Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Fidel's March: A Screenplay of a Novel (Chapter 13)



APRIL 1. Today I am shooting again. Or, rather, my co-writer and editor, who happens to be my son, shall here appear as my camera assistant, who happens to be my daughter. My other daughter. She, too, is from yonder. But she’s here. With you.
     Today that I have ceased to be invisible, dismissing omniscience, I can only shoot what I’ve learned from Fidel himself as to what else happened starting April 1. So, therefore, we can say that the writing that appears here onwards is Fidel’s. This does not really matter because, in the final analysis, the prose that appears here—that you have been reading—is really my son Dennis’. Neither I nor Fidel knows how to write. Thus why I said the above, that the camera-view that you’ll be seeing here on out shall be recognized as my son Dennis’. Dennis after all is a creative writing major, still has to graduate with another year within which to try and finish his units yet. It was Dennis who suggested I write from the perspective of a spy, invisible to the public without being dead, moving like a hidden camera in spaces and places no ordinary human would dare propose is possible. Dennis proposed that this hidden camera could be both real—my physical spying—and imagined—my imaginings of what went on beyond the spaces governed by my physical spying’s ability to conquer spaces. Dennis suggested I use Mulan, his sister, as my cameragirl.
     I could not do that. Mulan never reached seventeen, she never even reached seven. She died in the mountains in the arms of her mother who was also slain in a confrontation with a new detachment unit of the Philippine Army in Samar under the command of a certain Gen. Butch de Veyra. I mourned Mulan’s death. But with Mulan’s death I began to long for my daughter Joanna. With Mulan’s death I realized I’ve long neglected Joanna after her mother’s death. With Mulan’s death I seemed to have made the promise that it’s about time I longed to be with Joanna now that I have no other woman in my life but her. I told Dennis to put Joanna in as my cameragirl, although he insisted I should call her Mulan so he could continue to be in touch with his younger sister, if only as a character in a work of semi-fiction.
     Dennis and I argued. I told him it was Joanna I trained as a young girl how to hold and use the camera. It was Joanna who had gone into short filmmaking in college, I said, it’s Joanna who could . . . Dennis cried. Dennis cried out of his longing for his lost sister whom she never really knew, irking my bit of machismo at this crying business, but which I later understood to be a longing more for his mother.
     Dennis was born when I started seeing Felisa, a young fish vendor, Bantay Dagat volunteer, and activist (she protested my filming in a certain mangrove, but I later gave her group assurances). Joanna was five when Dennis was born, and it was already when she was about to graduate in high school that she learned of my long affair with Felisa, and even though her mother was already gone by that time she still took this as an affront and ran away to her aunt in Manila and continued her studies under her aunt’s guardianship. At first she didn’t know I kept sending money to her aunt for her college tuition and what-not, but later in the years she found out and started writing to me. I never had the chance to visit her at her aunt’s because most of my last films I shot in the Visayas, more precisely in Samar Island. The films were becoming more and more political and the Right started to set their sights on me, or so Felisa told me. Then Felisa and I joined the Communist Party.
     But Joanna never knew about my children with Felisa, about Dennis being born when she was about to graduate from kindergarten. As I said, it was when she was about to graduate in high school that she found out about the affair, thus running away from home hating me.
     It was only yesterday, last night after her birthday party that we got to talk in the backyard garden from midnight till dawn about everything that she needed to know. We talked over tuba. I told her everything. That her half-brother Dennis is still in college, unable to graduate at 20 due to missed units. I also told her about Mulan, who died at six in the mountains, and how her loss led me back to her—Joanna. I told her about a novel I’m writing. Told her about my travels, my secret visits to this house and to Dennis’s boarding house in Manila where we’d write my novel.

@ @ @

Still April 1. Fidel arrives at the U.P. at Tacloban campus, parking his car and then getting off it to hurry to a class. The painter Jesse is the instructor in the classroom. The students include college and senior high school students.
     “Students,” Jesse says, “ngayon po sa unang araw pa lang ng ating summer painting workshop, gusto ko pong ipakilala ang marahil kilala nyo na, ang pinakasikat galing sa ating region sa larangan ng painting, si Mr. Fidel Roxas.”
     The students applaud.
     Soon Fidel is on the blackboard, lecturing:
     “So, ganun yun, tatlong stages ang oil painting. Una, naroon ang preparasyon ng canvas with latex paint, tapos naroon na ang painting proper using oil paint. Then, finally, at last, pagkatapos ng isang taon kung kelan tuyong-tuyo na ang painting, puwede nang i-apply ang . . . varnish. Ano ang ibig sabihin ng mga stages na ito? Anybody?”
     Jesse is smiling.

