Saturday, November 28, 2009

Fidel's March: A Screenplay of a Novel (Chapter 08)



MARCH 6. Fidel woke up in his studio with a backache. He was lying down on the bare floor. Joanne was smiling over him.
    “Dito ka na nakatulog, a. Anong oras ka natulog?” Joanne asked. She looked at an empty canvas on the easel. “Buong gabi nagpinta ka?” she added, “ang ganda, a.”
     Fidel laughed. “Wala akong gana, e,” he said. “Nanood na lang ako ng TV.”
     She looked at the corner of the room where the TV’s suspended-power red light beside the power switch was still on. She stood up to turn the power switch off, then went back to Fidel, holding both his hands to lift him up.
     “Halika, breakfast na tayo,” she said, lifting him even as Fidel helped himself up.
     “Si Pablo, tulog pa?”
     “Siyempre.”

@ @ @

Fidel was smoking in the dark the previous night as he sat on the studio couch, looking at his paintings with the light coming in from the terrace’s round white bulb and the garden lamps. Later, he placed an empty canvas on the easel. But he went on sitting on the couch until he got tired of looking at the canvas and the walls and his paintings, thinking and smoking, and so went to the TV at the corner of the studio near the door to switch it on.
     The TV was tuned in to a national news channel, and there was news about the arrest of the son of the mayor of Alto town, in Iloilo province on Panay island, as the prime suspect in the gruesome murder of the wife and driver of the contender for the town’s upcoming mayoralty race. The wife and driver of the contender were found in one of the mayor’s family van at a beach, with the wife’s head smashed by a large rock that was found still on her lap, the driver punctured by a pickax that was still sticking to his neck, when the car was found. The report was saying there seemed to be a long-standing feud between the family of the mayor and that of the contender, with not a few insults exchanged between the two families through five decades as well as a tug of war between them not only for political posts in the town and the province but also for business opportunities that went with the power. Everytime a family had an upper hand during a certain term, the report said the other family would face harassments in relation to business permits, taxes, et cetera. However, the feud and exchange of insults never really led to violence against each of the family, until this son came along, newly graduated from a masters degree in Tokyo University and—rumors persisted—had been involved in gang activity in Tokyo.
     Fidel was sitting watching this when something caught his eye: the TV crew had entered a storage house full of paintings. The TV crew had followed the police raid of a storage house where the son hid for two days from arresting officers, and—after the mayor’s son’s surrender—the little warehouse was found to contain a collection of paintings. The reporter was saying the mayor’s son was a collector of contemporary Philippine painters, most notably the paintings of one of Fidel’s classmate, Henderson Ulan. Ulan specialized in paintings of deformed faces.

@ @ @

On the plated, lower part of the front gate, a graffiti text written like a logo spells the word “OIL.”
     Cocks are still crowing this late in the morning.
     Fidel comes out of his house’s gate carrying a small basket of fruits and a pack of oatmeal and walks down west of the gate in the direction of the dentist’s clinic. Past the dental clinic he turns right at the first corner. At the streetcorner store, three young men—two of whom had turned their backs on Fidel to face the store—throat-extract and then spit phlegm on the asphalt edge. This was perhaps meant to display their disgust for young and wealthy individuals, but with a certain degree of fear by the back-turning. Otherwise this was just a morning habit.
     After turning the corner Fidel gets off the asphalt and enters a small yard with a small bamboo and palm hut in it. On the porch of the house is a man sitting on the bamboo floor of the porch, massaging the arm of a teenage boy accompanied by his mother. The boy would scream in pain every now and then. Fidel waits. Then the man lets them go, and the mother says her ‘thank you’ to the man named Mang Juaning.
     “Magkano, Mang Juaning?”
     “A, wala po, donasyon lang po, kahit magkano. Yung kaya nyo lang po. Pangkape lang, okay na sa akin, kilala nyo naman ako,” says the amiable Mang Juaning.
     The mother hands him a ten-peso coin.
     To the boy, Mang Juaning says, “O, tandaan mo ha, ‘di ka puwedeng magmura sa loob ng isang linggo. Kung di mo gagawin iyon babalik ang pilay mo. At huwag ka munang maglikot, ipahinga mo muna yang kamay mo.”
     “Sus,” the mother says, “iyan lang naman ang alam nila e, basketbol, puro basketbol, hanggang sa mapilayan.”
     “Mas maganda pa mag-bilyar na lang muna kayo. Baka kayo pa ang sumunod na Bata Reyes, world champion, sayang kayo,” says Mang Juaning.
     We might here recall in flashback Vicente (that’s me) saying something about Joanna at the start of this story: “Hindi na mga ilaw o props o actors ang inaayos kundi mga damo at bulaklak.” Vicente laughed, but also with a kind of sadness. “Sayang.” We might let this word echo in our minds: “Sayang … sayang … sayang.”
     “… world champion, sayang kayo,” says Mang Juaning.

@ @ @

“At magdasal ka palagi! Ha?” Mang Juaning emphasizes, talking to the boy.
     Mother and teenage boy finally bid Mang Juaning goodbye. Fidel goes up the porch and sits on the bamboo floor.
     “O, napasyal ka, Fidel. Kelangan mo ba uli ako para magmodelo? Wala kang dalang kamera a. May masakit ba sa iyo?”
     “A, wala po. Magpapamasahe lang po, Mang Juaning, paggising ko kanina, sakit po ng likod ko e.”
     “E, hindi ka kasi nagpapahinga sa trabaho mo e. Huwag masyadong masipag, ha. O, sige, sandali lang ha. Maghuhugas lang ako ng kamay.”
     “Ay, eto nga pala mga dala ko sa iyo.”
     “Uy, naku, salamat, hijo, nag-abala ka pa,” Mang Juaning says, taking the small basket.
     “Ikaw kasi, Mang Juaning, ayaw niyong tumanggap ng bayad ko sa iyo, kaya yan na lang. Prutas, kelangan niyo po yan. O, ayan, nagmumukha ka tuloy pasyente sa ospital na dinadalhan ng prutas.”
     They both laugh.
     “O, sandali, maghuhugas lang ako ng kamay ha,” Mang Juaning says, going through his half-open bamboo doorway, small fruit basket in tow. A moment later he comes out with a bottle of talcum powder. Fidel takes his shirt off. Mang Juaning starts massaging Fidel’s back.

