On my way back from Cotabato, I dropped by our old home which doesn't feel like home anymore, except for Oreo, the mother Cat and two of her four litters: Muffin and Shocklit. Earlier, I was planning to bring the other two kittens--Munchkin and BlackForest--to this place but seeing how Father whipped Oreo witless, I was thinking, no, I needed to find someplace else. I have to rescue the cats.
Our family is crumbling; I could no longer talk to Father, who is always angry; nor to Mother, who could no longer make any sense of some ordinary things; nor to my sisters, who wouldn't listen, anyway, and who never seem to care whether the old folks are safe in the house or not, or whether they are safe going to town on their own or not. The old folks are becoming very weak. I could have quit my job to watch them at home but for my sisters' bullying, I was frightened: If they can bully me now that I still have 20 years of journalism as a leverage, an anchor of my identity, what would happen if I give all that up and be a beggar? So, I refused to quit.
Besides, do they really think I can just abandon my boys, just like that?
The whole house is a mess but I'm so powerless to clean it up, especially now when I'm in the mid of writing part of a book, and I don't have any choice but scratch my way to eke a living.
Father hates my books--the books that I collected and dumped in this old house which are quite many. He hates my cats and he hates my guts. He told me in a voice that could turn my stomach inside out, I was maalam (knowledgeable), and he said it in a really deprecating tone, as if it was something I should be ashamed of, when I only warned him against eating corn that must have been contaminated by genetically-modified varieties growing in the neighborhood. He said, "maalam ka lagi," and humiliated me in front of the maid. Of course, he could not crush me. I realized that if I were an ignorant daughter, he would do the same to me. He also castigated me for talking to my cats. He asked, "Why don't you take them back to your house?" I don't have such a house, I replied. We were only renting an apartment in the city and there's nowhere else for us, nor the cats, to go. Ma regarded my books--which included my Doris Lessing collections--as garbage. When I complained I no longer have enough time to read and re-read my books, she smiled, as if to say, "What can you expect? What's the use of reading a book?" About my Latin diploma, she asked, "What are you going to do with that? Can you convert that to cash?" But this was many months ago. Now, Ma has lapsed beyond caring and disdain.
Then, adding insult to injury, sisters said, "Why don't you quit your job so that you can spend time in the farm?" Throw away 20 years of your life's work to risk an uncertain future, without the blessing nor encouragement, and with only what I can see a mocking and disdainful resistance of a wily Father. I can project myself into the future, and I can hear them say, we never asked you to sacrifice, in the first place!
Though my future here is uncertain, too, I am not the kind who would want to be crucified. After the previous Christmas party, I saw some of my books ruthlessly dumped, their spines cruelly distorted, inside cases of empty beer bottles. I went as berserk as Jesus when he discovered the people had turned the temple into a marketplace. I said, how they're treating my books only showed what kind of people they are: real barbarians! I was thinking not of Father when I say that. I was thinking of all the drunks at my sisters' party. I bet they only knew how to gulp beer but never read a single book in their lives! "Why did you brought them here in the first place?" Pa asked, still referring to my books. He loved those beer parties that much.