Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fidel's March: A Screenplay of a Novel (Chapter 03)



“LATEX PAINT,” read a graffiti logo drawn with chalk on the lower, plated part of the black gate.
     Outside Fidel and Joanna’s house gate, Fidel arrived in his black Ford Expedition, honking. The maid opened the gate, and the vehicle went in.
     A front tire ran over canine shit. The maid could only look at what happened and said, “Sus!”
     Neighbors outside the house, standing before a banana-cue vendor’s stall, were looking in envy at the big house and Fidel’s new vehicle. The stall-owner had a radio blaring the rock band Yano's freedom song “Naroon.”
     “Sisirin mo sa dagat, baka naroon ang kalayaan!” it sang.
     One of the tambays (bystanders) said, “Kelan kaya tayo yayaman, pare?” He spat then chewed on his banana-cue.
     His thin compadre said, “Matuto ka munang manloko o mandaya. Walang yumayaman na di marunong no’n. . . . Pare, kung ako yumaman nang ganyan, tataba talaga ako.”
     The other tambays near the neighborhood banana-cue stall laughed, while this compadre also spat and then chewed on his banana-cue.
     “Pare,” another tambay said, “di mo naman kailangang yumaman para tumaba e. Mag-apply ka diyan bilang boy. Katulong ni Sienna sa kusina. Tingnan mo si Sienna, tumaba na nang husto.”
     All the tambays, along with the women standing around the vendor, laughed. Then they all spat together. And then they chewed on their respective banana-cues.
     Vicente was standing outside the gate with his cameragirl. Vicente looked at the neighbors and shook his head. He and his cameragirl entered the closed gate, going through it, but again avoiding the dog shit, chuckling at it.
     They again climbed back up the house stairs.

@ @ @

Inside the house, in the living area, Fidel’s son Pablo ran to his Papa, kissing him then running back to his toys on the floor. Fidel just looked at his son, too tired to give him further attention. Wana was smiling, also went to Fidel to kiss him.
     She was saying, “alam mo ba yang si Pablo, may bagong salitang English na naman yan. ‘No, don’t!’ sabi niya sa’kin kanina.”
     Usually Fidel would launch into a speech over the Filipino language which he’d be wont to encourage, as against English. This was just a habit he has had from his student days among the many nationalists of the University of the Philippines at its Quezon City campus. But today Fidel just smiled on the sofa, half of his mind somewhere else, or out nowhere.
     Vicente and his cameragirl sat down on a shiny rattan sofa at a side of the living area where the rug was nothing Persian but a lovely local banig.
     “Kumusta lakad?” Joanna asked.
     “Well, nakasingil din ng konti. Kay Mr. Sia,” Fidel said, frowning a bit as if it was hot in the house.
     “Alin yun?” she asked.
     Indifferently, he said, “Yung . . . buong family na portrait.”
     “Buong family, di ko nakita yun a,” she said.
     The cameragirl went to the kitchen with her camera and was shooting the maid brewing coffee and unwrapping and then slicing binagol. Binagol is made from talian—a giant taro variety—cooked with coconut and molasses syrup and then, after having been pre-cooked, placed inside half of a coconut shell and covered in leaves tied around the shell with a thread and thereafter steamed.
     Sienna cut the strings and removed the leaf cover. She slid a knife under the sticky cake and, turning over the shell, dropped the cake to a plate where she sliced the cake into eight little sticky slices.
     Back in the living room, the couple got up and moved to the dinner table. The maid served them the coffee and binagol, intermittently glancing at Fidel.
     As soon as the couple settled, Fidel asked, putting sugar in his coffee:
     “Speaking of art, Joanne, . . . ikaw, kelan ka babalik sa art mo?”
     “Ha?” said Joanna.
     “Sa paggawa mo ng mga short films, di ba? Nami-miss ko na e.”
     Joanna smiled and sighed.
     “Ano’ng art ba ang pinagsasasabi mo?” she said, putting sugar into her cup, “tapos na ako ro’n, ano.”
     Vicente and the cam-girl just sat in the rattan sofa across the hall in the living area, looking at the couple in the dining area.
     “Ikaw talaga,” said Fidel, “kahit digital camera ba e. Tutal me pera na tayo, ibenta mo ang luma mong kamera, bili ka ng bago. Digital, mas mura, pati post-production.”
     “Sus, Fidel, huwag na nating pag-usapan yan. At ang luma kong kamera, di ko ipagbibili yun, regalo ng Tatay yon. At wala na akong oras para diyan, ano.”

