Hell Week


Do you remember still the falling stars
that like swift horses through the heavens raced
and suddenly leaped across the hurdles
of our wishes—do you recall? And we
did make so many!

Rainer Maria Rilke, Falling Stars

GUMISING ako mga lampas alas-nuebe ng umaga sa dorm. Araw ng Sabado at huling araw namin sa pagtira sa freshmen hall. Bukas pa naman siya hanggang Martes, pero ngayon na ako uuwi sa amin. Pagbalik namin sa Miag-ao sa Hunyo, upperclass na kami. At kung ano man dapat ibig sabihin nun. Hindi na nga ako nakapagbihis ng damit pangtulog. Pati medyas ko hindi ko na hubad. Ang pantalon kong may konting putik pa. Natural nadumihan ang bed sheets ko. Di bale. Ipapalaba naman ang lahat ng ito pagdating sa bahay. Mataas na ang araw sa labas.

Pagbalik ko sa dorm kagabi lampas alas-onse na. Buti nga naisipan pang papasukin ako. Maingay sa loob at nguminginig ang salamin na pinto dahil sa lakas ng sound system sa lobby. Hindi na ako nakisayaw sa mga dormmates ko. Humanap nalang ako ng mauupoan at pinagmasdan ang lahat. Pagpumasok ako sa kwarto, titingala rin lang ako, mabuti na to. Isa pa, hindi lang naman ako ang mas piniling panoorin nalang ang mga sumasayaw. Halos sampung buwan din akong nakatira dito pero hindi makakalahati ang mga kilala ko. Hindi ko nalaman ang mga kurso nila, kahit pangalan ng karamihan. Pumasok ako sa isang dagat ng mga masasayang mga mukha, nagtampisaw ng konti, at muling aalis sa parehong dagat ng mga mukha.

Di nagtagal nahanap din ako ni Edmund. Pawisan at tuwangtuwa, inabutan agad ako ng isang plastic bottle ng “juice” di umano ang laman. Hindi ko nakita ang kulay ng “juice”, pabago-bago ito kasabay sa ilaw ng disco lights. Pag-inom ko, lasang juice nga, strawberry pa yung flavor, pero may sipa. Lumapit siya sa tenga ko at tinanong, pasigaw, “Saan ka galing?!” Nag-isip muna ako. Hindi ko sinigaw ang sagot ko kaya hindi rin narinig. Pinabayaan nalang ako at bumalik sa sayawan. Sabi ko, “Nakakita rin ako ng bulalakaw pero kung kailan hindi na ako naghahanap.”

LUNES nang gabihin ako sa boarding house ng isang kaklase. Tinapos namin ang isang written report ng isang presentation sa klase namin sa Envi Sci. Mga 10:30 na kami nakatapos pero pakiramdam ko maaga pa. Huling linggo na lang ng klase para sa second sem. Karamihan ng mga exam at deadlines dito pumapatak. Lahat ng estudyante (o karamihan sa kanila) subsob sa mga gawain. Hell week ika nga. Sinuot ko na ulit ang knapsack ko, at lumabas kami sa boarding house. Medyo liblib ang boarding house na parang hindi naman. Mga sampung minuto ang lalakarin para makarating sa pinakapulotong ng mga dorm at boardng house, kabilang na ang tinitirahan ko. Wala sanang problema ang maglakad. Kaso magkakalayo ang mga street lights, at sa isang side lang ng kalye. Wala ka ring masyadong madadaanan maliban sa football field, mga puno, at ang seradong covered court. Ang pagkapayak at tahimik ng lugar na to ay nakakatakot kung mag-isa ka.

“Okay lang yan, Alan, isipin mo na lang may kasama kang chicks,” biro ni Francis.

“Hatid mo na nga ako, ang lapit-lapit naman eh.”

“Yun nga, ang lapit-lapit lang.”

“Ang problema kung nahatid nga kita. Sino kasama ko pabalik? Ako naman ang dehado nyan.”

Paikot-ikot lang ang pagtatalo namin. Parehong kaming marami pang gagawin kaya bumigay na rin ako. Naka-file naman ako ng late permit. Pwedeng hanggang 12 ako sa labas. Pero kung mag-isa mong tatahakin ang tinaguriang lover’s lane, babahain ang isip mo ng kung ano-anong kalokohan at kababalaghan. Nakakapraning.

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NAKAKATAKOT na nga mag-isa, ano pa kaya kung may makasalubong ka? Kung grupo, malamang mapagkakamalan kang weirdo. Aakalain ko rin naman silang mga adik. Malamang mga estudyante din na kumain sa mga karinderya. Kung magkasintahan naman, medyo awkward. Iba yung dating pagmakita mo ng malapitan ang dalawang tao na sinasamantala ang kadiliman. Wala naman silang dapat ikahiya, wala naman pakialaman sa unibersidad. May sariling pag-iisip na rin sila. Pero iba pa rin ang dating ng dilim sa magkasintahan. Nagbabahagi sila ng isang bagay na mailap, kaya ba dapat itago? Kaya siguro ang linya na naghihiwalay sa ingit at pag-ibig ay hindi malinaw.

Pero ang naranasan ko ng gabing iyon ang pinakadiskomportable sa lahat; naglalakad akong mag-isa at may nakasalubong akong nag-iisa din. Malayo palang halata nang babae ang makakasalubong ko. Babae, naglalakad mag-isa, halos alas-onse ng gabi, isang puta agad ang pumasok sa isip ko. Hindi naman ako nasa syudad kaya malabo. Mas dapat nga syang hindi nasa labas kasi sa Miag-ao kami. Ang sexist ko palang tao. Ang sunod na pumasok sa isip ko, aswang. Nalaman kong hindi lang ako sexist, saksakan pa ng sexist, ignorante, at gago pa. Walanghiya. Hindi mo naman ako masisisi. Ano naman kaya ang tumatakbo sa isip niya? Isang lalaking naglalakad ng dis-oras ng gabi, mag-isa. Psychopath? Magnanakaw? Holdapper? Rapist? Habang lumalaki tinuturuan tayong pagnasahan ang membro ng kabilang kasarian pero tinuruan din tayo katakutan sila. Walanghiya. Nilabas ko nalang ang cellphone at kunwari nagte-text. Hindi tumatanda na diskarte.

Tinuloy ko lang ang palabas ko, meydo binilisan ko rin ang paglakad. Napahinto ako nang marinig ang boses na matagal-tagal ko ring hindi na pakingan, “Hoy Alan, ba’t ba parating may lakad tayo pag nagkikita?” Nablangko ang ulo ko ng mga sampung segundo. Saka lang ako naniwala na si Emily ng ang nasa harapan ko. Ganun pa rin ang porma niya, pero wala yung gitara. “Anong nagyari sayo?” pautal-utal kong tanong.

“Wala naman. Ikaw, anong meron?”

“Alam mo bang nangyari sa akin?”

“Ewan. Ano naman sakin yun?”

Alam kong dapat akong matakot, magalit, o magdasal. Pero hindi pa rin nagsink-in sakin na si Emily ang kausap ko. Hindi nangyari ang mga dapat kong maramdaman. Nakalimutan kong lahat na yon. Pati yung mga kailangan kong gawin sa dorm, nakalimutan ko rin.

“BALE,” sabi ni Edmund, “Monday night pa lang, nagkausap na kayo?”

Tatlo kami ni Arthur ang kumakain ng almusal. Maraming estudyante ang nag-iiwan ng mga kahon o bag ng kanilang gamit para sa bakasyon. Karamihan mga taga-dorm din, karamihan taga-freshmen hall. Halos tanghali na pero hindi pa rin kami nakapagsimula ng pag-aayos ng mga gamit.

“Oo,” sagot ko, “kaya nga ako ginabi.”

“Bakit hindi mo yata na mention sa amin?” tanong ni Arthur habang may inaasikaso sa cellphone.

“Baka pagtawanan niya lang ako.”

Pinilit ni Arthur pigilin ang ngiti. Nakatingin si Edmund sa TV ng karenderya. Nag-ring ang cellphone ni Arthur, “Teka lang ha, check ko kung makakauwi ako sa amin—hello Ma?” At lumabas para sa makahanap ng mas malakas na signal.

“Ano ginawa nyo?” tanong ni Edmund.

“Nag-usap at nag-stargazing.”

Binitawan ni Edmund ang kutsara at tinidor; pinikit ang mga mata at hinimas-himas ang noo. “Ginagago mo ba ako Alan?” Galit pero tatawa.

NASA gitna kami ni Emily sa football field na “walang katapusan”. Walang mga bakod o upuan, mga ilaw. Bale malaking bakanteng lote lang na nagkataong pinaglalaruan ng mga tao. Dito rin ginagawa ang graduation. Ang pinakaupoan ng mga tao ay nagiging stage din. Marami pang mga hayop tulad ng manok, kambing, at kalabaw ang pinapagala o iniiwan dito.

Gaya nga nang nasabi ko walang ilaw dito. Ang idyllic ng scenery ala painting ni Amorsolo tuwing umaga at hapon ay nagiging wasteland kung gabi, no man’s land ang drama. Nakatsinelas lang ako at agad na nangati sa damo (at sa mga nakatira dito). Nagsinula na rin akong lamukin, nang biglang humiga sa lupa si Emily. Komportableng-komportable siya sa posisyon niya. “Samahan mo ako Alan.”

“Ano ba ginagawa mo?”

“Nag-aabang ng bulalakaw.”

