Monday, December 28, 2009

Fidel's March: A Screenplay of a Novel (Chapter 11)





FIDEL, sitting on the bedroom’s windowsill, the ventanilla left open to let some wind blow on his feet, says: “Hindi siya kumander. Siya ang chairman ng propaganda arm sa Eastern Visayan islands.”

@ @ @

March 15. It’s late in the afternoon. Fidel and his wife, along with Pablo and Sienna, are at the University of the Philippines at Tacloban campus. They are among a crowd of artists (Jesse and Robert—the latter wearing his Army Captain’s cap—are there), academics, and U.P. Tacloban students, all standing outside the college auditorium, waiting for the Vicente Apostol films due to arrive from Tacloban’s airport and to be welcomed here with a ceremony. This whole affair was planned by Jesse, chairman of the Waray Arts Foundation, in cooperation with the UP at Tacloban Regional Arts Development Program.

@ @ @

The plane arrives at the Tacloban airport. The cargo is loaded in a van and leaves the airport parking lot, speeding through the city districts toward the film festival venue at UP.

@ @ @

The van arrives at the university. There is wide applause.
     Someone opens the box, pulling out film containers. Someone else shouts a leading “Mabuhay ang mga pelikula ni Vicente Apostol!” The crowd responds with their “Mabuhay!” “Mabuhay ang pelikulang Pilipino!” “Mabuhay!” Applause.
     An announcer climbs the stage and begins to say:
     “Pinaaalam po natin sa mga estudyante na lumahok sa ating Vicente Apostol video awards competition dito sa film festival natin na mamaya na po natin i-a-announce ang finalists sa contest. Kaya after today’s showing of a Vicente Apostol film, huwag po tayong aalis for that announcement! Salamat po.”
     The usual speeches with the usual words follow. The university dean’s, a professor’s, and—finally—Joanna Apostol’s, a fragment from which speech goes thus:
     “Labas sa maraming napapaslang mula pa noong rehimeng Marcos magpasahanggang ngayon, sa hanay ng mga aktibista, mga unyonista, mga ordinaryong mamamahayag at akademiko, meron ding mga nawawala. Diumano’y ang aking Tatay ay umalis patungo ng isang bayan sa Samar malapit sa military camp ng Calbayog, Samar—ang Kampo Kambal. At sinasabi ng ilang mga opisyal ng AFP na ang Tatay ko raw ay sumanib sa mga komunista, sa anyaya ng ilan niyang mga dating kaklase at kabarkada. Nguni’t paano magiging komunista ang Tatay ko gayung siya’y huling namataan sa gate ng Kampo Kambal. Oo nga’t dito sa ating rehiyon ay nagkalat ang magkapatid o magpinsan na mga opisyal ng AFP at ng Communist Party of the Philippines, kung kaya’t hindi isang beses silang nakita ng ilang testigo na nag-iinuman lamang sa isang baryo, ngunit gayunpaman, . . .”
     By sunset, the ribbon cutting was through and was promptly followed by cocktails right before the auditorium screening.
     Now, inside the auditorium, the curtains—set up by the Waray Arts Foundation—start to rise to reveal an installed widescreen.
     The fast-rising young neo-social realist film director Manuel White soon delivers a lecture (with slides) about “The Arts and the People.”
     After the lecture, the professor-announcer climbs up to a podium left of the screen and says to the microphone: “Ladies and gentlemen, ang screening po ngayong gabi ay para sa pelikulang Tatlong Buwan. Pero bago po ito, ipapalabas po muna natin ang isang short film ng ating guest, at alam po natin kung sino siya, ang mahal po natin, at minahal na anak ni Vicente Apostol, si Ms. Joanna Apostol-Roxas. Ang pamagat po ng short film na ito ay alam niyo na po yun, Ating Christmas Tree. Palakpakan po natin.”
     Applause.
     The lights go off and Joanna’s black and white film begins.
     Joanna’s short film is a comic silent movie about a white Christmas tree. In the movie, there is a father and son in a living room with a white Christmas tree. The young son, about ten years old, asks his father (via the silent film’s English subtitle) what the Christmas tree means during Christmas. He says he knows what the star on top of the Christmas tree refers to but doesn’t know what the Christmas tree is supposed to signify.
     Joanna watches her film with a smile as the projected light flickers on her face.
     The father in Joanna’s silent movie explains (through the English subtitles), “I only know that the Druids of Germany . . . used to bring into their houses . . . a tree during the winter solstice. It was a symbol of endurance through the winter as well as of hope for the end of winter’s most dreaded day. It had nothing to do with Christ, . . . but of course anyone could create a Christian meaning into anything. . . . And that’s precisely what the Christians did.”
     “But, Dad, we don’t have winter here.”
     “Well, never mind that.”
     “And why should a Christmas tree have to be a pine tree, Dad, . . . pine trees are scarce in our islands! They’re only abundant in Baguio City. . . . Why should we even bring a tree into our houses during December? . . . They’re quite safe outside, even in Baguio! Huh, Dad? Huh?”
     “Well, son,” says the father, “I think you can answer your question yourself.”
     The father then knocks a finger on his son’s head.
     “Use your coconut!”
     The kid is excited. He says:
     “That’s right! That’s right! Why not use a coconut tree for a Christmas tree!”
     The audience in the auditorium laugh.
     Joanna is teary-eyed as the audience laughs, watching the flicker reflected on this audience’s faces.
     The film finishes with the father and the son leaving their living room with a new coconut Christmas tree, bringing out with them the white pine Christmas tree, and there giving it to Santa Claus who is seen sleeping underneath a coconut tree on the beach, awakened by a coconut falling on his head. In this black and white film, Santa Claus’ costume is colored blue, red, and white. Santa Claus accepts the returned tree, shrugs, puts the tree in his speedboat, which speeds off with Santa on a water ski. The driver of the speedboat is an animated red-nosed dolphin. Fin.
     The crowd applauds.

