Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Fidel's March: A Screenplay of a Novel (Chapter 01)





"cover" art by Marcel Antonio





(LISTEN, this is a novel. Oh, okay, this is a screenplay. A screenplay-novel, if you will, since I’m this film director without a job intent on writing my first novel. A novel is all I can do right now, and it’s the closest thing to a movie; but since I don’t know much about how novels are written, let me write mine as a screenplay—at least in the way I write my screenplays, since many screenwriters don’t agree with how I write them.)

@ @ @

THE door had a sign that read “WALANG INGAY.”
     In his studio, Fidel’s portraits and portraits-in-progress were all over the walls, on some chairs, on the floor leaning on the walls. They were unframed mainly-blue paintings of fisherfolk looking over their shoulders, otherwise in profile or with only the backs of their heads available to the viewer. Sometimes these would be profile portraits of important clients posing as fisherfolk or merely looking at fish in beached outrigger boats or in tin buckets.
     On a wall was a shelf with award trophies and plaques. On an unpolished table with knife and hammer marks was an album opened to clippings of a couple of recent reviews, with a photograph of the artist, Fidel Roxas. One of the reviews had the headline, “Pride of Soria, Samar, the Philippine art world’s new darling.”

@ @ @

If we are to view a map of the San Juanico Strait that wiggles between the islands of Samar and Leyte and move up close, Google Earth-fashion, we would see that Samar is to the north of the strait, Leyte island to the south. At the eastern mouth of the strait is the airport on the northeastern-most tip of Leyte on a peninsula that projects out to sea to meet the strait's current as it sucks in water from the Philippine Deep to get more of it into the center of the Visayan group of islands.
     The airport is the nearest one to Soria. The nearest airport on Samar Island is more than a hundred kilometers far up north, in Calbayog City. To get to Soria from Tacloban's airport one would have to travel westward to the city of Tacloban and then past it, further westward, to get to that narrow part of the strait where little islets also look like stepping stones for giants. Here, kilometers out of Tacloban, the three-kilometer-long San Juanico Bridge crosses the strait to get to Samar, wiggling in its S-shaped fashion with its several feet fixed to some of the islets or shallow parts of the water.
     Upon reaching Samar, a quick turn to the right leads to the first town, the municipality of Soria.

@ @ @


March 1. From the Samar side of the strait, one could see the shores and mangroves on the Leyte side of the strait sparkling with the green of its trees over the slow current, moving ever so slightly with the swaying coconut palms behind, as they met the gaze of an eastern sun.
     The length of the San Juanico Bridge accompanied the eye as it crossed the strait to Leyte. Were one in a vehicle crossing the bridge to Leyte, the vehicle's reaching the Leyte side would lead him to see the arch with letters on it that read “Welcome to Leyte.”
     Just then, a gas-guzzling Ford Expedition approached the entrance to the bridge, about to cross to
Samar island.
     In the Expedition, Fidel’s hands were on the steering wheel. Electronic music was playing on his car’s CD deck.
     When the car neared the bridge’s Samar Island-side exit, it saw a sign ahead, standing askew and facing the right side of the road, which read “Welcome to the San Juanico Bridge.” Below it, another sign read “To Leyte.” Fidel’s car passed a segment of the bridge with a missing railing, reportedly removed by thieves.
     Fidel’s car approached the Samar island entrance of the bridge, an army checkpoint, his hands clutching the steering wheel before the car went under an arch with letters that read “Welcome to Samar.” He was now on Samar island.
     Turning one’s sight from the bridge checkpoint to a scanning view of Samar island ahead, one could see a tree-ridden part to the right, a high mountain with a rock cliff behind it. But gazing at the trees, one’s enjoyment of the view would be troubled by one or two overloaded jeepneys crawling on the white concrete highway before the green, loaded with commuters and carrying sacks of copra and some men on the roof. There might be a jeepney coming from the Bridge and a couple of jeepneys moving towards the Bridge. These passed the road to the right of the Expedition as Fidel slowed down, looking at the side of the road where a green arrow signboard stood beside a handful of waiting people. The sign read “To Soria,” and Fidel slowed down to see if there was someone from Soria he knew waiting for a jeepney whom he could give a free ride to.
     Fidel, behind the steering wheel, passed the “To Soria” sign and the handful of people.

