Thursday, August 23, 2012

Sunset in B'la

B'la is a place where you grow up in order to escape. But once you've done your escaping, you long to go back to it over and over again until the longing for eternal return threatens to break your spirit. This was what I was telling Pa as I rummaged through the dusty remains of old books and letters, one day I arrived home in B'la.
B’la came from the word B’laans, who owned the place before the settlers arrived, I heard myself saying. B’laans, the indigenous peoples in Mindanao, who were already here before the Visayan settlers came in droves. The Visayans, whose tongue had trouble pronouncing B’la, turned it into Bala, loosening it and unwittingly losing something beautiful and important. "That's not true," Pa protested, "That's a lie!" he said, "This whole place was owned by the Bagobos, there were no B'laans here!" His voice was shaking, he had trouble breathing. After all, it was Pa who beat the rest of the settlers by arriving here when the whole place was still a lauaan forest. But I love the name B'la, and I want to create a myth; and B'la and the B'laans fit in well together in the world I want to create. "Calm down, Pa," I said, "Calm down, calm down. Let's listen to a story."

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