turned to the man beside her who had a protruding stomach and a pencil-slim moustache and no hair on his shiny head and said, ‘I didn’t think Jaimito had so many admirers.’ But he just laughed and lit his cigar like the one that I once tried of Señor’s and answered, ‘I have to hand it to your Tio Jaime. He was still getting his jollies.’” “So what happened then?” “Nothing. I guess they buried him in the family crypt at Cementerio del Norte and the house has been closed ever since.” “That wasn’t a nice story, Nando. Nothing happened.” “Would you prefer the one about Doña Ines, the governor’s wife? And over here in these ruins lived her lover. This is where the governor pierced his heart with a sword,” intoned Nando solemnly, jabbing at the air with his branch. “What’s a lover, Nando?” “You don’t know anything,” Nando retorted in disgust. Other times we would creep around the church of San Agustin and mess with the lock on a little wooden door by old Padre Blanco’s orchard until it opened with a squeak of its rusty hinges. We’d look around and run off again. But on one particular afternoon, Nando was at his imaginative best and we crept farther into the stone corridors alongside an inner courtyard. “All the evil friars are asleep,” Nando whispered, “for they’ve drunk the blood of the maidens who they keep prisoners in their tower rooms and are sated. If we’re not careful they’ll catch us and no one will ever see you again.” A dreadful fear took hold of me and I yelped, “I want to go home,” suddenly anxious for the warmth of my Lola’s arms. The fat priests with protruding stomachs under their white cassocks and wispy hair barely covering their bald heads were not as frightening as Padre Medina with his full black beard and bushy eyebrows under which a pair of piercing black eyes glared at you. He’d say the five o’clock mass for the servants and when he climbed the pulpit to deliver his sermon you could feel everyone straighten their backs and hang their heads in shame. “God will reward the humble and honest. But you who steal from your amo, who do not confess your sins, and do not return what is not yours will be struck down by God’s judgment,” he’d thunder with a piercing stare that penetrated to the depths of your being where all secret thoughts are hidden.



“I want to go home, please,” I pleaded, tugging at Nando’s arm, imagining this black presence holding a whip ready to strike me. “Hush,” warned Nando, for striding towards us was none other than the demon of my worst nightmares, Padre Medina. I bolted for the little door as fast as my thin legs would carry me. That evening Nando got a tongue lashing from Mang Emong after Padre Medina dragged him home by the ear. Since I was so scrawny my Lola seldom spanked me but this time she pinched me hard enough on the inside of my arm to bring tears to my eyes, pursing her lips and muttering about bad blood. And that was how I got to the Hospicio that year after ’Nyora Isabel’s wedding.

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Dustin Edward D. Celestino

MediaEx Presents: “Savages” Ê R

eal Sins, Real People was the slogan of Channel 12, a 24-hour confession-booth hidden-camera reality television show. It was the highest rated show since Wowowee, but it didn’t have a live feed to an interview with Club Sweet Spot star, Maria Katja Maharais when she mentioned that all she could remember from losing her virginity was the sound of a 2x1 inch bus ticket torn inside her crotch, because both the network producers of RSRP and the webmasters of, didn’t find it necessary to buy the rights for a live feed to the whore’s interview because they believed that their viewership would not be reduced by this particular televised event. So, on that day, only people who were tuned in to Channel 12, which was more or less thirty percent of the local population, did not realize that, for Katja, virginity might be nothing more than a distant memory or an indistinct event, like an historical event whose very occurrence is questioned due to the absence of any evidence that could support its occurrence, or an experience from a previous life which could only be recalled through advanced hypnosis or deep meditation techniques.



The interviewer was Boy Miranda. He was a bald man in his mid-forties with black horn-rimmed non-prescription glasses, which he bought out of impulse when he was struggling with a mid-life crisis. He asked her, “Was it painful? Was it pleasurable?” which might have been the dumbest question to be asked on national television since the previous month’s special when Boy Miranda asked Piloto Pocholo, “Who do you like more: Sunshine Dambuhala,” an overweight, pock-faced, female comedian, “or Sammy Bui?” an Adonis of a man with a ripped body and a size 12 shoes. Whether her loss of virginity was painful to her was highly irrelevant, because, for one, Katja is part of the ever-increasing Philippine sex trade industry and people from the sex trade industry may have a different standard for what could be considered “pleasurable” or “painful.” For a person like Katja, pain could be defined on several emotional and physical spectrums that range from having to withstand a foreign object being inserted into her anal cavity to performing a lap dance for a person over forty-seven years of age, or from being made to swallow a stranger’s cum to having another abortion. Losing one’s virginity, to say the most, is a minor inconvenience for Katja. It has long since lost its romantic or symbolic glamor or its subconscious association with love and making love. So, when asked about her first sexual experience, she responded with a blank stare, as if the word “devirginized” was foreign to her and no matter how skilled the interviewer was in extracting the most outrageous monologues from his guests, he was still, even after two hours, unable to extort either a verbal declaration from Katja that could provoke the live audience to gasp, or a veneer of bittersweet nostalgic contemplation that could provoke the audience to sigh audibly as they usually sigh audibly when a guest says something that they could pretend to be affected by in a positive way, even if they really didn’t give a shit. Upon Katja’s utterance of the words “the sound of a 2x1 inch bus ticket torn inside my crotch,” the audiences’ mouths opened but there was neither a gasp nor an audible sigh since they couldn’t decide which of these reactions to express. They looked at each other with eyes and mouths wide open with expressions on their faces as neutral as Katja’s face; Katja who might have felt for her hymen what a circumcised man might feel for his foreskin, what a middle-class woman might feel about her liposuction fat, or what a newborn baby might feel about his umbilical cord. Her complete indifference to this particular issue stumped the audience who then, with mouths and eyes still wide open, began to turn their heads and point their noses in the general direction of Carlito Sicat, Katja’s domestic partner, waiting for a legitimate reaction they could mimic. But, Carlito, too, looked stumped and had only a very ambiguous furrowed brow whose creases intensified as he watched the sea of noses aim for him like an orchestra of rifles. He might have been so disarmed

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by the number of faces looking at him, the noses pointed at him, upon realizing what the audience wanted from him (a legitimate reaction that audience could mimic in unison), that he began feeling claustrophobic, scared, anxious, unnerved, jumpy. No one could tell what he was thinking when he responded by standing up and clapping slowly. The audience stood up and clapped with him and the applause escalated into cheers and roars and howls and bellows and everyone watching from home had goose bumps and were touched because of the glorious ovation, while at the back of Carlito’s head, he might have been thinking, “What the fuck is going on?” Eyewitness accounts from reliable information sources revealed how Katja smiled and Carlito yelled and bellowed with joy, oblivious of what ominous fates awaited them both. Psychology experts later delved into the psyche of Carlito to disclose that Carlito Sicat, Katja’s domestic partner, an alcoholic, might have also had a different standard for what one might call painful. We heard from sociology expert Dr. Wilfreda Limpin’s analysis that for Carlito, the word painful might have nothing to do with losing one’s virginity. Quoting Dr. Limpin, “Carlito, himself, allegedly lost his virginity when he was only fourteen to an older starlet looking to revive her career by sleeping with a young star. What he might consider painful, however, would be for once-famous matinee idol to crash down into obscurity after damaging his public image because of a streak of sex scandals that allegedly involved underage prostitutes.” And although Katja, to some, looked as if she had never been a virgin—looked as if she had been born without a hymen—due to a series of fortuitous events, the identity of the man responsible for rupturing her most trivial biological fraction had become a very popular issue. Katja did not lose her virginity to Carlito. She lost it, as everyone knows, to some guy named Rob. Celebrity historian Ogie Diablo talks about Katja in his book Lovely Low-Lives, and I quote, “Her fame, actually, came about because of an accident. Katja once got her period while performing on stage. She was so high on crystal methane that she didn’t even realize she was bleeding. She danced and arched her back to further expose a bleeding cunt. The audience at first didn’t know how to respond; some laughed nervously, some scoffed at the disgraceful display, some even walked out. But a few moments later, they were all enthralled by the erotic value of a porcelain skinned naked woman with blood running down her thighs, blood running from her cunt, blood bursting shamelessly from a fountain of glorious fertility. With Katja’s eyes shut in drug ecstasy, it was as if a young woman had lost her virginity and they were all part of the spectacle.” It is quite true that her movements and bleeding had catapulted the club and herself to outrageous heights! She was an overnight, underground celebrity—that type of celebrity that would earn one all the fame and none of the fortune—much 18


like the Internet’s YouTube celebrities, except with considerably less clothing and a different audience feedback in the form of mild interest and genuine arousal. Katja’s interpretative dances—her bloody “erotic ballet,” as people have begun to call it—of losing one’s virginity was so eloquent, so pure in its nakedness, ecstasy and vulnerability that it caught the attention of one of the nation’s biggest rogue TV shows, a television show that specialized in the exploitation, glorification, and mass popularization of unconventional behavior in an attempt to provide awareness and prevent prejudice against people who are involved in drug syndicates, body modification (piercing, sex change, and mutilation) clinics, private gambling dens, and sex traders, i.e., Transgression Television (TT). The station claims that its goal to humanize these people, to present them in a light that their audience could relate to. It just so happens—it is purely coincidental—that the show’s producers make a shitload of money in the process. It was this show that spearheaded the live interview that featured Maria Katja Maharais. From the way Carlito Sicat was smiling that evening of the interview, as he howled and hollered for the whore, anyone could tell that for a brief moment he believed that happiness was, once again, on the horizon. He was eager for this happiness, in the same way that seamen are eager for whores upon docking; in the same way that children are eager for Christmas gifts that are neither books nor clothes; and in the same way that poker players are eager to see their opponents move all their chips to the center of the pot after one of them hits a royal flush; and in the same way that the last analogy is incomprehensible to most people. That was probably how incomprehensible it was for Carlito to feel a strange eagerness for happiness after he had influenced a mob to join him in the glorious ovation. At that moment he might have felt important, relevant, substantial, and, most of all, consequential; and it didn’t matter if the words used to describe what he felt were synonyms and therefore redundant, because that was how he probably felt—redundantly significant. It would be safe to speculate that he was howling and hollering more for what he supposed was his own victory over the mob than the glorified whore’s answer. And as far as being consequential goes, one can only imagine how Carlito felt when Katja was asked who it was who inspired the most sublime expression of female submission that she had wonderfully rendered on stage, “To whom did you lose your virginity?” Instantly, it was obvious from those who saw Carlito that evening how his happiness dimmed the way the sun sets over the Manila Bay, leaving nothing but the stench of the salty sea, the bitter-smelling charcoal heat and burning meat infested breeze from commercially established seaside grills, and the sight of used condoms floating and sloshing around in the filth at the base of the dock.

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The live audience, still on their feet, once again, turned their noses towards Carlito waiting for a legitimate response they could mimic in unison. But this time Carlito couldn’t provide anything, not even a furrowed brow, beyond the movement of his Adam’s apple as he sucked and swallowed his saliva. What he might have found to be an oppressive focus of attention was only broken by the echo of the whore’s most subtle giggle: a soft, childish giggle that reverberated throughout the studio. Majority of the late-night television viewers, those who were not tuned in to Channel 12, witnessed a seasoned whore blush and giggle as she recalled her first experience of intercourse. And as if the audible sigh was some divine command, Boy Miranda turned to the camera, the lens of the camera zoomed towards him in a close-up, the show’s theme music blared in the background, and the interviewer intoned: “Who is this man who has captured her innocence? Who is this man who has provided her with so much ecstasy as to lead her into the forbidden path of whoredom? Who is this man who has summoned the spirit of Eros from the loins of this woman as to make her completely surrender her virtue and induct her to the mystical power of the insatiable carnal appetite? We will find out when Transgression Television returns!” It all happened at the same time, the turn of the interviewers head, the audiences audible sigh, the show’s theme music and the interviewer’s consecutive questions asked in a voice of both semi-animation, semi-foreboding; and it all happened in such perfect, flawless synchronicity, that anyone could have sworn that there was a button somewhere that had been pressed to cause all these theatrics. Carlito may have been so overwhelmed with the feeling of unimportance that, momentarily, his demise from superstardom to obscurity and insignificance may have flashed before him the way one’s life flashes before one’s vision shortly before death grants eternal slumber. Anyone in his position may have been provoked to ask himself, “How about me? Aren’t they going to ask how I provide Katja with ecstasy; how I have summoned Eros from her loins and made her surrender her virtue to me?” Eyewitness accounts have made known how during this frenzy, Carlito put both hands inside his jean pockets, tucked in his chin, and dragged his feet backstage where he lit up a cigarette and watched Katja from a monitor. A personnel manager went backstage to offer him an ash tray. This personnel manager provided an account of what she heard. According to her, Carlito was backstage in the locker room sitting on a wooden chair with Katja’s name on it, and he said, “Go ahead and tell them his name, you whore,” under his breath. He was fuming. Then an old lady said, “I know who you are.” To which he replied, “I didn’t notice you there, lola. A lot of people know me



now. I’ve been Katja’s domestic partner for several years now. But, apparently, I’m not as important as her first lay.” The personnel manager, whose name will not be revealed, further revealed in an interview, that she busied herself collecting cigarette butts while she eavesdropped on the conversation between Carlito and the old lady. She told us how handsome Carlito was and how she wanted to get his autograph. According to her, this was how the conversation went: Old Lady: You used to be a child star. When you were a teenager, my son loved you. His notebooks had your pictures. What happened to you? Carlito: (silence) Old Lady: Oh yes. You were involved with girls. Young girls. Carlito: All lies and gossip, lola. You look familiar too. Do I know you from somewhere? Old Lady: Everyone looks familiar these days, hijo. Everyone’s been on television at least once. Carlito: Madame something … You’re the fortuneteller, aren’t you? From Channel 22? Old Lady: Yes. Madame Nora Aurora, they call me. Carlito: Can you tell me something about my future? Old Lady: What exactly do you want to know? Carlito: I was wondering if I’ll ever be famous again. Like in the good old days. Then, according to the personnel manager, “the old lady took Carlito’s hand and closed her eyes. Her grip was tight and her hands were shaking. She hummed strange sounds and her features shifted—her mouth twisted and her tongue stretched out from her mouth. A dribble of saliva dripped off her chin and she burped. Then she started laughing. ‘Yes, yes,’ she said. ‘You will be very famous again. Soon.’ Then she laughed again and slapped Carlito on the shoulder. Then my communications radio went on and production people told me to fetch Madame Nora Aurora because Katja had refused to reveal the name of the man who had devirginized her.” Apparently, ladies and gentlemen, the audience was intent on finding out the identity of the man who devirginized Katja. Because of that, the surprise guest Madame Nora Aurora was summoned onstage to discover, through her special skills, the identity of this man. The old lady walked gingerly to her seat. She was old and frail and the audience gasped when they saw her. “She must be at least a century old,” remarked someone in the audience.

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“So, who is this man who had taken Katja’s virtue?” asked Boy Miranda. Madame Nora, again, went through the same routine of shaking all over and making strange faces to the delight of the crowd. Even Carlito, backstage, turned up the volume of the monitor which he was watching and leaned closer to the speakers. “She was devirginized by some guy named Roy,” said the old fortuneteller. The audience members looked at each other confused as whether to cheer, swoon, or sigh. Boy Miranda was flustered. There was so much anticipation building up to this moment that anything less than a social fiasco was a bust. It was almost time for a commercial break and without another cliffhanger, the viewers would definitely change channels and the ratings would crash and the advertisers would pull out. Something had to be done. “Tell me, Madame,” he began, “in the near future, what catastrophic event should our honorable guest, Katja Majarais, be wary of?” “Not much. Except one. Someone dear to her will, how shall I say this? Someone dear to her will die in two days,” said Madame Nora. The audience gasped. There was complete silence. “Tell me, Madame Nora. Who? Who will die?” Just as Madame Nora was about to give her answer, the show’s theme music blared forth, the audience started cheering, and Boy Miranda jumped from his seat, pointed to the camera and screamed “Who is this person whom death beckons for? Who shall leave the living world to enter the realm of the departed? The public has the right to know! Don’t you?” Boy Miranda pointed to the audience and the audience howled louder. “The public has the right to truth! Don’t you?” The audience howled louder and stomped the ground and it sounded like a thunderous mob march. “Who is this person, dear to our beloved guest, who is cursed to descend into the depths of oblivion never to once again cast his or her doomed eyes upon the porcelain face of our divine angel of eroticism?! We will find out when Transgression Television returns!!!!!” The sudden noise and howling and stomping and screaming and violent movement was too much for the old fortuneteller’s heart. Her eyes stretched wide open, her mouth twisted, her tongue slipped out of her mouth, she started shaking, drops of saliva rolled down her chin. Everyone thought she was inducing another portentous trance and the loud audience cheered her on. “Go! Go! Go!” It was not until she had been dead for at least two minutes that it was discovered that she had had a stroke. Carlito rushed to the stage to ask the old woman personally if she was referring to him. But when he got to where she was, a young man was already pounding on her chest in an attempt to revive her. A few moments later, the young man was shaking his head and checking his watch: “Time of death. 7:00 pm.” 22


Carlito went to where Katja was sitting. He knelt before her and said, “Am I dear to you? Tell me I’m not. That guy Roy, he has to be dear to you. Right?” Katja just shook her head and began to cry. “Tell me I’m not the only one. Tell me there are others. A regular customer? A co-worker? A co-stripper? Is there no one else?” asked Carlito again. Katja said, “No. There’s no one else.” Carlito’s tirade continued. Sources, whose names will not be revealed, say that everyone was suddenly made aware of the weight of Madame Aurora’s prophesy when Carlito said, “But it could mean anyone right? I mean, my mother is dear to me. My uncles. My cousins, too. Maybe one of them will … Oh my God! I am not going to die in two days, am I?” Carlito was wobbly. His knees looked weak and his brow was moist with cold sweat and he looked pale. Then the show’s theme music blared back on. The camera zoomed into Boy Miranda’s face, and a sign that said “silence” was illuminated. “My dear viewers, there has been an unfortunate incident. Our guest Madame Nora Aurora has just suffered a lethal stroke.” The camera trailed Boy Miranda as he knelt near the body which had covered with a cloth. “Look,” he said revealing the dead woman’s twisted face. The camera zoomed in to show her tongue sticking out. “Anyone can see how much pain she suffered because of the stroke. This tragedy gives us great sorrow. On behalf of the management of Transgression Television, we send our condolences to the family members of the departed. Her sacrifice will not be in vain. Madame Nora Aurora will not be forgotten. Her predictions will be remembered. Speaking of predictions …” Boy Miranda suddenly stood up and walked toward the seat of the stunned Carlito. Carlito’s mouth hung open. His lips were pale and his eyes were brimming with held-back tears. Katja was sitting next to him, now with purple mascara streaks running down her cheeks, trying to shake him out of his trance calling his name and shaking him. “At this very exact moment, not knowing whether or not it is you whom death will visit in two fateful days, how do you feel?” Boy Miranda asked. Carlito said nothing. Boy Miranda put his hand on Carlito’s shoulder. “I know exactly how you feel. When I was in elementary school I was chased by a dog so I climbed up a tree. I couldn’t go down. I spent hours there. Up the tree. Alone. Afraid. Not knowing how long I would have to stay up there without food and water. I thought I was going to die. I felt Death’s breath and heard it whispering: ‘Boy … Boy …’ I know exactly what you’re going through.” Then, Boy Miranda faced the audience and said: “Ladies and gentlemen, we are out of time. Transgression Television will do everything in its power to give you constant updates on the state of our doomed guest, Mr. Sicat. We would like to thank our guests for today, Miss Majarais, Mr. Sicat and Madame … Madame …

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our guest fortuneteller who suffered a stroke. We would also like to thank our sponsors, Poncho’s Oatmeal, ‘good for the heart, good for the soul’; Madonna Makeup Services ‘for making our guests look their best’, Halimuyak Motels, ‘where the amazing happens’; and of course, Club Sweet Spot, ‘the number one authority on ultra-erotic dancing.’ ” After the taping of the interview, Carlito and Katja left the studio and lingered by the gate where a security guard overheard a conversation between them. Carlito told Katja that he would meet her at home because he wanted to go to church. “I’ll go with you,” Katja said. “No, you will not, Carlito said. According to the security guard, Katja’ told Carlito that she would go to work instead. The security guard said that later that night he decided to visit Club Sweet Spot where Katja would, upon the audience’s request, dance to the tune of Keep bleedin’ I keep, keep bleedin’ in love … and one audience member would say, “Yes, Katja. Do it for Carlito.” And the rest of the audience would begin to chant “Car-lito! Car-li-to!” while Katja danced, bleeding, to Keep bleedin’ I keep, keep bleedin’ in love … But before that, Carlito would go to church and enter a confession booth. “Forgive me father for I have sinned.” “What’s your confession?” Carlito wept. And he wept some more. Carlito wept for twenty minutes. We know this because it was televised by Real Sins, Real People, the camera reality show featuring a hidden confession booth. For those twenty minutes, millions of homes around the country watched and empathized with Carlito’s abrupt encounter with his own mortality. Then the network timeslot ran out, which ensured a continuation of Carlito’s confession to be aired on the following episode. Real Sins, Real People’s ratings were higher than that of Transgression Television’s interview with Katja Majarais a.k.a. “Bloody Mary.” They called the episode, “Episode 243: Dead Man Walking (part 1).” The show’s executive producer, Danny Lo, was jumping up and down with cell phone in hand in his Ortigas office. According to the eyewitness account of his secretary, who requested our network not to reveal her name, Danny Lo said, “I can’t believe it. The divine whore, Bloody *bleep* Mary’s doomed lover weeping in a confession booth rigged with our *bleep* equipment. This is truly a mother *bleep* blessing!” Danny Lo spoke to the agent pretending to be a priest: “Keep him there for as long as you *bleep* can! We need at least another forty *bleep* minutes’ worth of footage for the next two episodes. I want you to squeeze out a *bleep* epic from him! Make sure he doesn’t leave that confession booth without confessing anything! I swear, Ramiro, if you mess this up, I will fire your old gray ass! 24


According to his secretary, Danny Lo was rude and cruel, and very manipulative. She recalled how it was working for him, “We’re always under a lot of pressure. He has caused me great pain and psychological suffering.” Agent Ramiro must have been suffering from the same psychological abuse the anonymous secretary described. One can only imagine how he tried to extract a confession from Carlito. Agent Ramiro: “Confess your sins, son.” Carlito: “Where do I start?” Agent Ramiro: “From the very beginning. You won’t be forgiven for the sins you don’t confess. So, I suggest you start at the very beginning, my son. Confess all your sins. Even the smallest ones. You can stay here as long as you want.” We, the responsible network of the people, hypothesize that Carlito began from the beginning. It was Wednesday. Real Sins, Real People aired Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays 6:00-7:00 pm. Danny Lo decided to provide a live feed on only half of the confession. He planned to air the rest of the confession on the episode that would broadcast days later. During that one-hour span, which consisted mostly of Carlito crying, the show generated quite a following. Everyone was rooting for the “dead man walking” to not die. That particular episode, where nothing much was revealed except for the fact that Carlito could cry for long stretches of time, was aired live because of the recent events at Transgression Television that led to the confession. Once the ratings shot up and the network producers were certain that people were watching, they cut off the program and reserved footage for the next episode. Danny Lo, the vicious Danny Lo, wanted to collect serious money from the advertisers first. For the first ten minutes that Carlito was crying in the confession booth, people already began to gather outside the chapel. They were obviously affected in a profound manner by Carlito’s grief as he contemplated his own possible demise. They cried with him. They contemplated death with him. They held hands outside the chapel, each nodding to the other, acknowledging each other’s existential burden, each other’s mortality. As soon as he left the chapel, droves of people cheered. “Stay strong. Carlito!” cheered one spectator. “We’re here to support you!” screamed another. And as Carlito descended the steps of the chapel, he was welcomed with pats on the shoulder, handshakes, confetti, applause, and all those other things super famous people are often offered. Teenagers and bystanders with camera phones fell in line to take photographs with him. Posing with their thumbs up, rolled eyes (pretending to be dead), stuck-out tongues, or with a grimace and their thumbs pointing to their necks (a gesture for “dead”). They couldn’t wait for the next episode of Real Sins, Real People.

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It was apparent that Carlito was overwhelmed with joy. Tears ran down his cheeks. His newfound fame could not have come at a better time. His fame invited compassion from all sorts of people. They would cheer for him, support him, love him, praise him and raise his downtrodden, desperate, and anxious spirit. Even in the face of possible death, he couldn’t help but smile. He even posed with rolled eyes, and feigned death to the delight of the crowd. He waved and waved and smiled and waved again. Soon, the media was in on it too. Danny Lo prepared his own crew and decided to follow Carlito around until the moment that he died (in two days). A betting pool was even opened in casinos and gambling dens:

How will Carlito die? Murder – 12:1 / Vehicular Accident – 5:1 / Choking – 7:1 / Heart Failure –10:1 / Drowning – 71:1 / Electrocution – 881:1 / Cellular Phone Radiation – 1334:1

All the possible ways that a person could die were entered into the computer. There were online analysts discussing the odds of him dying in one manner or the other. The Carlito pity parade lasted for several hours. Then Danny Lo, with his big sunglasses and Elvis hair and yellow teeth, appeared out of nowhere. Danny Lo sprang to Carlito’s side as he was posing for pictures; he even posed with him for some of them. His face was so close to Carlito’s that Carlito could smell the gel on his hair, the nicotine on his breath, and the strong cologne on his clothes. As soon as Danny Lo was able to drag Carlito from the fans, rumor has it that he allegedly began giving him instructions through index cards. These index cards would later be recovered as evidence as part of the ongoing investigation. “Carlito, say this to the crowd,” Danny allegedly told Carlito as Danny handed him an index card with something written on it: Thank you everyone for your undying support. The confused Carlito did as he was told. “And this,” Danny might have whispered as he allegedly handed him another index card. “But I request, please, everyone respect my desire for isolation and private reflection in the final days of my life.” Carlito read the text on the index card as loud as he could. He even had to repeat it because the crowd was so noisy. The crowd cheered some more. “We respect your privacy, Carlito,” said one fan, “We just want you to know that were here to support you! Go, Dead Man walking!”



They started to cheer: “Dead-man! Walk-ing! Dead-man! Walk-ing!” Danny Lo, with one arm still around Carlito, was able to acquire a megaphone with his other hand and he gave it to Carlito. Another index card was allegedly given to Carlito. Carlito did as he was told and put his face near the megaphone. “I would like to spend the rest of my life, the rest of what’s left of my brief life, with Katja at Club Sweet Spot where she works. I will go there now. Please respect my privacy and do not go to Club Sweet Spot along Quezon Avenue, corner Tomas Morato. Do not go there. Please,” said Carlito. One member of the crowd, a witness, reported that he heard Danny Lo say, “I don’t think they heard the last part. Say it again. Repeat the *bleep* address. Tell everyone where not to *bleep* go.” “Please, I repeat, respect my privacy and do not go to Club Sweet Spot along Quezon Avenue, corner Tomas Morato. Do not go there. At Club Sweet Spot along Quezon Avenue, corner Tomas Morato,” Carlito repeated. Carlito was dragged to a vehicle as Danny Lo was allegedly giving him instructions. “Take us to Club Sweet Spot,” Danny Lo told the driver. At this moment, men at the club, after hearing the news about Carlito through friends who sent them text messages, began cheering, “Car-li-to! Car-li-to!” while Katja was dancing to Leona Lewis’s “Bleeding Love.” Nina, Danny Lo’s personal assistant who was also suffering from psychological abuse, was in the car with Carlito and Danny at this time. We have learned from Nina that Danny Lo personally coerced Carlito to sign several contracts without allowing him to read them. “Okay, this is what’s going to happen, Carlito. When we get to the club, Katja will be there. You and she will run to each other and you will hug. Our angle would be the doomed love affair of a dying man and a divine whore. Since you are going to die, you have to cling on to whatever love there is left between you, right? Hell, yeah! *bleep* right! So you ask for her forgiveness. Tell her you love her. Tell her that it is her face that you would want to see at the very end of your existence. Like, when you die and shit. Make sure you say this very loud because there is a crowd there and the *bleep* noise might meddle with the *bleep* sound equipment. Speaking of which, Nina! What the hell?! Where is his *bleep* microphone? Hook him up!” Carlito tried to stop what was happening, but before he could speak, Danny Lo held up his pointer finger and said, “Shhhh! I’m on the *bleep* phone.” Danny Lo switched to the speaker phone while he was attaching the sound equipment on Carlito. He said, “Agent Ramiro, what did I *bleep* tell you? Yeah, forty *bleep* minutes! Forty mother *bleep* minutes. That was barely ten mother *bleep* minutes of *bleep* footage. That would barely be enough for next week’s mother *bleep* episode. You’re *bleep* fired!”

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After hanging up, Danny Lo produced a piece of paper and a pen. “Sign this,” he told Carlito. Carlito was about to speak but Danny Lo’s phone started ringing. So, he held up his pointer finger again and said, “Shhh! I’m on the phone.” When Carlito began reading the piece of paper, Danny Lo said, “What the hell? It says Real Sins, Real People will give you a shit-load of money if you let us air your *bleep* story, whatever. Just sign the damn thing.” Carlito signed the paper. The speaker phone was turned on again while Danny Lo poured himself a glass of whiskey. At the other end of the phone call, was Boy Miranda saying, “Danny, what are you doing? This is my network’s scoop! The network executives of Transgression Television have already reserved exclusive rights to all the interviews and film footage of Katja’s story! This is our story! Where is Carlito? We will sue you! I swear, if you go ahead with our story, I will personally destroy your reputation.” “You reserved the rights to Katja! Not to Carlito. We’re telling Carlito’s story, *bleep*hole. So, suck my *bleep* you mother *bleep* *bleep* sucker!” Danny Lo replied and hung up. “We’re almost there,” Danny continued. “Remember to speak *bleep* loud, alright Carlito? And kiss her! Think romance, love, and passion. All that shit. Do it with hunger, like you just got out of jail and had to sleep with men and shit. Kiss her like she saved your *bleep* life, man.” Thus, upon arriving at Club Sweet Spot, in the presence of a swooning mob, Carlito and Katja hugged and kissed and the cheers from the crowd intensified what they felt for each other, and for a moment, after years and years of living together unhappily, they were able to experience something akin to romance. “Sprinklers! Sprinklers!” screamed Danny Lo into his cellular phone now talking to the technician who had installed sprinklers over the area where Katja and Carlito would hug. And Carlito and Katja embraced and kissed and cried and the crowd cheered and Carlito and Katja experienced something akin to romance while being soaked in something akin to rain. Danny Lo finally put his cellular phone in his pocket. Everything was perfect. The advertisers were locked in. The waiver was signed. The recording of the confession was… It was nowhere to be found. Danny Lo reached into his pocket and brought out his cellular phone. He started dialing a lot of numbers and yelling at a lot of people, the first of whom was Nina, shouting a lot of profanities and saying “*bleep*” at least twice with every sentence. This was what happened in the car ride to Club Sweet Spot as it was told to us by Nina.



But where is the missing video footage? In the confession booth, probably after hearing over the phone that he was fired, Agent Ramiro allegedly (and we say “allegedly” only as a formality because there are several witness accounts that verify Ramiro’s guilt) took, or, in other words, allegedly stole, the recording of the confession that belonged to Real Sins, Real People. We could assume that he was not too happy about being fired. He allegedly took the recording and sold it to Danny Lo’s competitor, Boy Miranda. Agent Ramiro and Boy Miranda allegedly had a meeting and discussed Carlito’s recorded confession. This was the original transcript of Carlito Sicat’s confession, recovered as evidence as part of an ongoing investigation: “I touched myself when I was a thirteen year old boy. What else? I peed on my bed like little girls would when they were scared. But, that’s not really a sin. I think it’s natural for young boys to pee on their beds. I was a child star, so there was not a lot of time to sin. It was true that I was involved with young girls, but let’s put it in context. I was a minor too. We were minors. That’s lust, right? I was guilty of that. Envy, too. Uhm … I would kill to be famous again. Like, Katja. I would do anything to get it all back. At that time, I didn’t know what I had. If I get another chance I would treasure it. I hope Katja does. I mean, I am grateful for her, sticking with it, with me through the rough. That’s all I can think of right now, father. I am not a bad man. I was just another man who made a mistake and lost his chance. If I were to die, fine. I lived and loved. I had a good ride. I have no regrets. What do I do father?” If you might have noticed, ladies and gentlemen, there is nothing here Mr. Miranda could use to disrupt Danny Lo’s story. Everything here will only affirm and work towards RSRP’s love story angle. Boy Miranda and his accomplice had to do something that would discredit Danny Lo’s angle on the story and, basically, subvert the RSRP network’s credibility. This was the speculated motive for the alleged alteration of Carlito’s confession. With skillful image/audio editing on a level that can only be reached through thirty years of work experience in mass deception, Carlito’s confession was allegedly altered by none other than Agent Ramiro with instructions from Boy Miranda into this:

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“I touched myself when I was a thirteen year old boy. What else? I peed on my bed like little girls would when they were scared. But, that’s not really a sin. I think it’s natural for young boys to pee on their beds. I was a child star, so there was not a lot of time to sin. It was true that I was involved with young girls, but let’s put it into context. I was a minor too. We were minors. That’s lust, right? I was guilty of that. Envy, too. Uhm … I would kill to be famous again. Like, Katja. I would do anything to get it all back. At that time, I didn’t know what I had. If I get another chance I would treasure it. I hope Katja does. I mean, I am grateful for her, sticking with it, with me through the rough. That’s all I can think of right now, father. I am not a bad man. I was just another man who made a mistake and lost his chance. If I were to die, fine. I lived and loved. I had a good ride. I have no regrets. What do I do father?” As Danny Lo was looking for the missing confession and organizing the Goodbye, My Beloved Concert Event that would be held at the EDSA Shrine, Boy Miranda was allegedly planning when to reveal Carlito’s altered confession. It would later be revealed, during the concert finale, at Carlito’s final appearance. The speakers would be hacked; this audio clip would be uploaded and looped, with the intent of sabotaging the Romeo and Juliet doomed-lovers peg Danny Lo was working towards. On that evening of the concert, Carlito was seated on stage as the most famous singers of the country serenaded him. He smiled and waved and shed some tears and smiled and waved some more to his fans, the cameras, the actors, and the singers. The final performance was breathtaking. Katja Majarais with her porcelain, ivory, pearl, pale skin was dressed in a gown made of real petals. As she walked towards where Carlito sat, the gown slowly withered leaving a trail of rose petals behind while revealing her naked body. The music was slow and sensuous and she gyrated and touched her own breasts, allowing her fingers to linger on her nipples, and while dancing she flexed her crotch muscles to squeeze a tampon-shaped plastic container placed inside her vagina so human blood bought from a local blood bank dribbled and dripped from between her legs and left a trail like her rose petal dress that was now completely gone. The big screen showed her face and scanned her body and lingered over her naked breasts. She stood in front of Carlito and leaned back until her head touched the floor and spread her legs for him and the crowd went wild. When Carlito was about to touch her, a group of muscular dancers with executioner masks rocked and rolled towards him and restrained him and pretended to tie him to a wooden post and whipped him with a fake whip, a fake whip that was previously drenched in blood, that left distinct red marks that looked like scars on 30


his body. Carlito screamed as if he was in pain, as if he were dying. The big screen showed his face enlarged ten times over. He looked pale and afraid because he really was afraid because he might die. They threw fake bottles at him that looked very real; the fake bottles burst into sharp little shards when they hit his face. The crowd cheered on. Louder. Louder. Louder. The masked executioners danced faster and snapped their steps harder and a rope descended from the top of the stage and it looked like a hangman’s noose. One spotlight focused on the rope, one spotlight focused on Carlito being held down by two executioners. Carlito and the rope converged at the center and the executioners stepped back and the music went slow, like a heartbeat. Carlito put the noose around his neck but attached the real rope to a harness in his back. The noose ascended and it looked as if he was being hanged. Carlito shook his legs and jerked violently and stuck out his tongue and all the lights went out and the music went out and it was suddenly dark and quiet and the big screen went blank. It was quiet for three seconds, and then applause erupted! Applause! Applause! The audience went wild and roared and cheered. They could not look away. They pushed and shoved and clawed to get closer to the action. Then one by one the performers ran to the center of the stage and bowed and smiled and waved. Carlito descended with the noose and was embraced by Katja, now in her robe. It was time for his speech. Danny Lo had written a really beautiful speech for him about life and death and love and freedom and beauty. And of how he lived his life to the fullest and how he had no regrets and how he just hoped to be remembered by his fans and how the concert DVD will contain all the memorable moments of the concert. Then he was supposed to step forward and bow to the audience and the disco ball would almost fall, missing his head by just a few inches. But before he could begin his speech, the big screen blinked on and it showed him inside the confession booth saying, “I touched … a thirteen year old boy. What else? I peed on … little girls … they were scared. But, that’s not really a sin. I think it’s natural. I was a child star, so there was … a lot of time to sin. It was true that I … put it into … minors. I would kill … Katja. I would do … Katja … rough. That’s all I can think of right now, father. I am … a bad man. I had a good ride. I have no regrets.” And it was on loop, “I touched … a thirteen year old boy. What else? I peed on … little girls … they were scared.” The audience started booing. Louder and louder and louder as if a cosmic proverbial unholy cow of doom had descended upon the earth and mooed an eternal moo. Booooooooooooooo! Booooooooooooooooooo! And Carlito said, “No. I didn’t …” But the first stone was cast. It was small, half the size of a fist. It hit him in the brow. Carlito wiped a palm over the brow and saw that the stone had drawn blood.

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Then a bigger stone came flying from the crowd. He was able to dodge it and it missed him completely. Here was Carlito Sicat at the EDSA shrine, by the feet of Mary, out of breath and spent and scared. There were people as far as his eye could see. A sea of strangers, a mob, manic, mayhem, religious leaders, activists, human rights fanatics, all sorts of people from all walks of life that a few minutes ago were cheering for him. They bent over and picked up rocks and cans and whatever they could find. They bent, postured for balance, aimed, and threw. This motion, from the gathered mass of people looked like an open sea current. A real bottle was flung from the crowd and it smashed against a stage prop. The bottle shattered and scattered shrapnel-like shards of glass, rousing the actors, and singers, and strippers, and dancers, to scamper for cover. Katja tried to run to the dazed Carlito to help him but was restrained by one of the costumed dancer executioners fearing for the erotic superstar’s safety. Carlito was abandoned onstage dodging a hailstorm of rocks, chunks of wood and rusty cans. He fell down. The barrage continued. A chunk of wood hit his shin and he fell. A steel pipe hit his ankle and he heard his ankle snap. He screamed out in pain and begged for help. But all that the crowd could hear was his altered confession over the speakers, “I peed on … little girls.” He reached with his hand and motioned for help from the actors and dancers. But no one dared go near him given the hail of heavy and sharp objects directed at him. He tried to crawl for cover, dragging a broken ankle behind him, spitting blood from internal bleeding, blood dripping from his brow, leaving a trail like Katja’s petal gown and fake menstrual blood. A jagged rock hit Carlito on the top of the head and he fell unconscious. The barrage continued until only part of his right leg was showing from the battered and bloodied body now buried beneath a pile of junk. Finally, the disco ball fell on top of the heap and the heap caught fire. And the stage caught fire. Danny Lo, watching from a distance, fell to his knees muttering, “No … No …” His star-crossed, doomed lovers angle, his Romeo and Juliet peg, had just gone down in flames. So had his near-death interview plan. Plus, Carlito was dead. It was two days after the old lady had predicted someone dear to Katja would die, and Carlito was now dead. Barbecued. Charbroiled. Burnt beneath a pile of junk and stage debris. One man won P756,300. He bet P100 on Carlito being stoned to death by a mob. The odds were 7563:1. But another man who claims that Carlito was killed in the fire, not by the mob, is contesting the reward. The issue is now in court. Carlito was a victim of this media circus that Boy Miranda and Danny Lo created. They are mercenaries; predators who have very little respect for human life. Their values have been corrupted by their greed. They are indeed savages. But



should these sordid executives shoulder all the blame for an innocent Carlito’s death, or should we, as spectators, be held accountable as well? After all, Boy Miranda and Danny Lo simply did their job, which was to entertain us. That’s all from MediaEx Presents: “Savages.” Tune in next week for another special MediaEx episode. Don’t forget to get your copy of the MediaEx Presents: “Savages” DVD Package, with bonus features such as the audio clip of the altered confession and the Carlito Sicat Special Concert DVD. We’d like to thank our sponsors Poncho’s Oatmeal “good for the heart, good for the soul”; Madonna Makeup Services for making the people’s host, Mike Enrile, look his best; Halimuyak Motels “where the amazing happens”; and of course, Club Sweet Spot “the number one authority on ultra-erotic dancing.” This has been your host, Mike Enrile, from the people’s channel, MediaEx, saying good night and God bless!

Likhaan 33

Zosimo Quibilan Jr.

U d Toilet ĂŠ M

araming haka-haka kung ano talaga ang ibig sabihin ng DG. Kahit mismo si DG, ayaw nang sariwain pa ang kasaysayan ng pangalan niya. Mapait daw sa alaala. “At saka, bakit pa natin pag-uusapan ang mga bagay na hindi tungkol sa produkto ko?� ngiti niya sa isang reporter sabay kindat na may kislap na nakakasilaw at nakakikiliting TING sa tenga ng mga nakapanood. Mungkahi ng isang batikang kolumnista o BK, Dehins Goli daw talaga. Dinagdagan pa nitong may pruweba siya tungkol sa tunay na pagkakakilanlan ni DG. Na kesyo, schoolmate daw niya ito sa Pisay. Doon daw nila napag-eksperimentuhan ang formula para sa kinagigiliwang pabango ng bayan. Nawala nga lang daw ang kodigong pinagsulatan nila ng formula. Kung hindi naipampunas sa puwet noong araw na magka-LBM itong si BK, malamang naipambalot nila ng tsongkee. Pahabol pa ni BK, di bale nang wala siyang pruweba. Wala naman daw siyang ibang hangad kundi ang maipamahagi sa sambayanang Pilipino ang rebolusyonaryong kosmetiko. Wala namang masabi ang Sey Mo! showbiz magazine kundi punan ang initials bilang Demonyong Gayuma. Bagay na hindi naman pinansin ng karamihan dahil



una, wala namang naniniwala sa tabloid na ito at pangalawa, wala namang naniniwala sa demonyo lalo na sa gayuma. Chika naman nitong si Bhoy Calvo ng Shush, matagal na raw nagpalaboylaboy sa Pasay si DG bago naging sikat na scentlebrity. Siyempre, walang gustong maniwalang galing sa isang batang (mamang) lansangan ang pabango. “Shet the puwet na malagkit,” sabi ng isang magbabalut na inambush interview. “Hindi a.” Pahabol pa nito, “Bakit ba ganyan kayong mga nasa media. Porke ba laman kami ng lansangan, wala na kaming karapatang mangarap? Nangutang lang ako ng pamasahe para makataya sa lotto. Gusto mo itaya kita?” ngiti nito sa camera. Na ikinagalit ng mga nanonood dahil walang kinalaman sa isyu ang huling bahagi ng interview. Palibhasa, kumokonti na ang sponsors ng Shush. Kinailangan nilang punan ng kung ano-anong footage ang nangalahating advertisers nito. Biglaan din naman kasi ang pagkaka-pull out sa mga TVCs ng U d Toilet. Kung sabagay, sa tindi ba naman ng pagtanggap ng mga Pilipino sa produkto, hindi na nito kailangan ng patalastas sa TV. Bilang isa sa mga unang personalidad sa media na nag-feature sa U d Toilet, medyo nagtatampo lang si Bhoy Calvo na ni hindi man lang raw nagtext-back si DG nang imbitahin niyang magguest sa Shush. Nagpiyesta naman sa pag-imbento ng mga dahilan ang showbiz talkshow host sa karibal na network. Kesyo nagmamaktol lang daw si Bhoy Calvo dahil hindi siya ang napiling image model ng U d Toilet. Na nagwalk-out daw siya nang sumilip ang buhok ni Roni Adriano habang magkasabay at dahan-dahang hinuhubad ang tabing ng mga higanteng billboard sa Guadalupe at Santolan. Ano’t ano pa man, wala pa ring linaw ang katauhan ni DG. Mungkahi ng aam uy an sa W ak headline sa isa pang tabloid, Nagk Nagkaam aamuy uyan Wak akaa s . Hindi na kailangan pang basahin ng sinumang makasilip sa headline na tungkol ito sa U d Toilet at sa pangako nitong pagbabago sa lipunan. Hindi naman ganoon kasensitibo ang karamihan ng mga Pinoy. Malaki rin ang naitulong ng katabing larawan ng media launch ng billboard sa Guadalupe. Sa laki ng tipo ng headline, para tuloy subhead ito ng headline ng sang ng Nak araan. H ara pin ang B ang o ng B uk tabloid - Talikuran ang Sang Sangsang Nakaraan. Hara arapin Bang ango Buk ukaa s. Ayon sa isang national survey, tabla ang bilang ng mga nabiyayaan at napapariwara sa samyo ng U d Toilet. Hindi sa mahalaga o may naniniwala pa sa mga ito pero medyo astig simulan ang susunod na talata sa pamamagitan ng isang survey finding. Wala rin namang tututol kung may maghayag na makalipas ang kalahating taon, nalampasan na ng publiko ang mabantot na pangalan nito. “Ano ba’ng bantot ang sinasabi mo?” tanong ng isang nainterview na tatlong araw nang nakapila para lang makapanood sa YeYeYe matapos itong hirangin ng Kongreso bilang pambansang tv game show. Nalimutan lang niya, at hindi na rin ipinaalala ng reporter, na Sabado na ng gabi noong ininterview siya at sa Lunes pa ulit ang susunod na palabas. Kunsabagay, nalimutan din ng ginang na nakailang

Likhaan 35

stampede na ang naganap nitong huling taon para lang makasali sa game show. Na sa pinagmulang kulang-kulang isang daang napisat at nadurog ang mga pangarap sa unang stampede noong taong … um, basta, kulang-kulang isang libo na ang namamatay para lang makabati sa TV, o magsayaw nang wala sa tiyempo o kumanta nang wala sa tono o magpakagago o magpauto o makigago o kombinasyon ng lahat ng ito. At … teka, nasaan na ba tayo? A! Nabaon din sa limot gaya ng Martial Law noong taong … Basta yong pangalawang martial law noong rehimen ng pangulo na anak ng dating pangulo kahit pa hindi opisyal na idineklara talaga ito. … Paano ba naman, heaven talaga ang halimuyak. Pati pangalan mo malilimutan mo. Mapapatanong ka kung sino ang nanay mo? Kahit sinong nagpapahid, bumabango. Lahat ng pangit, pinapaganda. Lahat ng kapintasan, binabagyo ng papuri. Naitala nga sa mga simbahan at munisipyo na halos nagdoble raw ang nagapply ng marriage license. Dagdag pa ng isang tagapangasiwa sa Manila City Hall, na sinegundahan pa ng isang clerk sa Manila RTC, bundok-bundok na ang petisyon para ipawalang-bisa ang mga inisyu nilang legal separation. Hindi naman nagpahuli ang Simbahan sa pagsawsaw sa kontrobersiya. Hindi makapag-isyu ng opisyal na pahayag ang opisina ng Arsobispo ng Maynila. Hindi pa rin sila nakakapili ng kapalit ni Cardinal Javier nang umalis ito sa pagkapari. Basta nawala na lang daw. Lekat na media kasi komo’t may kontrobersiya lang, binansagan na siyang Arsobisyo. May nagmungkahi pa ngang nagpakamatay raw si Cardinal. Ilang expose rin ang ipinalabas sa TV tungkol sa pagpapatahimik sa mga tumitiwalag sa simbahan. Siyempre, ipinahiwatig lang nilang hindi sa pagbusal ng mga bibig ang pagpapatahimik kundi sa mismong pagpapaaga ng mga appointment nila kay San Pedro (na kung pag-iisipang mabuti, isang baduy at napaka-cliché na paraan ng pagsabing pinagpapapatay ang mga pari dahil nang nagkaroon sila ng mapanuring pang-amoy, nawalan naman sila ng pananampalataya). Dagdag pa ng isang kolumnistang Apo sa Tuhod ng Isang Pangulo o AsTnIP, “Heaven, alas, throbs in a certain state of mind, a rapture that resides in the olfactory senses.” Nagpatuloy si AsTnIP sa kanyang kolumn sa paglahad ng kung ano daw ang ayaw ipaalam ng Simbahan. Na isang araw, naapektuhan nang husto si Cardinal Javier nang magspray ng U d Toilet, wala sa isip na nagpaalam lumabas ng Palasyo sa may R. Pascual at tumawid ng Shaw Blvd. para samahan ang childhood sweetheart niyang naghihintay sa taxi. Wala na’ng makapagsabi kung saan sila nagtungo pagkagaling sa Sta. Mesa. May isang saksi na nagsabing galing sa all-boy’s school si Cardinal, isang pahayag na walang kinalaman sa sinundang pangungusap pero may pasaring tungkol sa kinagigiliwang kasarian ni Cardinal. Kahit mismo si Bishop Isip, hindi na mahagilap ng media matapos ihayag na imumungkahi nila ang agarang pagbabawal ng U d Toilet sa buong sambayanang Pilipino. Hinihintay na lang ang pirma ng ibang mga obispo sa susunod na pastoral letter. Natural, hindi nakatulong ang pahayag ng Simbahan para pigilan ang pagbebenta ng U d Toilet. Sa halip, dinumog pa ng mga tao ang mga tindahang 36


nagbebenta nito para kahit paano, maging ganap ang ilusyong hindi sila naghihirap. Na hindi sila nagpapasakop at nauuto ninuman. Na demokratiko at patuloy ang pag-unlad ng Pilipinas. Excommunication man ang katumbas ng pagpapabango gamit ang U d Toilet o hindi, wala na talagang magagawa pa. Nabuksan at sumingaw na ang botelya, ’ika nga. Dahil sa kakaibang pagsikat ng U d Toilet, naging bagong tagpuan ang billboard nito sa Santolan. Dito na ngayon ang puno’t dulo ng mga malawakang trapik sa Kalakhang Maynila. Kung tutuusin, lahat ng tumigil sa pagnonobena sa Quiapo, sa Baclaran, sa Nagtahan, sa Antipolo, dito na tumatambay. Araw-araw na lang kailangang ayusin ang trapiko dito na pinuputakti ng mga taong sindami ng mga karaniwang EDSA rally. Mabilis na naamoy ni Harry So ng AM Group of Companies ang pagkakataon kaya’t sumingaw ang balitang magtatayo raw ng mall doon. Ang “ultramegauniversal” mall ng AMGC. Mas malaki pa sa Mall of Asia, kung tutuusin. Hinihintay na lang raw na mapirmahan na ang pagbenta sa Camp Aguinaldo. Kapuputok pa lang ng balitang ito, bumaha naman lalo ang mga tao sa paligid ng billboard. Nagtext-brigade pa ang karamihan para maghakot ng mga kapwa nilang nabiyayaan ng U d Toilet. ED SA Kins Kinsee , bansag ng mga reporter sa radyo na unang dumating doon. “Ito na ang huling EDSAng dadaluhan ko,” sabi ng isang nakapanayam na lolo. May convoy naman ng mga jeep na lulan ng mga hakot-for-hire, mga taong pupunta sa anumang rally o kilos protesta mapangakuan lang ng pagkakataong humakot ng bigas sa mga nabubulok na kamalig ng kung sinong politiko kahit di nila talaga kailangan at gusto lang nilang makatikim ng libire—kahit anong libre. Pare-pareho Nag-eedsang EDSA, Ngayon Na! ang nakasulat sa streamer nila (Nag-eedsang Na!) na may drowing sa tabi ng hintuturong matigas na nakatayo. Nagsulputan rin ang briga-brigadang nagmartsa galing sa Pasig, Taguig, Cembo, Paranaque, at Bacoor. Tuwing may grupong darating, madaragdagan rin ang mga streamer na ikakabit nila sa gilid ng billboard. Maingat ang lahat na hindi matakpan ang mismong larawan ni Roni Adriano. Di bale na ang mga babaeng nakahubad sa foreground. Nakatalikod naman lahat na tanging ang kulay ng mga buhok nila ang pagkakaiba. Kahit sino, kahit yong nagpapagpag at sumisinghot ng borax sa poolan sa Kanto, kahit yong mga ngumangata ng hilaw na aratiles sa ilalim ng flyover sa Makati Avenue, alam na ginamitan ng clone stamp ang mga modelo, matapos ang madugong pag-air brush. May ilang nagrapeling sa gilid ng billboard gaya ng ginawa sa media launch (muli, maingat para hindi matakpan si Roni Adriano) para haplusin ng bimpo ang tarpaulin. Para ibato pabalik sa mga tao sa ibaba. Hindi sila magkandaugaga sa dami ng mga ibinabatong tela—mapabimpo, t-shirt, bra, thong, o karsunsilyo. Wala rin naman silang takot mahulog.

Likhaan 37

Nang umabot na sa isang milyon ang tao sa paligid ng billboard, nang mamaos na ang mga nagtalumpati sa ibabaw ng mga truck na ginawang entablado, nang mabutas na ang mga tambol at speakers, nang maputol na ang mga kuwerdas ng gitara, nang malimutan ng mga tao kung ano ang dahilan ng pagtitipon, at higit sa lahat, nang magkaroon ng panic buying sa mga outlet ng U d Toilet, nagtawag ng emergency meeting ang Pangulo. Muntik nang hindi matuloy ang pulong. Bukod sa isyu ng panic buying, kailangan pang talakayin muna ang usapin tungkol sa makapangyarihang cartel sa industriya ng balut sa Aguho Pateros, Hagonoy, Kalawaan, Barangka, at mga karatig-bayan. Kasabay ng pagsikat ng U d Toilet ang matinding demand para sa balut. Kahit pa naniniwala naman ang lahat na temporary spike lang ito, sinamantala ng asosasyon ng mga magbabalut ang bahagyang paglaganap (o pambansang epidemya, ang hindi opisyal na bansag) ng panlalambot ng tuhod. Humigit sa kalahati ng Gabinete, kabilang na ang Bise Presidente ang ginugupo ng karamdamang ito. Pinatulan din ng YeYeYe ang sitwasyon at ginawang isa sa mga jackpot prizes ang isang trak ng balut. Mabuti na lang, sa tinagal-tagal ng pagpapatakbo ng Balut, Palusot segment, wala pa ring nananalo. Kung nagkataon, malalaman ng milyonmilyong tagasubaybay na isa na namang matinding panggagago ang gantimpalang balut (plastic na itlog lang ang hinihimas-himas ng mga co-host kapag papasakalyehan na ang segment). Sa normal na kalagayan, malamang na walang epekto sa manonood kung nagkataong may nanalo at wala silang maibigay na premyo. Ibang usapan ngayon. Marami ang nakataya. Kailangang tumibay ulit ang mga tuhod ng mga tao. Hindi lang naman para sa kama ang tigas ng tuhod na inaasam-asam ng mga tao. Literal ang pagkalambot na ito na wala nang makapasok sa trabaho. Tumigil ang ilang construction. Walang makapagbuhat ng mga kargamento sa Pier. Wala na ring mga politikong makapagbuhat ng sariling bangko. Para maibsan na agad ang nakapanlulumong kondisyon, naglabas ng dalawampu’t limang toneladang balut ang pamahalaan mula sa imbakan nila sa Tipas at Libis. Nauna nang nabugok ang 14 toneladang nakaimbak sa Batasan, sa Senate building, at sa San Miguel at Sta. Clara Parish Church sa Katipunan. Nang magbanta muli ang panic buying, may nagmungkahi sa Pangulo na hindi na siguro kalabisan na humingi ng tulong sa buong puwersa ng militar, habang may natitira pa silang lakas. Tutal, naroon lang naman ang kampo. Katapat pa ng Camp Crame. Hindi lang nila mahagilap ang Chief PNP. Hindi na raw ito sumasagot sa cellphone kung, makapasok man ang tawag. Paano ba naman, ilang araw nang walang silbi ang mga cellphone sa dami ng anyaya sa text para lumusob at bantayan ang billboard. Nagsimula na ang pulong nang may bumulong sa Pangulo na nahagip raw ng camera si Chief PNP sa Patrol TV (matagal na nilang nilaglag ang Infotainment sa pangalan para daw disimulado). Nagtatatalon daw ang punong opisyal ng Kapulisan sa isang entablado. Supsop-supsop ang isang pekeng torotot 38


na hinihipan kapag bagong taon habang ginugulo ang buhok at kinakalamay ang tiyan. Sandaling naantala ang pulong sa pagbukas ng higanteng TV screen. Walang umimik sa saglit na video footage sa kabila ng paglarawan ng anchor na para daw nakokoryente si Chief PNP. Pinagaan naman ng co-anchor ang hirit ng kasama niya. Para hindi mahinuha ng mga manonood na may karahasan (hiwatig ng terorismo) sa Chief PNP, hinambing na lang niya sa isang gorilyang nakawala sa hawla ang kakaibang paglundag at pagmuwestra nito. Umaalog-alog ang studio footage at bago pumaling sa gilid ng set ang camera. Bago mag-commercial gap, nahagip naman ng camera ang ilang cameramen at PA ng balita na nagpapagulong-gulong sa katatawa. Mabuti na lang na nakadamit silang lahat dahil sa pangingisay at paghagalpak na mas malapit sa halinghing, siguradong maiilang ang mga nagsidalo sa pulong. Bata pa sila nang bumaha sa Arlegui at Avenida ng pirated DVD ng Scandal Doll, ang sex video na panay (dirty) talkies na nagpasikat sa pangulo noong kagagradweyt pa lang niya sa high school. May international traffic pa ang internet noon. Tiyak nakapost na agad sa Youtube ang mga footage ng kaganapan sa Maynila kung hindi sinensor ng Pangulo ang internet ilang taon na ang nakakalipas. Sa isang iglap, natahimik ang lahat pero hindi anghel ang dumaan. Matapos ang katahimikang makakapagpadugo ng tenga, nagsimulang magsalita sa pulong ang isang tanyag na Heswita. Wala naman raw tutol sa Probinsiya nila tungkol sa pagtatayo ng mall. Kung tutuusin, makakatulong pa ito sa pagsulong ng ekonomiya. Ilang libong trabaho rin yon. Nakapagpareserve na nga sila ng ilang magkakatabing unit sa preselling ng mall para gawing kapilya sa loob. Ang hiling lang nila, at umuugong-ugong na rin ang balitang ito ilang linggo na ang nakakaraan, na sana makaisip pa sila ng ibang itatawag sa mall. Napachismis na malaking bahagi ng mall ang bibilhin ni DG. Kaya naman laking galit ng mga Heswita nang makarating sa kanila ang minungkahing pangalan ng mall. Sabi nga ni Father SJ, S.J., “Kahit ano ang ipangalan. Huwag lang AMDG.” “Nakaisip nga silang tawaging People Power ang kudeta noong 1986 at Withdrawal of Support naman ang kudeta ng 2001, itong mall na ito, hindi nila maisipan?” dagdag pa nito. Nagdududa na rin nga ang mga mamamayan kung talagang kasosyo si DG sa pagtatayo ng mall. Mungkahi ni Secretary Mong Puno (Trade and Industry), pakana lang daw ito ni Harry So. Para mas mapalapit sa mamamayan ang higanteng mall. Para mas malaki pa ang kikitain niya bukod sa pagbili sa MRT 22 at Metro Meralco. Alam ni Sec. Puno kung gaano katuso ang real estate magnate noong Account Executive pa lang niya ito sa Saatchi and Saatchi. “Kasalanan n’yong lahat yan,” paratang naman ng Social Welfare Secretary. Hanggang ngayon, hindi pa rin nito nakakalimutan ang ad campaign na pinamunuan ni Mong Puno noong Creative Director na ito sa McCann Erickson. “Kung hindi

Likhaan 39

dahil sa Pribado-Panalo (pagsasapribado ng mga korporasyong pampamahalaan), malamang kontrolado pa rin ng pamahalaan ang mga basic services sa buong bansa,” dagdag pa nito. “Biruin mo, ang pagbabago ng kamalayan na ilang dekada nang pinangarap ng Education Department sa pagtulak sa Ingles bilang medium of instruction, naisagawa sa ilang linggo ng buwa-kanang-kanang ad campaign na yan.” Itatama sana ni Puno na bwa ka ng ina dapat ang mura nang awatin na sila ng Pangulo. Titigil din naman talaga si Puno kaso lang may kumutos sa kanyang isa pang Kalihim. E napikon … “Focus,” sigaw ng Pangulo. Kinailangan pa nitong tumayo sa mesa para maging madulain ang binitiwang salita. “Alam kong konti lang tayo, pero siguro naman, merong iilan dito ang may matinong suhestiyon kung paano tutugunan ang krisis na ito.” Napalunok ang Pangulo sa pagbansag sa sitwasyon sa Santolan bilang isang krisis. Sa dagundong ng mga mungkahi, pagtutol, pagbirit ng Basang-Basa sa Ulan ng Secretary of Labor, sa paghihip sa silbato ng Secretary of Sports, natigilan ang lahat sa paglagapak ng mesa sa Pangulo (o ng Pangulo sa mesa, depende sa Presidential Security Group o PSG). Nagpigil ang lahat habang unti-unting tumatayo ang Pangulo na sumisimpleng banatin ang nagusot na barong. Agad sumugod ang PSG at tinutukan ng baril ang lahat ng umaalog-alog ang balikat. Nagkaroon lang ng wangis ng kaayusan nang kumalembang na ang Chief of Staff. Alam ng lahat ang ibig sabihin nito. Ihahain na ang sabaw: puwedeng tinola o bulalo. Susunod ang kanin at mechado, etc. Sa kabila ng paligsahan kung sino ang pinakamalakas humigop ng utak ng bulalo na sinundan ng pahabaan ng pagdighay, ipinalabas naman sa higanteng screen ang nakumpiskang bio-pic ni DG. Wala man lamang introduction. Basta dumilim na lang ang boardroom at lumiwanag lang sa papitik-pitik na ilaw ng mga gasgas na numerong 5, 4 … 2, 1 … Napapapalatak sa paghanga ang ilan sa pagbulaga ng pamilyar na birada ng mga torotot at ang paghagod ng camera sa 3D logo ng 20th Century Fox. Nasilaw ang lahat sa pagtama ng animated searchlights sa gilid ng logo. Naudlot ang palakpakan ng mga nanonood pagkatapos ng opening sequence. Matapos ang hindi gaanong black screen, umingay ang koro ng iba’t ibang halinghing. Nang sumiwalat na ang eksena, napansin agad ng Pangulo ang depokadong bibig na pinalalabasmasukan ng isang pedrong supot. Naaninagan agad nila ang bigote at balbas na pumapalibot sa bibig. “Sino na naman. Ang. Nakialam. Sa gamit ko!” malalim na sigaw ng isang lalaki sa dilim bago tuluyang naging asul ang screen na may nakasulat na STOP sa kanangitaas ng screen. Hindi pa sana titigil ang galit na boses nang lumiwanag sa buong boardroom. 40