@ @ @

Vicente said to the camera, “Kung sabagay, sino nga ba naman ang nanonood ng mga short films niya noon? Well, mga estudyante, at pagka-graduate ng mga yun iba na ang tatangkilikin na mga pelikula at artista. Puro Amerikano na, wala na kasing nirerequire na panoorin.”

@ @ @

Now it was evening. They were at dinner at the dining table. Vicente and the cameragirl were not in the rattan sofa anymore. Pablo had fallen asleep on the living area sofa, his toy trucks now in a box below the sofa. The couple continued their conversation as they ate.
     “Ano pa bang oras ang kelangan mo?” Fidel asked. “Unless tinatamad ka lang.”
     Joanna was starting to get irritated and sighed. But she soon smiled and said:
     “Hindi ako tinatamad. Wala lang akong motivation. Para saan ba yon? Sabi nga nila, kung wala ka namang isusulat, huwag kang magsulat. Ako, wala akong isu-shoot. Nakakahiya naman kung gumawa ako ng documentary tungkol sa mga paintings mo. Yun lang ang love ko sa ngayon, ang mga paintings mo, ikaw, si Pablo. Period.”
     Fidel sighed.
     “O, yun pala e. E di ito ang gawin mong subject. Ang bahay, ang garden mo, o kung gusto mo mas malawak diyan, yung bagong barangay natin, o ang bagong hometown natin. Maganda nga yon, pareho tayo di galing dito, may naiiba tayong pananaw tungkol sa mga taga-rito. Baka mas positibo.”
     “E, para saan naman yun, ano? Yun nga ang tanong e. Sino ba’ng nanonood ng short films? At sino’ng magpapalabas?”
     Fidel was insistent. He said:
     “Alam mo, huwag mo munang isipin kung sino ang manonood ng mga short films mo. Hindi mo alam, baka sa susunod na henerasyon ng mga Pilipino sikat na sa TV ang mga short films. Darating na ang panahon na magiging isa na lang ang pera sa buong Southeast Asia. Tapos no’n, baka maging bahagi ng United Republics of Southeast Asia na tayo.”
     “E, ang tagal pa no’n e. At ano naman ang kinalaman nun sa short films ko?”
     “Aba, Joanna, ibig sabihin maaaring umangat ang level of education ng mga tao. Pag nangyari yun, magpapalabas na ngayon ng mga symbolist o metaphorical o poetic na short films sa TV, parang mga maliliit na D.W. Griffith o Yevgeni Bauer o Marcel L’Herbier. O, e, nasaan na ang mga pelikula mo pagdating ng panahon?”
     Joanna laughed, putting her arms on the table and staring lovingly at her husband. “Naaalala mo pa ang mga idols ko ha,” she said.
     “Alam mo,” continued Fidel, “pag pinagdugtong-dugtong mo ang mga nagawa mo na mula nung dati, baka dalawang oras din aabutin nun, puwede na rin sa sinehan yun. Para silang mga maiikling kuwento, di ba? O di kaya, ganito, isali muna natin ‘to sa mga film festivals sa labas ng bansa. O, ano? Malay mo, baka maging sikat ka rin, masama ang pangalan mo sa Pinoy artists encyclopedia ng CCP.”
     She laughed.
     “Encyclopedia na walang bumibili?”
     “Meron, ha.”
     “Sino, yung mga bumibili ng paintings mo?”
     She was laughing and Fidel was smiling at the table as he continued to eat.
     She would every now and then look at Fidel, lovingly as we said, as he ate.

