Thursday, December 10, 2009

Fidel's March: A Screenplay of a Novel (Chapter 09)



FIDEL was in his studio again, sitting on the studio couch watching the news.
     Another journalist, the news was saying, had been found dead in her car in what police believed to be suicide. The reporter’s office mates said the reporter had been getting death threats after she divulged a missing fertilizer fund from the Department of Agriculture that appeared to have been used for the reelection campaign of the president, her excellency Divina Dimapagod-Tala.
     The TV news report included a clip of Dimapagod-Tala’s interview with CNN International, telling the global network the accident will be thoroughly investigated. The president said the nation should put aside any suspicions the government had anything to do with the accident and the spate of killings of journalists in the country, saying the government is sparing no effort to investigate each and every case to find out who the perpetrators are behind the murders and disappearances.

     The newscast segued to the newscaster’s interviewing a professor guest in the studio news room. The professor being interviewed was saying: ever since the president catapulted into office seven years ago, after a series of non-violent people’s protests and several government officials’ withdrawal of support for the beleaguered then-president, around a hundred journalists already disappeared or have been found dead in mysterious accidents. Another guest was a spokesman for the armed forces, who was saying many of these missing journalists have long been suspected of coddling communist propaganda friends of theirs and were possibly part of the communist insurgency themselves, and thus may have died in skirmishes between the communists and the armed forces, or killed by their own comrades who may have suspected them of being double agents. With the journalists not suspected of being communists, meanwhile, the armed forces spokesman said, it may have been pure coincidence that they died in accidents during a period when they were reporting or investigating a corruption anomaly. After all, he said, reporters are always investigating something and not all of them die in accidents.
     And, please, he said, accidents can happen. It can happen to anybody.
     A year previous, the newscaster was saying, a politician who journeyed to his province’s capital to protest election results in his district was ambushed in a remote part of a provincial highway. Nine journalists who followed his convoy were killed in the ambush, with the female reporters believed to have been raped. The female reporters’ bodies were also chopped into several parts to fit into barrels. The barrels were located a few meters from the ambush scene beside unused cement and sand bags still wet from the rain. Semen samples were gathered for matching with the DNA of the suspects—a contending politician’s guards and two sons—but the samples were later stolen and the investigation, after much delay and countless sessions with very expensive lawyers, went nowhere. The nine journalists killed were the 89th-98th journalists to have gone missing or to have been killed during the reign of President Dimapagod-Tala, touted by the opposition to be the democratic president to have gotten the lowest approval rating in the history of democratic presidencies.
     Rumors had it, the newscaster reminded the TV audience, that then national security adviser Gaudencio Morales and interior and local government secretary Clodualdo Coco had a hand in the ambush drama that went into the wrong hands and thus went awry, resulting in the murders. The rumors speculated on a martial law declaration in the province to experiment on its results for a larger, nationwide declaration, the objective of which would be to extend the president’s stay in office indefinitely. The rumors, later denied as a matter of course, were borne out of previous rumors of the two’s hand in several regional election rigging in favor of the president’s party and several bombings that killed a few people and ruined train tracks and a mall at the height of a failed impeachment proceeding against the president. The two laughed off the—
     Joanna appeared at the door and called to Fidel: “Uy, halika na, kakain na tayo!”
     “Sige, mauna na kayo, mamaya na ako.”
     “Lalamig ang pagkain.”
     “Mauna na kayo,” said Fidel impatiently, “tatapusin ko lang ‘tong news dito. Bakit ba, ura-urada kelangan tatayo agad ako, me pinapanood ako, e.”
     Joanne was speechless. Then she turned to the TV and watched the news herself. When the news shifted to another headline, she turned and went out.
     Fidel just kept on watching.

@ @ @

Fidel and Joanne sat eating, not talking to each other. Soon Fidel drank his water and stood to go.
     “Sa’n ka matutulog?” asked Joanne, not looking at him.
     “Di ko alam,” said Fidel, he said, and went on.
     “Sa studio,” said Joanne, looking at her plate. “Okay.”