@ @ @

Fidel is walking in the dark in the campus with Manny. Now they are behind a building where an old woman in a black dress is sitting on a school chair outside the back of this building, under the eaves of the building, in the dark. The old woman is wearing a pair of sunglasses in the dark.
     Fidel asks Manny in a whisper, “Sino ‘to?”
     “Puntahan mo, may sasabihin siya sa ‘yo,” Manny answers.
     Fidel refuses, so Manny drags him towards the woman and then pulls a nearby chair in front of the woman so Fidel could sit on it facing the stranger.
     Now Fidel could recognize her. She was the old woman in red she once saw in front of their house gate in Soria, wearing mysterious sunglasses.
     “Nakita na kita sa may gate namin, a,” says Fidel. “Sino kayo?”
     “Alam kong sooner or later sasabihin mo ke Joanna ang tungkol sa akin; hindi mo matitiis ang ilihim ng ilang taon,” says the woman with a man’s voice.
     “Pa,” Fidel half-whispers.
     Vicente takes off his sunglasses and looks at Fidel.
     “Pa,” Vicente says. “Gusto ko yan. Pa. Mas gusto ko ‘yan kaysa sa Sir.”
     “E, mabuti naman po at nakita niyo ‘tong parangal sa iyo na binigay ng university. Kung alam lang nila na narito kayo, matutuwa at mabibigla ang lahat,” says Fidel, who can’t help but giggle.
     “Maliban sa iba na tatawag sa mga pulis.” Before Fidel could say anything, Vicente resumes: “Fidel, ang pinunta ko rito ay ikaw. Gusto kong ikaw ang mag-ayos ng surrender ko, kasama ng tatlo kong mga kasama.”
     “Ho?”
     “. . . Pinag-iinitan kami sa itaas; hindi ko alam kung bakit. Natatakot sila at ako nama’y wala nang makitang dahilan para manatili ro’n.” He sighs. “Nakaka-disappoint pero ganyan talaga sa lahat ng politikal na bagay.”
     “B-bakit ho ako? Bakit hindi si Manny?”
     “Di ba ang isa mong kaibigan na Leyte artist ay isa ring captain sa army? Captain Robert ba iyon? Nandito siya ngayon, alam ko.”

@ @ @

The auditorium is now showing Vicente’s early Eastmancolor 35mm film, Tatlong Buwan.
     The screen images seem to parody a Fernando Amorsolo painting, showing mestizos and mestixas in traditional Filipino costumes riding carabaos. The End.
     As the credits flow, the audience applauds wildly. When the lights are later turned on, an announcer clambers the stage to the podium to say, “Nga pala, we’d like to thank the French producer who have the rights to this Vicente Apostol film, and also to the French Embassy, for lending us this copy of the film and letting it be featured in our film festival. Mrs. Gonzaga of the French Embassy, who personally delivered to us this copy of the film, thank you po, ma’am. And to the students of UP and all other universities and colleges who joined us in this first night of the festival, good night, maraming salamat po! Oops, nga pala, huwag po kayong aalis, i-aannounce . . .”