@ @ @

The couple was now having dessert. The young cameragirl was standing behind Joanna.
     “Teka, teka, teka, teka. Lumalayo na yata tayo,” said Joanna, smiling, as she took a spoonful of ice cream.
     “Hindi, hindi. Ibig kong sabihin, kung sino man ang mga sikat sa isang panahon, nag-iiba yun e. Sa susunod na henerasyon, baka hindi na sila. Halimbawa, dati sikat ang mga statesmen, ito ang mga taong mga nangangalaga sa bayan, sila ang konsyensiya ng bayan. Di ba? Ngayon, kelangan politiko ka lang, kahit wala kang pakialam sa bayan mo, kahit hindi ka statesman, puwede kang iboto ng tao. At ang mga pagbabago dyan, kaugnay sa level of education ng tao yan, sa access nila sa totoong information. Hindi sila basta-basta magiging biktima ng disinformation o black propaganda ng mga taong akala mo malilinis kung mataas ang kanilang kamulatan. Kung umangat ang antas ng edukasyon, aangat din ang antas ng pagpili natin ng mga mamamahala sa atin, di ba?”
     “Right.”
     “So, ibig kong sabihin, darating din ang panahon ng pagbabago. Dahil dahan-dahang magsasawa na ang taumbayan sa bulok na edukasyon na binibigay sa kanila ng ruling class. Magkakarebolusyon sa bandang yan.”
     “Okay,” she said, smiling.
     “At pag nagkataon na ang mga tao handa nang magbasa ng libro, o manood ng metaphorical short films sa TV, as I was saying, at gustuhin nila yun kesa manood ng mga estupidong parlor games sa tanghali na tumutulong magpanatili sa kanila bilang mga walang alam, o di kaya ng mga moralizing na soap opera, . . . well, pag dumating na ang panahong yun ng pagbabago, ang tanong ko uli, eto . . . nasaan na ang mga short films mo?”
     Simultaneous to him saying that last clause she said, “nasaan na ang mga short films ko?”
     She laughed.
     “Ibig kong sabihin, huwag mo munang hintayin na magbago ang bayan bago ka gumawa ng mga bagay para sa bagong bayan.”
     She laughed again, saying, “Bagumbayan? Lugar yun e.”
     “At, baka nakakalimutan mo, do’n pinatay ang ating magiting na national hero na si Dr. Jose Rizal! Sa Bagumbayan!”
     She laughed out loud. He smiled.
     After she settled down, he said:
     “Kaya gawin mo na.”
     Joanna felt happy. She went over to sit on Fidel’s lap and kissed him. Then she went back to her chair, the cameragirl behind Joanna’s chair going through the wood of the table to get a close-up shot of Joanna on Fidel’s lap and then of Joanna’s smiling face when she was back in her chair again.
     “O, ano ka ba?” he said, smiling, while Joanna was sitting on his lap like a child, “hayaan mo. Ako’ng bahala. Basta gawin mo muna.”
     As Joanna went back to her chair, Fidel stood up to go to the kitchen to get a bottle of beer. The maid was in the kitchen eating her dinner, facing the wall.
     As Fidel walked to the kitchen Joanna said, “e pa’no ko nga gagawin, di ko naman alam kung para kanino ko gagawin. Hindi ko naman kilala ang mga Pilipino bukas, kilala ko lang ang mga Pilipino ngayon.”
     “O, di, sige,” said Fidel as he returned to the dining area. “Isipin mo na kung sino sa mga Pilipino ngayon ang gustong kausapin ng mga pelikula mo. Tapos, ibebenta natin nang ganun.”
     “Ano?”
     “Halimbawa, sino ba ang kinakausap ng pelikula mo, mga hurado sa Cannes Film Festival sa Pransiya? O sa Berlin Film Festival? O sa Venice? Toronto? Sundance? O mga kritiko sa bansa natin? Mga propesor? Estudyante? O mga mangingisda sa Leyte? . . . Kasi, pag alam mo na kung sino ang gusto mong kausapin, alam natin kung saan natin ipapalabas. E kung mangingisda nga, aba, e di hindi na natin kailangan ipalabas sa sinehan yang pelikula mo. Puwede tayong magpa-sponsor sa Coca Cola pickups para ipalabas nila sa mga barangay ng mga mangingisda. Doon, hindi sa sinehan.”