@ @ @

March 7. In the front garden of the Roxas house, the 17-year-old cameragirl walks toward a door under the house’s front stairs. She opens that door and goes in. Inside, Joanna is ironing clothes. The cameragirl beams her camera at a window in the room where the camera could see Sienna—the now-not-so-stout maid—behind it, hurling clothes into a washing machine. Where Sienna is is a wall-less large area or terraza that adjoins the lawn of the backyard garden. Pablo is there with Sienna, playing with a toy car on a table.
     Joanna is ironing clothes. Sometimes she stops. She is thinking, looking sad, later sighing. On the shirt she is ironing a tear falls. She is silently crying. Then she intentionally burns her own blouse.

@ @ @

In Fidel’s studio, Fidel looks at an orange-underpainted painting-in-progress, of a fish girl looking out to sea, the girl’s nose barely visible. The painting is on the easel. He looks at it long. Then he picks up a large brush. Suddenly Fidel brushes on the still-wet painting, ruining the picture. He picks up a container of liquid paint or turpentine. He throws the paint or turpentine on the canvas. He looks at the bunch of ready orange-underpainted canvases leaning on the wall. He hurls turpentine over these too.

@ @ @

March 8. That afternoon Fidel crosses the San Juanico Bridge towards Tacloban.
     When he arrives in the city, he drives to a poor section of the town beside the city’s bay. He stops by a rotting wooden house. A fat man with a goatee and in his mid-thirties calls him from across the wooden house, seeming to have bought a pack of cigarettes from a dimestore. Beside the store was a huddle of men, some of whom had no shirts on.
     “Pare! Fidel, pare!” the man says, crossing the street. “Napasyal ka, ‘dre! Halika, dito tayo. May bisita ako e, modelo ko. Pero okay lang, pareho naman tayo pintor e. Pakilala ko sa ‘yo, pare.” He adds, “girlfriend ko ‘to, e,” then laughs.
     They enter the wooden house into a small room with a dining table to the right and a living room set to the left. A somewhat enigmatically sad-faced young woman of around eighteen comes out from a room behind the living room set in a robe and joins them in the living area cum painting studio. She sits on an old sofa with a wooden backrest while Fidel and his friend decide to sit in the dining area.
     “Pasensiya ka na pare ha, may session kasi kami ngayon e. Pero sige lang, usap lang tayo. Gusto mo beer, pare? Karissa, puwedeng ikuha mo muna kami ng beer? Please lang?”
     Karissa obliges. She walks across the two and turns to the right, her left, to the kitchen where the ref is and takes out three beer bottles and a pot to the table, the three lite beer bottles’ necks all hanging from between her right hand’s fingers. But she then goes back to the kitchen with the pot and shoves it, the pot of meat dish, onto the stove right by the doorway, heating it. She takes a bottle opener hanging on the kitchen wall and comes back to the table to open the bottles.
     “Waitress ‘yan si Karissa dati, e,” says Fidel’s fat friend.
     Karrissa smiles, looking at Fidel, and sits on a wooden armchair in front of the table but facing the wall by the house’s main door.
     We forget to mention a painting on an easel in the room. If one is to walk from the front door straight to the kitchen doorway, he would have to go around this painting on an easel at the head of the small rectangular dining table. Now, in front of where the fat man with the goatee sits on a high stool by the table, is that nude painting in progress which he starts to touch again with the brush from the easel as the girl strips and arranges herself on the couch.
     “O, pare, tatapusin ko na lang ‘to ha, tapos tuloy ang inuman natin. Bihira mo na ako dalawin dito a.”
     “Sige lang, dre, take your time,” Fidel says.
     “Kukunin na kasi ‘to bukas, e. Apuradong-apurado e, kaya acrylic na ginamit ko para madaling matuyo. Tapos itong si Karissa, di puwede mamaya; kaya heto, kelangang bilisan. Nga pala, pare, nagpunta ako sa U.P. kahapon; exhibit ng mga fans mong estudyante ro’n, pare. Hindi paintings nila, mga repros ng paintings mo, pinalaki, tapos ginastusan, nakadikit sa plywood, laminated, nagpaalam ba sa ‘yo ang mga yun?”
     He is a happy man, this fat man. Fidel drinks his beer.
     “Oo naman,” Fidel says. He doesn’t seem to want to discuss it.
     “Teka muna ha,” Karissa says, who then stands up naked and walks toward the kitchen. The fat artist does some more retouchings. Karissa reappears, bringing the heated pot, putting it on the tile hotpad embedded to the center of the table. Then she goes back to the kitchen to get the painters a couple of saucers and forks and a serving spoon for the pot. Fidel says “thank you, Karissa.” She lies back on the couch.