Tinignan ko ang langit at malinaw nga. Wala akong nakitang ulap. Maraming pulutong ng mga bituin na mukhang pamilyar at sigurado akong mga constellations. Hindi ko nga lang alam ang mga pangalan. Tinignan ko siya ulit, “Ano ba ginagawa mo?” tanong ko ulit.

“Nag-aabang nga ng mga bulalakaw.”

Binalewala ko na ang langit at tinitignan siya. Kabaligtaran ang ginagawa niya sakin. “Ano naman ang nakukuha mo?”

“Wala. Pwedeng mag-wish—Ayun yung isa!”

Mabilis akong lumingon sa taas pero di ko naabutan. Ganun pa rin ang mukha ng langit. Pinagtawan niya na ako. Pagtingin ko ulit sa kanya, nakatingala pa rin siya sa langit. “Sabayan mo kasi ako…” Pinagbigyan ko ng ilang segundo at nag-abang din sa langit— “O? Ano ginagawa mo?” Hindi ako humarap sa kanya, “Eh di nagsa-stargazing din.”

“Ba’t ka nakatayo?”

“Eh nakatingin naman ako sa langit ah.”

“Hindi yan stargazing! Dapat nakahiga ka sa lupa.”

Nalito na ako, “Saan mo naman na pulot yan?”

“Basta ganyan yan. Hindi ka makakahanap ng bulalakaw kung nakatayo ka. Masyadong kang desidesido, arogante, aggresive. Dapat relax lang. matatakot ang mga falling stars sayo eh.”

Huminga ako ng malalim, bumilang hanggang sampu. Sinubukan ko munang i-absorb ang mga pinagsasabi niya. “Alam mo ba…” sinimulan ko, mahinahon, “na sinabing mong natatakot ang mga falling stars sa mga taong desidido, inaabangan sila…”

“Na nakatayo.”

“Na nakatayo,” ulit ko. “Pero okay lang magpakita sila sa mga kalmadong tao tulad mo?”

“Na nakahiga sa lupa.”

“Na nakahiga sa lupa!”

“Parang ganoon na nga…Ayun isa pa!”

Lumingon ako pero hindi ko pa rin nakita, napipikon na ako. Gusto kong makakita rin ng bulalakaw kasabay niya. Hindi ko alam kung ano ang dahilan pero gusto kong makakita. Alisto ulit ako sa langit.

“Ba’t mo dinrop ang algebra?” tanong ko.

“Sino bang may sabi na enrolled ako dun?”

“Eh nandoon ka sa klase!”

“Hindi ba pwedeng magsit-in?”

“Sabi mo classmates tayo.”

“Nagsinungaling ako.”

“Bakit?”

“Bakit ka nagagalit?”

“Kasi hindi na tayo nagkita pagkatapos ng hapon na yon.”

“Hinanap mo ba ako?”

“Oo naman.”

“Baka hindi ka ganun ka desidido, hindi mo napagbutihan.”

“Desididong-desidido kaya ako.”

“Baka yun naman, na sobrahan.”

“Bahala ka sa buhay mo.” Nangangawit na leeg ko at nagsimulang maglakad pa puntang dorm. Tinignan ang oras sa cellphone: 11:30. Pwede pa. Pero dapat bilisan, mahirap na.

“Alan!” paglingon ko sa kanya, nakahiga pa rin, nakatingin sa langit, at sumisigaw sa kawalan. “Hindi ka kasi marunong eh! Baka gusto mo akong samahan pag malamig na ang ulo mo. Dito lang ako buong linggo…Ayun isa pa!” Pagtingin ko, hindi ko pa rin na abutan. Bwisit. Mabilis akong nalakad pauwi. Nagmumura sa kawalan.

NANG lumabas kami sa karenderya, tuloy-tuloy pa rin ang mga estudyante kanya-kanyang dala ng mga gamit. Kinailangan pa namin tumabi para makadaan sila. “Kayo, saan niyo iiwan gamit nyo?” tanong ni Arthur.

“Ewan,” sabi ni Edmund. “Hindi pa sumagi sa isip ko. Ikaw Alan?”

“Ewan. Susubukan kong pagkasyahin lahat sa bag. May box din ang electric fan. Ewan ko lang kung paano ko dadalhin lahat sa bahay.”

Dumating kami sa harap ng isang upperclass hall. Marami na ang nag-aabang ng traysikel. Nang dumating ang isa, diskarte naman ang drayber para mapagkasya sa taas ang mga bag at hindi mahulog. “Sama na lang ako sa inyo mamaya papuntang banwa ha. Kukuha lang ako ng pera sa Palawan.” sabi ni Arthur.

“Ikaw Art, saan mo iiwan ang mga gamit mo?” tanong ulit ni Edmund.

“Ewan. Hindi pa kasing pwedeng mag-iwan sa dorm na papasukan ko.”

“Bakit naman?”

“Open pa para sa summer eh.”

“Ah…kailan uwi mo?”

“Sunday ng hapon. May ticket na nga ko eh. Pamasahe na lang papuntang airport.”

“Bakit kasi ang daling magdala ng gamit dito pero ang hirap dalhin ulit sa bahay.”

Para kaming mga palaboy. Hindi tumatagal sa dorm, hindi rin tumatagal sa bahay. Mararamdaman mo na ang init ng tanghali. Hindi pa naman ako nakabihis ng pagtulog. Ang lagkit sa balat. Puyat pa. “Gusto ko lang munang maligo,” sabi ko

“Mam’ya na. Maglalampaso pa tayo eh.”

“Ha? Lintik naman oh.”

“Saan nyo nga pala iiwan ang gamit nyo?” tanong ulit ni Arthur.

“Oo nga Alan?”

“Ewan. Doon na lang kaya sa karenderya?”

“Pwede ba doon?”

“Oo naman. Ang dami na nga nating nakasalubong.Suki naman tayo doon.”

“Baka hindi na pwede mam’ya.”

“Pwede ba yon?”

“Hindi natin nasubukan eh.”

“Eh di balikan natin,” sabi ni Arthur.

ISA lang ang exam noong Martes. Nagkataong pang pangtangahalian ang schedule, 12-2 pm. Ang init, nakaka-antok, ewan. Ala-una palang tapos ko na. Saka lang ako nakakain ng tanghalian ko. Dalawa ang exams ko kinabukasan. Sabi ko kailangan kong mag-review sa hapon para mabawasbawasan ang gawain pagkagabi. Algebra pa naman ang isa, at medyo alanganin pa ako. Pagdating ko sa kwarto, walang tao. Sinubukan kong magbasa-basa pero hindi umubra. Natulog ako, pagkagising ko, tinamad na ako, hinintay ko nalang ang oras ng hapunan. Kung hindi ka sanay mag-aral sa ganitong oras, wala talagang papasok. “Buti ka pa nga,” sabi ni Edmund, “ni hindi nga ako sanay mag-aral!” Tawanan.

Kinagabihan, pumasok na naman si Emily sa isip ko. Nakatanga lang ako sa study table ko ng ilang oras. Kunwari akong nagpapractice ng mga problems pero nasa-isip ko, ‘sana alas-dies na, sana alas-dies na, sana alas-dies na, para hindi na ako pwedeng lumabas, para hindi na ako pwedeng lumabas, para hindi na ako pwedeng lumabas.’ Lumabas ako ng lobby para kumuha ng mainit na tubig. Nakita kong serado na ang pinto. Napakalma ko din ang sarili ko. Wala nang tsansang magkita kami ni Emily. Ni hindi nga ako sigurado na nagsa-stargazing ulit ang siraulo na yun. Nakuha ko ring i-distract ang sarili ko. Madaling araw na akong natulog. Tulog na ang lahat sa kwarto maliban sa aming dalawa ni Hans. Nakahiga na ako sa kama ko at ini-isa-isa ang mga gawain ko bukas. Balik ng libro sa lib, bili ng test booklet, etc. tsaka lumabas si Hans, bitbit ang laptop. Di hamak na mas malakas ang internet sa ganitong oras. Gamit ang braso, tinakpan ko ang mga mata, at sinubukang makatulog. Naisip ko na pwede na palang patayin ang ilaw. Nanibago ang mga mata ko sa dilim. Pagod at may konting kirot nang pilitin kong ipikit. Tumingin nalang ako sa kisame. Sumagi sa isip ko baka may bulalakaw na dadaan. Bwisit.

PAREHO din ang eksena sa harap ng dorm namin. Mga estudyanteng handa nang umuwi. Meron pang mga sasakyan sa sumusundo sa ilan. Nakasalubong namin si Juan, wing representative namin, tapos na ang klase pero marami paring iniisip. “O, kayong tatlo? Napirmahan ko na ba mga clearance niyo?” kanya-kanyang labas, maliban kay Edmund.

“Ikaw Ed?” tanong ni Arthur.

“Naiwan sa loob eh.”

“Kunin mo na. Hihintayin kita dito.” Sabay balik ng mga clearance namin ni Arthur.

“Tinatamad pa ako eh.” Napatingin kaming lahat sa kanya. Si Juan ang may pinakamasama.

WALANG akong exam noong Huwebes. Pagkatapos namin maghapunan Myerkules ng gabi, nagpaalam akong may pupuntahan lang mabilis. Nag-alok pa sina Arthur na samahan ako, tinatamad din silang bumalik sa dorm. Plano ko lang talaga tignan kung nandoon nga si Emily. Hindi ko siya kakausapin, hindi ako makiki-stargazing. Isa pa hindi ako nakapag file ng late permit. Dapat alas dies sa loob na ako.