@ @ @

In the car, Fidel looks for a CD.
     “Asa’n na rito yung CD na may pink na label? Oh here it is,” he says.
     “Bakit?” Joanna asks from behind the .
     Fidel plays the CD. It is a happy jazz tune on the car’s CD player: Ella Fitzgerald singing “Summertime.” He drives off out of the still-rowdy parking area in the campus as fast as he could.
     On the road, Fidel whistles along with the happy tune, on to the San Juanico Bridge among the bridge’s lamppost lights and the strait’s sparkling water where the boats help the moonlight light the murkiness.
     Joanna keeps looking at Fidel, smiling, puzzled at his behavior, asking “ano ba’ng nangyayari sa ‘yo?” and getting no answer apart from a “wala lang, masaya lang, ganda ng showing” and a smile or even a laugh.
     Later, seeing Joanna’s now-impatient puzzlement, says, “Galing ng speech mo a.”
     She says, “Thanks,” smiling at him.

@ @ @

They arrive home. Fidel lifts the sleeping Pablo through the front door and into the master bedroom.
     “Kawawa naman si Pablo Picasso,” says Joanna, laughing.
     The couple make love in their room, initiated by Fidel.
     Afterwards, Fidel tells her the news.
     “Joanna, nandun ang Tatay mo.”
     “Ha?”
     “ . . . Binulong sa akin ni Manny na naroon siya, kaya pinuntahan namin sa likod ng isang building do’n, . . .”
     Joanna doesn’t know what to say, but is a bit sad in the face.
     “Joanna, gusto nang mag-surrender ng Tatay mo. . . . Kung hindi raw ako nagpunta sa kanya sa bundok hindi niya maiisip yun, . . . baka raw namatay na lang siya ro’n. Pinag-iinitan ang grupo nila ng isang paksiyon na mas nakararami na raw. Kakausapin ko si Captain, si Robert. . . . Gusto ka nang mayakap ng Tatay mo.”
     
Joanna closes her eyes, biting her lips, silently crying.

@ @ @

The grandfather clock in the dark living room says it is now 10:00 o’clock.
     The camera-girl walks with her camera, beaming her camera at her path as she walks. She heads towards the corridor and on to Fidel’s studio. The door is half open. The camera sees Fidel frantically at work on a canvas, the easel’s back toward the door so that she doesn’t see what it is Fidel is painting.
     The girl puts down her camera and smiles at Fidel. Fidel sees her.
     She approaches Fidel and kisses him. He kisses her back. They make love. Later, the 17-year-old girl morphs and becomes Joanna naked on the studio floor, paint smudges on her skin.
     Fidel lies beside her. He and Joanna are lying on the studio’s floor, both naked, exhausted, paint on their bodies.

@ @ @

March 16. Joanna is in her backyard garden with her old camera. She is shooting Sienna watering the plants and Pablo running all over the lawn and the garden’s sand and pebble parts and playing with the water in the concrete pond with petals from a flower he throws into the pond.
     “Uy, Pablo, alis ka riyan, malamok diyan,” says Sienna.
     Pablo runs to his mama, laughing.

@ @ @

Fidel drives his car out of their house gate and is soon on the road and across the San Juanico Bridge on his way to Tacloban. He stops in front of his friend Jesse’s house in the city’s poor district.