@ @ @

The painting has progressed. It looks like a cheap rip-off of a Michelangelo fresco, or a Velazquez. The fat artist is still working on it as he and Fidel drink beer. He tells Fidel:
     “Ang politics sa art ko, pare, hindi mo yan makikita sa kasaysayan ng mundo, pare. Hindi mo rin ‘to makikita sa lipunan, pare. Walang mata ng peryodista, sinasabi ko sa ‘yo, ang makakakita ng politics ko, pare. Ang politics ko, pare, narito.”
     The artist put his left palm on his chest.
     “Sa puso,” says Fidel with smiling eyes.
     “No, pare. Hindi sa puso. It’s a matter of faith, pare.”
     “Faith?” Fidel is doubtful. “Faith saan?”
     “Sa art, pare. Ang art, pare, yan ang religion ko, ‘tol; yan ang politics ko, pare.”
     As if dismissing the artist’s pronouncements, as if these were of no consequence, Fidel asks, “Bago model mo, pare?”
     “Ha? Sino, si Karissa? Hindi, pare, six months nang nagmomodel sa ‘kin yan. Nakita ko yan diyan sa me sidewalk sa me Mercury Drug, e, isang gabi. Nagbabarbecue sa labas. E walang customer, kaya nag-usap na lang kami. Kaya heto, may hanapbuhay siya sa araw.”
     Karissa looks at Fidel who’s been smiling at her. She says “hi” to him again.
     It seems they’ve now finished around five bottles. Fidel stands up to say goodbye.
     “Sige, pare, magda-drive pa ako e. Punta ka ba sa film festival?”
     “Aba, oo, pare, para sa amin ang proceeds nun e. Teka, pare, matatapos na ‘to e. Huwag ka muna umalis.”
     “Huwag na, pare, malalasing ako nyan, nagdadrive ako e.”
     “O, sige, pare. Dalas-dalasan mo naman dalaw sa mga artist dito, pare.”
     “O, sige ba. Sige, Karissa, thanks ha. Jesse.”
     “Okay, pare, di na kita hatid sa kotse mo ha.”
     “Okay lang.”
     Then he’s out of Jesse’s studio.