@ @ @

Standing by a rock behind the "To Soria" sign, sixtyish Vicente and his comely-faced 17-year-old cameraman, actually a cameragirl, watched the Bridge tremble a bit as a bus headed for the
Samar exit. Then they went back to their invisible car, going through the “To Soria” sign like mist, and invisibly drove in the direction of Soria, behind Fidel’s Expedition.
     The comely cameragirl was shooting Vicente driving. Vicente, a man with a usually smiling face, was saying to the camera, “papunta tayo sa bahay ng successful young painter na si Fidel Roxas, pintor ng mga portraits ng mga mangingisda. Pero ang mga mangingisda ay ayaw humarap sa pintor. Kung ang pintor ay may kamera, sasabihin mong ayaw humarap ng mga mangingisda sa mga painting na ito sa kamera ng pintor.” He laughed. “Ewan ko ba kung bakit ganun ang style niya. Anyway, asawa siya ng anak kong si Joanna na . . . si Joanna, ang anak ko, baliw na baliw sa asawa niya at sa mga gawa nito. Ewan ko ba sa anak ko. Masyadong nabubulagan ng magagandang kulay.”

@ @ @

Vicente and his female companion invisibly stood at the harbor of Soria, Samar. Some fishing boats and a few commuter launches were using the harbor. At the foot of the harbor was a wet market, mainly selling fish. Vicente stood in a white collared shirt with front pockets, and white pants and white shoes. He stood there with a small wireless microphone clipped to his collar and a cigar in his fingers or mouth. The cameragirl had on a pair of jeans, a T-shirt, sneakers, and a wristwatch.
     Some fisherfolk and other wristwatch-less people in the harbor were looking in the direction of the urban two, towards the launches and fishing boats in the pier, but they couldn’t see the invisible two. They couldn’t see Vicente in his all-white getup, they couldn’t see the cameragirl.
     From the harbor Vicente and his companion walked up to the marketplace, and then further onward in the direction of the other busy areas of the small but pretty town. They walked upwards this hilly town, a town which was built below a mountain. A small walk away, they saw the old town church. The municipal hall was near the church, as is usual among Philippine towns.
     Soon, they were turning a corner to the left, westward, to an asphalt road. As they turned this corner, they saw an old house farther up the road, the second floor of which loomed above the roofs of the one-story houses near it, even above the one-story house elevated from the ground. The neighborhood had both middle-class bungalow houses and poor men’s houses standing side by side along the clean road. Vicente and his cameragirl walked towards the shiny old house.
     It was a rather big, old two-story house, restored instead of renovated, looking shiny and good even while the repainting tried artificially to simulate an antiquated olive green patina.
     Since the harbor, Vicente—walking, not hurrying—had been talking to his cameragirl who kept on shooting. Earlier he was saying, to the camera, “Ito po ang bayan ng Soria, Samar. Dito na nakatira ang aking mahal na anak na si Joanna at ang kanyang asawa. Hay naku. Miss na miss ko na ang anak ko. Noon, kami lang ang magkasama sa bahay namin sa Tacloban nung yumao ang kanyang ina. Matagal nang namatay ang misis ko at ako ngayon ay palaboy-laboy (He laughed). Hindi taga-rito sa Soria si Joanna o ang kanyang asawa, pareho taga-Tacloban ang mga ‘yan, may nabili lamang silang lumang bahay rito. Ayun o (pointing to the street). Pero diyan lang naman ang Tacloban e, ang pinakamalapit na lungsod mula rito, pagkatawid lang ng San Juanico Strait.” Mentioning the strait, he then pointed at the waters beyond the harbor that could be seen above the roofs of the houses on the sea side of the road. They had already walked quite far up. “Para makatawid ng San Juanico Strait papuntang lungsod ng Tacloban sa island ng Leyte, dadaan ka sa San Juanico Bridge. Diyan lang yun, malapit lang, nandun tayo kanina, di ba? Alam mo, ‘pag ikaw nga naman ay may nararating, sabi nila ikaw ay may tinatawirang mga tulay (He laughed). Well, ngayon nandito na tayo. Sa bayan ng Soria, sa isla ng Samar. Ang anak ko ay Mrs. Roxas na ngayon, at yun ay dahil ang napangasawa niya ay ang kanyang high school sweetheart na si Fidel Roxas. Si Fidel ay isa nang kilalang pintor, tulad ng sabi ko kanina. Napakabatang sumikat. . . . At ako? Well, tulad ni Joanna ako ay madalas ding wala do’n sa bahay namin sa Tacloban, at ang anak ko hindi alam kung nasaan ako ngayon. . . . Pero, ngayong araw narito ako. Well, binibisita ko ang aking anak, matagal ko na rin siyang hindi nakikita. . . . Yun ang bahay ng anak ko at ng kanyang asawa, dito sa Soria,” he said, pointing to the only house in the street that had a second story, the house with false antique olive green patina.
     The cam-girl’s camera walked further up the street. Now they were high up from the harbor and walking flat on the plateau of the town.
     “Okay, ‘andito na tayo sa harap ng bahay,” said Vicente to the girl’s camera. “Minsan kakatok tayo at bibisitahin natin ang anak ko. Pero hindi muna ngayon. Si Joanna—I’m sorry, Joanna ako nang Joanna, Mrs. Roxas na pala. Anyway, malapit lang naman ang bayan ng Soria sa Tacloban, pagtawid ko ng San Juanico Bridge nandito na ako, kahit kailan puwede ko silang bisitahin.”
     Vicente smiled. He was now standing in front of the house across the concrete road. The house’s front had a beautifully-designed garden. Fidel’s Ford Expedition was in the garage way, visible through the wrought-iron gate.
     Vicente looked towards the cameragirl’s camera and smiled. “Ang ganda ng bahay, ano? Alam niyo, pag-usapan natin si Fidel. Dati mahirap lang ‘yan si Fidel at ng kaniyang nag-iisang kapatid, si Federico. Si Federico ay isa na ring pamosong batang arkitekto ng Pilipinas. Ang suwerte ng magkapatid na ‘to, at ang huhusay. Galing sa isang mahirap na pamilya, tulad ng marami sa atin, nguni’t . . . (laughing) yumaman ang mga gago.”

