Friday, October 23, 2009

Fidel's March: A Screenplay of a Novel (Chapter 02)



IN the master bedroom, Joanna was still brushing her hair when she was startled by Fidel's calling her name. She was quite an attractive young woman, and though it may be true that many such a beauty is diminished somewhat to become a bit of an uninteresting face once placed in the person of a young housewife busy with housework and gardening, Joanna’s youthful attractiveness still filled the house with cheerfulness, her sweat (over newly-bathed skin) and still-wet hair (smelling of fruit-scented shampoo) were mere accessories to her brown tanned glow that was a happy contrast to the red hibiscuses on her pale yellow-green sundress. Here, then, was a cheerfulness that had taken the role of a young wife in knee-length sundress or sweaty blouses, and yet couldn’t be brought into a world of disorder. She put her wooden hairbrush down on an old dressing table and hurried out.

@ @ @

Wana came into the studio smiling.
     “Bakit?” she asked.
     Fidel gestured to her to come closer. They were quite a young couple many couples would envy: young, good-looking, smart, nouveau-riche. Except that Fidel’s expressions toward Joanna made one doubt he was happy with her, even though Joanna looked without doubt very much in love with her husband and his art, in fact looked contented with the life of the young and settled.
     “Halika muna rito. Ito ba yung gusto mo? Blue na buhok?” Fidel asked, gesturing towards the painting he was working on. “O ganito?” He was now pointing at a sketch for the same work with a different color scheme.
     Wana, now right beside Fidel, was suddenly ecstatic.
     “Wow. Mas gusto ko siyempre ito,” she said, pointing at the canvas. “Alam mo naman ako, maka-blue ako e. Para kasing lumang black and white TV pag blue ang mukha at buhok. Kaya nga sinuggest ko yun e.”
     “Okay. Sige. Thank you ha. Ano’ng ginagawa ni Pablo?”
     “Nandu’n, nanonood ng cartoons, as usual. Sige ha, bantayan ko muna ang malikot na yun, baka makuryente na naman sa kalikutan.”
     “Pero mas maganda yata ‘tong violet e. I-test ko kaya.”
     Fidel quickly, jerkily, began to apply the violet on the hair. Wana, now by the door, sighed, disappointed at the disappearance of the blue, but still smiling.
     “Kasi . . . tanong ka pa nang tanong sa ‘kin, e alam mo naman pala ang gusto mo e. Magaling ka diyan e, ano bang alam ko diyan, except gusto ko lahat ng gawa mo,” she said, hurrying out of the studio.
     There was a crash.
     “Pablo!” called Joanna, running to the master bedroom, “ano ang nilikot mo diyan!”

@ @ @

The portly maid ran through the corridor. She reached the studio, where she found Fidel in the studio's terrace, in a rather angry mood.
     “Kuya,” carefully said the maid, “may long-distance po galing Maynila. Sa gallery raw.”

@ @ @

The maid and Fidel emerged from the hallway into the open living room where the breeze from the bougainvillea tree and the street right below mixed with the perfume of the house and the aroma from the kitchen. He headed for the phone, she headed towards her kitchen.
     “Hello!” said Fidel. “Uy, Ms. Lanuza, oho! Oho, matatapos ko na po yung tatlo para sa Artwalk exhibit—. Oho. Tapos may sisimulan ho akong orange series para sa Mandaluyong gallery niyo po. Opo. Opo. O sige ho, andiyan ho ako first week next month. Definite na po yun. Definitely, po. Okay ho, sige ho. Gusto niyo po i-email ko sa iyo ang images ng orange series? O sige po, no problem. Okay, pag natapos ko ho. Sigurado. Sige, po. Ba-bye.”
     Wana came into the room with Pablo in her arms. Pablo was playing with a small toy truck.
     “Si Ms. Lanuza yon?” asked Joanna, smiling as usual. “Na-schedule na ba exhibit mo? Kelan daw?” But before Fidel could answer she added, “uy, Fidel, remember, may pinangako kang painting kay Governor, tsaka sa pinsan ko. Bayad na sila pareho ha.      At ang mga commissioned works mo ha, huwag mong pababayaan na naman.”
     “Di ko pa yata kaya yung mga yun a, baka pangit lang magawa ko.”
     Joanna laughed.
     “Kelan ka ba naman gumawa ng pangit? Ha?” she said, moving towards Fidel to hug him. It’s now obvious to the cameragirl’s camera that Fidel is not a happy man although he acknowledges his wife’s caresses. Anyone who sees him in a close-up shot would wonder what he thought about himself and his state.
     Pablo said he wanted to pee. Joanna ran him to the bedroom toilet (“dito na sa bedroom toilet,” she said, laughing).