@ @ @

“VARNISH,” this is the new chalk graffiti writing on the metal plate on the lower part of the Roxases’ iron gate. It’s March 1, two years later.
     Fidel is in his now-poorly maintained studio; a few cobwebs are on the ceiling and walls. He is with more of his new, happy, orange portraits. He now has a beard and mustache and looks thinner. He begins to smash the paintings on the table and the wall and throws one out the window.
     Joanna appears at the door, stops there, and goes to Fidel to try to hug him. He lets her comfort him. Her looks haven’t changed.
     Suddenly, Fidel cries on Joanna’s shoulder and then says “sorry. I’m sorry,” while Joanna says “shhh,” wiping a tear and then kissing him.
     “Fidel,” says Joanna now, “FIdel, makinig ka sa ‘kin. . . . Fidel, halos isang taon ka na sa ginagawa mong ‘yan, di ba? At meron kang natutunan. Di ba?”
     Fidel goes to a window.
     “Fidel,” says Joanna, tears also welling up in her own eyes now, careful with what she wants to say, choosing her words. “Kailangan mo na kayang bitawan yan? Wala kang masyadong naibenta sa mga gawa mong yan, at hindi ka rin naman masaya diyan e, di ba? Kailangan mo nang iwanan yan, Fidel. For your sake. Please, Fidel, maghanap ka na ng ibang gagawin, naaawa na ako sa yo e.”
     She is crying now. Fidel slowly goes to her to caress her hair and hug her.
     After a pause he whispers, “okay. Okay, Joanna. Okay.”
     She looks at him and then cries on his chest.
     Later she looks up at him and asks, “ano ba’ng nangyari sa ‘yo?”

@ @ @

March 2. Federico’s car arrives at the Roxases’ gate. When he enters the gate he sees two old cars, an old silver Toyota Corolla and an older red one behind it. He climbs up the front stairs of the now ill-maintained house, noticing some plants on the porch needing water. Joanna runs out of the kitchen in her apron. Federico has an envelope in one hand and a wrapped gift in the other.
     “Kuya. Na-receive ko ang text message mo halos ngayon lang. Naghuhugas ako ng plato e,” she says.
     “Oh,” he says.
     “Wala na kasi si Sienna.” She is not as happy-looking as she used to be but still glamorous as ever, even in her apron.
     “Ganun ba?” he says, a bit puzzled. "You look great, though,” he says after a puzzling silence, unsure if this was the right thing to say. “Si Fidel?”
     “Nasa studio niya.”
     “I’m sorry about what happened, Joanna. . . . Me pera ka pa ba? Heto ang envelope, huwag mong ipapakita ke Fidel at huwag na huwag mo akong irerefuse dahil kapatid ko ang asawa mo.”
     She doesn’t answer, holding the envelope.
     “Pasensiya ka na. Kararating ko lang sa Maynila nung isang araw. Halos anim na buwan ako sa Thailand e. . . . O, mukhang napapabayaan niyo ‘tong bahay a.”
     “Uhm, kumain ka na ba?”
     “Oh, yes, nag-McDonald’s lang ako sa Tacloban. Nga pala, yang perang yan, katatanggap ko lang sa isang kliyente ko rito kaya maliit lang yan.”
     “Salamat, kuya.”
     “Ba’t nga pala dalawa ang kotse sa garahe?”
     “Yung pula sa Tatay. Pero nasa Maynila siya ngayon.”
     “Oh, yes. Kumusta naman ang Tatay mo?”
     She smiles. “Ayun. Sunod-sunod nga ang shooting mula nang ma-release siya sa kulungan nung December.”
     “A, talaga. Galing! Good for you! All’s well that ends well, then.” He is smiling though Joanna’s smile is not so happy. “So, ano’ng ginagawa ni Fidel sa studio, me trabaho ba?”
     “Natutulog lang, kuya,” says Joanna, her head down, a bit nervous about something.
     “Ganun ba? Anyway, yan ang pera na tinext ni Fidel sa akin na gusto niyang utangin, nagtaka nga ako kung bakit siya mangungutang ng ganun kaliit, ano ba’ng nangyari? Uhmm, nga pala, si Pablo? Eto nga pala ang gift ko sa kanya na di ko naipadala nung Pasko.”
     Joanna, her head still down, doesn’t take the present and starts shaking. Federico is stunned. Joanna’s tears fall on the floor. Later, weakened by the reminder, she slowly falls down on her knees, begins to silently sob, trembling with her painful sobbing.
     Federico is still stunned, sitting down on a couch beside Joanna, putting a hand on Joanna’s shoulder.
     Joanna looks at her brother-in-law and says, “wala na si Pablo, kuya,” and sobs once more. Federico frowns. “Anim na buwan na. Nung umalis ka for Thailand.”
     Federico is confused.
     “What do you mean, wala na siya? Wala kayong namemention na ganyan sa mga email niyo a.”
     “Pasensiya ka na, kuya, ayaw ka naming maabala sa trabaho mo.”
     Federico is still confused.
     “Na-dengue si Pablo, kuya. Hindi namin agad dinala sa ospital, nagtitipid kasi kami. Akala ko simpleng lagnat lang.” Joanna cries again. “Malala na nung dalhin namin.” Then she stops crying, looking at a table where a picture of Pablo stands.
     Federico is so confused, shaking his head in disbelief. He retreats from Joanna, exclaiming “oh God. Oh my God,” and begins to tremble and silently sob too, covering his mouth. “Why?” he says, to no one. “Why? Ang inaanak ko. Ano ba’ng nangyayari rito?”
     After a pause he says, “bakit di niyo ako tinawagan?”
     Joanna just looks at him, and starts to silently cry again.