@ @ @

“Mang Juaning, may itatanong po ako sa iyo.”
     “Aba, e, basta ikaw. Walang tanong sa mundo na di ko pipiliting makapagbigay ng sagot basta alam ko ang sagot. Aba, ang mga tao ngang di matulungin sa kapwa taga-rito, e, nakakalapit sa akin, at marami ring tanong. Sinasagot ko naman. Ikaw pa, kabago-bago mo sa barangay natin, napakarami ka nang na-donate sa ating barangay.”
     They both laugh.
     “Ikaw talaga, Mang Juaning, e ako naman ay nagbibigay lang kung nanghihingi ng donasyon ang barangay. Tsaka—”
     Before Fidel could say anything, Mang Juaning says:
     “Nga pala, Fidel, sino ba ang bisita mo nung isang araw, kapatid mo ba yun, hawig sa iyo e. Nakita ko nung bumibili ako ng bananacue sa tapat ninyo.”
     “A, oho, nakatatandang kapatid ko ho. Dalawa lang ho kaming magkapatid.”
     “A, iyon ba? … mestisuhin din ano. Pareho kayo, ano.”
     “Naku, hindi naman po ako mestiso e. Pogi lang ho ako,” Fidel says, smiling.
     Mang Juaning laughs.
     “Okay ka talaga. Yan ang gusto ko sa iyo, e, hindi ka mayabang.”
     Then there’s a pause.
     Then, Fidel says:
     “Mang Juaning, ikaw po, bilang isang manghihilot na ibang-iba ang linya sa akin, matanong ko lang po kayo, … ano po ang tingin niyo sa trabaho ko? Ibig ko hong sabihin, sa mga gawa ko ho, nakita niyo na e. Alam ko kasing isa kayong relihiyosong tao, so … ano po ang tingin niyong maaaring maidulot sa bayan ng ginagawa ko?”
     “Aba, anak, … teka nga muna. Gusto mo ba ng kape?”
     Fidel laughs, “huwag na po, katatapos lang ho.”
     Before Mang Juaning could say anything more, Fidel continues:
     “Kasi po, sabi nga po sa akin ng kapatid ko kahapon, ang mga paintings ko raw parang mga pangdekorasyon lang. Gusto lang po niya makatulong, kasi po … kasi po naman ako … e … parang di ako sigurado sa epekto ng gawa ko sa lipunan, e, ang naitutulong nito. At kaya naman kita tinatanong, baka sakali makatulong ka. Kaya, ikaw ho, bilang isa sa mga nakakita na ng mga gawa ko sa bahay, ano po sa tingin ninyo?”
     “E, ganun naman talaga ang peyntings na yan, di ba? E di nga ba pangdekorasyon naman talaga ang mga iyon?”
     “Aaaam, hindi po naman lahat, hindi po lahat. Ang totoo nga po niyan, ang sabi ng kapatid ko, wala man lang daw ni konting bahid ng pulitika ang mga gawa ko.”
     “Ano, kamo!”
     Fidel laughs a bit of a laugh. “E, kasi ho, iba kasi rito, Mang Juaning. Ibig kong sabihin, nung kaming mag-aswa ay nasa Maynila pa, ang dami naming nakakahalubilong mga artist, mga musikero, mga filmmakers, mga makata, mga manunulat ng nobela, puro ganun, mga propesor ang iba. Hanggang nagsawa po kaming mag-asawa, kaya po naman minsan gusto naming magbakasyon sa probinsiya para lang maka-experience po kami ng nandun sa piling ng mga mangingiusda, halimbawa. At iyon po ang dahilan, sa madaling salita, kung bakit nagdesisyon kaming dito na sa ating rehiyon ako magpinta. At iyon. Ang kaso nga, … mayro’n akong nakita. Nakita ko, Mang Juaning, sa unang pagkakataon mula nang maggraduate ako sa college, ngayon lang ako gumising sa umaga hanggang matulog sa gabi na wala akong nakakausap na kapwa ko pintor o di kaya isang kritiko. Alam ko ho, may grupo ng mga artist dito pero ayoko naman pong puntahan sila, kung nasa’n man ang mga bahay o tambayan nila, gusto ko kung magkakakila-kilala kami, yung natural lang na magkikita kami. At dir in ako sigurado kung gusto ko nga silang makahalubilo rito, kasi yun nga ang dahilan kung bakit ako umalis ng Maynila, di ba? Pero nayon namang wala akong makausap na kapwa artist, parang ano naman, parang … sabi nga ng kapatid ko, parang wala na akong pulitika. Ibig ko hong sabihin ng pulitika, hindi po yung pulitika ng mga pulitiko. Ang ibig kasing sabihin ng pulitika, galling po kasi yan sa salitang polity o polis na ibig sabihin ho ay ang bayan.”
     “A, ganun ba iyon? Polis, ibig sabihin ang tao, ang sambayanan.”
     “Oho, ganun ho iyon. Kaya ho ang pulitika, ibig sabihin mga bagay na may kinalaman sa tao.”
     “A, ngayon ko lang nalaman iyon a.”
     “So, yun po ang sabi ng kapatid ko, parang nawala raw ang pulitika ng paintings ko. Ibig niyang sabihin, hindi ko na raw alam kung sinong mga tao o aling bayan ang mga kinakausap ko. Sabi ko nga, baka dahil ibang mga tao na ang mga nakakahalubilo ko sa araw-araw dito. Sabi ko naman sa kanya, masaya ako rito, ayokong bumalik ng Maynila. Kaya sabi niya, hanapin ko raw ang pulitika ng painting ko para sa kalagayan ko ngayon.”
     “A, oo nga, may katwiran ang kapatid mo.”
     “E, dito naman ho, gusto ko munang malaman ang pulitika ng mga tao rito. Ibig ko pong sabihin, ang kanilang mga hilig pag-usapan, iyon ba ay ang mga maka-Diyos na bagay, ang kalagayan ng kanilang mga trabaho, o ang pulitika ng mga pulitiko.”
     “E, akala ko ba galing ka rito. Bakit parang di mo alam ang gawi ng mga tao rito?”
     “E, kasi ho, alam ho naman natin na halos bawat bayan may pagkakaiba ng hilig, di ba? Bawat kalsada nga iba ang grupo ng mga tao, iba ang mga gustong pag-usapan. Sa isang kanto puro artista ang pinag-uusapan, sa kabilang kanto puro giyera.”
     “Oo nga, ano,” says Mang Juaning, “di ko naisip yan a.”
     “Dito naman ho sa ating magkakapitbahay, mukhang ikaw lang ang may tunay na relihiyon at paniniwala, tama ho ba ako? Ang iba puro tsismis lang ang alam.”
     Mang Juaning laughs.
     “Hindi naman. Mga relihiyoso ang tao rito sa barangay natin, hindi lang naman ako.”