Nagpapaypay ang Pangulo habang kinakalikot ang kanang tenga. Sa kanan niya, namumula naman ang Secretary of Foreign Affairs. Malalim siyang nag-iisip. Pilit na hindi pinapansin ang paggapang ng pawis sa magkabilang sentido habang hinihimas-himas ang balbas at bigoteng nakita ng lahat nang extreme close-up. “I’m sorry, Mr. President, mukhang may nakalusot sa Anti-Piracy Campaign namin,” paumanhin ng Press Secretary. Impit ang tawa ng Pangulo pero sapat na ito para magsimula ang bungisngisan sa buong silid. “Pagbutihin n’yo, okay? Sa ngayon, patutuwarin, I mean, patatawarin muna kita,” sagot ng Pangulo, patawang hindi sinalubong ng mas malakas na tawanan gaya ng inaasahan. Hinayaan muna niyang humupa ang kaguluhan bago pinaglaho ang ngiti sa mukha. “Tama na kalokohan, isalang na ang pelikula ni DG,” utos niya. Namatay ang ingay parang sumunod sa pag-off ng switch ng ilaw. Nang lumabas na sa screen ang title card ng bio-pic ni DG, napabuntong hininga ang lahat. Umingit ang mga upuan sa pagsandal ng miyembro ng Gabinete. Nagsalitan ang pagnguya ng popcorn tuwing walang matinding background music o masigasig na sound effects sa pelikula. Malamlam ang gilid ng screen. Mala-Charlie Chaplin naman ang pagkilos ng aktor na gumanap kay DG. Makailang beses sinubukan ng operator ng DVD na alisin sa screen ang subtitles na Bahasa pero matapos magkamaling ma-off ang audio, at mapalitan naman ng Simple Chinese ang subtitles, pinabayaan na lang niya. Mahirap makipagtalo sa malalaking boga ng PSG. Napansin din niyang may kasamang subtitles talaga ang pelikula pero hindi tungkol sa kuwento ni DG ang inilalahad. Kung sabagay, naroon sila para manood at hindi para magbasa. Naglalakad nang walang muwang sa kalye si Dehins Goli. Itim ang damit niya. Butas-butas at nangangapal sa ilang bahagi. Ilang taon na siyang naglalagalag. Wala siyang pakialam sa mga magagarang sasakyang dumaraan. Wala rin silang pakialam sa kanya. Pinakamahalaga ngayon para sa kanya ang malagyan ng laman ang kumakalam na tiyan. Mariin niyang sapo-sapo ang tiyan. Parang nawakwak ang tiyan at pinipigilang bumulwak ang mga bituka. Matapos ang ilang eksena ng paglalakad na pinatungan ng lyrics ng classic na kanta ni Aiza Seguerra, napadpad siya sa isang binyagan sa gilid ng simbahan. Kasalukuyang nagpapakodak ang mga ninong at ninang. Bitbit ng isa ang sanggol na kahit sa murang edad pa lang, nanlilisik na ang mga mata at salubong ang hindi pa kumakapal na mga kilay sa pari. Dahil gusto ng lahat na makasama sa ritrato, nabaling ang tingin nila kay Dehins Goli. Kahit pa sobrang sangsang ng amoy niya, nagpakisuyo na rin sila. Pagkakuha ng ritrato, inabutan nila si Dehins Goli ng barya. Pangmeryenda raw. Inusisang mabuti ni Dehins Goli ang baryang limang piso. Kinapa ang mga nakasulat, kinagat-kagat. Ilang saglit pa, isinubo at nilulon niya ang barya. Sinundan ng camera ang barya sa lalamunan ni Dehins Goli. Bumara ito sa lalamunan. Nilunasan niya ang pagkakabara ng lalamunan sa ilang kontroladong

Likhaan 41

pagsakal-sakal. Dinagukdagukan ang sarili, pero walang nangyari. Nagtatakbo siya para maghanap ng tubig. Kumatok siya sa isang bahay, pero walang tao. Kinalampag niya ang isa pang gate, pero may aso. Tumakbo siya sa isang Jollibee, pero tinutukan agad siya ng shotgun ng guwardiya. Nakiusap siya sa isang tindahan pero ang sabi sa kanya ng tindera, wala silang tubig. Meron lang mineral water, limang piso bawat bote. Nagpatuloy pa siyang nagtatakbo hanggang masumpungan ang isang sidecar na may kargang mga container ng tubig. Sinipat niyang mabuti ang sidecar at nang matiyak na wala ang pahinante, sumimple siyang lumapit. Kinatok-katok niya ang bawat container pero said na ang lahat maliban sa isa. Napaupo na lang si Dehins Goli sa uhaw. Pumuwesto siya sa tabi ng sidecar at sa natitirang lakas, itinagilid ang tanging container na may laman. Sa unang lagok pa lang, bumaon na ang bara sa lalamunan niya. Pero parang ilang taon na siyang hindi nakakainom ng tubig, nanatili siya sa pagkakaupo at ipinagpatuloy ang pag-inom. Uminom siya nang uminom hanggang unti-unting malango sa tubig. Tuluyan siyang nawalan ng malay at nakatulog sa tabi ng sidecar. Pagdating ng pahinante, napakamot na lang ito sa ulo. Itinayo niya ang natumbang container at nagsimulang magpedal. Sa pag-alis ng sidecar, maaaninagan ang karatula sa likod :

Sme lls lik siw mells likee Pak Paksiw siw.. ine gar alor ie ok e. Fresh V oke. Vine inegar gar.. No ccalor alorie iess . No jjok For deliveries call: 115-0888 “Teka, teka, teka,” sigaw ng Pangulo. Nagtinginan sa kanya ang mga kalihim habang hinalughog sa isipan kung ano nga ba ang tawag sa technique na ginamit sa pelikulang pinapanod niya. Nasa dulo na ng dila niya. “Si Rene Vienet yon e,” sabi niya sa sarili. “Akala ng mga mokong na ito, wala akong alam sa art.” Umismid pa ang Pangulo na parang nakaisa sa mga tao. Nakontrol na niya ang pagnginig ng nunal niya sa pisngi pero hindi pa rin maitago ng matalim niyang pangmamatapobre sa ibang tao. Mas mahalaga sa isip niya ngayon kung bakit nga ba may mga subtitles sa ibaba ng screen na mukha tuloy footnotes. Siyempre, paminsan-minsan, mahalaga ring magtanong ng may saysay tungkol sa pinapanood nila. Kung hindi man tungkol kay DG, na ayaw niya munang pagtuunan ng pansin o magtanong siya tungkol sa pelikula at sa sining ng pamemelikula. “Aba, e kahit anim ang mata ko, hindi ko masusundan lahat ng aksiyon at nakasulat sa pelikula. Baka, statement tungkol sa art ang mismong pelikula,” patuloy siyang nakipag-usap sa sarili. 42


Nagduda siya pero kung susuriing mabuti, may hiwatig nga ng pagiging art film ang pinapanood nila. Hindi rin kasi kapani-paniwala ang kuwento. Lumulon ng limang piso tapos di namatay, naisip pa niya. Natigilan ang Pangulo. Napaisip. “Parang yong napanood kong pornong Hapon na may subtitles na iba naman ang sinasabi sa visuals. Si ano yon, e. Si. Si …, Situationist!” Sisigaw na muli sana siya. Why are we watching a Situationist film about DG? Inensayo muna niya sa isip ang pagbigkas. Na huwag maging tunog sinisipon. Na ayusin ang punto. Pero pakiramdam niyang ilang minuto na ang lumipas at patuloy na nakatunganga sa kanya ang Gabinete, naghihintay sa susunod niyang sasabihin. Ang hindi niya alam, mabilis lang nangyari ang pagbigkas niya ng huling teka at ang pag-eensayo niyang magtanong tungkol sa pelikula. Hindi niya alam na halos magkasabay na nag-click ang switch ng ilaw at ang katulad na tunog nito mula sa mga PSG. Kinabahan ang ilang ngumunguya ng bulalo at popcorn. Batid nilang kasabay ng pag-click ng switch, may ilang pagkasa rin ng baril. Alam din nilang kating-kati nang kumalabit sa gatilyo ang mga ito. Ilang taon nang walang krimen at insureksiyon at rebelyon mula nang magtagumpay ang kahuli-hulihang coup d’etat noong … Basta. Hindi na mahalaga ang taon, kundi ang pagkakataon! Isa sa mga slogan ng Pangulo. Hindi aaminin ng Pangulo na dahil ito sa pagkakalulong ng mga mamamayan sa pag-asa sa pagkakataong manalo sa YeYeYe. Hindi niya babanggitin dahil linggolinggong may nananalo ng jackpot sa YeYeYe (puwera na lang sa Balut, Palusot). Baka matuon lang ang usapan na ni isa sa mga nanalo, hindi na makita. Noong ipinagdiwang ang anniversary ng YeYeYe, sinadya pa nilang mag-stage ng isang stampede para gayahin ang isang limot na game show. Naghintay ang mga masugid na manonood na makita kung ano na ang nangyari sa mga taong kapapanalo pa lang nitong mga nagdaang buwan pero na-preempt ang palabas para ibalita ng pagkakahuli sa mga lider ng KaPa, isang kilusang gustong pabagsakin ang pamahalaan na nagpapanggap (opisyal na pahayag) bilang isang kulto. Lubha itong ikinainis ng mga tao dahil a) wala silang pakialam sa mga kuwentong tungkol sa mga kulto; b) hindi na uso ang pagpapabagsak sa pamahalaan; c) nagtatatalon na ang nanalo sa araw na ’yon at hindi man lang na-close-up ang mukha nito; d) inatake ng epilepsy ang mga nakapanood ng CBB dahil sa pagtatalon ng nanalo, ang tanging kuha ng kamera sa kanya, nagpapalit-palit din ang mukha nito parang sa slot machine; e) agawin mo na ang kalayaan, huwag lang ang libangan; f ) humahaba na ang listahan at nawawala sa orihinal na paksa ng kung sino nga ba si DG; g) nagkakalimutang pinagmulan ng talaang ito ang paglalahad tungkol sa pagbabawal sa sinumang magpapaputok ng baril; h) na isa na namang cliché na segue ang listahang ito para linlangin ang mga mambabasa para bumalik sa usapin ng pamamaril; i) na dahil nga babalik na ang kuwento mula sa pagkakadiskaril sa

Likhaan 43

simula ng susunod na talata, mapapakamot na lang sila; at j) na dahil malalalimlalim na rin ang pagkakasangkot ng mga mambabasa sa kuwento, kakamot na lang sila at magpapatuloy magbasa. Kaya … Lalo pang napatibay ang batas laban sa pamamaril nang pagbabarilin ng mga pulis ang isang batang naglambitin sa tore ng tangke ng tubig sa isang subdivision sa Paranaque. Dahilan ng mga triggerhappy na umasinta sa bata, kulang-kulang naman daw ang bata. “Sisihin nila yong gin bulag,” pagmamalaki pa ng isang PO1. “Buwisit na yan, wala na ba kaming karapatang mag-celebrate sa pagkakapromote ko,” mariing pagkokondena ng isa pang pulis laban sa kasong isinampa sa kanila. Dagdag pa ng isang kabo, “Ikaw kaya ang umakyat sa tuktok noon nang nakasuot ng kapa, oo na, kumot na kung kumot, sa layo noon di mo na makikita ang kulay, Ulol!” Natigilan ito nang mapansing nakatutok na sa kanya ang mga camera ng TV. Napangisi ito at naging malumanay nang magsalita. “Paano po naman po, magsasampung taon nang pulis ’tong kumpare ko, ngayon pa lang na-promote po. Alam n’yo naman pong kung isang kahig, isang tuka lang kaming mga hamak na alagad ng batas po,” pahabol niya habang hinahagod ang buhok at siguradong nakalantad sa kamera ang bibig niyang parang pinagsalaksakan ng sandakot na puting graba tuwing bibitiwan ang katagang po. “Tao lang po kami, nagkakamali rin … po,” dugtong ni PO2 na natuto sa kasama niya kung paanong umasta sa media. Para kahit paano, pogi sila sa kanilang seconds of fame sa ere. Napawalang-sala ang mga pulis na bumaril sa bata nang mapatunayan ng korte na naunang lumundag ang bata nang nagkaputukan. Samakatwid, nasa ere na ito (“Parang ibon nga,” iginiit pa ng kabo) at halos tiyak na rin ang kamatayan. Nag-ingay sandali ang media. Mariin ang pagkondena ng isang commentator sa AM radio at napamura pa ito sa ere na kinahantungan ng kanyang pagkakasuspinde ng isang episode. Nagtatatalak siya kasabay ng tilaukan ng mga manok at hagupit ng kambal na bagyo bago isalang ang movie trailer tungkol sa remake ng A Clockwork Orange ni Stanley Kubrick. Pinamagatan itong Relong Pomelo. Tinadtad ng bleep ang mga dialog sa trailer (na sinadyang ganoon, hinala ng marami) at pinatungan ng paghataw sa tambol ang mga putok ng baril, paghagod sa cymbals naman ang bawat paglaslas at pagwakwak ng mga itak. Sinundan naman ito sa pagpapatugtog ng isang sikat na eksenang niremake din mula sa pelikula ni Kubrick. Sa Relong Pomelo, pinila-balde nila ang kalabaw ng magsasakang itinali sa tubo ng patubig. Inaawit ng mga kabataan ang Tuwing Umuulan at Kapiling Ka, habang nilalaslas ng lider ng grupo ang suso ng kalabaw. Walang makakalimot sa mukha ng magsasakang 44


nagmamakaawa sa mga binata habang gumagapang ang anak niyang sanggol, pisilpisil ang tinagpas na suso. Siyempre, may itim na kuwadradong nakapatong sa utong ng kalabaw nang ipakita sa trailer pero radyo nga ito kaya hindi na mahalaga yon. Mariin na naman ang pagkondena ng Simbahan at Pamahalaan. Tumagal lang ang isyu hanggang sa pagbulaga sa lahat ng isa na namang mapayapa (may ilang namatay, siyempre) at pangkaraniwang kudeta. Nalimutan ng madla ang pagbulusok ng bata nang magliparan na ang mga tora-tora. Nalimutan din nilang ipinalabas lang nang paulit-ulit ang A Dangerous Life noong iniisip nilang nagkakudeta. Sa kabila ng mahabang dibersiyong ito, bumalik din ang naratibo sa naudlot na pagpapalabas ng bio-pic. “Huwag kayong magpapaputok!” sigaw ng Pangulo na una nang nagtaas ng dalawang kamay. “Huwag n’yong ibababa,” sigaw ng isa. Nangangamba siyang mamisinterpret ng triggerhappyng PSG na magpaputok. “Huwag kayong maingay!” sigaw ng isang PSG sabay humagulgol. Nanginginig ang pagkakapisil niya sa baril. Nangingisay na iwinawasiwas ang braso para mas magmukhang sersyoso ang sinasabi niya. Nagpatuloy siya habang bagsak panga ang mga tao na iilag-ilag tuwing matataong nakatapat sa kanila ang baril. “Lagi na lang ba ninyo akong uutusan? Hindi kami robot! Kaya naming magisip para sa mga sarili namin. Alam namin kung alin ang tama o mali. Sino ba ang nagsabing may kapangyarihan sa likod ng may hawak ng baril. E, gago pala’ng mga mukha ninyo. Papilosopo-pilosopo pa. May hawak nga akong baril, pero sino ang may say kung kelan ko puwedeng iputok, ’to?” Lumingon ang lahat sa Pangulo. Yumuko ang Pangulo. Yumuko ang lahat. “Dapat dinagdag din noong pilosopong ’yon, na walang bisa ang baril kung walang nagbigay ng baril. Mas maigi pa kung sinabing, walang silbi ang baril kung hindi papaputukin. Kunyari, ganito.” Pinaputukan niya ang Secretary of Public Works. Sargo ang kanang tenga nito. Nagtilian pati ang mga hindi dapat marinig na tumitili. Kumasa naman lahat ng PSG pero dahil kasamahan nila ang nagpaputok, gumiri lang sila. “Anong akala n’yo sa ’min? Mga Bata? Dapat baril-barilang palochina na rumatatatat na lang ang ibinigay n’yo sa ’min. Huwag kayong matakot. Hindi ko kayo tinatakot. Gusto ko lang talagang marinig ang boses ko. Gusto kong magperform sa harap n’yo.” Mangingiti siya. May ideang pumasok sa isip.

“Kam to tink op it, para palang microphone ang baril. Yong Magic Sing ha. Kung sino man ang may hawak, parang nagkakalakas-ng-loob kumanta. Yong iba umiindayog pa. Coz my laaav, weeeel si you tru.”

Likhaan 45

Tatango ang iba. Mapapa-aaahh, oo nga ’no? May ilang mawiwili sa pagtango. Sasabay sa di naririnig na ritmo ng song number AH789H, kung ano man ’yon. Pero teka, nawawala na tayo sa isyu. Sisinga siya. Papahirin ng braso ang naghalong pawis at luha sa mga pisngi. Dudukot sa bulsa ang isang Secretary na tututukan at kakasahan at kakalabitan at sasabugan ng mga boga ng PSG. Matapos mahawi ang usok, natira na lang ang kamay niyang may hawak na burdadong panyo. Nang lapitan ng isang PSG, natiyak niyang mali ang ispeling ng nakaburda doon—Mondday. “Sssshshh,” halong pagpapatahimik at pagsinga. “Hindi na kailangan pang umabot sa ganito. Pero sige, kung kinakailangang gawin, gawin na natin.” Pinatayo ng PSG ang mga tao sa loob, kabilang na ang Pangulo. Hindi nila minadali. “Take your time. Alam naming nanlalambot pa ang mga tuhod ninyo sa takot at sa, hehehe, Okay. Yong mga babae sa kaliwa. Lalaki sa kanan. Mister Secretary, sa kanan po ang lalaki. Sshshshh.” Pinaalalahan nilang huwag gagalawin, kahit masagi man lang ang bangkay (kung anu man ang natira dito) ng bumunot ng panyo. Pinatawag nila ang kusinero para iligpit ang tambak ng laman, dugo, buto at utak. Para mas malinis ang pagkakaligpit at hindi para mas malinamnam ang pagkakainit. Nagtinginan muna ang mga PSG sa isa’t isa bago nagpatuloy magsalita ang lider nilang hindi pa rin tumitigil ang pagtulo ng luha. Umahem siya. Matagal. Medyo umo-OA na. Nangilo ang ilan, napalunok. Umimpis na hangin lang ang unang salita sa pangungusap niya. Naunawaan lang ng lahat ang huling pangungusap—“Tangkilikin ang pelikulang Pilipino.”

*** NANATILI SI DEHINS Goli sa pagkakasalampak hanggang dumapo na ang gabi at mga lamok. Ilang sandali pa, nag-inat si Dehins Goli at pinahid ang panis na laway na parang puting balbas sa mukha. May kakaibang sigla ang paggising niya. Sa unang pagkakataon, nasangsangan siya sa sarili niyang amoy. Ilang saglit pa, nakaramdam na siya ng matinding pagnanasang umihi. Dali-dali siyang umasinta sa sa pader. Nagpigil nang mabasa ang karatula. DITO IHI PUT L TITI Napahawak siya sa pundilyo pagkakitang eksaktong nakatapat ang butas sa karatula sa titik O. Luminga-linga siya sa paligid. Ngumiti-ngiti sa pagbigkas nang paulit-ulit—titik o, titiko, ti tiko … Naglakad sandali at pupusisyon na sa isang poste 46


nang may dumaan namang mga kolehiyala. Nahiya siya at kakatwang naglakad pa sa malayo, hawak-hawak ang pundilyo. Nakakita muli siya ng pader. Aktong ilalabas na niya si pedro nang may pumaradang owner jeep na stainless. Nag-ayos ng pagkaka-tucked-in ang pulis na bumaba mula dito. Tinapik-tapik ang lumolobong tiyan. Ang daming sinabi ng pulis gaya ng ayon sa RA number etc. at Batas Pambansa Bilang, basta kung ano-anong numero, pati na yata ang numerong hindi niya tinayaan sa jueteng (pero nanalo) sinabi, pero kung susumahin, mauuwi lang sa, Hoy! Bawal umihi d’yan! Lumingon ito sa magkabilang panig bago lumapit kay Dehins Goli. Humalik ang dulo ng bigote niya sa gilid ng tenga nang bumulong, “Pero doon puwede. Gusto mo samahan kita?” Kumaripas ng takbo si Dehins Goli kahit pa puputok na ang pundilyo niya. Sa pasikot-sikot na pagpuga, natunton niya rin sa wakas ang isang bakanteng lote. Nagpasiya para sa kanya ang paghirap ng pagpigil ng paghinga at sa pag-ihi. Tiniis pa rin niya. Nang masiguro niyang wala nang ibang tao, inilabas na niya si pedro. Huminga siya nang pagkalalim-lalim at umihi na parang ito ang dahilan kung bakit siya naririto sa mundo. Na parang ito ang pinakamasaya at pinakamaluwalhating gawain sa sanlibutan bukod sa pagkain ng halo-halo sa tag-araw. Sa kalagitnaan ng kanyang pagbabawas, nagtaka siya sa kumalat na halimuyak. May kakaibang bangong nagpumilit sumalasak sa ilong niya. Hindi makapaniwala si Dehins Goli. Wala naman ibang nasa harapan niya kundi lupa at konting talahib. Naghinala na siya habang patuloy na tinitistis ng ihi niya ang lupa. Parang hindi rin ito nauubos. Sabi nga sa isang tulang nalimutan na kung sino ang nagsulat, “humuhulas, nagsesentimental.” Tamang-tama para bitawan niya ang pagkakahawak sa pantalon at iumang ang hintuturo para padaluyan ng ihi. Nilapit niya sa ilong ang basang daliri at lumiwanag ang mukha. Kung anumang hinala niya tungkol kung alin nga ba ang mabango, napatunayan na. At hindi lang mabango. Saksakan ng bango. Nang matapos ang pag-ihi, hinaplos ni Dehins Goli ng daliri sa basang talahib. Ipinahid niya sa leeg, sa likod ng mga tenga, pati na sa pulso. Luminga-linga siya at dahan-dahang sininghot ang mamasa-masang pulso. Mmmmmmm. Nautal siya sa amoy. Sa pagpahid niyang ito, lumiwanag sa may harapan niya. Isang malaking bumbilya ang umilaw sa tabi ng ulo ni pedro. Mapapalitan ang ulo at magiging ulo ni Dehins Goli. Mabilis kumalat ang liwanag sa paligid at nahagip ng silahis nito ang pagdating ng pulis. Hindi sigurado si Dehins Goli pero malamang nasaksihan ng pulis ang buong pangyayari. Nagpasiya siyang kumaripas ng takbo sa unang hakbang ng pulis papalapit sa kanya. Dahil nga masigla na si Dehins Goli, at dahil naging kenkoy na ang paglalakad ng pulis, makakatakas agad siya. Hahabol sana ang pulis pero matitigilan sa halimuyak na parang langit. Huminto ang pulis sa lawang iniwan ni Dehins Goli. Yumuko siya, nakiliti sa haplos ng mga dahon ng talahib sa kilay, baba, sa loob ng ilong. Umaliwalas ang mukha matapos huminga nang malalim na malalim. Hinaplos niya ang hiwatig ng basa sa talahib.

Likhaan 47

Nagpahid sa mga kamay. Minasa-masahe ang mga daliri. Lumiyad pa siya at ipinasunod sa ulo, sa ilong ang mga kamay bago suminghot muli. Para siyang nalasing sa kakaibang bango at nagpagulong-gulong sa talahiban. Ngumiti siya na nauwi sa kiming tawa. Ang tawa naging halakhak hanggang dumagundong ang buong kapaligiran. Nilamon ng palaki nang palaking bunganga ng pulis ang buong kapaligiran. Tuluyan nang ginupo ng kadiliman ang paligid. May gumagalaw sa kabila ng kadiliman. Isang hugis na kumekembot-kembot. Mamula-mula na parang aratiles na puputok na sa pagkahinog. Paglapit pa ng camera, humahalakhak ang ngalangala niyang umalog-alog. “’Yan na nga ba ang sinasabi ko, e,” sigaw ng PSG matapos i-pause na naman ang pelikula. Patuloy ang paglilinis ng mga kusinero. May ilan pang sinandok sa malalaking mangkok ang ilan sa lasog-lasog na laman ng pinagbabaril na Kalihim. “Meron ba sa inyong makapagsasabi kung ano ang mga kuwestiyonableng elemento sa pelikulang ito?” dagdag na tanong. Sasagot sana ang Pangulo tungkol sa nabuo niyang pagsusuri mula nang magsimula ang pelikula tungkol sa pagiging Situationist nito pero naunahan siyang magsalita ng PSG na nagtanong. “Bakit ba lagi na lang kinukutya ang mga personalidad na may kapangyarihan. Sa pelikulang ito, ’yong pulis. Kailangan pa bang gawing bakla ang pulis. Hindi naman sa tinutuya ko ang mga bading, at huwag n’yo akong simulan sa usapin na yan, pero naisip ba ninyo kung ano ang kahalagahan ng tauhang ito?” Magpapatuloy pa sana siya nang maisip na baka ma-obvious na may kinalaman siya sa paggawa ng pelikula tungkol kay DG (bagay na hindi pa puwedeng isiwalat hangga’t hindi pa natatapos ang imbestigasyon). May bahagi ng pagkatao niyang gustong sabihin kung ano ang papel niya sa pelikula na napangingibabawan ng bahaging kailangan unahin muna niya ang tungkulin. Matapos ang ilang saglit ng pagtititigan nila sa isa’t isa, sumenyas siya para pindutin na ulit ang PLAY.

*** BIGLANG MAGIGING BIBIG ni Dehins Goli ang ngalangala. Napalitan ang halakahak ng ingay-palengke. Maraming nagbubunganga at nakikipagtagisan naman ng lakas ng pagtawad sa mga paninda. Nasa likod si Dehins Goli ng isang stall sa gilid ng simbahan. Sa iskaparate, nakahilera ang mga botelya ng mertayolet na may likidong malakalawang. Makikita rin ang karatula:

UdT oile G. Toile oilett by D DG 100% Organic Cologne.



May mga nakarolyong papel na nakaipit sa kanyang mga daliri. Sampler. Dahil sa tindi ng bango, dinudumog ito ng mga tao, mapa-babae, lalaki, bata o matanda. Pinutakte ng mga mamimili ang paninda niya kaya hindi magkandaugaga si Dehins Goli sa dami ng perang kinita niya. Habang binubulatlat niya ang balumbon ng pera, may lalapit na dalawang lalaki. “Eto ba ’yon? sabi ng isa.” Tatango lang ang pinagtanungan. “Mabango nga ’no?” dagdag pa ng nagtanong. Pagkakita sa dalawa, hahamigin ni Dehins Goli ang pera niya. “Ako nga pala si Mac Erik Son. Eto naman si Leo Burnot. Copywriter ako at Art Director siya. Baka gusto mong i-advertise namin ang produkto mo. Walang bayad pero may parte kami sa kikitain. Kung hindi uubra sa ’yo ang 50-50, kakasa na kami sa 60 percent sa amin, 40 percent sa ’yo.” Bibilang sa daliri si Dehins Goli, mula kalingkingan patungong hinlalaki. “Ok na daw,” sabi ng Mac. “Sige pirma ka na dito.” Aabutin ni Dehins Goli ang ballpen at sa kanyang paglagda, hahaba ito at magiging baton ng maestro sa orkestra. Malulunod ang buong paligid sa maluwalhating An die Freude sa Beethoven No. 9. Sa pagmuwestra ni Dehins Goli, magbabago siya ng anyo. Ang dating butasbutas na damit na nanlilimahid sa grasa, magiging puting pantalon at Hawaiian polo shirt. Nakabukas ang mga butones hanggang sa gitna ng dibdib niya. Sa ilong niya nakapatong ang sunglasses na sakop ang buong noo niya sa laki. Kikislap naman ang pagkakadilaw ng makapal na kuwintas at namamaga naman ang ginto sa mga daliri. Tuwing kikislap ang mga daliri, may supers na lalabas—Bling. Bling. Nakakasilaw din ang ginto sa mga ngipin niya na mapapansin ng mga nagseseksihang mga chicks na dumaraan. Lalapitan siya ng tatlong babae na agad pupulupot sa katawan niya. Haharang naman ang dalawang bodyguard na nakaamerikana’t shades pero pipigilan sila ni Dehins Goli. Mayamaya pa, may titigil na limousine sa harap nila. Bubukas ang pinto nito at naroon sa loob sina Mac at Leo na may akbay-akbay ring mga babae. Yayayain nila si Dehins Goli na dali-dali papasok. Sa kanyang pag-upo aabutan siya ng Merlot at ipagsisindi pa ng tabako. Matitigilan siya sa paghithit pagkakita ng isang malaking billboard sa daan. Paparahin niya ang limousine at bababa. Sisimpleng iihi sa tabi ng bundok ng basura pinagpipistahan ng langaw, ipis at mga daga.

*** TUMIGIL ULIT ANG pelikula at nabalot ng pagsipol at kung ano-anong kagaspangan mula sa mga manonood ang conference room. Matapos ang ilang saglit na white

Likhaan 49

screen, may tekstong sumulpot. Pamagat ng isang TVC. Magiging story-board na gumagalaw ang palabas—animatics ng isang TVC ng U d Toilet.

D&G Cosmetics Likod Campaign Ele VC 30s (L hA d ver .1) Elevv ator T TVC (Laaunc unch Ad ver.1) UP Suspense Music. C U of an elevator door. C U T to the direction buttons; U P arrow is lit. C U T T O TO faces of office workers. Some are bored, some restless. A woman tucks a lose strand of hair behind her ear then pinches her nose. At the center, a metrosexually dressed man (MDM) waits patiently. His eyes blinking then the left twinkles. He looks at his watch and whistles. CUT T O LED floor indicator, the numbers receding from 42, 40, 37, etc. TO SEGUE Upbeat piano instrumental. CUT TO a shot from the side of the MDM. Zoom out to reveal quite a veritable space between MDM and the rest of the office workers. MVO: All Set? CUT T O Elevator doors as they open. We hear a ding. CUT TO top shot outside TO the open elevator doors, people vigorously pour out. Heads flow briskly then part as they reach MDM. The oval space at the back of MDM is very similar to repelled iron filings parting on both poles of a magnet. ZOOM IN to the oval space until screen becomes just the texture of the floor turning from light to dark. MVO and SUPERS: NOT! MVO (spoken as annotation to the Product Freight) : Talikuran na ang mabantot na ugali. U d Toilet with natural pheromones, everyday. Para tapos ang amoy likod. Pr o duct F Pro Frreigh eightt : Shiny U d Toilet product slowly turns brand name to camera. The cap twists then a haze and drizzle of the cologne sprays to camera. Soaked screen momentarily blurs then liquid flows down. A refined hand then reaches T revealing U d Toilet held by the woman waiting for the bottle. Z O OM OU OUT for the elevator. CUT T O top shot inside the packed elevator, the same oval blank space behind TO MDM is sprayed with U d Toilet. The light inside the elevator brightens simultaneously as the empty space is filled by other passengers. CUT TO MDM facing back. He sees the woman, she smiles. MVO: at harapin ang ganda ng bawat umaga. C ROW D: Yiheee! OWD:



MDM reaches for the womans hand only to touch U d Toilet bottle, then freezes. MVO: U d Toilet. Alis amoy-likod para sa hinaharap. Sa puntong ito, babalik ang eksena kay Dehins Goli. Kapansin-pansin ang suwabeng pagkakaedit ng mga eksena at TVC. Parang nanonood lang sila sa isang totoong TV broadcast.

*** HABANG UMIIHI, TITINGALAIN ni Dehins Goli ang malaking billboard ng U d Toilet. Naroon ang retrato ni Roni Adriano. Nakangiti sa kanya. Parang sa kanya lang nakangiti. Kinabahan siya sa nakita at tumingin na lang sa basurahang iniihian niya. Sa isang iglap, nabugaw ang mga langaw at ipis habang nagkandarapa naman sa paglisan ang mga daga. May mapapadaan namang isang babae na sa unang pagkakita sa basurahan ay nagtakip agad ng ilong. Pero nang makalanghap siya ng kaunting bango, naintriga siya at sa pagsiyasat pang mabuti, nalaman niyang ang bango pala ng basura. Mapapatingin siya kay Dehins Goli at babaling din sa billboard. Magtititigan silang dalawa at masusuperimpose ang mga mukha, magiging screen sa panibago na namang mga imaheng pinaghalong clippings sa diyaryo, mga retrato, ilang video footage at iba pa sa ibabaw ng mahinang pagtugtog ng Knee 3 mula sa Einstein on a Beach ni Philip Glass. Kung puwedeng gumawa ng listahan ng mga imaheng makikita, ganito ang pagkakasunod-sunod nila: 1.

Video footage ng mga batang nagpapahinga sa Smokey Mountain habang kumakain gamit ang mga kamay. 2. Eksena mula sa isang lumang pelikula kung saan itinataas ni Pugak ang bahag niya at tumutumba ang mga tao sa paligid. 3. Kumakanta sina Tito Vic & Joey: “Aah, Ahitin mo at lagyan ng polbo� 4. Karatula sa labas ng banyo na pinagsasaluhan ng ilang pamilya sa isang barangay sa San Andres - Putang-inang Salaula ka, Magbuhos ka naman naman. 5. Retrato ng isang dagat ng tao pasakay sa LRT. 6. Larawan ng karatula sa poste: TUBERO-POSO NEGRO. Call 80093878 80093878. 7. Front page ng isang diyaryo: Payatas tragedy. 8. Footage ng pagsabog ng Pinatubo. Mga taong naglalakad, namumuti sa abo. Lahat nakatakip ng panyo ang ilong. 9. Footage ng mga sinusunog na gulong sa kalye matapos ang isang marahas na rally. 10. Retrato ng mga patay na isda sa Guimaras matapos ang oil spill. 11. Footage ng malawakang pagbaha sa Maynila. Lumulusong ang mga tao papasok sa trabaho, eskuwela. 12. Footage ng pagbaril sa mga magsasaka sa Mendiola.

Likhaan 51

13. Retrato ng mga sapatos ni Imelda at ng higanteng sapatos sa Marikina Riverbank. 14. Footage ng mga tropa ng mga hiphop, mga punkista, at mga emo na nagrarambol. 15. Usok-tusok na buhok ng isang punkista magmamatch-dissolve sa isang durian. 16. Karatula ng presyo ng mga paninda sa palengke. Sibuyas. Langka. Alamang. Daing. Bayabas. Kamias. Bawang. Isda. 17. Retrato sa frontpage ng isang tabloid - chop-chop na lalaking nakahubad at walang ulo. ba ona ondenahin, Pag pa ut 18. Plakard sa rally. Ila Ilaba bass si JJona onass . K Kondenahin, Pagpa pattay sa M Meedia dia,, T Tut utaa ng Kano. Resign Resign. 19. Footage ng isang sampayang puno ng maong at kumot. ZOOM Out para ipakitang umuulan at nasa loob ng bahay ang sampayan. 20. Retrato ng ceremonial signing ng Pangulo at ng isang dayuhang puti. May panuto sa susunod na imahen para mag-isip ng personal na imahen ang manonood. 21. (Fill in the blank. Masayang alaalang ibinabalik ng isang partikular na amoy.) 22. (Fill in the blank. Nakakalibog na alaalang ibinabalik ng isang partikular na amoy.) 23. (Fill in the blank. Nakakailang na alaalang ibinabalik ng isang partikular na amoy.) Mabilis lang ang pagpitik at pagfade-in/out ng mga imahen. Sa dulo, kapag naisip mo na ang ilalagay mong alaala, malulunod sa nakabubulag na kaliwanagan ang screen. Makikita naman si Dehins Goli na matatabunan ng balubalumbong pera. Aaliwalas ang mukha niya. Mabubura ang mga tigidig at ang mga pilat na dulot ng matagal na paggagala sa kalye. Sa isang eksena, makikita siyang nakahilata sa tabi ng private pool habang sumisipsip ng Margarita. Titingin siya sa camera at papasakalye ang Golden Shower of Hits ng The Circle Jerks na tutugtog hanggang matapos ang video. Tatayo siya sa harap ng pool. Ilalaglag ang bath robe para ipakitang wala siyang suot. Hahawak siya kay pedro at aasinta sa pool. Titingin naman ang mga babaeng nakapaligid sa pool. Ngingiti sila. Pipikit. Aabangan ang pagsirit ng ihi ni Dehins Goli. Maririnig nila ang pagtulo at iuumang pa ang ang ilong nila sa ere. May isang pakekembotin ang ilong gaya ni Cachupoy. Halos sabay-sabay silang sisimangot. Hindi dahil bumaho na ang U d Toilet kundi wala nang pinagkaiba ito sa amoy ng inipong tubig-ulan kung saan nalunod ang kolonya ng mga itim na langgam.

*** 52


SISILIP PA SANA ang simula ng isang commercial gap nang tuluyang nawala ang palabas. Nakita lang lahat ng manonood ang title card na ito:

D&G Cosmetics Likod Campaign Holda pT VC 30s (L hA d ver .2) oldap TVC (Laaunc unch Ad ver.2) Sinamantala ng Press Secretary ang pagkakataon para magsalita. Sabay-sabay tumutok ang mga baril ng PSG sa direksyon niya pero kebs ba niya? Alam naman niyang hindi siya tutuluyan ng mga ito gaya ng alam niyang hindi totoo ang ipinalabas na pelikula. “Kilala ko si DG at isinusumpa ko, bulaan ang nagsulat ng bio-pic na ’yan,” sabi niya. “Sige, merong ilang parts ang totoo. Yong sa simula. Pero yong …” Hindi na siya natapos magsalita. Tinuluyan siya ng PSG. “May aapila pa ba?” tanong ng pinuno ng PSG matapos mawala ang usok. Hindi naman siya narinig ng mga tao sa paligid. Mas malakas ang nagdaang putukan kompara sa kanina. Nagtaas tuloy ng kamay ang dalawa pang Kalihim para imuwestrang wala silang marinig. Ginantihan din sila ng pagspray ng mga bala. Mas malinaw na ngayon para sa lahat na huwag na lang kumibo. Sa ilang saglit, na parang tumagal ng isang henerasyon, naghari ang katahimikan. Naantala ang katahimikan nang mag-on ulit ang TV. Ilang network plugs muna ang ipinalabas bago bumalik sa normal programming. Dito lang natukoy ng lahat na ipinalabas pala sa buong bansa ang bio-pic ni DG. May mensahe pa ang TV station sa pamamagitan ng tumatakbong text sa ibaba ng screen. Nakasulat dito ang pagpapaumanhin nila sa pagkaantala ng broadcast dahil sa power outage. Dinagdag pa nito na patuloy ang pagdagsa ng mga tao sa Santolan billboard at hindi nila makontak ang Malacañang para sa anumang pahayag tungkol sa kaguluhan. Nakaloop ang mensahe kaya paulit-ulit itong naka-flash kahit pa commercial na ang palabas. Matapos ang ilang kuro-kuro (o pahina kung pagbabasehan itong binabasa mo), wala pa ring linaw tungkol sa katauhan ni DG. Kahit pa naturingan siyang scentlebrity, wala namang makapagsabi kung nasaan na siya ngayon. May nakakita raw sa kanyang pagala-gala sa Kamias. Nagbalik sa pagiging taong grasa (kung, pagbabasehan ang bio-pic na napanood ng buong bansa). Sabi naman ni Bhoy Calvo, magge-guest daw sa Shush pero hindi na naman sila sinipot. Sa halip, ininterbyu na lang niya yong utak sa advertising campaign ng U d Toilet bago siya dukutin ng mga armadong kalalakihan. May ilang nagsabi ring nakausap nila si DG; nagpakilalang siya rin ang pinakasikat pero hindi kilalang Pilipinong siyentipikong si

Likhaan 53

Salenga. May nagsabi ring naging ermitanyo na si DG o nagtayo ng kulto. Sinusugan naman ng ilang nadakip na pinuno ng KaPa. Si DG raw ang Supremo nila. Bilang patunay na isinasabuhay nila ang mga pananampalataya nila kay DG, binulag nila ang mga sarili para daw baguhin ang direksiyon ng buhay nila. Para gawing gabay ang pang-amoy kaysa pagtingin. Sa kabila ng lahat, naglaho na parang halimuyak ng U d Toilet si DG. Para sa mga nakakaalala, lalo na doon sa mga may kakayahan pang makaalala, nasikmura na rin nilang kalimutan si DG. Nauwi lahat sa kaisipang, kahit na ano pa ang mabasa, mapanood o marinig nila tungkol kay DG, pipiliin at pipiliin din naman nila ang mga detalye na gusto nilang paniwalaan. Ano ba naman kung isipin na lang na isang mailap na halimuyak si DG? Kahit paano hindi magsisinungaling ang pang-amoy. Hindi kailanman mahahawakan. Puwedeng subukang ilarawan pero hanggang mungkahi lang.



Chuckberry Pascual

Berde ĂŠ H

indi maingay ang pagdating ng kotse ng tatlong pulis na nag-imbestiga, pero sapat na ang kanilang presensiyang nabubuntutan ng van ng isang estasyon ng telebisyon para mabulabog ang mga katatapos lamang mangaghapunan at nagsisimulang antuking residente ng Kalye Desiderata. Tumigil ang kotse ng mga pulis sa harap ng bahay na malapit sa bahaging pinagmumulan ng malansang bahang umaabot hanggang tuhod tuwing sumasapit ang Hunyo, kung kailan madalas ang malakas na ihip ng hangin at buhos ng ulan, at umaapaw ang palaisdaan sa dulo ng Kalye Desiderata. Iisang palapag lamang ang bahay, sa kaliwa ay mayroong maliit na garaheng walang takip ang bungangang nakasasapat lamang para sa may kalumaang modelo ng kotseng kulay pilak na gawa ng mga Hapon. Walang tarangkahan ang bahay at ang garahe pero mayroong maliit, alaga sa kalinga at dilig na hardin sa harapan na kailangang landasin para masapit ang pintuang gawa sa kahoy na pinintahang itim at mga kuwadra-kuwadradong salamin na madamot sa pagpapasilip sa tagalabas kung ano ang nasa likod. Ang bintanang yari sa salamin at bakal na hinihila pakaliwa kung bubuksan, pakanan kung isasara at guwardiyado ng mga rehas na itim na hindi nalalayo sa pagkapulupot ng mga baging na artistikong

Likhaan 55

nakapulupot sa isa’t isa, ay parating nakasara. Hidhid rin ang bintana sa pagpapakita sa loob ng bahay dahil hindi inaalis ang pagkatabing ng mga kurtinang nagsasalitan lamang tuwing dalawang buwan: bulaklaking asul, walang disenyo at duguang pula, matingkad na dilaw na puno ng maliliit na prutas, makutim na kahel na pupol ng iba’t ibang hugis heometriko. Popular sa hindi magandang pagpapakahulugan ang bahay na dinalaw ng mga pulis at tagapagbalita, para sa mga residente ng Kalye Desiderata. Siyam na taon na itong nilisan ng mga orihinal na may-ari sina Mr. at Mrs. Delos Santos ang popular sa magandang pagpakahulugan, karinyoso at maalalahanin sa lahat ng kapitbahay at ilang beses na naghalinhinan sa pamumuno ng La Vida Subdivision Homeowner’s Association. Tinirhan ni Lorenzo Castriciones, na kabaligtaran ng mag-asawa sa pag-uugali at kailanman ay walang dinalaw at wala ring pinadalaw na kapitbahay sa buong Kalye Desiderata, maliban sa binatang nagrarasyon ng tubig, itinuring na itong patay kahit buhay na bahay ng mga residente. Nakatungo ang kanilang mga ulo kundi man nakaangat sa hangin ang mga ilong sa tuwing napapadaan, parating nakaumang ang pag-ikot ng mga mata paitaas sa posibleng pagsilip sa bintana ng lumipat. Nailangkap pa nga ang reputasyon ng bahay at ng may-ari sa paglalaro ng iilang kabataang may pagmamahal pa sa alikabok ng kalye at galos sa mga tuhod (karamihan kasi ay nahuhumaling na sa mga computer games sa murang edad at hindi na rin naglalalabas ng bahay, maliban na lamang kung pupunta sa mga pabirthday party na hindi kukulangin ng limampu ang inaasahang bisita at ilang buwang pinagplanuhan ng mga inang nakikipagtagisan sa pagiging ina sa ibang ina): ang nagiging balagoong ay inaatasang pumitas ng mga dahon ng kataka-takang nakaupo ang paso malapit sa pintuan, at harapin ang posibilidad ng pagkakulong sa loob ng bahay na patay na pinamamahayan ng lalaking binansagan nilang Lorenzong Bangaw dahil sa malaki at mabuhok na nunal sa ilalim ng baba, hindi nalalayo sa itsura ng dumapong itim na itim na bangaw, sa may bandang kanan ng mukha, malapit sa talim ng may kalaparang panga. Magkagayunman, tila mga langaw na nagkumpol, naggitgitan habang walang puknat ang mahinang bulungan, ang mga residente ng Kalye Desiderata sa tapat ng hindi popular na bahay ni Lorenzo Castriciones, noong gabing tahimik na dumating ang kotse ng mga pulis na nabubuntutan ng van ng isang estasyon ng telebisyon. Hindi pa lumalabas sa kotse ang pulis na nagmamaneho at umaandar pa ang makina ng kotse nang sumalubong ang isang matandang babaeng nanggaling sa hardin ni Lorenzo Castriciones, katatapos lamang paiputin sa mga halamang alaga sa dilig at kalinga ang asong ipinagmamalaki dahil bunga ng pataksil na pagtatalik ng isang asong katutubo at asong Aleman. “Ano hong nangyari?” anang matandang agad sinilip ang bahagyang nakaawang na bintana ng kotse ng mga pulis.



“Magandang gabi ho, ’nay. May nagreport lang ho sa amin tungkol kay Mr. Lorenzo Castriciones. Ilang araw na ho kasi siyang nawawala. Itse-check lang ho namin.” “Bakit, estapador ba?” nakangiting tanong ng matanda. “Hindi naman ho. May nagreport lang nga ho. Nawawala raw. Itse-check lang ho namin,” matiyagang sagot ng pulis. Tatango-tangong umalis ang matanda, hila ang ipinagmamalaking aso na may nakalawit pang tae sa puwit, bunga ng biglang pagdating ng mga awtoridad. Kumatok muna ang mga pulis sa pintuan ng bahay ni Lorenzo Castriciones at mahinang nagwika: tao po, tao po. Nang masigurong walang makakarinig sa kanilang pagiging magalang, nilinaw ang mga lalamunan at paisa-isang sumigaw: tao po, tao po. Mabilis na pumunta sa kotse ang isang pulis, ang may pinakamalaking katawan at tiyan, at bumalik sa harap ng pinto na may dalang bareta de kabra. Itinutok niya ang kalawit na may gilit sa linyang nagdurugtong sa seradura at sa kahoy na pininturahang itim, aktong sisirain ang seradura, pagkuwa’y nagbago ang isip: dinutdot na lamang ng bareta ang isa sa mga nakakuwadrong salamin. Maingat niyang ipinasok ang kanang kamay sa nabutas na bahagi ng pinto at saka pumihit mula sa loob. Marahang bumukas ang pinto at binitbit palabas ng hangin ang nakulob na simoy ng nabubulok na laman ng tao.

*** “HOY, MYRNA. TUMAWAG ka ba sa pulis?” tanong ng matanda sa anak na babaeng nakasalampak sa sofa, nanonood ng kunwa’y nag-iiyakang magkatipan sa telebisyon at nagkakandahirap sa pagkagat sa buto ng kalabasa. Binitiwan ng matanda ang tali ng asong bunga ng pagtataksil ng mga asong magkaiba ang lahi at tahimik naman itong sumiksik sa ilalim ng eskaparate ng mga piguring aso, kabayo at bibe, sa gilid ng telebisyon. Nginuya muna ni Myrna ang laman ng pinaghirapang buksan na buto ng kalabasa at inilagay ang balat na basa pa ng kanyang laway sa mangkok na iniipit sa mga hita, bago sinagot ang ina: “Hindi. Bakit?” Sandaling pinukol ng nagdududang tingin ng matandang babae ang kausap. Bigla’y suminghot ito at nagtakip ng ilong. May nakapuslit na mabahong singaw mula sa labas ng bahay. “Tumingin ka sa labas.” Sunod sa utos ng ina, binuksan ni Myrna ang bintana sa sala at inilawit ang ulo: nagulat sa dami ng taong nakakalat sa kalsada, sa tapat ng bahay ng lalaking kinaiinisan ng lahat. Hindi nakalipas ang limang minuto mula nang paiputin ng matandang babae ang kanyang asong nalahian ng asong Aleman at nang salubungin niya ang mga bagong dating na mga pulis ay paisa-isa nang naglapitan ang iba pang kapitbahay

Likhaan 57

ng nawawalang Lorenzo Castriciones sa mga sasakyan ng pulis at tagapagbalita. Nagtitinginan ang bawat isa: lahat sila’y takip ng mga palad ang ilong; pinipigil ang pagturol ng pang-amoy sa nakasusulasok na singaw na bigla-bigla’y isinaboy ng hangin. Karamihan ay walang tigil ang pagbubulungan sa ilalim ng mga palad, may iilang sadyang lumalapit sa van ng estasyon ng telebisyon—sa lalaking may nakapatong na kamera sa balikat, sa matabang babaeng may tangang mikropono at nakikipag-usap sa kamera—umaasang makita ang kanilang mga sarili sa telebisyon sa mga susunod na araw. Kasama ng pagsimsim sa sangsang ng nabubulok na laman ng tao sa hangin, umalagwa ang galak sa puso ng mga residente ng Kalye Desiderata: ngayon lamang sila dinalaw ng posibilidad ng eskandalo.

*** KABILANG SA MGA nag-uusyoso ang binatang si Jeff Bolima. Nagtatrabaho siya bilang delivery boy ng Liquid Dreams Mineral Water Station na matatagpuan sa kanto ng Kalye Desiderata, malapit sa estasyon ng traysikel, sa gilid ng sari-sari store nina Aling Melinda Suteco, katapat ng kantinang walang bubong na nagbebenta ng lugaw, champorado at miswa kapag umaga, lutong ulam tulad ng adobong baboymanok, menudo, dinuguan, at dinaing na bangus kapag tanghali at gabi. Salamat sa walang katapusang pag-apaw ng palaisdaan tuwing panahon ng tag-ulan, inisip ng mga residente ng La Vida Subdivision na ito ang pinagmumulan ng kakatwang lansa ng likidong mula sa mga gripo: pumutok ang pagnenegosyo ng tubig at nagkaroon ng trabaho ang dating tambay na si Jeff Bolima. Naka-pedicab, siya ang nagrarasyon ng mga galon-galon ng tubig na iniinom ng mga residente sa Kalye Desiderata. Mayroong iskedyul ang bawat isang bahay ng pagrarasyon, kaya halos araw-araw, naglilibot si Jeff para magrasyon kundi man mangolekta ng mga walang lamang container ng tubig. Hapon ng Huwebes noong nakaraang linggo siya huling nagrasyon ng tubig kay Lorenzo Castriciones—dalawang maliit na container ang talagang pag-aari nito, salitan sa paggamit at pagpapadeliver—at noon niya rin huling nakita ang lalaking ngayon ay nawawala. Hindi tulad ng mga residente sa buong Kalye Desiderata, wala namang nararamdamang pagkainis si Jeff Bolima kay Lorenzong Bangaw. Ang totoo, sinasadya pa nga niyang magpatagal nang kaunti tuwing nirarasyonan ito ng tubig dahil siya lamang kung tutuusin, ang pinapapasok nito sa loob ng bahay. Inilalagay niya sa kusina ang container ng tubig, kaya dumaraan muna sa sala at hapag. Ilang beses na rin siyang tinanong ng may-ari ng Liquid Dreams Mineral Water Station, ang biyudong si Leopoldo Canlas, kung ano ang nilalaman ng misteryosong bahay ng masungit na residente. Paulit-ulit din ang kanyang isinagot, hindi lamang sa may-ari, kundi pati sa ibang hindi nakakapagpigil magtanong: simple. Iyon lang. Kapag nahingan ng paliwanag sa salitang bumibitin sa imahinasyon, ipagdidiinan niya, pigil ang pagkainis sa pag-uulit ng sarili: wala namang extraordinaryo sa loob ng bahay ni Lorenzo Castriciones—walang 58


exotikong hayop na naglisaw, walang sofang gawa sa ginto ang mga paa, walang telebisyon na sinlaki ng isang buong pader, walang ulo ng mga paslit na nakasabit sa dingding na biyak-biyak na ang pintura. Kahit ang hapag niya’y simple: pinalilibutan ng limang katernong upuan, ito’y pabilog at gawa sa kahoy, mayroong umiikot na munting plato ng kahoy sa gitna, napapatungan ng malinaw na salamin, at isang malaking tasang puno ng mga plastik na saging, mangga, ubas, abokado. Ang kanyang karnal na panlasa ang hindi simple, ang nais sanang idagdag ng binatang nagrarasyon ng tubig sa kanyang mga pagpapaliwanag pero tuwina’y hindi magawang ibulalas dahil na rin sa kahihiyan sa sariling kagagawan. Hindi lang minsan nahuli ni Jeff Bolima ang malagkit na tingin ni Lorenzo Castriciones sa kanyang pawisang katawan habang bitbit ang container ng tubig, mga pagkakataong sumagi sa isip ng binata na maaaring hindi sa tubig uhaw ang may-ari ng bahay kundi sa pawis ng kapwa lalaki. Kaya siya na mismo ang nagprisinta ng sarili minsan kay Lorenzo, isang hapon na nakakapaso ang init ng araw at malagkit ang dampi sa balat ng tuyot na hangin—sa katwirang gusto lamang niyang malaman kung may basehan ang kanyang mga hinala o wala. Sinadya niyang iwan ang pawisang kamiseta sa manibela ng pedicab, pinabayaang maglandas ang pawis mula sa sentido, sa leeg, tungo sa matitigas na umbok sa dibdib, at talaksan ng pandesal sa tiyan, para manahan sa pagsipsip ng itim na shorts na may kaluwagan ang puting garter, bago kumatok sa pinto ng bahay na buhay pa ngunit itinuturing nang patay. Binuksan noon ni Lorenzo Castriciones ang pinto, halata ang ginsang pamimilog ng mga mata pagkasilay sa pawisang katawan ng binatang kaharap. Disimuladong ikinaskas pa ni Jeff Bolima ang nanlalagkit na brasong sumusuporta sa container ng tubig na nasa kaliwa niyag balikat, sa dibdib ng may-ari ng bahay, doon sa bahaging may naninigas kapag kinanti, bago nagtapon ng malagkit na titig at dumire-diretso sa kusina. Mabilis sumara ang pinto ng bahay at walang iminintis ang plano ng binata: inilalapag pa lamang niya ang container ng tubig sa binaldosang espasyo malapit sa lababo, nadama na ang paghimas sa kanyang pawisang likod ng nanginginig na mga kamay ng popular sa hindi magandang pagpapakahulugang residente ng Kalye Desiderata. Nagparaya si Jeff Bolima, kalmadong dinama ang pagsamba sa mura niyang katawan: tama ang kanyang hinala. Ang gabing iyon, ang pagdating ng mga pulis at tagapagbalita, ang pagkukumpol ng mga residente sa harap ng bahay na buhay pero itinuturing na patay ay kanyang kagagawan. Pagkatapos ng nangyari sa kanilang dalawa ay tinubuan ng awa ang binata at muli na namang tumama ang kanyang hinala: sa pagkakataong ito, may hindi magandang nangyari kay Lorenzo Castriciones. Labis kasi siyang nagtaka nang hindi papasukin sa loob ng bahay noong nakaraang Huwebes para ilagay ang container ng tubig sa kusina. Sa halip, nabungaran na lang ni Jeff Bolima sa harap ng pinto ang container na walang laman na dapat niyang bitbitin pag-alis, na may pera sa ibabaw, bayad para sa tubig na rasyon at tip para sa kanya habang nasa likod ng salamin ng bintanang guwardiyado ng mga pulu-pulupot na rehas na bakal, sa

Likhaan 59

piling ng mga kurtina at nakamasid lamang sa kanya, si Lorenzo Castriciones. Nang bumalik ang binata kaninang hapon, bandang alas singko, para magrasyon muli, ay nabuo na ang hinala sa isip: hindi nagalaw ang inirasyon niyang container ng tubig noong nakaraang Huwebes, nanatili itong nakaupo sa harap ng pinto. Tiniyempo niyang pumunta sa kasilyas ang may-ari ng Liquid Dreams Mineral Water Station na may sigarilyong nakaipit sa bibig—senyal na dudumi ito, isang matagal na seremonyas—at saka siya tumawag sa presinto, takip ng tela ng kamiseta at gagap ng makalyong kamao ang bibig ng telepono.

*** HINDI MASIGURO NI Erlinda Colayco, ang matandang babaeng lihim na nagpapaipot sa alagang asong hilaw na Aleman sa hardin ni Lorenzo Castriciones, kung alingasaw ba ng nabubulok na laman ng tao o kumapit na tae sa puwit ng aso ang umiikot na hangin sa loob ng kanyang sala. “Saan ka pupunta?” tanong niya sa anak na si Myrna, matapos makita itong ilapag sa ibabaw ng telebisyon ang kanina’y mangkok na ipit sa mga hita. “Namatay na yata ang bakla,” sagot ng babae. May mapait na ngiti sa kanyang mga labi. Hindi na niya naisipang magsuot ng tsinelas; dire-diretso siyang lumabas ng bahay at sumama sa kapal na pulutong ng mga katawang pumupuno sa harapan ng hardin ni Lorenzo Castriciones at sa pagitan ng mga sasakyan ng pulis at tagapagbalita. Naiwan si Erlinda Colayco sa sala, bugnot pa rin ang mukha dahil sa masangsang na amoy na nanatili sa hangin. Nilapitan niya ang asong hilaw na Aleman na noo’y nakasiksik sa ilalim ng eskaparate ng mga piguring aso, kabayo at bibe, sa gilid ng telebisyon. Iniangat niya ang mabuhok nitong buntot at tumambad ang piraso ng taeng hindi nalaglag kanina sa pagmamadaling hindi mahuli ng mga pulis na biglabigla ang tahimik na pagdating. Hinampas niya sa pigi ang aso at dinuro ang pinto. Nagmamadali namang sumunod ang hayop: kumaripas ito palabas ng bahay. Pero hindi pa rin nawala ang amoy. Sumilip ang retiradong doktora sa bintana, ninamnam ang tanawin sa harap ng bahay ng kinasusuklamang si Lorenzo Castriciones, bago buong pusong nagpawala ng malapot at mabulang dura sa hangin. Pagkuwa’y pinahid ng likod ng palad ang kulubot na labi at nagwika sa hanging maantot: “Iyan ang nababagay sa iyo, bakla.” Para kay Erlinda Colayco, retiradong doktora ng mga bata, ginawa niya ang lahat ng makakayanan para mapalapit ang kalooban sa walang utang na loob na si Lorenzo Castriciones. Naalala pa niya ang unang araw na naglipat ito sa katapat na bahay. Wala pang isang linggo noon, mula nang umalis para sa Amerika ang magasawang baog na Agapito at Clarita delos Santos. Ala-una ng madaling araw at gising pa siya dahil nakatulog nang mahaba noong hapon, pagkatapos mananghalian, kaya naisipang maggantsilyo para dalawin ng antok. May narinig siyang mahinang 60


ungol ng makina ng sasakyan at sumilip sa bintana: mag-isang nagmamando sa apat na hubad-barong trabahador si Lorenzo Castriciones, bakas sa mukha ang pagod at pananabik sa pahinga. Kakaunti lamang ang mga gamit, sa tantiya ni Erlinda. Kinabukasan, alas-otso ng umaga, may baong pinggan na may limang piraso ng hotcake na may harabe sa ibabaw, kumatok ang retiradong doktora sa pinto ng bagong kapitbahay. Maraming minuto ang lumipas, halos nawala na ang init ng baong hotcake, bago bumukas ang pinto at bumungad sa kanya ang pupungaspungas na Lorenzo Castriciones, suot pa rin ang mga kamiseta kaninang madaling araw. “Magandang umaga, iho. Ako si Dra. Erlinda Colayco, kapitbahay mo. Gusto lang sana kitang i-welcome. Mukhang antok na antok ka pa, pasensiya ka na kung nagising kita. Heto, pagpasensiyahan mo na muna tong inihanda ko. Baka kako, wala ka pang naihandang almusal, alam mo na.” Matapos tanggapin ang kanyang pinggan, inasahan ni Erlinda Colayco na papapasukin siya sa loob ng bahay ng bagong kapitbahay pero hindi man lang ito nagtangka. Nanatili itong nakapako sa harap niya, nakaharang ang buong katawan sa munting espasyo ng nakaawang na pinto, halatang ipinagdadamot ang anumang maaaring makita sa loob ng nakatayo sa labas, hawak sa isang kamay ang plato ng mga hotcake, nag-aalis ng muta ang isa. Walang nagawa ang retiradong doktora kundi magpaalam, bagaman nakasagap na ng sapat na impormasyon para ibahagi sa kanyang anak na matandang dalaga sa kanilang pagsasalo sa hapunan. “O sige, mauna na muna ako. Dadaanan ko na lang ang pinggan.” Kinikilig pa si Erlinda Colayco nang magsimulang magkuwento kay Myrna kinagabihan: mukhang binata pa ang bagong lipat nilang kapitbahay, patunay ang pagiging mag-isa niya sa paglipat at ang kawalan ng singsing sa alinmang daliri. Hindi naman masama ang itsura, makikilala kaagad dahil sa malaking nunal sa may panga, at mukha namang mabait bagaman may pagkasuplado at bahagyang walang modo dahil hindi man lang nagpatuloy sa loob ng bahay pagkatapos mabigyan ng aalmusaling hotcake, pero pasasaan ba’t makukuha rin ang loob niyan, ilang almusal pa at pagbati sa umaga. Kahit hindi gaanong nagpakita ng interes si Myrna, pangitingiti lang ito sa mga pinagsasabi ng ina, hindi nawalan ng loob ang retiradong doktora: kukuhanin niya ang loob ng bagong kapitbahay para maging manugang. Malapit nang magkuwarenta anyos ang kanyang anak, hindi na ito natatawa sa mga biro ukol sa pagtandang mag-isa. Sumisilip pa lamang ang mga pilik ng liwanag ng sumunod na araw nang mamataan ni Erlinda Colayco ang bagong kapitbahay na aligaga sa pagbubungkal ng lupa sa harap ng sariling bahay. Saglit lumambot ang kanyang puso: naalala ang nasirang asawang mahilig din sa pag-aalaga ng kung ano-anong halaman. Nagtimpla siya ng kape at palihim na pinanood ang kapitbahay mula sa bintana: hindi naman kapayatan, hindi rin naman masasabing bilbilin sa kanyang edad; mag-isang

Likhaan 61

namumuhay; mahilig sa paghahalaman. Ito na nga yata ang sagot sa lahat ng mga dasal niya para sa anak na matandang dalaga. Pagkaubos ng kape, agad siyang lumabas ng bahay para makipaghuntahan sa inaasam na manugangin. Bumati naman ito ng magandang umaga pabalik, at agad pumasok sa bahay para kunin ang isasauling pinggan na pinaglagyan ng hotcake pero pagkatapos ay hindi na muling naalis ang atensiyon sa pakikipagkomunyon sa halaman at lupa. Tuluyang tumitig ang liwanag ng araw sa lupa at nanatiling nakatayo sa harap ng hardin ng kapitbahay si Erlinda Colayco, isang kaluluwang lagalag na nang-aamot ng pansin sa taong hindi nakakakita sa kanya. Muli lamang nag-angat ng ulo si Lorenzo Castriciones nang magpaalam na ang retiradong doktora. Pero nagtiyaga, at ilang umaga niya itong ginawa, bago pumasok sa trabaho si Lorenzo (napagalaman niyang isa itong accountant sa isang maliit na kompanya sa Ortigas, at lalo lamang siyang naglaway sa pinapangarap na manugang.): parating may bitbit na almusal—hotcake, lugaw, tostadong monay na pinalamnan ng keso’t ham—at kuwento tungkol sa anak na babaeng si Myrna—guro sa isang high school para sa mayayaman, mahilig at mahusay magluto, hindi pa nagkakaroon ng kasintahan, mangani-nganing sabihing birhen pa at wala kahit anong uri ng sexual na karanasan— bago napagtantong ipinanganak na walang modo ang bagong kapitbahay dahil kahit minsan ay hindi ito nagpaimbabaw ng interes na makipagkilala sa kanyang anak ni magyaya sa loob ng sariling pamamahay, sa kabila ng patuloy na pagtanggap sa mga suhol ng retiradong doktora. Kahit nagkukunwari ng disinteres noong una, napansin ni Erlinda Colayco ang hindi napigil na dismaya ng nag-iisang anak na babae matapos niyang ideklara isang Miyerkoles, sa kalagitnaan ng kanilang hapunan, na wala na siyang pakialam sa bago nilang kapitbahay na si Lorenzo Castriciones at huwag mag-alala dahil maaari pa silang maghanap ng mamanugangin at mapapangasawa lampas sa Kalye Desiderata. Hindi tinapos ni Myrna ang pagkain sa paksiw na lechon; basa pa ng mantika ang kanyang mga labi at puno pa ang kalahati ng pinggan nang magpaalam sa hapag. Noon din ay nabuo sa isip ng ina ang higanti sa lalaking nagkamaling hindi manligaw: hahanapan niya ito ng butas at sisirain sa mga mata ng kanyang anak na nagkamaling umibig sa hindi pa nakikilala. Tambalang dulot ng kaunting tulog na kailangan ng taong laksa ang edad at dahil sa disiplinang tinamo sa paggising nang maaga at paghahanda ng almusal para tambangan sa maagang paghahardin si Lorenzo Castriciones: hindi naging mahirap para kay Erlinda Colayco ang pagmamanman mula umagang hindi pa gaanong nabibilad sa sikat ng araw hanggang sa gabing mamad sa liwanag ng buwan. Umabot pa nga sa puntong hindi nakokompleto ang kanyang araw kung magmimintis siya sa panonood kung paanong nagkakamot ng inangit ang kapitbahay habang nagdidilig ng mga palumpong ng halaman gamit ang hose na nakakabit sa gripong nasa loob ng garahe o kung makakaligtaang hulihin ang kakatwang pagpitik paitaas ng kaliwang balikat ni Lorenzo tuwing lalabas ng kotse sa gabi, galing sa trabaho. 62


Kaya ganoon na lamang ang paglundag sa hangin ni Erlinda Colayco nang dumating ang sandaling pinakahihintay: ang pagkasilip ng butas sa pagkatao ng kapitbahay na minsan niyang inakalang perpekto maliban sa kawalan ng modo. Isang gabing tirik ang buwan, nakita niyang lumabas mula sa kotse ni Lorenzo Castriciones ang isang matipunong lalaki. Habang inaaninag sa ilalim ng sinag ng buwan ang tunay na kulay ng balat ng lalaki mula sa may kalayuang pagkahantad ng batok, inisip muna ng retiradong doktora kung anong relasyon sa dugo mayroon ang dalawa. Agad pinalis ang pagkabuo ng kung ano-anong teorya ng makarinyong himas ng bisita sa baywang ng kapitbahay habang isinusuksok ng huli ang susi sa seradura. Iyon pala ang dahilan! May inililihim na katauhan ang kapitbahay at hindi lamang sadyang askad ang mukha ng kanyang nag-iisang anak na babae. Sa matinding tuwa sa natuklasan, ora-oradang ginising ng retiradong doktora ang anak na babae at kaagad sinabi ang balitang sumagip sa kumpiyansa nito ngunit tuluyang nagpaasim sa nangungulilang puso: “Bakla si Lorenzo Castriciones!”

