in corrugated-iron shanties
centipedes reek with the
stench of putrefied human
in concrete-and-steel multiversities
the atoms of human
brains are split by
–Amelita Cuala (Heart Anatomy, Society of St. Paul, 1973)–
About thirteen years ago, I met modern patriot and Filipinist Señor Guillermo Gómez Rivera through my literary mentor, the late Amelita Cuala de Málig (1936-2000, author of Heart Anatomy, a collection of psycho-religious confessional verses). Due to the high hopes of a puerile youth, I was then yearning for a Bohemian kind of poetic lifestyle. I looked up to Mrs. Málig so much to the point that I worshiped the very ground that she had tread upon.
Mrs. Málig proudly introduced me to Señor Gómez as one of her best student writers. The latter didn’t take it lightly; it was apparent in his countenance that he was inflamed to meet a younger scribbler! “Admirable!” he said in his odd Spanish-accented English. He was actually looking for fresh blood which he could utilize for his advocacy.
Old Man Gómez was then the Head of the Spanish Department in Adamson University. Later on, I’d discover that he was into something bigger. Aside from heading the Corporación Nacional de Profesores en Español, Señor Gómez has been, for past few decades, on a quixotic struggle of bringing back the Spanish language into the modern Filipino cosmos. Furthermore, his dissertation on the veracity of our Filipino Identity being Hispanic in origin is too intricate to contest. His endeavors earned him the respect and admiration of the local Hispanic community, including Spanish-speaking foreign embassies. His activities instantly sparked my interest because my father’s family is of Spanish descent (Bonilla and Évora). Aside from that, I thought that merging my mind into his ideology would add more color and perhaps even poignancy to my English-language verses.
My selfish aspirations turned out for the better. I thought that this Hispanofilipino struggle would just be a small part of my life, a brief but interesting chapter about the uninteresting life of Pepe Alas. Strangely, it didn’t. It swallowed my whole being. It became my life. Little by little, I started to veer away from my love for English Literature. It turned out that Filipino Literature (which is Spanish) is a treasure trove of prosaic delights and poetic marvels. I was introduced to Filipino authors such as Manuel Bernabé, Jesús Balmori, Fernando Mª Guerrero, Evangelina Guerrero de Zacarías, Conchita Huerta, Federico Espino, Ramón Escoda, as well as the original or untranslated versions of the writings of José Rizal, Apolinario Mabini, and a host of other local literary giants in the Spanish language.
I almost forgot the zeal which Mrs. Málig had for English literature, as well as the zeal that I used to have for my socialist activities with the Liga ng Sosyalistang Kabataan. The struggle for the realization of our national identity was something that seemed to me to be more adventurous, more noble, more Filipino. My belligerency was channeled into something more honorable, something truer than the collectivist principles that I used to adhere to. Gaining control of the means of the means of production and distribution became too distant for me, a stranger, a thing of the past.
Up to now, this passion hasn’t died down. I’m even hoping that it will rub off on my children. Sadly, I haven’t achieved much. Unlike Señor Gómez, I am a nobody, a hapless Third World citizen, a beleaguered and disrespected employee, an ordinary father trying to make both ends meet, and a hopeless but agitated dreamer. I think I have become another Mrs. Málig who I used to see eternally gazing through hallway windows during our time in Adamson University. She died suddenly on a hospital bed in 2000, right in front of his melancholic son, Christian Málig (my brother in spirit). Her Heart Anatomy virtually unrecognized…
Why do I write this? It’s because I couldn’t write any better no more. I am torn between this personal struggle (which I voluntarily took up) and my responsibility as a father. Many times I tried giving up, but the pen keeps on haunting me. This blogpost is not a good-bye. No way. Today’s blogpost is merely an excuse.
I will still try to write everyday, but usually about banal stuff: news, news, news, and a lot of current events (anyway, that’s what I’ve been writing about these past few weeks). When I launched ALAS FILIPINAS last 2007 (the first and only Philippine blog in the Spanish language), I planned of making it as a new avenue for this National Identity struggle that I’m waging. I think I failed. I even rarely update that site anymore like used to do. FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES is supposed to carry on the Hispanofilipino struggle using the English language. But I failed in that aspect, as well (I think I wrote about volcanoes yesterday, haha). And since my office performance is being affected by too much thinking (!), I have to stop this madness. But only for a while. I’ll focus first on my job responsibilities, and master what I need to master. And once I’ve mastered our technology (yes, I really have to master our technology; I have no other choice), the rest will hopefully be a breeze. I can focus once more on the fight against the covert hostility aimed at our Filipino identity.
I’ll be back soon. I promise. Bye for now.