     “Pero, ano po sa iyong palagay? Kasi, ikaw po, alam ko po ang halaga niyo sa lipunan, ang pagpapahalaga sa inyo ng tao, di ba? Halimbawa, ako—ako alam ko ang tingin sa iyo ng tao rito. E, sa akin. Sa akin po ano ang tingin niyo, Mang Juaning, may pakinabang ba sa akin ang lipunan labas sa mga mayayamang bumibili ng mga gawa ko? Wala, di ba? Kahit nga ang mga may pera rito, gusto lang nilang magpa-paint sa akin dahil sa pirma ko, pero sa tingin ko hindi sila interesado sa sinasabi ng mga paintings ko.”
     “Mm, baka nga. E, ako nga, kung hindi niyo kinuwento sa akin ang mga sinasabi ng peyntings mo hindi ko malalaman iyon e.”
     “Iyon. Para sa mga tulad niyo na bukas ang isip, madaling sabihin ko sa iyo kung tongkol saan ito at iyon. Ang ibang tao ayaw ng nilelecturan.”
     They laugh.
     “So, sa tingin niyo po, ano kaya ang magagawa ng painting ko sa bayan natin? Ibig kong sabihin, kung halimbawa una kong i-exhibit ang isa kong koleksiyon diyan sa Munisipyo bago ko dalhin sa Maynila, ano sa palagay mo ang painting na maiintindihan ng tao rito na hindi ko na kailangan pang ituro? Sa tingin ko kasi wala, e. Kaya sa tingin ko dapat hindi ako nandito e, dapat siguro nasa Europa ako, o di kaya dapat bumalik nalang ng Maynila, o di kaya huwag nalang makipag-usap sa tao tungkol sa ginagawa ko,” Fidel says, half-laughing.
     “Alam mo, anak, me ikukuwento ako sa iyo. Alam mo, … may mga nagsasabi diyang mga doktor na ako raw ay si Dr. Laway. Kasi raw, laway lang daw ang panggamot ko. Ibig sabihin, kahit di ko nilalawayan ang mga nagpupunta sa ‘kin, ibig sabihin hanggang laway lang ako. Alam mo ang ibig sabihin no’n? Isa raw akong sinungaling. Pinagsasasabi ko raw na kaya kong gawin ‘to at ‘iyon, gayung ang totoo naman daw ay wala akong kakayahan. Ano ba ang sabi nung isang doktor na narinig ko sa radyo, palasibo lang daw ang gumagamot sa tao galing sa mga taong tulad ko.”
     “Placebo ho?”
     “Pasibo, palasibo, ewan ko, yun ang dinig ko. Ibig sabihin, kasinungalingan ang mga paggamot ko. Yun. Ang masasabi ko sa kanila, sa kabila ng kanilang talino, sa kabila ng bisa ng kanilang mga gamot, meron din silang mga di nagagamot. Ewan ko, ha, basta ako, ang paniniwala ko lang ay sa Diyos. And Diyos ang nakakabulong sa mga di nila napapagaling. Nasaan ang kasinungalingan do’n? Kahit nga ako di ko alam kung bakit may nangyayari pag pinagdadasalan ko, pa’no ako makakapagsinungaling gayung sinabi ko na sa tao na di ko alam pa’no nangyayari? Di ba? Nasaan ang kasinungalingan doon, aber? Kasinungalingan ba iyon dahil … dahil nagkaroo ng epekto ang mga dasal ko? Maaaring parating nagkakataon lamang, pero parati kong sinasabi sa tao, gagaling lamang sila sa paniniwala, hindi dahil may magic ako. Wala akong magic. Aba, kung kasinungalingan iyon, e ano ang totoo? Ang panggagamot nila, iyon ang totoo? Yung walang nangyari, iyon ang totoo? Ang basta namatay na lang na hindi naniwala sa dasal, nandun ba ang katotohanan? Hahaha, bahala sila. Basta ako, habang hinahanap ako ng tao, tutulong ako. Hindi ako ang lumapit sa tao at nagtayo ng klinik, ang tao ang lumapit sa akin.”
     “Yan po ang parati niyong sinasabi, pati ho sa mga meeting natin sa barangay association. Talagang di niyo makalimutan, Mang Juaning.”
     “Aba, hindi ko talaga makakalimutan iyon. Dahil ako ay hinusgahan. Hinusgahan ako nang wala naming nagpunta sa akin para kausapin ako.”
     There is a bit of silence as Mang Juaning continues slowly massaging Fidel’s back, Fidel sitting on the bamboo floor, Mang Juaning on his knees.
     “So, ang ibig niyo pong sabihin, Mang Juaning,” continues Fidel, “ang iyong epekto … ang epekto ng gawa niyo … ay nasa paningin … nasa paningin at paniniwala ng tao sa iyo, … ibig sabihin, nasa tingin nila, … hindi sa kaalaman nila.”
     “Yu-u-un. Kasi ako, anak, ako hindi ko rin alam e. Di ba? Hindi ko rin alam kung bakit isang araw nalang, may nahawakan akong isang bata na hindi ko naman alam na may sakit, aba at biglang gumaling. Dati na akong masahista, pero di ko alam na nakapanggagamot din pala ako. Ibig sabihin, sa banda ng mga tao yun, hindi sa akin. Di ba? At banda sa akin, ang pinakaimportante sa akin ay ako’y may naitutulong, ang epekto sa tao ng mga dasal ko na hindi ko naman sinasabing totoo, mangyari pa’y sinasabi ko pa nga sa kanila na lahat ng ‘to ay maaaring nagkakataon lamang, bagamat madalas. At hindi ako ang nakakagamot sa kanila, kundi paniniwala nila. Iyan ay parati kong sinasabi.
     Fidel thinks about it, silent, and then says “Okay na po, Mang Fidel, oaky nap o.” He goes up on his knees on the bamboo porch as Mang Fidel wipes off the talcum powder on his back.
     “Kaya, iyon ang sinasabi ko,” says Mang Juaning as he brushes the powder off Fidel’s naked back, “ang ginagawa mo … maaaring bilib ang tao … kung nakikita nila ang mga gawa mo. Pero ikaw, alam mo rin dapat ang tunay na halaga ng mga gawa mo sa tao. Ibig kong sabihin, sa araw-araw mong paggawa ng mga peyntings, anak, aba e, … basta ialay mo lang sa Diyos, hindi sa tao, hindi ka malulungkot.”
     Fidel looks at him. Then he says, standing up:
     “O sige po, Mang Juaning. Salamat po ng marami.”
     Mang Juaning too gets off his knees.
     “O, kung kelangan mo na uli ng modelo ha, narito lang ako, dalhin mo kamera mo,” Mang Juaning says with a smile. “At sagwan!”
     They both snicker.
     “A, sige po. Sige po, Mang Juaning. Thank you po.”
     “Basta yun ang sinabi ko sa iyo, Fidel, huwag mong kalimutan.”
     “Ano nga po uli iyon?” Fidel asks, half jokingly.
     “Ang epekto ng mga gawa mo sa tao, yun ang mahalaga, hindi yung sabi ng mga .. ano ba iyon?”
     “Mga dalubhasa?”
     “Iyon. At siyempre, ang paniniwala mo rin sa totoong nangyayari sa palibot mo, hindi yung galing sa kaalaman na nakuha mo sa kolehiyo.”
     Fidel walks away, smiling, raising his hand to gesture a goodbye.