*** PISTA ANG SALITANG dumapo sa isip ni Romano Villaver matapos tanawin mula sa estasyon ng traysikel sa kanto ng Kalye Desiderata ang di magkamayaw na umpukan sa dulo, doon sa bahaging unang binabaha kapag umaapaw ang palaisdaan tuwing tag-ulan. Pero pitong taon pa siya mula nang huling magdiwang ng pista ang mga residente ng Kalye Desiderata sa ngalan ni San Antonio de Padua, ang patron ng La Vida Subdivision, ilang termino na ng mga sinungaling na presidente ang nakalipas. Siya pa nga ang nanalo noon sa paluan ng palayok at napaaway ang kanyang inang Victorina Villaver sa matalik nitong kaibigang Amparo Foz dahil nabasag ang kalahati ng palayok sa ulo ng kanyang lalampa-lampang anak na babae. Hindi kaya pakulo lang ito ng isang hambog at mapagpalayaw na inang nagpapa-birthday party sa anak? Iyon kasi ang nauusong gawain ngayon sa Kalye Desiderata. Pumunta siya sa kantinang walang bubong at inusisa ang tinderang si Loreta Navarro ukol sa gulo sa dulo ng kalye. “Wala ka bang naaamoy?” tanong ni Loreta. Dramatikong suminghot ng hangin si Romano. Noon lamang niya napansin ang kanina pa umaatakeng sulasok sa ilong. Nahahawig ang ihip ng hangin noong nakaraang buwan, matapos magkamali ang mga trabahador na inatasan ng lokal na pamahalaang alisin ang bara sa mga kanal ng Kalye Desiderata, bilang preparasyon sa nalalapit na tag-ulan at sa mas nalalapit na lokal na eleksyon. “Mabaho. May sumabog na naman bang poso negro?” “Wala. Namatay lang si Lorenzong Bangaw.” Ipinagpaliban muna ang pagbili ng lutong ulam para sa tinanghaling hapunan, humangos si Romano Villaver patungo sa bahay ng patay na Lorenzo Castriciones.

Likhaan 63

Nakita niya ang mga pamilyar na mukha ng mga usiserong kapitbahay at nakipagtanguan sa mga ito. Gusto sanang tanungin ni Romano ang mga kapitbahay kung ano ang kanilang damdamin sa pagkamatay ng kinaiinisan nilang residente ng Kalye Desiderata. Gusto niyang bigyang-hustisya sa paghahanap ng karamay ang tuwang pumalaso sa puso at kinailangan pa niyang tumungo para itago ang ngiting hindi mapigil ang pagtubo sa mukha nang sabihin ng tindera ng lutong ulam ang balita. Hindi kayang sirain ng naiwang mabahong amoy ang nadamang ginhawa ni Romano Villaver sa pagkamatay ng tinik na kay tagal ding nakatimo sa puso’t kaluluwa na kay tagal binagabag ng posibilidad ng pagkabunyag ng isang sikretong nagsimula isang gabing nakasabay niyang kumain ng hapunan sa kantinang walang bubong si Lorenzo Castriciones. Mabuti na lamang, nagpatiunang kumilos ang kamatayan para isara ang bibig ng lalaking buhay pa, binabangaw na ang mukha.

*** “BUBUKSAN NA ANG bahay,” bulong ni Damian Estrella sa kanyang ingkong na mahina ang pandinig. Sinundan ito ng iba pang mga pagbulong ng parehong mga kataga at makalipas ang ilang sandali ng pagtunganga sa harap ng harding may sariwang tae ng asong hilaw na Aleman, sa ilalim ng malamlam na ilaw ng tila nakikiusyosong buwan, sa gitna ng dagat ng katawan ng mga residente ng Kalye Desiderata at mangilan-ngilang empleado ng isang estasyon ng telebisyon, tunay nga: bumukas ang pinto at lumabas ang isa sa mga pulis, iyong pinakamaliit at balingkinitan ang katawan. Takip ng isang palad ang ilong, ilang minuto rin itong nakipag-usap sa hangin, gamit ang isang itim na radyo. Pagkatapos ay nagwika sa madlang usisero: “Wala na ho munang lalapit. Kokordonan na namin ang bahay. Kung mayroon ho kayong nalalaman, o pala-palagay kung sino ang may kagagawan ng krimen na ito, lumapit lang ho kayo sa amin, o sa mga paparating na imbestigador. Huwag ho kayong mag-atubiling tumulong sa ikareresolba ng kaso. Pero inuulit ko ho, wala munang lalapit sa bahay.” Kung mga residente ng ibang kalye ang kinausap ng pulis na si Ruben Prudencio, maaaring may nakinig pa sa kanyang pahayag, pero siyam na taon nang inaapuyan ang kuryosidad ng naglisaw na mga residente ng Kalye Desiderata; hindi na nila kakayanin ang pagtitiis pa. Matapos ang pagbabawal ng balingkinitang pulis, dalidali nilang tinawid ang harding alaga sa dilig at kalinga, dire-diretso sa pintong may kuwadro ng salamin na binasag ng bareta de kabra para mabuksan at sa wakas, ay masilayan ang loob nitong ipinakatago-tago ng popular sa hindi magandang pagpapakahalugang residente ng Kalye Desiderata. Tinangka silang harangin ng balingkinitang pulis at ng dalawa nitong kasamahan, pero itinapon na ng mga residente ang paggalang sa awtoridad sa mabahong hangin. Ang mahalaga ay matighaw ang uhaw na kaytagal ipinatikim sa kanila ni Lorenzo Castriciones. Sa loob ng bahay na kay tagal namahay sa imahinasyon ng mga taga-Kalye Desiderata: sama-sama silang nahambal sa hindi inasahang kawalan ng ikahahambal. 64


Tunay nga ang dila at hindi lamang binayaran para magsinungaling ang binatang nagrarasyon ng tubig. Walang kakuwenta-kuwenta ang loob ng bahay na kung ipagdamot ni Lorenzo Castriciones ay ganoon na lamang, na para bang may nakatagong bara-bara ng ginto at kaban ng mamahaling hiyas sa ilalim ng bawat gamit: ang sofa ay kalansay na yari sa itim na bakal, ang nakapatong na upuan at sandalan ay apat na kuwadradong kutsong balot ng makintab na pekeng balat ng hayop na kulay tsokolate; ang lamesitang katapat, nakapagitna sa sofa at telebisyong wala pang dalawampung pulgada ang lapad ng kaha, ay yari sa bakal na katerno ng sofa, at may malinaw na salaming nakapatong, parihaba ang hugis at sadyang binilog ang matulis dapat na mga dulo-dulo; ang hapag ay eksakto sa paglalarawan ng binatang nagrarasyon ng tubig, nandoon nga sa ibabaw ng pabilog na kahoy na umiikot ang malaking tasang namumuwalan sa plastik na saging, mangga, ubas, abokado, at ilang hakbang lamang ang layo mula sa malinis at maayos na kusina; ang kurtinang nakasabit sa mga bintana ay iyong matingkad na dilaw na puno ng maliliit na prutas, gayundin ang kurtina sa loob ng nag-iisang kuwartong pinasisikip ng aparador na walang salamin, malapad na kamang may asul na kobre at tatlong unan na terno-terno ang punda. Ang kakatwa lamang sa bahay ay ang napakabahong amoy na nanunuot sa ilong at kumakapit sa balat, buhok, tela at ang mga patak ng berdeng likido malapit sa paanan ng kahoy na paa ng kama ni Lorenzo Castriciones. Ang mga patak ng berdeng likido, na kung titipunin ay hindi hihigit sa dalawang kutsara, ang pinagmumulan ng masangsang na amoy ng nabubulok na laman ng tao, kaya ang lahat ng mga residente ng Kalye Desiderata ay ipit ng mga daliri’t palad ang ilong; kundi man kipkip ang bibig, nagpipigil sumuka. Kaya’t nang sumigaw si Ruben Prudencio ng “Layas! Lumayas kayong lahat! Huwag ninyong galawin ang mga ebidensiya!” habang nakatutok sa kanyang nanggagalaiting mukha ang kamera ng isang estasyon ng telebisyon, walang imik na sumunod ang mga residente. Mababakas sa mukha ng bawat isa ang panghihinayang sa imahinasyong inalagaan at pinataba sa loob ng siyam na taon, sa imahinasyong walang napala maliban sa pagkatagpo ng ilang patak ng berdeng likido, na inisip lamang ng lahat na katas ng nabulok na abokado. Hanggang sa huling pagkakataon, ipinagdamot ni Lorenzo Castriciones ang kasiyahan sa kanyang mga kapitbahay.

*** MATAPOS ANG GABI ng kanilang pagpasok sa loob ng bahay ni Lorenzo Castriciones, naging kapansin-pansin ang pagkakaroon ng bahid na berde—pinalabnaw na kulay ng mga tipaklong—ang balat ng mga residente ng Kalye Desiderata. Ang kanilang mga mata, kapag natitigan sa sinag ng araw ay kababanaagan ng kulay na luntian ng dagat na puno ng halamang dagat sa ilalim. Pati ang kanilang hininga, bagaman walang kulay ay nakagpapaalala naman sa sinumang makaamoy sa simoy ng bagong

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gupit na kumot ng damo. Hindi maitatanggi ng sinuman sa mga residente ang lahat ng pagbabagong ito; maraming hindi taga-Kalye Desiderata ang pumansin ng pagbabago sa kanilang mga kaibigan at kamag-anak na nakatira sa naturang kalye. Pero wala ni isa mang umamin sa mga taga-Kalye Desiderata tungkol sa pagbabagong nangyari sa kanila. Ni hindi nila ito pinag-usapan sa kanilang mga lihim at hayag na umpukan, kahit minsan. Kahit pa noong tahimik na kumalat ang tsismis ng unang pagtatalik ng lihim na magkasintahang Jeff Bolima at Loreta Navarro, at diumano’y nakita nila ang naiwang mga bahid ng berde sa kobre matapos ang kanilang pagniniig. Kahit pa isang gabi ay nakita ni Damian Estrella, na noo’y pinadudumi rin ang kanyang ingkong, kung paanong muntik atakihin sa puso sa gitna ng hardin ni Lorenzo Castriciones ang retiradong doktorang Erlinda Colayco matapos makita sa tulong ng pusyaw na liwanag ng buwan, ang matingkad na luntiang kulay ng dumi ng kanyang ipinagmamalaking asong hilaw na Aleman. Pagbalik sa bahay, nabalitang agad niyang tinawag ang anak na babaeng si Myrna na agad namang lumabas mula sa banyo at agad niyakap at iniyakan nang iniyakan ang balikat ng ina, isinusumbong ang pagkatagpo ng mga mantsa ng berdeng ihi sa inidorong katatapos lamang niyang upuan. Kahit pa makalipas ang isang buwan at natagpuan ang bangkay ni Romano Villaver na naliligo sa sariling berdeng dugo, at may hawak na sulat na naglalaman ng kanyang walang maliw na pagmamahal kay Lorenzo Castriciones, ang taong nagpakilala sa kanya ng “tunay na sarili,� isang gabing nagkasabay silang kumain ng adobong manok-baboy sa kantinang walang bubong ni Loreta Navarro. May dumating na namang mga pulis para mag-imbestiga sa pagkamatay ni Romano pero hindi himalang walang natagpuan ang mga ito ni isang patak ng berdeng dugo sa katawan ng bangkay o punit ng kanyang huling liham. Ayon sa mga testimonyang nakuha ng mga pulis, na muli ay pinamunuan ni Ruben Prudencio, nagpakamatay si Romano dahil ipinagpalit ito ng nililigawang si Adora de Leon kay Paolo Barros, kasamahan ni Jeff Bolima sa Liquid Dreams Mineral Water Station. Hindi na ipinagalaw sa mga pulis ng pamilya Villaver ang bangkay, agad itong inilibing kinabukasan at maliban sa kanila, walang ibang dumalo sa libing. Kahit paminsan-minsan ay napapalakas ang ihip ng hangin at sumasalaksak pa rin sa pagsinghot ng mga residente ang nalalabing simoy ng berdeng likidong minsang natagpuan sa paanan ng kama ng bahay na nilisan ng mag-asawang baog na sina Agapito at Clarita delos Santos, hindi na muling pinag-usapan sa buong Kalye Desiderata ang misteryosong pagkawala ni Lorenzo Castriciones. Tunay na itinuring na nilang patay ang bahay na malapit sa bahaging pinagmumulan ng malansang bahang umaabot hanggang tuhod sa tuwing sumasapit ang Hunyo, kung kailan madalas ang malakas na ihip ng hangin at buhos ng ulan, at umaapaw ang palaisdaan.



Rommel Rodriguez

Kabagyan Ê K

ailangan kong mag-file ng leave sa opisina. Sumulat ako sa supervisor para huminging permiso. Hindi ako nahirapan na payagan. Bukod sa wala pa akong nagagamit na leave, nang mabasa ng supervisor ang dahilan ko sa pag-file, pumayag siya kaagad. Binigyan pa niya ako ng tatlong araw na extention. “My condolences.” “Salamat po sir,” maikli kong sagot. “Ilang taon na yung sister mo?” “Twenty three … twenty four yata,” nakalimutan ko na ang saktong edad ni Mia. “Ano bang nangyari, aksidente?” “Oo sir, aksidente. Nagma-mountain climbing kasi yun e,” nagsinungaling ako. Nang mapansin kong magtatanong pa ulit siya tungkol kay Mia, inunahan ko siya sa pagsasalita.

Likhaan 67

“Sir, yung papers for Mrs. Pascual regarding their loan, naayos ko na. Saka yung documents for submission sa DBM, ipapadala na bukas sa messenger. For filing na po yung accounts natin for this year,� ang sabi ko sa kanya. Tinapik niya ako sa balikat. Ngumiti naman ako. Tuluyang siyang tumalikod at pumasok sa kanyang komportableng kuwarto. Lumabas ako ng opisina na walang nakakapansin. Abala ang bawat isa sa holiday rush bago dumating ang araw ng Pasko at Bagong Taon. Inuunahan nila ang mabagal na pag-usad ng oras. Pansin na pansin ang pagmamadali ng bawat isa sa unang linggo pa lang ng Disyembre. Mabilis ang lakad ng mga tao. Mahaba ang pila sa mga bangko at atm. Dagsaan ang mga namimili at namamasyal sa malls. Naglipana ang mga dekorasyon at ilaw sa lansangan. Kapit-tuko ang mukha ng mga politiko sa hilera ng poste na bumabati ng maligayang pasko. Trapik sa bawat kalsada at kalyeng nilulusutan ng mga sasakyan. Ang dami kong tinitingnan pero blangko ang isip ko. Hindi ko na matandaan kung kailan ang naging huling pagkikita namin ni Mia. Anim na oras ang biyahe mula Maynila papuntang Bangued, ang kapitolyo ng Abra. Mayroon pa daw anim na oras na biyahe sakay naman ng dyip mula Bangued, papuntang Daguioman, Tui. Sa isang liblib na lugar sa Tui nakita ang bangkay ng kapatid ko. Nakaburol siya doon ngayon, sa isang kapilya ng mga Anglican. Kahit dalawang oras akong maaga sa pagpunta sa terminal ng bus, nagkalat na ang mga pasahero. Siksikan ang tao. Kani-kaniyang bitbit ng mga bagahe. Yung iba, hila-hila ang mga anak. Walang tigil sa pagbuga ng usok ang tambutso ng mga bus. Idagdag pa ang ingay ng mga busina na parang kinakatay na baboy ang tunog. Nakabukas ang dalawang telebisyon sa isang gilid ng terminal para hindi mabagot sa paghihintay ang ibang pasahero. Pumila na ako sa linyang pinagkukunan ng tiket papuntang Abra. Mahuhuli raw ng dating si Gina dahil hinihintay pa niya ang isa pang makakasama namin na tutulong sa pag-document ng kaso ni Mia. Nakiusap si Gina kung puwedeng ako muna ang magbayad ng pamasahe nila. Ako na ang bahala, sabi ko sa kanya. Kung tutuusin, malaki ang tulong nila sa akin. Kung wala sila, para akong isang bulag na hindi natutong maglakad na mag-isa. Nasa hayskul si Mia nang mamatay ang mga magulang namin sa isang car accident. Ako naman, graduate na nun ng economics. Buti na lang at malaki-laki ang nakuha naming pera sa insurance company kung saan sila nagtatrabaho. Dahil dito, bihira kaming kapusin sa pang-araw-araw na mga pangangailangan. Tumutulong din kung minsan ang iba naming kamag-anak. Kahit hindi nila tuwirang sabihin, alam kong naawa sila sa amin ni Mia. Hindi maalis sa kanilang isip na ulilang lubos na kami. Karamihan sa kanila, nagsiliparan na sa ibang bansa, partikular sa Amerika. Laking gulat nila nang mabalitaan ang nangyari kay Mia. Siyempre nalungkot silang lahat, pero may paninisi ring naganap. Kung sumunod na lang daw



kami noon pa sa kanila, maayos na ang buhay namin. Sana daw hindi ko pinabayaan si Mia sa lahat ng gusto nitong gawin, pinairal ko daw sana ang pagiging kuya ko. Humantong sa iisang kongklusyon ang lahat ng mga litanya at paninisi: walang sinuman sa kanila ang uuwi ng Pilipinas dahil hindi puwedeng lumiban sa kanilang trabaho, bukod sa mahal ang pamasahe. Tutulong na lang daw sila sa gastos sa pagpapalibing, pero hindi personal na makakarating. Padalhan mo na lang kami ng picture o video sa lamay at libing, paalala nila sa akin. Sayang, isang taon na lang sana, matatapos na si Mia ng Psychology kahit hindi naman talaga ito ang hilig niya. Music talaga ang interes ko, katwiran niya minsan sa akin. Nang magdesisyon siyang maging full-time na cultural worker slash aktibista, hindi ko siya pinigilan. Alam kong pangarap ng mga magulang namin na pareho kaming makatapos. Naging dahilan ko na lang na hindi rin naman nila malalaman na tumigil si Mia sa pag-aaral dahil patay na sila. Wala akong masyadong alam sa buhay ng kapatid ko. Bihira kasi siyang umuwi ng bahay. Pero nang sabihin niya sa akin na mawawala siya nang matagal-tagal na panahon, natunugan ko kaagad kung saan siya pupunta. “Don’t tell me mamumundok ka?” tanong ko kay Mia. “Research nga, Kuya, ang kulit mo naman e,” pangangatwiran naman niya sa akin. “Research? Anong ire-research mo doon, rebolusyon? You’re crazy! Uso pa ba yan?” diretso kong tanong sa kanya. “Kuya …” “Hindi mo nga malabhan mga damit mo tapos gagawa ka ng ganyang kabalbalan?” Ngumiti si Mia at tumalikod. Isinukbit ang backpack at muli akong hinarap. “Susulat ako pag may pagkakataon,” sabi niya sa akin. Napansin ko kay Mia ang mas mabilis na pagtanda ng kanyang isip kaysa sa kanyang mukha. Aminado akong mas matanda siya sa karanasan kaysa sa akin. Hay naku, para akong ate na nakikipag-usap sa bunsong kapatid na walang muwang sa gulo ng mundo at kontradiksiyon ng buhay, sabi minsan sa akin ni Mia. Nanliit ako sa pagkakataong iyon, pero hindi ko ipinahalata. Iniabot sa akin ni Mia ang isang maliit at manipis na kahoy na may ukit at disenyo. “Ano ’to?” tanong ko sa kanya. “Kubing. Alam mo kung paano gamitin?” nakangiti niyang tanong sa akin. Siyempre naman, sagot ko. Nagkunwari akong alam ko kahit hindi totoo. Pumara si Mia ng traysikel at dali-daling sumakay . Hindi siya kumaway o lumingon man lamang. Sa puntong iyon, alam kong iyon na ang magiging huli naming pagkikita.

Likhaan 69

Hanggang sa ngayon, hindi ko alam kung ano ang gamit ng kubing na bigay niya sa akin. Hinanap ko ito at ginawang book marker sa Ilocano dictionary na binili ko para dalhin sa biyahe. Baka kailangan kong matuto ng kaunting Ilokano, para kahit papaano, may maintindihan ako sa pupuntahang lugar. Malapit na ako sa ticket booth nang mag-text ulit si Gina. Nasa terminal na raw sila at hinahanap ako. Sinabi ko sa kanya na nasa bandang harapan na ako ng bigayan ng ticket. Ilang sandali lang, mula sa siksikan ng mga tao, lumitaw si Gina. Maputi siya. Naka-pony tail ang tuwid at maitim na buhok. Maganda si Gina at mas lumitaw ito sa simple niyang pananamit. Kasama niya ang isang lalaki na may suotsuot na tubaw sa ulo. Mala-80’s na aktibista ang suot, buti na lang medyo bagay sa kanya. Kumaway ako pero nalampasan nila ako ng tingin. Nang muling lumingon si Gina, nakita niya ako. Nakilala ko si Gina sa orientation NGO kung saan siya volunteer. Ito ang pangalawang beses na pagkikita namin. Nilapitan ako ni Gina. “Nagpagupit ka ba?” tanong niya sa akin. “Hindi,” sagot ko naman agad. “Hindi kasi kita namukhaan. Pasensiya na,” paliwanag niya. Ngumiti na lang ako at nagmaang-maangan na hindi narinig ang sinabi niya dahil sa maingay na paligid. “Si Marlon pala, siya ang kukuha ng mga photos at hahawak ng video. Balak sana naming isama yung kaso ni Mia sa ginagawa naming documentary,” paliwanag ni Gina. Kinamayan ko si Marlon. “Nabanggit nyo nga sa miting natin nun, pero I’m still having second thoughts,” paalala ko. “Ah, okey.” “Kailangan ko munang i-consult yung relatives namin,” katwiran ko. “Desisyon mo pa rin naman ang masusunod. Ang priority naman natin, makita ang sister mo,” sabi ni Gina. “May sasalo ba sa atin pagdating natin dun?” pag-aalala ko. “Yeah, don’t worry, may mga local volunteer dun kaya marami tayong warm bodies na bitbit,” sabi ni Gina. Ang opisina nila ang kumontak sa akin para ibalita ang nangyari kay Mia. Sila ang gumawa ng paraan para maayos ang biyahe papunta sa Tui. Noong unang tawag nila sa akin, nagduda ako. Akala ko mga manggagantso sila na naghahanap ng biktima, parang mga Budol-Budol Gang. Pero nang makausap ko na sila nang maayos, nalaman kong lehitimo yung organization nila at kilalang tumutulong sa pamilya ng mga may kasong katulad ng kay Mia. Hiyang-hiya ako sa sarili ko nu’n.



Nung sinabi ko ang una kong impresyon sa kanilang grupo, natawa lang sina Gina at Marlon. “Okey lang yun. Yung mga militar nga, ang tingin sa amin mga … alam mo na,” sabi ni Marlon. Kakausapin ko pa sana sila, kaso bigla akong tinawag ng nagbebenta ng ticket. “Ilan?” “Tatlo.” “Ayan na?” sabi ng nagbebenta. “Ano po?” “Sa Bangued, manong,” salo sa akin ni Gina. “Bangued po,” ulit ko. Bumusina ang bus at sumenyas ang konduktor na sumakay na ang mga pasahero ng alas-onseng biyahe. Para kaming mga isdang nagpulasan sa upuan at kanikaniyang bitbit ng bagahe at labas ng mga tiket. Sumakay kami ng bus at agad kong naramdaman ang pekeng lamig na ibinuga ng aircon. Nagkahiwalay kami ng upuan nina Gina at Marlon. Napunta sila sa bandang likuran at nasa bahaging unahan naman ako. Nilingon ko sila’t kinawayan. Kumaway din sila’t ngumiti. Sinuot ko ang baon na jaket at naglagay ng bonnet sa ulo. Sumandal ako sa salamin ng bintana at umusad ang bus palabas ng terminal. Pinilit kong matulog sa buong biyahe pero hindi ko mapigilan ang mag-isip. Sa pagitan ng mga nakaw na idlip, laging lumilitaw ang mukha ni Mia, ang masayahin at maganda niyang mukha. Alas-singko na ng umaga nang makarating kami sa Bangued. Dahil madilim pa, lampas isang oras din kaming nanatili sa terminal ng bus. Ni hindi ko namalayang nakatulog ako sa makitid na upuan. Ginising ako ni Gina. Nahulog ang diksiyonaryo sa semento nang bumangon ako. Pinulot ito ni Gina. “O, marunong ka na bang mag-Ilokano?” tanong ni Gina. “Wen manang!” bibo kong sagot. “Kasdyay. Sige nga …” Binuklat ni Gina ang diksiyonaryo at tinanong ako. “O, ano ito, danum?” “A, tubig?” “Galing. O ito, karayan?” “A … hindi ko alam e,” napakamot ako ng ulo. “Ilog!” sagot ni Gina. “Anya ti nagan mo, ading?”

Likhaan 71

“Ha, e…” napakamot ulit ako ng ulo. “Ang sabi ko, anong pangalan mo?” salin niya. Kinuha ni Gina ang kubing at inilagay sa pagitan ng kanyang labi. Kinalabit niya ito sabay ihip. Tumunog ang kubing. “Musical instrument pala yan, akala ko book marker. Bigay sa akin yan ni Mia,” sabi ko. Binalik ni Gina ang kubing sa akin. Sinubukan ko itong patugtugin, may tunog na lumabas, pero hindi musikal. Binasag ng sinasakyan naming traysikel ang tahimik na umaga. Mangilan-ngilan na rin ang mga taong naglalakad sa kalsada na pumapalibot sa plasa ng Bangued. Luma na ang karamihan sa mga bilding na makikita sa paligid ng kapitolyo. May ilang fastfood chain, tindahan ng donut at maliit na bangko. Pagdating sa terminal ng dyip, unti-unti nang ipinapasok ng mga pasahero ang kanilang gamit sa loob ng sasakyan; mga kahon na naglalaman ng iba’t ibang paninda at de-lata, mga lata ng biskwit, mga bagaheng naglalaman ng damit, mga gamit pansaka at gamit sa bahay. Inilagay sa bubungan ng dyip ang malalaki at mabibigat na bagahe; sako ng bigas, case ng softdrinks at beer, mga kahoy at plywood. Parang magkakapatong na bato ang pagkakaayos ng mga ito. Ang ibang pasahero’y nakasakay na sa loob ng dyip. Ang iba nama’y sa ibabaw ng bubungan nito. Pinapili ako ni Gina kung saan ko gustong sumakay. “Sa loob na lang ako para makatulog pa,” dahilan ko. “Mas maganda sa top load, mas marami kang makikitang magandang view,” sabi naman ni Gina. “Saka mas kaunti ang alikabok,” dagdag ni Marlon. “Alikabok?” “Oo. Kaya kung hikain ka, pinapayo ko sa iyo na dito ka na sumakay. Tara! Enjoy dito,” aya ulit sa akin ni Gina. Madali akong malula. Ni hindi pa nga ako nakakasakay ng ferris wheel sa takot at sa pag-iwas na masuka. Pero kahit nag-aalangan, umakyat pa rin ako sa bubong. “Ilokano ba ang salita nila sa Tui?” tanong ko kay Marlon habang pasakay sa bubungan ng dyip. “Ang alam ko Ilokano, saka Itneg,” sagot niya habang tinutulungan ako sa pagakyat. Sa limang taong hindi namin pagkikita ni Mia, minsan lang siya sumulat. Maayos ang kalagayan ko dito, sabi niya. Hindi daw siya pinababayaan ng mga katutubong Tingguian kung saan siya nakabase. Noong una, ang buong akala niya, marami siyang maituturo sa kanila. Pero ako pala ang estudyante dito, sabi niya. Ang ganda



ng mga musical instruments nila, karamihan gawa lang sa kawayan. Marunong na nga akong tumugtog ng kollitong e, dagdag pang balita sa akin ni Mia. Marunong na rin daw siyang magsalita ng salita doon. Pero kailangan ko pang mag-practice, pahabol niya sa sulat. Ako, ang tanging alam ko, half-Tingguian si Gabriela Silang. Yun lang at wala ng iba. Naghanap ako ng puwestong magsisilbing kanlungan ko sa mahaba-habang biyahe. Bago tuluyang umusad ang dyip, nakita kong kausap ni Gina ang isang lalaki na nagpabawas sa kaba ko. Tumingin sila sa akin at sinuklian ko naman sila ng matipid na ngiti. Siguro, alam na ng ibang pasahero ang dahilan kung bakit kami dumayo. Walang bahid ng pagtataka ang kanilang mga mukha kung bakit may tatlong taga-Maynila ang bibisita sa kanilang lugar. Mula sa mala-highway na kalsada, kumaliwa ang sinasakyan naming dyip sa isang kalye. Sa mga unang kilometrong nilakbay namin, semento at aspalto ang daanan, hanggang sa pumailanglang na ang alikabok dahil lupa na ang dinadaanang kalsada. Karaniwang tanawin ang hilera ng mga bahay at mangilan-ngilang palayan. Malawak ang lupa, pero walang tanim ang malaking bahagi. Mas marami ang tumutubong damo at talahib sa paligid. Matapos ang halos isang oras na biyahe, tumigil ang dyip sa pampang ng isang ilog na humahati sa mabatong kapatagan. Humahapdi na ang balat ko, lalo na sa bandang batok. “O, ihi muna,” sabi ng isa sa mga lokal na pasahero. Nakisabay ako sa pagbaba ng iba para umihi. Nakita ko ang isang papalapit na balsa na galing sa kabilang dako ng ilog. Parang si Atlas, karga nito ang isang dyip na puno din ng pasahero papunta naman sa kapitolyo, kung saan kami nanggaling. Nagsindi ako ng sigarilyo. Isang lalaki ang lumapit sa akin para makisindi. “Manong, anong tawag sa lugar na ito?” tanong ko sa lalaki. “Dugong,” sagot niya. “E, itong ilog?” tanong ko ulit. “Abra River ito.” May nagtitinda ng mais at nilagang itlog sa balsa. Sunog ang kanilang balat na halatang resulta ng matagalang pamamalagi nila sa ilalim ng sikat ng araw. Nakangiti silang nag-aalok ng kanilang mga paninda. Bumili ako ng tatlong piraso ng nilagang itlog at isang supot ng mais at binigyan sina Gina at Marlon. Ito na ang nagsilbi naming agahan. Kahit kabado’t puyat, nangibabaw ang pagkamangha ko sa lugar. Bumulaga sa akin ang tanawin na sa mga pelikula at travel shows ko lang nakikita. Walang kaulap-ulap sa langit. Saan man direksiyon ako tumingin, tanaw ang naglalakihang hilera ng mga bundok. Alam kong isa sa mga lugar na iyon ang aming pupuntahan, kung saan nakaburol si Mia. Ilang minuto lang, narating ng balsa ang kabilang pampang ng ilog. Nagpatuloy ang dyip sa pagtahak ng kalsadang sumusuyod sa gitna ng kabundukan. Pakitid nang pakitid ang kalsadang dinadaanan ng dyip.

Likhaan 73

Nakalulula ang mga biglaang-liko ng aming sasakyan, lalo na kapag natatapat kami ng paghinto sa bangin. Halos mahawakan ko na ang katawan ng bundok na tanaw ko noong una sa malayo. Mag-isang tinatahak ng aming sasakyan ang tahimik at pakurbang bakubakong kalsada. Kaya pala malaki at matibay na dyip ang aming sinasakyan, kasi hindi uubra ang ordinaryong dyip sa ganitong klase ng biyahe at daanan. Tanging ang tunog ng makina ng dyip ang dinig sa buong paglalakbay. Naiidlip ako kung minsan habang nakasandal sa mga sako ng bigas at nakahawak sa mga case ng sofdrinks at beer para hindi mahulog. Pero agad din akong nagigising kapag umaalog ang dyip dahil sa lubak-lubak na daan. Matapos ang ilan pang oras, tumigil ang dyip sa isang baryo sa Salappadan. “Mangan tayun,” aya ng isa sa mga pasahero. Alam ko ang ibig sabihin nun, kain na tayo. Sa pagbaba mula sa bubong ng dyip, pinagpag ko ang alikabok na kumapit sa aking damit. “O, ayos ka lang?” tanong sa akin ni Marlon. “Oo, medyo nangawit lang itong baywang ko,” sabi ko sabay unat at ikot ng baywang. Lumapit kami ni Marlon sa mesa kung nasaan si Gina. Ipinakilala sa akin ni Gina ang ilang mga taga-Tui na kakilala ang aking kapatid. Huli niyang ipinakilala si Manong Baggas. Mahigpit ang pagkapit ng magaspang niyang kamay sa aking kamay. Bigla, mula sa isang maliit na daang tumatagos sa magubat na bahagi ng lugar, tatlong sundalo ang sumulpot at parang iniistima ang mga pasaherong nagsibabaan ng dyip. Isa sa mga sundalo ang lumapit sa aming mesa. “Naimbag nga aldaw. Anya ti papanam?” tanong niya sa amin. “Sa Tui, sir,” mabilis na sagot ni Gina. “Tagalog kayo? Ang layo ng pupuntahan nyo. Sa dulo yun ng biyahe.” Humarap sa akin ang sundalo. “Anya ti aramiden yu idyay?” “Kabagyak isuda. Nagbabakasyon lang, “ si Manong Baggas na ang nagsalita. “Mukhang napaaga ang bakasyon natin a. Buti pa kayo,” panunutil ng sundalo. Ngumiti lang kaming lahat. Nagkunwari akong mahinahon at walang nararamdamang tensiyon na nagpakaba sa akin. “Aganad kayo. Ado ti uleg idyay,” sabi ng sundalo sabay talikod. “Anong sabi niya?” tanong ko kay Gina. “Mag-ingat daw tayo.” 74


“Bakit daw?” tanong ko ulit. “Marami daw ahas sa Tui,” sagot ni Manong Baggas. Sa ilang ulit pang pagtawid sa maliliit at mabababaw na batisan, pagkurba sa mga gilid ng bundok, pag-iwas na mahulog sa bangin, ang paulit-ulit na pagyuko at pag-ilag sa mga sanga ng puno, sinabayan ang lahat ng ito ng aking antisipasyon kung ano ang aabutan kong sitwasyon sa burol ni Mia. Lampas alas-dose ng tanghali nang makarating kami sa Tui. Halos tuktok ng bundok ang lugar. Sa ilang patag na lupa, kita ang malawak na taniman ng palay. Tahimik at walang taong gumagala sa paligid. Malinis at sariwa ang hangin. Tumigil ang dyip sa harap ng isang kapilya. Malamig sa labas, pero mas lumamig nang pumasok kami sa loob. May mangilan-ngilang tao na nakaupo sa hilera ng bangko. Napalingon sila sa aming pagdating. Sa isang gilid, nakita ko ang isang puting kabaong na mumurahin at halatang minadali ang pagkakagawa. Gusto ko man magmadali, dahan-dahan ang naging paglapit ko sa kabaong. “Bakit nakasara?” tanong ko kay Gina. “Sa mukha kasi siya …” “Gusto ko pa rin siyang makita,” pagputol ko sa sasabihin pa sana ni Gina. Inihanda ko ang sarili ko. Inangat nina Manong Baggas at Marlon ang takip ng kabaong at isinandal ito sa dingding ng kapilya. Tiningnan ko nang mabuti ang mukha ng bangkay. Hindi si Mia ang nasa kabaong. Malayong-malayo ito sa mukha ng kapatid ko. Sinubukang ayusin ng punerarya ang wasak na mukha ni Mia pero wala rin itong naging epekto. Sabog ang gilid ng kanyang ulo at lubog ang mga mata. Bumaliko ang kanyang ilong at umabot sa tainga ang gilid ng kanyang labi. May mga uka sa kanyang ulo. Pinutakti ng mga nagsasangang tahi ang kanyang baba at noo. Pinasakan ng bulak ang magkabilaan niyang pisngi para umumbok ito at magkalaman. Masahol pa sa piniping lata ang mukha ng aking kapatid. “Kuhanan mo ng video,” sabi ko kay Marlon. Inilabas ni Marlon ang kanyang kamera. Kinuhanan niya ang eksenang akala ko sa pelikula lang napapanood. Kapag nangyari pala ito sa tunay na buhay, parang hindi na ito totoo. “Ang sabi ng iba, sa hita lang daw tinamaan ang kapatid mo. Puwede pa talaga siyang mabuhay pero tinuluyan pa rin siya,” sabi sa akin ni Gina. Umupo ako sa isang gilid. Sapo-sapo ko ang aking mukha. Maluha-luha ako pero hindi ako tuluyang makaiyak. “Gusto ng mga taga-rito na dito siya ilibing. Pero nasa iyo pa rin kung ano ang gusto mong mangyari. Ikaw ang kapatid,” pagpapatuloy ni Gina.

Likhaan 75

Isang batang babae ang patakbong lumapit kay Manong Baggas at yumakap sa mga binti nito. “Ania tinangan mo, adeng?” tanong ko sa bata sa baluktot na Ilokano. Nahiya ang bata kaya inulit ni Manong Baggas ang tanong ko. “Ania ti nagan kanu?” sabi ni Manong Baggas. “Memory,” sagot agad ng bata. “Napatay din sa engkuwentro si Renzo, ang anak ko, pero sinunog nila ang katawan,” sabi ni Manong Baggas. “Asawa niya ang kapatid mo. Ito ang anak nila, si Memory,” mahinahon na pagsabi sa akin ni Manong Baggas. Lumuhod ako sa tapat ni Memory. Hinugot ko ang kubing na nakasiksik sa diksiyonaryo. Ipinakita ko ito sa bata. “Alam mo kung ano ito?” tanong ko sa kanya. “Uwin!” maliksi at bibong sagot naman niya. Kinuha ni Memory ang kubing. Pinatugtog niya ito at sinakop ng musmos niyang musika ang tahimik at malamig na paligid.



Mikael de Lara Co

On the Necessity of Sadness & Other Poems ĂŠ As Adam This much I remember: we were happy, yes? Under the many bright trees whose names we found tucked under our tongues like stones or incandescent secrets floundering as the air trembled. Sound, we called it, even for that we had a name, but how could we not have noticed that none called back? Sparrow, we said, and it stared at us, unknowing with its black eyes. Cricket we said, but they did not cease their laments, their voices unwavering under the grass, their wings violent, hidden. Desire I said, but I am not as sure now, did I name it then or only afterwards, beyond Havilah when as the fields grayed the grain began their descent into bitterness? We were too oblivious, too obedient to notice the absence we granted things as we named them. Was it this knowledge, or was it the naming itself that undid us? Our tongues not content inside our bodies, we longed to possess even the other, possess them so long as their suffering was not ours, and when they began

Likhaan 77

to shed their names by themselves, we invented new ones; when they began to hurt us we broke them down into more names, the part of the rosebush that wounds us is the thorn; that of the tree, the promise; that of the serpent, the truth. Or we simply looked away, the way you looked away when we were driven from the Garden, the part of my body that hurt you, the heart. I was sitting by the river then, and this much I remember: the fruit lingering in my mouth, the names it burned on my tongue as I scampered away from the Voice. Until now there is no word for this, and this is the myth I make of it, the loss, everything: I will be grateful to you forever, for the fall.

On the Necessity of Sadness Let me tell you about longing. Let me presume that I have something new to say about it, that this room, naked, its walls pining for clocks, has something new to say about absence. Somewhere the crunch of an apple, fading sunflowers on a quilt, a window looking out to a landscape with a single tree. And you sitting under it. Let go, said you to me in a dream, but by the time the wind carried your voice to me, I was already walking through the yawning door, towards the small, necessary sadnesses of waking. I wish I could hold you now, but that is a line that has



no place in a poem, like the swollen sheen of the moon tonight, or the word absence, or you, or longing. Let me tell you about longing. In a distant country two lovers are on a bench, and pigeons, unafraid, are perching beside them. She places a hand on his knee and says, say to me the truest thing you can. I am closing my eyes now. You are far away.

On the Translucency of Yearning If this were a song it would have no words. If this were a window. Looking out to Cubao saying, look, an island. Mist then mountains straddling the horizon. If this were about distance I would believe for a moment in the translucency of yearning. Not glass. But curtains. A stray lock of hair draping over your ear. I whisper something and what do you hear? Pain and my voice quivering from rain. (Look, Cubao worships rain.) This is a poem I wrote long before we met. And how will I map the strange geography of your heart? I am looking for a street. (A river, to follow out to sea.) A corner where once I put my hand on your cheek. Tell me its name. Tell me your name. Tell the window, saying look, look, Cubao worships rain.

Likhaan 79

Bulan Silence like a starless morning, which is not silence at all but a form of longing, the moon like an afterthought in the shape of a sigh solid on your throat, a stone turning into water, turning into a starless morning like that blue horizon a ship sees when wanting to dock finally and the wanting becomes real like suddenly a vast fogless bay, real like its cargo of spice and crosses and music, weightless things so heavy on the shoulders of the small brown-skinned people in their loincloths on the shores. In their loincloths with spears impaled on the sand, speaking in consonants lost on the slumbering eardrums of the old world. This is my country. This is my country, old as water. This is my country of pumice and songs only in minor chords only my ancestors don’t know it, don’t know what to call it, this sadness in six strings only. Count the sadnesses and I will sing to you of my blue starless mornings, my blue starless horizons choked with the silence of my country, silence I only now remember because of more silence. I forget now the water in my ancestors’ eyes when they spoke of the moon, Bulan with her one silver eye, their lips forming the shape of bubbles or rain or was it a comb hung like a soundless chime in the heavens. Bulan I call her now because it sounds so brown. I forget now her hair black



as the rivers of my broken archipelago at night, her ankles brown as harvest soil, her lonely eye luminous as the grains soon to be in their bellies. Bulan I forget now even the shadows that each name held. Bulan to ask you to hold me sounds so much like an infidelity, like someone dying but when she cries for mercy her murderers hear only some animal, howling. Or maybe they hear some other thing, Huwag meaning More or Please I like it or Someday no one will remember this so just go on killing me. It’s okay. Bulan I forget your name sometimes but it’s okay the moon shines everywhere and I can call you by whatever name I want. I can even keep silent if I want to. Even if I bleed.

Cure “… They throw them on their backs, stick a gag in their mouths to keep it open, then proceed to fill them with water till they cannot hold more. Then they get on them, and a sudden pressure on the stomach and chest forces the water out again. I guess it must cause excruciating agony.” —from a statement of an American officer published in the Springfield Republican, 25 April 1900

In search of secrets, you imagine them tearing his chest open and finding only water. On the page his eyes are a century apart from yours. You imagine his lungs swollen, pale as if bleached. They poured and poured until the native —until when? Until he was cured of his secrets? They heard nothing but some animal, howling.

Likhaan 81

Sinunog nila ang parang. Ginapas nila nang tila —stalks. They cut his brothers down like stalks. There is so much time to search for words. So much water in your country. Dalawang gabi akong hindi nakatulog nang una akong nakapatay ng kaaway. Marahil dahil sa tuwa. This is the truth. His body lying on the page like a puddle of secrets, the names of his spies pouring into the soil, the strength of his numbers dissolving into his blood. You imagine yourself cleansed. As if betrayed by thirst, or maybe the weightlessness of drowning. There is nothing more to say. You are only some animal, howling.



Carlomar Arcangel Daoana

Two to Tango & Other Poems Ê Prayer At this edge (must be), the altar of the world (Given), a pile of words & significances tight As houses, light-ambushed & rain-cohered, I invoke your pure delight & luminosity, boy In a red jacket, registering as both breath & Emergency, as the bus dips—sideways— Into the three o’clock road. See you neither Falling nor swimming in the fog, simply, Standing & staring with no heft of purpose, Just gazing, marvelously, letting time precipitate As your slow body tilts toward the dissolved: Landscape bereft of contradictions. I call to you Instead of the muse, not just because we share The same millennium, the same hollowed-out Clouds of the unhinged city, but because— Let me put it this way: You venerate lostness. You know how to stop, & stopping, the blur Is summoned from the details, & the unknown Rolls like the spokes of white wheels, & Something gets polished inside you & what shines Is a small, incalculable belief in the little bit.

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This morsel is what sustains me so the words May come with blood in them—reprehensible, Inert in many ways, hopefully human. As for you: A revelation of salt, earth & the curved sky Hiding beneath all this white. So bless me. Restore me to my edgedness. Intervene Against the wind shutting down the flames & The roses in my head. As soon I hit forehead Against the page, you should have known: That I write because you exist on the other side, Smoldering with a life that stays put (the way You want it) complete & incomparable In the total mist, needing me not one bit.

Diva Whoever denies this world and wishes for another one— Less mattered, light-lifted—is committing a serious mistake. How can you, for the sweet aching life of you, unravel a river Which is a scarf studded with sequins or dismantle the threads Of winter evoked as a white coat the elms don with such élan? Each time you caress petals and poems, are you not simply Reaching out to softness, to brightly-colored words, The rainbowed stones scattered in the inside sleeve of earth? Even angels and saints can be found in every drifting snow, On the windowpane to which a child has intimated his breath, The kingdom of smoke in each blown city. Ice is absolute— The transparent architecture of water—as well as our bodies. What we call morning is not a state of mind but really light About to cascade on the flowing robes of oceans and ranges. Things need not be anointed: from the brief blue flame To the raging meteorite, from the fire-orange cat in the kitchen To the mauve-plumed birds heading towards the certainty Of summer. Oh, how definite is the lightbolt, the metals Of scissors, the red velvet carpet the autumn spreads out As death, magnificent in his blind horse, gallops along. Surface is all: mineral, fur, shimmer, gold, feather, snakeskin, Even blood spilled declares its valid intentions. We walk 84


On grounds impeccable as gravity which licks every apple About to fall or not. Why not lean your body towards The clap of thunder, the rumor of waves? Why not delight In lush, in rough and tumble, in tough and order? After all, The arrogance of things visible is unshameable, insisting Its accordions, its agendas, its army of knives. I can’t Understand this wish for the beyond when the beyond Is merely a set of brandished new conditions, a country With eloquent churches and people with flawless smiles. We are meant to tumble outwards: words and orgasms. Spilling, somersaulting, securing, our thoughts don’t service Untouchable palaces; our tongues pay more homage to skin Than gods. Hospitable heaven is mankind’s greatest fallacy. Here is the only world, the adorable queen we love, until We shed our sensation-drenched bodies and off we swim Back to a womb, stalactite-cool, dripping, without exit.

Fashionista’s Soliloquy of a Landscape Yes, it’s gorgeous—gorgeous in such a way That you don’t have to insert anything more. If you do, the landscape, the tilted horizon, Would look less pretty like a vase of severely cut, Immaculately primmed daffodils. If only they were Let to wear the robes they were born with, their heads Would be shining, like the sun above this, Only more … scintillating. But some pruning, Some gentle revision of the land would not be Such a bad idea, like the notion of eternal delight. Perhaps, some further depth of color at the margin, Some more fire in the pines will do. Or maybe, The clouds could hang low, bruise the tip Of the mountain which, oddly, is chiseled

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In such a way that the left slope looks like Cragged ladder, broken teeth, an angle of anguish. Oh, if only the angels in their flawlessness Could come down and airbrush it, perhaps, We would be closer to heaven, applepie-scented And white as unbruised light. Unlike here, Where the light dripping in some concealed corners Of the sky, makes shadows appear impotent, All those huddling ghosts at the center Of what can only be called a brief apparition Of civilization. Who was it, the Chinese philosopher Who hazarded, You can’t add anything more

To the universe? What does thought serve If not to disrupt the sluggish flow of matter, To manicure nature, to let scenes such as this Become digital camera-perfect because Our comment bears the brunt of how things Should be perceived? Isn’t the world A made-over home? If only a road well-paved Snakes from there and gets lost somewhere The landscape would have been more suitable And I will soak it all, calling it a fabulous idea.

Garment After Portrait of Adele Bloch Bauer I by Gustav Klimt

There are women inseparable from their garment As if the threads had been worked into their entire being And the body has no choice but to convey solely surface,



Spun gold and ornamented silver such as in the case Of Adele Bloch-Bauer, a glittering fish of a woman, Her hair one concluding motion of the drowned. Look at her And see what Klimt had probably visualized in his mind Amid a background of disintegrating copper: neck Waylaid by metal, necessarily so, in order that the wrist May bend at an angle and all the slim fingers ringed With nothing are entangled into a gesture of madness, One entire braceleted arm kept close to the side so that What should be unsaid may remain unsaid because Life is one complete loop whose center is silence. The feet Are honorably absent, understandably so, because The painting is not sprung from the earth but from The froth of the invisible, what the scattering regime Of light has left behind—flecks and spirals, perfect Geometries of occurrences—leading one to think That she is exactly where she should be, at the dull, Corroding tip of history. Her skirt spilling into isosceles, The warp and weft of her fixity, she is not, however, Forever unshameable despite the lips that may betray so. Witness the slow corruption of the skin as though Her blood, at this very instance, is tainted with rust, Or perhaps it’s just meant to mimic gold because The flesh is as unstable, has its own boiling point. No matter, there are consumptions that are inevitable, And not all sadnesses are diagonal like rain. Her gaze, Underlined by ailment, is at once certain and insistent, And what happened between her death and this event Is nothing but the polite gesticulation of the self. What Will triumph is not art but the shiny foil that wraps it: The portrait, stolen by the Nazis and restored to her Familiar, was sold for a princely sum. She must be proud.

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Joel M. Toledo

Ruins and Reconstructions: Poems ĂŠ Oppositions The persistent pairings of nature: butterfly and moth, all grace and flutter, flame and death. Always terror crosses over into beauty, the tender undersides of caterpillars. Then wings. Tremor of color. Great shakings of flowers and from somewhere, waft of burning candles. Tell me, where do they die, effervescent and funereal, where do they live? 88


Stone-turning I am moving and assembling the semblances, roads like the long unraveling of the blackest tresses. Everywhere things are waking to tenderness, and I am staring. I will leave no room for chance, no less than the naming of everything that passes, because some are avoiding significance. The path winds and forks, and I am witnessing this full-eyed, along with other recklessness and faults and slow giving in of things by the roadside. See now the hard light that strikes then strokes before losing its sheen, an owl blinking, shudders inside its dream of a generous evening. And look, trees bristle in their impermanent greens, stones turning in the mind, when, at last, everything I can find has pooled in the twilight and here, under this rock: crumble, ruin of sky, night.

Harvest Every day, come summer, I fear for the limitations of our two-toned seasons and for my garden. And I hate leaving the house during vacations. Because the equations are simple enough— the tragedy of wailing afternoons fuming with fire trucks and heated news about weather, and wilting flowers. These tropical depressions: they attend to the greenhouse

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like a crowded congregation waiting for glorious homilies, that assuring voice of the pastor who loves greenery and God yet offering nothing much but coming months of restless clouds finally obeying, some holy water for cleansing, or warm wine. Yet he speaks of another garden teeming with just the right amount of rainfallen apples: fiery red, fresh, and sinless come harvest time.

Bird Watching Because the eagle, by itself, is beautiful and allows the whole expanse of its body to span across the high air as it gazes down on our awkward gestures and flailing and failures. But I, for one, value instinct over intelligence. Or the devotion of penguins, the delirious flutter of a mockingbird. There is no loneliness in them, no noticing of the splendor of sunsets. Also, those little sonnets doves make, their endless preening, these are not done out of love. Their fleeting presence on the thin wires of trees or behind



windowsills—these do not concern us as much as we’d hope. They are the given observers, and they never look too close, nor care enough. And while we continue primping in front of our mirrors, they simply watch as new leaves sprout above and heighten the canopies, notice the new antenna installed above some rooftop. And if you manage to get some bird to eat from your hands, it does so out of necessity. So we go on taking pictures of such encounters. We study their feathers and try to measure the true importance of color. We feel, we fall, we stumble. And they continue flying in perfect formations, rising and soaring and seeing everything, oblivious to our daily want for grandeur—these dull, imperfect limbs bristling with all-too-human commotion. Every day I lose a potential feather. Then I find another by the roadside. And holding it up, wonder how the wind animates it, this bodiless thing. I guess there are too many mistakes to atone for. And so wide and persistent a sky to elevate to.

Construction We are busy uprooting trees, sorting out branch from stem, black root from black soil. And afterwards, we will pluck out feathers from birds we have caught, devour the eggs,

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unravel the nests. We will cut cleanly through the trunk and stare at the whorls and the ages. This is to say, I speak not of fallen fruits, nor of that moment when leaves, after the wild scattering, relent. Only that which is still permissible: mild breeze, shaking of trunks. The watchful will notice the rain of beetles before they hit the ground or their frenzied flights. I dare not look upon a leaf and say, look, the universe is gathered here, collapsing faster than the fact that what snaps, snaps, simply because this is acceptable—whoever is inhibited should rely on the imagined, the eventual transitions of language toward meaning, timber turning to houses. What is left in the middle is non-negotiable. They call it labor; they point to it, saying,

usefulness, space recovered. I say, centipedes underfoot, crushed flower, crackling twigs. But everyone is tired and not listening. Still, I am concerned with the leaning tree, having just left the workers’ hands, being pushed forward to the ground, the many leaves stilling, stirring, rising again, and of the new light now busy pointing to the mess.



Edgar B. Maranan

Where the Flowers Have Gone & Other Poems Ê Where the Flowers Have Gone Two years, and our daughters would be gaunt, mere flesh and bone and baggy eyes, yet they are all we have. We would put ourselves where they are now, if they’d come running to our trembling doors. But the wind is torture upon this stretch of field, ears pick up a stream of curses from absent troops, that drunken laughter. At all hours, the sun exacts pained beads of sweat on those who dig up earth, dousing for life’s traces, even tendrils of hope. Two years, and our daughters, one with child, set off among the peasants of the fields to dirty their feet, cleanse their minds, fresh out of school where songs and dreams made grass blades dance

a new world opened beyond the leaves of books There was a camp here, the men who pitched their tents and dug foxholes were peasant boys some years ago—they could’ve been our children,

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too—flying kites, picking spiders off tree branches for one-on-one death bouts on sticks, or teasing girls who could someday become their wives. Two years, and then we hear how they had fared while caged, like starlings with broken wings, their feathers plucked and bloodied, their beaks silenced even for pleas, and still we could hear them. Strange how words carve horror round the heart: the commander’s name, his triangles and suns promoted to stars, while he dug more graves without so much as flowers to hide the scars, or grief: the many names that spill off lips while the heart knows they now exist apart from the faces interred in undiscovered pits. We may remember these assassins as innocents once, as having fragile dreams, frail bodies, knowing only play, the fields of fun. They slew small things they whip-cut stems and flowers, they brought down lives with slings or pellets, they feasted on jokes that had to do with treasures borne by girls.

By fate, by choice, were all these mere child’s play, or a soldier’s genes, an inbred code of cruelty? Two years, and bits of blackened bones show up, some shredded cloth. Only the earth is dead certain when it speaks to us, Here there were children.

New Year’s Eve 1 Feverish at midwinter. Nothing, nothing but fog of sadness, ten thousand miles from home. There, carols warm up nights, paper lanterns foreground December’s brilliant stars. 94


Years hence, I shut out the powder smoke of celebration. Deaf to the demon-chasing bombs, I long for the brittle pop of crackers long ago. Carolers amidst cold pine air warmed up lungs as, out of tune, they jingled fuzzy lyrics for a pittance, right up to Three Kings’ night. 2 Hours before the parting of the years, I take a ride downtown to Intramuros, past Commonwealth straddled by the slums where windows flutter with wind-whipped rags and hand-down clothes, the week’s washing in public taps, the spawn in joyless frolic. The walled city is a ghost town where robes and epaulets ruled, their spirits living on in showcase mansions and museums, in retro diners and curio stops, all closed today. Would they have closed that day a black-clad figure faced the morning sky, his back to a brace of muskets, his face towards the rising sun? 3 Calesas idle on the cobblestone, till one rumbles past me, its crap catcher swinging behind the horse, the driver all alone, homeward with not much fare today. Tricyles rankle, cold, unwanted, on their sidewalk ranks. I see one with children cramped inside the cab, the driver retching on the bars, zigzagging in his course. I stride past tattooed men, bare-chested, in grimy cut-offs, fetus-sleeping on cardboard mats. Athwart façades, a sari-sari stand displays a wealth of tins and styrofoam, spirit shelves of rum beer gin and Coke, a brandy for just one day of wages plus fireworks on the sly: so many ways to cheer the parting of the years, or part unhappy souls from lives grown old upon such native ground.

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4 I meet a man at the Luneta, not far from where the hero stands with overcoat, the bullet holes unseen, only his aura of nationhood serene, the pride of race. He holds a book more potent than sacred writ. But the other man holds a stick with twiggy hands, rousing what nourishment for his flesh remains among the rubbish on this hallowed land. 5 On Quiapo bridge, a hologram of humanity crouches on the bridge’s rise, holding forth an opaque plastic can, his lower body draped with a piece of rag and stiffened shroud, as from beneath him flows a stench mark of earthly spot. With tangled hair, a face begrimed with dust, he mumbles for the plink of outstretched love. 6 Rockets, voices greet the parting of the years then everything is spent. Explosions taper off, sputter, pick up again for a minute or two, are taken over by the tired tooting of feathered trumpets, the final banging of empty cans Somewhere are louder blasts we cannot hear men of good and evil lose not only limbs while the god of time sets back to zero our hoary human dreams.

Holy wood Lovers ‘In any stretch of highway, you would come across a convoy of trucks bearing logs, stout majestic logs, all illegal, all with permission from the powers.’

Have we not uses for this lovely wilderness, why must old spirits be sole dwellers in the woods? These rough-hewn wonders are the stuff of whims. 96


We mark our places well. Here shall we gather the textured wood, mahogany brown and thick with annulars, spectral of pith, layered of strength. Here shall we truss up the boles of ages that we can turn into forts of solitude with parquets shining before the hearths. Geometries define where we eat, make love and sleep, secure within, and a wonder of design when seen on the pages of our lifestyle tomes: frames for misty panes through which we dream pillars to build our bunks and bookshelves on armchairs and sofas that mimic the warm womb beams holding up roofs like reassuring arms dark battens bracing against all storms latticework for providing accent and shade boards for sundecks and sunken dens rafters to hold up our angles of the sky stairwells, balconies, and panoramic terraces from which we shall have all nature to declaim.

The Life and Times of a Seditious Poet We shall line them up against the wall! —attributed to JMS, UP basement canteen, ca. 1960, but could be apocryphal

Not for him the contemplation of coconuts, virgin or otherwise, succulent to tongue and teeth, but the bitter crop of tales from his country of broken peasants and rebel hunters. Not for him pink raisins but the rose that bleeds in thriving on thorny bush, not for him blue monks but the bluer mounts standing sentry to the plains.

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He still dreams of the pole star to the north, a lantern that lit up his path through forests and fields, but as the world turns, celestials happen to spin off in their own selfish orbits and it’s come to pass the old dragon gods make monkeys out of us, they fiddle up their island lackeys who have grown fat from the barrel, the larder and the vat. In far exile, his poems and hymns still excite trilling like bird song, moving like the wind stirring up old ashes of departure, the phoenix if you will, and in our sleep, we hear him sing: “Ay! we’ll line them up against the righteous wall draw blood from their soul if they have one at all and the millions will rise above this weary pall of feudal order, the peace of a gray eternal fall.”



Joi Barrios

Pagtulay sa Alambre ĂŠ I. Pagtulay sa Alambre (Isang Liham sa mga Filipina na Naninirahan sa Estados Unidos)

Mahal na kabaro, Mahal na kapatid, Ang balita tungkol sa babaeng ginahis, nagsakdal, at nagpalit ng testimonya ay balitang batid kong lumatay sa bawat dibdib, pinipilit ang bawat isa na bumagtas sa ngayon at sa nakalipas, sa ngayon at sa hinaharap. Pagkat paano nalilimot ang gahasa? Ang paghablot ng dangal? Ang dahas ng pag-angkin? Tayong lahat ay mga babaeng naglalakad sa alambreng nakasabit, waring tumatawid sa hangin. Araw-araw ay naninimbang, isang paa sa harap ng isa pang paa, hawak nang nakadipa ang kahoy na mahaba, tinitiyak ng pagtitig sa patutunguhan

Likhaan 99

na hindi sasablay sa bawat paglapat, na ang tindig, ay mananatiling matatag. Nabubuhay tayo sa bayang mapanakop habang ang diwa ay nananahan sa Inang Bayan sa silangan. At tulad niyang hinalay, lumaban, at nag-alinlangan, Araw-araw nating hinaharap, tinitimbang, ang bawat tanong at kontradiksiyon. Ay, kay raming tanong, kayraming kontradiksiyon. Hawakan sa ating mga kamay ang alaala nina Victoria Laktaw na minsan nang tumula tungkol sa gahasa, ni Karangalan, ang babaeng tinalikuran si Macamcam, sa dulang ipinalabas sa tanghalan sansiglo na ang nakalipas, ni Tandang Sora, na sa edad na nobenta ay hindi sumumpa ng katapatan sa dayuhan. Kung sabay-sabay tayong hindi iwawalay ang pagtitig sa dako pa roong patuloy na pakikipaghamok, ang bawat hakbang, saanmang sulok ng daigdig, ay ambag nating hakbang, sa tunay na kalayaan ng bayang Iniibig. Hindi totoong walang pangamba ang mga tumutulay sa alambre. Nananalig lang sila na bukong-bukong man ay pumihit, ang talampakan ay hindi manginginig sa pag-apak sa lubid.

II. Sa Akademya (Para kay Sarah Raymundo, red-baiting survivor)

Nagmumulto si Senador McCarthy. Gumagala-gala ang kanyang espiritu sa mga pasilyo ng akademya. Nalalanghap ng lahat ang masangsang na bulaklak ng tsampaka, Naririnig ang kalansing ng tanikalang nagbibigay-babala: 100


Manginig, manginig! Damhin ang malamig na simoy ng hangin na bumubulong-bulong ng pangamba sa diwa ng mga guro. Nagmumulto si Senador McCarthy at nagwiwika: May pulahan sa ating pagitan! Ang pula ay kulay na mapanganib! Naghahasik ito ng punla, naghihikayat ng pagkilos at paglaban, Nagbabandila ng katwiran. Mga kapatid sa akademya, ang natatakot sa pula, ay taong kaawa-awa, pagkat walang sariling pag-iisip, pagkat sakmal ng multo ang dibdib. Hayaan na nating malibing sa kanyang hukay si Senador McCarthy. Ating angkinin ang kulay na pula bilang kulay ng duguang rosas na mahalimuyak, kulay ng kasiyahan at galak, kulay ng pusong matapang, at pusong matatag.

III. Flores del Agua Flores del Agua. Water Lilies. Bulaklak ng tubig. Minsa’y kulay puti, minsa’y kulay rosas. Nabubuhay ang water lily sa gitna ng munting lawa na hindi tumitinag.