     If this were a movie, we’d surely insert here a view of such a pickup with a speaker on its roof and a small screen on a stand on the truck’s bed, an almost-square rollout screen facing the villagers.
After a pause while she was amusedly looking at Fidel, Joanna said, “Okay, pag-iisipan ko.”
     She put her teaspoon on the now-empty ice cream cup.
     “Nga pala. Talking about audience, sabihin mo nga sa akin. Sino ba ang naging inspirasyon mo noon sa mga ginawa mong short films?” asked Fidel. “Alam ko kasi di pa tayo mag-asawa no’n, di ba?”
     He was smiling, teasing, and Joanna laughed.
     “Ano ba’ng nangyayari sa ‘yo? Wala, ano. A, alam ko na. . . . Tatay ko. Siya yata ang genius sa filmmaking, di ba?”
     “Well. Sa palagay ko hindi.”
     She laughed, saying, “E, sino?”
     “Siguro co-teacher mo sa U.P. Alam ko pagkagraduate mo sa U.P. nagturo ka ro’n. Sabi ko pakasal na tayo, kaya umuwi ka sa Tatay mo, pero di mo nakita sa bahay niyo, sabi ng mga kapitbahay umalis na sa bahay niyo ang Tatay mo, kaya three years later pa tayo nagkita uli at nagpakasal. Di ba? So, ang tanong ko: three years before tayo, sino ang nakalaguyo mo? Ha?”
     “Ano ka ba?” said Joanna, laughing, “sabi na sa yo’ng Tatay ko ang pinasisikatan ko noon. . . . Actually, pinag-rerebeldehan. Sabi ko kasi sa Tatay ko, ang mga pelikula niya puro maka-mestiza at mestizo, kahit ba may social message e ayaw naman mag-empleyo ng mga artistang purong kayumanggi at mapapayat tulad ko noon. At hindi naman kami Tisoy na pamilya, di ba? Tingnan mo nga ang kulay ko.”
     “Ayaw niya ke Nora Aunor? Na may sundress na puno ng gumamela?”
     “Isang pelikula lang yon. Actually, producer niya may kasalanan.”
     “So, ano’ng nangyari?”
     “Yun. Kaya nga gumawa ako ng short film tungkol sa Christmas tree na may snow no’n, di ba? Para ipamukha ko sa kanya.”
     They both giggled.
     “Ano ka ba, ilang beses ko na kinukuwento sa yo yun a,” said Joanna.
     “O. Tingnan mo nga,” said Fidel, gesturing. “Ilang beses mo na kinuwento, hindi pa rin nakakasawa.”
     Joanna smiled, looking at him. Then she turned serious. She sighed. She looked towards the darkness of the porch.
     “Sana alam ko kung napa’no ang Tatay ko, kung nasa’n siya ngayon, kung buhay pa siya,” said Joanna, looking at the porch.
     Fidel looked at him guiltily.
     Then, smiling, she added, “tell you what, baka ‘pag makita ko siya uli ma-inspire na nga akong gumawa ng short films uli.”
     “Ha?”
     “E, wala na kasi akong pagrerebeldehan e. Ikaw, puro love lang naman nararamdaman ko sa ‘yo e, kahit pag masungit ka sa ‘kin.”
     They smiled at each other.
     There was another silence.
     Then Fidel said, “so, ayaw mo na ba talaga?”
     “Fidel,” said Joanna, turning serious, straightening up on her seat to face him as she held his hands, “ang art ko ngayon ang pamilya ko. Ginawa ko lang yon para sa university noon, nagwo-work din kasi ako sa U.P. Film Center noon habang nagtuturo. Pang-eskwelahan lang yon. Ito ang tunay na buhay, Fidel. And I love this better. Much, much better.”
     “Okay,” said Fidel, smiling. “Naiintindihan kita.”
     Fidel kissed his wife on her forehead hair, his cold beer mug-soaked palms on her neck below her ears, and then walked away.
     “Got to get back to work,” he said.
     “Pag-iisipan ko,” she said, as he turned the hallway on his way to his studio.



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