@ @ @

Vicente was saying, “If we are to do a flashback, we could see Fidel pushing the gate bell button at the Apostols’ house in Tacloban. Then he would ask if Joanna was in.”
     The then-fiftyish Vicente would grudgingly reply with a near-shout towards the high-schoolish Fidel: “wala siya rito! Umalis!”
     “Sige po, salamat po, Mang Vicente,” Fidel would respectfully say, walking away with a shake of the head.

@ @ @

Vicente giggled. “Tingnan mo, tingnan mo, ang ganda ng mga halaman sa garden na ‘to.
Para bang dinesenyo ng isang artist (He smiled). Sigurado akong hindi si Fidel ang nagdisenyo ng garden na ‘to dahil walang kahilig-hilig sa halaman ang batang yun.”

@ @ @

“If we are to do another flashback to the same period,” Vicente said, yes a flashback like the one he did above, we’d see the high-schoolish Fidel again addressing Vicente who would be on the Apostols’ front porch with a newspaper, “sige po, Mang Vicente, alis na po ako,” to which bidding Vicente would simply reply with a grunt, and Fidel would walk a couple of steps backwards on the pavement leading down to the gate while waving to Joanna (whose then younger face would pretty much look like that of our present invisible cameragirl's) by the window with the capiz shell blinds. Then Fidel would step on a flowering plant in a pot, with Joanna laughing at the sight.