Wala ulit tao sa lover’s lane. Naglakad–lakad pa ako. Panay ang lingon-lingon. Dahan-dahan pa lang bumilis ang tibok ng puso ko. Pakiramdam ko nangboboso ako. Wala talaga. Masyado yata akong maaga. Buti nga yon, hindi ko na siya kailangan maka-usap. Walang tao sa daan mismo pero natural saksakan ng dilim ang football field. Binantayan ko kung may gagalaw. Wala din. Isa pa wala namang paraan para masiguradong si Emily kung may tao nga. Kung may gumalaw nga.

Pabalik na sana ako sa dorm pero parang bumigat ang mga hakbang ko. Kung gaano ako ka-alisto pagdating ko, ganun ako katamlay ngayon. Pakiramdam ko hindi ako dapat umalis. Bawat hakbang ko, tumitindi ang debate sa utak ko kung dapat ko ba siyang hintayin. Lalo ring bumabagal ang mga hakbang ko. Busog pa naman ako. Para akong masusuka. Narinig ko nalang, “Hoy! Alan! Nakatira ka ba?!”

Tumigil ako at hinahap ng pinangalingan ng sigaw. Walang pagbabago. “Dito ulit ako! Hoy!” Lumapit ako at unti-unting ko nangkita ang korte ng isang taong nakahiga.Walanghiya. Sumigla ulit ang mga paa ko ang di ko na papunta na ako sa kanya. Ang malakas na debate sa isip ko kanina ay natahimik. Pagdating ko sa kanya, tulad parin ang pwesto niya dati. Pagtingin ko sa langit, maliwanag pa rin naman, pero ngayon, medyo may mga ulap-ulap na. Yung iba maliliit lang habang ang ilan malalapad at makakapal.

“Feeling ko hindi ka pa rin hihiga.”

“Tama ang kutob mo,” sagot ko.

“Musta exams?”

“Ayos naman.”

“Mukhang magka-college scholar ba tayo?”

Naalala ko ang exam ko sa algebra at napangiti. “Mukhang makokontento lang yata ako sa pasado.” Tumawa rin siya, “Wala namang kwenta ang grades, di ba?” patuloy ko.

“Uy, hindi ah. Importante kaya ang grades.”

Nagulat ako sa sagot niya, “Eh hindi naman masusukat ang tao sa grades. Alam naman ng lahat yan eh.”

“Oo, Pero bakit marami pa rin ang nagkakandarapa sa pag-aaral? Importante pa rin ang grades.”

“Ang mga grade,” heto na, sabi ko sa sarili ko, “idenisenyo lang para patakbuhin ang apat na sulok ng klasrum. Alam ng lahat na walang sulok ang mundo.” Pumalakpak siyang mabagal at mahina. Alanganing sarcastic, alanganin compliment.

“Ang angas ah.” Tamawa siya at di nagtagal sinabayan ko na rin, “Pero hindi yun ang point ko. Totoong walang kwenta ang grades sa labas ng kwarto pero nagbibigay pa rin ito ng ugat.”

“Ugat?”

“Parang angkla. It anchors you down, you know. Binibigyan ka ng isang bagay o gawain na dapat mong pagtuunan ng pansin. Hindi importante ang grades dahil nakakasakal sila, kundi dahil karamihan sa atin, ito lang ang meron.”

Nakatingin lang ako sa langit.

“Napanood mo ba yung Himala? Medyo boring ang kwento pero pa-deep siya. Ganyan talaga basta pang export. Basta si Ate Guy pagsigaw niya ng, non-verbatim to ha, mga gago at gaga walang himala, gamitin niyo naman mga kokote niyo! Nagkagulo, nakastampede, dahil pinatay si Ate Guy. Ganun din ang mangyayari pang tinangal mo ang grades. At ang pera, at mga ari-arian, at mga likes sa Facebook at ang magandang mukha ng isang tao. Lalo na kung babae.”

“Paano ka naman nakaksiguro?”

“Kasi hindi ka nag-iisa sa paniniwalang ganyan. Marami nang nauna sayo. Ang iba nilagay sa mga libro ng kasaysayan, ang karamihan, tahimik nalang nawala. Pinagkaiba lang, sa sarili mo lang yan sinasabi mo.”

“Bakit hindi ko sila kilala?”

“Kasi—ah basta. Walanghiya naman, sinusubukan kong mag-relax dito eh. Ang seryoso mo naman.” Pareho kaming tumawa. May sayad talaga ang babaeng to.

“Hindi ako magtatagal ha…”

“Bakit naman?”

“Hindi ako nakapag-file ng late permit.”

“Eh ano ngayon?”

“Dapat sa dorm na ako bago mag alas-dies.”

“Akala ko hanggang alas-dose bukas ang dorm?”

“Oo, pero wala akong permit.”

“Pagkumatok ka doon, lampas alas-dose, pero wala kang permit, hindi ka nila papasukin?”

“Papasukin pero maji-GR ako.”

“Ano ibig sabihin noon?”

“Pasaway. Nasa contract yon eh. May rules, norms.”

“Pagnagka-GR ka nga, anong mangyayari sayo?”

“Baka hindi ka matanggap sa ibang dorms.”

“May dorm ka na ba next sem?”

“Meron na.”

“Eh yon naman pala eh! Ba’t ka pa natatakot ma-GR?”

“Basta ganun yun. Hindi pa kasi akong na-GR, kahit minsan.”

“Ang angas mong magsalita tungkol sa grades pero takot kang ma-GR. Walanghiya ka.”

“Pabayaan mo na ako. Isa pa wala naman sigurong pinagkaiba kung mag stargazing ako ng isang oras imbes na buong gabi.”

“Actually meron. Mas malaki ang chances na mas marami kang makita.”

“Eh ano ngayon?”

“Edi mas masaya.”

“Ewan ko sayo.”

“Remind lang kita. Hindi ka pa nga pala nagsa-stargazing kasi nakatayo ka.”

Tinignan ko siya ng masama, abot tenga ang ngiti niya. “Wag mo nang simulan.”

“Ayun isa!” Badtrip.

“Isa pa medyo maulap ngayon. Di hamak na mas konti ang makikita mo.”

“Okay lang yan. Isipin mo nalang na shades ang mga ulap na yan. Pinapahinga ang mga mata mo. Shades na panggabi. Na hindi baduy.”

PUMASOK kami sa room ni Edmund. Pinaandar niya ang laptop at nagsumulang magpatugtog. Nakaupo ako sa kama at pinagmasdan siyang hatiin ang mga gamit para dadalhin sa bahay at para itatapon. “Anong oras kang nagising noon Huwebes?” tanong niya.

“Mga 6:30 na. nakahiga akong mag-isa sa hagdanan ng grand stand. Grabe yung sakit ng leeg at likod ko. Natural wala na si Emily. Dalawang lalaki ang gumising sakin. Mga hardinero. Dala-dala ang mga gamit nila pang-trim sa damo para sa graduation. Medyo pawisan din ako. Madilim pa sa mga oras na yon. Ang iilang ulap noong gabi ay kompleto nang tinakpan ang langit. Nagpasalamat nalang ako sa mga hardinero at umalis agad.”

“Hangang anong oras kayo nagkwentuhan?”

“Yun nga ang problema, hindi ko maalala.”

“Alam mo ba pinagsasabi mo? Nakatulog kang mag-isa sa grand stand…”

“Kasama ko si Emily.”

“Akala ko di mo maalala?”

“Basta.”

“Ewan ko sayo. Pagnalaman to ni maerts mo patay ka na naman.”

“Wala naman ako pakialam eh.”

“Na-GR ka ba?”

“Wala. Bahala na!” Pinagtawanan nalang namin ni Edmund habang nilalagay niya sa isang plastik ang lahat ng photocopies na nagamit niya simula pa noon unang sem. Marami-rami din.

“Ibang klase,” sabi niya nang mahabol ang hininga, “pang upperclass ang angas mo ah.”

MALAKAS ang buhos ng ulan sa hapon na yon. At dahil doon, naging mabilis ang pagbawi ko ng tulog. Parang hele ang tunog ng ulan sa bubong. Maghapon akong nagkulong sa kwarto. Nakahiga lang. Meron pa akong exam sa literature kinabukasan. Wala ring kwenta i-review ang mga nakalipas na stories at poems na diniscuss namin. Malamang meron lang bagong story at poems na ii-interpret mo doon na mismo sa exam. Bahala na.

Nagising ako sa siesta ko mga 4:30. Kaya pa sanang dagdagan ang oras ng tulog ko pero hindi ko na nagawa. Malambot ang kama ko pero hindi ako mapakali. Parang nalulunod ako. Parang bumabalik sakin ang pakiramdam ng damo at lupa sa balat ko. Imposible. Ibig sabihin napahiga ako ni Emily. Hindi ako sigurado. Hindi ko rin gusto ang ideya na ito. Pinagbigyan din kami ng masamang panahon. Mga alas-siete tumila ang ulan at lumabas kami at nakapaghapunan. Tulad din ng nakalipas na gabi, pumunta agad ako sa field. Umulan pero hindi masyong malamig. Tama lang na umusbong ang init sa lupa. Wala rin namang hangin. Madilim ang langit at paminsan-minsan makikita mo ang mga hugis ng mga ulap dahil sa kildat na tinatakpan nila. Pagdating ko sa field, amoy bagong gupit na damo ang paligid. Maingay din ang mga palaka. Hindi rin ako nakamali dahil dyan pa rin si Emily sa pwesto niya. Nakaputi pa ang buang. Walang pakialam sa putik. Ang bago lang ngayon, dala niya ang gitara.

