Reading for the Day: Gilda Cordero-Fernando’s “People in the War”

Posted this sometime back.  When self was in Manila last year, she stopped by the Ateneo Library of Women’s Writings and found they had a file on Cordero-Fernando.

(My God, now self knows where to donate her diaries.  She has about 50.  At first she thought she’d make of them a huge bonfire in her backyard.  But now she thinks she’ll take a few and offer them to the library)

Below is an excerpt from Cordero-Fernando’s short story “People in the War.” :

Our front door opened right onto the sidewalk, and the street sloped down to a lily-dappled river, in our house in the city.  Across the river a soap opera was always taking place:  a man with two wives lived in an unpainted house beside the lumber mill.  When the sun went down the wives began to quarrel, clouting each other with wooden clogs, and a bundle of clean wash came flying out of the window into the silt below.  We watched them chase each other down the stairs, clawing each other’s clothes off and rolling down the embankment, and the dogs of the neighborhood surrounded them, barking and snarling —  till from the lumber mill the husband emerged —  a shirtless apparition with a lumber saw in his hand.

At least once a month they held a wake on the river bank.  They rented a corpse, strung up colored lights and gambled till the wee hours of the morning.  Sometimes a policeman wandered in —  having heard some rumor, and poked around with his night stick.  But there would be the corpse, and it was truly dead, there would be the card games, but no suspicion of betting (the chips having been scooped away together with the basket of money) and the policeman would saunter away, wiping a tear, leaving the poor relatives to their grief and their gambling.

We must move to another neighborhood, my father said every day.  We planted trees to screen them from sight, we planted trees to preserve our respectability.  A truck unloaded two acacia trees on our doorstep, saplings no bigger than I.  The houseboy made a bamboo fence around their trunks and every afternoon the maids hauled out pails to water them.

Self is completely, completely entranced by the dream-like weave of this story.  She would like dear blog readers to know that Ms. Cordero Fernando is alive and well and still beautiful and still living in Manila, and those dear blog readers who reside in the Philippines should count themselves lucky because they can go to a bookstore or a library and begin to read everything this writer has written.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

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