@ @ @

Jesse opens his door and there is Fidel, holding a large sketch pad, who promptly tells him “Pare, nakita ko na.”
     “Nakita mo na? Pare, ano yun? Ano ang nakita mo na?”
     “Nakita ko na, pare. Ang politics sa art ko, pare. Ang bago kong theme, pare. Nakita ko na.”
     “A, ganun ba? O, e, di wala ka nang problema, pare. Teka, teka, teka. Yun lang ba ang pinunta mo rito, ‘dre?”
     “May kasama ka ba, pare? Inom tayo, pre.”
     “Wala, pare. Pasok ka.”
     As Fidel enters, he says, “Pare, ito.”
     Fidel shows what he has in his sketch pad’s first page. There’s a pastel drawing with two panels. The right panel has Fidel’s old art in orange monochrome featuring an old woman’s near-profile looking out to sea during a sunrise, the left panel with sea-blue dynamites in a red circle.
     “Ano sa tingin mo, pare? Ang epekto nito, may pagbabago, ngunit ang importante, hindi ko binigla ang fans ko. Naroon pa rin ang dati kong art.”
     They laugh, doing high fives. “Woohoohoo!” says Jesse.
     “May beer ka ba riyan, pare?” Fidel asks, “pahingi naman o.”
     Jesse walks over to the kitchen to bring in a couple of beer bottles from his ref.
     “Okay yang naisip mo, pare,” says Jesse.
     Jesse, back by the dining table, adds, “tama nga yang pagpunta mo rito, pare. This goes for a celebration, indeed! At ako ang unang nakakita ng bagong art mo! Wow! This is an honor for me, you know?”
     They laugh, doing high fives again.
     “Siyempre, pare, ikaw yata ang best friend ko rito.”
     But later, Jesse, after some silence, says: “Pero ewan ko lang, pare, ha. Sa akin lang naman ‘to. . . . Baka ‘ka ko naiisip mo na kelangan mong maging socially relevant, . . .”
     “Pare, naman, ano ba ‘yon?” says Fidel. "Sabihin mo na. Pangit ba? Baduy? Ha?”
     Jesse, half-smiling, nods.
     Fidel smiles. “Okay, kuha ko.”
     The girl model Karissa comes out of the bedroom, as if awakened by the noise. She sits down on the living room sofa, begins to read a magazine. She says hello to Fidel. Fidel looks at Jesse.
     “Dito na nakatira yan, ‘dre,” says Jesse.
     “Okay,” says Fidel.
     Jesse and Fidel get drunk, now and then laughing together. Soon Karissa is drinking with them, bringing in more bottles from the dimestore across the street. She occasionally glances towards Fidel with those amused and flirting sad eyes. Later Jesse and Fidel paint together on one single canvas this barbecue girl-model now lying naked on the sofa with a glass of rum. They all happily drink under some loud Tagalog rock music.
     “Sino’ng kumakanta niyan, pare?” asks Fidel.
     “Di mo alam ‘yan? Libreng downloadable mp3 yan, pare, kaya sumikat. ‘Binola, Ni-Rape, Minarder’ ng bandang Groupies’ Panciteria. Taga-rito sa atin ang bandang ‘yan, pare,” says Jesse, without lifting her eyes off his brush and the canvas.

@ @ @

Jesse has fallen asleep on the couch, drunk. Fidel himself can hardly drink, feeling he could puke anytime soon. But he and Karissa keep on talking at the table, if only because he can’t leave her to herself without company.
     He says, quite drunkenly, “so, kelan ka nagsimulang nagmodel ke pareng Jesse?”
     “Matagal na rin.”
     “Syota ka ba niya?”
     “Ano! Excuse me. Me boyfriend ako, ano. Wala nga lang dito, seaman siya e.”
     “E, seaman pala e, ba’t di pa kayo nag-asawa? Para di ka na nag-ba-barbecue.”
     “E, ewan ko, ayaw pa niya akong pakasalan e. Hindi yata seryoso. Baka may iba.”
     They are silent.
     “Actually may iba nga,” she says.
     She looks at a wall, then at the table, then at Fidel. Fidel looks at her.
     She laughs, looking at the sleeping Jesse, then goes over to Fidel to kiss him on the cheeks. She then sits beside Fidel. Now it looks as if they are sitting on barstools at a bar.
     A little later she moves closer to Fidel. Later still she reaches over to kiss Fidel on his neck.
     She looks at him, moving her face closer. She kisses Fidel on the lips and mouth. She stands up and Fidel kisses her chest.
     “Baka magising si Jesse,” says Fidel.
     “Hindi ko boyfriend si Jesse. Bakla si Jesse, di mo ba alam?”
     They end up having sex in the kitchen.



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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Fidel's March: A Screenplay of a Novel (Chapter 10)



FIDEL drives home slowly in the dark, several cars/jeepneys/trucks overtaking him. He crosses San Juanico Bridge, catching the bridge’s lamplights and a glimpse of the sparkling waters of the strait under the moonlight.