@ @ @

Fidel walks back towards his house. He is thinking:
     “Sa epekto, at sa totoong nangyayari. Itong dalawa ang importante.”
     Fidel shakes his head.
     Fidel walks past his house and down the other side—the eastern side—of their street in the direction of the church and municipal building. When he reaches the corner, he stops in front of a sprawling California-style one-storey house with two cars parked in its garage area.
     “Tao po! Good morning!” Fidel calls, pushing the gatebell button.
     “Ano po iyon?” asks the maid.
     “Ahm, nariyan po ba si Board Member?”
     “Sandali lang po.”
     The Board Member shows up at her door. She seems ready to leave for the office although still in her slippers and rollers still in her hair.
     “Uy, Fidel!” the Board Member says. “Ano, matatapos na ba? Naku, marami nang naghihintay sa painting mo sa opisina ko. Do’n ko kasi isasabit yun sa isang dingding ko sa opisina. Ay, picture ko na lang pala ang kulang, ano. Si Presidente nando’n na, ano? Picture ni Governor nabigyan na ba kita? Hinihintay na rin niya! Hay naku, isa talagang hulog ka ng langit at dito ka nagtayo ng bahay mo sa Samar! Halika, pasok ka muna.”

@ @ @

In the living room of the Provincial Board member’s house, Fidel asks her, “hindi pa po kayo paalis?”
     “A, hindi pa. Upo ka muna,” she says, gesturing towards the sofa. “Wala naman kaming sesyon ngayon e. Punta lang ako ng opisina, marami akong kelangang basahin from my staff. Alam mo na. Ano, kumusta, napasyal ka.”
     “E, yun po ang pinunta ko, yung picture ni Gov, tsaka yung sinasabi mong favorite mo. E kasi ikaw po, ayaw niyong kunan na lang kita ng bago.”
     “Hindi, kasi nga favorite ko yun. Sa kampanya yun kinuha e, maraming supporters sa background. Pero hahanapin ko pa e. Hayaan mo, ipapahatid ko na lang sa inyo ha, Fidel. Uy, halika muna, breakfast muna tayo.”
     “Huwag na po, nagkape na po ako, tsaka naghihintay po misis ko, gusto nun sabay kami mag-breakfast e. Nga pala ho, … me itatanong ho sana ako sa inyo, e.”
     “O, sige, ano yun? Ikaw naman, basta ba alam ko ang sagot e.”
     “Kasi ho ang subject po ng painting natin hindi lang po kayo, di ba, dapat napoportray din po ang politics niyo, ‘ikanga. . . . So, any ideas ho ba, sa ganung approach? Hindi po sa wala akong maisip, pero siyempre ho maganda yung galing po mismo sa inyo, baka ho makatulong.”
     “Mm,” says the Board Member. She is thinking.
     Later she says:
     “Well, siyempre sa akin, ano, uhm … gusto ko talagang background yung mga fisherfolk, di ba? Yung mga tao. The people, ‘ika nga. Kasi, well, … kasi tao naman ang naglagay sa akin sa puwesto, di ba? So, puwede siguro gano’n, nando’n sila sa likod ko, halimbawa.”
     “Okay. Pero siyempre po, alam niyo naman po ang trademark ko, lahat po ng pinoportreyt ko nakatalikod—,”
     “Yes, yes, yes.”
     “—so, ibig niyo pong sabihin ang mga tao po ba nasa harap ng painting?”
     “Teka,” she says, “di ko masundan e.”
     “Nakatalikod po kayo sa akin, lumilingon lang po kayo sa akin, di ho ba? So, sino po ako, ako ho ba ang tao sa likod niyo o ang mga tao ay nasa harap niyo? Kung nakaharap po kayo sa kanila, ibig pong sabihin nasa likod sila ng painting.”
     “Aaaaa, okay, kuha ko na. Well, sa palagay ko dapat nakaharap ako sa kanila, ang katawan ko at least kasi parang naglalakad ako patungo sa kanila. Pero siyempre, dahil lumilingon ako sa iyo, sa iyo rin ako nakaharap. Di ba?”
     They laugh.
     “Okay po, ganun po. Okay, Well, kaya ko lang naman ho naitanong lahat nun kasi … kasi sa palagay ko po dapat ang painting may political message din po, hindi lang po basta portrait lamang,” says Fidel, smiling.
     “A, oo, of course. Pero, sabi ko nga sa iyo,” she says, “ideya ko lang iyon. Baka naman magmukhang political poster, nakakahiya naman sa ‘yo, baka mapagkamalan ka pang propaganda artist ko.”
     She laughs, Fidel smiles.
     “Basta … weel, ‘yun lang,” she says as Fidel stands up, “basta the people, first and foremost, sa akin. . . . Okay?”
     Fidel nods, taking her handshake offer as he says all right thanks again and goodbye.