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Bumubukadkad ito tuwing umaga, at sa magdamag ay itinitiklop na waring nagpapahinga, ang kanyang mga talulot. Ang flores del agua Ay hindi natin pinipitas. Hindi ninanasang masamyo ang halimuyak. Hinahayaan natin itong lumutang-lutang nang payapa, sa ilog na tahimik o sa tubigan. Sinta, hindi ako kailanman magiging iyong-iyo. At hindi ka kailanman magiging aking-akin. Ngunit ang pagmamahal ay wala sa pag-angkin. At tulad ng bulaklak ng tubig na kahit mula sa lusak ay umaahon upang makita, madama, ang rikit hindi man hinahawakan sa mga palad, batid kong may dapat ipagpasalamat sa pagliyag, itinaya man natin ang lahat, ang lahat-lahat.

IV. Ang Babae sa Pagdaralita Babae akong sinasakmal ng kahirapan. Kahirapan na mistulang ahas sa damuhan, maliksi ang galaw, nagbabadya ang nakasangang dila, makamandag ang kagat. Pumupulupot ang ulupong, itong paghihikahos, 102


sa aking katawan, at tumatakas ang lakas. Nakatitig ang walang talukap na mga mata ng sawa, Nanlilisik, pagkat batid na walang palya sa paghatid ng lason ang pangil ng pagdaralita. Anong gagawin ng babae sa kanyang karukhaan? Tumawag kaya kay Darna? Lipad, Darna, Lipad? Kristala, Kristala, kami ay iligtas! Zsazsa Zaturnnah, Palayain kami, Mama! Huwag, huwag. Ang paglaya sa hirap, ay wala sa bayani ng pantasya. Nasa ating mga babae ang pakikibaka! Kung paanong sa gabi at sa araw ay wala tayong humpay sa paggawa, Kung paanong magkasabay na lumalaban at nag-aaruga, Matibay ang dibdib pagkat mapagkalinga ang ating pag-ibig. Sulong at makibaka! Tagpasin ang ulo ng sawa! Ang kahirapan ay maiigpawan Kung ipaglalaban, na ang pagbawi, ang pag-angking muli, sa yaman ng bayan. ay ating karapatan. Sulong, makibaka, lumaban!

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V. Timpla (Para sa araw ng kasal nina Silay Lumbera at Vencer Crisostomo)

Ang pagsinta Ay pag-aaral ng pagtimpla. Asukal at gatas sa kape, Suka at toyo ng adobo. Tinitimpla rin ang sungit at lambing, Maging ang sandaling magkalayo At magkapiling. Ang pagsinta Sa gitna ng pakikibaka Ay lalo pang pagtitimpla. Kung ang kasama ay maging sinta (at ngayo’y magiging asawa), paanong mag-iiba? Timplahin ang sipag at kaba, ang pagod at tiyaga. Kapag nag-aagaw ang asim-alat, Kapag kasama ang kahawak-palad, Sana’y higit na masarap-maaliwalas Kahit mahirap ang mapulang landas.

VI. Siyento Beynte-singko Gasino na ang siyento beynte-singko? Apat na kilo ng bigas, ilang saing sa hapag ng mahirap. Anim na pirasong galunggong, Simutin mula ulo hanggang buntot, at nang makatawid-gutom. Mag-noodles na lang kaya, at sa limang pisong pakete mula sa pabrika. busog ka na sa asin, at betsin, paalam na sa sustansiya. 104


Gasino na ang siyento beynte-singko. sa kapitalista’t may kuwarta isang tasa ng kape sa Starbucks, isang hiwa ng kesong maalat, isang espesyal na ensaymada na ihahain na pang-meryenda. Siyento beynte-singko lang ang dagdag na suweldong hinihingi ng manggagawa. Siyento beynte-singkong walang dantay sa mga guhit ng timbangang sumusukat sa agwat ng kapitalista’t manggagawang naghihirap.

Likhaan 105

Frank Cimatu

Incestina at Iba pang Tula Ê Pagliliyab Tulad ng minsang naipalabas sa Luneta Sa harap ng pwesto ni Aling Nidang magbabalut Nang isang dalaga ang naligo sa gas At sinilaban ang sarili. Ngunit bago rito’y namigay muna ng mga polyeto Na nagpapaliwanag sa gagawin Na siyang ginawang pambalot ni Aling Nida; Na siyang naging pases Sa sineng paulit-ulit na lumalabas Sa likod ng utak: Malapit sa sementong mundo Na nakalimutang uminog, Sa harap ng matandang tindera, Nagsalita ang dalagang nakasutana ng kahel. Nagsalita ang apoy Tulad ng Diyos sa harap ni Moses. “Baba,” ang isinagaw niya. “Akala ko naman kung anong baba ang sinigaw,” Naala ni Aling Nida. Di ko na sinabi na ang “baba” ay “B’abba” o “Ama” Sa wikang sintanda ni Hesus 106


At hindi lamang kaputol ng salitang “babalikan” O “babayaran,” halimbawa. At paano mo ipapaliwanag Kung sa Luneta ni Aling Nida, laging kaharap Ang mundo: Sa kaliwa, mga bagansiya; Sa kanan, basurahan Sa Ermita, mga babaeng naghahangad Ng katawang banyaga; Sa may embassy, pila ng mga naghahangad Ng kanilang visa. Sa silangan, isang pagliliyab Tulad ng nagpapadarang kay Aling Nida Na nagtitinda ng balut hanggang nakakayanan B’abbalik na b’abbalik Hanggang hindi nab’abbayaran Ng buhay ang kabuhayan. Nang unang lumabas ang pangalan ni Nita Balibalita na isa sa mga namatay sa Wowowee stampede, ang unang pumasok sa utak ko ay “Nabola na naman ang media.” Ang scenario na ito ang na-imagine ko “Ano pong pangalan nitong babaeng namatay?” at ang sagot naman ay “Nita.” “Ano hong apelyido?” “Balibalita’y iyon daw.” “Ano ho?” “Balibalita.” Kasi may isang biktima rin na lumabas sa isang pahayagan na “Book” pero sa mga ibang pahayagan ay “Buok.” Nang ginawan ng Inquirer ang buhay ni Nita Balibalita, doon lang ako naniwalang apelyido nga niya ito, at isang araw ay naisulat ko ito.

Si Nita Balibalita Balibalita si Nita, Isa sa pitumpu’t isa. Nita Balibalita Taga-Marikina. Bumale ang asawa (Na di naman daw asawa). Hindi bale, bumale ang asawa Ng P200 para kay Nita

Likhaan 107

Panghapunan sana nila Ng buong pamilya. Pero pinambaon na Ni Nita sa Ultra. Magiging bahay at lupa Ang pambaon kay Nita. O dagdag P100 pa Kung may pampatawa. Alam na ni Nita Ang gagawin sa Ultra. Kung tama ang hinala, Tumalon na lang bigla. Maging Biga-10 kaya At makinig sa masa Kung ano ang tama Sa Bayong o Pera Pera. Nakapasok na sa Ultra Si Nita Balibalita Nang nagkagulo bigla. Naging dagat ang masa At nahagip si Nita; Nabuwag ang pila At naulanan ng paa Si Nita Balibalita. Si Nita Balibalita, 31 gulang, taga-Marikina. 15 taon nang “mag-asawa” At apat ang anak niya. Balibalita si Nita. P200 niya’y naging laksa. Biskwit, kape’t ataul kasama Sa napanalunan niya.



Batang Recto Bukas makalawa, baka anino ko lang ang makakakilala Sa akin. Kamay sa bulsa, gagayahin ko ngayon ang tayo Ng mga nagdaraang estudyante. Maliban doon, wala. Hindi ko pa mabasa ang mga tinitindang diyaryo. Hindi pa nga sa akin ang ngiti ko kung minsan, Hatid ng pandikit na nagpapalipad ng pangitain. Minsa’y may karismatik na gusto akong pangaralan. Kung may ituturo man kayo, sabi ko, ay itinuro na sa akin Ng tulay papasok sa damdamin at eskinitang dinudumog Ng pagkatao patungo sa langit na itinatarak sa dugo. Maliban doon, wala. Daig ko pa ang naglalakad na tulog At siya’y nagigising. Minsan sa aking paghihingalo, Pati anino ko’y napagkakamalang isang asong ligaw, Tapat lamang sa akin hanggang ako’y tapat sa araw.

Sandaang Hakbang Papuntang Malakanyang Sandaang Hakbang Papuntang Malakanyang, Dala’ng Nakabulang Kartolinang Nakapinta’ng “Pamahalaang Suwapang, Kinawawa’ng Bayang Walang Kamuwang-

Muwang!” Nang Biglang Naalalang Naiwang Nakasalang Ang Sinigang. Sandaang Hakbang Pahalang Habang Nakikipilang Makausisa’ng

Likhaan 109

Manang Nang Bang! Bang! Bang! Nakitang Parang Umilandang Ang Ilang Kasamang Hinahambalang Ang Isang Awayang Iisa’ng Nakakalamang. Ilang Rumaragasang Kapulisang Sindarang Ang Pulutang Maanghang, Pinagbabatuta’ng Magsasakang Nakadala’ng Sundang. Nagbubulagang Peryodistang Walang Kinikilingang Kumikinang Hanggang



Walang Itinitimbang. Ang Kasamang Kabataang Pinunta’ng Sasakyang Nagwawangwang, Nagsisigawang: “Tang Inang …” Pinompiyang Habang Ginigisa’ng Paratang. Nanghihinayang Ang Makatang Walang Natadyakang Makapangyarihang Sakang. Walang KaganangGanang Nakiangklang Papuntang Alabang Hanggang Maabutang Inuwiang Sinigang Nagmistulang Kamanyang.

Incestina Matagal na sa akin itong notbuk Na may mestisang artista sa harap; Arnibal ang ngiti, kahit noo’y isa nang ina, Politiko ang asawa at may tatlong anak. Inilapat ko sa kanyang nag-aanyayang mata Ang malinaw na iskatsteyp ang salitang “Incest.” Ginamit ko kasi ito nang dumami ang incest Sa amin at kailangan ko ang hiwalay na notbuk Para sa saliksik. At para mailayo sa mata Ng ibang mga balita. Nakatala rito ang mga iniharap Na kaso laban sa mga ama’t tiyuhin at Lolo ng mga anak. Wala ritong kaso ng anak laban sa ina. Kahit may napanood ako noon tungkol sa ina Na nahiwalay sa anak at di alam na incest Ang nangyari. Pero alam mo ang sarili mong anak Kung nakaharap, ayon sa saliksik dito sa notbuk. Maging sa ibang mga hayop, kapag anak na ang nakaharap Ay parang maasiwa at ililingid ang nagbabagang mga mata. Sa korte, hindi magkakatinginan ang mga mata Pero parang sibat ang mga salita. “Tangina,” Sabi ng Lola sa anak na ama at siyang humaharap Na ina. “Tangina mo!” “Ang kampihan sa incest Ay batay sa dangal at hindi sa dugo,” nakatala sa aking notbuk, Sa desisyon ng isang huwes sa kaso ng amang sinaksak ng anak. Naalimpungatan ako at inakalang asawa ko ang anak Ko sa tabi,” sabi ng ama kay Mayora. “Tingnan mo ako sa mata,” Sagot niya. “Tulog ka nang gumahasa?” Ang mga kaso sa notbuk, Karamihan ay nagtratrabaho sa abroad ang mga ina. Sinasabi din na wala daw sa kultura natin ang incest At dahil sa globalisasyon ay naging isyung mahirap iharap.

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Ngunit tingnan mo itong kaso ng artista sa harap. Nalulong sa drugs ang asawa, pati anak Ay pinagtripan. Pero di mo marinig ang incest Sa mga pahayagan at sa mga nagbubulagang mata Hanggang tumalon sa ikapitong palapag ang ina Na siyang nakangiti ngayon sa aking notbuk. Hindi ko na kayang maharap itong mga matang malungkot. Minsan sa isang kasalan, nakita ko ang anak na isa na ring ina. Mabuti’t di nag-artista’t baka maging cover ng bagong “Incest Notbuk.”

Dalawang Sestina para sa mga Notbuk: Ang Luntiang Notbuk na Sinam kay Bogart Nagsimula ito ilang araw matapos namatay Si Itay. Naatake sa puso at wala Ako sa tabi niya kahit naisadula ko na iyon sa panaginip Limang taon bago nangyari: kung sino’ng mga tao Sa paligid, kung anong oras at kung saan. Kaya ko sinimulang gamitin ang luntiang notbuk. Isang lumang Katolikong diary itong notbuk Kung saan ang mga araw ay gabay ng mga santong namatay. Itinatala ko rito ang mga nabalitaang namatay at kung saan. Mas importante sa akin ang bilang ng mga patay. Wala Kung minsan, lalo na sa Asia, ang mga pangalan ng tao. Mga bilang lang at paraan ng pag-iidlip ng panaginip. Kung minsan sinusulat na mga hudyat o panaginip Pero sa mga sikat lang iyon. Karamihan, ang laman ng notbuk Ay parang talaan sa halalan. Ang mga tao Ay kinukumpol ayon sa paano namatay. Maliban sa mga sikat, ang mga pahina’y wala Na’ng pangalan at mga bilang na lang at saan.



Sa isang buwan, makikinita mo sa mundo kung saan Maraming natatamaan ng lintik, natatabunan at sa panaginip Napupuruhan. Tatlo o apat ang bilang sa ibang bansa. Wala Kang pag-asa kung iisa ka lang na masasama sa aking notbuk Maliban kung kababayan kita o naiiba kung paano ka namatay. Sa kamatayan, hindi sa buhay, nakikilala ang maraming tao. Mas mabigat din ang kamatayan mo kung malaki kang tao. Pero di iyon ang pakay ko, maging sino ka man o tagasaan, Ang importante sa talaan ko ay kung paano ka namatay At nang hindi na kita mapasyalan sa aking panaginip. Nang nakadalawang taon na ang aking notbuk, Doon nauso ang mga kaso sa atin ng mga nawawala Maaari akong gumawa ng bagong kategorya para sa wala Pero ang tinta’y hindi maibabakat tulad ng anino ng tao. Wala namang purgatoryo itong aking notbuk. Hindi na nga sila mahanap, itatala ko pa sa kung saan. Walang beatipikasyon para sa nakaburol lang sa panaginip. Hindi ka santo hanggang hindi nalaman kung paano ka namatay. Para wala na akong utang sa Itay at manahimik na Sa kung saan ang mga panaginip ng mga taong naghahanap, Isinama ang notbuk bilang pabaon sa kanyang asong namatay.

Likhaan 113

Kristian Cordero

Cantos Crónicas Ê Babilonya Sa loob ng bawat mata ko ay may lungsod. Walang pangalan ang nasa kaliwa samantalang tinatawag na Babilonya ang nasa kanan. Lungsod ito ng mga haringpilosopo, makata, at mga alkemiko. Ang mga makata at alkemiko ang tumatayong mga obispo ng Babilonya. Sila ang mga pantas ng kaharian. Ang nagpapanday sa kinabukasan ng Babilonya. Bawat isa sa kanila ay may isang kawal na nagbabantay sa kanilang pag-aaral o kung namamasyal sila sa mga itinakdang hangganan. May anim na libong kawal na magdamag na nag-eensayo para ipagtanggol ang buong lungsod sakaling may alikabok na lumusob. Piling-pili ang mga kawal na bumubuo sa hukbong sandatahan ng Babilonya. Ang mga kawal ay mga estudyante ng makata at alkemiko. Mula sa kanilang hanay ay pumipili ng magiging haring-pilosopo. Maliban sa pagtuturo sa mga kawal, gumagawa rin ng iba pang mga batas ang mga alkemiko at makata. May bulong-bulungang, iisa lamang ang dalawa. Dahil na rin sa misteryosong dunong ng mga ito ay nagagawa nilang paghiwalayin ang katawan 114


sa kaluluwa. Ngunit bulong-bulungan lamang ito na nagsimula sa isang antigong aklat na nakuha ng isang haring-pilosopo, na matapos kalabanin ang kanyang mga dating guro ay nagpakamatay na lamang sa pamamagitan ng pag-inom ng ihi ng isang dipangkaraniwang insekto na matatagpuan lamang sa balahibo ng isang pulang kabayo. Iisa ang pinaniniwalaang relihiyon sa estado ng Babilonya. Ito ang hindi paniniwala sa kabilang lungsod. Ang anumang paglapastangan sa relihiyon ay pagtawag sa poot ng buong kasaysayan ng Babilonya. Hanggang sa dumating ang isang kawal mula sa kanyang pag-eensayo. Ibinalita niyang narating niya ang abottanaw at nakita ang tuktok ng palasyo ng kabilang lungsod. Isang gintong tore kung saan maririnig ang rumaragasang ilog ng luha. Matapos matuldukan ang kuwento ng kawal, agad na nagkagulo sa buong Babilonya at ipinatawag ng haringpilosopo ang nasabing kawal. Saksi ang buong unibersidad ng mga alkemiko at makata ng buong panahon sa paglilitis. Isinuot nila ang kanilang makukulay na toga at mga tinubog na medalya. Kumikinang ang buong kaharian sa mga medalyang noon pa lamang nasilayan ng marami sa mga kawal. Tila bumaba ang araw sa loob ng palasyo. Inusig ng isang huwes-makata ang kawal na nagsabing nakita niya ang kabilang lungsod. Matatas ang huwes. Gamay niya ang batas ng tula at sa pagbigkas niya ng kanyang mga kataga ay tila humihiram ito ng lakas sa mga alon ng dagat. Marami sa mga kawal ang nagambisyong maging katulad ng huwes na makata. Tahimik lamang ang kawal sa kanyang pakikinig hanggang sa binigyan siya ng pagkakataong magsalita ng kanyang depensa. May kabang naramdaman ang ilang

Likhaan 115

alkemiko na naging malapit sa kawal na ito. Balitang matamis ang laway ng kawal na ito at nakakapaningas ng medalya. Inamin ng kawal na alam niyang maaari siyang patayin sa ginawang pagsasalita tungkol sa kabilang lungsod na walang pangalan. Inamin niyang lumabag siya sa utos ng pinunong kawal-heneral na hanggang sa dulo lamang ng bundok ang kanilang maaaring ituring na mundo. Inamin niyang nanaginip siya ng mga medalya ng purong liwanag. Inamin niyang may nararamdaman siyang tamis sa sariling laway. Inamin niyang maaaring malikmata, (isang salita na noon pa lamang narinig ng buong Babilonya) ang nangyari sa kanya nang minsang tumawid siya sa ipinagbabawal na hanggahan. Inamin niya na minsan na niyang nabasa ang antigong aklat ng nagpakamatay na haring-pilosopo. Imahinasyon ang pamagat ng libro at dito niya unang natagpuan ang salitang malikmata. Inako niya ang lahat ng bintang at ang poot ng buong kasaysayan ng Babilonya. Inamin niyang maaari lamang na gusto niyang magkagulo ang mundo ng Babilonya. At habang sinasabi niya ang mga litanyang ito ay unti-unting naging isang muta ang kawal—isang dumi, kulay nana, na kailangan nang tanggalin sa kaharian ng Babilonya. At marahil nagsisinungaling nga ang kawal. Dahil wala naman talagang mata ang mga tagaBabilonya—ang isang lungsod na nasa loob ng aking kanan na mata.

Babel Nasa ikalabimpitong taon na ng pagpapatatayo ng tore at nasa kalagitnaan na ng ikasiyam na raan at labintatlong palapag nang mapansin ng isang alipin mula sa unang palapag ang isang kumikinang na bagay mula sa kanyang 116


mga tinipong buhangin. Tumama ang liwanag nito sa kanyang mga mata. Kung sakaling diyamante ito, maaaring matubos siya sa kanyang pagkaalipin sakaling tama ang kanyang hinala. Kinilabutan siya sa mga sumunod na eksenang tumambad sa kanya—tiyak na pagkakaguluhan ito ng kanyang mga kapwa-alipin, samantalang maglalaway naman ang asawa ng hari sa diyamanteng idadagdag niya sa koleksiyon sa kanyang leeg. Sa labimpitong taon, walo na ang nakakuha ng diyamanteng mga kulay arco iris at matapos nila itong madala sa palasyo ay wala nang narining mula sa kanila. Sinabi ng ilang kawal na bumalik na ang mga ito sa kanilang mga sariling bayan at nagsimula nang mabuhay bilang mga maharlikang tao sa kanilang lipi. May ilang mga aliping nagsabing nakita nila ang tatlo sa mga bangkay nito sa ilog kung saan ipinagbawal sa kanila ang pagbabad at ang pag-uusap-usap sapagkat hindi naman sila magkakaunaawaan. Walang silbi ang mga wika ng mga alipin. Ang mga alipin ay nagmula sa iba’t ibang bahagi ng kalupaan na sinakop ng mga kawal at hari ng Babel. Sila ang mga tropeong ipinagmamalaki ng buong lungsod sa karibal nitong lungsod na balitang gumagawa rin ng pinakamalaking sasakyang pandagat na lulusob sa iba pang lungsod na nakita ng kanilang mga pantas sa kanilang mga panaginip matapos ang labintatlong gabi ng pakikipagtalik sa kung anumang matagpuang hayop sa gitna ng disyerto. Sa unang taon ng pagpapatayo ng tore na gagamiting isang paaralan at palasyo ng mga anak ng Babel, nahirapan ang mga kawal sa pag-uutos sapagkat iba’t iba ang wika ng mga alipin. Ang buhangin sa isang alipin ay tubig para sa dalawa samantalang ang bato ay pagibig at ang Diyos ay isang tae. Kung kaya kinailangan ng

Likhaan 117

mga kawal na gumawa ng isang wika para sa pagpapatayo ng tore. Umabot sa limang taon bago natutuhan ang isang wika. Habang unti-unti namang umikli ang dila ng mga alipin. May ilan sa kanila ang tuluyan nang nalunok ang kanilang mga dila samantalang tinubuan naman ang iba ng buntot na pinutol naman ng kawal upang gawing latigo para na rin sa mga alipin na lalampas sa tatlong oras ang pagtulog. Sa kanilang pagtulog, nanaginip pa rin sila sa wika ng kanilang kabataan, sa wikang nagdadala ng simoy at samyo ng hangin at mga bulaklak sa parang. Sa wikang hitik sa diyamante. Ngunit hindi diyamante ang nakita ng alipin, kundi isang salamin. Kinilatis niya ito at naalala niya ang talim ng kidlat at ang malinaw na batis sa kanyang bayan. Isinilid niya ito sa kanyang bulsa upang hindi makita ng kawal na papalapit. Nang gabing iyon, patago niyang muling tiningnan ang salamin. Una niyang nabanaagaan ang mga bituin at ang lalim ng kanyang mata. May mahika ang salamin. Muli nilang narining ang sigaw ng paggising mula sa tulog na kawal. Dali-dali niyang inihanda ang lubid, ang buhangin at bato, at ang iba pang materyales. Napangiti ang ilang bantay na kawal dahil sa kakaibang kilos ng ilang alipin. Tila nakakain sila ng hangin, tila mga bubuyog silang gustong maging kabayo kung gumalaw— paglalarawan ng isang kawal. Sumapit ang gabi at muling tiningnan ng alipin ang salamin. Unti-unting binibigyang-hubog nito ang kanyang natitirang anyo. Hanggang sa binuksan niya ang kanyang bibig upang tingnang muli ang kanyang dila. Nagitla siya sa nakita, isang madilim na balon na punong-puno ng dugo, gutay-gutay na dila. Ito ang unang pagkakataon na nakita niya ang kanyang dila.



Ginising niya ang ilang kasamahan at ipinakita ang nakita. O ipinakita ng kanyang nakita ang matagal niya nang gustong makita. Ibinuka nila ang kanilang mga bibig sa harapan ng salamin at pareho-pareho ang kanilang natuklasan, ang gutay-gutay na mga dila. Tiim-bagang humikbi ang ilan at nagpuyos ang kanilang damdamin. Sinuntok ng ilang alipin ang pader at ang iba’y nagbuga ng laway at dugo sa sahig. Naalala nilang lahat ang kanilang mga ina. Ang mga suso ng kanilang ina at asawa. Ang ilang mga hagbayong alipin na may natitira pang buong piraso ng dila ay sinimulan nang kainin at gutay-gutayin ang kanilang mga dila. Parang kidlat na nilibot ng aliping may dalang salamin ang buong tore hanggang sa marating niya ang huling palapag. Nasa mundo pa rin ng mga panaginip ang mga kawal, hanggang sa nagising ang mga ito sa kakaibang ingay na bumalot sa buong tore. Iba’t ibang sigaw ang narinig, parang kumakain ng hangin, katulad ng isang kakaibang panalangin, naghalo-halong mga salita na noon pa lamang muling narinig. Ayon sa mga propetang nagsalaysay ng kuwento ng tore iisa lamang raw ang kahulugan ng mga sigaw: gatas at pukyutan.

Parabula ng mga Barang At nawalan ng pandinig ang huling propeta ng lungsod. Sinabi ng doktor na ito’y panandalian lamang. Babalik ito kapag muling makalabas ang insektong nakapasok sa kanyang tenga nang gabing nilusob sila ng mga kakaibang barang na sinasabing kumapit sa moog at sinimulang kainin ang ilang bahagi nito. May mga hakahakang labis na ipinagdamdam ng propeta ang pagkawala ng kanyang asawa sa balkon ng gabing iyon.

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Malamang kinain ito ng mga barang, sabi ng mga kawal na hanggang ngayon ay hindi pa rin idinidilat ang kanilang mga mata dahil na rin sa takot na makita pa ang ibang pinsala. Tanging ang doktor na lamang ang natitirang tagapagsalita at nagbibigay-opinyon sa mga pangyayari para sa buong bayang noon lamang natipon sa harapan ng isang malaking pugon, kung saan inaasahan nilang magpapakita ang kanilang diyos o ang sugo nito para ibigay ang lunas o panlaban sa mga barang. Kung nakakapagsalita sana ang propeta, siya lamang ang haharap sa pugon upang kausapin ang kanilang diyos at sabihin ang kahulugan ng pagdating ng mga barang, katulad nang dumilim ng tatlong buwan at sumayaw ang araw, kasabay ng pagkamatay ng dagat: bigla na lamang nawala ang mga alon at namuo ang mga bantayog ng asin. Kahit isang salita lamang mula sa propeta, sambit ng isang babaeng kalong ang kanyang sanggol na walang hinlalaki dahil kinain ito ng mga barang. Subalit paano siya magsasalita kung wala na siyang pandinig?, tanong naman ng lalaking tulisan na pansamantalang pinalaya dahil naubos ng mga barang ang mga rehas. Ngunit wala rin sa kanila ang tumatakas, sapagkat, tiyak na makakasalubong pa nila ang ibang hukbo ng insekto sa labas. May mga balitang nakarating na ang mga barang at kinakain nito ang iba pang moog at mga tore sa iba’t ibang panig ng pinag-isang kaharian. At nabibingi rin ang mga huling propeta o kung hindi man nagpapakamatay na lamang sa loob ng mga templo. Isang gabi, naidlip at nanaginip ang propeta. Nakita niya muli ang kanyang asawa sa balkon. Dinidilig nito ang kanyang mga halaman habang umaawit ng isang epikong itinuro niya sa kanya bago niya ito pakasalan. Ito ang epiko ng eternal na pag-ibig nina Liwanag at Mutyang Dilim.



Pinagmasdan ng propeta ang kanyang asawa mula sa isang sulok. Tila rumaragasang talon ang bagsak ng buhok at ang hubog ng balakang, ang bahaging gustonggusto niyang hawakan sa tuwing magtatalik sila. Dahandahan siyang naglakad papunta rito. Sinalubong siya nito ng isang mainit na halik at saka niya ito sinaksak sa puso. At dumating naman ang mga barang para kunin ang katawan. Tila mga inakay itong naakay sa amoy ng dugo. Ito ang aming alay, pabulong na sambit ng propeta sa isang hukbo ng mga insektong nagliliyab ang pakpak. Dahan-dahang ibinaon ng mga barang ang kanilang mga pangil sa katawan at saka lumipad palayo sa lungsod. May mga nakikita pa sana siyang aninong tila nakapaligid sa buong lungsod nang bigla niyang maramdaman ang pananakit sa bahaging kaliwa ng kanyang tenga. Ito ang gumising sa kanya at sa harapan niya ang buong lupon ng mga ministro na may mga panot sa ulo, ang mga heneral na nakapikit, iba pang mga kawal at mga gurongkagawad, at ang mediko. Matagal na silang nasa loob ng silid, nagmasid at nakinig sa kanya. Humingi siya ng tubig mula sa isang alipin. Nagsalita ka habang natutulog, ang sabi ng doktor at saka niya ipinakita ang isang patay na insekto mula sa isang garapon, na sinabing lumabas mula sa kanyang tenga. Ito ang unang ebidensya. At nagbulungan ang lahat sa silid, parang mga barang.

Parabula ng Uwak Sa dulo ng bahaghari, natagpuan ng uwak ang isang isla ng mga bangkay. Puting-puti ang mga katawan, na pinagpipiyestahan ng mga uod na nakaligtas sa pagkalunod. Tinuka niya ang isang uod, upang dalhin pabalik sa arko.

Likhaan 121

Ito ang magiging ebidensya. Humupa na ang tubig at buhay na muli ang mundo. Umaawit ang uod sa pagitan ng kanyang tuka, pinagpapawisan ito, kakaibang samyo na noon pa lamang naamoy ng itim na ibon. (Huwag na nating patagalin ang kuwento.) Nalunok ng uwak ang uod. At sumibol sa kanyang lalamunan ang panibagong gutom, kasabay ng pagkaumay sa butong halaman na ibinibigay sa kanya ng isang anak ni Noe. Bumalik siya muli sa isla ng mga bangkay, at paulit-ulit na tinangkang maghatid ng uod sa arko. Ito ang kanyang ebanghelyo. Ngunit laging niyang nalulunok ang uod, marahil dahil sa hangin, o dahil sa boses ng uod o layo na ng arko o kaya sa kakaibang tamis ng pagkahig, pagtuka, at paglunok. Pananadya ang kanyang sadya. Binibiro niya ang kanyang sarili sa kanyang bagong buhay, bagong paglalaro. Ito ang unang biyaya ng delubyo. Hanggang sa maubos niya ang mga uod at nagsimula siyang tikman ang natitirang laman ng mga bangkay. Higit siyang nasiyahan sa lasa. Kakaibang lakas at may init itong inihahatid sa kanyang nagyeyelong puso. Napansin ng uwak na higit na kuminang ang itim niyang balahibo dahil sa bagong pagkain. Hanggang sa muling dumating ang malakas na ulan, at natunaw ang bahaghari. Noon lumipad palayo ang uwak, at nagsimulang hanapin ang arko, naghanap ng maiuuwing ebidensya na ganap na pupuno sa kanyang unang misyon. Pumitas siya ng iba’t ibang prutas, (muntikan pa siyang limang ulit na malason), kumuha ng ilang uri ng mapait at matinik na tangkay, hanggang sa magawi siya sa isang bukid, kung saan may palakadlakad na inahin, kasama ang kanyang mga sisiw. Kumikinang na ginto! Dinagit niya ang isang sisiw na sa



kalauna’y dahan-dahan niya ring kinain sa isang bakanteng pugad. Tuluyan nang naligaw ng daan ang uwak. Kaya isinantabi niya na ang pagbabalik. At sa pagliliwaliw sa sariling pagkaligaw, muli siyang nakarating sa iba pang isla ng mga bangkay, marami pang bahaghari ang sumibol, at ilan pang mga bagong uri ng uod at sariwang laman na sari-sari ang lasa ang natikman. Hindi na muling nagbagong anyo ang kanyang mga pakpak—kulay gabi, mataimtim na itim. At kapag dumarating ang gabi, napapaisip ang uwak sa kung paano niya mauubos ang buong mundo: ang mundong inuuod, ang mundong punong-puno ng isla ng mga bangkay at sari-saring bahaghari. Maaari kayang ang mundo mismo ang ebidensyang kailangan kong ipasok sa loob ng arko? Tuwing may bagong bagyo, humahapo ang uwak sa isang sulok sa kuweba. Puting-puti ang paligid, kakulay ng mga unang bangkay na kanyang nakita at umuugong ang hangin, habang tila mula sa dulo ng lahat ay nababanaagan niya ang anino ng paparating na arko— palutang-lutang, walang laman.

Likhaan 123

Eugene Y. Evasco

Agaw-buhay Ê K

asisimula ng last full show. May kumirot, may matulis na kawayang tumarak sa aking gulugod. Kumalat, dumaloy ang antak sa buo kong katawan. Waring pinupulikat ang aking dibdib. Hindi ko maikilos ang aking mga braso. Gusto kong humiga para maibsan ang nararamdaman. Hindi ko batid na nadaplisan ako ng karit ni Kamatayan. Kaya kong tiisin ang anumang hadpi, kirot, at antak. Hindi ako agad dumaraing. Nakapaglalakad ako kahit nagdurugo na ang aking mga daliri sa paa; hindi ko dinaramdam ang sakit ng ulo o pagtubo ng aking wisdom tooth. Sa isip ko noon, may nagbuhol lamang na ugat sa aking likuran. Pero habang lumalaon, kumakalat ang antak tulad ng tinta ng pusit sa dagat. Nagpapawis ang buong katawan ko sa malamig na sinehan. Nais kong mahiga, mag-unat para maibsan ang antak. Nanunuyo ang aking labi’t bibig. Pagkaraan ng sampung minuto, nag-text na ako sa aking partner: “Sunduin mo ako. May sumasakit sa akin. Hindi ko na kaya.” Muntik nang iyon ang aking mga huling salita sa daigdig. Hindi ako nagpasugod sa PGH o Manila Doctor’s. Balak lang naming magpakonsulta muna sa infirmary ng



unibersidad na aking pinagtuturuan. Mukhang malayo sa bituka. Sa gitna ng EDSA, nagyaya pa akong umuwi muna ng bahay sa Quezon City para maligo at magpalit ng damit. Pero lumalala ang aking kondisyon. Nagpasiya na kaming sa St. Luke’s magtungo para maobserbahan ang aking kaso. Nakuha ko pang maglakad mula sa sasakyan patungong emergency room. Paulit-ulit kong pinakakalma ang aking sarili: “Sakit lang ito sa likod, dulot ng masagwang postura.” Kataka-takang ako ang agad kinausap ng mga nars sa haba ng pila ng mga pasyente. Para lamang akong kaaahon sa swimming pool ng nagyeyelong tubig. Manhid ang aking katawan, nanginginig, nangangatal, at basang-basa sa pawis. “Ano ang nararamdaman mo?” agad na pag-uusisa ng mga nars at mga estudyante ng medisina. Kalahok sa kanilang pagsasanay ang imbestigasyon, bukod sa pagsusuri sa pisikal na kaanyuan ng pasyente, para makapaglapat ng tamang lunas. Tinukoy ko ang antak ng itinulos na kawayan sa aking gulugod, ang pawis, ang pagmamanhid ng braso, ang umiikling paghinga, ang humahapding dibdib na binudburan ng mga bubog. Tinanong ang eskala ng aking nararamdaman, mula isa hanggang sampu. Sa sampu bilang pinakamasakit, sinabi kong labing-isa. Nakuha ko pang magbiro. Humihilab ang aking paghinga. Nais kong mahiga. Pinipigang kinudkod na niyog ang aking dibdib. Kinuha ang aking presyon. Hinubad ang aking basang-basang polo at sapatos. Pinahiga ako sa kama, nilagyan ng oxygen mask, at isinugod sa Critical Care Unit. Sinalubong ako ng ECG (electrocardiogram) machine, kinuha ang aking temperatura. Nilagyan ako ng suwero ng estudyante ng narsing. Apat na ulit siyang nagtangka bago masapol ang aking arterial vein. Kung ako ang guro niya, mababatukan ko ang mag-aaral. Pero sa mga sandaling iyon, kahit paulitulit niya akong saksakin o gawing pagsasanay sa pag-iineksiyon, hindi ako papalag. Tumitindi ang pagkirot kahit pa nakatatlong isordil (isosorbide dinitrate) na ako para maibsan ang angina pectoris (paninikip ng dibdib) at para bumuka ang mga blood vessel at makadaloy ang oxygen sa aking puso. Sunod-sunod na ang mga pangyayari. Nahintakutan ako sa mga ilaw sa aking mukha, ang aking hubad na dibdib na sinusuri ng mga estranghero. Itinuring nila akong isang ispesimen sa anatomiya; hinahanap sa aking bilbil at taba ang malinaw na pruweba ng mga naipong transfat, triglycerides, saturated fat, sodium, nikotina, at low density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol). Naririnig kong naglalaro sa isip nila ang mga ganitong pang-uusig: “Ang taba-taba kasi!” “Hindi siguro nag-eexercise.” “Ang lakas sigurong magyosi.” “Wala pang trenta, inatake na?!” “Ano kaya ang tinira nito?” Pakiramdam ko noo’y tinatalupan nila ang buo kong pagkatao. Gusto ko nang umuwi sa aking kilalang silid para payapang humimbing ngunit sari-saring kawad ang idinikit sa aking mga pulso at dibdib. Paulit-ulit ang mga pagtatanong sa aking nararamdaman. Ano raw ba ang aking huling kinain? May ininom ba akong gamot? Uminom ba ako ng alkohol? Ini-x-ray ang aking dibdib at

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kumuha ng sample ng dugo. Sinuri ang paglusong at pag-ahon ng mga linya sa ECG. Pinangalanan ng doktor ang resulta ng mga pagsusuri: myocardial infarction.

*** MAY BIGLANG DUMAGAN sa dibdib ng aking ama, kasimbigat ng isang sako ng bigas. Akala niya’y nadudumi lamang siya o nakalanghap ng matinding usok. Kasalukuyan siyang nagsasaing at nagluluto para sa pananghalian. Nasa itaas na palapag ang aking kapatid, nagkukulong sa kaniyang kuwarto at nagpapakalunod sa paboritong musika. Hindi niya marinig ang piping daing ng aking ama. Pareho kaming magama na matiisin sa kirot at sakit. Pero hindi sa pagkakataong ito. Iniwan niya ang niluluto at inapuhap ang kaniyang cellphone. Pahirapan ang sabay na pagpindot sa keypad at pagpintig ng puso. Mabuti’t may load at natutong mag–text sa edad niyang 62. Tinext niya ang aking ina na nasa pulong ng homeowner’s association: “SOS.” Hindi ito agad pinansin ng aking ina. Akala niya’y maling text lamang ito o nagsasanay ang aking ama sa bago niyang cellphone. Mas maliwanag ang ikalawang text: “Di ko na kaya. Uwi ka.” Naabutan ng aking ina ang ama kong pawisan at hindi makagalaw. Hinihimas nito ang sariling dibdib at hindi makapagsalita nang maayos. Dali-dali siyang humingi ng saklolo sa mga kapitbahay. Gulat na gulat naman ang aking kapatid sa pangyayari; muntik nang manigas ang aming ama nang hindi niya namamalayan. Mahirap ang ganitong sitwasyon. Ang ama ko lamang ang marunong magmaneho sa aming pamilya. Hindi namin napaghandaan ang matutong magmaneho sa oras ng pangangailangan. Malayo sa disenteng ospital ang aming tahanan sa Antipolo. Nakatira kami sa isang tinapyas ng bundok. Kamakailan lamang nagkaroon ng signal ng cellphone sa lugar. Wala pang nangangahas na cable company dito. Bundok na bundok nga, kahit pa sabihing isa nang siyudad. Unang dinala ang aking ama sa Antipolo Municipal Hospital. Unang hinala ng mga health worker (hindi doktor) na asidiko ang kaniyang sikmura. Walang ECG machine sa center. Sinuri ang presyon ng aking ama. Napakataas ng resulta. Pawisan ang aking ama at nagrereklamong hindi makahinga. Nagpasiya ang aking ina na dalhin sa tunay na ospital ang kaniyang asawa. Umarkila pa siya ng bakanteng FX patungong Quezon City dahil walang maipahiram na ambulansiya ang health center na iyon. Masikip ang daloy ng trapiko sa Marcos Highway tulad ng mga baradong ugat sa puso. Busina nang busina ang FX para mapagbigyan ng ibang sasakyan. Mabuti’t batid nilang may malubhang pasahero sa loob. Hindi na kinaya ng tatay ko ang mahabang biyahe. Nakiusap siyang dalhin sa unang malaki-laking ospital na madaraanan ng ruta. Sa Salve Regina Hospital, sa tapat ng Sta. Lucia Mall, dinala ang aking ama para sa pangunang lunas ng sakit. Tulad ko, pinainom siya ng isordil at nilagyan ng suwero. Hanggang ngayon, hindi ko maisip kung bakit mahalaga ang suwero sa mga 126


kasong emergency. Hindi naman ito makapagliligtas ng buhay. Matino na ang Salve Regina sa pagkakaroon ng tatlong tunay na doktor sa emergency room at ang pagkakaroon ng ECG machine. Myocardial infarction ang kanilang hatol sa aking ama. Hinatulan din nila ang kanilang ospital: “Ilipat na po ninyo sa ibang ospital,” payo nila sa aking inang di-mapigil ang luha, “Malala po ang kaso ng inyong asawa.” Sa ganitong karanasan, hindi ko mawari kung bakit naglipana ang mga megamall sa bansa pero nagkukulang naman sa mga matitinong ospital. Sa paglilibot sa Metro Manila, may masusumpungang mall kada 30 minuto. May mga health center sa baranggay o munisipyo pero hindi nito kayang magligtas ng buhay; wala ditong namamahalang doktor o nars; wala ring laman ang mga kaha-de-medisina nito. Pakitang-tao lamang ito ng mga lokal na pamahalaan sa malasakit nila sa mamamayan. Tigib sa korupsiyon ang mga health center at ang mundo ng medisina— overpriced na gamot, doktor na kasabwat sa pagbebenta ng bato (kidney), doktor na pumuporsiyento sa dagdag-presyo ng mga gamot at kagamitan, mga health worker na bata ng politiko, mga ipinamamahaging gamot na sinasabing regalo ni mayor, at mga ghost employee na lumilitaw lamang sa araw ng suweldo. Mahinang uri ang mga pribadong klinika at maliliit na pribadong ospital. Kulang ito sa mga makabagong aparato upang sagipin ang buhay ng taong naghihingalo. Kadalasang nagrereseta lamang ang doktor ng mga gamot na mabibili sa sarili nilang botika. Tila hotel at pangmayaman lamang ang mga pribado at malalaking ospital tulad ng St. Luke’s, Makati Medical Center, at Medical City. Sa kanilang mga anunsiyo, nahihigitan nito sa kalidad ang mga pagamutan sa US. Tiyak akong tatanggihan ng mga ito ang isang pulubi o taong-grasang nasagasaan ng bus. Tanging pag-asa sa de-kalidad at kompletong ospital para sa karaniwang mamamayan ang malalaking pagamutan ng pamahalaan. Ginulat ako ng mahigit 20 missed calls at sunod-sunod na text ng aking ina. Kung bakit pa kasi ako nagpuyat noong Biyernes at nagising na nang tanghali? Kung bakit pa kasi nasa silent mode ang aking telepono? Hindi ko malaman ang gagawin. Agad ba akong susugod sa ospital? Ano ang kailangan? Alin ang madaling paraan para marating ang emergency room? Uunahin ko ba munang magwithdraw sa ATM? Pinakalma ko noon ang aking sarili upang hawiin ang tumatalukbong na mga baka-sakali sa aking isipan.

*** “BAKA MAKAGAAN SA inyo ang PGH.” Tinapat ako ng mga doktor sa St. Luke’s. Wala akong health insurance kundi PhilHealth lamang. Wala akong health card mula sa pribadong seguro. Wala akong doktor sa kanilang ospital. Sa madaling sabi, hindi ako bigating pasyente; mamumulubi ako sa pagbayad sa kanila. Patay tayo riyan, sa

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isip ko. Malala ang aking kaso. Hindi ito simpleng confinement o kasong outpatient. Kinausap ko ang aking mga magulang at nagplano sa mga susunod na hakbang. Hanggang ngayon, ito pa rin ang aking himutok sa kanila. Sa oras ng aking agawbuhay, ako ang nagdedesisyon sa aking kalagayan. Hindi makapagdesisyon ang aking magulang. Hindi sila naging magulang sa mga panahong ito. Marahil, nabigla sila sa pangyayari at hindi makapag-isip nang maayos. Binulabog sila sa pagkakahimbing; niligalig ang kanilang bakasyon para sa pagtatapos ng taon. Dahil empleado ako ng gobyerno, nagpasiya akong magpagamot sa PGH. Marami na akong naririnig na katatakutan sa ospital na ito—dito isinailalim sa cobalt treatment ang tiyuhin ng aking ina at dito nag-agaw-buhay ang mga kapwa guro kong dinaig ng kanser sa matris at lalamunan. Pero ano ang aking magagawa? Makakukuha ako rito ng malaking diskuwento. Magagamit ko ang aking PhilHealth. May espesyal na infirmary para sa mga empleado at kaguruan ng UP. Kung magkagipitan man, mag-aaply kami sa charity ward. Lumulutang sa isip ko noon na huwag sana akong operahan. Huwag sanang buksan ang aking dibdib, talupan ng taba ang puso, at himayin ang bawat ugat nito. Takot akong harapin ang totoo. Pinakakalma naman ako ng mga nars. “Baka naman nasobrahan lang kayo sa litson.” At ngingiti-ngiti nilang binibilang ang aking pulso sa bawat minuto. Isang oras ang pagpoproseso ng papeles mula St. Luke’s patungong PGH. Sa tatlong oras kong pananatili sa pribadong ospital, mahigit P20,000 na ang aking nagastos. Sa ngayon, baka magkaroon ako ng massive heart attack kung nagpasiya akong magpaopera sa St. Luke’s. Dumagdag pa ang P3,000 arkila ng ambulansiya at karagdagang P500 kung lalagpas ng isang oras. Hindi ko inaasahang agaw-buhay ang kondisyon ng emergency room ng PGH noong 2005. Siksikan sa loob, naghalo ang amoy ng pawis, dugo, luha, libag, suka, at ihi. Maihahambing ko ito sa mapagkalinga ngunit pagal na maybahay. Hindi gumagana ang aircon; tila nasalanta ng digma ang mga kamag-anak na naghihintay ng mga anunsiyo ng kaligtasan. Sa silid na ito isinisilang ang mga bagong biyudo, biyuda, at mga ulila. Aali-aligid tulad ng gutom na buwitre ang mga ahente ng punerarya, naghihintay ng mga pagkakakitaang bangkay. Walang kutson ang mga stretcher. Ginamit kong unan ang jacket ng aking ama. Kinumutan ako ng dalang alampay ng aking ina. Sa siksikang espasyo ng mga naghihingalo at dumaraing na estranghero, hindi ko matanggal ang kapit sa palad ng aking ina. Nais ko ng pamilyar na haplos, ng pamilyar na mukha. Walang tigil siya sa pagmamasahe ng aking dibdib, walang tigil sa pagpapaypay. Ayaw niyang makita kong pinanghihinaan siya ng loob. Nanumbalik ang alaala ng unang araw sa klase; sinusuyo niya akong pumasok sa silid ng mga di-kilalang bata. Agad akong hahagulgol at yayakap sa kaniya, “Dito ka lang, ’wag kang aalis.”



Halos walang emosyon ang aking ama sa sitwasyong iyon. Matipid din siya sa pagpapakita ng takot o pangamba. Tradisyonal siyang lalaki na matipid magpamalas ng emosyon. Pero bakas ko sa kaniyang mata ang pag-aalala, pagod, at puyat. Mas namamayani ang kaniyang pagod. Nagmaneho pa siya mulang Antipolo patungong Maynila, habang tumatangis ang aking ina. Unti-unting nawawala ang adrenalin sa kaniyang katawan. Kung ideklara man ng doktor na namatay ako, baka tumango lang ang aking ama at saka mahimbing na matutulog. Mahalaga ang espektakulo sa ER ng PGH para makuha ang atensiyon ng mga doktor at intern. Walang konsepto ng first come, first served dito; mas nauunang nalalapatan ng lunas ang mga kasong malala o mga kasong agaw-buhay. Inuuna ang mga kaso ng mahihirap na pasyente. Mangyari, nakalaan ang isang libo sa kabuuang 1,500 kama ng PGH para sa mga kasong karidad. Hindi ako pinapansin ng mga doktor. Tila inuusig ako na, “Bakit ka naririto? Hindi ka naman duguan. May pambayad ka naman.” Tatlong oras akong nakatiwangwang sa ER, at paminsanminsang sinusubuan ng isordil. Mukhang hindi naman ako mamamatay, pampalubagloob ko sa sarili. Tinaga sa ulo ang lalaki sa katabi kong stretcher. Mas masuwerte ako sa kaniya. May dumating na lalaking sinaksak ng tinidor sa kaniyang tiyan. Masuwerte ako sa kaniya. May isang binaril, nangingisay. Masuwerte ako. Nakabalot ng bimpo ang kaniyang ulo. Noon lamang ako nakaamoy ng sariwang dugo ng tao—amoy ng pinakikintab na mga piguring tanso o kaya’y mga baryang nanuot sa mga pawisang palad. Nanuot iyon sa kadawagan ng aking kaluluwa. Sa mga sandaling iyon, pakiramdam ko’y nasa tindahan ako ng karne ng pamilihang-bayan. Noon ko rin narating ang espasyong may makitid na linya sa pagitan ng buhay at kamatayan.

*** MARIIN ANG PISIL ng aking ina sa aking palad; nangungusap ng kakayanin ko ito, kakayanin natin ito. Massive heart attack ang hatol ng doktor sa aking ama. Mabuti’t naisugod daw agad sa ospital kaya nakaabot sa tinatawag na golden hour (iyong unang oras pagkaraan ng atake). Luha nang luha ang aking ina, paloob ang kaniyang hagulgol. Ayaw kong magwala siya o pumalahaw tulad ng maybahay na maglilibing ng asawa. Inaalo ko siya para magpakatatag. Walang maitutulong ang pag-iyak at pagwawala sa ganitong sitwasyon. Mas kailangan ng klarong pag-iisip. Hindi kailangang sumugod ng PGH ang tatlo ko pang kapatid. Ako na ang nagplano sa mga dapat isagawa. Ako ang magiging runner, tagabili ng mga gamot, tagaayos ng papeles para maipasok na agad ang tatay sa mas maaliwalas na silid. Ang iba ko pang kapatid ang magtutulong-tulong sa pagbili ng aming pagkain, sa pagdadala ng mga damit, sa pag-aasikaso ng bahay, at sa paghahanda sa PhilHealth card at senior citizen card ng aking ama. May tiyak na iskedyul ang bawat isa para hindi masayang ang puyat at pagod.

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Nakapanghihina ang mga eksena sa ER. Dinig ang palahaw ng mga kamag-anak ng isang kamamatay. Nakaduduwal ang panghi sa loob. Nakita ko ang dating estudyanteng intern sa PGH. Humingi ako ng tulong sa kaniya para mapabilis ang lakad sa confinement ng aking ama. Mabuti’t naging mabuti rin akong guro kaya mainam ang pakitungo niya sa akin. Nais ko sana’y semi-private na kuwarto para aircon at hindi lalabas na kaawa-awa ang aming pasyente. Pero walang bakante. Malupit na buwan ang Disyembre. Panahon ito ng mga pagkaing magpapalala sa mataas na presyon, kolesterol, blood sugar, at transfat. Kaysa naman sa maburo ang aking ama at higit pang lumala ang kaniyang kondisyon sa ER, pumayag na kaming dalhin siya sa ward para sa anim na pasyente. Pinapayagan ang dalawang tagabantay sa bawat maysakit. Siksikan sa loob. Pinagsama-sama ang mga pasyenteng may kanser, altapresyon, may sakit sa puso, stroke, o naaksidente—mga sakit na hindi nakahahawa. Sa mga panahong iyon, masid ko ang panghihina sa mukha ang aking ama. Malayong-malayo siya sa isang malupit at estriktong ama na may hawak na pamalo para kami disiplinahin. Ramdam ko ang pamimilipit niya sa sakit, tulad ng pamimilipit naming magkakapatid noong hinahambalos niya kami ng sinturon o baston ng arnis kapag may nagagawang pagkakasala. Nagpadala ako sa aming mga kapatid ng mga kumot at unan para kahit papaano’y maging maalwan ang kaniyang pakiramdam. Pinaamo ng atake sa puso ang isang mabagsik na haligi ng tahanan.

*** SAMPUNG TAON NA akong naglilingkod para sa gobyerno. Tiniis ko ang kakarampot na suweldo dahil nais kong ibalik ang mga taong pinag-aral ako ng pamahalaan. Nagbago ang pananaw ko sa serbisyo nang namimilipit akong naghihintay sa ER para matanggap sa pay ward ng PGH, mula alas-dos hanggang alas-sais ng umaga. Hindi ko kailangang maranasan ang ganitong sitwasyon. Di mabilang na drama sa radyo at telenobela ang natunghayan ko sa loob ng silid. Sa mga panahong iyon, nais kong muling magpabalik sa St. Luke’s. Nakikiusap ako sa aking ina. Naiipit siya sa sitwasyon; humihiyaw siyang nagmamakaawa sa mga nars para mailipat na ako sa loob ng pay ward. Ang mahirap sa ganitong sitwasyon, nagiging mahigpit ang PGH sa paghingi ng pangunang bayad. Ipinakita ng aking ina ang aking identification mula sa UP at pinapirma siya ng promissory note na ihahabol ang kulang na bayad. Makapagdadala ba ng malaki-laking pera sa panahon ng emergency? Uunahin pa ba ang pagwithdraw sa bangko bago asikasuhin ang kaanak na nasa bingit ng kamatayan? Hinahanap ko ang komportableng pagkakaratay. Sa isip ko, kung mamamatay ako sa mga panahong iyon, mamatay na akong magaan sa pakiramdam. Ibalik ninyo ako sa St. Luke’s, pakiusap ko noon sa aking ina. Isang anyo ng pagpapatiwakal ang maghintay sa ER ng PGH.



Hindi ko dapat nararanasan ang ganito. Hindi ako pumapalya sa pagbayad ng buwis. Awtomatiko akong kinakaltasan ng 350 piso kada buwan para sa PhilHealth at ng GSIS. Kay raming numerong nakatala sa aking payslip pero kakatiting lamang ang aking natatanggap. Pataas nang pataas ang ipinapataw na buwis, paunti nang paunti ang serbisyo-publiko ng pamahalaan. Bakit tila ako itinuturing na charity case ng PGH? Dapat kong maramdaman ang kanilang serbisyo-publiko, lalo’t nasa pampubliko at ahensiya ng pamahalaan ang aking napiling pagamutan. Magaling ang pamahalaan sa pagkaltas ng sahod ng kanilang mamamayan. Saan napupunta ang bulto ng mga buwis? Sa oras ng kagipitan, walang maihanda ang mga nars at doktor kahit man lang isang kurot ng bulak. Paano pa kaya kung inatake ako sa probinsiya? May mag-aasikaso ba sa akin kahit man lang hilot o baranggay health worker? May maipapainom kaya sila sa aking isang tableta ng aspilet? Agaw-buhay ang estado ng kalusugan sa bansa. Walang dudang kay raming naniniwala sa mga mirakulo, sa banal na langis, at sa nakapanggagamot na tubig gaya nang isinadula sa pelikulang Himala ni Ishmael Bernal. Ito ang panahong kay raming nagtatapos ng narsing para manilbihan sa mga ospital sa ibang bansa. Ito ang panahong nag-aagaw-buhay ang dignidad ng mga doktor—pinipiling maging nars, nars aide, o caregiver sa mayayamang lipunan kahit pa sa kanilang katanghaliang gulang o rurok na ng kanilang karera. Ito ang panahong napakataas ng presyo ng mga gamot at bumabagsak naman ang kalidad dahil malakas ang kapit sa mga kompanya sa mga mambabatas. Hanggang ngayon, hindi ko pa rin matanggap na itinatanghal ng Pilipinas sa buong mundo ang serbisyo nito sa medical tourism; ipinangangalandakan ang mahuhusay na doktor at nagsanay pa sa Japan at US at ang murang pagpapagamot sa kapantay na kalidad na isinasagawa sa Europa at Amerika. Ito ang panahon na mas pinipili ng lokal at pambansang pamahalaan na magpatayo ng mga higit na nakikitang proyekto tulad ng mga highway, tulay, bakod, rosas na palikuran, overpass, at waiting shed. Mas may maibubulsa sa ganitong mga proyekto. Higit din itong matatandaan ng mga botante sa darating na eleksiyon kaysa sa mga mamamayang malusog at malaya sa anumang karamdaman. Kaysa sa mga health center at ospital na may tamang bilang ng nars at doktor, may sapat na imbak ng gamot, bitamina, suwero, at bakuna. Kaysa sa isang pampublikong general hospital na may mga bago at gumaganang makina, mga kagamitang medikal na sumasabay sa mga pag-unlad sa teknolohiya sa daigdig. Lantad sa sitwasyon ng aming pamilya ang estado ng kalusugan ng bansa. Karamihan sa mga pinsan ko sa Nueva Ecija ay nagtapos ng narsing. Wala nang nagpupunla ng binhi sa linang; tinayuan na ito ng kanilang bersiyon ng mansiyon. Beterana sa pagiging nars sa Saudi, Libya, Australia, at Ireland ang aking mga tiyahin. Parikalang maituturing na sa dinama-rami ng mga nars sa aming angkan, naitumba

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ang aking lolo, tiyo, at mga kapatid na lalaki ng aking lola ng altapresyon, diabetes, at atake sa puso. Habang nilalanggas ng aking mga pinsan at tiya ang mga sugat ng banyaga, dead on arrival sa ospital ang aking mga kamag-anak. Napupunta sa magarang ataul ang pinagsikapan nilang ipon.

*** MASAKIT SA LOOB naming magkakapatid na dalhin ang aming ama sa PGH. Sa mahigit tatlumpung taong paninilbihan niya sa pamahalaan, ito ba ang maigagawad na serbisyong-medikal sa kaniya? Hindi naman sa tinitipid namin ang aming ama. Sentro ng kahusayan sa medisina ang ospital na ito. Dito nag-aaral ang pinakamahuhusay na estudyante para maging manggagamot o katuwang sa panggagamot. Narito ang mga kilalang propesyonal sa iba’t ibang espesyalisasyon para ibahagi ang nalalaman sa mga residente at intern na nagpapakadalubhasa at nagpapatalas ng kakayahan. Akmang itinayo ang PGH noong 1907 sa puso ng lungsod, sa hilera ng abenida ng Taft, alinsunod sa bisyon ng urban planner at arkitektong si Daniel Burnham para sa kabesera ng Pilipinas. Walang tigil ang pagdagsa ng mga malalang pasyenteng tinanggihan ng maliliit na klinika at ospital. Sa ospital na ito isinusuko ang kaligtasan ng sarili o ng mahal sa buhay. Nag-iisa lamang ang PGH sa Pilipinas. Dito nagsisiksikan ang mga espesyalista at ang pinakamahuhusay sa iba’t ibang larangan. Ito ang pangunahing ospital na dapat tumugon sa mahigit 90 milyong katao sa bansa. Sa laang P119 ng pamahalaan para sa taunang serbisyong-medikal ng bawat Filipino, makikinita kung bakit ito dinadagsa. Hindi makasasapat ang maliliit na ospital para sa mga malalang kaso. Mabuti sana kung nasa Maynila lamang ang pasyente. Paano kung magmumula pa sa liblib na nayon sa Visayas at Mindanao?

*** PAULIT-ULIT ANG AKING panalangin. Huwag sana akong operahan. Takot ako sa heringgilya, sa iskalpel, sa karayom, at sa dugo. Bata pa lamang, iniiwasan ko ang bakuna at bisita sa dentista. Huwag sana akong ma-triple bypass. Mas malala pa sa simpleng hinala na naparami ang kain ko noong nakaraang Pasko. Ayon sa pagsusuri ng mga doktor, pagkaraan ng 2D echo, paulit-ulit na eksamen sa ECG, blood pressure at creatine kinase, at anim na beses kada araw na pagmonitor sa aking blood glucose, kinakailangan akong sumailalim sa operasyong coronary angiogram. May napakapinong kawad o alambre—kasimpino ng mga hibla ng buhok—na ipapasok sa ugat ng aking singit paakyat sa mga ugat sa aking puso para masuri ang antas ng pagkabara o arteriosclerosis. Kinakailangan ng mahigit P40,000 para sa operasyong ito. Kung may makikitang malalang bara sa mga pangunahing ugat sa aking puso, kinakailangang luwagan ito sa pamamagitan ng balloon catheter para makadaloy nang maayos ang dugong nagdadala ng oxygen. 132


Sanhi ng aking atake ang pagkakabara ng mga ugat na iyon. Malala kung ang pagkakabara ay nasa ugat patungong utak. Mahirap kalaban ang sakit sa puso at sa utak. Nagpulong kaming mag-anak. Hindi maaaring iwasan ang angiogram. May sapat naman akong ipon. Lamang, para saan ang pagsusuring ito kung wala namang pangunahing operasyon sa akin? Hindi naman ako maililigtas kung malalaman ng doktor ang antas ng pagkakabara. Pinag-usapan din ang posibilidad ng isasagawang operasyon—maaari akong mamatay dulot ng labis na pagtaas ng presyon o kaya’y maaari akong maistroke. Makikipagtitigan ako sa Kamatayan. Sa pangalawang pagkakataon, tinanong kami ng mga cardiologist. May sapat ba kaming pera para sa operasyon ng coronary angioplasty (o ang pagpapaluwag sa bara ng mga ugat sa puso)? Tinakot pa kaming mag-anak na hindi kami makalalabas ng ospital kapag hindi ito mababayaran. Hindi kami patatakasin ng security. Tinanong ng aking ina kung magkano ang ihahanda. Ibinigay ng doktor ang kaniyang turing: lagpas sa kalahating milyon, hindi pa kasama ang bayad sa private nars, professional fee, anesthesiologist, renta sa Cathlab, atbp. Sa mga panahong iyon, labis kong pinagsisihan ang ilang taong pagkain ng fastfood. Pinagsisihan ko ang mahigit isang dekada ng paninigarilyo. Isinumpa ko ang hindi pag-eehersisyo at pagkain ng mga prutas at gulay. Kinasuklaman ko ang pag-inom ng kape at mga inuming mataas sa asukal. Simula nang mahiwalay ako sa aking pamilya para magtrabaho, nasanay ako sa mga pagkaing de-lata. Nag-uumapaw sa sodium at transfat ang mga pagkaing ito na nagpahina sa aking puso. Mabuti’t may sapat akong ipon. Hindi ko kailangang mangutang o magsangla ng mga ari-arian. Hindi ako magagaya sa ibang mga pulubing namamalimos, hawak ang resibo ng gamot na bibilhin. Hindi ako magagaya sa kapwa-gurong may kanser na isinalba sa pamamagitan ng sapilitang film showing sa mga mag-aaral. Hindi namin kailangang dumulog sa programa ni Rosa Rosal o ni Mel Tiangco ng Kapuso Foundation, pumila para makahingi ng tulong sa PCSO, o kaya’y manghingi ng abuloy sa senador o kongresista. Kung mangyayari iyon, para na akong pinagkaitan ng dangal bilang manlilikod sa bayan, para akong hinamak bilang guro sa mga iskolar ng bayan. Gayumpaman, nanghina pa rin ako nang sinabi ng kahera na hindi kami makakukuha ng diskuwento sa operasyong angioplasty. Hindi ito sakop ng PhilHealth at ng pribilehiyo bilang empleado ng gobyerno. Sa isip ko, biglang tatalilis ang gobyerno kapag nahaharap sila sa malaking pananagutan sa kanilang mamamayan. Ngayon-ngayon ko lamang naisip na may bahid ng korupsiyon ang ganitong sistema. Nasa loob ng PGH ang mga aparato para sa angioplasty. Imposibleng hindi ito sakop ng serbisyo ng nasabing ospital. Bakit ito ihihiwalay sa sakop ng PhilHealth? Para saan pa ang PGH kung may mga serbisyo silang “pampribado” o para sa maykaya lamang? Ginagamit nila ang espasyo at ang koryente ng nasabing

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pagamutan. Bakit hindi ito maihihiwalay sa sakop ng PhilHealth? Dagdag pa, hindi isinama sa resibo ng aking opisyal na pananatili sa PGH ang nasabing operasyon. Palaisipan pa rin sa akin kung paano nakalulusot ang ganitong raket ng mga doktor ng gobyerno. Bilang guro sa pambansang pamantasan, awtomatiko ang pagbabayad ng aming buwis. Ito namang mga doktor ay nakaliligtas sa kanilang binabayaran at nakapagnenegosyo pa sa loob ng pagamutang pambansa.