@ @ @

Federico enters the studio and sees Fidel awake now, in the studio terrace, sitting smoking, looking out at the garden.
     Rico slowly walks toward Fidel, who looks at him then.
     “Narinig ko ang kotse mo, kuya. Welcome back.” Fidel extends his hand to his brother.
     “I’m so sorry, Fidel.”
     Fidel doesn’t know what to say.
     “. . . Ako ang pumatay sa anak mo,” Rico says.
     “Kuya,” Fidel says, turning to his brother in protest, “what are you talking about? Na-dengue si Pablo.”
     “Winasak ko ang buhay mo, at namatay ang anak mo, dahil lang gusto ko maging maligaya ka sa painting mo, Fidel. Ako ang humimok sa iyo na palitan mo ang art mo. Pinatay ko ang inaanak ko.”
     “Kuya. Kuya!” says Fidel as he stands up, holding his brother’s hunching shoulders, “wala kang kasalanan, kuya. Ako, ako ang may pagkukulang. Sa sarili ko, sa pamilya ko. Dahil sa mga walang saysay na mga pinaggagawa ko sa simula pa lang.”
     The brothers start to cry and hug each other.
     “I’m sorry, Fidel, I’m sorry napatay ko ang inaanak ko.”
     “Kuya. Kuya, minulat mo lang ako, kuya . . . sa mga bagay na totoo. At sa matagal ko nang gustong gawin.”
     Fidel retreats from Federico and wipes his own tears.
     “Kung tinuloy ko yung dati kong ginagawa, kuya,” he says, facing the garden, “ganun din ang mangyayari kung magsawa na ang tao sa mga gawa ko. Kung wala nang bumibili. At lalala ang sitwasyon dahil totoo ang sabi mo, hindi ko ipaglalaban, dahil hindi ko art yun, kanila yun.”
     Federico also wipes his face.
     “Kaya, kuya,” Fidel says, facing Federico, “kelangan ko pa rin makita ang totoo kong pulitika, sabi mo nga, ano man yun, nasaan man yun.”
     Federico shakes his head, pitying Fidel and missing his godson, saying, “Jesus, Fidel,” and could only place an arm on his brother’s shoulder.
     Federico then retreats from his brother and looks toward the garden. Then he turns toward Fidel.
     They both stand there, silent, both looking at the floor. Federico then looks out at the garden and the pond in the garden one more time. Fidel looks at a wall in his studio. Federico then raises his right pointer finger towards the garden and starts to drum the air with it.
     “That’s it. That’s it! Fidel,” Federico says, turning to Fidel, holding Fidel’s arm. “Puwede ka bang sumama sa akin? Please? May ipapakita lang ako sa iyo, sa bahay natin sa Tacloban. Kelan ka huli nagpunta sa bahay natin sa Tacloban?”
     Fidel shakes his head.
     “No, kuya. Dito lang ako, kuya, walang kasama si Joanna.”
     “Kelangan mong makita yon, Fidel. Isama natin si Joanna. Please, Fidel? Kung namatay man si Pablo dahil sa bigla niyong paghihirap at pagkakamali, . . . hayaan mong maipakita ko sa iyo kung ano sa palagay ko ang dapat mong makita. Para sa inyong mga araw na darating. . . . Para hindi ko masabing namatay ang inaanak ko dahil sa wala. Dahil hindi ko makakayang hindi mo makita ang gusto kong makita mo since last year pa, bago ako umalis ng Thailand. Ginawa ko yun para sa akin at sa iyo. Para rin ke Joanna at Pablo, at . . . at sa magiging susunod niyong anak.”
     Fidel trembles and sobs again and then lets out a scream. Federico closes his eyes as Joanna appears at the doorway with Federico's wrapped gift.