“Matagal ko rin hindi nakita yan ah,” pambungad ko.

Ngumiti siya, “Mas mangungulila ka dito pag narinig mo siya.” Stargazing sa kulimlim na langit, may gitara, hindi alintana ang putik. Ano naman kaya ang mangyayari ngayong gabi?

“DI ba, nasabi mo misan, gusto mong pag-aralan ang gitara?”

“Oo. Noon,” sagot ko.

“Bakit di mo tinuloy?”

“Wala, tinamad.”

“Hay talaga ngang taga-syudad.”

“Pabayaan mo na yan. Ba’t mo ba dala yan ngayon? Wag mong sabihin magja-jamming ka dito?”

“Hindi. Masyadong tahimik.”

“Maganda nga yon.”

“Anong maganda? Dapat ang musika ginagamit para talunin ang ibang ingay. Hindi para basagin ang katahimikan. Ang katahimikan ay isa ring anyo ng musika. Kung magja-jamming tayo ngayon, tayo ang gagawa ng ingay.”

Heto na.

“So?” tanong ko. “Anong nangyari kagabi?”

“Wala kwentuhan. Medyo pinagod mo ako. Pulitika, moralidad, paggamit ng dahas, karunungan, kasaysayan, kalikasan, Foucault, Lacan, Derrida. Lahat ng bagay na pwedeng magpabango sa pangalan ng isang intelektuwal, tinalakay natin lahat kagabi!”

“Humiga ba ako sa lupa?”

Hindi niya ako agad sinagot. Pansamantala siyang tinigil ang pagtitig sa langit at tumingin sakin. Unang beses niya itong ginawa. Sarcastic. Tinanong ako ng mga mata niya, “Seryoso tol?” sumuko rin siya at sabay namin tinignan ulit ang langit. “Alam mo kung anong nangyari sayo? Nalasing ka sa gabi.” Lumabas ulit ang ngiti. Hindi ko pinatulan. “Ano ba meron sa paghiga sa lupa?” tanong niya.

“Maliban sa madumi sa lahat ng panahon, mas madumi sa ilang pagkakataon, tulad ngayon, mas masama lang, hindi naman masama, basta may naalala lang ako.”

“Heto na. Mas madrama ba yan sa ikinuwento ko last time?”

“Oo, for one thing totoo nangyari to.”

“Ano bang meron sa kanya?”

“Wala naman. Pero iba eh. Pagnag-uusap kami—basta.”

“Hay, ganyan talaga yan. Ang pag-ibig ay walang iba kundi isang magandang kwentuhan na ayaw mo nang matapos. Mabigat pero magaan din. Mahaba pero maikli din.”

“Tama rin.”

“Tanong. Bakit natapos?”

“Wala eh. Wala nang dapat pag-usapan.”

“Emo.” Pareho kaming natawa. Lumiwanag ang buong langit sa isang kisapmata. Sumunod ang malakas na kulog. “Bale ayaw mong mahiga sa lupa dahil sa chicks mo?”

Huminga ako ng malalim. “Basta sabihin nalang natin may mga alaala ng mga partikular na bagay na gusto mo lang sa isang partikular na tao lang—.”

“Nakatali?” dugtong ni Emily, “Ang gulo mo!”

Tawanan ulit. Kumidlat at kumulog na naman.

“Feeling ko dapat na tayo magpasilong sa stage,” sabi ko. “Wala ka namang makikitang bulalakaw ngayon. Ni wala ka nga makitang bituin.”

“Hindi mo ba alam na ngayon ang perpektong pagkakataon—” Wala, dyan na ang ulan, palapit sa amin. “Bilis! Magpasilong ka na! Dalhin mo ang gitara!” Kinuha ko ang gitara at kumaripas ng takbo. Madulas pa ang lupa. Pagdating ko sa stage, nabasa pa rin ako at ang gitara. Agad kong pinunasan ang mga strings. Pagtingin ko, hindi malang gumalaw ni Emily sa kinahihigaan niya. Siraulo talaga. Hindi lang nakuntento sa pagliligo sa ulan, nakahiga pa. Umupo lang muna ako kasama ang gitara. Sinubukan ang ilang notes na tinuro sa akin noong high school. Walang laban ang gitara sa ulan. Pagkalipas ng mga dalawang minuto nag-alala na ako. Baka hindi siya makahinga. Siya ang unang taong nalunod sa ulan kung sakali.

Giniginaw na rin ako. Basa rina ng likuran ng tshirt ko. Bahala na. Iniwan ko ang gitara, cellphone, at wallet ko saka pumunta kay Emily. Tulad ng inaasahan, inalaska agad ako, “O? Ang takot ma-GR sa dorm ay naliligo sa ulan? Mali yata si Elsa nang sinabi niyang walang himala!” Napangiti rin ako. Kahit hindi ko pa napanood ang pelikula. Hindi ko na naalala ang huling beses na naligo ako sa ulan. Noong bata pa ako siguro. Iba ang pagligo sa ulan kesa sa banyo. Wala kang kapangyarihan. Sa banyo ikaw ang may hawak sa tabo, ikaw ay napapaandar at pumapatay sa shower. Sa ulan, wala kang magagawa. Pwede ka lang lumusong or magpasilong.

“Bakit nga pala?” tanong ko.

“Ang alin?”

“Bakit kung kailan walang mga bituin pinakamagandang mag-abang ng bulalakaw?”

Tumawa siya. “Kasi ang mga maiilap na bulalakaw ay nagiging milyon-nilyon na mga patak ng ulan. Hindi mo nga nakikita lahat, pero niyayakap nila ang katawan mo, hinahalikan ang mukha mo.” Hindi ko masyadong gets ang logic pero pinabayaan ko na.

“Ikaw?” tanong niya, “Bakit ka nandito ngayon?”

“Tadaan mo po sinabi ko kanina tungkol sa mga alaala ng mga partikular na bagay kasama ang mga partikular na tao?”

“KORNI mo,” sabi niya sakin, hindi ko na pinatulan. Hindi ko nakuhang magalit sa ulan ng mga bulalakaw.

NAKAUWI naman ako sa dorm. Basa ang buong katawan. Halatang natutulog na si Manong Ronnie nang buksan niya ang pinto. Mga 11:45 to ng gabi. Hindi na ganun kalakas ang ulan. Nagulat siya sa sitwasyon at binalak pang tanungin ako kung ano nangyari sakin. Tinignan niya ako mula ulo hanggang paa, at kinalimutan nalang ang plano. Agad niya ring kinandado ulit ang pinto ng dorm. Malamang inisip niya na nalimpungatan lang siya. May iilang-ilang tao pa sa lobby. Lahat nakaharap sa laptop o libro o handouts. May ilang pinigil ang pagtawa. May ilang nag-alala. Wala naman bumati o kumamusta sakin. Hindi ako kinaya. Naglakad lang ako papuntang room at sinubukang hindi madulas sa sahig. Panagtawanan ko nalang ang mga bulong-bulongan nila. Ang aking sarili.

PAREHO kami ni Edmund na mag-iiwan ng isang kahon ng mga gamit sa karinderya pero marami pa rin dapat dalhin. Pag-iwan namin, halos alas-dose imedya na. Kahit pawisan kami at mababaho, nagtanghalian nalang kami. Pinasunod nalang namin si Arthur. Bagong ligo ang isa, basa pa ang buhok. Hindi maipinta ang mukha niya pagkakita (at pag-amoy) sa amin.

“Hindi man lang kayo naligo?” tanong nito.

“Natural,” sagot ni Edmund, “Bilis bili ka na ng ulam doon.

Konti na rin ang tao sa karinderya. Konti rin lang ang niluto nilang ulam. Pag-upo ni Arthur sa mesa, tinanong ako ni Edmund, “Anong nangyari bago ka bumalik sa sem-ender party kagabi?”

“Ah, hindi ka pa pala tapos magkwento?” pasok ni Arthur, “Ilabas mo na. Para pati yan mawala na sa sistema mo pagkatapos niyong maligo mam’ya. Mga walanghiya kayo kakapit ang amoy niyo sakin eh.”

PAGKATAPOS ng hapunan sa dorm, pasimple akong lumabas. Magte-text lang sandali, yun pala di na magpapakita. May program pa naman ang party. May ilang intermission number daw. Dalawang kakanta at isang sayaw ng mga ka-dorm na mahilig sa K-pop. Hindi na ako nanghinayang, nakita ko naman silang habang nagpapractice. Meron pa raw “dormer awards night”. Yung pinaka sa pinaka. Pinakamapagkaibigan, pinakamabagal maligo, pinakamalinis sa gamit, pinakapasaway (pinakamaraming GR). Mabuti hindi ako nominado sa huli.

Sa labas may mga tunog galing sa iba’t ibang lugar. Hindi lang ang dorm namin ang may party. Alam mong malalakas at masisigla ang mga tugtog pero kung sa labas ka, iba. Parang bulong lang, parang echo, iisipin mong sa isip mo lang ang tugtog. Maririnig pa rin ang mga tugtog hangang sa field. Pumunta ako sa kadalasang pwesto hinihigaan ni Emily pero wala siya. Napa-aga yata ako. Basa parin ang damo pero hindi na maputik ang lupa. Kadiring babae yon, nakahiga sa lupa habang umuulan. Gaga. Ano kaya dinatnan noon pagdating sa bahay nila? Naglakad-lakad muna ako. Maya’t mayang binubuksan ang cellphone para tignan ang oras. Pati na rin para magka-ilaw kahit papano. Nababalisa pa rin ako sa dilim ng paligid. Pagtingin ko sa langit, maulap pa rin. Pero hindi na yung uulan. May ilang bituin ka pa ngang nakikita. Wala nga lang buwan. Bagong buwan.