@ @ @

Not feeling like he’s heard anything of value to him from Jesse, Fidel heads for home. It’s getting dark. But then he passes a kind of Portuguese lanchonete called Zanzibar and decides to eat first. He goes in and looks at the overhead menu from his table.
     While eating, Fidel sees another painter-friend come into the café-restaurante to look up at the menu on the board after putting on round-framed John Lennon-esque spectacles. Then the friend talks to a waiter about what he wants. Fidel has recognized his friend from the moment he entered the café, a balding fortyish fellow, but his friend didn’t see him. So he calls toward the artist-friend before the latter could sit at another table. The friend is surprised and elated to find Fidel in the small botequim or bistro.
     “Captain Robert, pare,” Fidel softly calls.
     “Uy, Fidel!” Captain Robert laughs. “Pasensya ka na, pare, mahina na mata ko e, di kita nakita,” he laughs again. “Kumusta?”
     “This is a coincidence, pare,” says Fidel. “Galing lang ako kina Jesse, nag-beer kami while he painted. O, Captain, my Captain, kumusta painting mo?”
     “Hayun, pare, paisa-isa lang. Di tulad mo, paisa-isang katerba. Alam mo naman ang local market namin dito, mahina, tsaka wala tayong tourism dito. Probinsiyang-probinsya, pare, mabagal ang benta, mura presyo,” he says, laughing, while waiting for his food to be served. “Tsaka busy rin ako sa serbisyo e. Ayoko na ngang magsundalo, kung may kita lang sa painting e. Tsaka, pare,” he adds, in a mock whisper, “huwag mo akong tawaging Captain dito, wala akong alalay e, snickering.
     When they are almost finished with their food. Robert says:
     “Aba, pare, gusto mo daan tayo sa isang quiet bar later? May acoustic Waray rock music, pare. Medyo madilim lang. Pero ngayong oras wala pang tugtugan do’n, do’n natin pag-usapan ang painting mo, pare.”
     “Magda-drive pa ako, Rob.”
     “Pare, ida-drive kita sa inyo. Tapos magco-commute ako pabalik dito.
     “Sa ganitong oras, wala ka nang masasakyan pabalik dito. Patutulugin kita sa bahay no’n,” Fidel says, laughing. “At di mo dapat ginagamit ang ‘commute na word, pare. Philippine English yun. Sabihin mo take public transport o take the bus. Sorry sa lecture ha.”
     “Ganun ba? Hmm, yan ang gusto ko sa yo, marami kang alam,” he jokes.
     “Sa West kasi, pare, ginagamit ang salitang commute pag nakatira ka sa labas ng city at sa city ka nagtatrabaho. Nagcocommute ka, at kasama doon ang mga me kotse. Pag sa city ka naman nakatira at sa labas ng city ka nagtatrabaho, tawag sa yo reverse commuter, kahit may sariling motorsiklo ka.
     “Ganun? E di maganda pala yun, walang elitism.” They laugh.
     “Tama,” says Fidel.