@ @ @

He arrives home, Sienna opening the gate for him. He climbs up to the porch and is surprised to see Joanna dining and talking with a fortyish gay man.
     “Hello, love,” says Joanna. “Naalala mo si Direk Manuel White, of course.”
     “Of course, of course, Manny. Kumusta ka, mukhang di busy a. Wala kang pelikula?”
     “Naku, wala akong project ngayon, R and R ako,” says Manny. “Kumusta kish? Ha? Hmm, lashing ka yata. Uy ha, galing lang ako ng Catbalogan ha, at may nadaanan akong nasagasaan ng lashing ha. OMG, bata siya, three years old lang, kawawa naman, day. Naiyak ako.”
     “Diyos ko, kaidaran lang ni Pablo yun a,” comments Joanna. “O, Fidel, nabalitaan kasi ni Manny na nandito sa Leyte si Kuya Federico, akala niya dito natutulog.”
     “Naku, Manny, hindi titira si Kuya rito, ayaw nun natutulog sa oras e, ayaw nakakaistorbo sa bahay ng may bahay, kaya ayun, parating naka-hotel. E kahit nga sa bahay namin sa Tacloban ayaw matulog dun e, nakakahiya raw sa mga caretaker.”
     “Naku ha, sobrang considerate naman yata ng kuya mo,” Manny says.
     “Hehe,” laughs Fidel, “actually ayaw lang no’n nalulungkot do’n. Marami kasing happy memories, pero wala na ro’n ang mga taong nasa memories na ‘yon. Ang Nanay wala na, matagal na. Ako, nandito na sa kabila ng tulay.”
     “Teka ha,” says Joanna, standing up, “babasahan ko lang si Pablo.”
     “Kasi, Fidel, yung bahay ko sa Calbayog di pa niya natatapos kasi kinapos nga ako sa pera no’n. E sana puwede na niyang balikan ngayon.”
     “Naku, ba’t di niyo pa pinagawa sa iba? Sa mga senior niya ‘don.”
     “Ikaw naman, alam mo naman na wala akong ibang kukunin kundi si Federico Roxas, ano.”
     “Oo nga naman; alam mo, gusto nga ng kuya makarami siya ng gawa niya rito sa atin e.”

@ @ @

“What do you think?” Fidel asks.
     “Alam mo,” says Manny, “kilala ako bilang isa sa mga bagong social realist filmmakers ng bayan, ano. Ibig sabihin, political talaga ang mga treatments ko, ako raw ang reincarnation ni Lino Brocka. Nakaka-flatter nga e.”
     Manny and Fidel are having coffee in the porch.
     Outside, a huddle of men and women on the side of the street sees the two on the porch and starts to gossip in lowered voices. One says, “sabi ko na nga ba bakla yan si Roxas e, tingnan mo ang bisita, bakla. Hay, dumadami na ang bakla sa mundo ngayon!” Another one says, “manloloko lang naman yan si Roxas e, mga drowing nyan kaya ng pamangkin ko e.”
     Back in the Roxas porch, Manny is saying:
     “Tinagurian din ako bilang aktibista, kaya masasabi mong talagang may pulitika sa art ko, ano. At alam din ng lahat na meron akong access sa Communist Party at sa New People’s Army, dahil iilan ang mga classmates ko do’n. Kaya lang, alam naman ng mga otoridad na hindi ako kaliwa at isa lamang akong hamak na bakla. . . . Pero alam mo, ang daming artist sa NPA ha. Mga makata, kompositor, at alam mo bang merong batikan na direk—”
     They suddenly turn silent, Manny covering his own mouth. Fidel is looking at Manny.
     “Nasa’n na ba ako,” continues Manny. “Ah, yes. Sa tingin ko ha, ang politics sa art possible lamang sa pamamagitan ng pag-portray ng mga tunay na tao? I mean, tunay as in tunay, hindi in fantasy form na may mga green na mukha o mahabang tenga? Well, oo. Kasi nga, ang pagportray sa isang realistic na karakter, yun ang magdadala ng realidad ng estado ng lipunan ngayon, di ba? Dun kasi makikita ang simpatya ng artist, ng direktor. Pag ikaw lumihis sa mga karakter ng realidad, halimbawa mga karakter na halaw sa mga banyagang sine na hindi mo naman makikita rito, aba nawawala ang pulitika. Nagiging pampaganda lang ang mga karakter para gamitin mo sa iyong kaartehan, e dapat yung kaartehan mo ang nagsisilbi para sa mga karakter, di ba? Naalala mo ba yung pelikula kong Ilaw Sa Kuweba?”
     Fidel could still imagine a scene from that film. The hero, a carpenter, sits on top of a roof frame under construction, hammering away. Then a giant eagle pushes him off the roof.
     “Yun ang pinakaayaw kong gawa ko,” says Manny. “Ang mga tunay na nangyayari sa tao nakalimutan dahil sa exaggerations. Naiintindihan ng tao ang sinasabi mo pero hindi nila nararamdaman sa buhay nila pagkatapos mapanood ang kuwento ng karpintero ko.”
     Fidel looks away and is silent. Manny looks at him and becomes silent himself.
     Then Fidel whispers to him:
     “Manny, alam mo yung sinabi mo sa akin dati na ayokong paniwalaan?”
     “Alin?”
     “Yung sabi mong huwag na huwag kong ipapaalam ke Joanna? Totoo ba ‘yon?”
     Manny is taken aback and then says:
     “Yes?”
     “Well, . . . gusto ko siyang makita. Gusto ko siyang makausap.”
Manny looks at him.
     “Fidel, ayoko nang bumalik do’n, gubat yun e. . . . Are you sure?” he asks.
     “Kelangan ko siyang makausap,” says Fidel.
     Joanna shows up again.
     “Hay, nakatulog din,” Joanna says with a sigh and a smile, sitting on a third chair.
     “Uy, Fidel, alam mo ba maglelecture pala ako sa darating na film festival sa U.P. Yung para sa father-in-law mo? Aba, alam mo ba ang topic? ‘The Arts and the People’. Say mo!”
     They laugh at the pretentiousness of that title.
     “Hayaan mo na, e pang-estudyante yun e,” says Fidel.
     “Pero hindi ha,” says Manny. “Such topics, such titles, are only possible in places where the arts are not sitting very well with the people.”
     They laugh.
     Manny adds, “pero, at least, may effort to connect, o reconnect.”
     Fidel and Joanne laugh.
     “Sandali, kuha ako ng cup ko,” says Joanna, standing up to go to the kitchen.
     “Manny,” says Fidel.
     Manny’s eyes follow Joanna as he says, “kawawa naman si Joanna, Fidel.”
     “Manny.”
     “Huh?”
     “Kelangan ko siyang makausap.”