@ @ @

A dog began to drop its canine shit outside the Roxases’ house.
     Wana was at the front garden of their house with her maid. Her three-year-old toddler was playing with a toy dumptruck and pebbles around a palm plant in a large pot. Wana was trimming some shrubs and plant stems, the maid was watering the other plants.
     “Tagpasin kaya natin ang damo rito, Ate.” The maid called Joanna Ate even if she looked a year older than the latter. She was pointing her finger at a part of the garden where an island of grass was already a bit tall.
     Joanna was happy in her garden. So was the housemaid with her Ate.
     “Hindi na kailangang putulin diyan,” she said. “Alam mo, Sienna, ang damo halaman din iyan. Hindi sa bawat makakita ka ng damo gusto mo agad tanggalin, o di kaya putulin. Kung di makakaapekto sa ibang mga halaman, okay lang ang mga iyan. Puro pangdekorasyon lang naman ‘tong mga ‘to e, di ba? Wala naman prutas dito, di ba?” They laughed together. “Ibig sabihin, pati damo puwedeng gawing pangdekorasyon, ililimit mo nga lang sa isang parte. Maganda rin naman tingnan ang damo, di ba? Importante, alam mo kung sa’n mo patutubuin ang damo, saan hindi. Di ba?”
     “Opo, Ate. E, maganda sana kung Bermuda grass. Pero, yung masamang damo tulad niyan, Ate?”
     Again, they laughed together.
     “Aba, ito masamang damo. Pero maaaring gumanda ang tinatawag nating masamang damo kung nagagamit natin sa ating hardin, di ba? Dito sa sandy part, ayan.”
     Joanna extended her sermon as she worked with trowels and clippers, as Sienna kept on saying “oho” in agreement:
     “Parang tao yan e. Ang mga bahay-mahirap ba dapat itago sa likod ng isang malaking fence o di kaya tagpasin? Hindi, di ba? Merong makikitang ganda sa mga bahay-mahirap. Oo nga, tinuturing ng maraming pulitiko na nagpapapangit sa bayan ang mga bahay-mahirap. Pero kung susuriin nga, ang daming bahay mayaman na ang babaduy ng disenyo.”
     “Oo nga, Ate.”
     They chuckled in amusement at the thought.
     “Ewan ko ba sa ibang mayayaman, nakakalimutan nang kumain ng bananacue at gusto ang bahay nila mukhang Amerikano.”
     Sienna made a face in agreement.
     “Iba kasi ang isip ng mayayaman, Ate e,” Sienna said. “Kayo nga kayo, iba kayo ni kuya. Isipin niyo itong lumang bahay pa ang biili niyo, samantalang puwede naman kayong nagpagawa ng kongkreto bahay.”
     “Hindi kasi kami galling sa mayamang pamilya, Sienna, alam mo naman yan. Bagong yaman lang kami.”
     They both giggled.
     “Alam mo, tama ka,” Joanna said, “ang karamihan dyan, isip aircon.”
     They laughed loudly, with the knowledge that the Roxases’ house didn’t have a single aircon’d room, with the bedroom the only room with screened doors and windows.
     The whole facade and gate of the house seemed to likewise enjoy the moment as they talked and trimmed and plowed and watered the shrubs and the orchids and the flowering ones, happy were they as the guarded birds and flimsy butterflies and triumphant leaves and the light through the leaves that made shadows on the sandy soil and the colors were happy, and the laughter in Joanna’s and Sienna’s conversation pummeled the walls and the pebbles free from their peace.
     In front of the house outside of the fence the invisible old man Vicente talked again to the invisible camera, continuing to talk as a tricycle or a bicycle went through his body. The gate was open. He was saying:
     “Itong aking si Joanna, nakuntento na lamang sa pag-aalaga ng bahay at bata. Di nga ba’t tinuruan ko siyang humawak ng kamera noong high school pa lang siya, dahil nga gusto ring maging direktor ng mga sine tulad ko? Di ba? Tsk, tsk, tsk. Sayang. Mas minarapat niyang ialay ang kanyang buhay sa ganitong buhay kesa sa sining.” He paused. “Subalit, baka naman hindi sayang dahil . . . kung di man nasa likod ng kamera ang mga mata niya, nakakatulong naman ang mga ito sa mga obra maestra ng asawa niya paminsan-minsan, di ba? So, may art pa rin sa kanyang buhay.” He smiled. “Kaya okay lang siguro. Kung sabagay, may kasama siya sa gardening art niya: itong si Sienna. At 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.” He sighed. “Kaya, okay na rin siguro ‘tong ginawa niya. May audience na totoo, kahit isa o dalawa lang.” He smiled.
     The old man Vicente started to go back into the yard past the open house gate, a bird flying through his chest. The cameragirl said, “Oops, Pa, me tae ng aso.”
     “Sus, ano ba’ng ginagawa ng mayor sa bayan na ‘to? Pati aso sa daan, di kayang paalisin.”
     Now, back inside the yard, Vicente sat on a step of the front stairs that led up to the porch. “Mahal ‘tong bahay na ito, alam niyo ba. Binili nilang mag-asawa mula sa isang matanda na nasa Hawaii na ngayon kasama ng kanyang anak na nurse. Si Fidel ang unang nakakita ng bahay na ito. Ganda, ano. Tiyak magugustuhan ‘to ng kapatid ni Fidel na isa nang sikat na arkitekto.”