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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Fidel's March: A Screenplay of a Novel (Chapter 12)



FIDEL and Karissa go out into the night in his car and then on foot among the barbecue stalls of the small-town city. They stop at one kiosk. She says it’s hers.
     “O,” says Fidel, “akala ko waitress ka.”

     “Dati,” she says. “Tapos nakautang ako ng pamuhunan ke Jesse.”
     She introduces Fidel to her assistant, a sister named Carol. They sit by a plastic table, chewing on barbecue, sipping Coke.
     “Alam mo, sa totoo lang, ayoko sa mga paintings nung kaibigan mong iyon, si kuya Jesse. Masyadong malayo sa mundo, e. Di ko type. Gusto ko yung totoo, ano. Kasi totoong tao ako, e. Oo. Kasi nga, hindi ako magic, ano. Tsaka masyadong religious yang si Kuya Jesse, parati namang nakatitig sa bulbol ko. Diyos ko, ewan ko ba.”
     “Ibig mong sabihin, hIndi ka niya ginalaw, ni minsan?”
     “Hindi, ano. Torpe yan si kuya, ewan ko ba, bakla yata.”
     “Akala ko ba sabi mo bakla. Ngayon sinasabi mo baka lang. Ano ba talaga?”
     “Aba, ewan ko. Sabi ko baka bakla, kasi nga pinatira na ako sa bahay niya, hanggang ngayon hindi pa ako ginagalaw.”
     “Wow. E, pa’no kung torpe nga lang, tapos in love pala sa ‘yo, tapos heto tayo at . . . Wow. Hindi bakla si Jesse.”
     “Sigurado ka ba?”
     “Kung saka-sakali, ngayon lang kami mag-aaway niyang kaibigan ko. Dahil sa iyo.”
     “Diyos ko, hindi naman ako pure virgin, ano. Laspag na ako. Ba’t niyo ako pag-aawayan?”
     “Me iba bang kaibigang babae si Jesse?”
     “Aba, ewan ko, kayo itong magbarkada, e. Pero, alam mo, okay din naman si Kuya sa akin. At diretso ang trabaho ko sa kanya. Ibig kong sabihin, kahit do’n ako matulog sa bahay niya, wala akong pangamba, kampanteng-kampante ka, alam mo? Wala akong pakialam sa sinasabi ng mga kapitbahay niya.”
     “Ni minsan di kayo nag-ano?”
     “Ano ka ba, ang kulit mo—malayo nga ang mundo niyang kaibigan mo, e. Ewan ko, parang wala siyang sex sa buhay niya. Pero, huy, alam mo ba yan si kuya? Pag pinipaint niya ako, hulaan mo kung ano ang last niyang pinipaint sa akin?”
     “Uhm, mata?”
     She laughs.
     “Bulbol ko,” she says. “Oo, walang paltos, parati ‘yon. Alam ko, kasi sinabi niya, tapos minsan tatayo ako at iyon na nga lang ang kulang. Last na lang daw, bulbol na lang. Parati, iyon. At alam mo ba ang kulay? Blue!”
     They laugh, Fidel not so much. Fidel is intrigued. He never saw Fidel’s paintings that way before; he always thought of his work as Gauguin tributes with a mytho-Christian bent.
     “Pero love ko yan si kuya. Parang kapatid ko, ganun. Love din ako niyan, maliban nga lang pag nakatitig sa bulbol ko. Diyos ko, di ko maintindihan ang art nun.”
     They laugh lightly.
     “Aktwali,” she says, “me isa pa akong asawa, at alam ni kuya Jesse yon. Pero ewan ko ba. Mas mahal niya ang fishing boat niya. At pag nasa lupa naman, minsan ayaw pakita sa ‘kin. Di ko rin maintindihan ang mga lalaki ng dagat. Palibhasa kasi maraming islang pinupuntahan, baka maraming sirenang kinakasama at kinakama sa bawat pulo.”
     “Baka naman sobrang pagod ang katawan, kulang sa tulog,” offers Fidel.
     She sighs, saying “hay, naku. Sinasayang ko lang ang ganda kong ito sa mga lalaking iyan. Ewan ko ba, parang malas ako sa lugar na ‘to, e. Dadalawa na ang asawa ko, mga asawa kong ayaw akong pakasalan, tapos kapwa mas mahilig sa dagat at ibang pantalan kesa sa ‘kin. Kaya eto, ilang araw na lang aalis na ako rito. Magpapaalam na rin ako sa pangatlo kong boypren na ayaw akong galawin. Tapos ikaw, may asawa kang tao, ba’t ka ba pumatol sa akin?”