@ @ @

Fidel and Joanna are in bed with a bedside lamp on. At this late hour they’re still talking. Pablo is asleep in his bed in the master bedroom.
     “Ano ba yang si Pablo, maganda yata ilagay na yan sa kanyang kwarto, do’n na siya patulugin. Baka masanay yan dito, maging matatakutin yan later,” says Fidel.
     “Puwede rin.”
     After a pause, Fidel says:
     “Wana, nga pala, first week next month luluwas ako ng Maynila, sasama ba kayo ni Pablo?”
     “Ha? O, sige.”
     After another pause, Fidel says:
     “Nagdecide na pala ako, Joanne.”
     “Ha? Ano yon? . . . Huy, ano yon?”
     After another pause, he says:
     “Hindi na ako mapalagay, Jo. . . . Babaguhin ko na ang painting ko. Iba nang style ang gagawin ko, matapos ko lang lahat ng kinomisyon sa akin.”
     Joanna looks at him sympathetically but couldn’t think of what to say. Then she says:
     “E, yun lang pala e. Alam mo, sinabi ko na sa iyo, whatever it is na magiging desisyon mo tungkol sa painting mo, desisyon mo ‘yon. I’ll be there to support you lang.”
     She holds his hand.
     “Ang dahilan naman kung bakit sinasabi ko sa iyo ‘to, Joanne, … ay dahil merong risk dito. . . . Kung babaguhin ko ang collection ko, investment ‘yon. Ibig sabihin, para tayong magsisimula uli no’n. Puwedeng tanggapin agad ng art market ko, puwede ring hindi. At kung mag-fail ako dito, kung di matatanggap ni Mrs. Lanuza o ng ibang mga galeri, kung halimbawa masyadong radikal sa kanila, o mahirap ibenta, well . . . siyempre hindi naman ako magpapaalam kay Mrs Lanuza, puwede siyang magalit sa’kin. Ibig sabihin, Jo, ang kinapital kong pera at, higit sa lahat, oras, puwedeng mapunta lang sa wala, . . . walang marating. . . . Of course mabebenta ko rin ang mga yon, pero maaaring matagal. Malaking oras ang masasayang, mga apat na buwan, puwera pa ang paghintay ko ng booking. Malaking oras na maaaring wala akong kitain dahil pagpasok na pagpasok ko sa bagong style na ‘to, siyempre di na rin ako tatanggap ng mga commissioned works na sa lumang style ko pa. Sa bago kong style naman, hangga’t di ko pa nai-exhibit wala pang magpapagawa ng commssioned work.”
     They are silent.
     “At ang risk dito, Joan, may utang pa tayo sa bahay natin, sa kotse, at ang savings natin hindi pa ganun kalaki.”
     “Fidel,” says Joanna, “alam mo, kung sabihin ko sa iyo na huwag kang mag-risk at baka tayo mangutang uli, ano naman ang ni-ri-risk ko? Ang kaligayahan mo? Di na bale. Ano ang gagawin ko sa maraming pera kung di ka naman masaya? Gawin mo ang kailangan mong gawin. Andito lang ako sa tabi mo, at kung kailangan mong mag-struggle uli para sa art mo, well, let’s cross the bridge when we get there.”
     Fidel puts an arm around Joanna, then hugs her.
     “Totoo ang sabi ni Kuya. Kung gusto kong maging successful talaga, dapat sa mga bagay na hindi ako mapapagod, kahit marami akong ginagawa. Sa mga bagay na naroon ang aking … whatever, pulitika, anuman yun. Yung naroon ang aking giyera, alam mo? … Kelangan kong makita yon, Jo. At kung hindi, … kung hindi ay masasabi kong hindi pa rin ako nagtagumpay. Isa pa rin akong talunan. Isang corrupt na artist.”
     Joanna reaches to kiss Fidel on the cheek.
     “Ito lang ang masasabi ko sa iyo, Fidel, ha,” Joanna almost whispers. “Narito ako sa isang pusisyon na puwede kong sabihing walang masama sa ginagawa mo ngayon, pinasasaya mo ang mga taong may nagustuhan sa mga gawa mo, may nakita silang mga nakakatuwa sa kanila … pero puwede ko ring sabihin sa iyo na ‘oo, Fidel, hanapin mo ang gusto mo talagang ipinta, yung para rin sa iyo.’ Pero, ang sasabihin ko sa iyo ay hindi alinman do’n. Ang sasbihin ko sa iyo ay ito. Naniniwala ako sa dalawang direksiyon na ‘to, Fidel. Na puwede mong makita ang iyong pulitika sa sarili mo o di kaya sa pulitika ng iba. Kaya, Fidel, hindi ako makapagbibigay sa iyo ng payo e. Nasa iyo lang talaga ang desisyon. At huwag mo kaming isipin ha, dahil ako, ako ay tutulong sa iyo sa lahat ng choices mo, Fidel…. Oo nga, nakikita kong naniniwala ka sa Kuya Federico, at iyon din ay dahil nakikita niya na hindi ka masaya sa ginagawa mo ngayon. Gusto niyang makatulong sa iyo. Ako rin, Fidel. Pero hindi ako ang makapagbibigay sa iyo ng payo kung saan ka dapat babaling, okay? Ang masasabi ko sa iyo, at ito ay ilang beses kong sasabihin sa ‘yo ng paulit-ulit, saan ka man paroroon, kasama mo ako, Del. At hinding-hindi kita puwedeng sisihin. Alam mo, to be redundant about it, sa tingin ko ngayon, alinman ang piliin mo, may sugal pa rin e. Kung di mo gawin ang bago mong iniisip, nakataya ang hapiness mo. Fidel, nandito na tayo sa casino ng buhay…. Okay?”
     She hugs him. They hug for an entire 15 seconds.
     “Salamat, Jo.”
     After a pause, Joanna says:
     “Buti pa, puntahan mo ang mga kaibigan mo rito, ang mga kapwa mo mga pintor sa Tacloban. Tanungin mo sila, ang opinyon nila tungkol diyan. Of course, makakarinig ka ng iba’t-ibang opinyon, pero sa bandang huli, makakabuo ka ng sarili mong opinyon tungkol dito, sa hinahanap mong . . . pulitika whatever sa painting mo. Sa iyong art, Fidel. I think makakatulong sila sa iyo.”
     “Silang lahat bilib sa akin. Naiinggit sila sa akin. Sa success ko, sa opportunities na dumating sa akin. Si Fidel na noon ay nangungutang lang ng oil paint sa kanila, ngayon namimigay na. Pero tingnan mo siya, parang siya pa ngayon ang naghahanap ng advice sa atin kung ano ang kelangang hitsura ng art niya. Ang galing daw ng art ko, ang galing daw ng sense ko sa kulay, bagay na bagay daw sa mga bahay ng mga mayayaman sa Luzon at Cebu. Pero nasa’n, tanong niya ngayon, nasaan daw ang pulitika ng kaniyang mga gawa? Wala raw! Wala raw siyang makita!”
     “Fidel, alam mong nariyan lang iyan. Makikita mo rin yan. Sabi nga ng Marxist critics, di ba, may pulitika sa lahat ng bagay. . . .”
     She kisses Fidel.
     “Sige. Thank you, ha. . . . Halika na nga, matulog na tayo.”
     She reaches to kiss him again. They kiss, then they sleep, Fidel turning towards the wall, Joanna turning towards Fidel with an arm around him.



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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Fidel's March: A Screenplay of a Novel (Chapter 07)



OUR cameragirl follows Sienna around in the kitchen. But into the space of flashback memories, in the twelve paragraphs below where I shall henceforth narrate a bit about Sienna’s history in this house, the camera cannot follow—only the cameras of memory, and a film editor’s splicing inserts of sepia tones into this memory space, can enter there.

