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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