     “Aalis ka? Sa’n ka pupunta?”
     “Hindi ka ba natatakot na makita ka ngayon ng mga kaibigan mo tapos isumbong ka sa asawa mo?”
     “Pintor ako, Karissa, nakakainuman ko ang mga modelo ko. Nga lang, minsan lang ako gumamit ng modelo rito sa Leyte.”
     “Oo nga, tapos ngayong gabi, ginamit mo pa ako, hindi mo naman ako modelo. Hindi mo ako ginamit sa pagpinta mo, hay buhay.”
     “Sa’n ka ba pupunta?”
     “Masaya ka ba sa asawa mo?”
     “Oo naman. Kaya lang hindi ako masaya sa ginagawa ko, nakakasawa na. Kaya minsan nag-iinit ang ulo ko e, sa kahit na ano. Hindi tuloy ako matimpla ng asawa ko, nag-aaway kami. Pero malambing siya.”
     “Martir ba?”
     “Hindi. Malambing lang, kaya di nagtatagal ang away namin. Alam niya rin sigurong me problema ako.”
     “Babaero ka ba?”
     “Hindi. Ngayon lang.”
     “Ay, virgin ka pala; ba’t ang galing mo?”
     They giggle.
     “Sa’n ka ba pupunta? Iiwan mo si Jesse?” Fidel presses on.
     “Pa’no pag nalaman ng misis mo ang nangyari sa atin?”
     “Di ko alam. Bakit, isusumbong mo ako?”
     “Sayang naman ang relationship niyo. Dahil lang sa akin, tapos isang beses lang naman, tapos aalis pa ako.”
     “Sa’n ka ba pupunta?”
     “Hay. Maghahanap ng ibang mapapangasawa na tunay. Yung may paninindigan. Pupunta kami ng kapatid ko sa Davao, nando’n ang Nanay namin. At malayo kami sa dagat, kaya wala na akong makikilalang mga mangingisda na buwisit lang sa buhay ko. At dahil malayo nga kami sa dagat, hindi na ako magbabarbecue dahil sigurado akong maraming nagbabarbecue ng mga baka at baboy sa kanilang mga bahay. Magfifishballs na lang ako.”
     They smile at each other.
     “Alam mo, ang tingin ko sa mga lalaki,” continues Karissa, “parating naghahanap ng kanilang mga sarili. Kung hindi sa kanilang mga iniidolo, sa ibang lugar. Sa ibang isla, parang ganun ba. Para bang . . . ewan ko. Para bang parating may malaking San Juanico Bridge na . . . na gusto nilang tawirin tungo sa isang mas malaking bagay na hindi maabot-abot. Walang lalaking marunong makuntento, wala akong kilala. Hindi ba mas makikita nila ang kanilang mga sarili sa mga bagay na nasa kanila na? Di ba? Sa mga bagay na ayaw nilang mawala? Bakit hindi yun ang alagaan nila?”
     Fidel is surprised at this eloquence and depth. Soon her cellphone rings. It’s his wife.
     “O, Wana. Oo, sandali na lang ako, nagkainuman lang kami ni pareng Jesse. Sandali na lang ako. Okay. Ba-bye.”
     He looks at Karissa. She lowers her head.
     “Pasensya ka na, ha,” she says. “Nadala ako kanina. Kawawa naman ang wife mo. Alam mo, uwi ka na sa kanya.”
     Fidel looks at her.
     “Sige na, dito lang ako. Balik ka na sa kotse mo. Hinihintay ka ng wife mo, di ba? O, di ba, ang saya-saya!” she says, as if to mock his going away, but really sounding both happy and sad—seeming to say “happy to have met you” and “it’s sad that we’re all sad people.”
     Fidel stands up and starts to walk away, but instantly turns back to hold her shoulder.
     “Bye,” he says. “Sorry, ha.”
     “Sorry saan? Bye.” She gets up and whispers in his ear, “i-promise mo sa sarili mo. Mula ngayon, mamahalin mo na siya ng lubusan.”
     Fidel doesn’t know what to say except “Mm, mahal ko naman ang asawa ko, e.”
     “Yun ang akala mo. Aktwali, pareho tayo e. Tulad ngayong gabi. Pareho tayong naging makasarili. Kaya tayo minamalas, e.”
     Karissa walks towards the back of the barbecue stall and says “bye” again, turns her back, getting down as if to look for something in the kiosk pantry.
     When she comes up and turns to check Fidel, he has walked away. Soon it begins to shower and Fidel is running to his car.