*** KINIKIMKIM PA RIN ng aking ina ang hinampo niya sa aking ama. Pinabayaan kasi ng aking ama ang altapresyon. Hindi naman kami nagkulang sa pangaral sa kaniya. Sagana naman siya sa mga gamot; hindi nga lamang niya ito iniinom. Mas pinakinggan niya ang mga umaastang siruhano niyang kaibigan, kaopisina, at kapitbahay. Kung sino-sinong doktor ang kaniyang pinakikinggan. Noong ako’y isasalang na sa operasyon, nagboluntaryo ang tatay ko para mag-ambag ng dugo para sa Red Cross. Iyon ang patakaran sa PGH. Kinakailangan ang donasyon ng dugo dahil hindi sapat ang kanilang ipon sa blood bank. Tinanggihan ng Red Cross ang aking ama dahil sa kaniyang kondisyon. Tinawanan lamang niya ito. Wala naman daw siyang nararamdamang sakit. Hindi daw siya nahihilo. Hindi tulad ko, walang bisyo sa alak, sigarilyo, puyat, at pagkain ang aking ama. Wala siyang bilbil para sa kaniyang edad. Tagtag siya sa mga gawaing-bahay. May manukan siya sa likod-bahay. Ligid ng mga puno at kung ano-anong gulay na itinanim niya ang mga bakanteng lote sa aming subdibisyon. Hindi madalas magluto ng karneng baboy o baka sa bahay. Anim na taon niyang pinabayaan ang altapresyon. Paulit-ulit ko pa siyang kinukumusta noon. “Kumusta na kayo? Iniinom n’yo ba ang aspirin? Nagpatingin na ba kayo sa doktor?” Binalewala rin niya ang pananakot ng aming ina, “Sige ka, mapupunta lahat sa ospital ang retirement pay mo.” Tipikal na probinsiyano ang aking ama. Akala niya’y madadaan sa pag-inom ng langis ng niyog, pagkaing may gata, at mga nilagang tuyong dahon ang kaniyang karamdaman. Tulad marahil ng maraming Pilipino, magpapasugod lamang siya sa ospital kapag malala na ang kondisyon. Hindi niya itinuring na karamdaman ang altapresyon dahil wala siyang nararamdaman. Hindi ito katulad ng hika, bulutong, pagtatae, ulcer, allergy, o trangkaso na makikita at mararamdaman ang sakit. Tahimik na karamdaman ang hypertension kaya’t unti-unti nitong binubulok ang puso ng aking ama hanggang sa atakihin siya noong Disyembre ng 2007. Laking pasasalamat namin at hindi naapektuhan ang kaniyang mga bato at hindi siya naitumba ng stroke. Magastos na gamutan ang rehabilitation ng paralisadong katawan o ang madalas na dialysis. Malaki ang ipinagbago sa aming tahanan pagkaraang ma-discharge sa PGH ang aming ama. Nawala na ang dating sigla ng aking ama. Hindi ko na siya nasusumpungang nagbubungkal ng lupa para magtanim ng mga bagong punla. 134


Hindi na siya nakakapagluto ng mga paborito naming ulam. Ipinagbawal sa kaniya ang pagmamaneho dahil malalala ang traffic sa Katipunan at Marcos Highway. Regalo ko pa naman sa kaniya ang kalahati sa ipinambayad noon ng sasakyan dahil gusto kong maging maalwan ang kanilang paglalakbay ni Nanay. Matagal na nila akong nilalambing para magkaroon sila ng sasakyang de-aircon at mas malaki kaysa owner-type na dyip. Matanda na sila at hindi na luho ang magkaroon sila ng paminsan-minsang ginhawa sa buhay. Naging matamlay ang aming Pasko at Bagong Taon; parang isang pasyenteng matagal nang nakaratay at pinipilit muling makalakad. Nais naming ibalik ang mga masayang pagdiriwang pero mahirap magpanggap. Hindi na natuloy ang plano ng mag-anak na magbakasyon sa lalawigan, ang maglakbay, ang pumunta sa mga dampa para magpaluto ng sariwang isda. Hindi na natuloy pa ang mga pasyal namin pagkaraan ng Noche Buena para mamili ng mga regalo, bagong damit, at manood ng sine. Laging naiidlip ang aking ama sa tumba-tumba. Hindi tuluyang makahiga dahil laging may dumadagang sako sa dibdib kapag nakaunat ang kaniyang likod sa kama. Nagmamanas ang kaniyang mga paa sa katiting na asin sa kinakain. Bumagal na ang pagpintig ng kaniyang puso. Hindi maiwasang maluha ng aking ina. Bilang asawa, ramdam na ramdam niya ang mga pagbabagong ito. Masyado rin kasi niyang iniasa ang sariling kaligayahan sa aming ama. Hindi siya natutong maglakbay nang mag-isa lamang. Wala siyang mga kaibigan kundi ang kaniyang asawa. Hindi niya kayang aliwin ang sarili at maghanap ng mapaglilibangan. Kung dibdibin ko ang mga ito, baka ako naman ang mawalan ng buhay. Mahirap magpalaki ng sariling magulang.

*** NAWAWALA ANG AKING pagkatao habang nakasalang sa operating room. Sa tanang buhay ko, noon lamang ako hinubdan, ginupitan at inahitan sa pubic area, hiniwa, at pinagbawalan sa mga kilos. Dagdag pa ang pagsalsal ng nars sa aking ari upang maisuot ang condom catheter habang nakasalang ako sa operasyon. “Pasensiya na po,� nahihiya niyang sabi sa akin. Nakalulumpo ang sakit sa puso; para akong isang baldado. Maglalaho ang anumang selan at hiya sa katawan. Sinasalok ng aking partner ang aking ihi sa boteng arinola. Dumudumi ako sa silid na puno ng tao. Hanggang ngayon, hindi ko maisip na nakaya kong dumumi sa bedpan nang nakahiga. Noong una, nahihiya talaga akong dumumi. Nakiusap ako sa mga nars na dalhin ako sa banyo. Gusto ko ring maghugas at hindi lamang basta punas. Mga kamag-anak na ng ibang pasyente ang nagpakalma sa akin. Nakilala nila ang alinlangan ko. “Maiintindihan namin, ospital ito.� Pagkaraan, sabay-sabay silang magbubukas ng mga ponkan at dalanghita para mapagtakpan ang masamang amoy sa loob ng aming ward.

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Luho ang pagligo. Sa dami ng kableng nakadikit sa aking mga ugat sa dibdib, ipinagbabawal ang pagtayo. Masuwerte na ang mga araw na pinupunasan ako ng nars sa leeg at batok. Masuwerte na ang ma-shampoo nila ang aking buhok at mapunasan ang aking katawan ng basang bimpo. Sa lamig ng aking silid at sa nagmamantika kong anit, inatake ako ng balakubak. Nanuyo at nagkabitak-bitak ang aking labi. Hirap akong makatulog; namamahay ako. Hinahanap ko ang pamilyar na unan, kumot, amoy ng kuwarto, musika, espasyo, at mga aklat sa aking silid. Hinahanap ko ang lambing ng aking mga pusa. Nandidilat ang puting tiles sa paligid. Sa tatlong araw ko sa Intensive Care Unit, lumilikha ako ng komposisyon sa pintig ng heart monitor, sa patak ng suwero, sa hangos ng matatandang walang malay, at sa daing ng mga pasyenteng ipinagkakanulo ng anesthesia. Sa umaga, nakikipagkuwentuhan ako sa mga nars. Hinuhuli ko kung bakit sila nagtitiis sa PGH. Sabi nila, tulad ng aking hinala, nandoon sila para magkaroon ng karanasan. Mas mataas ang puntos kapag may training sa pampamahalaang pagamutan. Balak nilang mag-apply sa UK, Ireland, o Canada. Sabi ko, “Huwag ninyo akong kakalimutan. Tiyak ang pagyaman ninyo.� Pahirapan sa gabi at sa madaling-araw. Nagsisisi ako sa pag-idlip sa umaga’t tanghali. Wala akong makausap. Tulog na ang lahat. Nagpapahinga rin ang mga nars sa kanilang estasyon o puspusan ang pagrereview ng English grammar sa IELTS (International English Language Testing System), para paghandaan ang suweldong dolyar o pounds. Nakatitig ako sa mga linya ng kisame. Tila ako si Madeleine ng mga aklat pambata ni Ludwig Bemelmans. Kapwa kami naghanap ng mga hugis at anyo sa mga linya ng kisame para libangin ang sarili sa waring kamposantong ospital. Inatake rin ang buo kong pagkatao. Hindi kasi makapaniwala ang mga doktor na sa edad kong ito ay inatake ako sa puso. Hindi nila matanggap ang paliwanag kong naninigarilyo ako, kumakain nang labis, nagpupuyat, labis magkape, walang ehersisyo, at addict sa fastfood. Paulit-ulit nila akong pinipilit umamin na nagshashabu ako o addict sa anumang droga. Sa kanilang pagsusuri, napakataas ng aking SGPT (serum glutamic pyruvic transaminase), isang enzyme na dumarami kapag nasisira ang atay dulot ng mga kemikal, droga, taba, at alkohol. Paulit-ulit ang tanggi ko. Totoo namang hindi ako gumamit at nalulong ng shabu o anumang amphetamine. May ganyang superyor na pakiramdam ang mga doktor. Nagkamali sila sa aking kaso. Lahat ng mga ineksiyon at gamot na ibinigay sa akin ay tinatanong ko. Kinokonsulta ko ang mga gamot na ipinapasok sa aking suwero. Sa ganitong karanasan, nagpakadalubhasa ako sa wika ng medisina. Mainam ding kasangkapan ang internet para maipaliwanag ko sa sarili ang mga gamot na iniinom. Marami kasing doktor, tulad ng aking mga cardiologist, ang tinatamad magpaliwanag. Sa 136


dami ng kanilang pasyente at sa liit ng kanilang suweldo, kalabisan na ang maglektura sa mga pasyente. Gusto pa yata’y babayaran ang bawat salitang kanilang bibigkasin. Maaaring inaakala nilang gunggong ang kanilang pasyente na hindi maiintindihan ang kanilang sinasabi. Ayoko pa namang kinakausap akong na parang bata o ginagamitan ako ng mga analohiyang mauunawaan ng mag-aaral sa grade school. Nangyari ito minsan sa isang check-up. Tinanong ko kung bakit lumalaki ang aking puso (cardiomegaly). Paangas na sumagot ang doktor na ang puso ko’y tila gomang binatak, lumuwang, at hindi na maibabalik pa sa dating kasiglahan. Pagkaraan, ibinigay niya sa akin ang reseta; walang paliwanag sa silbi ng mga gamot na di ko mabigkas ang mga pangalan. Sakit ng kalingkingan, ramdam ng buong katawan. Nakikiramay ang buong pamilya sa pagkakasakit ng isang mahal sa buhay. Imposible ang hindi maapektuhan, matigatig, o kumilos sa mga sitwasyong agaw-buhay. Sa mga ospital sa ibang bansa, bawal mag-overnight ang maraming miyembro ng pamilya kasama ng pasyente. Hindi naman hotel ang pagamutan; hindi iyong piknik o party ng mag-anak. Sa kaso naming mag-ama sa PGH, namasid namin ang dinamiko ng mga pamilya may inaarugang pasyente. Katuwang ng nars ang mga kaanak ng pasyente. Sa dami ng pasyente, hindi naman lahat ay maaasikaso ng mga empleadong pangkalusugan. Asawa o magulang ang nag-aasikaso sa mga pribadong gawain ng pasyente. Sa kaso ko, pinaiihi ako ng aking ina at inaalalayang dumumi. Tuwing naiisip ko iyon, nais ko siyang sabitan ng medalya bilang dakilang ina. Matapos rin ng mahigit dalawang dekada, muli niya akong pinaliguan. Kapwa namin hinubad ang hiya sa isa’t isa. Nagmistula akong sanggol noong mga panahong sinasabon ako sa aking ina, inaanlawan, at pinupunasan ng tuwalya.

*** DALAWANG MAGKAHIWALAY NA Kapaskuhan nang hinamon ng mga baradong ugat at altapresyon ang mga tibok ng puso naming mag-ama. Mas nauna akong atakihin at muntik na silang maglibing ng panganay. Hindi pa sapat ang lagim na iyon sa aming pamilya. Pagkaraan ng dalawang taon, ama ko naman ang pinatumba ng myocardial infarction at muntik na kaming maulila sa ama. Dalawang taon matapos ng angioplasty at myocardial infarction, hindi na sumasakit ang aking dibdib. Ligtas ako sa diabetes mellitus dahil sa pag-iwas sa pagkain ng matatamis o sa labis na carbohydrates tulad ng kanin. Bihirang-bihira na akong kumain ng karneng baboy at baka. Kinasuklaman ko ang mga pagkaing fastfood o deep fried. Lamang, lumalabas na mas mahal kumain nang tama at mahirap maghanap ng kainan para sa mga nagdidiyeta. Mataas ang presyo ng gulay at prutas kompara sa piniritong baka o karne norte. Almusal ko’y prutas, gulay, at oatmeal (rolled oats) na waring darak ang tekstura. Binibiro ko ang sarili na tila diyeta ito ng kambing, unggoy, o baboy. Bumagsak na ang lebel ng aking masamang kolesterol sa dugo. Hindi na mataba ang aking atay. Normal na ang aking presyon.

Likhaan 137

Nasanay na rin akong maglakad-lakad at magwork-out sa treadmill imbes na humilata sa kama o humarap lamang sa telebisyon. Kay tagal ko nang pinagmumunihan ang silbi sa akin ng paglalakad. Lakad ako nang lakad, paikot-ikot sa academic oval, para matanggal ang malagkit na pagkakakapit ng taba sa aking kalamnan. Sa ibabaw ng treadmill, lakad ako nang lakad na tila walang eksaktong destinasyon. Hindi ako tulad ng ilang manlalakbay na batid ang mga lugar na pupuntahan. Ngayon, batid ko na ang halaga ng aking paglalakad. Para sa kalusugan at kabataan ng aking puso. Bawal na ang anumang sodium sa aking ama. Minamanas siya pagkaraang kumain ng pagkaing maalat-alat. Bawal na siyang kumain mula sa de-lata. Ipinatapon ko na ang patis, bagoong, at toyo sa aming kusina. Maging ang pagpiprito ng mga ulam. Paulit-ulit kong itinuturo sa aking magulang na huwag panghinayangan ang pagtatapon ng taba ng karne o ng balat ng manok. Sa huling check-up ng aking ina, nalaman niyang pre-diabetic na ang kalagayan niya. Pinagsabihan siya ng doktor na huwag balewalain ang kondisyon niya. Maraming komplikasyong maidudulot ang diabetes tulad ng sakit ng bato, atake sa puso, at pagkakabulok ng mga laman. Natutuwa naman ako’t sineseryoso ng aking ina ang pagpapapayat—mahigit 20 lbs. ang nabawas sa timbang, bumaba na ang blood sugar niya, at bumata na rin ang hitsura. “Ayokong maging losyang,” pabiro niyang sabi sa amin. Iniwasan na niyang magmeryenda sa gabi ng kanin. Paminsan-minsan, makukulit pa rin ang aming magulang kaya napagsasabihan at napagtataasan ng boses naming magkakapatid. “Kailan ba kayo matututo?” Nagdabog ang aking kapatid nang humiling ang aking magulang ng patis na sawsawan. Tinatakot naming hindi na kami muling maglalabas ng pera kapag naulit muli ang atake, “Said na ang aming ipon. May mga buhay rin kami.” Sabi ng mga kaibigan at kakilalang nakabalita, “Napakabata mo pa. Mag-iingat ka, marami ka pang magagawa.” Litaw sa kanila ang panghihinayang o pakikisimpatya. Sa isip-isip ko, hindi naman ako namatay o nabawasan. Maaaring humina ang ilang heart muscles (myocardium) ko dulot ng atake pero may kakaibang lakas at sigasig akong taglay. Para akong bagong silang muli noong Enero ng 2006. Sinipat ko ang daigdig nang may bagong perspektiba. Inilista ko ang mga librong nais basahin at mga siyudad na nais puntahan. Nais kong subukin ang mga danas na hindi na nararanasan. Nais kong tapusin ang mga nabinbing pangarap. Noong nakaraang taon, tinapos ko ang aking programang doktorado. Nag-iisip ako ng bagong pag-aaral na malayo sa aking espesyalisasyon. Napakaikli ng buhay para magpakahon sa iisa at limitadong gawain. Nais kong maglakbay at makipamuhay sa ibang kultura kasama ng aking partner. Bago tuluyang magpahinga, gusto kong makatapak sa Pransiya at Italya. Nais kong makita ang pagdadalaga o pagbibinata ng aking mga magiging pamangkin. Nais 138


kong makitang mamunga ang mga itinanim na punla ng aking ama sa mga bakanteng lote sa Antipolo. Nais kong makadalo sa kasal ng aking malalapit na kaibigan, mabasa ang kanilang mga bagong akda at libro, at sabay-sabay kaming umunlad sa larangan ng pagtuturo at pagsusulat. Nais kong maging makabuluhan ang nalalabing taon sa buhay ng aking ama’t ina. Tulad ng madalas kong sinasabi sa kanila, nagawa na nila ang dapat nilang gawin. Nakapagpatayo na sila ng magarang bahay. Nakapagpundar na sila ng mga lote. May bahay na sila sa Baguio para sa inaasam nilang buhay pagkaraang magretiro. Napag-aral nila kami at napagtapos. Lagi’y ipinapaalala kong panahon na para magkaroon sila ng buhay. Kailangan nilang maglakbay habang hindi pa sila pinagtataksilan ng sariling edad at katawan. Kailangan nilang maranasan ang mabuhay at humulagpos sa matikid na mundo ng kanilang mga opisina. Ayokong isiping nabubuhay ang tao para mamatay, nabubuhay nang naghihingalo, o lahat naman ay mamamatay. Hindi ko tatanggapin ang pilosopiyang “Maikli lang ang buhay.” Kung magkakagayon, tulad ng isang sundalong sumuko, mabubuhay ang sinuman nang walang kabuhay-buhay. Sa ngayon, kapag kinukumusta ako, idinidiin kong buhay pa rin ako. Walang halaga ang mga salaping naipon, naipundar na kayamanan, lugar na napuntahan, kung sa bandang huli’y maniningil at maghihiganti ang kalusugan. Hindi nasusukat ang buhay sa mga panandaliang aliw at tagumpay, sa mga listahan ng naisakatuparan. Masusukat ang buhay sa kung papaano itatangi ang isang buhay. Ito ang aking bagong pagkakataon, ang aking pangalawang buhay. Minsan na akong nag-agaw-buhay; tinubos ko sa kamatayan ang aking buhay.

Likhaan 139

Jun Cruz Reyes



ay alanganing ngiti ang busto ni Amado V. Hernandez na nakatayo sa bukana ng baryo. Nakangiti naman ang malaking retablo ng mukha niya sa plaza sa harap ng simbahan ng Tondo. Masayahing tao si Ka Amado, laging nababanggit ng mga nakasalamuha niya. Hinahanap ko iyon, pero ang tumatampok sa kanyang mga obra ay lumbay at lungkot. Bakit? Sa Tondo ko unang narinig ang pangalan ni Ka Amado, kay Tatang Ado na pinsang-buo ni Inang na ang pamilya’y nakikitira sa silong ng bahay namin sa Velasquez, Tondo. Nasa elementarya ako noon. Tuwing nadaraan kami sa Daang Juan Luna, itinuturo niya ang bahay, na mukhang apartment dahil dikit-dikit.



“Diyan nakatira si Amado Hernandez.” Di ko matandaan ang aktuwal na itsura ng bahay dahil lumalakad ang sasakyan. O siguro’y hindi ko lang talaga kayang tandaan dahil wala iyong relasyon sa aking buhay dahil bata pa ako. Na malalaman kong hindi naman pala niya iyon talagang bahay kundi ang kanyang pinakaopisina at library na rin. Malalaman ko rin ang itsura noon. Bahay na itinayo noong bagong dating pa lamang ang mga Amerikano. Maraming mga antigong muwebles. Malaki pero magulo. Iisa lamang ang kuwarto kaya maluwag. May tatlong mesa. Nagkalat kung saan-saan ang libro. May nakapatong sa mga aparador at tokador. May mga nakasalansan sa mga mesa. Pati sa sahig ay nagkalat ang mga libro. Iyon ang trabahuhan ni Ka Amado. Malalaman ko rin na ayaw na ayaw ni Ka Amado na inaayos ang kanyang mga libro dahil nakakalimutan niya kung nasaan ang hinahanap. Natatandaan niya kung saan niya inilagay ang kanyang libro sakali’t kailangan niya iyong balikan. Isa ’yon sa malimit nilang pag-awayan ni Ka Atang. “Pakialamera,” sasabihin niya kapag inayos ang mga libro niya. “Ibalik mo nga sa dating ayos,”1 na ang katumbas ay guluhin ulit. Dinadalhan lang siya roon ng pagkain ni Ka Atang. “Manunulat ’yon. Maraming libro. Taga-Hagonoy ’yon.” Halos magkakakilala ang lahat ng taga-Hagonoy sa Tondo. Ganoon ang magkakababayan, nagtutuntunan kapag nasa ibang lugar. Di ko tinanong kung gaano karaming libro. May mga libro rin akong iniuuwi ni Amang, dahil gusto niya akong mahilig sa pagbabasa. Mas gusto ko sina Vic Morrow at Tarzan kaysa kuwento ng isang manunulat na kababayan ko. Iyon ba ang dahilan kung bakit laging sinasabi ni Tatang Ado na marami iyong libro? Para ako maging intresado kay Ka Amado? May isa pang kuwento si Tatang Ado. “Tauhan niyan si Guillen. Iyong nag-itsa ng granada kay Roxas.” Barbero raw ni Ka Amado si Guillen. Naimpluwensiyahan ng salita ni Ka Amado, tapos iyon ngang granada. Parang Combat ni Vic Morrow, maaksiyon. Iyon ang tumatak sa isip ko, granada na initsa sa isang presidente. Malay ko bang magiging manunulat ako at isusulat ko siya balang-araw, di sana’y tinandaan kong mabuti ang mga unang kuwentong narinig ko tungkol sa kanya. Sa isang barbero din sa Sagada ko muling naengkuwentro ang pangalan ni Ka Amado. Umuwi kami ng Hagonoy mula Tondo. Binatilyong high school na ako noon. Nagpapagupit ako nang itanong ng barbero kung tagasaan ako. Bagong mukha ako sa kanya. Nagkukuwentuhan kami. Noon pa ma’y naniniwala na ako sa library. Magtatayo ako ng library ng bayan. Lagi ko iyong nasasambit, kahit sa barbero. Siguro iniisip niya, “Alabaliw na bata. Kaagang nahibang.” Sa halip ang sabi nya, “Tagasaan ka ba?”

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Ngayon ko lang naisip, hindi siguro iyon ang talagang gusto niyang sabihin kundi, “Kangino ka bang anak?” Na ang talagang diretsong gustong itanong ay, “May sira ka bang bata ka?” “Taga-Tondo.” Buong yabang kong sagot. “May mga taga-Tondo rin dito.” Maraming binanggit na pangalan, kasama si Amado Hernandez at si Honorio Lopez, iyong gumagawa ng kalendaryong Tagalog na may horoscope at sukat ng tubig para sa buong taon, ang natandaan ko. Apat na taon lang akong tumira ng Hagonoy, matapos noo’y bumalik ulit ako ng Maynila. At ngayon nga’y taga-Hagonoy na ulit ako. Pagbabalik sa Hagonoy, ang kasaysayan nito at si Ka Amado na ang hinahanap ko. “Masayahing tao yan. Sikat,” Sabi ni nasirang Konsehal Jose Lopez Sr. “Masiste. Pakumpas-kumpas pa kapag nagsasalita,” sang-ayon kay Andres Cristobal Cruz.2 “Masiste yan. Pilyo,” sabi naman ni Virgilio S. Almario. Pero Kastila kung magmura. Manaka-naka’y napapapunyeta siya.3 Masaya nga. Nang binubuo ko na ang istorya, nang hinahanap ko na ang kanyang galak, hindi ko nakita, maliban sa ilang tulang tungkol sa sex na ang kanyang paghahambing ay masarap pa sa alak. May ilang tula din siyang satire, pero waring di napansing gaano ng mga nag-aaral sa kanyang panulaan. Ang karamihan ng naroo’y nanggigipuspos na dalita at lumbay, tulad ng sa isang namatayan ang lumbay ng isang mangingibig na nakikiusap kahit sulyap man lamang ng iniirog. Maraming mga pagluluksa sa gabing mapanglaw, na naghahangad ng kamatayan dahil sa nabigong pagsinta. May mga tula rin ng marubdob na pag-ibig at matinding selos at mga pagnanasa. Malauna’y may mga tula at kuwento ng galit sa mga nagsasamantala sa maliit. Limang dekada ang sinakop ng kanyang panulat, wala ni isa man doon tungkol sa masayang buhay. Kung mayroon man, iyon ay ang idealisadong buhay sa mapayapa at masaganang bukid. Sobrang drama sa madaling salita. Bakit? Paanong ang isang masayahing tao ay lumbay ang nakikita? Bakit? May dalawa bang buhay ang isang manunulat? Isang personal at isang pampubliko para sa konsumo ng mambabasa, na humihinging sa pagbabasa ay kailangang madulain din ang buhay ng isang manunulat? Mukhang may ganito ngang ekspektasyon. Sa Sarilaysay4 ni Rose Torres-Yu, mukhang ang mga sikat na manunulat ay iyon ngang mga inapi-api ng pamilya at tadhana. Maganda ang panulat ng isang taong niligalig ng lumbay at kung puwede’y inapi pa ng mga kaanak na nagtakwil sa kanya. Mas madrama kung nagpakamatay. Puwede rin kung nagtangka lamang. Mas kagalang-galang kung namundok. Kagalang-galang din kung



nakulong. Ang perpekto ay iyong anak-mahirap na matalino, nakisangkot at nakulong, at mas perpekto kung napatay sa pakikilaban. Kay hirap namang pamantayan para lamang sumikat. Malupit ang pamantayan sa panulat. Laging sinusukat ang halaga ng naisulat, ng makabayang panulat, na sa dulo’y hindi na ang isinulat kundi ang buhay ng sumulat ang mas mahalaga. Parang sa kasalukuyan din. Bago tingnan ang isang akda’y inaalam muna kung saang paksiyon makiling ang nagsulat, iyon ay bago pa man buksan ang libro. Kung ika’y nasa kabila, hindi ka babasahin ng hindi tagakabila. Kung ika’y malabo, malabo ka ring basahin ng hindi mo kapuwa. Kung ikaw ay walang pakialam, wala rin pakialam ang nakikialam. Hinahanap ang degree ng komitment at timbang ng personal na drama. Paano ngayon ang mga manunulat na walang unhappy childhood? Mag-iimbento ng lumbay at lungkot para lamang mapansin ng mambabasa? O.A. ba ito? Si Pedro Bukaneg ay bulag na pangit na ipinaanod sa ilog sa isang tampipi hanggang nasagip ng isang babae, bago niya naisulat (daw) ang Biag Ti Lam-ang.5 Si Balagtas ay nakulong dahil sa pag-ibig. Si Del Pilar na anak-mayaman ay namumulot ng upos ng sigarilyo sa Hong Kong. Si Rizal, ang pinakamahusay ay ang pinakamadrama rin, pinabaril ng mga pikon dahil sa pagsusulat, gayong kakaunti lang naman ang marunong magsulat at magbasa ng Kastila sa Pilipinas kahit noon. Bukod pa sa hindi raw naman talaga mahusay mag-Kastila si Rizal. Si Aurelio Tolentino’y ikinulong ng mga Amerikano, dugo rin ang ipinampirma niya sa Konstitusyong Malolos. Si Eman Lacaba’y napatay sa kabundukan. Si Bienvenido Lumbera’y walang medyas, kaya nang nagkapera’y nangolekta ng medyas. Si Ricky Lee ay minaltrato ng tiyahin (na itinatanggi ng tiya niya). Si Rene O. Villanueva ay walang bahay at kagalit ng ama. (Kukuha naman daw ng isang manunulat ang ina ni Rene para isulat ang talagang totoo). Si Eugene Evasco’y pinagtrabaho sa poultry ng lolo niya. Si Fanny Garcia’y anak-mahirap, si Joi Barrios ay nagtangkang magpakamatay, etc, etc. Kailangan pa bang basahin ang kanilang mga akda, kung ang buhay pa lamang ay tulad na ng isang sa Anak ng Dalita? Nasaan ang mga burgis na manunulat sa kasaysayan? Nirereimbento pa ang kanilang childhood para mapansin o kaya’y naghahanap ng kilusang sasamahan? Pero kung kakausapin ang mga manunulat, hindi naman sila mukhang malungkot. Makinig ka kay Joi Barrios, na kahit rebolusyon ang sinasabi’y hahagalpak ka. Si Fanny Garcia ay bungisngis na tulad ng isang bata. Si Lualhati Bautista ay biglang hahagalpak dahil may naalalang isang masayang bagay, saka pa lamang ikukuwento kung ano yon. Si Ricky Lee, na saksakan ng witty at dahil sa sandamakmak na one-liner, ay para kang nasa isang gag show na tawa nang tawa. Kahit si Teo Antonio na nanginginig pa ang boses kapag tumutula’y naghahalo ang tawa at salita. Si Rogelio Ordoñez na nag-aapoy ang mga akda, ay yumuyugyog ang balikat katatawa sa sariling patawa, lalo na’t ang paksa niya’y Ang Mundo Sang-ayon sa Tarugo. E lalo na ang nasirang Pete Daroy, na accent pa lang ay nakakatawa na, wala pa ang mga komentaryo niyang tiyak na hindi sagrado at punong-puno ng irony.

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Ganoon din si Ka Amado, masiste sa totoong buhay pero seryoso ang mga pakay sa pagsusulat. May mga ilang naisulat na masisteng tula si Ka Amado na sa tingin ko’y nasa lebel ng satire, pero waring iyo’y nilalagpasan lamang ng mga kritiko. Wala pa akong nabasa na tumalakay doon. Siguro’y ibang pag-aaral pa iyon. Mas gustong tandaan/markahan ng mga kritiko si Ka Amado bilang isang makata ng bayan, na gusto rin naman ni Ka Amado, ibig sabihi’y seryosong-seryoso, sapagkat komited. Ang nabanggit na obserbasyon, kung gayon, ay dapat ding hanapan ng paliwanag. Saan nagbubukal ang galak at lumbay ng isang manunulat? Saang tradisyon iyon uugatin? Saan nagmumula ang galak? Ang lumbay? Hindi sapat na basta sabihin lamang na nasa tradisyon natin iyon. Hindi a priori ang pagpapaliwanag sa kultura. May basehan iyong mapag-uugatan, mapag-aangklahan. Ang pag-uugat sa tradisyon ay isa ring pag-aaral sa kasaysayan. Sa tradisyon, ang ibig lang sabihin, sa simpleng konotasyon nito’y ang pag-uulit-ulit ng isang praktikang pangkultura. Ang bawat pag-uulit ay isang transpormasyon, sapagkat walang purong kultura. Tulad rin ng teknolohiya, nagaganap ang mga panghihiram at apropriasyon sa pag-uugnay ng iba’t ibang kultura. Kaya ang isang sinaunang tradisyon ay maaaring magsanga-sanga. May napuputol, may nagtutuloy, pero laging nakasunod sa pangangailangan ng panahon. At muli nating binabalikan ang ugat, kung ano ang nangyari sa masisteng makata?

*** HANGGANG NGAYON, KAPAG sinabing “Bulakenyo ako,” ang agad ipapakli ng kausap ay, “Di makata ka?” Saka idadagdag/gagayahin ang punto “Ay taga- Calumpit, na ang boses ay naiipit.” Paano kung ang sinasabing pagiging matulain ng taga-Bulakan ay isang tradisyon pala ng isang angkan, na nang lumawak ay naging lipi, at siyang naging sambayanan daw? Ang tula sa Bisaya ay tinatawag na balak. Ang tula sa Iloko ay tinatawag namang daniw, rawit-dawit naman sa Bicol. May tula na sa Pilipinas tulad rin na may tula ang lahat ng lipunan mula pa sa simula. May mga manunulat at tula na may iba-ibang katawagan, sang-ayon sa mga tala ng mga unang chronicler tulad nina Ignacio Alcina sa Bisaya at sina Pedro Chirino at Juan de Placencia sa Tagalog. Iisa lang ang Bulakan na inabutan ng mga Espanyol. Ang pamayanan ng mga tagailog, na gagawing Bulacan ng kolonisador ay ang mga pamayanan sa paligid o malapit sa Manila Bay. Tulad ng Meycauan, Bulacan, Hagonoy, Malolos, Paombong at Calumpit. Ang mga pamayanang ito ay nasasakop ni Lakandula.6 Ang iba pang Tagalog ay nasa ibaba naman ng Ilog Pasig. Ang sundan natin ay ang nasa Lawa ng Maynila at iyong papasok sa Ilog Pampanga. Ang kasalukuyang Bulacan ay produkto na ng administrasyong politiko-militar ng Espanyol, isang bawndering politikal na dumedepende sa pangangailangan sa produksiyong pangkabuhayan tulad ng mga 144


taniman ng palay o kaya’y mga bakahan para sa pangangailangan ng lumalaking populasyon ng Maynila. Kahit ang Baliwag, ay hindi sakop ng Bulacan, kundi ng Pampanga.7 Nang dumating ang mga Espanyol, isang konseho ng matatanda ang kumausap sa mga Espanyol. Sila’y sina Lakandula, Salalila, Marlanaway, at si Raha Matanda.8 Magkakamag-anak sila. Hindi humarap ang isa pang kamag-anak, si Raha Soliman ng Maynila (Intramuros). Limitahan pa natin ang usapan sa angkan ni Lakandula, na pinsan ni Salalila at pamangkin ni Raha Matanda. Bilang isa sa pinuno ng angkan, si Lakandula rin ang nakasasakop/nagmamay-ari ng mga lupain ng Tondo, Hagonoy, at San Nicolas, na Bangus ang matandang pangalan. Sinasabing naging pag-aari dati ni Magat Salamat, anak ni Lakandula, ang Hagonoy; bagama’t wala pang pruweba na tumigil nga siya sa nasabing lugar. Ang sakop ay nangangahulugan din ng samahan ng magkakamag-anak at ng kinikilalang pinuno. Ayon sa Records Management and Archives Office (RMAO), may mga papeles tungkol sa Hagonoy tulad ng mga testimonya nina Fernando Malang Balagtas (FMB) at Fernando Panganiban (FP), na nagsasabing ang may-ari ay mga pamangkin nina Lakandula at Soliman.9

*** BALIKAN NATIN ANG unang alam nating makata ng angkan, si Lakandula; siya na ang pangalan ay Lakan ng Dula, ang pinakamataas at ang pinakamahusay na mandudula. Iba ang dula noon sa dulang alam natin ngayon. Ang dula ay isang ritwal na may kasamang tula at awit. Hindi rin kanta ang awit, chant ito sa Ingles. Ang lahat ng ito ay gawain ng isang lakan sa dula. Ang mang-aawit ay gumagawa ng awit. Ang mandudula ay gumagawa ng dula. Paanong ang makata ay gumagawa ng tula? May dalawang pakahulugan ang salitang makata. Ang una’y baka raw galing sa salitang makatha. Kaya ang makata ay makatha. Sa Tagalog, ang katha/likha ay ginamit na kasingkahulugan ng larawan (hindi litrato), na ang kahulugan ay paggawa ng isang anito (carving).10 Pero ang makata ay puwede ring isang katangian/adjective ng isang tao. Ang taong makata ay taong maraming salita. Tulad ng kata nang kata, na ang kahulugan ay salita nang salita. Sa panahong iyon, ang pagtatanghal (entertainment) ay gawain ng mga taong bibo na may kakayahang bigyang-buhay ang alinmang harapan. Katulad ng ginagawa ng nagpuputong (akto ng pagpaparangal) sa reyna ng bayan, ang lakambini sa balagtasan at maging ang hari sa dupluhang, paruparo ng hari, lumipad dumapo sa isang bulaklak. Kung gayon, mahalagang maging bibo nga ang makata sapagkat entertainer siya, at may kakayahang maglaro ng salita kung saan nakasalalay ang sigla at buhay ng harapan. Mula noong panahong oral ang literatura hanggang sa panahon ng simula ng print sa bansa, hanggang bago magpanahon ng Hapon, sikat na sikat ang isang makata. Sa ganitong parametro, nagkakaroon ng kahulugan ang pangalan ni Lakandula, lalo

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na’t isasaalang-alang na ang katangian ng isang tao noong araw ay hindi lamang isang bansag kundi isa na ring pangalan. Samakatwid, masasabing isang total performer si Lakandula. Versatile, wika nga sa Ingles. Pansining ang katangiang ito ni Lakandula ay makikita pa rin sa panahon ng print, kahit ang manunulat ay hindi na hinihinging maging performer, lalo na sa higit na mahuhusay na manunulat sa Tagalog. Ang pagpapalit-palit ng literary genre ay isang bagay na madaling gawin para sa kanila. Ang katangian ng versatility ay makikita kina: Francisco Balagtas, na nagsulat ng tula at dula; Jose P. Rizal na nagsulat ng tula, dula, sanaysay, nobela, at iba pa; Marcelo H. del Pilar, na nagsulat ng sanaysay at tula; Amado V. Hernandez, na nagsulat ng tula, kuwento, dula at nobela; Jose Corazon de Jesus, na hindi lang tumula kundi kumanta pa at umarte sa pelikula; Rogelio Sikat na nagsulat ng dula, tula, kuwento, sanaysay, at nobela; at marami pang sumunod sa kanila. Sa kontemporaneong panahon, ang isang makata ay kritiko na rin at iskolar. Sa madaling sabi, multitalented ang makata noon, na nagmu-multitasking din, at sa ngayo’y malay sa halaga ng multimedia. Si Jess Santiago ay kumakanta, tumutula, at nagpipinta. Si Heber Bartolome ay makata, pintor, at manganganta. Maramingmarami sila. Hindi rin derogatory ang pagiging makata. Ang gamit nito’y kabahagi ng isa pang nawalay na tradisyon, ang karos o siste ng mga taga-Hagonoy. Ang makata ay masiste, mapagpatawa. Ang siste ay galing sa chiste ng Espanyol. Ano ang katawagan sa katutubong siste? Saan na iyon napunta? Naririyan pa rin iyon, tulad ng pagiging alaskador ni Rio Alma, ng awtor nito, o ng marami sa atin halimbawa. Makikita iyon sa mga patawa natin kahit sa kabila ng krisis. Pinagtawanan natin noon ang Marcos jokes, sa EDSA 1, sa pinaglaruang hindi ka nag-iisa, pinagkaisahan ka na, nag-iisa ka na, isa ka pa etc., etc. Nasa mga unang kanta sa lansangan din iyon ng mga aktibista noong mga huling taon ng dekada sisenta, tulad ng Si Imelda kung umihi, kinakalabit-kalabit pa nang konti … Si Marcos ay tae sa tabi ng poste, inyong-inyo na, at ang May Pulis sa Ilalim ng Tulay. Naroroon din iyon sa EDSA 2 nang pagtripan ang Ingles ni Joseph Estrada, o ang Erap Jokes. Sa kasalukuya’y naririyan ang mga Gloria at Garci Jokes. May mga political jokes din tayo na naka-save sa ating mga cell phone. Hindi ba ganito rin ang mga banat na ginamit ni Del Pilar sa Dasalan at Tocsohan,11 ni Rizal sa Noli12 at Fili,13 at Lopez Jaena sa Fray Botod.14 Masiste silang lahat. Kung iuurong pa ang pag-aaral, makikita pa rin iyon sa mga kantahing-bayan na nakaligtas sa sensura ng mga Espanyol, katulad ng madalas sambitin ni Lumbera sa marami niyang public lecture. Tulad ng hindi katandaang: Tsitsiritsit alibangbang salaginto salagubang ang dalaga sa lansangan kung gumiri’y parang tandang.



Paruparong bukid na lilipad-lipad sa tabi ng daan papagapagaspas O ang paruparong bukid, na haharap sa altar at mananalamin at saka lalakad nang pakendeng-kendeng.

Halimbawa ito ng siste o pang-aalaska. Sa una’y ang dalaga, na sa tradisyon ay hinihinging maging mahinhin at dapat ay nasa bahay, pero sa kung anong dahilan ay nasa lansangan at kung pumorma’y machong-macho. Kabaligtaran naman ito ng paruparong bukid. Sa kung anong dahilan ay wala rin ito sa loob ng bahay, bagkus ay buong kaartehan itong “namamasyal”/ nag-e-enjoy sa tabi ng dagat. Kung umuwi naman ng bahay, ang paruparong bukid ay magdarasal muna pagkatapos ay magpapaganda sa harap ng salamin. Matapos humiling ng kung ano, at matapos matiyak na siya’y kaaya-aya na, buong kumpiyansang maglalakad siya, ala-beauty queen. Sino ang nang-aalaska? Sinong inaalaska? Ang dalagang tandang ay dalaga nga ba? O ang paruparong ke sa bukid pa o kung saan ay laging masculine dahil lang siya ay dumadapo sa bulaklak (feminine) at sumisipsip ng nektar. Palagay ko’y hindi dalaga ang paruparong bukid. Sa Hagonoy ay may isa pang natitirang dalit, na alanganing karos at sagrado. Ang dalaga kung magpusod pinapagkabilog-bilog kaya pala binibilog sa binata’y pampalibog (sa mahinang salita, na ang pakahuluga’y irog)

Saka idudugtong ang seryosong Sa Dios natin ialay kaluluwa ng namatay patawarin, kaawaan sa nagawang kasalanan.

Kung may irony sa gender sa naunang kanta, mayroon din dito, ang sagrado at ang sacreligious. Ang dalit na ito’y para sa patay. Sagrado ang patay at sagrado rin ang relihiyon. Ang hindi sagrado ay ang nagdiriwang. Puwedeng transisyon ang libog sa pagliligtas ng kaluluwa ng namatay. Isasama pa natin ang isa sa maraming bersiyon ng Santa Clara pinong-pino, na humihingi ng:

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… ako po ay bigyan ’nyo ng asawang labintatlo, sa gulpi’y walang reklamo, at ang koda nitong

ang sabi ng iba masarap ang mani ang sabi ko naman kumporme sa mani may mani-manian, may tunay na mani ang gusto kong mani, ay babad sa ihi.

Puwede rin iyong tubo, monay, etc., etc. Samakatwid, wala pa man ang salitang siste at satire ay naririyan na ang katangiang maging witty/alaskador ng isang akdangbayan. Ano ngayon ang orihinal na termino nito sa mga Tagalog? Tiyak na hindi mga Espanyol ang may dala nito. Gawi na ito ng mga ninuno bago pa man tayo maging “Filipino.” Hindi rin ito makikita sa mga Tagalog lamang. Tudyuhan ito sa Batangas. Makikita rin ito sa pamayanan ng mga tatawaging Austronesians ni Solheim.15 Sa Hagonoy, sa bayang pinagmulan ni Ka Amado ay buhay pa ang katutubong katawagan sa siste o karos. Ang taong makaros ay mapagpatawa kung magsalita. Malapit ito sa masiste at malapit na malapit sa makata. May wit at irony ang kanyang pananalita. Ang karos ay sa pagsasalita. Ang harot ay sa pagkilos. Isang halimbawa nito’y ang Mga Kwentong Tana sa Hagonoy. Si Tana ay isang mitikal na tauhang kilala at paborito ng lahat dahil sa kanyang mumunting pakikipagsapalaran. Kahit saang gusot siya mapasok, buong saya niya iyong nalulusutan. Ang kanyang argumento ay laging nagbubunga ng katatawanan. Walang totoong Tana. Pero lahat ay mayroong kuwentong Tana, na narinig sa iba o kaya’y gawa-gawa ng makakaros ng bayan. Si Tana ay baryasyon nina Juan Pusong at Pilandok. Ang suhestiyon na ang jataka ay maaaring naging popular minsan sa Daigdig ng mga Malay ay kompirmado hindi lamang sa mga retablo ng Borobudur, kungdi maging sa alingawngaw ng mga folklore at literatura sa panahon ng Islam (sa siklo ng mga kuwento-kuwento tungkol sa mouse-deer, Pilandok, at sa ilang naisulat na may katangiang historical at fiksyunal …16 Maikakawing din ang tradisyong ito kay Juan Tamad. Silang lahat ay tulad rin ng tula na may iba’t ibang katawagan sa iba’t ibang bahagi ng bansa. Mahalaga itong linawin sapagkat ito, sa palagay ko, ang isang halimbawa ng katutubo o nuno ng satire at siste sa bersiyong Hagonoy. Iba ang kahingian sa literaturang oral sa literaturang print. Sa oral, ang makata, at sambayanan ay magkaharap. Kagyat ang mga interaksiyon. Kaya mahalagang maging bibo. Iba sa print, may distansiya ang manunulat at mambabasa. Hinihingi rin ang edukasyon sa 148


isang manunulat ng isang mambabasa. Kumbaga’y may ekspektasyon agad sa isang manunulat. Sapagkat ang panulat sa simula ay nakakawing sa pangangailangan ng simbahan. Kung gayo’y inaasahan itong maging seryoso. Sapagkat nawaglit na ang tradisyong ito, ang makata at manunulat ay naging dalawa. Maaaring makaros siya sa personal, pero laging seryoso ang layon at paksa ng kanyang panulat pampubliko, sa print. Dahil ipinagpalagay na ang makatang makaros ay hindi seryoso, ang kanyang akda ay tinaguriang balbal, na ang ibig sabihi’y hindi nagsasabi ng totoo, o kaya’y krudo ang pamamaraan ng gamit ng salita lalo na sa panahong ang magandang tula ay mas sinusukat ang katulaan sa kinis at husay sa gamit ng wika at hindi sa katuturan ng salita. Ganito ang puna sa mga tula ni Pete Lacaba at mga kuwento ni Jun Cruz Reyes, na parehong simple ang mga salita sa pang-aalaska sa poder (power). Nakaligtaan na ring balikan ang tradisyon nina Del Pilar, Lopez Jaena, Rizal at kahit ni Bonifacio sa tula niyang ang mga Sakadores (ang tagakuha ng tong; na pinaglaruang cazadores o sundalong trouble shooter, na kapag nagreyd ay mga manok ang kinukuha.) Ang mga makaros na akdang makabayan ay pinalitan ng mga akdang makabayan pa rin o kaya’y may kamalayang panlipunan pa rin, pero naging melodramatiko tulad ng inumpisahan ng Banaag at Sikat 17ni Lope K. Santos. Hanggang sa kasalukuyan, totoo rin sa mga kanta, tula, at dula, na ang mga akdang itinuturing na mataas ang kalidad ay iyong may mga paksang kahabag-kabag, na kaiyak-iyak na’y kalunos-lunos pa. Mga dramang dinadrama pa. Mga akdang nakakaalta presyon sa bigat sa dibdib. Mga bidang hindi marunong ngumiti, tulad rin nina Darna at Captain Barbell. Lagi lamang silang nag-iisip sa ipagtatagumpay ng dakilang mithiin, ano man iyon. Lagi rin silang may malinis na layunin. At ang mga iyon ang panata nila sa pagbabago ng lipunan. Romantisista ang tawag natin dito, kaliwa man o kanang romantisista. Sa kaliwa, ang bida sa wakas ng istorya’y sasama sa rali o kaya’y mamumundok. Kung hindi, madi-diciplinary action siya. Pag hindi pa rin, ii-alienate siya. Sa kanan, ang bida’y magbabalik-loob sa panginoon at magsisisi. Mamamatay o mababaliw o maghihirap ang ayaw magsisi. Kung hindi pa rin, mapupunta siya sa impiyerno. Basta ang bida ay walang dungis ni mali dahil puro at dalisay. Kaya si Ka Amado ay isinalang na rin sa ganitong pamamaraan ng pagsusuri. Kaya ang pinag-aaralan/pinagtutuunan ng pansin ay ang mga tula niyang makabayan at progresibo. Dahil ang pagiging masiste/makaros ay palatandaan ng kakulangan sa pagiging seryoso, ang katutubong galak ay naging bahagi na lamang ng personal na buhay at hindi ng kanyang makabayang akda. Pero bago natin makalimutan, mahalaga ring balikan ang ilang satire na tulang ginawa ni Ka Amado na tinipon niya sa kanyang Isang Dipang Langit (1973),18 na hindi pa ganap na napagtutuunan ng pansin ng mga kritiko. Isang halimbawa nito’y ang Fashion Show, na sisteng medyo kontra-feminista, na natatakot maging moderno ang mga dalagang Pilipina. Kung sa Sitsiritsit ay parang tandang ang babae/binalaki na gumigiri at sa Paruparong Bukid ay

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pakendeng-kendeng, ito naman ang bersiyon ni Ka Amado. Nang minsang makapanood ng fashion show, ang babae’y itinulad niya sa isang maryakaprang pumapagaspas, isang ibon ito na malikot ang buntot kaya mahirap asintahin ng mga gustong umasinta dito. Hindi rin nagustuhan ni Ka Amado ang bathing suit na bagama’t sexy, (hubog Coca-Cola), ay itinulad naman niya sa turumpong kangkarot ang may suot. Sa tulang Menu, isang babaeng pagkaganda-gandang puno ng alahas ang pumasok. Sa pagkakataong iyon, nag-iinuman ang isang makata at isang bangkero. Ang sabi ng makata: … “A iyan ang alak, na ilan mang galo’y aking malalagok!’

Pero para sa bangkero: … “Iyong sarilihin ang kanyang alindog; sa aki’y itira ang mga alahas na nakaduduling …” Karikta’y nalingon sa kanilang tawa.

Heto pa ang isang masisteng tula ni Ka Amado tungkol sa ugali ng mga babae. Mahaba ang pamagat, madiskurso, pero ganito lang iyon: Kung Sino ang Unang Gumambala kay Eba: Ang Kuto o ang Diablo Si Eba, bago Nipot ang Diablo Upang manukso, Nagihinguto Sa Paraiso.

Samantala sa Kasaysayan ng Isang Pag-ibig, Isang kalapating alagang santaon ang pinapaghatid ng liham ng puso; lumipad nang tuwid ang maamong ibon, sa kamay ng mutya’y payapang dumapo … Liham ay ginawang parikit ng apoy At ang kalapati’y dagling iniluto.

Aray. Pag nagalit ang sinisinta pati alaga’y puwedeng itusta. Sino rin ang may sabing itinatago pati ang mga masamang love letter? Manigas ka. 150


Parang isang linggong pag-ibig ni Imelda Papin naman ang Luma at Bagong Kabihasnan: I Apat-limang taong nagsilbing alipin sa buong mag-anak ng dalagang giliw … *** Ikatlong taon na nang unang mahipo ang tatlong daliri ng pinipintuho … *** Ikapitong taon ay nag-isang-buhay: Nagkasampung anak, apo’y isang kawan. II Sabado. Nagtagpo sa Manila Hotel, halik ay tinunggang kahalo ng “cocktail” … *** Lunes. Maligayang lumipad ng Hong Kong, dagling napakasal at nag-“honeymoon” … *** Linggo. Naghiwalay nang kapwa masaya, babai’y sa Reno nagtungong mag-isa. Kaya lang dito’y happy ending. Kumbaga’y sex lang talaga.

Tula ng pag-asam (wishful thinking) naman ang Ang Buto ng Atis: … “At ang punong atis paglaki’y namunga, bunga’y sa palengke agad kong dadalhin; ang mapagbibilhan” anyang nakatawa, “ay ibibili ko ng hikaw at singsing.”

Mas pang biruan ito ng ordinaryong mga tao, tulad ng kuwentong Tana ng mga taga-Hagonoy. Kung sa text ito lumabas, ito iyong sinasagot ng hehehe: … Pagalit ang inang sinugod ang anak, kasabay ang batang kinurot sa singit: “Ipagpahiraman ang iyong alahas at nang putukan ka sa akin ng lintik!”

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Tungkol naman sa tapat na pagkakaibigan ang tulang Ang Bilin ng Lobo. Dalawang magkaibigan ang mamamaril sa gubat nang may natanaw silang isang lobong sumisibad. Agad na iniwan ng isang mamamaril ang kanyang kasama at umakyat sa punong simbilis ng matsing. Ang naiwan na nagpatay-patayan ay nilapitan ng lobo at binulungan bago ito umalis. … Sa puno’y bumabang hintakot ang matsing, sa nabuhay uli’y nagtanong kaagad: “Si Lobo ay ano ang iniwang bilin?” “Lumayo raw ako sa katotong duwag!”

Himutok ng baboy sa kawalan ng pagkakapantay-pantay ang laman ng Ang Baboy At Ang Punong Mangga. O kung bakit mas masuwerte ang mangga na may karapatang mabuhay habambuhay. Para na ring sinasabi ni Ka Amado, na sa buhay ay normal lang ang hindi pagkakapantay-pantay. Hindi niya kaya itong iproblematays? Bagama’t ang mga tulang ito’y kakaiba sa panulaang tatak Ka Amado, iyong may kamalayang panlipunan, pansining ang ilan dito’y isinulat niya sa loob ng iba’t ibang kulungan. Sa isang romantisistang makabayan, ipinagpapalagay na puro seryosong tema lang ang isinulat ni Ka Amado sa loob ng kulungan. Hindi ang mga ito’y puno ng karos o siste.

*** AT PAKUMPAS-KUMPAS MAGSALITA si Ka Amado. Pilyo at masiste. Maidaragdag nating makaros din. Sapagkat ang makata ay makaros. Kaya nga siya naging makata, kasi’y kaya niyang paglaruan ang mga salita. Wala tayong alam na tula ni Lakandula, pero ang tradisyong hindi niya pinasimulan kundi ibinansag lamang sa kanya ay maaari pa ring mabakas sa kasalukuyan. Ang isang naging apo niya sa pinsan ay isang Gatdula. Si Gatdula at kapatid nitong si Dumandan ang nagpundar ng Hagonoy para sa Kastila. Ang Hagonoy ang bayan ng ama ni Hernandez. Mas mababa ba ang gat sa lakan? Saan nanggaling ang salitang Gat. Alam nating may raha, datu, at kaharian na sa Kamaynilaan. Mga termino itong ang ugat ay Hindu. Sa mga bansang “Malay” ay walang salitang Gat pero may salitang bhat sa India. Mga kuwentista sila ng epiko at bards, na kung minsa’y naglilingkod sa royal court kung saan; Sa lahat ng mga relihiyoso at quasi na pagtitipong relihiyoso at mga kapistahan, sa mga kasalan, shraddhas at mga seryosong asamblea, na sa kinaugalian […] ay bumibigkas ng mahahabang berso sa pagpuri sa nag-imbita (sa kanya), sa kanyang mga ninuno, sa kanyang caste at sa kanyang bayan.19



May ganito tayong tradisyon sa pagtula, tinatawag itong pagpuputong. Dito, ang makata ay halos nambobolang pinupuring mainam ang pinuputungan na mas malimit ay isang reyna ng okasyon o isang malaking tao sa harapan. Sa balagtasan din ay may tinatawag na lakandiwa kung lalaki at lakambini kung babae, na siyang wise man na namamagitan sa dalawang nagtatalo nang patula. Si Ka Amado ay isang mamumutong noong nag-uumpisa pa lamang. Marami rin siyang tinulaang malalaking tao na nasa anyo ng pagpuputong. Kanino niya ito namana at ng marami pa nating makata? Kung ang Gat ay nanggaling sa Bhat, tradisyon iyon na galing pa sa mga Lakan at Gat, kina Lakandula at Gatdula. Pero may iba pang gat bukod kay Gatdula. Basta sa simula, dahil sila’y mga mersenaryo ng mga Espanyol, sila’y mga tagapuri lang sa gawain ng mga bagong amo? At sa kanilang lupain manggagaling balang-araw ang kontender sa titulong Hari ng Balagtasan, na tinagurian ding Makata ng Bayan. Dalawang bansag ang mga iyon na inilaan para kay Amado V. Hernandez, na nagbubukas ng isa pang problema. Kung may nahihigingan na tayo sa kung ano ang makata, ano ang bayan sa pasimula nitong anyo?

*** SAAN NGAYON NANGGALING ang lumbay ng isang makata? Talaga bang mahilig sa malakundimang tema ang ating mga makata? Tulad rin ng siste/karos, hindi rin siguro tamang sabihing namana iyon sa mga Kastila, o kaya’y reaksiyon iyon sa panunupil at pang-aapi nitong huli, na naging kumbenyente nang pagpapaliwanag sa tradisyong ito. Kung may galak ay may lumbay din (comedy at tragedy) ang isang tao/makata. Bahagi rin iyon ng isang tradisyong nagsanga-sanga. Ang pag-ugat dito ay higit pa sa paghahanap ng simula ng kundiman, na may dalawa raw na posibleng kahulugan, isang galing sa kulay at ang isa’y sa pinaikling pakiusap na kung hindi naman. Nang binansagang romantisista si Ka Amado, ang isang basehan ay ang mga tula niya sa pag-ibig, na katangian pa rin naman ng maraming tula sa pag-ibig noon at ngayon. Nanggigipuspos iyon ng lumbay. Sa lumbay, ang ibig sabihin lamang noon ay ang gamit ng mga talamak na imahen ng puntod/libingan, kaluluwa/ paraluman, ulila, kamatayan, kandila, luha, at iba pa. Mga psychological na lumbay ito ng isang bigo, pero dahil paulit-ulit hanggang naging cliché, nagiging lumbay na kultural na rin ito, kolektibong lumbay ng sambayanan. Kung ibinabadya nito ang gamit ng mga konseptong pampatay, maaari nating halughugin ang mismong konsepto. Hanggang ngayon, ginagamit pa rin ng matatanda sa Cavite ang salitang paraluman, na ang kahulugan ay compass na

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gamit sa paglalayag.20 Sa librong Barangay21 ni Scott, itinala niya ang salitang burulan, pero hindi naipaliwanag ang posibleng implikasyon nito. Ito ang lugar ng makinista sa kontemporaneong bangkang de-motor, pero noong araw na de-sagwan ang bangka, ito ang lugar ng tagakumpas ng sabayang pagsagwan sa bangka. Ito ang lugar na inuupuan ng datu. Suwerte ang sinumang paupuin ng datu roon dahil malamang na siya ang pinapaboran ng datu na papalit sa kanya balang-araw. Sa kasalukuyang panahon, ang burulan ay bakas ng sugpungan ng sanga at puno sa lunas (pinakasahig ng bangka). Parang mapang bilog iyon, na ang signipikasyon sa mga mangingisda ay malas o kamatayan. Iniiwasang bilhin/ariin ang bangkang may ganoon palatandaan. Pansinin na ang salitang paraluman at burulan ay mga konseptong kaakibat ng paglalayag. Maaaring ugatin ang simbolismo ng bangka mula pa sa panahon ng magico-religious complex ng Dongson bronze, kung hindi man sa neolithic epoch, nanatili ito hanggang sa kasalukuyang panahon sa maraming tao sa Arkipelago na hindi naabot ng Islamisasyon.22 Idagdag pa natin ang halaga ng bangang panlibing ng Manunggul (Manunggul Jar). Ang takip nito’y may namamangkang dalawang anito. May dalang mga paniniwala at ritwal ang mga ninuno nating Austronesian nang mag-umpisa silang maglayag hanggang lumaganap ang lahing ito sa bahaging ito ng mundo.23 Pansinin na ang awit sa paggawa ng mga Tagalog ay tinatawag na soliranin (problema). Bakit problema ang pamamangka/paglalagalag? Dahil walang katiyakan ang pupuntahan? Dahil sa hirap na dinaranas ng mga manlalakbay? Dahil maaari silang mapahamak sa kalikasan o maubos ang baon nilang probisyon? Suliranin nga, kung gayon. Ano ang kanilang kaalaman? Ano ang mga dala nilang gamit? Ang alam nating paraluman ay ang artistang si Paraluman, na binanggit ni Ely Buendia, sa kanyang “Kamukha mo si Paraluman,” sa kantang Ang Huling El Bimbo.24 Ang alam naman nating burulan ay ang lugar na pinaglalagyan sa patay sa ngayon. Maging ito man ay may sinasabi rin. Pinararangya ang bahagi ng bahay na siyang paglalagyan ng ataol. May chandelier sa magkabilang dulo ng ataol, may pelus na kurtina sa likod ng ataol na may canopy pa, may carpet sa kinalalagyan ng ataol. Totoo ang ganitong itsura kahit mahirap lamang ang pinaglalamayan. Kahit minsan lang, magbubuhay-mayaman ang patay. Espesyal na okasyon ang kamatayan. Ipinagdiriwang iyon. Masayang mamatay ang isang Pilipino. Maliban sa ilang nagluluksa sa malapit sa ataol, ang lahat ay nagsasaya. Nililibang ang mga naulila. Sa labas ng bahay ay may “party” na nagaganap. Nagkakatuwaan ang mga kabataan sa paglalaro ng ibon ng hari, lumipad dumapo, na ang parusa’y pagpapakanta. Sinaunang “Malay” din ang porma ng tulang hinahanap ng hari. Sa mga gilid-gilid ay may nagiinuman. Sa harap ng bahay ay may pasugal. Sa araw ng libing ay may video coverage pa. Nililibang ng nakikiramay ang mga naulila. 154


Sa araw ng libing, kailangang present ang lahat ng nagmamahal sa namatay. Kailangang naroroon ang buong myembro ng pamilya. Bibinbinin ang paglilibing kung may nasa malayo na dapat hintayin. Present din ang mga kapitbahay at kabarangay. Present din ang mga kaeskuwela ng anak, kaopisina ng asawa, angkan ng mga binayaw/hinipag at binyenan. Basta sa dulo ng pagsusuma, marami bang nakipaglibing? Sa lahat ng ritwal sa bansa, ang sa patay lamang ang hindi divisive. Hindi pinagtatalunan ang relihiyon. Hindi sinusuma kung mayaman o mahirap. Kahit kalaban ay iginagalang, hindi nagsasalita nang malabis. Legal ang sugal. Napagbibigyan ang ingay ng kapitbahay. Hinihinaan maging ang mga radyo ng mga sasakyang nakakasalubong sa kalsada sa araw ng paglilibing. Natitiis din ang traffic at init. Obligado ring umambag ang lahat ng malapit sa namatayan. Mahal natin ang patay. Ayaw ng mga katutubo na pinapatay ang kanilang pinuno tulad ng laman ng mga epiko, ni Kristo, ni Rizal, ni Ninoy Aquino, Rolando Olalia, Lean Alejandro, at marami pang iba. Ang patay ay isang simbulong kultural. Kaya nga wala ring Pilipinong may mahal sa buhay na nasa impiyerno. Itanong mo pa kahit kangino, ang mahal nati’y nasa langit. Kung wala, makukuha iyon ng pamisa, dasal, at tirik ng kandila. Napansin din ito ng mga chronicler tulad nina Chirino at Placencia. Iginagalang nga at minamahal ang mga yumao na, na nagiging anito na rin ng mga ninuno. Kaya ba naging praktis na ng mga Espanyol na pagtayuan ng simbahan ang mga sinaunang sementeryong inabutan nila? Nang lumaon, naging bahagi na ng reduccion/ erreccion (pagtatag ng bayan) ang pagpapatayo ng sementeryo sa likod o sa gilid ng simbahan sa tinatawag na plaza complex. Ito iyong pagbubuo ng mga institusyon ng poder. Pinagsasama sa isang lugar ang simbahan, kuwartel at munisipyo, at ang eskuwelahan. Sa di kalayuan ay ang bahayan ng principalia at ang palengke. Sa bagong pamayanan ay may mga pumupulas pa rin, pero unti-unti nang nagkakapundasyon ang sentro ng mga lokal na pamahalaang administratibo ng mga Espanyol. Siguro, sapagkat ang mga labi ng kanilang mga mahal sa buhay na nanatiling bahagi na ng sementeryong munisipal. Pansinin sa kasalukuyan ang pagpapahalagang ibinibigay natin sa Nobyembre 1, ang araw ng mga patay, na All Saints’ Day sa Ingles, na dapat ay araw ng mga banal. Sa araw na ito, malinis at maganda ang mga sementeryo kahit sa isang araw lang. Nawawala ang tao sa mga kalunsuran at matatagpuan sila sa mga sementeryo. Ang sementeryo’y nagiging isang composite na pamayanan. Posible ba kung gayon, na tingnan ang sementeryo bilang incipience ng kaisipang pambayan? May relasyon ba ang nasyonalismo sa sementeryo? Maiuugnay ba ang mga tulang may mga puntod, kaluluwa, at lumbay sa pormasyon ng nasyonalismo? Sabi ni Anderson sa kanyang Imagined Communities,25 ang print daw ang simula ng nasyonalismo sa mga bansang Europeo. Pero bago pa man mabuo ang konsepto ng print ay may konsepto na ng bayan. Saka iba naman ang karanasang continental sa karanasang

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archipelagic, kung saan ang mga pamayana’y nag-umpisa sa bangka/tubig. Kaya rin ba ang dulo ng pambansang awit ay Ang mamatay nang dahil sa iyo? Hindi natin alam kung ano ang nangyari sa tula nina Lakandula at inapo nitong si Gatdula. Maipagpapalagay lamang natin na naging bahagi na iyon ng Akdang bayan. Ayon kay Lumbera, marami pang masasabi ang mga kantahing-bayan dahil hindi iyon ganap na napakialaman ng mga dayuhan. Walang konsepto ng awtor ang sinaunang lipunan. Ang tula noo’y pangsambayanan. Sa pagdating ng bagong panginoon, nabago na naman ang mga interaksiyong pangkultura. Naging cosmopolitan ang mga katutubo, tinanggap ang mga bagong impluwensiya. Tulad rin kung paano niya tinanggap ang mga nauna pa, tulad ni Sitan,26 na pinakahari ng masasamang panginoon at ang ugat ay Saitan, na galing sa Satanas; tulad din ni Soliman na baryasyon ng Solomon. Ganoon ang mga interaksiyon. Sa pagpapalitan ng kultura, may mga nababagong kahulugan, sang-ayon sa pagkaintindi ng gumagamit nito. Kung gayon, ang galak at lumbay ay hindi mga personal na galak at lumbay, kundi kolektibong karanasan din ng mga katutubong nagsalin nito sa ating kasalukuyang kamalayan. MGA TALA 1. Interbyu kay Jake Abad, Hulyo 10, 2008. 2. Andres Cristobal Cruz (Editor), Introduksyon sa Panata sa Kalayaan ni Amado V. Hernandez (Manila: Atang de la Rama Hernandez, 1970). 3. Galak. Asar, pasaway, tudyo, siste o satire sa Ingles. 4. Tingnan, Rosario Torres-Yu (Editor), Sarilaysay: Tinig ng 20 Babae sa Sariling Danas Bilang Manunulat (Quezon City: Anvil Publishing, 2000) at Sarilaysay: Danas at Dalumat ng Lalaking Manunulat sa Filipino (Quezon City: Likhaan, UP Creative Writing Center and University of the Philippines Press, 2004). 5. Tingnan, Filipinos in History Vol. I (Manila: National Historical Institute, 1989). 6. Tingnan, Veneracion, Kasaysayan ng Bulacan (Kokonya, Alemanya: Bahay-Saliksikan ng Kasaysayan, 1986). 7. Ibid. 8. Nasa kalendaryo ng Hagonoy, 2005. 9. Huling Testamento ni FMB. 10. Pedro Chirino, Relacion de las islas Filipinas (Rome: 1604). 11. Isinulat ni Marcelo H. Del Pilar ang Dasalan at Tocsohan noong 1888. 12. Jose Rizal, Noli Me Tangere (Berlin: Berliner Buchdenckerei Aktiengesellschaff Setzerinner-Schulede, 1887). 13. Jose Rizal, El Filibusterismo (Ghent: F. Meyer-Van Loo Press, 1891). 14. Graciano Lopez Jaena, “Fray Botod”. Isinulat sa taong1874 nung 18 taong gulang lang siya. Inilimbag bilang bahagi ng antolohiyang Discursos y articulos varios (Barcelona: Imprenta Iberica de Francisco Fossas, 1891.