@ @ @

They are in a small bar with a portrait hanging on the wall.
     “Pare, pininta ko, the Captain says, pointing at the wall portrait. “Si Filomeno Ilustrado, illustrious playwright at makata ng mga komunistang Waray, pare, na napaslang ko rin noong dekada ’80. Nung napatay ng mga tauhan ko yan, nabalitaan kong magsusurender na pala siya. Walang pamilya, pare, walang kamag-anak dito, mukhang Ilokano yata. Pero napadpad sa Samar command ng New People’s Army, at naging mahusay na makata sa wikang Waray. At isa pa, bagamat political ang tatlong maiiksing dula niya, ang mga tula niya ay puro tungkol sa halaman at malamig na mga lawa ng mga bundok, pare. Taga-hanga ako ng napaslang ko, pare.”
     “Of course, of course, kilala ko ‘yan, pare,” says Fidel.
     “Buti ka pa kilala mo. Ang mga Waray ngayon, wala nang nakikilala kundi mga Kano o European o kung sino-sinong foreigner. Wala nang may pakialam sa kanilang sariling history, pare. 0.1 percent sa mga pumapasok sa bar na ‘to ang nakakakilala diyan, pare, o sa sinumang playwright o poet sa wikang Waray. Kahit nga ikaw na pinakasikat sa Waray art world ngayon, pare, ikaw at ang kapatid mong arkitekto at ang baklang direktor na ‘yon, si Manuel White ba ‘yon, ng Samar, walang makakakilala sa inyo at sa direk na yon sa bar na ‘to. Ang mga hero nila ngayon mga American singers na kumakanta tungkol sa mga tren sa Amerika, e wala naman tayong tren dito sa mga isla natin. Hindi ako nagtataka kung bakit maraming nationalist ang nag-decide na magkomunista na lang, dahil ang gobyerno natin wala ring pakialam, pare. Lahat ng goods ngayon, gawang China.”
     Fidel smiles, sitting. A lanky waiter approaches them, asking for their order. They ask for San Miguel beer and expensive peanuts.
     “Kakaiba ka talaga sa ibang militar. Masyado kang nationalist e, regionalist pa,” Fidel says.
     “Hindi naman, pare. Marami kami. Si Gringo Honasan, dakilang coup d’etat icon, nasyonalista rin sa pananalita. Bihira mag-Ingles. Di ko nga lang alam kung totoong nasyonalista rin sa paniniwala, o isa na ring tradisyonal na pulitiko. Sabi nga ng iba sa ‘min, nananatili lang daw na tuta ng defense minister ni Marcos. Tuta ni Enrile, hanggang naging senador na siya!”
     The Captain shakes his head, though Fidel simply smiles, unsure about how to take Robert’s political statement.
     “Totoo kaya ‘yon?” Fidel asks, pretending innocence. Back in university as an adventurous freshman, he used to join anti-coup peace rallies, where the Honasan-Enrile connection was spoken like bible truth.
     Only one other table in the bar is occupied by men customers. At another table sits two young women having cocktails, most likely pickup girls waiting for nightfall or just part of the rehearsing band’s groupies. It looks like an inexpensive bit of a bar, but it is early yet to expect a lot of people.
     Now they’ve finished their bottles and Robert orders another round. Robert is saying:
     “Alam mo, pare, sa akin ha. Sa akin, there are things higher than politics, pare. Okay? Kahit ang politics ng religion walang kuwenta yan e. Ang religion, pare, industriya yan e. Pinatatakbo yan ng mga industrialists. Ang tawag natin sa kanila religious leaders, pero businessmen din ang mga ‘yon.”
     One of the young ladies is now talking to somebody on her cellphone. She stands up, kisses her friend goodbye.
     “Ang totoong politics, pare,” Robert is saying, “nasa kaluluwa, pare, nasa pakiramdam mo, pare, hindi nasa manufactured na paniniwala ng simbahan. Naalala mo yung painting ko na kinantot ko ang wet paint, pare? Yun, nandun ang politics ko, pare.”
     “Buti di nagagalit sa ‘yo ang commander mo, pare,” Fidel offers, smiling.
     “Alam mo namang pseudonym ang gamit ko sa art ko, e, ito talaga.”
     “Sorry, pare, you were saying—”
     “Sabi ko, pare, ang politics ko hindi politics ng lipunan, pare, kundi politics ng indibidwal. Kahit ang art hindi mas mataas sa indibidwal. Ang indibidwal ang hari, pare. Sandali, pare, ha, itutuloy, itutuloy.”
     Robert gets up and walks toward the men’s room. On the way he whispers something to the remaining woman on the other table. Then he walks on toward the restroom. On his way back he takes the woman’s hand and she joins Fidel and Robert. Robert calls to the waiter to give her another cocktail.
     Later there is a bit of a lonely acoustic instrumentalist’s show. Only another table gets occupied, the table population now totaling six male guests (inclusive of Fidel and Robert) in that smallish bar that could table seventy-five. Now it wasn’t quiet anymore.
     “Medyo mahal lang ang beer dito, pare, pero may live music. Kaya okay din,” Robert says.
     As the show progresses, Robert fondles one of the young woman’s breasts in the dark.

@ @ @

Outside in the curb across Fidel’s car, Robert whispers to Fidel, saying:
     “Pasensiya ka na, pare, di kita mada-drive. May kasama ako e.”
     Fidel smiles.
     “Okay lang, Robby, kaya ko naman e,” Fidel says. “Enjoy the night.”
     “Sige, pare,” Robert says as he and the girl walk toward Robert’s jeep. “Drive home safely, pare. Don’t drink anymore and drive!”
     Fidel laughs.
     “Thanks, pare,” he says.
     He walks to his car, still okay.
     Suddenly, Robert comes up running towards Fidel, the woman with him not crossing the street with Robert but laughing. Robert says to Fidel, an arm across Fidel, “ingat ka, pare, ha. Ayokong makulong ka pag nakasagasa ka. Ayokong makapatay ka ng bata.”
     “I’m okay, Captain, thanks for the reminder. Hindi na mauulit ‘to,” Fidel says, jokingly. “Ikaw din, mag-ingat ka sa bata.”
     Robert pretends to cry. The young woman across the street waiting for Robert was calling him, laughing.



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



No comments:

Post a Comment