     Sienna used to be an exceedingly thin girl of thirteen. She grew up in Soria, the daughter of a fisherman and a fish vendor woman, and worked in Tacloban for a while as a waitress after two years in high school, thereafter becoming at age fifteen—due to an environment-acquired interest in and dedication to seafoods—the assistant cook in that restaurant she worked for. Labor department people ate at the restaurant and knew about the fifteen-year-old cook but what did they care: the girl cooked well, and if they threw her back in school, would she even stay in school? She’d certainly stray back into some work, in order to help her parents and eight-year-old sister, and there’d be that endless cycle till she reached her eighteenth year. So they left her alone, left the restaurant alone, left a hundred other establishments employing teens and even children. Then, at age sixteen, she found work for Mr. Sagana, the teacher, as his live-in cook, and quite comfortably in her own hometown of Soria. With Mr. Sagana, she didn’t have to ask permission three days in advance to visit her parents in the little, quiet Samar town.
     Mr. Sagana was not a rich man. He was a mere public school teacher, the poor heir to his uncle’s old house in Soria. He could not expect his cousins to help him in the maintenance of the house. His uncle, in his deathbed, told him—and all his other cousins who got their own house inheritances—to better give their houses to a second or third cousin if they couldn’t maintain the house and keep them from decaying. They signed the condition, and though the lawyer said it was not necessarily binding it would be their word of honor to the dying, with each of them a witness for each other’s word of agreement. (Mr. Sagana’s was only one of twelve houses all over Samar that Mr. Sagana’s uncle, the old local passenger-shipping don, invested in. Mr. Sagana’s uncle, in all his daily journeys to different ports of call within the island and across the strait to the city of Tacloban, had accumulated houses, including small ones in payment for unpaid dues by copra dealers when suddenly copra’s price fell in the 1970s and the don almost went bankrupt himself. The small houses went to second cousins.)
     The houses Mr. Sagana’s uncle was most interested in were the old ones, especially the ones with both the Spanish and American influences in their design. He had improved the houses according to the original time’s architecture, for consistency, a melding of old Spanish embellishments on wood and iron and American simplicity of lines and color that was reflected in the roofing structure. The result was a combination of Spanish openness due to the Spaniards’ long exposure to both the tropical archipelago’s equatorial hot sun and the Pacific cold breeze, side by side American adaptations involving quickness, due to a desire to transfer American New England climates into Filipino architecture. The ultimate resultant was a house with natural ventilation, reflected in the wide doors and windows, inconsistent with the hot ceilings that did not involve insulation but mere galvanized iron roofing sheets not even a foot apart from the wooden ceiling. Everybody knew that Mr. Sagana’s uncle’s interest in architecture started from his high school days in the island seminary, when he was assigned by the rector to help in the library of the high school dean, a certain Fr. Dumas, who dabbled in architectural research. Mr. Sagana’s uncle’s interest in the subject, embracing both virtues and flaws, was continued in the redesign of his first boat, acquired from his father, which became the most popular launch with a canteen serving beer and a roof deck with tables fixed to the floor. In a year, Mr. Sagana’s uncle, now a sort of local don sponsoring town councilors’ elections, bought a second and third boat.
     Soria was not the don’s headquarters, but in this house in Soria—which was his vacation house with a desired view of the San Juanico strait—the don used to employ five helpers. Mr. Sagana, however, couldn’t afford five helpers, not even a weekend laundrywoman. A live-in cook and housemaid would be nice, but that too was out of the question. Mr. Sagana was an only child whose widower father had just died. His cousin, Albert, was another sole child of the don who immigrated to Europe, promising as an alienated homosexual not to come back to all these boats and palm trees. Mr. Sagana thus became one of twelve nephews and nieces in whose hands his uncle had no choice but to leave the houses, sadly and out of spite, formalizing the papers in front of a lawyer and the inheritors as he awaited his death by cancer creeping in his colon. Nobody knew how father and son first drifted apart, but many say it was obviously due to the son’s homosexuality.
     Mr. Sagana, however, a mere teacher—as we said—from Guiuan, another town in Samar at the southeastern tip of the island, not only was not a fan of such houses (if only he had the resources to build his own according to his own liking!), he also had not the wherewithal to maintain the house’s painting and wood upkeep with re-varnishings or repainting. Add to that, his teaching salary in the new school was smaller than what he used to get in Guiuan.