Alas nuebe na at sobra tatlumpong minuto na ako palakad-lakad. Umupo na ako sa lupa. Nakalimutan kong basa pa rin ang mga damo. Bwisit. Di bale, naka maong naman ako. Unang beses ko palang umupo sa lupa. Wala namang masyadong pinagbago. Tumaas lang ng konti ang mga puno at bundok sa paligid. Lumapad rin ang field mula sa kinauupuan ko. Hindi ako makapaniwala na tapos na ang hell week. Grabe yung pag-alala mo pero malalampasan mo rin. Todo sa pagplano ng mga gawain, dapat alisto sa oras. Akala mo mamatay ka. Wala rin naman pala. Nararapat lang na tawaging hell week. Wala pa rin si Emily. At lalong kong siyang hinnap nang makita ang langit. Medyo luminaw ang langit at tinignan din ako ng mga bituin pabalik. Bahala na. Tuluyan ko na silang hinubaran. Sa mahabang panahon, humiga din ulit ako sa lupa at pinagmasdan ang mga bituin.

Bituin. Tala. Kumikislap. Kumikinang. Kumukuti-kutitap. Leche. Lecheng tao at ang kanyang fetish sa mga bituin. Sa lahat ng aspeto ng buhay ngayon ginagamatin ang mga bituin. Pulitika, panitikan, relihiyon, digmaan, showbiz, alam naman ng lahat na patay na ang mga nakikita nila. Pinabasa pa nga kami sa literature ng kwentong Deadstars ni Paz Marquez Benitez. Balewalain mo nalang muna ang kultural na pulitika noong panahong ng Amerikano. Noong nasa kinder ako sabi ni Mama na kapag namatay ka ay pupunta ka sa langit bilang bituin. Walanghiya, napaniwala rin ako. Pinapahalagahan talaga ng mga tao ay mga hindi nila maintindihan. Mas mailap, mas mahalaga.

Ano kaya meron sa mga bulalakaw? Sayang at hindi napaliwanag ni Emily ngayon. Tatlong gabi kami nagsama dito at hindi ko man lang natanong. O hindi niya na sagot. Nang maayos. Walanghiyang babae yon. Hindi ko matandaan ang takbo ng mga kwentuhan namin. Kung tutuusin wala ring bulalakaw na pareho naming nakita. Hindi rin mapapaliwanag ni Emily kung ano ba talaga gusto niya. Kung ano ba talaga siya. Kung sasabihing kathang-isip ko lang siya, aaminin kaya niya. Matatanggap ko rin kaya? Leche. Niyayakap ako ng lupa at nalulunod sa langit nang biglang dumaan ang isang bulalakaw. Isang iglap. Nakakalula, nakalilito, vertigo.Wala na. Mabilis na kinaladkad ang isang bituin sa langit. Ang nakita lang ay ang panandaliang bakas nito. Yun na yun? Bakit kaya “falling stars” eh hindi naman mukhang nahuhulog? Parang dumaan lang. “Dropping by stars”? Hindi poetic. Hindi halata na nasusunog na bato lang ito galing sa kalawakan. Nabibighani tao sa isang apoy ng kamatayan, huling sigaw. Ang apoy na to ang ginagawan natin ng mga tula, kwento, mito. Dapat sa umpisa palang tingaggap ko na sa sarili ko na hindi bulalakaw ang habol ko dito. Tila ang nakalipas na ilang gabi ay ganun din. Apoy ng kamatayan. Kamatayan ng isang bagay na hindi rin naman nabuhay. Kaya siguro hindi man lang ako namangha.

PAGKATAPOS kong ikwento, pinag-usapan namin ng konti, hanggang sa nalunod na lang ito sa iba’t ibang topiko. Naligo kami at naghandang umuwi. Nagfi-fill up kami ng log-book para mag-check out nang sinabi ni Manong Ronnie na may iniwan sa pigeon hole ko ang isang babae habang nasa labas kami. Isang libro nakabalot sa brown na papel. Pagbukas ko, The Sun Also Rises ni Ernest Hemingway. Nakuha agad ang atensyon ni Arthur. “Saan galing yan tol?”

“Ewan ko.” Kinuha niya ang libro at binasa ang synopsis sa likod. Mabilis niyang tinignang pahapyaw ang mga pahina. Tumigil siya at binuksan ang unang pahina. May nakasulat. Binasa naming tatlo:

Alan,
Isipin mong ka boses ko si Nora Aunor.
“May ipagtatapat ako. Walang mga bulalakaw! Tayo ang gumagawa ng mga bulalakaw!”
-Emily

NANG makalabas kami, saka ko lang nalaman na wala na palang lugar sa bag ko. Kahit ang knapsack ko, punong-puno. Mukhang hahawakan ko nalang ang libro hanggang bahay. Tumawag kami ng traysikel. Tinulungan kami ng drayber ayusin ang gamit namin sa bubong ng traysikel. Biglang may tumawag kay Edmund. Sinagot niya ito habang pumuwesto na kami ni Arthur. Sumenyas pa si Edmund na sandali lang. Hindi naman nagmamadali ang traysikel. “Sige. Anong oras? Sino pupunta? Saan nga yon banda?” tinignan ako ni Edmund, “Sige, tatanungin ko siya.”

“Sino yon Ed?” tanong ko, at umandar na ang traysikel.

“Sina Vince, labas daw mam’ya. Tutugtog sina Veronika.”

Nagpasimple na lang ako, “Ganun ba? Pupunta ka?”

“Wala akong kasama eh. Ikaw?”

“Hindi ako sigurado eh.”

Pinabayaan nalang namin. Magkatabi kami ni Arthur sa likod ng traysikel papunta sa banwa. Kahit maingay, pilit niya akong kinausap. “Maganda magkwento si Hemingway!”

“Talaga? Nabasa mo na ba to?!”

“Hindi pa. yung isang libro niya lang. Higante na siya sa American Literature!”

“Sige, babasahin ko ngayong bakasyon.”

“Iba yung appeal niya eh. Simpleng mga salita. Simpleng mga kwento. Ilang henerasyon na ang tumatangkilik sa mga obra niya. Sa tingin ko, lalo siyang sisikat ngayon.”

“Bakit naman?”

“Wala naman siyang ginawa eh, kundi magkwento tungkol sa sarili niya.”

Sa isang bihirang pagkakataon, naintindihan ko agad ang ibig sabihin ni Arthur. Kinagabihan, kahit pagod, lumabas kami ni Edmund kasama ang mga kaibigan noong high school. Nakinig sa boses at musika na matagal-tagal ko ring hindi na pakingan

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Palabas/Pelikula/Kasaysayan/Bayan: A Reading of El Presidente (Mark Meily, 2012) and Ang Paglilitis ni Andres Bonifacio (Mario O’Hara, 2010)


New Old Stories

History writing and film making are two of the most complicated and problematic tasks in a (post)modern world; there several often conflicting theories, methods, and intentions in doing so. When a film maker takes up the task of creating a historical film, he or she pretty much signed up for a heated debate with critics, scholars, cineastes, and ordinary audiences whatever the outcome of his or her film might be. In evaluating a historical film, chances are historians would attack the inconsistencies in the text over the film’s craftsmanship, while defenders would do it the other way around. This could be another reason of the low number of historical film being produced in the country (aside from high production costs and a tedious research process).

With the said conditions in the country’s movie industry, historical films still emerge once and a while, and each new film never fails to contribute to an already ready old debate regarding what the historical film should be. However, a recent phenomenon greatly affected the rules not only the historical film game but of the entire industry. It is no other the digital-independent wave of movies primarily done by young film makers. These movies are cheaper to produce giving new artists the opportunity to join the film arena.

Veteran director Mario O’Hara tried his hand with the new digital medium and came up with a postmodern court drama about the controversial and often deemphasized trial of the Katipunan Supremo Andres Bonifacio by a war council representing the then newly established revolutionary government based in Cavite. O’Hara uses the trial records intercepted by the American and was later called the Insurgent Papers as a main source and adds the komedya, even Ibong Adarna, and poems by Gregoria de Jesus to creatively reconstruct the life of Bonifacio until his death. The movie had a limited release after competing in the Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival. The said film would serve as an honorable swansong of one the greatest but underrated director-writer-actor of Filipino cinema.

After completing a remake of the biopic of Asiong Salongga, another veteran director, Tikoy Aguiluz announced he will be working on a biopic of Emilio Aguinaldo. It was set to also star Manila Kingpin and Laguna governor Jorge Estregan for the lead role. However after incidents of Estregan changing some parts of Manila Kingpin without Aguiluz’ consent, the two drifted apart. Aguiluz refused to take credit for the film even with all the praise it received. He eventually gave up the Aguinaldo biopic project. He was replaced by Mark Meily, a young but already respected with his works including Crying Ladies and also a historical film, Baler. Meily used Aguinaldo’s memoir Mga Gunita ng Himagsikan as a main source of his ambitious epic. El Presidente spans from the beginning of the Katipunan to the Revolution to the Filipino-American War until Aguinaldo’s death. O’Hara’s entire movie is just a subplot of Meily’s.

