Nob 2, 2004

This morning, for the first time in a long time, the joy again of imagining a knife twisted in my heart.

Franz Kafka
November 2, 1911
Diary entry


Recording of the nationalist as pimp

Nathan, I see you honored me with a speedy reply. I would've returned the favor, but I had to deal with the dead like most of us.

On then with the notion of nation.

You want me to give you, as the song goes, 'one reason to steer'. I see many paths opening for me. You've taught in UP, so you know full well about that debt to the farmers and fishermen who footed the bill of our college education. Why should I stop there? Hell, whatever you acquired you acquired at the expense of so many others dependent on the land and its people. Whatever you learned, you learned primarily by your intercourse (shall we call it also rape?) of its people.

You'll easily find a way around that, Nate. You can say you are the victim here, robbed, raped also, and teared forever (structurally) from any substantial retribution by your high oppressors. You owe 'the people' nothing, hell, they owe you!

You may also simply go rap on me and say, 'No! I'm gonna get mine.' Which brings us to entitlement, a topic inseparable from identity.

Who are you and what are you entitled to? The 'anong karapatan mo?' as a popularly occurring query is a question of fame, 'sino ka?' a question not of basic existential identity but of 'name', that is, power and popularity. Without 'K', nobody owes us nada, we're mere steps in an infernal staircase of the 'maliliit'. And like so many people before us, we want to get ours, claim that 'K', that currency that people understand, that enviable congressional clout, that blood-costly altar, that great showbiz buzz, that academic high-horse, ah! these and the minor avenues of power.

Maybe not even these, huh? Just a simple, decent life. A life I can lead with some work, some play, some sense of meaning, and no knowledge of the cost even a simple life accrues from those without its luxury: the now empty word of poverty dangled even by the poor as currency, the now thoroughly internal mentality of crabs, the morality of slaves, the rise of such articulations as these - guilt-ridden and guilt-arousing. None of that! Just a simple life, free of the awareness of the indecencies that undergird it. It's possible in advertising, right?

No, not these roads. I'll not be so condescending, brother. It's your rise I desire, just as you've always thought the best for me. Your double-decade of being in this world has taught you more, so much more than any single utterance of mine can. My small word's a mere instant aspiring to to make the most of itself at our service.

What other step can I take then? Hope? The whore of Creon? No. I have always felt that we repeat Rizal where he is weakest, where he throws upon the youth - that faceless future - the 'Hope of the Fatherland' as Paciano and Gomburza yoked the same weight on his back. So he pursued Esperanza the fleeting and found that all his genius will not yield him her with any finality. A hope that is final, the pragmatists know, is not hope. Thus, triumphalists end history.

No empty victory, Nate; no grave hope laid upon you. I promise nothing though with the same breath I urge myself on with hope with the great maybe of a someday truly free.

This promise is mine. The debts that I take upon myself are those I chose to acknowledge, those that I feel to be real and believe to be true. Yet, I don't premise this promise on some useless optimism. I don't charge my cognizance of debts against the dried blood of noble ancestors or the spilled drops of my countryside contemporaries. Not upon anyone, not even upon you, do I dare place the burden of my choice, Nate. While (among so many others) you, Ong, Rizal, Quibuyen, Eliserio, Mercurio, Remollino, Talisayon, Atienza, Jose, Joaquin, David, Duque, Mabini, Aguinaldo, Santiago, and a nameless taxi driver who talked children and politics with me have all left their mark on my person, it is because, primarily, I chose the influence. I choose dialogue. I open myself.

This is egoism, true. But why should I place the weight of my person, the gravity of my tears and laughs, the secret pain of my words and silences, on any of you? I do not even burden 'the Philippines' or 'the Filipinos' with my choice. Who can carry the weight of another man's choice?

Even our own choice proves to be so heavy the we invent grand gods for the purpose.

This is where I engage you. Why the openings Nate? Why the fuss? If the country's a whore, why not just leave it? Need you throw your stone when already the Romantic ideal of unrequited love has been fulfilled? Bonifacio took this route with the rhetorical question 'Anong pag-ibig ba ang hihigit kaya sa pagkadakila at pagkdalisay...?' This the nationalists whisper to themselves before they sleep to strengthen their resolve, to cement their convictions, to augment their love. You have no need of such drugs.

Poet, you know the work of conceit, yes? These are all peripheral. Even the Adios Patria Adorada itself is peripheral. Whatever you say to yourself (or ask others to say to you) all beg the question of choice. Yes, we are not free, yes our class, gender, race (dare I say nationality?), and age among many other things limit us and form us (sometimes to be so predictable to friends, economists, and psychiatrists). However, do we choose these limits to paralyze us or direct us? My, you have no need of such sermons having surmounted much yourself! Why still, do I feel the need to speak (this need, itself, like my choice of choice, something you must have also predicted)?

I insist on hissing because you throw the weight of your choice around. I don't think it's healthy.

You're like a lover who threatens the too-significant other that he'll kill himself if she leaves him. Remove the damned 'if'! Let the people (which we so easily homogenize in sterile, academic boxes) love their Velardes, Poes, Quizons, Cojuangcos, and so many of those who they choose via text for Debate, Starstruck, or prayer request. Let them be a nation of televiewers and homepartners! Let them leave you. Then kill or live or leave or die or do what you will!

Pursue?

Choice precedes reason. I think this is the way of humanity, a way that nobody really acknowledges. We all do it, but we don't say we do. We choose first and rationalize later. We invent gods for our wars like the religious right. We create Reason and History in our image and likeness to give us an inalienable right to rebel. We choose our slice of people, a bloody angle of them, to show us the picture of humanity entire. We also choose the problems, the composition of the cross for our messianic backs to carry.

You want the rest of us - the nation and its nationalists, state and fascists - to justify ourselves to you so that you may justify your course of action to yourself. I say just leave this construct of nation if it makes you happy. Let it just dangle around - a necessary label because the world is not enlightened enough for ha! borderless people - like the scapulars of nominal catholics. The song, however, goes 'if it makes you happy, it can't be that bad; if it makes you happy, then why the hell are you so sad?'

I engage you because I want to know what you're going through. Is this a true internal strife, an existential crisis? What is the name of your pain, my friend? Is it a struggle for identity? Or just a growing pain, just a writhing, a shedding of the brown national skin that has grown too uncomfortable (inconvenient?), an expending of saliva just to ease it off though you already know full well what Nathan wants to become? If it's a conflict, then, as I said in a previous entry, 'sapakan tayo'. If it's a growing (out of nation) pain, then allow me to be the easy target of the venom you need to expectorate.

I claim 'Hindi aco patay!' as my declaration (not the nation's. I don't speak for or to it; I just try to talk with it). The nation will declare what it will in the various avenues of its voice.

Only, before I end, consider this note about someone nameless and insignificant (in 'K' terms). You may want to call it fiction, I understand. You see, somewhere, someone's a Filipino not only because the schools drilled it into her or because a hero saw it fit to burden her with his horrible hope, (the severe extension of his phallic insecurity of not penetrating far enough into the future). Somewhere, someone's a child because she creates a parent; a lover, because she constructs herself in the image and likeness of love (all along creating the image and likeness of love!). Someone's alive exactly because she says so.

I, on the other hand, am also for you, true brother, dear Nate of the nation.