@ @ @

As we said, Fidel’s portraits were all of fisherfolk looking over their shoulders. Or otherwise they were profile portraits. Or mere heads with their back to the viewer, foregrounding a seascape or beachscape.
     Vicente was all over the house’s living room and dining hall, looking at the portraits. One had two coconut tree trunks looking like Greek columns in a classical painting. Another had a fisherman at the center of the painting standing on his boat looking out to a dark beach, waving his hand to dark faces on this beach, one child’s shadow profile on the beach waving back. The star of the painting was the orchestra of palm tree leaves in the background profiled against a dark orange sky.
     “Mga portrait ng mga mangingisda,” Vicente said to the cam-girl’s camera, “na parang ayaw humarap. Tumitingin sa kaliwa o sa kanan, di kaya nakatalikod. Ito ang style ni Fidel Roxas. Nagpapahiwatig ng kanyang pagiging malapit sa mga mandaragat at nagpapahiwatig din ng kanyang paglayo sa mga ito. Alam kaya ito ng kanyang mga taga-hangang mga mayayaman?”
     Joanna was suddenly in the living room beside Vicente, going through Vicente’s body as she called to Sienna, “Sienna, palitan mo na nga itong mga paintings ng kuya mo rito. Itong mga ito sa wall na ito, palitan mo ng mga green na paintings dun sa kuwarto ni Pablo.”
     Fidel passed them on his way to the kitchen ref to get a can of beer, saying, “palitan mo yung iba diyan ng gawa ng mga kaibigan ko.”
     “Huwag na, luv, gusto ko lahat sa iyo. At least sa wall na ‘to.”
     Fidel came out of the kitchen with the can of beer, shaking his head and passing Joanna as she continued to take down the paintings to be replaced.



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