Aguinaldo and Bonifacio are considered the ‘other’ important heroes aside from Jose Rizal. The relationship between the two didn’t end so well and this is something vividly portrayed in the two films. O’Hara creates Bonifacio to be the martyr whose recognition for his efforts was stolen by the ilustrados headed by Aguinaldo. Meily on the other hand showed Aguinaldo to be the stoical hero who was caught in the difficult circumstances brought by the revolution. He didn’t intend to kill Bonifacio, but the narrative of the film comes up with the logic that he deserved it anyway. Whose version of history should be taken as true? Can cinema resolve history’s problems or at least narrate the ‘real version’? Which one is relevant to the Filipino ‘nation’?

This paper aims outline the history of cinema in the Philippines and identify the roles it played in several historical periods. Indigenous and Hispanic influences particularly the komedya and other theatrical forms will be indentified and discussed in relation to the emergence of Filipino cinema. The background of the historical films chosen for analysis depicted will also be briefly discussed. Using postcolonial theory, the paper will attempt to arrive at new insights regarding the interwoven (and often conflicting) roles cinema and history play in the process of nation-building in a globalized postmodern society.


History as Komedya in El Presidente

Mark Miely’s historical epic, staggering at two hours and forty minutes, is a recreation of Emilio Aguinaldo life, highlighting his role in the Philippine Revolution and as president of the first Filipino Republic. The entire movie is made up of flashbacks as he writes his memoirs during his twilight years. The story begins in media res during the capture of Aguinaldo in 1901 by American forces. Flashback to his youth when he started to work as a tax collector for the local colonial government. Together with his friend Candido Tirona they went to houses in remote rural parts of Kawit. There is an old woman, who doesn’t have money. Miong says its okay, thereby shouldering the fee. In sign of gratitude, the woman presents herself to read Aguinaldo’s fate: He will be a great man; he will have great enemies, and his will fall in love with three different women, only two of which he will be able to present to the church altar. The two were dumb folded and went on their way. Just a few minutes into the movie, one is already given an idea of the narrative structure of the movie will be, one that is heavily influenced by komedya.

El-Presidente
photo credits: http://www.starmometer.com/2012/12/25/mmff-2012-el-presidente/

When the Spaniards arrived in the islands, the people were already developing a homogenous culture though still politically dispersed. The dominant group was the Muslims from the south who already had a modern political state embodied in the sultanates of Jolo and Maguindanao. The Muslims had controlled several key trading posts in the islands including present day Manila. The Spaniards, already having a grudge against Muslims because of their experience in Iberia, conducted extensive military operations against the ‘Moro’. The Muslims were eventually pushed back into Mindanao. Also other indigenous groups fled to the mountains to resist the colonizers. The Spaniards then took steps to easily control the natives. They devised the recuduccion plan or plaza-complex that turned natural-democratic space into colonial space. Churches, schools, secular buildings, marketplaces, and cemeteries were built close to each other. The datu class became the principalias, the class where Aguinaldo belongs, the church belfries became panopticons.

However, force wasn’t enough to win the hearts of the ‘indios’. What the colonizers did was assign patron saints to pueblos and barangays (political unit). Every patron fiesta the friars brought music, food, and entertainment particularly theater. “The drama they were looking for must have been that which they knew from back home: the scripted, staged, costumed Spanish comedias and autos sacramentales—and which they were of course unlikely to find among the Filipinos who were chanting epics, enacting rituals, and celebrating victories with their own kinds of songs, dances and mimetic action.” (Fernandez, 1996, p. 2) The natives already had a rich oral literary tradition. They didn’t understand the plays that were performed for them, but they enjoyed the costumes, the musicality of the lines, and the actions the actors orchestrated. Little by little the number of converts began to rise. These Western art-forms were also translated into vernacular. One of the most popular forms was the comedia. The comedias were metrical plays from Europe usually about the lives of saints or adventures of chivalry which were popular at that time. The ‘indios’ through these shows learned about kingdoms, kings and queens, and knights from West.

The production of comedia happened simultaneous with the Moro raids conducted in the islands. When one of the military expeditions (manned by ‘indio’ soldiers) to the south became successful, a comedia was written and staged. This is the start when the Spanish comedia became the komedya which was focused on Christian-Muslim conflicts they eventually became known as moro-moros. The vernacular komedya was performed in every town and every part of the islands except in the Muslim areas. It was also pivotal point for such social structures as that of the comite de festejos and/or the hermano/hermana mayor, who saw to the funding of the production so that people could view it for free (Fernandez, 1996). It was the major form of entertainment of the period and it divided the inhabitants of the islands based on gender, class, and religion.

Komedyas disseminated a “formula of fantasy and escape, with its kingdoms…,it shows princes and princesses the likes of which the Philippine landscape would never see, whose problems only involved the unraveling of entangled loves, and never such pressing local problems as colonization, poverty, and exploitation. It also propagated in a visually spectacular and repetitious—therefore effective—fashion the message that the Muslim or Moro was to be scorned (unless, of course, he turned Christian, an unlikely happening in actual life) even if he was a fellow Filipino, and that Christianity always won the day. (Fernandez, 1996, p10)

The staging of komedyas continued until the American period but was slowly overrun by cinema. “To theater does cinema owe much of the material culture it needed to first penetrate and then assert its supremacy in the Hispanic society. The first decade was a time of negotiation between the two entertainment forms. This may be surprising because up until 1902, films had been shown independently. Starting 1903, theatrical presentations began to play a major role in the exhibition of films. Films were screened alongside the staging of zarzuelas, bailes (dances), and songs, oftentimes called intermedios cantos (musical intermissions). (Deocampo, 2003, p. 117) Theater provided actors, designer, and directors. Until now, ‘canonized’ film makers started in theater as training ground; Lino Brocka and Behn Cervantes to name a few.

When Filipinos started making movies of their own, the Hispanic influences stayed and reflected in their works. “Early adventure films – all about the loves and exploits of fabled heroes and heroines…– were doubtless an outgrowth of the komedya. Even in our time, the endless fight sequences, in which the hero employs fists, swords, guns, sticks, legs, and an arsenal of ancient Oriental weaponry, may be traced to the influence of the 18th century theater genre. The same may be said of the incredible chance meetings – in forests, beaches, parks or nightclubs – which spark off true love, or occasion heartbreaks or a speedy resolution to a highly involved plot. Together with the sinakulo, the komedya provides an explanation for the black-and-white depiction of characters who are invariably grouped, as in the two dramatic forms, into the good guys and the bad guys.” (Lumbera, 1997, p. 172)

The succeeding scenes show Aguinaldo being recruited by the Katipunan and serving as the town mayor of Cavite El Viejo. When the movement was discovered and skirmishes commenced in Manila, Miong using his cunning assured the Spaniards assigned in the area that trouble won’t be replicated in the community. In fact he is already organizing the Cavite chapter of the Katipunan, an early operation of which involves raiding a Spanish arsenal for arms. In due time, the Katipuneros controled most of Cavite. The events are as if directly translated a Philippine history textbook; Tejeros Convention, Trial of Bonifacio Brothers, Pact of Biac na Bato, Hong Kong interlude, America enters the picture, Treaty of Paris, Filipino-American War ignites, assassination of Antonio Luna, the president fleeing to the north, Battle of Tirad Pass, and finally the capture of Aguinaldo. The last part of the movie involves Aguinaldo’s second marriage, his presidential bid in 1935 against Quezon, outbreak of World War Two, and nationalist sentiments of 1960s and the celebration of independence back to June 12 instead of July 4 by President Diosdado Macapagal, publication of his memoir, and his death.

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photo credits: http://www.candidheadlines.com/moviereview-el-presidente-2012/

Before he dies, the old woman who read his fortune appeared to him again for the ultimate dramatic ending. Everything she said came true except the one about the third woman, which happens to be the Inangbayan. Obviously this Inangbayan is not the Inangbayan that was used in ‘seditious’ theater during the American period to serve as an allegory of the nation and critique of American colonial rule. Lino Brocka tried to utilize the Inangbayan again is some of his social(ist) realist movies (Tolentino, 2001) In fact, women were barely visible in El Presidente. The only female characters allowed to ‘speak’ are Aguinaldo’s two wives and the mystical woman. Women were mostly shown feeding the revolutionaries, fleeing from conflict, cheering for the victorious soldiers, or weaving the Filipino flag.

Since El Presidente is mostly an action film, the categorization of the characters in good guys versus bad guys is related to the process of what postcolonial theorists would call ‘othering’. Throughout the movie, there were several ‘othering’ that took place, based mainly on ethnicity but also based on gender, class, and locality. The Spaniards were portrayed to be arrogant, cruel, and proud only later to be outwitted by untrained and under-armed Filipinos. The Spaniards were also showed in stereotypes commonly related to the colonial period; the overconfident military officer and the dogmatic and hypocrite friar. ‘Othering’ based on class and localities are closely tied. First of all the story happened in Cavite where the revolutionaries were able to get the support of the rich indios providing resources and leadership (best example is Aguinaldo himself). Enter Andres Bonifacio, the proud and hot headed Manileño who happens to be the Supremo; whose presence in the province indicated his mediocre military and leadership skills. Bonifacio is a ‘dayo’ in Cavite. His outsider status was confirmed when he lost his temper in the Tejeros Convention. Also during the convention only the ilustrados were seated while foot soldiers are standing and are mere silent spectators in the back while the drama unfolds.

