Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Back to the start

I write this now that the canons are tamed. The lights are out. The silence, defeaning. Where the road cuts to its imminent fall above the dazzling moon in its pre-dawn sky, there I sit, resting my chin on my folded knees. The mud-coated boots flat on the ground. The prince is nowhere in sight; he is not coming. 

At 2:00 in the morning, there is little left to the imagination. He claims the past and lies now in that person's present. This is what runs in my head in an attempt to write the just, the truth beyond all the dreaming. But you know what they say. Sometimes, all the right words live in other writers' paper and in this particular case, even the chances for love. 

I used to write hope for New Year. As a young revolutionary, I cling on the ideals of rebellion that speaks of gleaming lights by the end and the fight with which triumph shall surpass evil. But things change. Children grow up and realities dance in your face in an upbeat tempo. We learn that God is an underachiever, Dante is schizophrenic and that fairytales are metaphor to love’s cruelest form. 

It is difficult to live with this kind of imagination doubled with this kind of fate I was cursed with. You offer your hands to someone you thought who cared and who said he will and yet it is curious to see him chasing after time travelers and healers and tycoons. I close my eyes to escape this, wishing that even for a moment, just for a second that the images will disappear. But darkness is no more an escape to avail solitude. There I see piles of rotting dead bodies in a staggering landscape of rocks and logs where homes and dreams once stood. There is darkness, I saw an old lady dying under a 12-wheeler truck, still clutching her sampaguita garlands. And then I'd see me: bastardized and vanished.

It is true that we cannot compare each others demises and despairs. It is also true that we cannot give all victims their respective names. Or bring justice. Or provide them better future. In Cateel, Davao Oriental, it is difficult to fathom how a family of five is willing to sell the few possessions they were able to save from the wrath of typhoon Pablo just so they can buy a small slab of carabao meat for their noche buena. They huddled barefooted under the flickering light of gas lamp inside a home with invisible walls content as they stare at one another in silence, grinning. 

In barangay St. Joseph in San Juan where fire ravaged thousands of houses on Christmas Eve, a little girl named Sander was seen clutching a doll. Her mother Lanie said it was the only thing she was able to save from the fire. It was her Christmas gift for Sander. “Wala na nga siyang mga damit, wala pang laruan,” Lanie said. 

With the same hope, I wrote the story of Bonita Baran, a house helper of four years to a family in Quezon City. Years later, she now wheels her way in finding justice bringing a battalion of memories of countless abuse she received from her former masters. She was beaten, burned, fed with spoiled foods and cockroaches and was continuously threatened to be killed. 

Somewhere along that hope, I met a seven year old kid named Keanu, who dreams of becoming a doctor and still defies his doctors who said he will not live that long. At seven, he is fighting myelodysplastic syndrome – a disorder in in which cells in bone marrow won’t function normally and so not enough normal blood cells are produced. He still laughs at times and would try and play like any kid of his age would do. He speaks of returning to school, TV shows and a future where he no longer needs blood transfusion and a huge needle punctured through his flesh to monitor his blood count. 

I am not trying to level these people’s pain with my personal battles. I write them side-by-side with mine because theirs already became mine. These people would go on with their lives untouched by my presence. They will live and survive meeting me or not. But I don’t think I could ever live again or be the same person after them. I am changed. 

I used to cry out of heartaches and stories of injustices, but now I face them with gritted teeth and white knuckles. I question hope, faith and the rambling sense of this senseless social indifference. Anne Lammot said that hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you show up and try do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work; you don’t give up. But many people died with flaming hope in their hearts without seeing the slightest hint of dawn in their final breath. And it’s still not coming. Not for a majority of people. Not even for me. 

But hope persists. Not because there’s optimism. But because there’s darkness. After all, hope is not about expecting things will turn out better, brighter. Hope is the conviction that no matter how deep we sink in a mud of unthinkable injustice, we stand anyway. I no longer believe in fairy tales, in Messiahs, or princes who always break their promises of arrival or return. In a world where deceit and greed persist, hope is about those men who continue and try. And so we will. 

So I sit here like all the other people who take some moment on the edge of their cliff looking far beyond that stretch of boundless meeting of earth and sky. We do no wait for anything. We're just there. 

To a new year!

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