@ @ @

Vicente sighed, sadly smiling, and then said, “ganito
sana ang garden namin ni Joanna, kung di lang ako nagpabaya sa kanya matapos mamatay ang aking asawa. Kung kaya’t naglayas si Joanna. Sure, naging direktor din tulad ko, short filmmaker actually, mga short films lang naman ang mga gawa niya, tapos nagturo sa U.P. at sumusulat lang sa ‘kin paminsan-minsan mula sa bahay ng tita niya sa Metro Manila. Minsan umuwi, pero sandali lang. ‘Yun ang huli naming pagkikita, five years ago. Or rather, di na niya ako nakita nung umuwi siya ng Tacloban para magpaalam sa akin, para sabihing magpapakasal na sila ni Fidel. Wala na ako sa bahay. Or, . . . naroon kaya ako?”
     Vicente’s face was suddenly sad. But soon he was back to his usual smiling face.
     “Tingnan niyo, tingnan niyo,” he said as he and his cameragirl, the cameragirl who could be Joanna's younger sister, crossed the street and started to go through the gate.
     “Oops, may tae ng aso,” said the cameragirl.
     “Saan?” said Vicente.
     “Ayan o.”
     “Ay, oo nga,” said Vicente, and stepped over the dog’s shit.
     The cameragirl laughed, saying, “hindi ka naman mangangamoy kahit matapakan mo iyan e.”
     “Ang galing mag-disenyo ng hardin nitong si Joanna, mana sa kanyang ina,” Vicente continued, giggling. “May mga damong mahaba na hinayaang mahaba sa isang sulok. Ganyan din ang kanyang ina. Nakakatakot nga lang kung ahasin pero . . . alam niyo, ang anak ko ay kilala sa art society bilang ang short filmmaker na si Joanna Apostol na anak ni direk Vicente Apostol. Ako yun. At kung dati ang inaayos niya’y mga bagay-bagay sa set ng sinu-shoot niyang short film, itong hardin ngayon ang art niya. Hindi na mga ilaw o props o actors ang inaayos kundi mga damo at bulaklak na lamang.”
     He laughed, but also with a kind of sadness.
     “Sayang. Halika,” he said to the girl’s camera, “pasok tayo, baka may tao.”
     The two went through the locked wrought-iron gate like mist. Near the stairs going up the house the pretty lass with the camera said, “akala ko ba di ka muna dadalaw sa kanila ngayon.”
     He laughed.
     “E, andito na tayo e,” he said.
     The cameragirl smiled, lovingly looking at Vicente.
     They climbed the front stairs. Below the stairs was a closed door.

@ @ @

The cameragirl surveyed with her camera the living area of the beautifully-restored old house that looked like something created for a TV show on interior design. She went to the adjoining dining area, and the kitchen—where, in the last, a blubbery maid in blue dress was cooking, her back to the cam-girl’s camera. On every wall in each of the rooms would hang a large painting by Fidel Roxas the portraitist and smaller ones by other painters. But the hanging was not overdone as to look like a studio or saturated gallery on an art bazaar day. In short, no wall was over-decorated with paintings. In the dining area was an antique grandfather’s clock, which was my grandfather’s.
     Fidel’s portraits were all of fisherfolk looking over their shoulders, as I said. Or otherwise these were profile portraits of these fisherfolk looking either to the right or the left, or with only the backs of their heads visible to the viewer as they looked out to sea or looked over large metal basins and metal buckets of fish at their feet.
     The cameragirl went on with her camera past an open door that led to a large bedroom where a woman of about 25, also with her back to the cam-girl’s camera, was brushing her hair. The woman was facing a window that looked out to a tree. A three-year-old boy was also in the room on the master's bedroom big bed, watching TV, his back also to the cam-girl’s cam. There was a smaller bed in the large bedroom, obviously the boy’s.
     The camera-girl’s camera backed out and followed a corridor. The corridor led to a studio in back of the house on the door of which hung a sign that read “WALANG INGAY.” The door was also ajar and so the camera entered. The camera saw Fidel, a rather handsome 26-year-old young fellow with a bit of a long hair, about 5’6” tall. He was painting a portrait of a woman fish vendor’s profile in his usual quick realism that would sometimes look like Fauve or early Picasso drawings. A Liszt violin concerto was playing on the CD player.
     The camera surveyed the studio and there were more of these fisherfolk portraits, these profile or otherwise with subjects’-backs-to-the-painter portraits of fisherfolk. It was as if the painter was always more interested in the fish and the landscape and seascape and townscape and didn’t want to be bothered with details about the fisherfolk themselves.
     In the studio, there was a wide door that led to a terrace with a nice wrought-iron railing and a pretty nice view of the house’s beautiful backyard garden.
     Fidel stopped painting. He went out the door to the hallway and called to his wife.
     “Wana! Wana, halika nga muna. Joann!”
     There was no answer.
     “Wana, halika muna,” he pleaded, a bit impatient.



1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15





No comments:

Post a Comment