As mention earlier women are marginalized whether belonging to the lower class or middle class. The films treatment of indigenous peoples also reveals that it is a history of only low-land Hizpanized Filipinos. There was scene when fleeing north, Aguinaldo and company passed by an indigenous community (Ifugao? Sagada?). They were initially hostile but calmed down when he was introduced as Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo. They then celebrated his presence. Another key event in the film is the battle of Tirad Pass and the Igorot ‘traitor’ to lead to its defeat. Interestingly, the Macabebe mercenaries weren’t shown at all. Aguinaldo downfall was because his courier was caught (and later squealed) trying to steal medicine from an American camp for his sick son. A portrayal of the Macabebes would definitely reveal that the Katipuneros didn’t take effort to integrate indigenous people in the movement. However, I believe the most astonishing portrayal was that of Americans. From the moment in Hong Kong to the battle field to the Treaty of Paris, Americans were shown to be civil, practicing the courtesy of war, and respectful when in fact the plot progression clearly shows that their interests in contradictory to that of Filipinos. There were barely battle scenes between Filipinos and Americans. The Japanese were totally invisible. After his capture, the remaining scenes happened in Aguinaldo’s domestic space.

It is interesting that throughout the film there were few instances when the key scenes would be photographed. It would be known that these events became important because existing photographic documentation survives. In the credit roll of the movie the original photographs were shown beside the film’s enactment of the events. It gives the movie an authentic feel. What is problematic is that when Aguinaldo was captured, one of the first things the Americans did was to dress him up and take pictures of him with his top officials. The glorifying aura was maintained but what audiences are likely to miss is that American utilized photography, then a quickly developing technology, to justify their occupation of the country. Americans took several pictures of different indigenous groups to give people in the US the impression of the Filipinos savagery and need for benevolent assimilation. But they didn’t stop there. They also took pictures of ‘civilized’ Filipinos. “The photographs also show the importance of the imperialist project. The pictures of wild tribes not only showed the extent of civilizing needed but also fed the consistent doubt on the capacity of the Filipinos to govern themselves. The civilized pictures, on the other hand, showed that there were well-groomed and “educated-looking” Filipinos (almost all dressed the same, again eerily symbolic of “the great mass”) potentially willing to be taught democracy. But it is the contrast between the two kinds that was meant to stress the heterogeneity even more.” (Vergara, 1995, p. 62)

The film’s conservative position regarding US’ involvement in the revolution and the republic could be traced to the fact that cinema flourished during the American occupation. “Motion Pictures were introduced in 1897 by two Swiss businessmen named Liebman and Peritz, who opened a “movie house” at No. 31, Escolta St., Manila. In 1912, two American business competitors vied with each other for the commercial rewards of being the first to make a feature film with Philippine life as subject matter.” (Lumbera, 1981) Aside from establishing a public education system with English as the medium of instruction, the American colonial government suppressed nationalist sentiment through military operations, sedition laws, and the pensionado system. Americans also utilized cinema as a tool for propaganda. “In an obvious attempt at revising colonial loyalties, anti-Spanish films based on Rizal’s life in 1912 (La Vida de Rizal from Oriental Moving Pictures Corporation and El Fusilamiento de Rizal from Rizalina Film Manufacturing Company) were shown and produced by American businessmen. Also, films made by Edison in the States using American actors reenacted several revolutionary scenes like The Rout of the Filipinos, Filipinos Retreat from the Trenches, and Advance of Kansas Volunteers at Caloocan all in 1899. It is also during this period when three important aspects of filmmaking would take root: censorship, the imposition of government taxes, and international distribution.” (Flores, 1990, p.420) Americans would again repeat the process of ‘othering’, this time directed against Japanese. “After the war, the guerilla-garrison genre came to the fore. Revolving around Japanese atrocities and the celebration of Yankee liberation and guerilla struggle” (Flores, 1990, p. 422)

El Presidente received mostly favorable reviews from critics and winning several awards at the Metro Manila Film Festival. However, the film didn’t leave people consciousness easily, aside from infuriating few critics and groups, El Presidente became one of the most debated movies on cyberspace. Mark Meily said his primary intention is to ‘locate’ Aguinaldo in history; unfortunately he also dislocated other characters. “At the heart of the action film is the aspiration for justice. This quest if fleshed out in various forms and ensues from multiple causes… From the true-to-life biofilms of notorious criminals to historical epics and finally to massacre movies of recent memory, the action movie invokes justice in the name of self, family, community, or nation and speaks of it from specific assumptions about society, whose fate is oftentimes coterminous with either the valiant exploits of the hero or the sordid trail of blood he leaves in the wake of carnage.” (Flores, 1998, p. 224) The action film like komedya reinforces an us-versus-them mentality which becomes very problematic when it tackles historical events and personalities, claiming to speak for the ‘nation’. El Presidente is a testament that Filipino cinema is still in the shackles of Spanish dramatic forms and a pro-American ideology.

History as Sinakulo in Ang Paglilitis ni Andres Bonifacio

The independent film movement in the country is still in its infant stage. With the advent of cheaper digital film making technology, a younger generation of filmmakers now has the opportunity to tell new stories in new ways. Of course independent/alternative cinema as in non-big studio film making happened earlier, spearheaded by the likes of Kidlat Tahimik and Nick Deocampo. Some of the then young film makers successful crossed over to mainstream movie industry (e.g. Tikoy Aguiluz, Gil Portes, Mel Chionglo, etc.) New names in the indie movement include Brilliante Mendoza, Adolfo Alix, Jr, Aureaus Solitos. Since the lack of capitalist constrains, indie films are more daring in subject matter and more innovative in plot progression. This climate also attracted veteran film makers who have adjusted to the ways of the big studio system; examples include Joel Lamangan, Gil Portes, and Mario O’Hara. These directors now have a chance to pursue subject they truly want but the big studios don’t find profitable. In 2010, few months before his death, Mario O’Hara came out with Ang Paglilitis ni Andres Bonifacio.

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photo credits:http://jonathan2rivers.blogspot.com/2011/01/reaching-out-cinemalaya-2010-full.html

Calling Ang Paglilitis as an indie film somehow doesn’t give it justice; a more suitable name should be experimental film. O’Hara infuses theater, surrealism, and court drama into a story that followed the trial of the Bonifacio brothers by the revolutionary government. The story begins with the encounter with the Magdiwang faction of the Katipunan and capture of the Bonifacio brothers. While in prison, the film flashbacks to showing Bonifacio during his younger years where he performed in komedyas and he also plays the role of a Moro prince. Still dressed as Moro princes to wanders and meets and helps a leper. The leper points the direction where the Ibong Adarna is. He is given a blade and some lime/lemon to make sure he doesn’t fall asleep when the mystical birds start singing. Just like Aguinaldo, Bonifacio was given a ‘quest’. During this time, he also met Gregoria de Jesus. The movie even has a fool or jester that butts in to fill the gaps in the story, particularly events happening outside the trial. Once in awhile Aguinaldo is shown in the battlefield furious hearing news about the progress of the trial. He wanted the Bonifacio brothers sent to exile, but gave in to the war council giving full jurisdiction to them. The Bonifacio brothers are executed. The movie ends with Gregoria De Jesus hysterical reciting an elegy to Andres. Some historians claim that the trial and execution was inevitable while some, like Agoncillo, claim the entire endeavor to be a farce. Unlike in El Presidente, the process of ‘othering’ in Ang Paglilitis is more subtle, mostly between Magdalo and Magdiwang factions. Spaniards and Americans were both invisible in the movie. Ang Paglilitis also fits the characteristics of the komedya (aside from fact that it was directly alluded to in the film) but it more similar with the structure of another Spanish dramatic form, the sinakulo.

The sinakulo is a dramatic reenactment of the pasyon of Jesus Christ. If komedyas are staged during the town fiestas, sinakulo productions are done during the holy week. “Like other religious rituals, the traditional sinakulo was produced by the culture of religion, on the one hand, and an agricultural way of life, on the other. The obedience to and deferential fear of the conservative Catholic Church, a legacy from the Spanish period, created a mind conditioned to accept everything in unquestioning simplicity. The lack of originality in the text and the presentational quality of the play, which dares not interpret or deviate an iota from dogma or custom, result from the abject awe of the Church’s feudal authority…the growth of the traditional sinakulo was arrested by the very religion which inspired it. Together with poverty, the religion has wittingly or unwittingly discouraged the peasant from pursuing enlightenment that would help him transcend the meta-physical world of the passion play in favor of a materially better life in the here and now.” (Tiongson, 1999, pp. 13-14) And like the komedya, the production of sinakulo also helped the reorganization of society particularly the emergence of economic classes. “Just as the agricultural economy depends heavily on the paternalism of the landlord, so it finds in the same landlord a major patron for activities like the sinakulo. Landlords may pay for the band or the expensive velvet costumes, although they themselves would not be inclined to watch such a folk endeavor.” (Tiongson, 1999, p. 14)

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photo credits: http://www.philstar.com/entertainment/2012-11-30/876929/thoughts-bonifacio-o%E2%80%99hara

O’Hara primary intention is to bring to light the issue of the Bonifacio trials and make the public decide whether it was justified or not. But just like Meily, Ang Paglilitis makes the decision for us through the plot and manner of presentation of the events. To further complicate O’Hara’s case, he wants to provoke debate but he made Bonifacio a martyr, a Christ-figure in a melodramatic narrative he is well known for, when in fact the sinakulo promotes the exact opposite thing, passivity. “In the sinakulo a meek, harmless, suffering Christ is pitted against the minions of darkness, Judas, the kings and priests, the devil and the Jews, with Christ triumphant in the end. The sinakulo survives most strongly in the Filipino mental framework, or value system, which always favors the underdog. In most Filipino movies meekness, servility and patience in suffering, coupled with the ability to shed buckets of tears, are regarded as obligatory characteristics of leading female and child characters. (Tiongson, 1983, p. 85)

The challenges faced by Ang Paglilitis don’t end in on its form, but also in the processes of limited production, distribution, and consumption of indie films. Independent films, though having revolutionary potential has instead become a form of cultural capital. Tolentino writes;

Ang indie films ay nakalikha ng sarili nitong niche community. Niche pa lang ito dahil Metro Manila phenomenon, sa pangkalahatan, ang indie films. Bagamat mayroong pelikula mula sa rehiyon, mas ang itinatampok pa sa kompetisyon sa Cinemalaya ay ang sentrong nag-aaproba ng proyekto ng rehiyon o mga pelikulang may rehiyonal na flavor na pinondohan at nakakapasa sa panlasa ng sentro.