@ @ @

March 17. Morning, cocks crowing. Fidel wakes up and kisses his waking and smiling wife whose eyes however remain charmingly closed. Fidel gets up and walks to his studio even though he could smell the aroma of brewed coffee coming from Sienna’s kitchen.
     Inside the studio, he starts to unveil a blank stretched canvas.

@ @ @

March 30. Fidel unveils a gigantic orange portrait of his wife posing beside their backyard barbecue, laughing very happily over broiling blue-black marlin. The unveiling is slow, while guests in the house—including Jesse and Captain Robert and Mang Juaning and Atty. Sevilla—sing “happy birthday, happy birthday, happy birthday, Joanna”. It’s Joanna’s birthday bash. There’s food and drinks on the table and side tables, and music, loud chamber music.
     Fidel unveils more orange paintings as Joanna runs to the porch area to greet some new guests. Despite the food, the house has turned into a gallery, unveiling Fidel’s new series.
     “Preview ‘to ng mga i-i-exhibit ko sa Maynila sa mga susunod na buwan, pare,” Fidel tells Jesse. “Di ko na tinuloy yung pinakita ko sa ‘yo. Baduy.”
     “Buti naman alam mo, pare,” Jesse says, laughing.
     The orange paintings are portraits still, one of which is that of the Provincial Board Member, Atty. Sevilla, posing with the governor and the president of the Republic of the Philippines, both of them raising a large blue-black marlin fish held by the tail as they look back at the painter, their bodies facing a basketful of fish on the right of the painting. All the portrait subjects wear wide smiles.
     “Fidel,” one of the elder guests says, “mukhang masasaya na yata lahat ng paintings mo, a.”
     “A, oho, napansin ko nga e,” says Fidel, laughing. “Kasi po dati gusto ko nangingibabaw ang background—ang landscape o di kaya yung seascape—kaya mas maraming blue at green. Ngayon, nakafocus na ako sa tao, e. Marami na kasing nagpapaportreyt sa style ko, kaya lumipat ako sa orange, para sumaya na.”
     “Talaga ha?”
     “Oho.”
     Fidel’s brother Federico seems to have arrived, confirmed when Joanna called to Fidel, “Fidel, nandito na ang kuya Fredric.”
     Federico arrived with Manuel White, the film director. Federico and Manny buzz Joanna on the cheeks, giving her little wrapped presents, and then they shake Fidel’s hand to congratulate him on his new orange paintings.
     Fidel is eager to hear what his brother has to say about his new collection. Frederico looks amazed by the paintings. He approaches the large painting of Joanna and says, “Ladies and gentlemen, may I present my brother’s new politics!” Fidel gets nervous, unsure of what to do, what to say. “Mga kaibigan,” Federico continues, “tinutukoy ko po partikular ang politics ni Fidel sa paglikha ng mga portraits. Mga kaibigan, mukhang ang sinasabi ng aking kapatid dito . . .”—he points to one of the paintings—“ay ito. Kung ipipinta mo ang mga tao na seryoso dahil hindi sila nakaharap, tulad dito . . .”