@ @ @

March 9. Manuel and Fidel turn from the highway to a gravel road.
     Much later they arrive at a quite still jungle village at the foot of a dark and craggy mountain, a part of a range of mountains. They leave Fidel’s truck at the village dimestore. The owner of the store has the car pushed into a kind of barn, covering the vehicle with grass.
     Manny and Fidel hike through thick cogon grass while climbing the steep slopes alternating with crags. Much later, nearing the top of the mountain jungle, they arrive at a clearing. Then, unexpectedly, a platoon of men and a woman come out from behind trees, approaching them with blank faces, except a woman in a green jacket who is grinning. She has a sickle and hammer symbol on her breast pocket. The woman’s voice calls, “Manny!” Manny, too, is grinning, his arms wide for an embrace. She and Manny hug each other, with tears welling in Manny’s eyes, which makes the woman laugh.
     Fidel and Manny climb about a kilometer further up, accompanied by the platoon. Then, in a grass-covered dark hut nearer the top of the mountain, they see Vicente.
     “Sir Vicente, direk!” calls Manny, running to hug the old man.
     Vicente is in an all-camouflage green jacket, wearing a Maoist cap. He is an almost-seventy-ish Vicente. He has in his mouth a lighted homemade cigar. Manny embraces more old friends. Then Vicente stares at Fidel a long time. He smiles and offers his hand, which Fidel takes.
     In a trembling voice which Fidel took as a hint of sadness, Vicente says to Fidel, “Pasensya ka na hindi ako nakadalo sa kasal niyo, at sa binyag ni Pablo, ang apo ko, ano. . . . Pero, alam mo . . . binibisita ko kayo madalas. Hindi niyo lang alam, of course. Pero alam mong hindi dapat malaman ninuman, kahit ni Joanna, kung nasaan na ako ngayon at kung ano ang nangyari sa akin. Okay? Nagkakaintindihan ba tayo? Alam mo, nagugulat nga ako na wala pang impormasyon tungkol sa akin ang militar. Unless nagkakamali ako. . . .” Sighing, he continues, “Natutuwa ako sa pagpunta mo rito, anak. Fidel, di ba?” He laughs. “Fidel Castro, hahaha. Baka magkakilala tayo nang lubusan, Fidel. Bakit ba puro mangingisda lang ang pinipinta mo, walang magsasaka?”
     He and some of his men laugh. Fidel smiles.
     “Mangingisda ho kasi ang Tatay ko, e” says Fidel. “Well, malaki-laki naman ang bangka niya, pero mangingisda pa rin. Tapos, isang araw biglang nawala na lang siya sa dagat. . . . Sabi ng iba, naaksidente sa pagdidinamita ng kasamahan. Sabi naman ng iba, nabangga ang bangka niya ng trawler at nahulog ang Tatay. . . . Pero ang sabi ng kasama niya sa bangka no’n na nakasurvive sa insidente, it’s all of the above. Una, nagka-injury ang Tatay sa dynamite incident malapit pa sa isla, natumba siya sa bangka. Tapos nung nabangga sila ng trawler sa malayong dagat habang naghahanap ng bluefin, di makalangoy ang Tatay dahil sa injury at nagka-cramps. Malayo ang kasama niya sa kanya at sabi niya sa kasama niya na mamasahiin lang niya ang cramps niya sa ilalim. Pero hindi na lumutang uli ang Tatay, so . . . nung dumating ang rescue ng malapit na mga bangka na nakakita sa nangyari, nasa likod ng tumaob na bangka ang kasama ng Tatay at hinanap din nila ang Tatay. Dalawang oras din silang naghanap, ayaw nilang sumuko. Kinabukasan, naghanap sila uli. Sa ikatlong araw, nagdala na lang sila ng pari para magmisa do’n sa lugar. Habang nagmimisa, lumabas ang fin ng isang maliit na pating.”
     There is a little silence before Vicente speaks to break it.
     “Alam kong mangingisda ang Tatay mo, Fidel. Pero, ang tanong ko, bakit wala kang pinipintang mga magsasaka? Yun ang tanong ko. Dahil ang karamihan dito sa mga ‘to mga magsasaka e,” Vicente says, pointing to his men, but obviously only trying to change the subject. Then he says, “Iniisip mo pa rin ba ang pagkawala ng Tatay mo paminsan-minsan?”
     Fidel does not answer, unsure of Vicente’s motives.
     “Anyway, … huwag natin pag-usapan ang mga patay dahil lahat tayo rito ay may malapit na kapamilyang namatay. Maliban sa akin. Pero, alam mo, nandito na rin lang tayo sa topic na ‘to, I think … dapat hindi makasarili ang art, di ba, hijo? Dapat hindi lang kuwento mo ang pinagbabasihan mo. Ang kuwento ng bayan ay mahalaga rin.”