15. Tingnan, Wilhelm G. Solheim, William G. Solheim, David Bulbeck, Ambika Flavel, Archaeology and Culture in Southeast Asia: Unraveling the Nusantao (Quezon City: UP Press, 2007). 16. Vladimir Braginsky, The Heritage of Traditional Malay Literature: A Historical Survey of Genres, Writings and Literary Views (Singapore, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2005), 58. 17. Lope K. Santos, Banaag at Sikat (Manila: Limbagang E. C. MacCullough, 1906). Ikalawang paglimbag sa Maynila: Manlapaz Publishing Co., 1979). Unang sinerye ang nobelang ito sa peryodikong Muling Pagsilang noong 1901. 18. Amado V. Hernandez, Isang Dipang Langit, Katipunan ng mga tula ni Amado V. Hernandez (Tamaraw Publishing Co., 1961). Ikalawang Paglimbag—(Quezon City: Ken Inc, Manlapaz Publishing, 1973). 19. Braginsky, The Heritage of Traditional Malay Literature, 58. 20. Interbyu kay Eros Atalia. 21. William Henry Scott, Barangay, Sixteenth-Century Philippine Culture and Society (Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1994). 22. Braginsky, 679. 23. E. Arsenio Manuel, 23. 24. Ely Buendia at Eraserheads, “Ang Huling El Bimbo,” Cutterpillow Album (Manila: BMG Music, 1995) 25. Tingnan, Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism. (New York: Verso, 1983). Reprinted Quezon City: Anvil Publishing, Inc. 2003. 26. Tingnan, Pedro Chirino, Relacion de las islas Filipinas (Rome: 1604).

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Karl R. de Mesa

Report from the Abyss: Episodes from a Coming of Age in the Philippine Left



he Communist movement in the Philippines is a tangled and colossal affair. Its history and gestation are even more so. My parents were both members of this underground organization that advocated a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist solution for the country’s ills and came to prominence during the years of the Marcos



dictatorship. I refer to the triumvirate of the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People’s Army and the National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF). Though my parents tried their best to lie low, to give me and my younger sister a normal life in the city (as urban intelligence agents) and still keep their dedication to The Cause, I grew up in an environment of guerrilla warfare, clandestine meetings, surveillance, and disappearances. There are precious few dates here owing to my late start at keeping a journal and the fact that I have really bad recall for numbers. I apologize in advance for any mistakes in the timeline, in this awkward attempt at the memoirist’s art. I do however hope that this account, disjointed and prickly as it is, will be of use to those—children or adults—who have gone through the same trauma. You are not alone. SWORDFIGHTS My earliest memory of things being askew was of my father coming home sporadically, usually at night or near twilight. I jumped and did cartwheels whenever my mother would tell me he’d be home. She’d also tell me to keep it secret, especially from my Uncle Roy, a police sergeant. She said that if I told him he’d call someone and they’d drag off my father to prison. Years later, I learned that this was an inside joke since blood always protected blood, even if ideals differed by light years. In retrospect, I believe she was also subtly educating me, as to the level of secrecy I would have to bear in the future. Neither my father nor my mother ever got caught because of relatives or family. Others were not as lucky. Swordfights were my favorite game back then. Whenever father would come home, I’d take the longer plastic sword with the He-Man pommel detail and he’d take the short sword, gnarled and notched from many battles with other playmates. We’d play till I had to go to bed. I was six or seven years old, then, I guess. This was during the Corazon Aquino administration, when the housewife of assassinated martyr Ninoy Aquino ascended to the presidency via a bloodless coup known as the EDSA Revolt (the first one). In those years people affiliated with the movement were called insurgents by both the media and the government. While the revolutionaries called each other cadres, or kasama (companion), affixing a prefix of “Ka” before their preferred false names.

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MOVING HOUSE We never stayed for long in one place, moving houses nearly every year. By the time I had finished elementary school (six years in our educational system), I could count a total of more than a dozen houses we had rented, furnished sparsely, and then abandoned at the merest sign of surveillance. Surveillance meant a jacketed man at the corner constantly seen between 4-5 p.m., a car parked at the curb whose occupants never left the vehicle, a folded and creased note left in our mailbox that said things were getting too hot. Any or all of them were reasons to move once confirmation had been made. We moved from Bulacan to Marikina to Diliman to various locations along Tandang Sora Road, ad infinitum. The friends I made and lost along the way are innumerable. I remember neighborhoods as fleeting caricatures of interiors and exteriors, sporadic visits to friends’ homes, barkada outings never to be repeated— one suburban subdivision to the next. By the time I neared adolescence and was ready for high school, I had given up trying to actively make friends. I learned, instead, how to escape into books and make up imaginary scenes of carnage with action figures and their miniature, accessory vehicles. Fantasy and science fiction were my fare, a mental diet that kept me amused and occupied with something other than the obscure danger they always said we were in. I had little need for real playmates and often found them boring, even insipid. STONING THE BUS I was born in 1978, the year Episode Four of Star Wars was released. My parents left me in the care of relatives until I was around two years old and my mother says that she watched the film while she was pregnant with me. In any case I have no recollection of my mother or father until I was five years old. My mother tells me she cried when she tried to take me from my aunt and I wouldn’t let her. It’s probably true, though I don’t remember that either. One of the most vivid occasions I do remember was this one time in the late ’80s, well after EDSA had shifted the power structure, when two of my aunts and I went out to buy my school uniform. I was around ten years old and we were on a bus bound for some mall when we had to drive through a demonstration or a picket. To me it just looked like loosely phalanxed people on either side of the road. One phalanx was on the sidewalk, the



other on the island. We were on the left seat, facing the opposite lane of the road, my two aunts were nearer the window than I was. The demonstrators suddenly started throwing rocks and stones at our bus. The passengers were shocked at first then kicked into panic gear, wisened up and started closing the windows while rocks poured in from both sides. Luckily we were in an ordinary bus, the kind with windows made out of plywood rather than glass. Before my aunt could get the plywood board up, a rock whizzed by me and hit a man on the seat opposite us. It cut him on the temple and where it landed he bled right away. The rock was the size of a child’s fist, and brushed my brows. The man pulled out his handkerchief to stanch the blood but the woman beside him, a middle-aged earth-mother type carrying two bayong bursting with vegetables and fruits, screamed for a doctor, a hospital, anybody that could help. The man tried to calm her. “It’s ok, it’s ok,” he said, although the blood was dripping onto the woman’s duster. By this time, my aunt was finally able to get the board up. I couldn’t look away from the blood, the screaming woman. The tension in the air was so palpable that you could pluck it with your fingers. Then one of my aunts cradled my head and told me to lie down. Cringing on her lap, I heard the rocks thud thud thud against the plywood windows. The bus gained an inexplicable, dreamlike freeze frame. Eventually we moved out of range of the rocks, but we could hear the bus behind us now being stoned by the gleeful mob. That bus unfortunately didn’t have plywood windows. GUERILLA CONCLAVE In one of the numerous houses where we lived, a secret meeting of nearly all the top members of the Party was convened. Balweg, Baylosis, Ocampo, and Salas were prominent names then and they were all at our house that day. I remember this tall man in glasses with curly hair and a deep bassoon voice telling me to be good. A few weeks later my mother brought me a newspaper and pointed at the front page photo. “Who is that?” she asked. I read the headline, REDS CAPTURED AT NORZAGARAY SAFEHOUSE, and peered at the grainy group photo of five people (three men and two women) taken at medium shot. There was the curly hair and the black bottle-frame glasses. “That’s Tito Toto,” I replied. That was my first lesson in how real the dangers could be. I could just imagine the consequences if somebody bombed our place. The revolution would most likely have been crippled.

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CLOCKS I suffer from a sort of dyslexia with numbers. I can’t do accurate division and memorized the multiplication table with much difficulty. This condition manifested early on, though I didn’t know that it was a problem yet, when I was still learning how to tell the time. My father came home early that day and caught me playing instead of doing my homework. I am unclear about what happened next, but we were standing beside the big wall clock in our house and he was furiously asking me what time it was. For some reason I kept saying “Twelve o’clock!” when it was evidently not. The next thing I knew my father was pulling out his belt and whipping my butt and thighs. I stood frozen, barely hurt but inexplicably crying. As tears came down my face, I also felt the warm piss trickling down my leg, bathing my shorts and making a yellow puddle on the marble floor. I was still whimpering when mother shushed me and brought me to the bathroom to clean me up. To this day, I don’t recall being more scared in my life. EQUIPMENT, INFATUATION, ETC. One time my mother showed me the bugging equipment they used to eavesdrop on people. We played with a small mic encapsulated inside a squarish, white plastic thing that was no bigger than a thumb. She stood in one room and I had its receiver in another. Then she taught me to use the CB Radio and told me never to answer when someone called. She also showed me what to do in case we were about to be discovered or caught. If there was time I should tear up all the subversive documents and propaganda material, burn them all in a heap at the back. I never saw a gun in our house, though there must have been one. By this time, we saw my father rarely. He would come home once every two months or come down from the mountains or from his new function as chief negotiator to the peace talks with the government. By this time, Ramos, the new president was cracking down on insurgents with a vengeance. It was around this time that a fellow female cadre of theirs and her daughter, Sandra, came to live in our house. Our house had three stories back then and they settled down in our attic. I instantly fell in love with Sandra, a mestiza with a bob cut and sparkling eyes. The fact that she was ten years older than me, that she was nearly in college, and that I called her “Ate Sandra” didn’t make any difference to me.



I loved the way she spoke in a soft, husky voice, the way she doted on me, the way she seemed both strong and vulnerable and the way she kissed me on the cheek whenever she would go out. Oh, how I anticipated those kisses. I never asked my mother why Sandra and her mom lived with us, though years later I realized that they were in hiding. Sandra had a BMX bike that was way sturdier and cooler than my cheap, stainless steel bike. The fact that my cheapskate father had bought my bike said much about why I often had to have the main body welded to the steering frame. I eventually ran Sandra’s bike ragged with my trips through mud, uneven terrain, and down staircases. Years later, while I was in college, I would meet Sandra again and realize that most of the girls I had been attracted to in high school, up to early college, were cast in her mold. NAMES I was in my first year in high school when I learned that my real name was De Mesa, and not Soriano which is the surname of one of the notable old rich families in the country. So my false name was well-chosen, at least. In that year grunge was on the rise and the Left had fractured into two groups: the “Re-affirmists,” who remained loyal to the CCP founder, Jose Maria Sison, exiled in Utrecht, and the “Rejectionists” who sought a new paradigm for social change. My parents belonged to the latter. Soon after, what would be called The Purge (the witch hunt, trial and in some cases, summary execution of suspected government spies within the Left organizations enacted by the governing council) would come knocking at our door, as well as those of so many others. I was writing a lot in those days. My first attempts at poetry were filled with angst and a barely discernible outrage at something I could not pin down. I typed out pages and pages of nonsensical, lyrical and furious free verse, on a battered old typewriter. To this day, I pound too strongly on the keyboard, a carry-over from my pre-PC days. To prepare for my graduation from college (though it was still four years away) my parents worked to have my name, as well as my sister’s, officially changed. It was also at this time that I learned that my father was an ex-priest and that he and my mother met in one of the legal organizations that fronted for “The Cause.” I learned that they continued their relationship in the mountains, managed to get assigned to the same unit together, and then married within the movement.

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Marriages among cadres back then entailed a flurry of gunfire, crossed semiautomatics in lieu of church arches and a handful of bullet casings clutched by the couple and held aloft. With the casings in hand they recited an oath that bound each to the significant other. They vowed that the union would be in the service of the people and The Cause. I might have gotten some details wrong, but this is what I was told. These marriages weren’t legal of course, and this would cause problems with our (me and my sister’s) name change. NEW IDENTITY By third year high school, the problems regarding my name change had been solved. Seattle bands were still the vogue and poetry—or at least its music—was getting easier to write. I remember being called out from class by my instructor in the middle of Science class. “Someone’s waiting for you outside,” she said. When I stepped out of the room our high school principal handed me a rolled up scroll tied with a red ribbon. She shook my hand, smiled said “Congratulations,” then turned away. On that day I became Karl De Mesa. I wrote my first story a few months later. It was a soliloquy, the swan song and last words of a man who decides to kill himself, broken here and there with Kurt Cobain’s equally angst-ridden lyrics. PRISON When my father was arrested things were going quite well. I had passed the exams for university and eager for classes to begin. When the phone call came everything became a blur of activity. He had been charged with “possession of firearms in furtherance of rebellion,” apparently a new charge invented by the then Ramos Administration (Fidel Ramos was the general and West Point graduate who had replaced the erstwhile housewife Aquino). To keep my father from getting “salvaged” or slain without trace we had to do three things: (1) get media exposure—once a detainee is known to the press “salvaging” is more difficult since the military would be required to present him/her alive. Plus it would be easier to get cause-oriented groups to rally around the detainee. The revolution had to be televised; (2) get a lawyer who symphatized, or identified, with the Cause—this was essential in order to reduce charges to a bailable offense, and since the fees for such political lawyers are astronomical; (3) get family to visit the detainee—guards and soldiers, were human and it would greatly help if they identified with the detainee as a fellow human, not as an enemy of the state.



So, as soon as possible, we all went to visit. I remember the ISG Prison in Fort Bonifacio as a clash of angles and curves. There were impossibly high walls and guard towers in every corner. The concertina barbed wires that circled the tops of the walls presented a queer sort of aesthetic to my eye—symmetrically pleasing yet apparently meant to maim. To get to your political detainee you passed through a lobby of sorts. There, you had to submit to a procedure that verged on a cavity search. Every inch of kettles, thermoses, household items, chairs, and whatever you carried was searched for hidden stuff that could aid an escape. On your person, clothes were patted down, pockets were emptied, shoes taken off, inseams inspected for hidden zippers. They didn’t make you take your clothes off, and inspectors of the appropriate gender were assigned to each visitor but I remember that I was shaking throughout the entire procedure. Inside, the “cells” resembled small bungalow apartments with a single window. The whole compound was quite large and more than thirty prisoners were in that area, most of them affiliated with the Left. There were bars at the windows, the locks at the doors were all positioned on the outside and a quick peek from the window would tell you you’re within sight of a guard tower. But if you stood at the door and faced the interior, everything looked normal like in a seedy motel. There was a refrigerator, a sink, an electric stove, two narrow beds, a small bathroom, even curtains. Despite all this, we all quickly saw that my father’s hair had turned mostly gray, and that his face was lined like a crosshatch caricature. He brightened up when he saw us, however. His cellmate was Satur Ocampo, a prominent personality in the Left who once served as the Party’s negotiator with the government during peace talks. He worked primarily as an urban agent for the National Democratic Front. My father’s other friend (though he lived in the cell next door) was an NPA officer named Rolly Kintanar. He was another prominent personality in the Left owing to the number of “kills” attributed to him that nearly rivaled the impossibly high number of successful armed operations he had led. The atmosphere inside the compound was one of neither despair nor hopelessness. It felt like a vacation, albeit one that had started on a very sour note. Everything was relaxed and unusually calm, an enforced calm. I called them both “Tito,” since it was assumed we were all kin within the Cause. Tito Satur was a mestizo, wiry, aloof, and dignified. His stance always reminded me of someone standing behind a podium, about to address a crowd, with the crowd about to take notes. He was a quiet man who spoke in a studied manner, smiling infrequently but widely. It didn’t take a genius to realize that he was the kind of intellectual you didn’t want to tangle with. He kept a small library inside their cell and I always found him reading, writing, or dozing.

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On the other hand, Tito Rolly was a dark, brown-skinned man who sported curly, disheveled hair and a mischievous grin. He was big and built like a safe, jolly, full of jokes. He had an air of casual danger about him, the kind of derring-do aura I now associate with real soldier types—not necessarily of the military. When you shook his rough hand, you felt the contrast between the callused palm and the gentle, warm way he pumped your hand while laying another hand over your wrist. He liked to play darts and jokingly, fondly, called my father “Monsignor.” Tito Satur would later become a Representative in Congress, running under a party whose Leftist leanings were clear if not prominent. This was a few years after the NDF was recognized as a legal entity. His fame as a leader of the Left helped catapult him to the other side of the fence even as many of his former comrades accused him of selling out. I saw him on the cover of a local magazine one time, posing beside the daughter of former President Marcos and another politician. He remains a congressman today. Tito Rolly would be killed in the later half of 2002. Shot in the back of the head inside a Japanese restaurant in Quezon City that he frequented. The precise and vengeful manner of the hit—the gunman stood over him and shot a few more times to make sure he was dead—pointed to his former comrades as the likely assassins. Rumors abounded about him being a government informant selling secrets he had access to. He had gone legal a few years before his murder and had set up several prosperous enterprises. Despite his disfigurement his wife, defiant, insisted on an open coffin wake which the cameras ate up.

*** CURIOUSLY ENOUGH, THAT’S pretty much what I remember of our several dozen visits to the ISG prison. The infrequent trials and hearings, the meeting of, and bunking with, other family members, and the advocacy activities designed to raise awareness of these detainees are a blur. I remember that we spent a Christmas in prison. I remember having a shirt printed with a stylized barbed wire and candle flame that had all the names of the prisoners inside the ISG under it. I remember that I felt closer to my father then than I ever had before. I remember being proud of The Cause. I even argued with my guidance counselor once, during a session, about the values of Communism and how it was probably just one of the words that they’d found a despicable definition for. I remember crying at that session. I remember meeting that counselor again in a bus. I was with my mother, and I asked her if it was all right that I had told an outsider about the secret. She said, yes. Come to think of it, where is that shirt?



The biggest problem in such a “prison,” I later discovered, was having too much time on your hands. How to pass the time without going batty was the primary concern of the prisoners. Talismans, books, letters, and other stuff that could get you through the night were treasured. Eventually, we got my father out on bail after a year or so, having proved that firearms they supposedly found inside the house were planted, or some such finagling. The court hearings continued, but at least we were able to take him home. There was some talk of him “disappearing,” but that was later shut down. So we remained visible. I don’t think my father ever quite recovered from this last, his longest, detention. THE DARKNESS IS MY LAUGHTERHOUSE My shift to writing horror from fantasy was crystallized by two things: (1) the scathing, but ultimately disillusioning, ordeal of caring for my broken father in prison, and (2) the majestic, nearly Lovecraftian beating of mighty wings at my window at a time when brownouts were frequent (when I think about it now, I figure that it was most likely a huge bat; back then however I firmly believed it was a manananggal—a flying viscera sucker, one of the monsters of our Lower Mythology). The gestalt of the two resolved for me how essentially two-dimensional fantasy characters were, how limiting the genre was in terms of actualizing what I wanted to express. I still love fantasy to this day, but for an adolescent, back then, who was struggling into adulthood, wrestling with a rite of passage and trying to find the means to accurately convey what he had experienced, the genre was not adequate. I wanted to draw the attention of the reader to real life, albeit indirectly, in a manner as subtly as an acupuncture needle being thrust into the skin. I didn’t want escape; I wanted confrontation. Horror had it in spades. Plus I was naturally drawn to the occult, the macabre, and mysterious. I dabbled in witchcraft, magick, psychic powers, energy healing, conspiracy theory, alien abductions, minor spells, conjurations, and other esoteric stuff. To further my education in this new (consequently, lifelong) obsession I read horror authors, from King to Barker. Later on I would come to know the Existentialists. I was also drawn to music that gave voice to the eloquence and rage, beauty and terror, the turmoil I felt inside. Beyond the Seattle groups was a plethora of music that conjured darkness with relish. These were my new heroes. Here was art that spoke to me. Here were stories of my state, characters I could identify with, voices that whispered to me of kinship. Here were my weapons

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and a side I could ally myself with in a war that had been raging for years, a conflict I barely understood. THE REVOLUTION DEVOURS ITS CHILDREN Fights and arguments and shouting matches between my parents became more frequent and escalated steadily along with the legal proceedings involving my father’s case. Once, while I was playing outside our house in Tandang Sora, my playmates and I heard a crash that came from our house. Rushing to open the door I found my mother holding my father’s bloody hands. All around them were the shattered remains of our plates. They had been fighting, apparently about whether to surface and go legal or continue their work with the underground, consequently neglecting their children. My playmates crowded behind me and looked over my shoulder. Then we slowly retreated. Another time, at a different house, my aunts and I found my parents screaming at each other and I opened the door just in time to see my mother slap my father. The slap was so hard that it made my father’s nose bleed and brought on palpitations (they both had heart problems). The cause of that argument was the whole reason for their separation. If you ask them, my parents would tell you that they separated because my father cheated on my mother with another woman. Evidence to the contrary would suggest that they had ideological as well as emotional differences, unresolved and callously passed over, accumulated over the years like ghosts inside an empty house. They often argued as much over going legal and taking care of the children as they argued over certain government provisions that impacted The Cause. They did not make up after these arguments. When my mother got a job, my father’s depression deepened. Things at home got more and more sour. The other woman was probably just the last straw. In any case, I remain alienated from my father to this day. I started my work as a writer doing odd jobs in the NGOs at the legal fringe of the Left. I met the same people that my father and mother knew, worked with quite a few of them. During the course of my work much concern was given to being “mulat”—that is, aware of the prevailing system of capitalist exploitation that has kept the country shackled to colonial powers. To many of these workers being mulat meant being exposed to The Cause. My awareness was never questioned. I had only to mention who my father or mother was and my colleagues would nod knowingly, as if we shared some common sorrow.



Tito Satur Ocampo, in an interview I had with him and his family, told me that there were extreme cases where parents left their children in a kind of collective day care center and never returned for them. Those who did come back did so not as parents but as long-lost uncles or aunts, unable to work up the courage to reclaim their children. He also said that they were so “blinded” by The Cause back then that they forgot about the basic, instinctual values that made us human. Perhaps that is the gist of my parents’dilemma. UP THE DOWN STAIRCASE This is what I wrote in my journal, the morning after the esteemed August Highland (editor and founder of the Muse Apprentice Guild) urged me to write about my experiences regarding childhood in The Cause: Oct. 1, 2003. A dream. A str he stree tch of de dess ola olatte b beeac ach. The bluish-grre y, tthe h. T he sand is a bluish-g landscape of some alien terrain. Whales, gigantic and blackened, are beached along the coast as far as the eye can see. Some of them are dead, most lie gasping for breath while tigers with fur the color of fire, and nearly as he whale na w, de vour hug he whale s’ naw devour vour,, and ffee a st on tthe whaless , ggna whales’ ugee aass tthe blubb er ind blows he ssee a ggive ive ad and it ivess up it itss de dead itss blubber er.. A harsh w wind blows.. T The secrets. To say that I feel nervous writing about my childhood and The Movement would be an understatement. I recall Yeats: “Why should we honor those that die upon the field of battle? A man may show as much reckless courage in entering into the abyss of himself.” I agree. I don’t feel that reckless however. I feel as if I were clearing up a cloud that has long obscured my vision. I feel an exhausting exhilaration, as if from a long run. Somewhere between the books and the music I discovered a word, a subculture that described people of my disposition: “Goth.” I allied myself with its precepts, if not with its trappings. Years later, I would have a stylized ankh tattooed on my arm. When the last line was drawn and the blood wiped away, I felt whole.

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AN UNBEHELD WAR It occurs to me that I have never learned to pray and—though I’d like to think my morals and ethics are discernible—that I have had to discover spirituality on my own. I find this supremely funny since my father was an ex-priest. A friend of mine has also pointed out that I have a habit of whispering and accumulating gossip and secrets about my friends and acquaintances. These, I keep like a miser. The nature of our secrets—especially the ones we keep to ourselves—are, I think, more telling than those that we tell friends or even lovers. They define us. I don’t know if the circumstances of our childhood are to blame for our damaged selves. Or perhaps it’s our inability to adjust and to live a healthy life amidst the ashes. It is too easy to point to wars, secret or otherwise, that leave us irreparably broken. If I am broken then I am at least balanced: I have a chip on both shoulders. These days those chips are sources of great amusement. Today, I think it’s quite comic how seriously I took it all. Nobody has yet criticized me for not being an overtly political writer. Though I do feel that I should write about my experiences, I also feel that I should have an original way of telling them before I can even presume to impose on the reader’s attention. My fiction follows this edict. I hope that this essay has at least been an interesting, if not entirely instructive, read. This adventure into my personal abyss is long overdue. Yes, I think I see them go in Rilkean fashion—ghosts, wraiths, phantoms … Thank you for this exorcism.



Jose Claudio B. Guerrero

Talking to a Fu Dog on a Wedding Afternoon Ê W

arm chandelier light bounces off San Agustin’s vaulted ceiling and descends gently on the congregation below. The air is sweet with the scent of mock orange blooms festooned on the retablo and around the nave. Interspersed with the white fragrant flowers are large heads of hydrangea and sprays of Easter lilies and asters. A string quartet plays Vivaldi as the groom and the congregation await the arrival of the bridal party. The groom has never looked more handsome. He wears a barong Tagalog of pineapple cloth that took three women half a month to embroider. The congregation, too, is dressed in fabrics as expensive and as painstakingly crafted as the groom’s barong. Everyone gathered in the church’s nave has waited long for this wedding, and both families have done everything possible to make it beautiful.

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As one of the groom’s cousins, I, too, am wearing a barong of embroidered pineapple cloth. This makes moving quite difficult, since barongs wrinkle easily. I find the atmosphere in the church stifling and slip out to get some fresh air and look for a drink. I manage to find a vending machine inside the museum in the church complex. Since my family has once again excluded me from the entourage, I figure they won’t mind my absence too much. I stand right outside the church doors sipping my Coke. A fu dog stands before me, his gaze steady and unblinking. He holds a ball in his paw, his claws partly unsheathed. He is both playful and menacing. I smile and toast him with my Coke can. This fu dog is believed to watch over the building. His partner, standing guard from the other side of the façade, is female and holds her cub instead of a ball. She is supposed to watch over all that is within the building. The female fu dog is better preserved, but I like the male better. This may be because I’ve always been partial to men. I wink at the fu dog and smile. The guardian still has not moved from his position. The ball is still in his paw. He is an old friend and we’ve survived many weddings together—those of my family, my friends, and even those of total strangers. I stand there contrasting the current wedding with the ones we’ve both attended in the past. Some of them were beautiful, most of them less so, and a few were just too horrible for words. Doubtless though, members of all the wedding parties think theirs was the most beautiful by far. It costs a pretty penny to get married in this 16th century church, so those who get married here are dead serious about having a beautiful wedding. I hear the clip clop of horse hooves on cobblestone and turn around just as a kalesa trundles past. The tourists on it aim their cameras at me. They expect me to raise my hand in a “mabuhay!-welcome-to-the-Philippine-islands” wave. Instead, I mimic the fu dog’s stare. One of the tourists remarks loudly that the church is beautiful. There is an ensuing flurry as her friends, all seeming to be in agreement, snap a multitude of photos as their kalesa draws them off to Fort Santiago. It is strange that most people do not realize how plain San Agustin’s exterior is. I am amused by this realization. San Agustin’s structure had, during the Spanish colonial period, inspired scorn from even the friars themselves. Augustinian historian Agustin Maria De Castro couldn’t have been more blunt when he described the church façade as of triangular form, very ugly, and of a blackish color; flanked by two ugly and irregular towers, devoid of elevation and grace. I take another sip from my Coke and observe San Agustin’s façade. Its simplicity reveals the practical approach to building the friars had taken in the country. Following the style of High Renaissance, and thus belying its age, San Agustin’s façade is, as described by one scholar, symmetrical and straightforward. Pairs of columns framing the church’s massive wooden doors create a vertical movement 172


continued on the façade’s second tier by another set of paired columns. A triangular pediment adorned by a simple rose window tops the second tier. Horizontal cornices set off each tier. In keeping with the High Renaissance penchant for symmetry, a pair of towers originally flanked the façade. This symmetry is marred now because the left belfry has been taken down. The earthquakes that hit Manila in 1863 and 1880 effectively split it into two. The church has recently been restored and now wears a highly controversial coat of peach paint. With its candy color the façade reminds me of mission churches in Latin America. This is not surprising, since according to reports the design of the church was derived from other churches built by the Augustinians in Mexico. My cousin’s bride hates the peach paint. Her entourage’s gowns are maroon, and they look awful when set against a peach background. I think Father Galende, the parish priest, has done the right thing, though. At least now the church’s exterior is not as boring. I ask the fu dog what he thinks of the peach paint. He does not respond, but I surmise he is relieved the painters left him alone. He stands there staring at me, his lion-- like frame looking a tough greenish gray. I sip from my Coke can and imagine how things will be if I were to get married. It must be difficult deciding even on the venue alone. My church has to have beauty and character, and it must be at least a century old. The Philippines has several churches that meet my standards. Off the top of my head are San Sebastian in Manila, Miag-ao and Boljoon in the Visayas, and, of course, the dream churches of Northern Philippines. I think the best churches are in the Ilocandia. They are grand in scale, steeped in history, and visually arresting. I suppose they are built that way to complement the equally dramatic topography of Northern Luzon. The churches of Sarrat, Bacarra, Laoag, Dingras, Badoc, Burgos, Sta. Maria, and Sta. Lucia in the Ilocos and Tumauini in Isabela are wedding perfect. However there is one church that, for me, stands out. This is the Parish Church of Saint Augustine in Paoay, Ilocos Norte. Built in the 17th century, San Agustin de Paoay is the most striking and dramatic of all Philippine churches. It is a dream construction of coral stone, clay brick, stucco, and wood. Viewed from afar, San Agustin de Paoay seems like a graceful mountain. The large undulating buttresses that flank the church create the illusion that the whole San Agustin de Paoay is a giant triangular pediment rising from the soil. Square pilasters stretching from the ground all the way up to the upper pediment divide the church façade. The vertical movement created by the pilasters and the finials that top them suggest the church’s Gothic affinity. Intersecting these pilasters are cornices that stretch across the façade and all the way around the church. These cornices wrap around the buttresses and call attention to the massive side supports.

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I remember clearly the first time I saw it. I was ten years old, a Catholic schoolboy vacationing from Manila. Ever since I saw a picture of it in one of my mother’s art books, I had begged my father incessantly to take me to see San Agustin de Paoay. So the first chance he got he made sure I got what I wanted. I remember the car becoming very quiet as we began espying the church’s belfry through the trees. When we rounded the corner and we got to see San Agustin de Paoay’s façade in its full grandeur, I was ready to die. It was so beautiful, I got goose pimples, and my hair stood on end. I ran out of the car and stood on the church’s front lawn gaping. The setting sun cast a soft light on the façade so that every carving and detail leapt out. My sister joined me shortly and said exactly what was on my mind, “It’s like Borobudur.” San Agustin de Paoay is often likened to the Javanese temple in Borobudur. I think the church’s design—its massive buttresses and the crenellations and finials on the upper pediment—has much to do with this. Couple it with the fact that, until recently, small trees and air plants have grown in the cracks in the clearly visible coral blocks that comprise most of the structure itself, it doesn’t take a stretch of the imagination to picture scenes from Ramayana in bas relief. I can never get enough of viewing the awesome façade. Its lower, earlier level of brick and stucco contrasts with the carved but weathered coral stone of the pediment and side buttresses. The façade is adorned with fernlike scrolls, Saint Augustin’s miter and staff, a flaming heart pierced by many arrows, the Spanish royal coat of arms, and images of the sun. On the apex is a niche, which is assumed to have housed an image. To the lower left of this niche, on the cornice, is a statue of what is probably a fu dog; its companion to the right is missing. The exterior walls are beautiful. Aside from the buttresses that support the side and back of the church, the walls are carved with angel heads, leaves, flowers, and more suns. The undulating lines, heavy ornamentation, and staggering size all reveal the influence of the Baroque style. The interior, however, is not as impressive as the exterior and is,, in fact, the exact opposite. According to accounts, the interior had retablos, murals, and scrollwork that would rival that of San Agustin de Intramuros. None of that has remained. The unremarkable wooden retablo, wobbly pews, and cracked tiles of the current interior are better suited for a small community chapel and give no hint of the former grandeur of the church. Word is the interior was victim of years of gradual looting by politician’s wives, art historians, and heritage conservators themselves. The original retablo, the side altars, the images in the niches, the sculpted cornices, like the exterior’s missing image and fu dog, are believed to currently be in the receiving rooms and studies of the perfumed set. I take a sip from my Coke and wonder if the theft and destruction of the fu dogs in the church’s pediment has something to do with the destruction of its interior. Did the removal of the fu dogs leave the building and its interior unprotected? I ask



my guardian friend if I’m right. The fu dog doesn’t seem to hear me and keeps staring on. In subsequent return trips to San Agustin de Paoay I have noticed that the exterior, too, is going the way of its interior. Through the years, human neglect and the elements have weathered the exterior’s details. Now, when I view the façade from the same spot I stood on as a kid, the carved details are no longer as sharp, and the entire façade has tilted forward. The erosion of the stucco, the protective layer, has speeded up the destruction of the coral stone. I remember that as a kid I had marveled at the use of corals. Being the child of environmentalists, I had grown up knowing that corals were not supposed to be removed from the sea. And there I was exploring a building complex the size of two football fields built almost entirely of coral. The extravagance of the idea added to my awe of the place. It would not be until after I had graduated from college that my geologist exboyfriend would explain to me coral stones and karst landscapes. Apparently, coral stones are ancient coral, long dead remnants of the prehistoric seas. They are made primarily of calcium carbonate and are called by the less intriguing name, fossilized limestone. Coral stones are quarried in karst areas, landscapes rich in limestone. Limestone is susceptible to water corrosion, so karst areas are full of caves and sinkholes and underground rivers. Much of Ilocandia is karst country, and coral stone is abundant. This makes it a practical building material. The coral stone blocks used in San Agustin de Paoay’s belfry are larger than those in the church and show more coral fossils. One afternoon several years ago, when I was still working for the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, I visited Paoay with a Japanese geologist who specialized in terrestrial vibrations. The UNESCO had sent him to help counter the tilting of the façade and preserve the monument which has been, together with San Agustin de Intramuros and two other Philippine Baroque churches, inscribed in the list of World Heritage Sites. As I waited for him to finish taking measurements, I sat in the shade of the belfry and marveled at a block of coral stone whose corallites were clearly showing. They looked like beige flowers and starbursts. I remember remarking how pretty they looked even though they have been dead for centuries. I find it poetic that the church is built of coral skeletons.. My mother, believing they are built on carnage, often fails to understand how why I swoon over old churches like San Agustin de Paoay. Though she is perfectly capable of admiring architecture, she finds it difficult separating the idea of these beautiful monuments from the tremendous amount of suffering many Filipinos had to go through to build them. According to reports, a large number of the churches established during the Spanish colonial era were built with forced labor. Farmers and fishermen

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were forced to abandon their traditional means of livelihood to work on these religious structures. Forced labor often led to abject poverty, starvation, and death. In some areas the memory of the sacrificed lives was so strong that these churches were eventually abandoned by the townspeople. One example is the church in my father’s hometown, Pasuquin, Ilocos Norte. All that remains of this once grand structure are a few arches and pillars and the outline of the church courtyard. I ask the fu dog if he thinks my mother is overly dramatic. His mouth is set in a grim line. He doesn’t blink. I take a sip from my Coke and notice a couple of Taiwanese tourists reading the writings inscribed on San Agustin’s floor. Like most first time visitors to the church, the two are bending down to read the gravestones that pave the church’s vestibule. They whisper to each other and I surmise that they are wondering if the ghosts of the people who are buried under it haunt the church. I smile at the fu dog and wonder if he also finds it funny that San Agustin de Intramuros is built on skeletons, just as the polyps in the coral stones of San Agustin de Paoay were built on the skeletons of their ilk to form reefs. I return my attention to the Taiwanese couple and wonder if they will be just as thrilled as I was when they find out the bones of Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, the founder of Manila, are kept under the church. The whirr of a camera calls my attention to an Australian taking photographs of the façade. I am amazed at the number of shots he is taking and wonder if he has enough left for the interior. If this man has not done his research, he is in for great disappointment. San Agustin’s boring exterior hints at nothing of its ornate interior. In 1875 two Italian painters, Alberoni and Dibella, enlivened the drab interior with intricate trompe l’oeil. Literally meaning ‘to fool the eye,’ the technique employed by the two created for San Agustin floral motifs, geometric patterns, classic architectural themes, coffers, and religious images. Almost the entire interior is covered with trompe l’oeil. The great beauty of the Italians’s handiwork is said to have inspired the celebrated Filipino artisan Simon Flores who is credited for beautifying the church interiors of the Baroque churches in Pampanga. Trompe l’oeil and other art techniques were fashionable in the Baroque period. The move then was toward opulence, hence the ornate exterior of San Agustin de Paoay and the painted interior of San Agustin de Intramuros. The idea was to make art accessible to the regular person. Cynics say that the idea really was to remove the people’s attention from the goings-on within the Church by distracting them with beautiful things. Why bother with what the priest is doing when you have such lovely paintings to marvel at? Art was used to remove attention from what was truly important. I marvel at this and realize that the wedding taking place within the church isn’t really that much different from the old priest’s idea. Like most weddings held in this church, what is going on inside is a spectacle, something designed to hold everyone 176


in thrall. What matter that the bride is two months pregnant and still insisted on wearing virginal white? What does it matter that my cousin doesn’t really believe in marriage and that he only agreed to get married when his father threatened to disinherit him? The significance of weddings and the monuments and rites incorporated into them—like these churches, like most religions—have long died. Like polyps stuck in coral stones, they have been allowed to persist simply because we find them beautiful. Form has taken over function. Form taking over function. This thought causes me to smile. As someone who works actively in built-heritage conservation, I am surrounded by this problem. What to do when a structure, beautiful though it may be, has lost its practical use? Do I have the right to tell a parish priest not to demolish his century-old church because we find it particularly pretty even though it can no longer accommodate even a third of his congregation? Most of the people I work with don’t have such qualms. I am, unfortunately, still saddled with this pragmatic sensibility, and it makes my appreciation of beauty of this nature rather guilty. For me, function should, at the end of it all, still take precedence over form. I take another sip from my Coke can and return my attention to the fu dog. The guardian still has not moved from his position. I hear familiar voices and the brush of beaded slippers on the church courtyard. The bridal party has arrived. I see my sister among the women in maroon gowns. She flashes me a smile as they fall in line for the bridal entrance. I decide to give in to my stomach’s grumbling and walk across the courtyard to buy fried quail eggs. From my new vantage point I watch the phalanx of maroon gowns and ecru pineapple cloth barongs get swallowed by the maw of San Agustin’s doorway. My cousin’s bride hesitates at the doorway before she, too, disappears into the interior. The fu dogs continue to stare, forever vigilant in their watch. I notice them eyeing me, perhaps wondering if I’d do harm to their building and those within it. I scoop vinegar onto my quail eggs and look for a bench to sit on. I find one under a young fire tree. In less than an hour my cousin will be married. That will make me officially the only male cousin still single, the last man standing. I sit on the bench and imagine my own wedding. Mine will be the most beautiful wedding of all. It will be in a church with the exterior just like San Agustin de Paoay with graceful buttresses and an ornate pediment that makes it look Spanish colonial and Asian at the same time and an interior just like San Agustin de Intramuros with ornate trompe l’oeil, filigree, scrollwork, sculptures, and chandeliers. And the fu dogs will be there to bless the church and everyone in it. All this will happen once I figure out what to do for a bride. I wonder what kind of trompe l’oeil and undulating architecture I will have to invent to distract the Church and finally allow two men to marry.

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The quail eggs make me thirsty, so I decide to get myself another Coke from the museum vending machine. Armed with my fresh drink, I cross the courtyard once more. I hear choral music as I pass the church doors. My cousin’s wedding is well underway. Again, I position myself in front of the fu dog. The Chinese guardian continues to stare at me. I raise my can to him and silently recite my toast: may there come a time that I, too, will be kneeling beside my beloved before a gorgeous retablo; and may our families look gladly upon us being married by a priest; and may everything within the church be bathed with the perfume of flowers and the light of crystal chandeliers; and may a pair of fu dogs protect my beautiful church and all that I treasure within. REFERENCES

Angels in Stone: Augustinian Churches in the Philippines by Pedro Galende, Dick Baldovino, and Nick Joaquin (San Agustin Museum, 1996) Great Churches of the Philippines by Pedro Galende, Rene Javellana, and Body Tapales (Bookmark, 1993) Simbahan: Church Art in Collonial Philippines 1565–1898 by Regalado Trota Jose (Ayala Foundation, 1992) Sacred Homes of Ekklesia: The Colonial Churches of the Philippines by Roger Gaspar (2001)



Bienvenido L. Lumbera

Versus Exclusion: The Political Dynamics Between the “National” and the “International” in Contemporary Philippine Literary History (1946-2006)


he recent advent of globalization from the West may have seemed to open new spaces for the creative writer to explore, but in the Philippines, it has simply revived the tension between the “national” and the “colonial” in the discourse on the development of a distinct identity for Philippine Literature. Such may be explained by the history of Philippine-American relations since 1898 and the persistence of the impact of colonial experience on the writers’ collective consciousness up to the present.

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US occupation of the Philippines was sanctioned by the Treaty of Paris of 1898, in which Spain turned over “colonial control” of the 1898 Republic of the Philippines to the US for the sum of $20 million. The deal was consummated without consideration of the existence by 1898 of a republic that had taken control of the country from the Spanish colonizers by virtue of the victories of the Revolution of 1896. The Treaty of Paris may be said to have drawn the parameters of the Filipino’s sense of identity. For one, it did away with the illusion of American protection for Filipinos against Spain, which had been invoked in the declaration of independence in Kawit, Cavite, when the presence of American troops in the Philippines was taken by the revolutionary government under President Emilio Aguinaldo as a gesture of American support for the Filipinos’ struggle for freedom. The Treaty drew the line clearly demarcating the interest of Filipinos as a sovereign people from the interest of Americans as purported friends of the Philippine Revolution. Thereafter, the Filipino people as a nation knew where their interest lay and it was not where “colonial” power exerted its hegemony. In the initial years of US colonial rule, national identity, however, was a concept that remained to be clarified. In 1904, for instance, when the US colonial administration, in the St. Louis Exposition, displayed indigenous peoples drawn from the ethnic ranks of Igorots, Manobos, and Muslims principally, educated and propertied Filipinos collaborating with the colonizers had protested that the tribal people could not represent Filipinos. In effect, the protests coming from the elite urban families were claiming that only Hispanized natives deserved to be recognized as “real” Filipinos. At this early historical stage, “exclusion” was already being set up as a determining principle in clarifying the issue of identity. Carried over to the realm of culture, the principle was to occasion a split in the consciousness of what “Filipino” culture was. On the one hand, cultural expression asserts itself as “national,” when it uses the indigenous tradition, as this may have been modified by the history of the people, as the base for poetry, music, theater and fiction. On the other, cultural expression is deemed “colonial,” when its base comes from an outside culture, principally that of colonizers, bearing their hegemonic motivations and their racist assumptions. But the line demarcating what is “national” and what is “colonial” is seldom unmistakable; historical events, policies promulgated by colonial administrations, institutions set up with varying motivations, and personages and personalities with a variety of advocacies, tend to blur the line that defines what is foreign and what is Filipino. The creative imagination, whether one finds it at work in literature, the visual arts, music, and other cultural forms, is a highly volatile faculty, and the process of discriminating between what is “national” or “colonial” is mediated by innumerable factors that do not readily identify themselves. It is in the process of discriminating that the creative Filipino artist finds the services of cultural 180


historians necessary. It is their task, in a society that has gone through two colonial regimes, to map out the contradictions that enter into the growth and development of cultural expression that is authentically Filipino. Unfortunately, the early cultural historians available were invariably American. As early as 1901, the colonial administration was quick to establish “a highly centralized public school system,” even as Filipino guerrillas were still fighting the Americans in the countryside. The eminent historian Teodoro A. Agoncillo notes in his account of the beginnings of American colonial rule, that the school system was to turn out to have “the greatest and probably the most lasting effect in the political and cultural development of the Filipino.”1 That same year, English was decreed as the medium of instruction in all schools. The continuing muddle in Filipino artists’ search for identity may be seen to date back to the inception of the 20th century when colonial policy fortified its hold on the consciousness of young Filipinos through the public schools. In effect, the colonial administrators then were drafting unwary future generations of young Filipinos to pass on to their countrymen their dubious heritage of cultural captivity. No longer would the US need to bring more American schoolteachers after the first batch had come on the SS Thomas in 1903; history was to prove that the early products of the public school system were enough to indoctrinate young Filipinos on “the American way of life.”

*** THE LITERARY HISTORY of the post-Pacific War years was clouded over by dark memories of the brutal years under the three-year military rule of Japanese invaders. Moreover, America’s Cold War with the Soviet Union trapped the Philippines into the political paranoia induced by US contestation of Communist hegemony in the world. The fear of Communism induced by American propaganda was aggravated by the victory of the Chinese Revolution and by Russian sponsorship of Communist states in Eastern Europe. In Korea, war had broken out between the South (in the US camp) and the North (in the Russia camp), and the likelihood of a North victory invited armed intervention by the US. In the Philippines itself, a homegrown revolution was ongoing, with the HUKBALAHAP forces challenging the army of the one-year-old republic headed by President Manuel Roxas. Against this setting, the American government invested heavily in a cultural campaign intended to keep the Philippines on the side of democracy. Professors and artists from the academe were inveigled with grants and scholarships to travel to the US for graduate study and observation tours. Return on US investment took the form of literary projects, brought back by returning grantees and scholars, with output that affirmed the virtues of American literary

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production and aesthetics. A mentality abetted by the desire to rise to the standards of achievement set by the former colonial master lured the creative artists to compete with their Western counterparts, and the resulting game set into motion the dynamics of the “national” and the “colonial.” At this historical juncture, “colonial” inauspiciously dropped out of the pairing and was replaced by the politically neutral “international.” The change in the designation of the culture of the former colonial master did not, however, occasion a corresponding change in the implied political relationship. “International,” it must be noted, simply indicated that the US had succeeded after the Second World War in achieving universal recognition as a dominant international power, and it had successfully engineered its rise to the status of examplar of internationalism in the arts. The spread of New Criticism world wide signalled the triumph of the U.S. as the emergent cultural center of the Western world. Initially a method for reading literary works, New Criticism was later transmuted as a method for creating verbally sophisticated literary pieces that New Critics would explicate with great dexterity. As critical doctrine, New Criticism was the capitalist answer to Social Realism of the Soviet Union. It privileged the “artfulness” of the literary work and insisted on the autonomy of the literary work as an object made out of words, valuable in itself and valid as intellectual currency anywhere in the world. Its arrival in Philippine academe early in the 1960s changed the traditional way of approaching a literary piece which was then focused on authorship and its relevance to the community being addressed. By dispensing with biography as key to interpretation (dismissed as “intentional fallacy”), and by de-emphasizing historicity which tied the work to sociopolitical realities, New Criticism made the reading of literature fairly easy to teach, having isolated the literary work from its origins in the author’s life and the social context of its creation. Filipino writers writing in English did not find the entry of New Criticism much of a problem. As early as the 1920s, poet Jose Garcia Villa, breaking away from the “national,” had already divorced the art of poetry from the social milieu and gained adherents among creative artists for his aestheticism. It was among writers using Tagalog that New Criticism took some time to register conversions. The reason for this was cultural. Rizal and other writers from the Propaganda Movement of the 1880s had by example passed on to vernacular writing the theory that a writer writes for no other reason than the social and political needs of his time. Villa, and his advocacy for art that deliberately eschewed any social and political links to the life of the community, broke off from a critical tradition hallowed by the Revolution of 1896. English writers in the 1950s accepted New Criticism as a systematized affirmation of what Villa was advocating. Tagalong writing, however, was not to be easily won over even when New Criticism had already established itself as a trend in Philippine writing in general. Literary practice that had the sanction of history could not be easily dislodged from 182


the consciousness of writers and teachers by a theory coming from abroad that was only too ready to ignore the contribution to national literature of writers like the heroes Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, and Marcelo H. del Pilar. The purposive writing the three nineteenth century authors represented was taken to be the noblest service a writer could render his countrymen in a society still in the process of unshackling itself from the thrall of the West. As late as the 1960s, whenever English writing by Filipinos and Tagalog writing were juxtaposed, the latter always suffered in comparison. English works were always privileged, being writing that had been able to keep abreast of the literary fashions in the West, its writers having had access to the latest creative and critical innovations that the newest publications had propagated. Tagalog poetry and fiction purveyed by the commercial weekly magazines were soon to be objects of scorn among college campus writers writing in Tagalog, who had begun to draw from their classroom readings examples of modernist themes and techniques for their own creative works. Thus an unspoken rivalry with writers in English began to permeate the consciousness of Tagalog poets and fictionists, who always felt humiliated by the fact that they had only campus newspapers and magazines as venues, while their counterparts using English enjoyed the prestige of being published in metropolitan and national publications. In 1962, two university professors who had earned their graduate degrees in the US came home and founded the first writers’ workshop in the Philippines in Silliman University in Dumaguete City. Both Dr. Edilberto Tiempo and his wife Edith had attended the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop in the US and were fully persuaded that the art of writing could be learned, both of them having been honed as critics in the tradition of New Criticism. In the following years, young writers from all over the Philippines were to travel to Dumaguete City to learn craftsmanship during their three-week sojourn in Silliman. The experience in the workshop was to fortify the orientation that in creative writing, it was craft above all that allowed the writer to discover what he wanted to say. Such sophisticated theorizing about their art was not available to the Tagalog writers whose language kept them out of the Silliman workshop. The cultural lag between them and their peers who wrote in English accounts for the gradualism in their response to “internationalization,” allowing them perhaps a more reasoned application of what they were learning about modernism in the art of writing. Thus, in 1964, when a group of young Tagalog writers put out an anthology of their collective literary output in fiction, critics were to sit up and note how the young fictionists had been able to graft lessons of modernism into the essentially traditionalist content of their stories. Agos sa Disyerto (Streams in the Desert, 1964), brought together socially conscious stories that were “new” in Tagalog writing because the technique and the perspective had brought out insights hitherto uncharted by traditionally written fiction. Specially noteworthy was how the writers

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had judiciously employed devices decidedly cosmopolitan but with attention focused on a “national” audience. The anthology was to earn its authors considerable respect from readers who had previously underestimated the power of Tagalog writing, their previous encounters with it being mainly with works in weeklies patronized by readers reading on the run. The situation of the Tagalog poets was different. Theirs was a revolt against the strict formalism of traditional Tagalog verse for which rime and meter were obligatory and time-honored aphorisms and metaphors were necessary adornments. Poet Alejandro G. Abadilla, in the 1950s, was the first to rebel by introducing free verse, thus altering the musicality of native verse and alienating lovers of traditional Tagalog poetry. New poetry by young poets who had previously published only in campus publications appeared in the anthology Manlilikha (Creators, 1967) and their pieces announced the arrival of Tagalog creative artists openly, even violently, testing their language in modernist innovations inspired by American and European models like Eliot, Quasimodo, Brecht, and Rilke. Indeed, Tagalog poetry had gone “international.” Indeed, it might be asserted also that finally Tagalog writers had begun to stand toe to toe with English writers. In the process, however, they had sacrificed readership in a milieu that had barely begun to be initiated in the literary developments outside the country.

*** A DIFFERENT TREND was asserting itself in writing in English. Writers who had conditioned themselves to the limited reach of their literary production, and had forged ahead in their quest to keep in step with writing abroad, could not turn a blind eye to events in the political scene. Filipino authors who write in English mainly come from the middle class and are quite sensitive to changes in the political temper of the times. The 1960s were highly volatile times, and the restlessness of the period was evident in the many creative initiatives that may be traced back to those years. The first half of the decade saw the writing community divided by what was then referred to as “the language problem.” Buoyed by raucous rallies and demonstrations calling for the liberation of the masses from the combined forces of “feudalism, imperialism and fascism,” activist youths tended to see the language problem as “Pilipino vs. English,” with Pilipino as the language of the masses and English as the language of the ruling class. Writers using English, because their medium is “the” international language, did not have to worry about their relation with literary developments abroad, but they began to be perturbed by isolation from the local scene where the nationalist rhetoric would accuse them of abandoning the “national” by writing in a language the masses did not understand. When Kabataang Makabayan (Nationalist Youths) was organized in 1964, its members saw themselves as one with the masses and, of course, speaking as one of 184


the masses. The quandary of the literary establishment consisting mainly of canonical writers in English was how to relate to the “national” without excluding themselves from writing in the West. Alejandrino G. Hufana, Ricaredo Demetillo, Cirilo Bautista, and Wilfrido D. Nolledo were major authors for whom shifting to Pilipino was out of the question unless they were prepared to turn “minor” as Pilipino writers. Their response to the spirit of the times was to engage themselves in major projects using history and indigenous subjects. Hufana, who had tried his hand at writing lyric pieces in the Ilocano language, chose to produce an epic about a real rural coastal community and the Ilocano people there. He retained the modernist idiom he had been using in his earlier works, but created portraits of the folk that when pulled together told about the lives and struggles of the community. Poro Point Anthology (1961) was a nontraditional epic about an Ilocano community that could be read as the story of the Filipino people. Demetillo, for his part, borrowed the narrative of legendary tales about the Bornean datus who were the early settlers of Demetillo’s native province of Panay. Cast in the more traditional epic mode, the poet told his “national” narrative in metered and riming verses, the re-created legendary characters and adventures alluded to contemporary events in Philippine society in the late 1950s. Barter in Panay (1961), more than Hufana’s epic, was emphatic about its intentions of being “national.” Like Hufana, Cirilo Bautista wrote in the idiom of Western modernist poetry. His epic trilogy, The Trilogy of Saint Lazarus (The Archipelago, 1970; Telex Moon, 1975; Sunlight on Broken Stones, 1998) drew its narrative material from history starting from contact times and extending to contemporary times as these were lived by Filipinos. According to the critic Isagani Cruz, who had read deeply into Bautista’s magnum opus, the individual epics privilege the author’s voice, but Bautista’s sensibility as a creative artist is unmistakably “national.”2

*** NOLLEDO’S GESTURE TOWARD the “national” came in the form of a novel unprecedented in the literary history of the country in the complexity of its technique and thematic intentions. But for the Lovers (1970) is “international” as well, defiantly avant-garde in its language (which is laced with numerous Tagalog words and allusions) and in the narrative devices employed. Although its time-span is limited to the period of Japanese Occupation, the allegorical construction of the characters and events allude to a larger narrative about the Filipino people and their grotesque experience under three colonial regimes. As far as the tension between the “national” and the “international” is concerned, Francisco Sionil Jose never had any problem with either. His fiction is “national” in its consistent championing of the Filipino peasant and his quest for land of his own and its excoriation of the Filipino intellectual and his betrayal of his own personal

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ideals of liberation for the poor and the oppressed. The Rosales Novels (The Pretenders, 1962; My Brother, My Executioner, 1973; Tree, 1973; Mass, 1979; and Po-on, 1984) are Jose’s epic about the Filipino nation and its long history of struggle for freedom and social equity. Jose’s creative output is unquestionably “international” and the twenty-five languages into which his works have been translated attest to their universal appeal. Jose and his writings are proof that the “national” and the “international” are not mutually exclusive. A radical break with English was called forth in a genre like drama which is wholly dependent on the patronage of a live audience, English playwrights like Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero and Alberto Florentino saw this in the 1960s and they sought the help of translation to draw in an audience beyond the college campus. Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio abandoned English altogether and turned to playwriting for children’s theater for which she employed Tagalog. Poet Rolando S. Tinio, who stopped writing English poems as his response to “the language problem,” launched a grand project of translating modern Western drama into Pilipino for his theater company, and he was able to introduce a galaxy of American and European playwrights to Filipino audiences. The politics of the “national” elevated the craft of translation from a purely functional role as a teaching aid to a vital link in the politicization process of a community. The rise of activist organizations in the mid-1960s necessitated the development of translation which would bring within the reach of the masses readings from Marx, Mao Zedong, Lenin, and other ideologues that had hitherto been available only in English. The translations were available only as mimeographed pamphlets but they were enough to convince intellectuals well-versed in two languages that here was a process which would yoke together the “national” and the “international” for a worthy end. Once the issue of “national” vs. “international” had been satisfactorily resolved, the translation of the “international” ceased to be a question of foreign intrusion. The poetry of Mao Zedong in Pilipino translation opened transactions in ideology, ideas, themes, and techniques between Filipino and foreign authors. Katipunan, a progressive academic journal based in the Ateneo de Manila University, subsequently put together a collection of political poems from mainly Third World countries, which later appeared in pamphlet form as Kamao (Clenched Fist, 1971). At this juncture, many translated pieces employed “bridge translation” (translation from a translation), with the English translation as the translator’s base.

*** SO FAR, THE flow of translation has been from the “international” to the “national,” reflecting once again the colonial relations between the Philippines and the US Prior to the rise of nationalism in the mid-1960s, dependence on US cultural exports 186


to the Philippines were a given. Thus, the Filipino’s introduction to the cultures of other countries was always transacted through English, and this was specially true in literature. The study of foreign languages for the specific needs of translation was, therefore, sadly neglected. Translators working with the original language, however, are beginning to appear. Zeus A. Salazar has published his collected translations of French and German modern poetry. Jose F. Lacaba and Marra PL Lanot are translating Spanish and Latin American poetry from the original language. Teresita Alcantara has a Filipino translation of Juan Ramon Jimenez’s Platero y yo. Mario Miclat translates from the Chinese, his major achievement being a rendition into Filipino of Cao Yu’s The Peking Man. More and more, the need for Philippine literature in native Philippine languages to be introduced to foreign readers requires the attention of Filipino translators. Philippine Literature: A History and Anthology (2004) has come out in an English edition with translations of selections which in earlier bilingual editions had been presented only in their original in Filipino. The anthology is intended as a sampler of poetry, fiction and drama for the interested foreign reader, supplementing the rather sparse collections available so far in English. These include translations by Epifanio San Juan Jr. (Rice Grains) and by Cirilo Bautista (Bullets and Roses) of key poems of National Artist Amado V. Hernandez. English versions of poems by National Artist Virgilio S. Almario (a.k.a. Rio Alma) have appeared in a single volume. Folk literature (ethnoepics, legends, myths, and tales) has been given English versions in Damiana Eugenio’s volumes on the oral lore of Filipinos. This paper had intended to demonstrate that a significant aspect of the growth of Philippine Literature stems from efforts by writers to avoid exclusion from literary developments outside of the Philippines and, in reverse, from the impulse to project a national image through works that are identifiably indigenous in subject matter and form. The historical base behind the double-faced avoidance of exclusion is US colonialism, which tantalized the native imagination with the prospect of democratic equity with the colonial master at some future time, at the same time that it was denigrating native talent and ability through its cultural hegemony. (*This was a plenary paper in the WORLDS IN DISCOURSE CONFERENCE, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, 23 November 2005.) NOTES 1. Teodoro A. Agoncillo, A History of the Filipino People, 3rd ed. (Quezon City: R.P. Garcia Publishing Co., 1973), p. 338. 2. Isagani Cruz, “Kung ang Tanong ay ‘Sino si Cirilo?’” Bukod na Bukod (Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2003), p. 201.

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Ricardo M. de Ungria

The Winged Minotaur: (Notes On) Experimentation in the Poetry of Cirilo F. Bautista

Ê (Author’s note: This essay is the second of a three-part probe into the poetry of Cirilo F. Bautista that was written and then abandoned in the nineties when duties in academic administration got the better of me. It was meant to complement a longish piece on The Cave and Other Poems that formed part of my unfinished master’s thesis on the poet back in the seventies. The probe (a very seventies term) dealt with three aspects in the poetry of Bautista and were discussed as follows: “the difficult Bautista,” “the experimental Bautista,” and “the unknown Bautista.” )


n 1973, Bautista published “A Theory of Poetry” in the philosophy quarterly of De La Salle University where he spent most of his years teaching and writing. The



short piece gives us a clue to his frame of mind in the years after the publication of The Cave and during the writing of two more poetry books, namely The Archipelago (1970) and Charts (1973)—although I do not discount the possibility that he was already entertaining those ideas that were finally formulated in that essay even while he was writing The Cave. In his theory, he claimed that Poetry is a science. Like all sciences, it contains within its concept a system of principles which the structure of its being, its inner force, is explicable and defensible. As a science, and like all sciences, it must presume, even without being called for proofs, a body of knowledge by which the explication and the defence can be possible. It is exact, and mathematically precise. As it moves towards the highest function of idea—enlightenment—so it has to be founded on idea, and on nothing else. And since the highest function of man is related to the intellect, it is the intellect alone to which the poem should be addressed. And he gave its formula thus: “Poetry is formulated thus: P=I E, where P stands for poetry, I for idea, and E for enlightenment. There is no alternative for I not even Emotion.” For Bautista, emotion “makes of poetry a thanatoid.” Its role “should be merely peripheral; in good poetry it should be totally removed.” The poet must strip the word of its emotive skin: “Slowly, the emotional element must be weaned from the intellectual element until only the latter stands between the reader and the poem; and taking the formal aspect of the art in conjunction with its goal of enlightenment, a meaningful dialogue will ensue between poem and reader.” As examples, he cited concrete poetry and his own poem “A Man Falls to His Death.” This polemic would have provoked the controversy or, at least, the discussion it was after had it been published in a more public forum, e.g., a newspaper or magazine, or had anybody really cared at all. This is not the place to scrutinize it, but I would only point out its debt to New Criticism in its attempt to put poetry on an equal footing with science and in its consequent pitch for cognition and logic in the creative act. For Bautista, it would seem that difficulty is an ideology of a kind, its ideals of cerebral calibration of the poem and intellectual enlightenment of the reader set against the prevailing, and traditional, notions of poetic composition and poetic effect. Such an “experimental” phase in the career of a poet seems to be entered into only after he has achieved a certain level of confidence and competence through at least two collections or publications. Audacity in both theme and technique seems to be a natural consequence of a perceived command of a literary form after having “proven” something in, say, a first book.