At dahil ang base ng komunidad—ang tumatangkilik—ay mga kabataang culturati na nakakapagbayad (kung gayon, gitnang uri na tulad din ng kasalukuyang audience ng lokal na sineng ang bayad ay P80 hanggang P140 kada tiket), hindi lamang sentrong phenomenon ang indie films, ito ay gitnang uring culturati na kaganapan.

Kumbaga sa pagsusuring pang-uri, ito ang pambansang burgesyang may interes sa pag-unlad ng lokal na industriya ng sining, kahit pa nga ito pinopondohan ng media na interes ni Tonyboy Conjuangco, ang patron ng Cinemalaya.

At kung ito ang katumbas ng pambansang burgesya, maliit ang bilang ng tumantangkilik ng indie films. Matapos ng apat na taon ng Cinemalaya, mabibilang ang indie films na nakapasok sa komersyal na venue, ang cinema complex sa malls. Tanging CCP, isang sinehan sa Robinson’s Galleria, at Cine Adarna ng University of the Philippines Film Institute ang may regular na programa ng screening ng indie films. (2008)

Indie film makers innovate but they ‘innovate too much’, making films almost inconsumable to a common person. Indie films dominate Gawad Urian of Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino and international film festival circuits but not the mass consciousness. These often younger artists has been so disgusted with the industry’s terrible condition that they seem to want to rush change, and this desire is also the reason they will fail. “The Filipino cinema’s heritage from traditional theater explains its backwardness and its popularity (folk had become pop). Should Filipino films throw tradition out the window? No. For tradition will linger and the enlightened director will still be faced with an audience whose tastes have been mis-educated for centuries by traditional theater and film.” (Tiongson, 1983, pp. 93-94) This is also the same reason why some already ‘canonized’ work by, say Mike de Leon, doesn’t survive well to the new generation of viewers. “Too often has the bakya crowd been blamed for the sad state of Filipino movies. But what can one expect of an audience that has been fed nothing but secret-agent, karate, fantasy, and slapstick movies since time immemorial? The film audience deprived of good, intelligent fare by irresponsible and unscrupulous filmmakers cannot be expected to accept things overnight, no matter what artistic merits a production may have.” (Brocka, 1974, p. 260)

Another major reason is of course never ceasing of proliferation of Hollywood of local cinema. I find it wrong to say Filipinos enjoy anything foreign, the US still has the monopoly on patronage of goods and the culture that comes along with it. “As an enterprise that developed under conditions set by US colonial policy, the Philippine film industry had to compete with the high-powered American film industry based in Hollywood. As early as 1914, Hollywood had the Philippine market all to itself, its products monopolizing the best outlets in Manila. Potentially, films using a language understood by the majority of film-goers ought to have enjoyed wider patronage than American films. However, in view of limited capital, technical skill and equipment, the local industry could turn out only a few films, and the long intervals between one film and the next gave American films, which came in one steady flow from Hollywood, the advantage of greater visibility. More important, the greater technical polish and the international reputation of American films could not but show up the faults and limitations of local cinema.” (Lumbera, 1981, p. 178)

Towards Filipino Cinema

Throughout my reading of El Presidente and Ang Paglilitis ni Andres Bonifacio it was revealed that the postcolonial condition is not only found in the form of the two movies but also in the process of their production, distribution and consumption by the Filipino audience. Cinema, in its present state in the country, is still ill-equipped to tackle and contribute to the nation’s historical discourse. Instead of actually contributing to the creation of the Filipino ‘imagined community’, the said films wittingly or unwittingly provoke more antagonisms among several groups. The black-and-white mind frame in these reenactments could be linked to present state of politics where personalities (and families) overshadow issues. The time when people see themselves as participants in the process of history is yet to come.

The postmodern era is a visual era and this fact gives cinema more ideological potential than ever. I greatly admire the efforts of the new generation of film makers in the arena of independent or alternative cinema. However, “the film-maker’s task is to develop their [audience’s] taste further, in a conscious and patient fashion, in order slowly to wean them away from the false artistic and social values fostered by kiss-kiss, bang-bang, zoom-zoom, boo-hoo, song-and-dance flickers. One could work at first with the same commercial medium, but do it a little better, with more restraint, intelligence, characterization, and motivation, so as not to insult the educated or alienate the bakya crowd” (Brocka, 1974)

Postmodernists would also assert that nationalism is withering away, but I think nationalism is needed more than ever, especially in a ‘developing’ country like the Philippines where it seems the only path to progress is accommodating foreign capital and investments (and culture). The discourse on nationalism is in dire need to be link to the discourses of women, queer, indigenous, regional, and even ecology. A good first step in this grand task is dismantling the backward colonial influences in cinema. “Cinema has no influence or impact upon the consciousness of its mass audiences. It is less effective than the newspaper which has relatively fewer patrons and, certainly, less influential than the drama or literature. The reason for this is that, on the whole, it has nothing to say about the urgent issues that confronts us. It is an entirely passive vehicle unable to interfere with the lives of the masses that keep flocking to cinema houses. Its popularity derives either from the present interests of the patrons or their need to escape from themselves.” (Bn. Daroy, 1976, p. 108) The narrative of the nation should be told by Filipino themselves for the interests of Filipinos. The path toward a genuine Filipino cinema is also the path to a cinema of liberation. It is not hard to imagine the nation being moved a movie created by committed film makers the same way the nation was once moved by Rizal’s novels.

Sources:

Brocka, Lino (1974). Philippine Movies: Some Problems & Prospects. In Readings in Philippine Cinema. Quezon City: Experimental Cinema of the Philippines, 1983

Daroy, Petronilo Bn. (1976) Social Significance and the Filipino Cinema. In Readings in Philippine Cinema (edited by Rafael Ma. Guerrero), Quezon City: Experimental Cinema of the Philippines, 1983

Deocampo, Nick. Cine: Spanish Influnces on Early Cinema in the Philippines, Quezon City: NCCA, 2003

Fernandez, Doreen G.,Palabas: Essays on Philippine Theater History by Ateneo de Manila University Press, Quezon City, 1996

Flores, Patrick D. Philippine Cinema and Society. In Filipiniana Reader (edited by Priscelina Patajo-Legasto), Quezon City: UP Open University, 1998

Lumbera, Bienvenido. Flashbacks on Film and Theater As Interlocked Forms (1983) Revaluation 1997 Essays on Philippine Literature, Cinema, and Popular Culture, Manila, University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, 1997

__________________. Problems in Philippine Film History (1981), In Filipiniana Reader (edited by Priscelina Patajo-Legasto), Quezon City: UP Open University, 1998

Tiongson, Nicanor G. From Stage to Screen: Philippine Dramatic Traditions and the Filipino Film. In Readings in Philippine Cinema (edited by Rafael Ma. Guerrero), Quezon City: Experimental Cinema o the Philippines, 1983

__________________ Philippine Theatre: History and Anthology Volume III Sinakulo, Quezon City: UP Press, 1999

__________________What is Philippine Drama? In Filipiniana Reader (edited by Priscelina Patajo-Legasto), Quezon City: UP Open University, 1998

Tolentino, Rolando B. “Inangbayan” in Lino Brocka’s Bayan Ko: Kapit sa Patalim (1985) and Orapronobis (1989). In National/Transnational: Subject Formation and Media In and On the Philippines, Quezon City: ADMU Press, 2001

__________________. (August 2, 2008) Indie Cinema bilang Kultural na kapital, Bulalat.com, Retrieved from (http://bulatlat.com/main/2008/08/02/indie-cinema-bilang-kultural-na-kapital/)

Vergara, Jr., Benito M. Displaying Filipinos: Photography and Colonialism in Early 20th Century Philippines, Quezon City: UP Press, 1995

Mga Eksena sa Tag-araw


Sabay pumunta sa beach
ang buong opisina, kasama
ng ilan ang kanilang pamilya—
sumusunod ang madla
sa magagarang damit ng mga
santong meztiso’t meztisa—
habang ina-upload ng
kabataan ang mga litrato
ng halo-halo bago nila
sirain at lasapin ang
tamis ng ginaw—
hindi pinapansin ng mga
edukado ang mga kandidato
bumibili at nagbebente ng boto—
sabi ng taga-PAG-ASA
uminom ng maraming tubig
at iwasang lumabas ng walang
sun screen, lalo na kung tanghali—
pinoproblema ng magsasaka
ang mga pananim tinuturing na
kaanak, nakalibing sa tingang na lupa.
Sadyang
hindi pantay-pantay ang sinag
ng tag-araw sa bayang
takot umitim.