@ @ @

Inside the hut, they eat taro and diluted orange juice powder.
     Vicente says to Fidel:
     “Magkaiba ang paniniwala namin nitong si Manny, alam mo ba. Para sa akin kasi, walang kuwenta ang maglagay ka ng pulitika sa art mo. Kasi nga, ang art mo mismo ay isa nang pulitika. Naroon ang tunay na pulitika, anak. . . . Ang art mo ay isa nang pulitika. Di ba, mga kasama?”
     His men, some of whom are also eating, smile at Vicente.
     Vicente opens a can of sardines to go with their taro, puts the sardines in a plastic bowl and wipes his hands.
     “Alam ko hindi ka nagpunta rito para makarinig ng lecture sa akin tungkol sa art o sa cinema, Fidel, pero … alam mo, ang art parang lata ng sardinas yan e,” Vicente continues. “Ang paglagay ng sardinas sa lata kelangan ng kapital. Di ba? Pag gumagawa ka ng art, meron nang pulitika ro’n, naroon ang kapital. Ang anak-mangingisda na magaling magdrowing ba makakagawa ng painting gawa sa mamahalin at imported na oil? Hindi. Kung gagawa siya, enamel lamang sa plywood. Kahit yun magastos na sa kanya. Ang isang makata sa squatter makakapaglabas ba ng mga tula niya? Kelangan niya ng P70,000 para makapaglathala ng 500 pieces ng kanyang unang manipis na aklat. At saan niya puwedeng ibenta iyon, ganung wala siyang tindahan? Sa Ntional Bookstore? Gimme a break. Hay naku, Fidel . . . Oo nga, ang mahihirap meron ding art.”
     “Nakaya ko lang ho mag-fine arts dahil sa scholarship sa U.P. At sa mga pinapadala ng Nanay,” says Fidel.
     “Of course,” says Vicente, “alam ko yun, anak. At alam ko rin na you know your Marxist criticism, dude, Walter Benjamin and all those. Kaya lang, ang gusto kong itanong sa ‘yo, ina-apply mo ba sa art mo ang alam mo?”
     “Yun,” Manny butts in. “Dun tayo magkaiba ng tingin, Ka Enteng. Ano ang art ng mga mahihirap? Dito mo rin makikita ang pulitika nila. Alam nilang kaya nila ang magdesenyo ng mga jeepney, magagarang handicrafts, pero ano ang mga nilalagay nila rito? Ganun pa rin. Flag ng US. Artistang Hollywood. Mga US jet fighters.”
     Again, if this were a movie we should definitely insert some pictures of those here. But this is not a movie. This is not my movie. This is only my screenplay of a novel.
     Vicente is laughing. I am laughing. I, the one writing this novel through my co-writer and editor, am laughing.
     “Well,” I say, “tama ka nga. Buti na lang di nalalagyan ng American flag ang masasarap nilang pagkain tulad ng suman at daing na dilis. Pero, gayunpaman, kahit ano pang nasyonalismo o kung ano mang ismo ang ilagay mo sa art mo, kung di mo rin nakikita ang politics sa sarili mong paggawa ng art mong ‘to, sinungaling pa rin ang art mo. Halimbawa, ikaw, Fidel. Gumagawa ka ng paintings tungkol sa mga mahihirap? Sino’ng bumibili no’n? Mga mayayaman? Ano ang dahilan at gusto nilang pinapanood ang mahihirap sa payapa at malinis nilang mga salas? Para ba matuwa ang kanilang mga katulong sa mga painting na ‘to?”