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Bautista’s notion of concrete poetry as “the first real step towards divorcing idea from emotion” is borne out by Mary Ellen Solt who writes in Concrete Poetry: A World View: “The concrete poem, they contend, by liberating words from meaningless, worn-out grammatical connections, cleans up language; and by means of its orderly method, it places a control upon the flow of emotions, thus creating a distance from the poem that allows the poet as man actively perceiving and articulating his experience to examine and consider the quality of his human materials.” Still, the appropriation of concrete poetry within Bautista’s “scientific” and post-emotion poetics needs to be qualified. For though, as seen in his handful of “concrete poems,” words are reduced to their atomic components and space is correctly used as a structural agent, his adherence to traditional narrative techniques—made necessary by the function of the poem as source of “intellectual enlightenment”—goes against concrete poetry’s dismissal of the logical-discursive in favor of direct, analogical treatment of linguistic entities as visual components. In other words, Bautista is too logical a poet to be concrete. Concrete poetry has actually a distinguished lineage from the pattern poems of Simias of Rhodes and Theocritus in the 3rd century B.C. through those of Porphyrius (ca. 400 A.D.) and Venantius Fortunatus (ca. 530 A.D.) to George Herbert (b. 1593), to the concrete poems of Emmett Williams, Eugen Gomringer, and others of the modern era. Its word designs invariably reveal reticulations, or play-activity, in the visual field as well as in the interfaces of word and image such that the pleasure its verbivocovisual universe provides is of a different, more enhanced and intersensual, kind from that based solely on texts. In the Philippines, the archetypes would be Jose Garcia Villa’s “The Emperor’s New Sonnet,” “The Bashful One,” and “Parenthetical Sonnet”—each of which depicts a blank page—but not his comma poems whose appeal, initially visual, is ultimately to the understanding and to the ear. Bautista’s “The Sea Gull” is a pattern poem in the order of George Herbert’s “Easter Wings,” which is shaped like wings, and Robert Herrick’s “The Pillar of Fame,” which is shaped like an altar. All three are traditional poems with innovative line cuttings that image the subject of the poem. Visual concrete poetry (for there are also the phonetic and kinetic concrete poetries) is a descendant of the pattern poems and love knots of the preceding ages, but is more properly visual than logical and discursive. The visual poem, according to Pierre Garnier, “should not be ‘read.’ It should be allowed to ‘make an impression,’ first through the general shape of the poem and then through each word perceived out of the whole at random.” Thus, the poem “A Man Falls to his Death,” which Bautista appends to his theory as a step in weaning the emotional away from the intellectual in poetry, is really a traditional one with a diagram and a numbering system for its lines as rhetorical supports. These pseudo-scientific devices, which give the poem a “concrete” look, are supposed to enhance the “scientific” objectivity, precision, and coldness of the speaker as he describes the fatal fall of a construction worker from 190


the tenth floor of the building he was working at in terms of simple computations that prove the theorem “Blood is nothing. Space is all. Is.” The speaker is able to carry off this artificial and inhuman pose well enough, although he does so at the price of being deconstructed by a more human account of the death juxtaposed with his statements but put in parenthesis like antithetical afterthoughts from a more knowing, sympathetic, and disembodied voice. It is from this voice that we learn the pertinent “facts” of the incident and realize the futility of, and the irony in, the “scientific” efforts of the more dominant voice. The question is: where is that other voice coming from? I would like to think that in such a bipolar frame in the poem can be found the maneuver and the spirit of concrete poetry—but that would be an easy way out. Probably without being aware of it, Bautista has laid bare in this poem the deep oxymoron of the relationship between the intellect and passion that was working in and through him and which he had resolved in favor of the intellect and its pretensions simply because he might not have known how to deal with passion and its intractability and unpredictability. The mind is more calculable and chartable, even if it leads to blank walls; the heart is the more knowing and charitable, and the easier to defer and parenthesize. It would seem that many of the poems Bautista had written virtually read like “A Man Falls to his Death” but without the parentheses— mostly mental calisthenics or poses propped on the shoulders of unmentioned private and dramatic moments easy to depersonalize and gain distance from with the help of metaphors. He may be passionate in his intellections, but as this poem shows we get more from the “emotional element” in terms of facts and poetic effects that determine, in the final analysis, the readers’ responses to the entire poem. That such “emotional element,” however repressed this may be, surfaced in this text at that time could be read as a sign, and this is very speculative of me, that deep in Bautista’s poetic psyche he had admitted to himself its importance and role in his poetry but kept it marginalized, so to speak, because his poetic program of writing the second and third parts of his epic demanded so. For now, however, we can see that the poem he offers as proof of his idea of an emotion-free poetry actually disproves his theory since the emotional element in it—and not its pseudoscientific theorem and procedure—provides the poetic ground for, and elicits, the proper response on the part of the reader. The “science” proves nothing finally, and the parenthesized emotional element deconstructs the poem in the same way as the poem deconstructs the theory it was supposed to exemplify. Such contradictions and paradoxes are normal parts of the lives of poets and should be placed in the proper perspective, difficult as it already is to understand the speech of those who speak with a double tongue. A second poem written in the spirit of concrete poetry is “A Manner of Looking.” There are no images here, and the “concreteness” is located in the tension generated by the juxtaposition of two texts: on the left side, the poem of Bautista, and on the

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right side a passage from William James. The excerpt from James’ Principles of Psychology deals with the illusion of movement one experiences when sitting in a train that has stopped in a station and another train that had also stopped starts to pull out. The poem, steeped in the diction of philosophy, seems to prove the theorem asserted at the beginning: “Tension between mind and reality/Is a form of structure: Nothing, conceived/With integrity, is solid …” In the middle, however, it playfully gives a variation of the theorem thus, “Tension between mind and mind is/Reality only Nothing upholds/If the heart forgets” and also at the end, “Tension,/Because imagined, evolves into rock/And the lovers, moving their parted ways,/Fail to graph the moment’s scar or hold it back.” The poem may ultimately be about the end of an affair, but in its brief cataloguing of disparate images, from Cortes to Bernini to chameleons and flutes and a bus ride and a scene in a motel room, it seems to enact its own statement on writing: “Language,/Because cold, performs nothing but to string/The premises, the promises, dim lights,/Partridges, bites, shoes, nuances that sting;/All will not last.” But the pathos in the leavetaking between lovers who appear to have been involved in a one-night stand becomes overwhelmed by the statemental circumlocutions of the speaker (who is generalized and disembodied) eager to find rules for love and its consequences: “what function what degree/Is the heart slumbered by? … whate’er inference/The heart holds is merely accidental:/ For love is a formula.” The tension—no less intellectual—in the manner of looking at the two passages, therefore, lies in that while the James passage ostensibly talks about sitting still and falsely feeling in motion, it is actually the one that moves narratively and is more affecting than the poem that appears to talk about moving on after a short-lived romance but is really stuck pacing, as it were, the littered floor of the dainty mind. Bautista uses the same technique of juxtaposed texts in “The Measure” part of the second section of The Archipelago (l. 1203-1243) where it is more successful because the texts are more light and rhythmic and complement each other: one extols the power of the mind to sustain “the nothing” that is “more real than any/ gulf or reef or shore/which are only there/perpetual because/the mind wills them so” while the other sings a paean to poetic measure without which realities “will die unfulfilled/because unspoken/in the measure.” “The Measure” is a part of the soliloquy of Jose Rizal, the poet par excellence whom Bautista calls the “artisan” and the “Eye of Consciousness.” The third poem that uses the methods of concrete poetry is “John Cage’s Tenth Symphony from the Book of the Dead.” All three “concrete” poems are found at the end of Charts—where, perhaps, their novelty could do less harm, or where they could point new directions for a poetry that was fast hardening into a mannerist one. And if I may digress here a moment: it is probably a measure of the dead seriousness of our poets in English, who seem grimly determined to succeed in that language, to have missed the ludic and “revolutionary,” i.e., postcolonial, 192


possibilities in concrete poetry—in much the same spirit and manner as the Bagay poets appropriated English into the Tagalog language. The literary scene, especially among the writers in English, would have been more lively, liberating, and tolerant of other poetic styles, and less catholic and conservative in taste and outlook, had those writers and their teachers engaged for their models not only the exemplars of the American literary canon propagated by the New Criticism but also those at its fringes, e.g., black writing, Beat poetry, language poetry, etc., where the pleasure principle is more evident and the idea of poetry and poetic space expansive, flexible, and adventurous. Perhaps our literary forbears lacked the sense of humor, acumen, and foresight to see the true nature of their relation to their adopted language and naturally went for the norm of American literary culture for immediate validation and acceptance. They are not at fault, of course, but what I am pointing out here is the absence of a true romantic figure, opposed to Villa who succumbed to the charms of his stepmother tongue, who would have stayed in the country and opened avenues of writing in English little recognized in publications, writing classrooms and workshops, and local and national competitions. In any case, Bautista’s poem “John Cage’s Tenth Symphony from the Book of the Dead” uses concrete poetry devices in six of its nine sections. Basically these devices are the pattern poem, the diagram, and the atomization of words. Thus, the first section is made up of just the word “catacomb” repeated four times and arranged such that the letters could be read in a U-shaped direction or in reverse and at the same time look like a catacomb, or at least an outline of one; and the sixth section is shaped like a cross on a stand, or a stylized bird with spread wings also on a stand, with blank space at the center. The arms of the cross, or the wings of the bird, consist of a text of nine lines, with basically two words per line, on the left side and its mirror image on the right side. On opposite sides of the “head” are the two lines of “si/lence”; at the base is two lines made up of the word “silence” repeated ten times, the first line ending with the “s” of the next “silence” and the second line ending with “si.” The main text that goes from “head” to “foot” reads: “He will not/ Sit upright/He will not/Know who/Came only/What will/Come”; and a secondary text goes from the “head” to the left “wing” or “arm”: “He will not/Sit upright/He will not/Talk about/Though none/Will reject/His plumes/His mimes/Mummery his/Harmony of/Ziggurat &/javelins.” Section VII consists of just the word “SILENCE”; section VIII of “si”; and section IX of “lence.” On the other hand, section III makes use of a diagram that is supposed to explain “The nothing that counts, the concrete nothing/[that] is the C that is not there, traversing/heaven’s leg (A) and water’s pure arm (B)/into nothingness.” The poem is a tribute to the American composer’s idea that there is no such thing as silence, exemplified in his work “4’33,””where in three movements marked by the pianist’s turning the piano lid up and down the audience heard literally nothing—or at least the nothing that Cage wanted them to listen to—and nothing of

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the normal and expected combination of notes that yield “music” as it is commonly defined. Cage is an iconoclast and innovator in the field of modern music, working on aleatory and chance compositions and on “indeterminacy” in both his music and later in his writings. Bautista attempts to depict such silence and indeterminacy in his poem by a montage of images and allusions that range from Cotton Mather to Philippine politics, interrupted by an uncited quotation from Gregory Bateson on information and codification. But his pentametric lines and the willed force of their momentum prove to be a little too cumbersome to carry out whatever intentions he may have had to court chance, and he succeeds only in section V where he gives up logic altogether and begins to play with the language, sustaining the ludic spirit until the poem’s end: Illustrate the silence through the sound of nothing dies in the particulars of speech the flummery of chimera sixty decibels deep and the powder of autocrats in their nose the taped scream of the tapeworm gilded why it will break the funerary mask on the brick taxes and carrots and beets and sex and revenue and lumber and cataract and beckoning the wavelengths that will not quicken his toes the elegies that will not harmonize his blood the ziggurat that will not bow to his beckoning the soldiers that will not black his boots perambulations periwinkles gnomon termagants books javelins libraries letters of marque and shipping the prerogatives of kings the sons of kings the nothing speaks in the particulars of death



The “joke” in this section being the aleatoric rearrangement of or improvisation on the second section—the silencing of the latter’s speech, or the rendering into speech of the latter’s silences. But the poem’s masterly ludic stroke, of course, rests on the fact that Cage never wrote a symphony, much less a tenth symphony, on the Book of the Dead. The poem is an inspired improvisation on a nonexistent work, which is an interesting “concrete” idea not bereft of the required wit. But Bautista’s experimentation does not end with his handful of “concrete” poems. In fact, he already started it a book ago in The Archipelago. When put in place among the other books in the Trilogy of Saint Lazarus, The Archipelago will appear an erratic, if not a flawed, door into the entire epic. To my mind, the book deals with how three men came to terms with their unexpected fortunes as shapers of the consciousness of this country, the arcs of their individual fates forming a circle of pain and loneliness, as well as of dreams and hopes, that turns ever onward the wheels of the nation’s destiny. It is an exquisite discourse on the dialectics of dream and reality and of the role of chance and the ineluctable in the lives of adventurous men. Much of the difficulty and obtuseness in the work, however, could have been avoided if it did not aspire to be a modernist epic. Understandably, at that time, Bautista was still trying to feel his way into the metrical and narrative requirements of the epic form, and his attempts and experimentation show in this work. Here, there is no singular and strong narrator’s voice characteristic of most traditional epics. That voice is here made multiple and even shared and segued into by personages whose identities consequently become blurred, indeterminate, and only guessed at. The narrative that served well in the first part, where the figures of Magellan and Legazpi were introduced, was broken off radically in the next three parts in favor of a disjointed collage of dense lyrical meditations, ostensible excerpts from journals, and dialogues among disembodied voices that are all supposed to highlight selected episodes in the country’s history. The narrative thread was picked up again only in the last section of the fourth part as a kind of recapitulating and framing device. Structurally speaking, Rizal, the third major figure in the book, is given an entire part all to himself (the reader arrives at this conclusion since the narrator does not help him here) in “Out of the Mouth” and nearly half of the third part “Now the City,” but is not mentioned in the conclusion that featured only Legazpi and Magellan. And his meditative forays into the modern period—there is even a narratological lapse where Mondrian, an artist whose work could not have been accessible to any of the narrators, was mentioned for no necessary reason at all—somehow lend a discordant and jarring note to the Old Worldish charm of Magellan’s and Legazpi’s ruminations in flowing hexameters. Such contrapuntal juxtaposition of differing mindsets and styles could instance the modernist aesthetic that Bautista seems to be working from, as well as his cubist (in terms of collagic) aspirations and strategy. But it leaves the work—brilliantly conceived though it may be—uneven, overwrought, and inaccessible, and the reader

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increasingly puzzled, bewildered, and cold. It is a minor tragedy for the trilogy that it has remained unread—or if read, little understood—by the very people whose ideas of race and history should have been helped had the song and verses made for them been less perplexing and recondite. As it is, the epic remains the supreme exemplar of high modernism in our poetry. Still, to my mind, it was inspired of Bautista to have broken off the narrative in favor of a collage of lyrical and dramatic pieces. The only problems with such breakage lie in its timing and contents: we are already 1010 lines lulled by hexameters and ensconced in the narrative when it snaps without warning and is replaced by an abstruseness, complexity, and metric and lineal adventurousness. This sudden fragmentation in the opus appeared to me as Bautista’s way of problematizing the epic form (having already written 1010 lines in it), testing its powers and limitations in order to modernize it, make it bend to his will, and offer new excitement, if not to the reader, then to his own hexameter-driven self. To a certain degree he succeeds— as long as the lyrical impulse is restrained in favor of the narrative, and new ways of looking at particular historical events are opened up. This is evident in the “Extracts from Three Journals” section of the third part “Now the City” where we are given Juan de Salcedo’s resentment against Legazpi about his assigned post, Guido de Labezares’s gentle premonition of Legazpi’s death, and Limahon’s coarseness and rapacity dovetailed with Pedro de Chaves’s magnificent account of the Spaniards’ failed attempts to capture the Chinese pirate. But when the lyric takes over, enigmas abound and even the poetic is poeticized—resulting in density, difficulty, and diffusion (if not deferment) of the narrative line. This happens in the entire second part titled “Out of the Mouth”; in the dialogue and “The Journey” sections of “Now the City”; and in the first two-thirds of the last part “Full Circle.” By “poeticizing the poetic,” I refer to the moment when the link between the literal item or event and its trope is so clear and strong that the temptation to exaggerate, divagate, and obfuscate is yielded to simply because there is no mistaking the “real import” of the trope. Here, for instance, is a passage from “The Journey” where three voices attempt to interrogate Rizal, the “Man”: Third Voice Who stamped the birthright on Your palm? Man I long ago Knew a river’s eye is Much bigger than its flow.

First Voice And you are a prophet?



Man Your voice is very like A templar urn that has Lost faith in the eunuchs, Yet sitting there fired-up For lack of gods to burn. No. I have never been A digger of old wounds. Second Voice Your name, please? Man There are worms In my blood.

Third Voice Origin? Man The vile sweat of monks. Third Voice No, Country of origin.

Man What are tamaraos for? Second Voice Occupation? Man My feet Have heard my people’s cry All over Europe; I Arrived with the blackbirds.

Second Voice Occupation?

Rizal gets away with this kind of equivocation, which is an enjoyable spectacle in itself, because while the reader knows who the “Man” is and eventually sorts out

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what he is up to, the three voices do not and are therefore made to appear ridiculous. The strategy is not without its political undertones, for the voices soon assume those of Spanish interrogators and the source of the mocking contempt in Rizal’s tone of voice becomes clear and defensible. Later, however, Rizal’s answers become more obtuse. To the question, “Who are your accomplices?” he replies: “Before/ One engulfs the light, he/Is just a thin shadow,/A flow within a flow,/Till flame gives him an arc/To crawl into life with.” And when asked, “You used what instrument?” he answers: “My tongue is wound around/The corpse of darkness, there/Is no need to break me/with hyperboles.” One could very well say that this is poetry itself, whose very meaning escapes us. Which is the very point I am addressing here. The obscurity in the longish passage quoted above could be defended in a context of political strategy—as long as the reader is behind the “Man”; once the “Man” turns his back on the reader, as in the two latter passages, the obscurity becomes isolated and unproductive. “Out of the Mouth,” where the narrative line gets broken, is a collage of voluptuously baffling lyric pieces that deal with various places from Germany to Japan—the cosmopolitanism and modernity of which should convince the reader that it is Rizal’s consciousness being laid bare here. And indeed it is. Bautista makes this the most experimental part in the book, taking advantage of the fact that Rizal himself was a master poet. Thus, metrically, he suspends the hexameters he has been employing since the start of the poem and goes syllabics in particular poems— from four to five through seven and nine and ten counts per line, running a gamut from dimeters to pentameters. He goes into free verse and exploits the spaces between words as rhetorical tools, plays with stanza indentions, and breaks the line into a spacier staircase pattern. His study on the poetry of e.e. cummings did him well in this regard. Such variety, intimidating on the page but enriching as a whole, provides a sharp counterpoint to, if not rebuke of, the already established unrhymed hexameters in the poem’s first part. It is meant to introduce Rizal as the third major figure after Magellan and Legazpi—the fated life-arcs of the Spanish conqueror and settler seducing that of Rizal’s in order to complete the circle of destiny of the country and make it move. The modernity of Rizal’s consciousness, however, and the experimental forms into which it was cast are probably barriers that the average reader would find difficult to surmount, which would thereby alienate him. “Out of the Mouth” is a continuous stream of consciousness broken only in some places by elliptical marks and in others by quotations about the country’s natural resources from unnamed sources. I have conveniently divided, for my own sake, this poem’s second part into fifteen subsections—its flotsam and jetsam, as it were, beginning with the line “Phalacrocorax carbo”—assembled on the principle that they image Rizal’s premonitions about his destiny and his struggles to come to terms with it. In other words, the poems are parables of a kind, translatable into terms defined by the 198


consciousness that holds them and spreads them on the table like cards of fortune. Thus, the phalacrocorax poem that heads off this lyric suite could be taken to represent Rizal’s identification of his victimage with the cormorant: the bird cannot swallow its catch “because of a metal ring below/the bulge” and is therefore “condemned to hunger by hunger/by its natural voracity.” The price for its service is “a ring round its neck” and indifference—it is “less fondled than the pika” and the men around it drink and “talk of economics/& whores & the night is gone.” The poem on “The Measure” exhibits, as has been mentioned above, Rizal’s dependence on the powers of the mind and imagination to make reality viable and tractable— veritable crutches for his helplessness in the hands of chance and destiny. The poem on the crows “circling the acres and acres of bareness” deals with the incomprehensible recurrences of deaths and pain and loneliness that also figure in the subsequent poems. The circle is an image repeated in these poems and meant to symbolize the cycles of history and the call of destiny. In the poem that begins “It is the same/ten twenty men/strung up by/their fingers,” he reaches a conclusion— ”the pattern wins”—and a hesitant consent to his fate: “It/is the same these/battering rams/of life/twenty/thirty men placed/in big deserts/or bloodless from / a tree or clean/in a clinic/the voice of war/the price of birth/broken & all/I cry am final.” We next find him taking his place alongside Magellan and Legaspi—“Evening’s minions once evening’s duennas now/And I am their brother the only extant/Limb of the physical body”—and in “A perfection of form” he begins to understand “the context/ Of a greater structure/that is bodiless/Like the sea” and finally gathers the courage to face the harshness of reality heroically, masterfully put in terms of fruition in poetic expression: The principle Begins a little under the skin growing Out tenser and tenser by sound by syllable Unnamed unhelped but with number in its Terrific muscle Till it spouts out bone To stand and skin to make it pure unafraid In the real word real as phantasies are Exploding in its crystal hand the only Fire of the only world

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He counterpoints this power of the heroic imagination with the fulfilling wordless silence of reality, personified by a Japanese waitress in the next poem “There is not much between a temple and/an hotel,” and with the redeeming value of memory in “An island only.” In “The Black Woods,” his resolve wavers because of his aesthetic sensibility (“O why must the logic of evil/deny the human form How can swans & sun/in the flexible silence/kill naked desire”), but he counters it with an almost Buddhist concept of nothingness: What sun What swans Look there is nothing The fabric of day you think you saw you wove only out of the fractions of broken years This is not your house the lizard is not your brother there are no candles here the ceremonies you saw you saw only as a child you saw only a child and that because he chose to speak in a world of nothing and therefore was nothing not trees not woods not wounds not bondage not truth not all the world is not the nothing nothing more real than nothing more saying really nothing more than what we cannot know of more Because you hoped to suffer because you suffered You are blind I embrace a tree It is not there

“Ladrone Islands” warns him of avoiding BreakHeart Point, another figure for the archipelago, where ironically a man died shouting “agua agua” in the midst of all that water. But the next poem finds him plunging into BreakHeart Point for his final reconciliation with his destiny: I did not build this city but I am its wings cramped now



into this solitude wordless after the plunge I will spread salt & thunder in this land set fathers against sons soil against sea all burning & neither sword nor epitaph will cut them apart or cause the breaking of their anger

In the last poem in “Out of the Mouth,” Rizal reconsiders the archipelago, which had existed “only as a point/of reference & never/returned to for solace or/ company,” and finds the strength to return home and meet his fate: You hate to be caught in it loving it & all But on a hot day your room closed & your eyes empty it may suddenly explode big covering the latitudes of the map & you wonder if you have been assaulted by a plague or blinded by grace the sound so final you are dumb utterly destroyed But on a hot day thinking how guilt begets is begot you may suddenly explode gone to dance on its black shores.

This parabolic strategy is again used in the poems in “The Journey” section of Part Three where, for instance, Rizal uses some paintings in a London Art Gallery as props for his meditations on mind and reality to perhaps overcome his fear of death.

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The other device Bautista uses in the poem is the dialogue, which was the main expository tool in “Now the City.” On two separate occasions, three voices interrogate Legaspi and Rizal about their fates and their roles in history. These voices use a language that is very lyrical, sometimes cloyingly so, and while they shed new light on the above two figures, they remain ambiguous since their identities shift from mere expositors to persecutors, from rhapsodizers to tormentors. This excursion into the experimental at the very heart of the book would annoy most readers, and make the book uneven and open to charges of inconsistency and obscurity. For after all, Bautista had proven in the book’s beginning and ending sections that he can handle the narrative line and the rigors, flexibility, and momentum demanded by sustained narration. So why did he have to resort to diffraction and to the difficult lyricism that marked his first book? I can only speculate here that the book’s fragmentation could be seen two ways: one, as a portrait of the psychological implosion brought about by the realization of the scope and enormousness of the task and the pressures that came with it, including the need to finish the book at all costs and move forward in the trilogy; and the other, as a kind of technical solution Bautista arrived at in the very middle of its writing—that is to say, as the stylistic equivalence of the fragmented state of the archipelago that is its subject (a fact announced by the book’s cover)—in order to cover new grounds inaccessible to Demetillo’s Barter in Panay (a book that Bautista had definitely to reckon with, and probably admired to the extent of criticizing it for a syntactical error in one of its lines). Both propositions are risky and contradictory—the first makes much of artistic passivity and elevates it to an aesthetic principle, and the second values will and audacity but undercuts these on grounds of convenience— but they must still be said for whatever light they may throw on the subject. I suspect that the book was started here in the Philippines and finished during, or after, a fellowship at the Iowa International Writers Workshop from 1968 to 1969. The spiral notebook where the opening lines of The Archipelago can be found also contains some poems with American settings that went into the next book, Charts. Perhaps his studies abroad infused new theories of writing and poetic construction into his own practice and reaffirmed the audacity and modernism he exhibited in The Cave. In any case, The Archipelago is full of such interesting and varied poetic maneuvers that one can only conclude that Bautista was flexing his muscles for the arduous task of bringing his epic trilogy to completion. Such experimentation only revealed the cubist quality in Bautista’s imagination and poetics—that of being unrelentingly in a state of effervescence and nervous angular motion, always tracking down new planes and angles of its subject to reveal a dimension heretofore unseen or, if seen, unrecognized. This has often resulted in surrealistic effects duly noted by at least two critics. But according to my taste, Bautista is much too cerebral and wilful a writer to really let himself go and be a true surrealist. Whatever surrealism is there in his works only rides on the tail of his 202


essentially cubist way of looking at, thinking of, and giving voice and image to aspects of reality. The “Out of the Mouth” part in The Archipelago could be read as a magnified scale of the way Bautista constructs a single lyric: working basically from a philosophical cast of mind, he gathers metaphors and synecdoches of the poetic idea in order to look at it from the sides, front, and back, diffusing such idea but keeping it worked out and on a roll with sensuous textures until it reaches a decisive and ineluctable closure. The line takes on the quality of an adventure, laden with a treasure of a word or combination of images that force a turn of thought or dim the lighting of an image. The effect is one of richness that is attractive and sometimes posed, cloying to the point of surfeit and engendering a sense of heaviness and wonder that maybe nothing is being said at all but that it is being accomplished with a certain mysteriousness and muscular beauty. Bautista’s disposition to the cubist and collagic, however, reaches a kind of questionable high in Charts where passages from The Archipelago reappear as individual poems or parts of poems and where two poems will later resurface in Telex Moon. This recycling happens in eleven of forty-eight poems and involves the following: 1. 2.

3. 4.

5. 6. 7. 8. 9.

“Craws”: the entire poem is found in The Archipelago, part 2, lines 13131325; “The City and the Flood”: the first part of the poem can be found in Telex Moon, part 1, section II, lines 101-200; and the first ten stanzas and the eleventh until half of the thirteenth stanzas of the third part are also in Telex Moon, part 1, sections 4 , lines 301-400, and 5, lines 401-426; “It is the Mountain that Shapes the Sky”: the entire poem is in The Archipelago, part 4, lines 3430-3446; “Two Airs for Trumpets and Kettledrums”: the first four lines of the first Air and the first four lines and the tenth to twelfth lines of the second Air are embedded in The Archipelago, part 4, lines 3625-3631; lines 26-28 of the first Air are variations of lines 956-958 of The Archipelago, part 1; “Early Winter: The Old Mariner”: the first twenty-seven lines are in The Archipelago, part 2, lines 1328-1354; “Tokyo International Airport”: the first line is in The Archipelago, part 1, lines 746-747; “Loneliness in Another City”: the whole poem is in The Archipelago, part 2, lines 1361-1402; “Takanawa Prince Hotel”” the whole poem is in The Archipelago, part 2, lines 1607-1626; “The Horses in Cheyenne, Wyoming”: the entire poem is in The Archipelago, part 2, lines 1946-1980, where “North Platte” was originally “Cebu” and “Laramie” “Mactan”;

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10. “Motorcycle Racing in Louisville, Kentucky”: the whole poem is in The Archipelago, part 3, lines 2067-2076 distributed among the Three Voices; and 11. “John Cage’s Tenth Symphony from The Book of the Dead”: lines 3-22 of part IV are found in Telex Moon, part 1, lines 278-297. It is puzzling why a poet like Bautista, prolific as he is, would reissue old poems as new ones, snipping these off from their part in an epic’s narrative and giving them new lease on poetic life with fresh titles. The only reasons I can think of to explain this are: one, that the master Bautista was playing with his readers (in his essays he always challenged them to be more attentive and critical) and critics (at that time very few) to such an extent that he did things to his poems with impunity and knew that he would not be taken to task for those; and two, that pressed to finish the first part of his trilogy, he reworked the poems written in America (these would later appear in Charts) into The Archipelago, using them mostly in the fragmented meditations of Rizal in the second part as evidences of the hero’s travels and cosmopolitanism. Little wonder then that the second part is deeply fragmented and comes across initially as obscure, incoherent, and discontinuous—the more probable truth is that it is really made up of independent poems strung together and meant to be read as refractions of Rizal’s restless mind and his struggles with his fate. Some of these poems gain a new context and specificity when given their titles, like “The Horses in Cheyenne, Wyoming” and “Motorcycle Racing in Louisville, Kentucky”— although the latter is too much of a fragment to be independent and makes more sense in the epic where its images of the arc and the circle become aspects of a motif for the idea of individual and national destinies.

*** TO BE SURE, The Archipelago has lines reworked from The Cave, like the following examples: “She is pacific, venerable,/Schooled in the martyrdom by fire” from “Study for Poetry” becomes “she/Was pacific, dangling round her neck a chain of mountains;/Venerable, schooled in the martyrdom by fire” in the epic (lines 614616); “For that which completes space must destroy space,/As in Mondrian” of “Study for Minotaur” becomes “For that/Which fills space must kill space as Mondrian with his mass” (lines 1018-1019); and “That one colour a single voice compels” from the first part of “The Cave” is given a variation as “that one voice a single colour/Compels” (lines 240-241). But even as late as his 1992 collection, Boneyard Breaking: New Collected Poems, this cut-and-paste technique continues to be evident: “Vigil for Helen of Troy” has been wedged into lines 31-37 of “1989: State of the Nation Address” and “Amongst the Ruins of Ostia Antica” has been



splintered and embedded into the longer “Thoughts on an Assassination, Ten Years Hence; or A Country Full of Magicians” where, for local color, “Manila” took the place of “Ostia Antica.” In the writing life, it happens sometimes that some lines one wrote early in one’s career may press later, for one reason or another, to reappear in the same formulation or in its variation, an eventuality that is usually resisted by the writer, since it is taken as a sign of the drying up of the wellsprings of creativity—though in this case the repetition comes soon enough that one could probably attribute this either to a forgetfulness on Bautista’s part or to an obsession with his own phrasings. For me, all this is a sign, not only of Bautista’s dispassion and coldness to his work, but also of his “scientific” and cubist attitude towards his own writings. It would seem that for him his texts, which are temporary achievements of individual moments, have nonetheless achieved a state of abstraction and plasticity that makes them interchangeable, combinatory, and open to cuttings, reconstructions, and transpositions that gain new angles on the subject or new meanings from the unexpected interchanges and juxtapositions. Ultimately, however, this view problematizes the integrity of the single lyric and unmasks the artifice in the production of manipulable meanings. Language itself, as instrument of representation, is transformed into a game, and the writing of poetry is made to break into the plastic arts and the ludic. REFERENCES Bautista, Cirilo F. “A Theory of Poetry.” Sophia Journal of Philosophy. Manila: De La Salle University, 1973. _____. The Cave and other Poems. Baguio City: Ato Bookshop, 1968. _____. The Archipelago. Manila: San Beda Review, 1970. _____. Charts. Manila: De La Salle College Research Council, 1973. _____. Telex Moon. Manila: De La Salle University Integrated Research Center, 1981. _____. Boneyard Breaking: New Collected Poems. Manila: Kalikasan Press, 1992. Solt, Mary Ellen. Concrete Poetry: A World View. Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1968.

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Vladimeir B. Gonzales

Hyperwriting: Isang Walkthrough Ê I

to ang screen capture ng detail mula sa Website na “Project Crumbs” nina Adam David at Indira Endaya. Nakilala ko si David bilang cofellow sa UP National Writers Workshop noong 2002, at sa parehong taon din niya naipakilala sa akin itong digital na proyektong ginawa nila ni Endaya. 206


Mahalagang detalye ang panahon at sitwasyon ng pagkakilala namin ni David at ng proyekto nila ni Endaya. Kumukuha ako ng BA Malikhaing Pagsulat noon sa UP Diliman, at bagahe ng institusyonalisadong sistemang ito ang ilang mga dominanteng pagtingin tungkol sa pagsusulat—halimbawa’y ang mga awtomatikong direksiyon ng mga isinusulat sa wikang Ingles at Filipino (kapag burgis, Ingles; kapag nagpapakamakabayan, Filipino, at iba pang baryasyon), o ang matinding pananalig sa halaga ng mga pambansang palihan at patimpalak bilang indikasyon ng husay sa pagsusulat, o ang pagkakitid sa usapin ng pagkakahon sa iba’t ibang genre at anyo ng pamamahayag. Naging napapanahong introduksiyon ang pagbabasa ko ng “Project Crumbs” sa pagyanig ng makikitid kong pundasyon sa paglikha, na naging mitsa ng marami-raming kasunod na mabungang pag-aaral at sariling pagkatha.

Ginagamit ko ang salitang “pagbabasa” nang may kaluwagan, pagkat sa aktuwal na danas ay hindi lamang simpleng pagbagtas sa mga salita ang nangyayari sa pagenjoy ng “Project Crumbs.” Matingkad ang sense of interface sa kanilang nilikha— hindi lamang ako simpleng nagbabasa, nagki-click ako ng iba’t ibang kombinasyon ng mga letra at imahen, at sa bawat paglalaro ng point-and-click interface na ito’y may lumilitaw na iba’t ibang multimedia na tugon ang birtuwal na papel. Hindi lamang ako umiintindi ng kuwento, ako na mismo ang lumilikha nito kasabay ng

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mga alternatibong nakalatag sa aking binabasang teksto. Sa larawan, halimbawa, maaari kong i-drag ang mga bungkos ng salita, puwede ko silang gulu-guluhin at ayusin ayon sa kung ano ang nais ko. Kapag nag-double click ako sa mga magnetic na prosang kulay berde (ganito ang tawag nina David at Endaya dahil parang mga refrigerator magnet na pinaglaruan ang mga salita), magbubukas ang window na may nakalamang kuwento, na may mga salitang naka-highlight. Pag nag-click akong muli sa mga naka-highlight na salitang ito, madadala muli ako sa susunod pang mga window at sa mga susunod pang kuwento. Sa ilan pang interaksiyon kay David, maibabato ang terminong “hypertext,” at dinala ako ng aking interes sa ipinakitang proyekto para saliksikin ang konseptong ito, at ang mga kaugnay pang konseptong huhubog sa aking hinihirayang “hyperwriter,” isang termino ring ginamit ni David bilang pangalan ng isa niyang blog project. Sa pinakamalawak na paliwanag, tinutukoy ng hypertext ang anumang mga simbolo (letra, imahen, tunog, at iba pa) na nabubuo sa computer screens gamit ang electronic codes. Mas madalas na makikita ang terminong ito sa mga pag-aaral tungkol sa World Wide Web at Internet, na gumagamit ng Hypertext Markup Language o HTML sa pagbuo ng kanilang mga birtuwal na mundo. Kaakibat ng terminong “hypertext” ang “hyperlink,” o ang set ng electronic codes na nagkokonekta pa sa iba pang set ng electronic codes o hypertext. Matingkad na manipestasyon nito ang browsing na nagagawa ng isang computer user kapag siya ay gumagamit ng Internet. At pagkarami-rami nga namang puwedeng i-browse na pahina, lalo sa kasalukuyan kung saan napakarami nang murang (kung hindi man libreng) puwang para maranasan at lumubog sa pagbuo ng websites o/at paglangoy sa mga pahinang nag-aalok ng iba’t ibang tugon sa iba’t ibang pangangailangan. Bagaman nakatutuksong magpatuloy na agad sa napakaraming aplikasyon ng napakaraming kaluwalhatiang maaaring iluwal ng hypertext, nais kong imaniobra ang diskusyon sa pagtumbok ng bigat ng hypertext para sa isang taong nasa larangan ng pagsusulat. Para magtagumpay sa ganitong intensiyon, ilalatag ko ang mga sumusunod na tanong: may saysay bang aralin ang hypertext sa konteksto ng lipunang Filipino, isang lipunang may posibilidad na kaunti lamang ang nakahahawak ng computer; ano ang mga implikasiyon at potensiyal ng pag-aaral na ito sa pagsusulat at panitikan, kung mayroon man; at posible bang makabuo ng isang Filipinong hyperwriter? PAGLALATAG Sa pag-aaral sa hypertext, madaling susulpot ang tinatawag na “hypertext paradigm,” na palagi namang inihahanay katapat ng tinatawag na “print paradigm.” Ang print-based forms, o ang mga tekstong nabubuo sa pamamagitan ng paglilimbag 208


sa papel, ay mailalarawan bilang linear, bordered, at univocal. Linear, dahil may tiyak at inaasahang anyo at pagkakasunod-sunod, at dahil doon ay awtomatiko nang nagiging makitid at limitado, at dahil sa hindi lahat ng tao ay may kakayahang bumili at magpatakbo ng mga palimbagan, ang mga ahenteng may ganitong kapasidad ang posibleng magkaroon ng control sa kung ano ang anyo at nilalaman ng mga librong lalabas sa kanilang kanyi-kanyang imprenta. Tinitingnan ang print paradigmna ito bilang repleksiyon ng herarkiya at subjectivity ng mga taong may kontrol sa paglikha. Ito ay impormasyong kayang imapa sa kongkretong karanasan ng lipunang Filipino. Paulit-ulit na babanggitin sa mga aklat ng kasaysayan ang pag-iral ng isang mayamang oral na tradisyon ng pamamahayag bago dumating ang mga Espanyol, na siya ring nagpakilala ng mga unang palimbagan sa bansa. Kaakibat ng mga palimbagan ang pagpapatayo ng mga paaralan, ang pagbuo ng isang sagradong espasyo para sa panitikan. Maaaring isa ito sa mga pinagmulan ng sentimyento ng pagpapaloob at pag-eetsa puwera—kapag inirerekomenda at binabasa sa eskuwela, ito ay panitikan na; lahat ng walang basbas ng akademya, basura na’t hindi katanggaptanggap. Nagkataong sa maraming pagkakataon, ang mga katutubong oral na anyo ang hindi nakapasok sa mga pader na itinayo ng dayuhan. Ito ang mga katutubong anyong matatandaan para sa kawalan ng may-akda’t nagmamayari (dahil ipinapasapasa’t pag-aari ng lahat, libre itong maituturing), bahagi ng kabuuang pag-iral (sa anyo ng mga ritwal na nariyan na simula sa pagsilang hanggang sa kamatayan), walang pagdaramot sa kung saang lugar dapat idaos (at wala ring maniningil ng bayad para sa tiket, tatak ng lehitimong sining). Maaaring sa pagpasok ng nakalimbag na sistema nagsimula ang pagiging pilit sa pakiramdam ng pagsusulat at pagbabasa. Lahat ng pagkamakitid ng anyong pasulat ay tinutuligsa at binabaligtad daw ng sistemang nakabase sa hypertext. Kung univocal ang isa, multivocal ang isa; kung bordered ang una, borderless ang huli; kung linear ang nasa isang gilid, nonlinear naman ang kabila. Bago ipagpatuloy, dapat nang linawin kung ito ba’y kaalamang dapat pang himayin, kahit sa posibilidad na hindi lahat ay may computer at Internet access. Magagamit ba talaga ang mga katangian ng hypertext sa pag-unawa at pagkatha ng isang lipunan na tinatayang binubuo ng halos 75 porsiyento ng mga magsasaka? May ilang puntong nais kong ilatag upang malampasan ang mga kaugnay na agamagam. Ang unang bagaheng iminumungkahi kong lampasan ay ang pagkapit sa paninindigang ang mga usaping may kaugnayan lamang sa computer, Internet, hypertext, ay ang tanging usaping maliit sa usapin ng access o saklaw. Kung magpapahulog sa bitag ng pagiging maliit, halos lahat ng akademikong imbestigasyon (kung hindi nga lahat-lahat) ay posibleng maakusahan bilang makitid at maliit. Ang pagkatha ng mga malikhaing akda, ang pagsusuri ng mga teksto, ang pag-uugnay sa

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antas ideolohikal, na napakadaling akusahan bilang walang mabilisan o kongkretong silbi, lahat ng ito’y mga proyektong tulad ng hypertext na itinaguyod at hinihimayhimay sa isang akademikong institusyon. May pangako ng pag-usad ang reoryentasyon sa pagtingin na ang mga taong nakalubog sa akademikong institusyon ay hindi ganoon karami, pero kinikilala ang posibilidad na ang mga tekstong isinusulat at binabasa’y maaaring sumaklaw sa danas na hindi lamang nakasentro sa institusyong pinagmumulan. At dito na nga uusbong ang mga pagpanig na kaugnay ng cultural studies—na hindi lamang pasulat na teksto ang tinatanggap bilang teksto; na ang teksto’y may mga implikasyon sa iba’t ibang antas—anyo at nilalaman, context at intertext, moda at relasyon ng produksiyon, kapangyarihan, punto de bista, napakarami pang iba; na ang mga tekstong umiiral sa isang lipunan ay may mga epekto sa kanilang pagiral, depende sa kung paano sila naaabot ng mga tekstong ito. Sa aking reoryentasyon bilang manunulat na akademiko, halimbawa, maaari kong ihayag ang ilang siguradong katotohanang tulad ng may ilang mga Filipinong may Internet at computer access, at malaki ang posibilidad na kung may ganitong klaseng access sila’y may access din sila sa iba’t iba pang media form—mga anyo na sa aking estado bilang intelektuwal ay ituturing ko bilang tekstong may epekto at naaapektuhan ng mga taong nakararanas nito. Maaari kong ihanay ang iba’t ibang tekstong ito base sa ilang mga siguradong kategorya—lebel ng presentasyon, empirical senses na tinatarget, antas ng pagiging multimedia, bilis o bagal, at haba o ikli—at lahat ng ito’y maitatahi ko sa pagbabasa ng isang partikular na grupo ng tao sa isang lipunang Filipino. Hindi man nito makatawan ang kabuuan ng bansa, magagamit ko ito bilang isang matingkad na reference point para sa ibang paghahambing. Mula sa aking reoryentasyon, makababalik na ako sa aking paghahayag na may bigat ang pagsilip sa hypertext at hypertext paradigm. Maididiin ko ang katangian ng pagiging walang umpisa’t wakas (dahil nonlinear, multidirectional din, may priyoridad sa kung ano ang nakaharap sa computer screen, ang hindi namamatay na kasalukuyan), mabilis (halos sabay-sabay, sa usapin ng pagbukas ng windows, ng mga aplikasyong pinaaandar, ng mga gawaing naisasagawa), interactive (mataas at instantaneous ang presensiya ng feedback exchange), at multimedia (pasulat na titik hanggang audio-visual elements) ng mga anyong hypertext-based at maaari kong ilatag na baka ito na ang mas hinahanap ng isang tagatanggap ng teksto sa lahat ng tekstong nararanasan niya. Baka mas may pang-akit na ang anyong nagmumukhang tagalikha na rin ang tagatanggap ng teksto, baka mas kaaya-aya na ang anyong maaaring buksan at isara nang agad-agad at walang tiyak na pagkakasunod-sunod, baka mas may dating na ang medium na naroon na ang lahat—mga salita, tunog, mga larawang nagpapalit-palit sa napakabilis na antas. Baka nga dahil sa anyong ito nagsimula ang paghahanap sa mga gawaing nariyan na ang lahat, mga anyong lantad na lantad na ang mabilisang silbi.



Likhaan 211



Walang limitasyon

Wala. Maaaring basahin kahit kailan gusto; maaaring lumikha ng mahahabang tekstong nakapaloob sa mahahabang timeframe

Maaaring magamit nang pangmatagalan, walang limitasyon sa oras ng pagdanas ng midyum na ito


Binubuo ng mga larawan at iba pang imahen (titik) na nakahanay sa isang tiyak na pagkakasunodsunod. Binubuo ng “panels”

IMAHEN (Stil Photos, Billboards, Print Ads)

Walang kaukulang Binubuo ng mga sukat, titik na karaniwang 2sumusunod sa dimensional, partikular na binubuo ng anyo ng balarila. imahen at teksto, Ginagamit ang hindi gumagalaw nakasulat na wika sa paghahatid ng idea

TITIK (Tula, Kuwento, atbp.)

HYPERTEXTUAL (Internet-based forms)

Binubuo ng Magkasabay na electronic codes paggamit ng na bumubuo ng tunog at larawang iba’t ibang nagpapalit-palit multimedia sa napakabilis na elements sa antas sa iisang espasyo computer screen. (photoplay) Hyperlinked ang halos lahat ng output

AUDIO-VISUAL (TV Shows, Movies)

Dahil sa pagiging May pressure na Maaaring maging konektado ng tapusin ang mahaba (classical bawat hypertextpagdanas sa iisang music) o mas based form sa iba tiyak na panahon maikli (pop pa sa lamang, dahil music), pero pamamagitan ng dito’y mas malinaw ang hyperlinks, pagdidiin sa mahirap ulitperpetwal na umpisa at wakas, ulitin o balikgumagalaw ang kailangang balikan pagdanas, kaya tapusin ang danas “habambuhay” sa isang pakikinig itong umiiral

Mga salitang nilapatan ng tono, nagkakaiba depende sa uri. Minsan ay puro tunog lamang at walang titik



Likhaan Mas kongkreto sa May ilusyon ng titik, sa tulong ng paggalaw dahil sa mga kongkretong paneled form, larawan bagaman may mga puwang o gaps sa pagitan ng mga panel na pinupunuan ng mambabasa

Mata, para sa Mata, upang pagpoproseso ng iproseso ang mga mga kongkretong imaheng imaheng isahan nakahanay sa tiyak na pagkakasunodsunod

Hindi ganoon kakongkreto. Nakabase sa tagatanggap ang imaheng mabubuo sa imahinasyon, pinupunuan ng imahinasyon ang lahat ng kulang/ puwang


EMPIRICAL SENSE NA Mata, para sa pagproseso ng TINATARGET mga salita; nakadepende sa imahinasyon ang pagbuo ng imahen

Walang ideal na haba

Dahil sa walang kalayaang dulot ng paggalaw, kailangang maging mabilis ang presentasyon, dapat ay nasa iisang imahen na ang lahat ng kailangan

Walang limitasyon



IMAHEN (Stil Photos, Billboards, Print Ads)

TITIK (Tula, Kuwento, atbp.)

AUDIO-VISUAL (TV Shows, Movies)


Mata na umaayon sa mabilis na pagpapalit ng imahen sa isang espasyo, at tenga

Umaasa sa impact na Mas angat ang pagkakongkreto magagawa ng kaysa naunang kombinasyon ng mga midyum mga titik at dahil sa gayangtunog. gaya ang Pinupunuan pa paggalaw ng rin ng tunay na mundo tagapakinig ang biswal na kakulangan

Nag-iiba depende sa Dalawang oras para sa full length at klase ng tugtog, 10 hanggang 20 karaniwang tatlo para sa short films hanggang limang at TV shows minuto kada isang kanta


Mata at tenga, may potensiyal para sa iba pang pandama

Kompletongkompleto, object-oriented, ibinibigay ang kung ano lang ang gusto ng gumagamit, maaaring baguhin ng gumagamit

Hindi natatapos, o maaaring tapusin anumang oras

HYPERTEXTUAL (Internet-based forms)

Napakadali ko na itong maikakabit sa iba pang aspekto ng virtual na pamumuhay na nararanasan na rin ng ilan sa atin—ang kakayahang i-download nang libre ang pelikulang ni hindi pa ipinapalabas sa sinehan, ang multiplisidad ng mga pagkatao sa Friendster/MySpace/Twitter/Facebook/Multiply, ang pagpapasa ng listahan ng mga paboritong kanta/pelikula/libro sa anyo ng mala-AH1N1 na memes, ang paglusaw ng mga harang ng panahon/lahi/heograpiya sa pamamagitan ng Skype o YM. Lohikal ding iugnay ko ito sa kultura ng pagmamadali at pagiging eternal na lumalaganap sa iba pang popular na media—ang mga instant na ulam/noodles/rice meals, ang pagkainip ni Sharon Cuneta sa bouillon cubes dahil hindi kasindaling lusawin tulad ng Maggi Magic Sarap granules, ang mga palabas sa TV na nilusaw na ang konsepto ng tiyak na timeslot (basta kasunod ito ng ganitong palabas, na umeere naman bago ang isa pang palabas), ang mga trendy na microvacation na nagmumungkahing puwedeng magbakasyon ang isang yuppie sa loob ng dalawang araw lang nang hindi lumalabas ng sariling tahanan (dahil busy na nga sa trabaho, bakit pa mag-a-out of town?). At, muli, dahil sa pagkilala sa aking estado bilang isang manunulat na akademiko, ako mismo ang magbabalik ng lahat ng pagtalakay sa mga tanong na “Paano ko titingnan sa ibang perspektiba ang mga nailatag na obserbasyon?” at “Paano ko isasalin ang mga ito bilang malikhaing akda?” PAGKATHA Ito ang screen Capture ng “Ang mga Salaysay Natin, mga Nalalagas na Sakura.” Bahagi ito ng koleksiyon ng fan fiction, o mga kuwentong kinatha mula/gamit ang mga umiiral na popular na tauhan—sa kaso ng piyesang ito’y ang Anime/Manga Series na “Card Captor Sakura.” Ang koleksiyon ng fan fiction na ito’y bahagi ng isang mas malaking koleksiyon ng hypertext-based na antolohiya, ang “Hyper-Kuwento: Mga Imbestigasyon at Pagdadalawang-isip sa Panahon ng Hypertext,” na nakompleto ang interface noong Oktubre 2008.

Likhaan 213

Interesante ang piyesang ito sa iba’t ibang dahilan: una, gumagamit ito ng isang popular at kinikilalang teksto para gumawa ng panibagong teksto, na maaaring basahin bilang isang walang galang na pangongopya o kaya’y isang pagkuwestiyon at paghamon sa konsepto ng kanon ng paglikha; ang mga kuwentong tig-anim na salita na ikinalat sa 50+ na Sakura Cards ay kombinasyon ng mga sariling likha’t mga adaptasyon ng mga aktuwal na kuwentong kinolekta mula sa iba’t ibang e-mail respondents—mga kuwento ng mga kaibigang nag-NPA, gurong nag-migrate sa Amerika, lesbianang hindi makapag-out sa mga kasama sa paligid, at marami pa— isang pagtatangkang gawing demokratiko (kahit limitado) ang sining ng pagkukuwento; ang huling baraha ay isang link sa feedback form, kung saan maaaring magbigay ng mga puna ang sinumang nagbabasa ng piyesa, o kung nais niya’y magbigay ng sariling kuwentong ilalatag sa mga barahang naroon sa akda (o koleksiyon ng mga akda). Sa kuwentong “Lunes, Alas-Diyes ng Umaga,” na bahagi pa rin ng “HyperKuwento,” pinaglaruan naman ang posibilidad ng pagbabago-bago ng bersiyon ng tauhan, at dahil doon ay mababago rin ang bersiyon ng kuwento. Sa naratibong ito, ini-interview ng mag-asawa ang kanilang future son sa tulong ng isang makabagong phone service. Sa mga pagkakataong may hindi nagugustuhan ang magulang sa bersiyon ng anak na kinakapanayam, ida-dial lang nila ang kombinasyon ng mga numero para mag-reset ang araw at makapanayam muli ang panibagong bersiyon ng anak na mabubuo depende sa partikular na oras at kondisyong ibibigay din ng phone service. Kapag nakapili na ang mag-asawa (na mangyayari kapag nakapili na ang nagbabasa ng teksto ng ayos na bersiyon ng anak), lalabas ang isang bahagi ng kuwentong magdadala sa kanila sa hindi masyadong masayang katapusan. Hinihimay



ng mismong kuwento ang mga ipinapangakong kapangyarihan ng isang sistemang interaktibo, paulit-ulit (kaya posibleng walang wakas), at mabilisan. Tinatangkang gisahin ng piyesa ang sarili nito sa kanyang hypertext-based, virtual mantika. Dalawa lamang ito sa mga pinakahuling kuwentong kinatha sa tulong ng ibang mga kaibigang mambabasa’t manlilikha, na sabay na gumagamit at bumubusisi sa mga katangian at kultural na implikasyon ng hypertext sa isang lipunang Filipino. At ang tesis na ito’y bahagi lang din ng mga nauna nang proyektong nasimulan na noon pang 2002. Ang iba’y mga simpleng laro lang ng daloy ng istorya, na sa pagsilip sa malapit na kasaysayan ng panitikang Filipino ay nailatag na naman ng mga manunulat gaya nina Jun Cruz Reyes (“Mga Kuwentong Kapos”), Luna Sicat Cleto (“Ang Lohika ng mga Bula ng Sabon”), Rolando Tolentino (“Sa Kanto ng Annapolis at Aurora”), at Eli Guieb (“Horoscope”). Ang iba’y nasa lebel ng paglalaro sa konsepto ng intelektuwal na fan din, ang akademikong manunulat na lubog sa mga popular na anyong media, at mula doon ay umusbong ang pagkarami-raming kuwento’t tula tungkol sa Eraserheads, World Wrestling Federation, “Naruto,” “Dollhouse” at “Firefly,” kahit pa nga mga tauhan sa El Filibusterismo o sa website na Corbin Fisher (isang amateur pornographic site na nagtatampok ng mga hubad na lalaki). Habang ipinagpapatuloy ang paglusong sa hypertext-based applications gaya ng blogging, networking, at kung anumang aplikasyong maaaring magtampok ng danas bilang akademikong manunulat, lumalahok pa rin ako sa mga publikasyong print-based nang may pagtatangkang ilapat ang mga atake at sensibilidad na nahuhugot ko mula sa hypertext-based at sa iba pang klase ng media form. Ito ang hyperwriter—isang manunulat na kinikilala hindi lamang ang mga limitasyon kundi ang mga posibilidad ng institusyong kinabibilangan niya. Malay siya sa mga implikasyon ng iba’t ibang partikularidad sa anyo ng pamamahayag, at naniniwala siyang hindi agad-agad na nagbabasura ng luma para lamang sa pagdating ng isang bago. Kinikilala niya ang dinamismo ng lipunan, ng media, ng kultura, at kasabay nito’y mas pinaluluwang niya ang espasyo para sa memorya. Tinatangka niyang maging masaklaw at komprehensibo ang memoryang ito, tinatangka niyang magtampok at magsuri ng mga danas na labas sa kanyang pansariling pag-iral. Kinikilala niya ang multiplisidad ng pagkatao, pero nananatili siyang malay sa mga puwersang nagmomonopolyo ng kapangyarihan. Naniniwala siyang sa proseso ng pag-aagawan ng kapangyarihang ito, nag-aagawan din ng mga kahulugan, ng mga ibig sabihin. Nananalig siyang ang kanyang mga ikakatha’y may naiaambag sa demokratisasyon ng ganitong klaseng agawan. Sinasabi ko ang disenyong ito bilang isang hinarayang disenyo, isang prototype ng manunulat na sa sariling danas ay tinatrabaho pa lang, malayo pa sa ganap na pagkakabuo. Sa paggalaw ko sa isang akademikong terrain, nahahatak ako madalas sa isang limitadong print-based na sensibilidad. May tendensiyang mahatak ako ng kasiguraduhan ng mga tiyak na genre, ng pagkilala sa halaga ng isang akda sa usapin ng pagkilala sa anyo ng mga gawad at balidasyon mula sa isang partikular na

Likhaan 215

akademikong sentro. Kasabay nito, naaakit ako sa interaktibong potensiyal ng mga anyong hypertext-based, naeengganyo ako sa multimedia na tila mapagpalayang potensiyal nito, nae-excite ako sa mga espasyo ng posibleng paglalaro. Pero nalilimitahan ako ng aking kakayahang teknikal tungkol sa anyong ito, at ng aking tendensiyang maging makitid minsan sa pagkahon sa silbi ng mga anyo (pag pampanitikan, papel; pag laro, hypertext). Isa itong walang-tigil na pagtatangka sa balanse. At sa maikling pagpasyal natin sa mga kakayahan, butas, at posibilidad ng anyong ito, sana’y nahikayat kita, ikaw na nagbabasa (pagkat bahagi ng sensibilidad na ito ang pagkilala sa presensiya mo), na maging kaagapay sa patuloy na proseso ng paglikhang ito. Sana’y naging sapat ang bungkos ng mga salita sa papel na ito para sa iyong sariling pagsisimula. SANGGUNIAN

A Little History of the World Wide Web. n.d. Nakuha noong 12 Enero 12 2002 mula sa David, Adam, at Indira Endaya. 2002. Project Crumbs. Nakuha noong Abril 2002 mula sa Fernandez, Doreen G. 1996. Palabas : Essays on Philippine Theater History. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press. Gonzales, Vladimeir, B. “Hyperkuwento: Mga Imbestigasyon at Pagdadalawangisip sa Panahon ng Hypertext.” 2008. MA Tesis. Hypertext Paradigm . n.d. Nakuha noong 12 Enero 2002 mula sa http:// Landow, George. 2000. “Hypertext: the Convergence of Contemporary Critical Theory and Technology”. Sa Kaplan, C. Criticism: Major Statements. Boston, MA: St. Martin’s Press. 751-762. Micro Vacations in a Micro-driven World . n.d. Nakuha mula sa http:// Print Paradigm. n.d. Nakuha noong 12 Enero 2002 mula sa ~guay/Paradigm/Print.html



Sharon Anne Briones Pangilinan

Ang Pagdaloy sa Kasaysayan at Kasaysayan ng Pagdaloy ng Panitikang Lesbiyana ng Pilipinas Ê Lesbians are everywhere, lesbians are nowhere. — A. Jagose

Detecting testimony of other lesbian existence is an occupational habit of lesbians …. — N. Hallett

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aging idinadaing sa mga pag-aaral hinggil sa lesbiyana (partikular sa kanluran na umaalingawngaw hanggang sa Pilipinas) ang penomeno ng “lesbiyana imbisibilidad.” Ngunit nagiging “invisible” lang naman ang mga lesbiyana sa mga sadyang ayaw tumingin at makakita, sa mga nag-aalinlangang mapasubalian ang kinagisnang paniniwala, sa mga takot mayanig ang status quo. Laganap ang ganitong taktika ng pagwawaksi sa mga lipunang heteropatriyarkal na gaya ng Pilipinas sapagkat nagsisilbing banta ang mga lesbiyana sa mga dogmatiko at mapaniil na kalakaran nito. Kaya’t saanmang larangan, mapapolitika, ekonomiya, at kultura ay pilit na pinapaglaho ang mga babaeng lumilihis sa dalawahang sistema ng kasarian. Ngunit gaano man kasigasig ang pagsusumikap ng hegemonya ng heteropatriyarkang supilin ang mga lesbiyana, patuloy itong humahagilap ng iba pang makapangyarihang larangan kung saan maigigiit ang pag-iral—isa na rito ang panitikan. ANG MARHINALISASYON NG MGA LESBIYANA SA KASAYSAYAN Kalagitnaan ng 1994 nang magdaos ng kauna-unahang Gay Pride March sa Pilipinas. Gay Pride March pa at hindi LGBT (Lesbians, Gays, Bisexual, Transgendered) Pride March ang mas kilalang tawag noon sa pagparada ng mga bakla, lesbiyana at transgendered. Ito’y bilang pagdiriwang ng kanilang seksuwalidad at oryentasyong pangkasarian, at paggigiit ng pantay na karapatan para sa hanay ng mga homoseksuwal. Bagaman kasama sa naturang martsa ang mga lesbiyana, nakapokus pa rin sa gay/bakla/lalaking homoseksuwal ang atensiyon ng naturang okasyon. Kundi man sadyang napagkasunduan, ipinagpalagay na lamang marahil noon ng hanay ng mga organisador ng Pride March na kapag sinabing gay, nakasakay na rito ang mga lesbiyana, bakla, biseksuwal, at transgendered. Hindi man intensiyonal, lumalabas pa rin na tila suporta lang sa mga bakla ang mga lesbiyanang nakikibaka para sa pantay na karapatan. Tila may nagaganap na “unpremeditated” na herarkiya at marhinalisasyon kundi man tuluyang pinapaglaho ang mga lesbiyana. Sa saliksik na “The Lesbians as One of the Guys: Media Coverage of Gay Pride Marches”1 ni Lorna Israel, kinuwestiyon kung bakit panay mga bakla lamang ang iniinterbyu pagdating sa mga media coverage ng Pride March. Dahil sa prosesong ito, tanging mga usaping bakla lamang ang nabibigyang-tinig samantalang nabubura naman sa eksena ang mga nakikibakang lesbiyana kasabay ng mga isyung kinasasangkutan nila. Ayon kay Israel: There is a popular assumption that the Gay Pride March encompasses all homosexuals and their ever-expanding appellations: gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgenders, intersexuals, and queers. But it has already been noted that people tend to associate gays with men. Usage of the phrase “gays and lesbians,” which the media deploys blindly, has created a situation where 218


lesbians are erased by not mentioning them at all. Media assumes that when gay issues are covered, lesbian issues have been accordingly brought in.2 Hindi na bago ang balitang kayang maniobrahin ng media ang mga balita sangayon sa interes nito. Subalit sa kasong ito, hindi direktang masisisi ang media sa gayong gawi at “pagtingin” kaugnay ng coverage ng Pride March sapagkat mismong ang mga organisador ng naturang martsa ang siyang kasangkot sa paghahanda para sa okasyon—kasama na roon ang pagtatakda ng pamagat ng aktibidad. Ang masaklaw nilang pagkakategorya sa iba’t ibang oryentasyong homoseksuwal gaya ng bakla at tomboy sa ilalim ng terminong “gay” ay nagpapawalang-saysay lamang sa layunin ng Pride March na ipagbunyi at itampok ang samot-saring oryentasyong pangkasarian. Ang gayong paglalahat ay lalong nag-uudyok sa mga tagamasid na tingnan lamang ang kung ano ang kanilang nasasaksihan sa panlabas, partikular na sa kung kanino o saan mistulang nakasentro ang kaganapan. Diin pa ni Israel, “Visually and spectacularly transgressive, images and ideas displayed during the Gay Pride March are also indicative of the contradictions, exclusions, and marginalisation apparent within and outside the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) movement.” 3 Maging ang nalathalang artikulo ng organisador ng Progressive Organization of Gays in the Philippines (ProGay) na si Oskar Atadero kaugnay ng pinangunahan nilang Gay Pride March noong 1994 ay di rin nakatakas sa bitag ng paglalahat. Makikita ito sa pamagat ng kaniyang artikulo: ‘Philippine Gays go mainstream’ (aking diin), na sinundan pa ng unang pangungusap na, “Stonewall is not exactly a household word among us, but for gays and lesbians worlwide, including Filipino gay activists, it is the gay equivalent to a sacred war memorial, like Corregidor … (aking diin).” 4 Nabanggit ang salitang lesbiyana sa konteksto ng mundo ngunit hindi sa konteksto ng lipunang Filipino. Nilamon muli ng terminong “gay” ang lesbiyana. Gayundin, higit pang nakasentro ang naturang sulatin sa kalagayan ng mga Filipinong bakla sa bansa. Sa ikalawang bahagi na lamang ng lathalain idinugtong ang pagpaksa sa mga Filipinang lesbiyana. Sa madaling sabi, tila nagkaroon ng “order of priority” sa pagtalakay ng mga isyung homoseksuwal. Muli, lumilitaw sa naturang artikulo ang politika ng pagsasantabi/pagsasawalang-bahala sa mga lesbiyana.5 Tinalakay rin ni Israel sa kaniyang saliksik na isa sa mga dahilan ng kapansinpansing pagpokus ng media sa mga bakla ay ang pagtingin na mas magiging mabenta ito sa publiko sapagkat naikahon na ng lipunang Filipino ang mga lalaking homoseksuwal sa estereotipo ng pagiging baklang parlor, imahen ng katatawanan, maingay, o sa madaling sabi’y tampulan ng pagkakaaliwan. Kaya’t sa halip na iulat ng media ang usapin ng pakikibaka ng mga homoseksuwal laban sa nararanasang diskriminasyon bunga ng kanilang oryentasyong pangkasarian, higit na pinagtutuunan ng pagbabalita nito ang kanilang mga bonggang kasuotan at literal