     Luckily, Mr. Sagana had a daughter whose handsome American mestiza mother (estranged from Mr. Sagana due to a love affair with her doctor) trained her so hard not only to be finicky about housework but also with her studies. In no time, the daughter’s mother would join her and Mr. Sagana in this house after the lover died, if only to help the daughter finish her nursing studies attained through a scholarship care of the then-mayor’s program. It did not matter that the mayor sponsoring the scholarship hated the don who used to own Mr. Sagana’s house; Mr. Sagana’s daughter’s industrious studies deserved the award. The new objective of the Sagana family, therefore, became that of pushing the daughter to finish her course, away from potential boyfriends and other political or social temptations, for her to take the exams, and finally to work somewhere abroad, anywhere abroad.
     Maria Lourdes finished her nursing degree and instantly found work in Hawaii. Soon, Mr. Sagana hired a cook for him and his wife, two cooks in fact, but only because their first cook had to work at a roadside canteen in the evening, and Mr. Sagana didn’t want to get rid of her because of pity. In fact, rumor had it, the cook actually worked as a prostitute at night. Others say she merely had to get away from the house to avoid Mr. Sagana’s nighttime advances. The second cook hired was Sienna. The first cook later died of dengue fever in the city of Catarman up north, while on holiday with a northerner boyfriend. Mr. Sagana became a depressed man after that, so depressed in fact that he lost his wife again, to another third party, a man in a wheelchair Mrs. Sagana met in the town plaza. Rumors had it that Mr. Sagana actually had an affair with the maid, an affair which Mrs. Sagana knew about, but since the marriage was not that healthy from the beginning, it didn’t really matter; each had a “diversion,” it seemed. And behind all this, the house revived its old glory with the new American money Mr. Sagana received from her daughter in Hawaii.
     But Mr. Sagana’s depression left an emotional vacuum in the house. Sienna, affected by all that was happening in the family, cooked, cleaned the house, ate while working, ate when tired, gardened while eating, accompanied Mr. Sagana to the bank to get his checks from Maria Lourdes, and to the noodle shop right after the bank. And that was about it, her routine. Sienna never understood why she had to accompany Mr. Sagana to the bank and the noodle shop. Was it to fan the rumors, just to spite it? She never knew the answer.
     After becoming aware of the situation in Samar island, a decision was made: Maria Lourdes, angry at her mother, decided to bring Mr. Sagana to Hawaii, promising never to come back, and so had the newly-refurbished house up for sale, to be taken advantage of by anyone at the lowest offered price an antique house of the old intricate architecture could fetch. Sienna, grown quite fat now from all the boredom and acquired depression and consequent eating in the couple of years she spent in the quiet Sagana house, went back to her cook’s job at a restaurant in the city of Tacloban in Leyte island.
     It was Sienna’s birthday when Fidel and Joanna came into the restaurant. The restaurant had become famous in the city for its local cuisine, and the artist couple were the only patrons, that being Sunday noon when almost everybody was away at the beach resorts of the city and the nearby beach towns. After Fidel asked her a question, boisterous Sienna sat down at the table opposite the couple’s and told them her story, about this day being her birthday, the new recipes she has learned in this restaurant, and even told them the most wonderful stories to tell about her days in Mr. Sagana’s antique intricate old house that was a bit hard for her to clean, she said. She went on and on about the two years she worked there, feeling familiar with Joanna and Fidel who struck her as approachable, likable. Fidel and Joanne, married now with a two-year-old kid and on vacation from Manila, had their interest piqued by Sienna’s stories, and that was the beginning of that. The couple checked out the house, fell in love with it and the clean little town above the harbor overlooking the strait, and Sienna resigned from her new old cook’s job at the restaurant to become the new rich couple’s cook in their new provincial headquarters.
     Joanna and Fidel only intended the house to be their provincial vacation house, a hideaway from Tacloban whenever they came visiting their province to be near relatives. Soria was, after all, one of the cleanest towns in the whole region, despite a few dogs roaming the streets. Surprise, surprise: Fidel and Joanna felt that Fidel could paint better here, and a month later all their things were moved in from Manila by a big delivery van that trekked the length of the Bicol peninsula, crossed the ferry to Samar island, and traveled the length of the island to its southern highway fronting the San Juanico strait and on to the little quaint town of Soria. The couple’s new SUV car was driven by Fidel himself. The rest of their furniture for the new house Fidel took from their house in Tacloban. Fidel, after getting emailed approval from his brother the architect, rented out the Tacloban house to a coffeeshop, and luckily the coffeeshop made a wonderful job of propping up the place with new structural additions. Joanna’s father’s house, on the other hand, had been shut down for a long time now, with furniture covered by cellophane sheets, although every now and then cleaned up by the caretaker couple occupying the small house in the large garden with their seven-year-old son.
     A year later, Sienna, at age nineteen, had gotten rid of almost half of her accumulated fat, happier now with her work and gardening and new concrete little room in the backyard with a TV set, it seemed to her eating was a waste of time, interfering with her play. She had improved her cooking, but inadvertently diminished her eating. Only one thing was wrong: she was puzzled by Fidel, unsure if he was ever happy with her cooking.

