Tuesday, July 26, 2011


If you’d ask, why have I been switching jobs that fast in the past months, perhaps, Flannery O’Connor could explain it better to you than I do. Just look for Enoch Emery, when his blood was conspiring something, and he got to do what he got to do. I was thinking about this, walking past Kapitan Tomas Monteverde elementary school, thinking, I only desire a simple life, why do things easily get so entangled? When a ball jumped out of the fence and for a while, looked like it will bounce on the roof of some running jeepney. Luckily, it didn’t. Instead, it bounced back the side of the road and got caught by the passersby before me. The guy played with the ball for a while and almost reverently put the ball down on the pavement and left. Just as I moved to pick it up so that I can throw it back to the fenced campus where it came from, another onlooker got it ahead of me and did just what I had in mind.
I was thinking about Flannery O’Connor all the while. I was thinking why would Flannery O’Connor choose a character like Hazel Motes to cross the path of another character like Enoch, to cross the path of the blind man, the fake, and later turn to be the real blind man himself?
Why would Hazel Motes stand there as if struck as he watched the peeler when what interested him were the scars on the face of the blind man and the blind man himself? Why would Sheilfa suddenly leave the entire bunch of books—containing Flannery O’Connor and Flannery O’Connor—in the lobby of the Bagobo hotel and call me days later to ask if I already got it? Is Sheilfa some kind of a Hazel Motes?


Yes, I know, it must be sad to lose a father; yet, I can’t help wondering, how much sadder to lose a son? Or, how is it to have a father and not to have one at the same time? Or, to have one who is still alive but who is not quite a father at all, the way a classmate’s father or a friend’s father is, even if only taken for granted? It wouldn’t really matter, would it? As long as he is there: mad or angry, friend or a foe, someone to rebel against or someone to follow; as long as he is not someone living a separate life totally different from your own.
How is it to have a father that way? You don’t know how it feels, Ma, because you have had a father all your life. Do you know how it feels to be me?
Before the news came about the passing of your father’s father, you woke up one morning, saying you dreamt that your father was dead. Were you sad? I asked. Why were you sad? I asked again when you nodded.
Because then, he would no longer have the chance to know me, you said, speaking as if you were still a work-in-progress, soon to be completed in some future time, like some deadline for your architectural plates, before being offered to some distant, unworthy god. You did not ask who fathered me when I grew up. I would have told you it was my mother.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Gift from the Hermit

My Birthday Card is a hermit, shown here as an old man in a long robe, looking straight into the lamp, giving the light his full attention. In the horizon, where the hermit stands, is a mountain, denoting isolation and distance.
On a special day, I tracked down the hermit where he lives to beg from him a bit of that isolation and distance which has endowed him the eternal wisdom.
Instead, the hermit showed me a box full of mementoes of forgotten things, now soiled and full of cobwebs.
I opened the box and two decades of dust flew off the lid, clouding my eyes. Afterwards, I saw books half-eaten by termites and ants; among them, “The Principles of Structures,” “Advanced Mathematical Formulas,” before a dusty executive organizer, its pages stained and browned with age, caught my attention. Its once white cover page, now badly stained, showed what could only be inconsequential scratches made by a baby with a fuschia pentel pen. The following page showed the name of a woman who lived at 202-F Tres-Labangon St. with a business address at Sunstar Daily, Osmena Boulevard, Cebu City; and the old telephone numbers, 54543 and 52658, still in use before that newspaper changed its address to its own building along P. del Rosario St., boasting of its first of a kind newspaper architecture in that part of the country.
The following page of the organizer showed a three-year reference calendar, denoting the years 1992, 1993 and 1994 and somewhere towards the end of 1994; a ballpen scribbling of a woman’s hand showed a series of dates from January 1 to 14, when she wanted to take a leave of absence from work. Immediately beside this note, as emphatic as if she was ordering herself, she wrote another note which says, “On November 15 or November 30, book a plane ticket to Cotabato for a December 31 flight.”
Everything that followed was history. How she made that crucial decision and boarded the Airbus 320 flight—or was it a smaller aircraft then?—that took her away from that place of nightmares, perhaps, forever. How someone had come only a few days after that looking for what he could no longer see, now safely intact and unreachable across the sea. How she had come to watch those inconsequential scratches of fuschia eventually transformed themselves into plates of architectural drawings.
The Hermit’s lamp particularly illumined the lone entry of the journal on January 2, 1993, which says, “3:07 a.m.,” the major source of energy for the woman. It was the only entry she wrote on her journal that year because of the volume of mind-numbing work she had to do. Her superhuman energy turned her into the female version of the mythical Bernardo Carpio. In the following pages, where her January 16, 1993 entry was supposed to be, the woman had crushed out the “3” and replaced it with “4;” which means that the next entries were made in 1994, exactly a year after she wrote her lone entry.
I took a look at all the entries of the journal, over and over, wondering how the woman was, what happened to her over the years? Clipped in the journal was the December 20, 1993 x-ray results, which says, “no radiological evidence of active PTB,” for the woman, 24 at that time, was frequently worried about her lungs and her frequent coughing.