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na pag-iingay dahil iyon ang pupukaw sa atensiyon ng masang sumasaksi. Giit muli ni Israel: Gays and lesbians have become a lucrative advertising market, which translates into increased coverage of their issues. This, however, does not automatically include lesbians because “only those with disposable income are likely to be covered, and they are more likely to be gay men.”6 Kung gaano kapalasak ang publisidad sa mga bakla ay gayon na lamang kasalat ang sa mga lesbiyana. Nagkaroon man minsan ng ulat ang media tungkol sa mga lesbiyana, ang mga iyo’y pawang naglagay lalo sa kanila sa negatibong estado. Halimbawa na rito ang pagsasapelikula ng buhay ng lesbiyana na si Celestina “Bubbles” Sanchez na nakulong dahil sa umano’y pagpatay sa kaniyang karelasyon bunga ng matinding selos. Dito’y malinaw ang paglalarawan sa lesbiyana bilang selosang mamamatay-tao.7 Noon namang kasagsagan ng balita tungkol sa paglantad at paghingi ng tulong sa media at grupong pangkababaihan ng dating aktres na si Maria Theresa Carlson upang isiwalat ang pambubugbog sa kaniya ng asawang politiko na si Rodolfo Fariñas, kinasangkapan ng politiko ang media upang ilihis ang isyu sa pamamagitan ng pagbabato ng mga kontra-lesbiyanang tirada kay Anna Leah Sarabia. Si Sarabia ang noo’y tagapamuno ng KALAKASAN—ang organisasyong pangkababaihan na sumagip sa nanganganib na si Carlson. Siya rin ang tagapagtatag ng samahang lesbiyanang Can’t Live in the Closet (CLIC). Kinasangkapan ni Fariñas ang pagiging lesbiyana ni Sarabia upang isalba ang kaniyang imahen bilang makapangyarihang politiko. Bugbog-sarado na nga ang asawang si Carlson, bugbog-sarado rin maging ang imahen ng lesbiyanang si Sarabia, kasama ng iba pang kapuwa babaeng sumagip sa dating aktres. Hindi nagwakas sa pagkamatay ni Carlson ang panggugulpi ni Fariñas sa mga lesbiyana. Patuloy ang pambabato niya ng mararahas na salita na tila gusto ring lipulin hindi lamang ang pagkataong lesbiyana kundi ang buong hanay ng kababaihang nakikibaka laban sa karahasan at mapaniil na sistema ng patriyarka.8 Sa parehong halimbawa ng depiksiyon ng media sa mga lesbiyana, malinaw na ginagawang katatakutan at oportunista ang imahen ng mga ito. Kung tutuusi’y pareho namang negatibo ang pag-iimahen sa bakla at lesbiyana sa media. Ngunit hindi ito kasinsaklap ng pilit na pagpuksa sa lesbiyana mula media tungong makasaysayang okasyong gaya ng Pride March na isa sa mga panandang-bato na nagtataguyod ng pantay na karapatan para sa mga homoseksuwal. Samakatwid, kung hindi iwinawaglit ang lesbiyana sa lipunan, ang negatibong pag-iimahen naman dito’y isa pa ring estratehiya upang tuluyan siyang papaglahuin sa kasaysayan. Patunay pa ni Israel: 220


In Manila in 2004, the tenth anniversary of the LGBT pride in the Philippines was celebrated as part of the Gay Pride March. A local newspaper covered this event, which was participated in by those who call themselves LGBT. The Manila Times(December 12, 2004), however, decided to print an interview of a male gay … The Philippine Daily Inquirer (July 2, 2003) featured a male gay and some names of gays. Moreover, it described the marching crowd as thus: “gays and straight mixed and matched on the street … There was no mention at all of the lesbians or their more popular designations like tomboy or t-bird. (aking diin)9 Isa lamang ang media sa mga larangang matinding nanghahamak kundi man tuluyang nagsasantabi sa mga lesbiyana. Sa ginawang pag-aaral ng organisasyong LESBOND (Lesbians for National Democracy), pinatunayan na sadyang marhinado ang mga lesbiyana sa mas malawak pang aspekto ng lipunan gaya ng politika, ekonomiya, at kultura. Sa aspektong pampolitika, hanggang sa kasalukuya’y nakabinbin pa sa kongreso ang House Bill No. 634, ang panukalang-batas na kumikilala sa pantay na karapatan at nagbibigay-proteksiyon sa mga mamamayan laban sa diskriminasyon batay sa oryentasyong seksuwal at pangkasarian.10 Ayon sa LESBOND, patuloy na nakararanas ng banta, pagmamalupit, at karahasan ang mga homoseksuwal, kabilang ang mga lesbiyana, partikular na mula sa mga pulis at iba pang tagapagpatupad ng batas.11 Samakatwid, nananatili pang pangarap ang aktuwal na pagkilala at pagsasapraktika ng mga batas na ito. Sa usaping pang-ekonomiya, maraming lesbiyana ang kabilang sa malaking populasyon ng mga walang trabaho. Bukod sa talagang walang maibigay na trabaho ang pamahalaan, umiiral din kahit sa antas ng empleo ang dalawahang sistema ng seks at kasarian. Mayroong mga trabahong panlalaki at pambabae lamang. Kaya’t hirap makapaghanap ng trabaho ang mga lesbiyanang nagkikilos o nagdadamitlalaki dahil sa gayong mapaniil na kategorya. Kung makahanap man ng trabaho, inilalagak sila sa mga trabahong panlalaki (hal. konduktor, kargador, at iba pa). Hindi isyu ang paggampan ng mga lesbiyana sa trabahong panlalaki sapagkat binabaklas nga nito ang heteroseksistang pagkakategorya. Papasok lamang ang suliranin kung dumaranas ang mga lesbiyana ng diskriminasyon batay sa kanilang itsura (sapagkat ang karaniwang pumapasok at tinatanggap sa mga trabahong panlalaki ay iyong mga lesbiyanang tinaguriang “butch” o nag-aasta/nagdadamitlalaki) at oryentasyong pangkasarian na nagbubunga sa hindi nila pagtanggap ng pantay na benepisyong ibinibigay sa mga lalaki. Mayroon mang nagbibigay ng trabaho sa mga lesbiyana, ganito naman ayon sa LESBOND ang turing sa kanila: “In factories, we are perceived to be ‘efficient and effective,’ because we bring in more profits to the employers’ coffers as we rarely demand for maternity, paternity, and

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daycare benefits, and have ‘no legitimate’ spouses and children to look after.”12 Sa kaso ng mga lesbiyanang tinaguriang “femme” o iyong mga may itsura at gawi pa rin ng “tradisyonal” na babae, matindi rin ang panganib ng diskriminasyon para sa kanila kapag nalaman sa trabaho ang kanilang oryentasyong pangkasarian kaya’t marami ang nanatiling nagkukubli at itinatanggi ang kanilang pagkalesbiyana. Pahayag nga ng isang ininterbyung lesbiyana sa artikulong, “Religious, economic biases haunt Pinoy gay community,” tungkol sa pagkukubli niya ng kanyang oryentasyong pangkasarian, “I’m not going to sacrifice my life for some cause. Will the cause feed my family?”13 Samantala, ayon naman sa artikulo ni Angie Umbac, kasapi ng Lesbian Advocates Philippines (LeAP!): “In the workplace, issues of lesbianism are not openly discussed. For some lesbians, access to employment may be denied by employers who express a preference for “females,” and who fail to recognize that lesbians, too, are females. In addition, general company policies of “immorality,” or even the dress code—which addresses the wearing of slacks and shirts and having short hair— are selectively used to keep lesbians in check when already in employment. Though cross-dressing is tolerated, the dress code is conveniently invoked to get at lesbians who refuse to toe the line. Another insidious form of discrimination is when the employer, knowing that the lesbian employee is subjected to negative treatment and harassment by her co-workers, fails or refuses to protect her, until she is forced to leave and look for other employment elsewhere.14 Batay sa kasaysayan ng kilusang kababaihan sa bansa, waring sumapit na ang panahong lumalakas na ang tinig ng mga babae sa paggigiit at muling pagbawi ng inagaw na espasyo sa lipunan. Gayumpaman, mayroon pa ring hanay sa loob mismo nito ang nananatiling pinipipi—ang mga lesbiyana. Samantala, sa aspektong pangkultura naman, nangunguna ang simbahan at eskuwelahan sa pagpapatupad ng mga mahigpit at di makatarungang kalakaran ng heteropatriyarka. Nariyan pa rin ang hindi natitinag na mapanghamak na pagmamarka ng simbahan sa homoseksuwalidad bilang inmoral at makasalanan. Sinasabi ng simbahan na tanggap nito ang homoseksuwalidad basta’t huwag lang isasapraktika.15 Katumbas na rin iyon ng pahayag na kailangang lipulin ang mga bakla at lesbiyana. Sa kaso ng mga eskuwelahan, di na kataka-takang sinusunod din ng mga ito ang pananaw at turo ng simbahan hinggil sa homoseksuwalidad sapagkat karamihan ay pinatatakbo pa rin ng mga katolikong orden. Ngunit mayroon nang mga paaralan, partikular sa antas ng kolehiyo, ang nagbukas ng pagkakataon sa pagtalakay ng kabaklaan at kalesbiyanahan at 222


pangkalahatang usaping pangkasarian sa loob ng mga silid-aralan (Tingnan ang talaan sa ibaba). Pamantasang De La Salle-Maynila, Departamento ng Literatura

Gay and Lesbian Literature (GALELIT)16

Unibersidad ng Pilipinas-Diliman, Kolehiyo ng Agham Panlipunan at Pilosopiya (CSSP)

Sex and Culture – (Anthropology 187) undergradweyt Seminar in Sex and Culture – (Anthropology 287) gradwado Exploring Gender and Sexuality – (Social Science 3) Sociology of Deviant Behavior17 – (Sociology 132) Women and Work – (Sociology 297)

UP-Diliman, Kolehiyo ng Gawaing Panlipunan at Pagpapaunlad ng Pamayanan (CSWCD)

History and Perspective of Gender and Development – (Women and Development 201) gradwado

UP-Diliman, Kolehiyo ng Edukasyon

Sex Education – (EDH 173)

UP-Diliman, Kolehiyo ng Arte at Literatura

Gay Writing18 – (Comparative Literature 184) Departamento ng Ingles at Komparatibong Panitikan Seksuwalidad, Kasarian, at Panitikan – (Panitikan ng Pilipinas 19) Departamento ng Filipino at Panitikan ng Pilipinas19

Batay sa mga nabanggit na kurso, kapansin-pansin ang patuloy na paglago ng usaping pangkasarian sa konteksto ng akademya subalit ito’y sa mga limitadong institusyon pa lamang. Kung ibabalik muli sa konteksto nitong pag-aaral, mahalagang itanong kung “well-represented” ba ang pagtalakay ng mga teksto/usaping lesbiyana sa mga nabanggit na kurso. Sakali mang tumalakay at magpabasa ang mga guro ng mga materyal na isinulat mismo ng mga lesbiyana, ilan kaya roon ang patungkol sa mga Filipinang lesbiyana? Lumalabas na tila marhinado na naman ang mga lesbiyana sa konteksto ng edukasyon tulad din ng penomeno ng pagwawalang-bahala sa kanila sa panitikan at iba pang diskursong kababaihan. Sa kabuuan, napakadalang pa ng mga mga akademikong institusyon na nagtatangkang ituro ang paksain ng seksuwalidad at kasarian. Una, dahil karamihan pa rin sa mga paaralan sa bansa ay pinatatakbo ng mga katolikong institusyon kaya di na kataka-takang pinamumugaran pa rin ito ng heteroseksismo. Ikalawa, malaking palaisipan kung sino ang magtuturo gayong laganap pa rin ang homophobia maski sa larangan ng akademya. Kailangan pa rin marahil dumaan sa “gender-sensitivity training” ang mga posibleng magtuturo ng seksuwalidad at kasarian sa mga eskuwelahan sapagkat posibleng hindi lahat ng nagkakaroon ng pagkakataong

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magturo tungkol sa seksuwalidad at kasarian ay may mapagpalayang pagtalakay sa naturang kurso. Gayundin, kung mayroon mang mga may kakayahang magturo, hindi rin lahat ay maglalakas-loob sapagkat nandiyan pa rin ang takot na mapangalanang “bakla” o “lesbiyana” dahil sa nakasanayan nang mapanirang pageestereotipo. Batay sa mga inihapag na kalagayan, malinaw ang pangangailangang patuloy na igiit ang pagkilala at pantay na pagtingin sa hanay ng mga babaeng nagpapahalaga at umiibig sa kapuwa babae. MGA PRELIMINARYONG PAGBAKAS SA PANITIKANG LESBIYANA NG BANSA

Novelsari seoutofthe shortcomings of History. —A .S. Byatt Ang hindi mahagilap na lesbiyana sa kasaysayan ay baka sakaling nasa panitikan. Kaya’t sa halip na galugarin ng mananaliksik ang mga akdang nasa kahon, sinimulan niyang ilatag bilang paunang bahagi ng pagtalunton sa kasaysayan ng panitikang lesbiyana ng bansa ang “Pagsulat ng sarili bilang Progresibong Paglalantad: Isang Preliminaryong Pagsusuri sa Panitikang Lesbiyana ng Pilipinas.20 Bukod sa pagsipat sa estado ng aktibismong lesbiyana, higit na naging layunin ng pag-aaral ang pagtampok ng mga “bagong teksto.” Bunga ito ng nakitang pangangailangan na itanghal, patunayan, at kilalanin muna ang pag-iral ng mga akdang bumabaybay sa karanasan at pagkataong lesbiyana mula mismo sa mga hayag na lesbiyana. Bilang pakikibunyi sa noo’y papausbong na panitikang lesbiyana ng Pilipinas, tinutukan ng saliksik ang halaga ng panulat bilang lunsaran ng pagdiriwang at pagkilala sa kasariang lesbiyana. Kasama rito ang pagbibigay-halaga sa makababaeng kahulugan ng erotikong pagnanasang nakatuon sa kapuwa babae sa konteksto ng ’ecr l t iurefeminine at jouissanceng mga peministang Pranses. Sinuri rin kung paanong binabatikos at binubuwag ng panitikang lesbiyana sa iba’t ibang anyong pampanitikang gaya ng awit, tula at maikling kuwento, ang institusyon ng heteropatriyarka na patuloy na sumisiil sa pagnanasa, pagkamalikhain, at buhay ng kababaihan. Bukod sa pagtuon sa mga erotikong tema na karaniwang taglay ng mga akdang lesbiyana, hindi rin pinalampas ng pag-aaral ang pagsipat sa aktuwal na kalagayan ng mga Filipinang lesbiyana batay sa ginawang ulat ng mga organisasyong lesbiyana sa bansa.21 Panghuli, pinahapyawan ng saliksik ang relasyon ng aktibismo at panulat na lesbiyana. Samantala, dinugtungan ni Minerva Lopez ang unang yugto pa lamang ng paghahanap sa nawawalang lesbiyana sa Panitikang Filipino sa kaniyang tesis na “Si Nena, Si Neneng, at Erlinda: Ang Seks Variant sa Panitikang Pilipino” (1999). Binalikan ni Lopez ang mga klasikong nobelang Erlinda ng Bataan ni Nieves Baens del Rosario



at Ang Kasaysayan ng Magkaibigang SiNena at si Neneng ni Valeriano Hernandez Peña.22 Matapang niyang hinalughog ang kanon upang sagipin ang mga nakakulong na imaheng protolesbiyana sa loob ng dalawang akda. Binigyan ng panibagong pagbasa at pag-asa sa pag-aaral na ito ni Lopez ang natatanging (romantikong) pagkakaibigan nina Nena at Neneng, Charing at Erlinda pati na ang patuksong pahayag ng homoerotikong paghanga ni Chayong kay Neneng. ANG MARHINALISASYON NG MGA LESBIYANA SA LARANGAN NG PANITIKAN Hindi lamang umiikot sa mga homoerotikong tensiyon at pisikal na pagniniig sa pagitan ng dalawang babae ang pakahulugan ng panitikang lesbiyana. Ayon sa kritiko at mananaliksik na si Lillian Faderman, “Ang panitikang lesbiyana ay binubuo ng mga akdang may kinalaman sa mga suliranin at salimuot ng paglalantad (coming out) at ang pagharap sa isang lipunang kinaiiralan ng homophobia. Nakapaloob din dito ang paksain ng seksuwalidad sa pagitan ng dalawang babae.” Ngunit binigyangdiin niya na hindi mababalikan ng gayong kalimitadong pakahulugan ang maaaring mas matagal pang kasaysayan ng panitikang lesbiyana, sabihin nang nitong nakalipas na isandaang taon, sapagkat bihira ang kumikilala sa pag-iral ng mga lesbiyana sa mga panahong iyon. Idinagdag pa ni Faderman na magiging mas maikli umano ang kasaysayan ng panitikang lesbiyana kung ito’y kinatha dapat ng mga babae sapagkat hindi pa komportable ang mga babae sa pagtalakay sa paksaing seksuwalidad.23 Sa konteksto ng heteropatriyarkal na lipunang Filipino, tila imposibleng makabuo ng kasaysayan ng panitikang lesbiyana. Patong-patong ang mga balakid dito. Una, walang maaaninag na alusyon man lamang hinggil sa pag-iral ng mga akdang lesbiyana sa mga nakatalang kasaysayang pampanitikan. Maging ang mga antolohiyang lumabas, gaya ng Philippine Literature: A History and Anthology24 nina Bienvenido at Cynthia Lumbera ay hindi rin nagpaloob ng tekstong lesbiyana sa kabila ng paglangkap nito (sa pinakahuling edisyon noong 2004) ng isang maikling kuwentong bakla ni Honorio Bartolome de Dios. Hindi rin nasilip ang posibilidad na isa sa akda ng mga manunulat ay maaaring may pahiwatig na ng lesbiyanismo (gaya halimbawa ng “Nalpay A Namnama” ni Leona Florentino). Sadya bang hindi pangkanon ang panitikang lesbiyana o hindi pa lang talaga visible sa mga kumakatha ng kasaysayang pampanitikan ang panulat na lesbiyana? Ang mismong panitikang kababaihan kung saan dapat kabahagi ang panulat na lesbiyana ay isa rin sa mga nagkakaila at nagkakait ng puwang sa pag-iral nito. Katibayan dito ang ilan sa mga naglabasang kalipunan ng panulat ng kababaihan noong dekada ’90 hanggang pagsapit ng bagong siglo na hindi isinali ang panulat na lesbiyana. Halimbawa na ang W omen Reading: Feminist Perspectives on Philippine Li terary Texts(1992)25 na pinamatnugutan ni Thelma B. Kintanar at Ang Silidna

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Mahiwaga: Kalipunan ng Kuwento’tTula ng mga Babaeng Manunulat(1994)26 na pinamatnugutan ni Soledad Reyes. Bagaman madalas na ipinahahayag sa mga introduksiyon ng antolohiya na kinikilala ang mga pagkakapareho at pagkakaiba sa pagitan ng mga babae, ang mga pagkakaiba-ibang ito’y tumutukoy lamang sa uri, lahi, at etnisidad—hindi kinikilala o maaaring nakaligtaang silipin ang pagkakaibaiba sa oryentasyong pangkasarian. Sa isang banda, mayroon mang mga nakapasok na lesbiyanang manunulat sa antolohiyang panitikang kababaihan, walang ginawang pagbanggit sa kanilang oryentasyong pangkasarian. Hindi na marahil mahalaga sa karaniwang babaeng patnugot ng antolohiya ang kasarian ng manunulat. Halimbawa na ang aklat na Sa N galan ng Ina: 100 Taon ng Tulang FeministasaPilipinas(1997)27 ni Lilia Quindoza Santiago. Bagaman masusi nitong binakas ang kasaysayan ng panulaang kababaihan ng Pilipinas, ni hindi napahapyawan ang pag-iral ng mga bersong lesbiyana. Kapansin-pansin din ang paglalahok nito ng mga makatang hayag na lesbiyana gaya nina Aida Santos at Anna Leah Sarabia ngunit hindi ang kanilang mga akdang naglalaman ng tema o paksaing lesbiyana. Mas may kaugnayan marahil sa buong aklat ang iba pang tula ng dalawang manunulat pero hindi man lamang nausad na sila’y kasama sa mga masigasig na tagakatha at tagapagtaguyod ng panitikang lesbiyana ng bansa gayong itinatampok pa naman sa aklat ang panunuring malay sa kasarian. Sa kabila ng umuusbong nang panitikang kababaihan, kilusang peminista, at pagbasang malay sa kasarian sa panahong papasigla na rin ang usapin at aktibismong lesbiyana (pansinin na sa pagbungad ng 1990 ipinanganak ang aktibismong lesbiyana at kalagitnaan naman hanggang huling bahagi ng naturang dekada naglabasan ang mga antolohiya ng panitikang Filipino/panitikang kababaihan), walang pang nagawang komprehensibong pagtatala ng lesbiyanang panulat sa kasaysayang pampanitikang Pilipino/kasaysayan ng kababaihang panulat. Sa dakong ito’y maipagpapalagay na nananatiling makalalaki ang kanon at kontrolado pa rin ng kultura ng heteroseksismo ang kasaysayang pampanitikan ng bansa. Kamakailan lamang ay muling naglabas ng kanyang pag-aaral hinggil sa kasarian at seksuwalidad ng mga Filipina ang makata at gurong si Quindoza Santiago—ang Sexuality and the Filipina (2007). Sa librong ito’y malay nang inilahok ni Santiago ang tinig na napagiwanan niya sa naunang aklat na Sa Ngalan ng Ina (1997). Bukod sa akdang “Tale of Two Witches” ni Mila Aguilar (na bagaman hindi tuwirang tinalakay bilang akdang lesbiyana), aniya’y dumako na sa pagbuo ng bagong anyo ng ugnayan at kaibang uri ng female bonding, pinahapyawan niya na rin ang pagtalakay sa paglabas ng antolohiya ng mga tekstong lesbiyana, ang Tibok:Heartbeatofthe FilipinoLesbian (1994) at naglahok ng isang akdang lantarang bumabaybay sa karanasan ng isang lesbiyana—ang “Out With It: My Coming Out Story” ni Natty Manauat.28 Ngunit ang lahat ng ito’y nabitin pa rin pagdating sa pagtalakay at pagpapaunawa hinggil sa usaping lesbiyanismo at lesbiyanang panulat. Kaya naman higit pang naging hamon 226


ang gayong kakulangan upang patuloy na halughugin at palitawin ang katauhang lesbiyana sa panitikang Filipino. Ayon nga kay Lumbera sa kaniyang artikulong, “Towards a Revised History of Philippine Literature,” gaya rin ng muling pagsulat ng mga historyador na sina Teodoro Agoncillo at Renato Constantino ng kasaysayan ng ating bayan, nananawagan din ng pana-panahong rebisyon ang ating kasaysayang pampanitikan.29 Napapanahon na ring mabigyang-tinig ang mga napipi, nalimutan, naisantabi, at nawawala bunga ng namamayaning kanon. Hindi na lamang panitikang rehiyonal ang tinutukoy dito kundi pati maging sa panitikang nagpapatampok ng mga usaping pangkasarian. Mahalaga ang pagbakas sa mga manunulat na lesbiyana bilang bahagi ng pagbuo ng kanilang lumalagong komunidad. Nangangailangan ng mahabahabang panahon, tiyaga at kamalayang makalesbiyana sa paghahanap na ito. Bukod sa mga nabanggit nang mga batayan sa pagtukoy/pakahulugan ng panitikang lesbiyana, may kinalaman din ito sa mga suliranin at salimuot ng paglalantad (coming out) at ang pagharap sa isang lipunang kinaiiralan ng homophobia.30 Gayundin, hindi na lamang dapat nalilimitahan sa mga hayag na lesbiyana ang paghuhugutan ng mga akdang ipapaloob sa kasaysayan. Mahalaga ring maglahok ng mga tekstong isinulat ng mga di hayag/hindi lesbiyana upang masiyasat ang pagkakaiba/pagkakapareho ng representasyon ng lesbiyana sa “sarili” at representasyon ng di lesbiyana sa lesbiyana. Sabi nga ni Hallett, “Mahalagang isama ang pakahulugan ng iba gaya rin ng pakahulugan ng sarili sa sarili upang masuri ang pinagtutunggaliang (contested) espasyo.”31 Ayon kay Quindoza Santiago, kasabay ng pagsapit sa rurok ng mga kilosprotesta laban sa diktaduryang Marcos noong dekada ’80 ang pagluluwal sa mga pormasyong pangkababaihan.32 Ang pagkakabuo ng mga grupong pangkababaihan ay hindi na lang bilang reaksiyon sa noo’y masidhing mga usaping panlipunan kundi’y pumapartikular pa sa pagbubukas ng usapin ng kababaihan (woman’s question).33 Ang usapan ay “hindi na lamang simpleng relasyon ng babae sa produksiyong pang-ekonomiya sa lipunan, kundi, usapin ng babae (female, feminist question): ang relasyon ng lalaki at babae kaugnay ng estruktura ng kapangyarihan sa lipunan, at ang seksuwalidad kaugnay ng gawaing reproduktibo,” diin pa ni Santiago.34 Sa puntong ito ng pagkuwestiyon ng mga peminista sa relasyon ng lalaki at babae at sa mapaniil na sistema ng patriyarka, sinimulan na ring hubugin ang mga usapin kaugnay ng seksuwalidad, kasarian, relasyon ng babae at babae, pati na ang pagtuligsa sa sistema ng heteropatriyarka—maituturing na panahon kung kailan ipinaglilihi na ang aktibismong lesbiyana sa bansa. At habang unti-unti itong nabubuo, paisa-isa na ring nagsulputan ang mga akdang lesbiyana.35 Sa kasalukuyan, masasabing hindi na madalang ang paglabas ng mga akdang lesbiyana. Hindi na madalang ngunit sadyang napakakaunti pa rin kung ang pagbabatayan ay ang haba ng taon na saklaw ng talaan—isang taon lampas sa

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dalawang dekada. Ilan sa maipagpapalagay na salik sa pagkamadalang ng mga lumalabas na akdang lesbiyana ay ang mga natalakay nang marhinalisasyon ng mga lesbiyana sa maraming larangan (politika, ekonomiya, kultura, at iba pa), partikular na sa kanon ng panitikang Filipino at maging sa tinatanaw na pinagmulang tradisyon nito, ang panitikan ng kababaihan. Dagdag pa, malaking sanhi rin ang kasalatan ng mga kritiko/mananaliksik na bumabaybay sa kasaysayan ng panitikang lesbiyana ng bansa. Kaya’t mangyari mang marami nang naglalabasang akda, hindi naipapasok sa diskursong pampanitikan ang mga ito. Tiyak na mayroon pang mga di sinasadyang napag-iwanan o di pa natutuklasang akdang lesbiyana na hindi naisama sa listahan, iyong mga mula sa iba’t ibang lupalop ng bansa, pati na ang mga mula sa ibang bayan ngunit tinatalakay pa rin ang karanasan ng isang Filipinang lesbiyana. Inisyal na sarbey pa lamang ito. Gayundin, kalakhan sa mga manunulat na aktibo sa pagkatha ng panitikang lesbiyana ay pawang kasapi ng mga organisasyong pangkababaihan, partikular na ng mga organisasyong lesbiyana. Idagdag pa na halos magkasabayan ang pag-usbong ng panitikan at aktibismong lesbiyana. Posibleng tingnan ang anggulong ito bilang bahagi ng tunguhin ng mga manunulat na lesbiyana na gawing daluyan ng kanilang karanasan at pagiral ang panitikan tulad ng layunin ng pag-aaral na ito na manghimok sa pagpapayaman pa ng kalipunan at patunayan ang mabungang pag-iral ng ganitong panitikan sa kabila ng lagi’t laging idinadaing na marhinalisasyon. Panghuli, hindi lahat ng mga akdang lesbiyana ay awtomatikong nagtataguyod ng interes at hangarin ng mga lesbiyana kaya’t nariyan pa rin ang pangangailangang siyasatin ang naging pamamaraan ng representasyon sa mga naglabasang akda. MGA TALA 1. Lorna Q. Israel. “The Lesbians as One of the Guys: Media Coverage of Gay Pride Marches,” nasa Women in Action 1:1999 at nasa website ng ISIS: index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=266&Itemid=135 (nakuha sa internet noong Hunyo 8, 2008). 2. Ibid. Sinipi ni Israel ang pahayag mula sa artikulo ni E. J. Graff, ang “Not a ladies auxiliary: Media coverage of gays neglects lesbian.” The Progressive. p/articles/mi_m1295/is_n10_v57/ai_13290559>. (nakuha sa internet noong Hunyo 8, 2008) 3. Ibid. 4. Oscar Atadero, “Philippine gays go mainstream,” nasa Mr. & Ms. (19 July 1994): 1617. 5. Kasama na rin sa mga naisantabi ang mga bisexual, transgender, at intersex. 6. Lorna Q. Israel, “The Lesbians as One of the Guys: Media Coverage of Gay Pride Marches,” nasa Women in Action 1:1999 at nasa website ng ISIS: index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=266&Itemid=135. Sipi ni Israel mula kay



Y. Cheratra, mula sa artikulo nitong Gays in the news. issue1/gaynews.ans, 1994. (nakuha sa internet noong Hunyo 8, 2008) 7. Isinapelikula noong 1988 ang buhay ng lesbiyanang si Celestina Sanchez A.K.A. Bubbles na taglay din ang naturang pangalan sa pamagat. Idinerehe ito ni Carlo J. Caparas sa panulat ni Toni Mortel, nasa (nakuha sa internet noong Hunyo 8, 2008) 8. International Gay & Lesbian Ass’n Secretary General at Risk. Itinala ng GayToday. International Gay & Lesbian Association, matatagpuan sa garchive/world/121801wo.htm (nakuha sa internet noong Hunyo 8, 2008) 9. Lorna Q. Israel, “The Lesbians as One of the Guys: Media Coverage of Gay Pride Marches,” nasa Women in Action 1:1999 at nasa website ng ISIS: index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=266&Itemid=135. (nakuha sa internet noong Hunyo 8, 2008) 10. Ayon sa website ng Lesbian and Gay Legislative Advocacy Network (LAGABLAB): “The Anti-Discrimination Bill is a proposed legislation crafted and endorsed by LGBT activists in the Philippines. It criminalizes discriminatory policies and practices on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity to protect and promote the equal human rights and fundamental freedoms of Filipino LGBTs. Mula sa: campaigns/(nakuha sa internet noong Setyembre 25, 2008). Tingnan rin ang website ng Rainbow Rights: 11. “Philippine Lesbian Situation: An Overview.” Inihanda ni Julie Palaganas ng Lesbians for National Democracy noong Setyembre 1, 2007. 12. Ibid. 13. Dulce Arguelles at DarwinAmojelar, “Religious, economic biases haunt Pinoy gay community,” Manila Times (June 30, 2002) nasa: 2002/jun/30/20020630spe1.html (nakuha sa internet noong Setyembre 25, 2008); http:// (nakuha sa internet noong Setyembre 25, 2008). 14. Angie S. Umbac, “Putting You in Your Place: Culture and the Filipino Lesbian,” matatagpuan sa view&id=278&Itemid=135 (nakuha sa internet noong Agosto 27, 2008) 15. Ibid. 16. Mula sa website ng De La Salle University-Manila, College of Liberal Arts: http:/ / (nakuha sa internet noong Setyembre 23, 2008) 17. Kung sakali mang tinatalakay ang usaping pangkasarian, partikular ang homoseksuwalidad, sa sabjek na Sociology 132 o “Sociology of Deviant Behavior,” nararapat pansinin at kuwestiyunin ang pagkakategorya rito bilang “deviant” o naiiba, gayundin kung ano ang lapit ng guro sa naturang paksain. 18. Para sa mas detalyadong kasaysayang tinahak ng kursong “GayWriting” ng Departamento ng Ingles at Komparatibong Panitikan, basahin ang artikulo ni Neil Garcia, ang “On TV appearances and the whole sorry mess (postscript to a nightmare)” at “Philippine

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Gay Studies: Theoretical Notes” na nasa kanyang librong Slip/pages: Essays in Philippine Gay Criticism (1991-1996), Manila: DLSU Press, 1998, 65-69; 86-108. 19. Sinangguni ang artikulong “Reflections on LGBT/Sexuality Studies and Advocacies in the University of the Philippines” nina Eufracio C. Abaya at Nikos Lexis Dacanay (2007), matatagpuan sa internet link na: s e a r c h ? q = c a c h e : a i 6 l 9 j Z A 3 P g J : w w w. i r n w e b . o r g / s i t e F i l e s / P u b l i c a t i o n s / 29A53712E8D21597AC7B55 E035FA799D.pdf+Gay+Literature+UP+ diliman+ Department+of+English&hl=tl&ct=clnk&cd=7&gl=ph&client=firefox a (nakuha sa internet noong Setyembre 23, 2008) 20. Undergrad Tesis na isinulat noong 1998 at inilathala sa Tabi-Tabi sa Pagsasantabi: Mga Kritikal na Tala ng mga Lesbiyana at Bakla sa Sining, Kultura at Wika (Q.C.: UP Press, 2003). 21. Gumawa si Malu S. Marin ng preliminaryong pagmamapa sa kasaysayan ng aktibismong lesbiyana sa bansa sa kanyang artikulong, “Going Beyond the Personal,” Women in Action 1, 1996. 22. Undergrad Tesis na isinulat noong 1998 at inilathala sa Tabi-Tabi sa Pagsasantabi: Mga Kritikal na Tala ng mga Lesbiyana at Bakla sa Sining, Kultura at Wika na inedit nina Eugene Evasco, Roselle Pineda, at Rommel Rodriguez (Q.C.: UP Press, 2003). 23. Lilian Faderman, “What is Lesbian Literature?” nasa The New Lesbian Studies: Into the 21st Century, na inedit nina Bonnie Zimmerman at Toni A.H. McNaron (N.Y.: The Feminist Press, 1996). 24. Bienvenido Lumbera at Cynthia Nograles Lumbera, eds. Philippine Literature: A History and Anthology (Revised Edition) (Pasig: Anvil Publishing Inc., 2004). 25. Thelma B. Kintanar, ed. Women Reading: Feminist Perspectives on Philippine Literary Texts (Q.C.: UP Press at UP Center for Women’s Studies, 1992). 26. Soledad S. Reyes, ed. Ang Silid na Mahiwaga: Kalipunan ng Kuwento’t Tula ng mga Babaeng Manunulat (Pasig: Anvil Publishing Inc., 1994). 27. Lilia Quindoza Santiago. Sa Ngalan ng Ina: 100 Taon ng Tulang Feminista sa Pilipinas (Q.C.: UP Press, 1997). 28. Lilia Quindoza Santiago. Sexuality and the Filipina (Q.C.: UP Press, 2007). May bahagi sa aklat ni Quindoza Santiago kung saan nabanggit niya ang pahayag patungkol sa unti-unting paglikha ng espasyo ng mga bakla at lesbiyana sa lipunan, partikular sa larangan ng panitikan. Aniya, “The gay and lesbian movements have come out in the open to stake their claim in the discursive space.” (aking diin)—sa kasalukuyan ay wala pang matatawag na “lesbian movement” o kilusang lesbiyana sapagkat nasa antas pa lamang ito ng aktibismo at di pa umaabot ang pag-oorganisa sa hanay ng mga lesbiyanang mula sa masa o sa “grassroots.” 29. Bienvenido Lumbera, “Towards a Revised History of Philippine Literature,” nasa librong Revaluation 1997: Essays on Philippine Literature, Cinema and Popular Culture (Manila: UST Pubishing House, 1997).



30. Hinango ang konsepto ng romantikong pagkakaibigan mula sa pag-aaral ni Lillian Faderman, ang Chloe Plus Olivia. An Anthology of Lesbian Literature from the Seventeenth Century to the Present (N.Y.: Penguin Books, Ltd. 1994). 31. Nicky Hallett. Lesbian Lives: Identity and Autobiography in the Twentienth Century (London: Pluto Press, 1999), 4. 32. Lilia Quindoza Santiago, Sa Ngalan ng Ina: 100 Taon ng Tulang Feminista sa Pilipinas (Q.C.: UP Press, 1997), 183. 33. Ibid. 34. Ibid, 182-83. 35. Para sa talakay ng kasaysayan ng aktibismong lesbiyana, sangguniin ang artikulo ni Malu S. Marin na “Going Beyond the Personal,” Women in Action 1, 1996 at Julie Palaganas, “The Philippine Experience: Lesbian Activism Finds its Voice.” Change: A Biannual Publication of the Cordillera Women’s Education and Resource Center 12, no. 2 (December 2003): 5-7; 26.

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Rica Bolipata Santos

Fragments from a Literary Friendship ĂŠ G

oing to see Gilda Cordero Fernando, writer, painter, dancer, critic, producer, cultural maven, fashionista, mother, wife, and friend, is a lot like going to the


I’m not talking the Disneyland, Enchanted Kingdom kind of fair, but rather the tiny ones that still operate in small provinces and even smaller towns. It is the kind where the highlight is the tiny Ferris wheel with only ten small boxes with big, round multi-colored lights that don’t all work. Hanging at the top of the wheel still makes it possible to identify people on the ground (after all, everyone still knows everyone in this small town), and the whoosh of the air as it descends is satisfying enough to produce that small aha!

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There are small pleasures for the picking at the fair: the three old cans stacked on top of each other waiting to be tumbled to win the prize of an itchy small teddy bear. The pink-colored popcorn or newly deep-fried adobo peanuts with lots of garlic. The native form of billiards where balls are made of slick smooth round circles of wood and the chalk that smoothens table and stick feels just like baby powder but smells nothing like it. Why does anyone go to the fair? For the dazzling feeling of being suspended in a kind of place where anything is possible. To be enthralled momentarily by different tiny pleasures. To be with people one already knows in a different atmosphere. It is at once a chance to experience something foreign and to appreciate the homegrown. I have been to the Gilda fair more than once, lucky to be considered worthy to visit the sights. Every once in a while, in the past three years (Gilda would identify this as a natural cycle of life), I will be summoned by her to take a small repast with a group of friends. I am aware that I will have to give up my whole day to accommodate this visit. I will come to lunch and stay until late afternoon. These are hours I do not mind giving up. There is nothing I would like to do more than to be there. I know there is a prize at the end of these visits.

*** I HAD FIRST heard of Gilda from my own parents, as their publishing firm Philippines International had published her first collection The Butcher, The Baker, The Candlestick Maker. I asked her how this alliance came to be, and if there is anything she can reveal about my parents. She herself is unaware even of how they met and merely concludes that the milieu of Ateneans and St. Theresa’s college students must have thrown them together by fate. She remembers that my father was the kind of man who wanted to help artists. I laugh out loud at this as it dawns on me how this detail is a prophecy. My father’s life would become about helping artists. Gilda laughs with me, both of us warmed by memory of my father’s unconditional support of art. As for my mother, Gilda simply says, “Mabait ang mommy mo.” I remember seeing The Butcher, The Baker, The Candlestick Maker in our bookshelves. I had read her works in more than one class both in high school and college. As far as I was concerned, she was a god, up there together with other literary gods who formed part of my education: James Thurber, Anton Chekhov, Bienvenido Santos, Greg Brillantes. My first up-close and personal “sighting” of her strangely enough was at my sister’s wedding. She married the painter Elmer Borlongan, who is Gilda’s anakanakan. She came in a saya and I could not believe she was … (what’s the word?) actually alive. I can no longer recall how we eventually became real friends or how she became real to me, and no longer just a revered object of study. Perhaps it was 234


being continually thrown together at lunches, exhibits, various meriendas with other writers, where, eventually cell phone numbers were exchanged. In time, I learn that Gilda is a nocturnal creature. I send her a text message early in the morning thinking she is the kind of woman who wakes up at the crack of dawn, to tell her that someone was requesting that she give a talk somewhere. At two in the morning, I get the response, “Please puwedeng huwag na?” Eventually, we become regular text mates. She would send me one about a book she was reading. I would tell her what I was busy with. There was never any small talk with her, even via text message. It is always straight to the heart of the matter. I have come to expect such late night exchanges and have found comfort in the fact that I can text her any random thing at any random time. At one such exchange, I sent this message: Me: Tita, I need to stop being angry with my mother. GCF: Mahirap ang may ina. Bilib ako sa’yo. At one lunch at Gilda’s, I hand her the first edition copy from my mother’s shelf. She oohs and aahs, amazed that such a version still exists in the world. I ask her to write something for my mother, my father having passed away, and she writes this: “To the mother of many artists, our thanks.” At some other lunch, she tells me about her own mother, a subject of many of her non-fiction pieces as well: “I was able to make peace with my mother. I had once bathed her nung matanda na siya at may sakit and she loved it so much, as if it were the best thing I did for her. But I was glad to do it. Nung namatay na ang mother ko, that’s when I realized I also had a share in that sorry relationship. May kasalanan din ako. Hirap ako talagang tanggapin kasi ’yung idea na I was the child and she was the parent but I had to be the mature one. But then I realized, with time, that there are no fixed roles. Forgiveness eventually came. I don’t want to live a life filled with regret, or worse, guilt.” She says this with a kind of calm that I believe comes from having known the truth and having accepted that ironic truth very early on in life. “Rica,” she says to me indulgently, in the tone one uses to explain to a child how to be better, “conflict, friction, and tension are important. That’s how you go higher in the spiritual scale.” The look on her face seems to tell me that she is perplexed at why I am confused that I am conflicted about my mother. Isn’t that par for the course? I write an essay about almost losing my mother and it comes out in a newspaper. I text Gilda and humbly ask if she would read it. She panics via text because the househelp have thrown away the papers. I tell her not to panic and I will fax her a copy. But “I want to read it already!” she replies. A few hours later she texts to say a miracle has occurred! The old paper has been found! The second part of her

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Photo by Elmer Borlongan

message reads: “Your pieces are getting less giddy. More focused on essentials.� I keep the message to this day. As a writer and woman, I revisit her works again and again, not only to study form and technique; but also to study a way of being, and maybe even a way of proceeding in life. Today, she is that voice in my head that spurs me to gamble more, say more real more, stake more, just be more. At a rally mourning the death of the National Artists Awards, we are exchanging pleasantries, engaging in the inanities of fashion, me commenting on her hat, for example. I know for a fact that Gilda has been in the running more than once, but I also know that Gilda does not care about such an award. Photographers jostle to take a shot of her, not knowing this other woman with her. She insists I be in the picture and grabs my mother. And so there is a picture of my mother, Gilda in her hat, and me somewhere in this world.

*** FOR ONE LUNCH, it is I who request an audience. There are work-related matters I need to discuss with her. But the undertone of our conversation is that the work will only take ten minutes. The rest of the time we can make tsismis! She tells me to bring the writer Tara Sering. She will invite the director Raymond Lee. It is my 236


second lunch with Raymond. It is Tara’s second summons by Gilda. She was completely surprised the first time she was called. I reassured her that it was recognition of her talent. “Gilda wants to learn from you!” I ask Gilda why she likes to hang out with young people. She tells me that she enjoys being with from them and calls them “her peers.” She replies, “Minsan mahihirap ang mga matatanda. They think themselves fossilized. Ang mga gusto nilang activities, ’di ko naman type.” At many of these lunches, I enjoy just watching her, perhaps because she derives so much pleasure from listening to people. She is inquisitive, curious, hungry to know more about the world. From Tara, she wants to know her opinion on the art and publishing scenes. From Elmer, she is interested in how he is able to read his visual language and plot his development as a painter. From me, she’s interested to know why our family is the way it is. She’s right about our being her peers because we all remain active in the art world. Gilda’s perspective on age and progress is decidedly fresh and non-conventional, which is probably why we keep coming to her table. Gilda lives in a home completely surrounded by art. The main house is accessed by a winding garden with large ferns placed in plastic laundry containers, suspended on a steel railing. The walls of the entrance have an orderly climbing vine, which I’ve never ever seen vines do willingly. “That is Elo’s creation,” she tells me proudly when I ask her if I can copy this style for my own house. She rings the bell and asks Lyn-Lyn to ask Elo where he bought the plastic containers. Elo is her beloved husband and he is a silent figure in the house, changing the way our footsteps tread on the floor. The garden leads to a bridge and a large mural by Elmer Borlongan, my brotherin-law. I know for a fact that if you take the smaller path straight away, you will find a small stage with paper lamps. Poetry readings and dance sessions are sometimes held here, although in the beginning it was the stage for the grandchildren. If you turn left you will find the main sala. There is a large bookcase on one side of the wall and sculptures by Julie Lluch all around. The formal dining room is there as well. At the last lunch in this dining room, Gilda had served an incredible paté made of artichokes and animal-shaped pan de monay bought in Antipolo. (She would text me the recipe for the paté days later, as promised.) To the right is her guest bathroom, which showcases a mosaic made of broken shards from daughterin-law Lanelle’s ceramic kiln. This will eventually lead you to Gilda’s private quarters. She sits on an Executive High Chair, literally; and it is upholstered in a leopard print. She hugs me the way my favorite grandmother does, long and full. When she puts her lips on my cheeks, her nostrils take in my smell and her kiss is noisy. She takes me in her arms and we do a hug-cum-dance for a little less than half a minute.

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On her large wall is another Borlongan mural, his famous figures grounded on panels. There is a dining table in her room, a luxury that I find so Gilda but she reassures me it is not whim but necessity that made bring her the table in. She sleeps on a low bed with a table at the head filled with books she is planning to read. “It is a collection of moving books. Sometimes I take them out of that pile pag give up na ako sa kanila,” and out comes that characteristic deep-throated laugh punctuating and hiding innuendos and truths. On her closet wall panel are the famous paintings of her house help by Olan Ventura. Paintings are central to Gilda’s life. Her sala also has a painting by Onib Olmedo. One of her favorite stories of Onib is of how he would draw on a table and sometimes he would draw out of the lines of the paper and onto the table. Onib was instrumental in further widening Gilda’s views about art. On one particular painting she is currently working on, Gilda says, “Onib came to me last night and the painting just happened!” Gilda likes to do this when she paints. She calls on the masters of painting to come to her and help her with her pieces. She calls on a motley crew of dead artists:

Photo by Elmer Borlongan



Photo by Elmer Borlongan

Khalo, Picasso, Van Gogh, anyone really who might be willing to teach her as she paints throughout the night. “I also like to dance with my paintings,” she says deadpan. “It’s important to play with your creations so that they’ll respond to you and want to appear.” She has been up all night these past few months, painting, preparing for a one-woman show slated for the end of this year. I look at her paintings and I must say they look like they’ve been danced with. She takes out her current crop of paintings, pastelcolored, filled with figures of men and women, decidedly Filipino. Her paintings are stories too. One painting she has titled “The Urban Poor.”

’Yan hospitality girl siya na may love child. This figure, mother ’yan na beautician. Eto ’yung father namatay na pero wala silang pera pang ospital. Eto naman foreigner na nagpakasal sa chimay. Eto maton na dating prison inmate.” She doesn’t understand what I mean when I ask her what her creative process is. I struggle with explaining what I mean until I realize it is not a relevant question for her. Creativity is so intrinsic to her person and soul that there are no longer any divisions between her life and her art. During some other conversation she does

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eventually say that what leads one to create is, “Anger, and a great love for your work. Anger to help you face it in your art.” She never does define for me what “it” stands for. Gilda has achieved perhaps the highest level of artistry—the transformation of a real life into a living work of art. She is the artifact, herself. You can tell this is true by looking at her most private space. It is homage to the creative spirit, the way the items are haphazardly but creatively placed. The dining table has chairs of different styles which have jewel-toned cushions. A paper lamp helps in dividing the space between bed and table. A china cabinet stands at the center. When the food arrives, it is served on exquisite stoneware. Glasses are ornate and heavy. At one lunch there is a small vase with white flowers. At another lunch, there are yellow flowers. At yet another, varicolored gerberas. I am reminded of Monet line: “Above all else, I must always have flowers.” Perhaps Monet had come one night.

*** AT A FRIEND’S wedding where she is main sponsor, she sits beside me during the picture taking. She comments on my choice of colors—I am wearing a purple dress with red shoes. I comment on her earrings which are shaped like anahaw leaves dotted with three pearls at the center. She tells me they are her mother’s earrings. As we converse, all kinds of people come to greet her like she were an Empress dowager. But you can tell there is relief that her part of the wedding is finally over. The lines around her eyes are more pronounced. She passes me a Glad bag of cashews. I look at her in amazement wondering how her complicated outfit could possibly hide such a thing! “I need food for my sugar levels,” she whispers. I grab a handful of nuts as we continue to survey the various permutations of wedding pictures being taken at the altar. I tell her, “Gosh they’re still clueless about how hard marriage is going to be.” She nods, both of us aware that warnings about the future are pointless. Gilda had secretly married her husband when she was 22. Their marriage and its many ups and downs are chronicled in both her fiction and nonfiction. But she has learned to make peace with him as well. The wealth of flavors at mealtimes she owes to him. “He is really a foodie and he has an extremely refined tongue. You think I’m the housewife? No way! He’s much better at it. I’m completely talentless in housewifery. Elo makes my life possible,” she says with all honestly. “On top of that he takes cares of me in every other material way. That is why I can write and paint and bum around. Mabait talaga siya. Good na ’yan!” At the reception, she shares a table with one of her closest friends, Mariel Francisco, soul sister and co-author of The Spiritual Pillow Book. At this moment though, Mariel cannot find Gilda and is walking around the reception area. I am watching this from afar and I am amused. It seems like a story waiting to unfold. I 240


then see them both later, walking, arm in arm. Gilda sees my inner smile and says, “Si Mariel talaga! Social climber daw ako! Nakaupo ako with Bien and Frankie kasi gusto ko rin daw maging National Arist! Ha ha ha!” Bien and Frankie are Bienvenido Lumbera and F. Sionil Jose. Mariel shakes her head indulgently. The social butterfly’s wings are clipped for a while as they take their rightful places. A few hours later, they both move to the table of Bien and Frankie where the major gods of literature all reside.

*** THE NEXT TIME I see her she is thinner and almost frailer. The last time I had seen her, she had walked me to my car and had almost slipped, her left leg involuntarily crossing over her right. “Arthritis,” she revealed to me. She talked about how she had begun to feel “more infirmed” than ever before. She does not say this sadly or with regret. It has made her choosier about what activities to be part of. But what is an art activity without Gilda’s presence? Having lunch, at the table this time, with Elmer Borlongan—summoned after almost ten years of not having had an intimate conversation with her anak-anakan— our talk turns to art and artists. She obviously loves artists’ company and is always ready to sit at their feet and learn from them. If I were to be asked what Gilda quality I love the most, it would be this: her insatiable hunger to know more about the world. She defies the idea that age ensures wisdom or that learning atrophies or that the old no longer need to learn at all. Her favorite phrases when she talks about art and artists are ang cute, kakatuwa, ang ganda, kakaiba, wa ako ma-say! and o diba? They are hip phrases from a very hip Lola. She renders criticism (“His last work was sharper”), advice (“Don’t do it Emong, it will dilute your work”), observation (“Ang galing galing na niya! May disiplina na ang kamay niya!), prophecy (“Even back then, magaling na siya,) and suggestion (“Try painting this one scene I saw of five men wearing the sando five different ways!”)—all like rapid fire, as she and Elmer rattle off names of painters at what point they are in their careers, and which of their recent works they have both seen. It dawns on me that Gilda has been to every major art show this year. She has also seen more plays and more movies than I have, and I’m not talking of old movies. Such is her social-artistic calendar. And she is not always known, or invited. She offers this telling story: “I went to watch Boses alone and it was full house! The usher brought me to the front to sit at the steps na walang sandalan! Ang sakitsakit sa likod!” I laugh and tell her the usher must have been clueless as to who she was! But everyone is willing to take her places. Raymond Lee writes down the schedule of Cinemalaya and they make plans for Raymond to fetch her to watch the films with her. Tara, Raymond and I all exchange numbers and make future plans to meet and collaborate as well. That’s something about us who are friends

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with Gilda—also all become instant friends with each other, as if Gilda’s being friends with us automatically means we are the best of friends too! This is one of Gilda’s other gifts—making people come together with synergy and do their best for art. At one lunch where I was paired with a playwright, that lunch spurred me to write an essay about death and loss. She’s very good at telling whether someone is gifted or not. She tells us of the artist Gilbert Daroy who does the editorial cartoons for a major daily. How she called him, just introduced herself (for he did not know her from Adam) and asked him to illustrate one of her children’s books, just like that. She asks Elmer about the artist Don Salubayba; she is interested in working with him. She asks Raymond to help her look for someone to do animation for her. She pulls out the drawings from her new book and I am in awe of how active she still is. As of this writing, the special issue of Budhi featuring a collection of her works has been released by the Ateneo Press. There is the major forthcoming painting exhibit at Silverlens Gallery. She is working on a new story for children … And did I mention she is 79?

*** “PAG CHRISTMAS, HIGHLIGHT ang Christmas pageant. All the mothers and fathers would receive a box of retazo and they would have to dress their families as shepherds or kings, basta ang baby Jesus ’yung pinakabagong apo. Hindi na natuloy ’yun noong the youngest was big enough to crawl out of the soapbox manger! And then the children started to write the Christmas pageant. They titled it ‘Slaughter of the Animals’ and it talked about how all the animals in the stable are eaten at Christmas because that’s what we were having—lechon, lamb chops, ham, etc. Ayan, so hindi na naulit. We are finally seated for a formal interview at her dining table. It would take weeks to convince her to do it and my trump card was the promise that I would bring Emong along with me. We spend an hour at lunch. Then she rises to dress because she knows we will be taking pictures and video taping the proceedings. She comes out of her bathroom in a bright yellow oversized blouse that she fixes with an Obi belt. I sigh and say, “And here I am, just wearing my decade-old teaching blouse!” She insists I wear one of her scarves and put on one of her new lipsticks. We look in the mirror and I believe she is more youthful than I ever will be. It is easy to forget that Gilda was once a young wife and was not always this confident. I cannot imagine her younger life before she became “GCF.” “My first job was as a teacher at Uson Colleges. As far as my father was concerned, teaching was the only job for me. Hindi raw ako pwedeng secretary or 242


journalist. I taught literature for third and fourth year high school students. I felt stupid sometimes. I would be teaching the poem ‘The Daffodils’, which was irrelevant to their lives, and I had one student who was a starlet and one who was a stevedore! Kawawa naman sila at kawawa naman ako! The highlight of my days was stealing out to Ma Mon Luk during break periods for mami and siopao during lunch.” “But Tita, what were you like as a mother?” I press, trying to search for the young Gilda in her face. There is a portrait of her that I’ve seen, with long, wavy hair pinned at the sides. She was beautiful. “I was a playmate. More than anything I wanted my children to feel safe and secure. I did not want them to be afraid of anything. Children should be what they want to be and parents should not do what they want to do through their children!” I ask her what I want most to truly know about her: what makes you so brave? She gives me an astounding answer: “I am brave as an artist. Sigurado ako lagi sa gagawin ko. I’m certain that if I do this, it will come out good. I lost an arm and a leg with ‘Luna: An Aswang Romance,’ but no one will forget it. I have always tried my best. It may not always have been the best really, but that’s okay because that was the best I could do at the time.” Weeks later I am at a dinner and she sends this text message: “Alam ko na ba’t ’di mo nakuha ’yung text ko! Pinatext ko sa yaya at pinadala kay Recah!” I smile from where I am, understanding her relish at this funny anecdote, the writer in her finding pleasure in the turning of the word “Rica.” At our last lunch, I mention that even in my moments when I doubt my God and my faith, which is often, I will always say the line “and if I die before I wake, I pray to God my soul to take” right before I sleep. It is the last vestiges of a very Catholic upbringing. She admits to still having it as well; she finds herself reciting the “Act of Contrition” every night, but only as a mantra. Gilda prays by meditating, having given up religion a long, long time ago and has chosen to work harder on her spirituality. She clarifies for me what meditation truly is: it is not time to imagine and play in your head. True meditation is an emptiness of thought. It is more than anything, an exercise in discipline. Her eyes sharpen as she says these to me. But she is honest, “I’m actually not very good at it. Your mind is supposed to be blank and you’re not supposed to entertain yourself but sometimes Beethoven appears and I can’t help it. Ha ha ha.” I theorize that Gilda’s grand life is perhaps premised on this quietness. Despite what seems like evidence of a very public life, Gilda’s most precious moments occur in this room with the flowers, the dining table, and the paintings. It is here where she calls upon other artists to join her. It is here that she dances with her creations. It is here where she meditates and stills her mind. In this sacred space, Gilda can best act as medium for the life force that makes all things bright and beautiful.

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The Contributors Ê JOI BARRIOS is currently lecturer in Filipino and Philippine literature at UCBerkeley while on leave from UP Diliman. She has received numerous awards, including the Weavers of History (from the Philippine Centennial Commission, Women’s Sector (1998), and the TOWNS (2004), and published five books, including Ang Pagiging Bababae sa Pamumuhay Sa Panahon ng Digma (IWS, St. Scholastica’s Colege, 1990). N O holds a degree in philosophy from De La N EDW AR DD DU STI TIN EDWAR ARD D.. C E L E STI DUS TIN Salle University. He is working toward an MA in creative writing at UP, and teaching world literature at the Asia Pacific College. FR AN KC IM AT U , bilingual poet and journalist, has been Baguio correspondent FRAN ANK CIM IMA for the Philippine Daily Inquirer since 1993. His poems have been published in various magazines and anthologies and have won awards. MIKAEL DE LARA CO has an undergraduate degree in environmental science from the Ateneo, and has been a fellow at various national writers workshops. He has received both local and international awards, including the Carlos Palanca first prize for poetry in both English and Filipino and was a runner-up for the Meritage Press Holiday Poetry Prize in 2006. K RI STI AN C OR DE RO has published three collections of poetry. Mga Tulang TIAN COR ORDE DER Tulala: Piling Tula sa Filipino, Bikol, at Rinconada (Goldprinting, 2004) won the Madrigal-Gonzalez Best First Book Award in 2006.

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CARLOMAR ARCANGEL DAOANA DAOANA, poet, journalist, columnist for the Manila Bulletin, and former junior associate of the UST Center for Creative Writing and Studies, is the author of Marginal Bliss (UP Press, 2002). EU GE NE Y A SC O is an Associate Professor of malikhaing pagsulat and EUGE GEN Y.. EV EVA SCO panitikang Filipino at UP Diliman, specialized in Philippine folklore and children’s literature history and criticism. He has received numerous awards, and was inducted into the Carlos Palanca Hall of Fame in 2009. VLADIMEIR B. GONZALES teaches panitikan, malikhaing pagsulat, and kulturang popular in UP Diliman; and has published two collections of creative nonfiction, both bestsellers, Isang Napalaking Kaastigan (Milflores, 2008) and ASide, B-Side (Milflores, 2009), and blogs at He is a member of the Congress of Teachers/Educators for Nationalism and Democracy (CONTEND). JOSE CLAUDIO B. GUERRERO has a BA in creative writing and is about to get an MA in the same field, both from UP Diliman, where he also teaches English and creative writing. The essay included here won a Palanca first prize in 2008. BAMBI L. HARPER has an MA in English Literature from Georgetown University in the US, and is currently enrolled for a PhD in creative writing at UP Diliman. She describes herself as an antique dealer, cook, columnist for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and Intramuros housekeeper. She also has a Chevalier des Arts et Lettres from the French government. R A, poet, scholar, critic, and librettist is a UP professor BI E N V E N ID O L LUMBER L.. LUMBE BIE emeritus, and continues to serve as adviser to the UP ICW. He received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for journalism, literature, and creative communication arts in 1993 and was named National Artist for Literature in 2006. He has also received numerous other awards including the Philippine Centennial Literary Prize for Drama in 1998 and the Cultural Center of the Philippines Centennial Honors for the Arts in 1999. EDGAR B. MARANAN MARANAN, bilingual poet, fictionist, essayist, playwright, translator and writer of children’s stories, has numerous awards and has attended writing programs in various countries, and served as information officer of the Philippine Embassy in London. He was inducted into the Carlos Palanca Hall of Fame in 2000.



K AR LR SA ARL R.. DE ME MESA SA, author of Damaged People: Tales of the Gothic Punk (UP Press, 2006), has worked as journalist, marketing account executive, communications consultant, executive producer, editor, and tarot card reader. He plays guitar for the instrumental post-rock band Biscochong Halimaw and runs a horror in media blog. SH AR ON AN NE BR ES P AN GI L IN AN has an MA in Philippine studies ANN BRIION ONE PAN ANGI GIL ARON from UP Diliman, where she also teaches panitikan and kulturang popular. She is a member of the Amado V. Hernandez Resource Center, a grassroots cultural institution. C HU C K BE R RY P A SC UAL has an MA in Philippine studies and is working on a HUC BER PA SCU PhD in malikhaing pagsulat in UP Diliman. He teaches Filipino at the Ateneo High School and is a member of KULITI, a young writers’ group. L AN JR Z OSIMO QU QUIIBI BIL JR.. won the Madrigal-Gonzalez Best First Book Award for Pagluwas (UP Press, 2006) in 2008. He continues to write in Filipino despite having moved to Los Angeles some years ago, and is working on his forthcoming novel. JUN CRUZ REYES teaches at UP Diliman and has won numerous awards, including the Philippine Centennial Literary Prize for his novel Etsa-Puwera (UP Press, 2000) in 1998. Aside from serving as panelists in the writing workshops held by UP and other universities, he holds regular free writing workshops for different groups in Hagonoy, Bulacan. ROMMEL RODRIGUEZ has a PhD in malikhaing pagsulat from UP Diliman, where he also teaches panitikan and malikhaing pagsulat. He is an active member of the CONTEND and does volunteer work for Karapatan. RICA B OL TOS has a BA in humanities and an MA in English literature BOL OLIIPATA SAN SANT from the Ateneo, where she teaches. She currently heads the Ateneo Library of Women’s Writing (ALIWW), teaches English and literature at the Ateneo, and is working on her PhD in creative writing at UP Diliman. Her first book, Love, Desire, Children, Etc. (Milflores, 2005) won the Madrigal-Gonzalez Award in 2007. JOEL M. TOLEDO TOLEDO, has undergraduate degrees in journalism and creative writing, and an MA in creative writing, all from UP Diliman. He has been published by UST and Giraffe, and most recently, by UP Press (The Long Lost Startle, 2009). He has won several literary awards including the prestigious Bridport Prize in the UK.

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RICARDO M. DE UNGRIA served as Chancellor of UP Mindanao for two terms and is at present Commissioner for the Arts at the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA). He is a fellow of the UP ICW, and has published several poetry collections, including the groundbreaking Pidgin Levitations (UP Press, 2006) and Waking Ice (Anvil, 2000), which have won him both national and international recognition.

The Editors C R ISTI NA P AN TOJA H O has published more than thirty books, and TIN PAN ANT HII DALG ALGO won several national literary awards, among them the Carlos Palanca Grand Prize for the novel. She is a professor at UP Diliman, has served as director of the UP Institute of Creative Writing and the UP Press, and is currently vice president for public affairs of the UP System. CHARLSON ONG has published three short story collections and three novels, for which he has won a host of prestigious prizes, including the Philippine Centennial Literary Prize for the Novel for An Embarrassment of Riches (UP Press, 2000). His latest novel is Banyaga: A Song of War (Anvil, 2006). He teaches creative writing at UP Diliman. N O has published numerous books, among them Sakit AN DO B. T OL EN TI ROL TOL OLE TIN OLAN AND ng Kalinkingan: 100 Dagli sa Edad ng Krisis (UP Press, 2005), and has received many both international and national awards, the most recent being Distinguished Visitor from UC-Berkeley and UCLA Southeast Asian Studies Consortium (2006). He is the current dean of the UP Diliman College of Mass Communications. All are fellows of the UP Institute of Creative Writing.



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