     “Alam ko naman yun, e,” Fidel says, finally. “Pero alam ko rin na di ko maiwasan iguhit ang nakalipas ko. At least sa bandang akin, hindi ko ineexploit ang mga mangingisda, dahil malapit ang puso ko sa kanila.”
     “Ibig sabihin, ang simpatiya mo sa mahihirap ginawa nilang pangdekorasyon sa magagara nilang mga bahay. Pinaganda mo ang kanilang kalagayan sa pamamagitan ng kulay, ng ganda ng oil, ng galing ng iyong kamay, at ang kalagayan ng mahihirap ay nagiging esthetic subject, hindi na political or economic subject. Taliwas ito sa tunay na social realism. Nabaliktad na ang mensahe ng social realist painting ngayon.”
     “Well, sa bandang akin naman, iniisip ko na at least pinaabot ko sa kanilang mga magagandang sala ang realidad na may mga mangingisda,” Fidel says, in defense.
     Vicente stands up and gives Fidel his Maoist cap. He is smiling.
     “Pasensiya ka na. Ito lang ang mabibigay ko sa ‘yo. Bagong tahi ‘yan, kanina ko lang sinuot. Kaya medyo mabango pa, amoy sastre pa,” Vicente says. “Baka hindi mo alam na alam ko na mahilig kang magbasa ng Pablo Neruda na mahilig magsulat tungkol sa mga sastre.”
     My men laugh.
     Then I walk away.
     “Bakit po ayaw niyong magpakita ke Joanna?” Fidel calls out, wanting to confront me with the question.
     I, Vicente, disappear down a slope with two of my men. Fidel keeps calling, but I keep on till I can’t see him anymore.
     Fidel and Manny look sadly at each other.

@ @ @

Fidel and Manny move down the mountain with some of the Maoists, Fidel wearing Vicente’s cap.

@ @ @

Fidel climbs up his house’s porch. Joanna meets him, asking where he got the cap.
     “Uy, ganda nyan a. Sa’n galling yan?”
     “Joanna,” Fidel says, “may ipagtatapat ako sa ‘yo.”
     Joanna is silent, curious, somewhat afraid of what she might hear.
     “Puwedeng dun tayo sa kuwarto?” Fidel asks.

@ @ @

“Nung bago tayong kasal,” Fidel starts, “…may gustong ipagtapat sa ‘yo si Manny…. Pero hindi niya nakayang sabihin kahit sa ‘kin. Nung nandito si Manny nung isang araw, sinabi niyang totoo ang pinahiwatig niya sa akin noon tungkol sa Tatay mo. Hindi raw niya masabi sa ‘yo at baka raw masira ang saya ng araw. Hiningi niyang ako na ang magsabi. Hindi ko rin sinabi sa ‘yo no’n dahil hindi ko alam kung totoo nga, at dahil din inisip ko na baka magalit ka sa Tatay mo. Baka maiba ang tingin mo sa kanya, masuklam ka sa kanya, na parang iniwan ka na lang niya nang basta ganon nang walang pasubali.”
     Joanna is puzzled.
     “Of course I was being presumptuous sa ‘yo, kasi maaari ring hindi nagbago ang tingin mo sa kanya,” Fidel adds. After a pause, he continues, “Joanna, … nagkita kami ng Tatay mo kanina. Sinamahan ako ni Manny sa kampo nila.”
     Joanna shakes her head in disbelief and begins to shake and cry.
     Fidel hugs her.
     “Naging komunista ang Tatay mo, Joanne.”



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