@ @ @

“Wow, ang ganda ng view dito sa likod,” said Joanne.
     From the little terrace in the room in back of the house, she saw what could be her backyard garden. An avocado tree and other tall bushes foregrounded a view of the San Juanico strait below and far Leyte island across it.
     “Hindi tayo nagkamali sa paglipat ng studio ko rito,” Fidel said. “Of course magbabago ang art ko nito, mas magiging makatotohanan. Dahil dito merong mga totoong mangingisda. Hindi nalang mangingisda ng isip ko o di kaya galing sa mga pictures sa magazines, o sa mga naaabutan nating iilang mangingisda everytime nasa Batangas tayo, sa mga pangmayamang beach na ang tanging mangingisda lang ay ang supplier sa restaurant doon. Dito, makukunan ko sila anytime.”
     “At puwede mo rin silang gawing models sa ilang works mo,” said Joanne, excitedly, “para ‘pag nag-exhibit ka sa Maynila puwede mo silang dalhin sa opening at i-introduce mo sa mga guests, di ba?”
     “Aba,” said Fidel, smiling, “magandang idea yan.”
     They drank wine and ate cheese in the terrace overlooking the weeds in the backyard and roofs on the slope that fell into the part of the town fronting the strait and its few boats.
     They sat there a long time, talking. Of course they spoke mostly Waray here, the language of the region, since they were from here and all their neighbors were Warays. In Manila they would speak Tagalog, if only because they got used to speaking Tagalog outdoors that it didn’t make sense to shift into Waray since they were both quite adept at the Manila and Tagalog capital region’s language as well as the English of UP students and the learned and the Tagalog-English slangs of so many social niches. But Fidel and Joanna’s Waray is different from the older folks’. As a young couple theirs had a lot of English and even Tagalog mixed into the flow. But certainly I quote them here in Tagalog and English only, and that’s all because I’m writing this story for you, my reader-comrades in all the regions, and we all know the only language we can all understand in all our country’s linguistic regions is Tagalog and English. Right? So.

@ @ @

Of course you’d also want to know why I’m narrating my story in English. It’s simple: this is a novel, and most of you who read novels read English ones. You’re quite used to the language when reading the novel, even those of you who prefer to speak Tagalog when conversing. We converse in Tagalog, but our broadsheet newspapers are all in English! Right? So.
     And why write the dialogue in Tagalog? Because I’m a screenwriter and cinema director, and much like the dramatist I know how stupid it is to quote Tagalog speakers in a story written in English, translating their lines into English, when they’ve said their lines in Tagalog or bilingual Tagalog-English. Why ruin a good thing unnecessarily?

@ @ @

All right, so where were we? Oh, well, I—Vicente—am here, shooting Fidel with my cameragirl’s camera, spying on Fidel, so to speak, and invisibly too. Vicente (I) is (am) already up even before the town is up, and that’s because my time is different from the country’s time.
     Vicente, that’s me, there stood outside the gate waiting for Fidel. Soon the painter would be up this early in the morning of March 6, not to jog or drive somewhere, but to walk around the now-familiar territory. Vicente waited. He’d wait. Vicente and I would wait.




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