—he goes to an old Fidel Roxas painting still on a wall—“nakatalikod kung kaya’t di maipakita ang kanilang mga ngiti, at nangingibabaw ang dagat o lupa sa kabila kesa sa mga tao sa harap, hindi mo sila maaaring mabasa o mahusgahan. Ang landscape o seascape o humanscape sa likod ang mas mahalaga, bagamat nandun ang taong pinoportray, nakatalikod nga lang. Wala siyang pulitika, isa siyang tao lamang na tinutulak ng kanyang palibot. Subalit sa mga bagong paintings na ito ni Fidel Roxas, mga kapatid”—he goes back to the orange painting—“naroon at nangingibabaw na ang taong pinoportray. Nakatagilid pa rin ang katawan pero nakaharap na ang mga mukha at masaya, bagamat naroon pa rin parati ang mga isda na signature subject ng ating pintor. Masaya, masaya! Sabi nga ng isang sikat na mangangawit, ‘Higit Sa Lahat, Tao!’ Mabuhay si Fidel Roxas!”
     Everybody acknowledges the toast, laughing and nodding and enjoying the party, and Fidel bows to thank them all, smiling, as Freddie Aguilar’s song refrain “higit sa lahat, tao” plays from the radio in the bananacue stall in front of the Roxases’ house. (Some tambays watched the event at the Roxas house from the bananacue stall as they ate their bananacues).
     “Mga kaibigan,” continues Federico, “sa mga portraits na ito, tila handa na po ang mga subjects ng paintings na mangibabaw at hindi magpaalipin lamang sa kanilang palibot. Ang maging tagadala ng saya at hindi lamang parang mga taong paalis o papunta sa nakapalibot na impluwensiya. Ngayon, nasa kanila ang impluwensiya. At ang tumitingin sa painting, sumasaya rin. At ako rin ay masaya ngayon para sa birthday girl na si Joanna Apostol Roxas at ke Fidel Roxas. Magaling!”
     Everybody applauds.
     Imagine seeing this speech from the camera of Joanna, the birthday celebrant, now roaming around in her blue jeans and white blouse while clutching her new digital camera.
     “Isa na lang po,” says Federico. “O mas mabuti pa, si Fidel na ang mag-announce.”
     Fidel approaches Federico.
     “Uhm, opo,” Fidel says. “Gusto ko pong ipahatid, at sana’y masalubong ito ng inyong palakpakan, na nitong gabi ring ‘to . . . ay magsisimula ang pagbabalik ng aking asawa, ang ating birthday celebrant, sa paggawa ng mga maiikling pelikula sa tulong ng isang bagong digital camera at isang bagong producer! At ang producer na iyon ay ako!”
     Wild applause and laughter.
     Everybody proceeds to loudly sing again a Happy Birthday song to Wana as she is led to the table to blow the candles on a large cake made to look like a large film reel and just now brought in by two female friends of hers and Sienna.
     Everybody applauds after she blows the candles, including Vicente who seems to have suddenly appeared unnoticed at the main doorway.
     The 17-year old girl at the beginning of this story is roaming around with Joanna’s digicam and pans across the suddenly-silenced guests. Her camera stops at Vicente. She drops her camera which dangles from her neck, happily shouting “Papa!”
     Joanna, now in front of Vicente, says in a near-whisper, “Papa?”
     The 17-year old cam-girl disappears into thin air, except the camera dangling from her neck. Joanna’s person replaces hers with the camera.
     Joanna later notices two soldiers beside Vicente who, along with the old man, were also all smiles. Everybody resumes their talk and joyous conversation while Vicente and Joanna embrace tightly, tearfully.
     “Saan ka nanggaling, Pa? Saan ka ba nagpunta?”



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