Self looks at her books, all the ones she brought from California, and is suddenly filled with regret. She brought a lot of them. She brought a lot of literary journals, too: The Tampa Review, Salamander, Manoa. She’s barely made any inroads into this wealth of reading material. Heck, she hasn’t even been able to watch much TV! Soon it will be time to pack them all up and go home. Perhaps she’ll be luckier, next time she visits.
Sheesh, it is super-hot today. Self doesn’t feel like opening the blinds, not even a crack.
Wednesday, she returned to the Daku Balay. She knows she distracts the secretaries from their work, with her chatter, but she can’t seem to stop. Finally, out popped the million-dollar question: ” ‘Day, how old are you?”
Self was speechless for a few moments, then responded, “How old do you think I am?”
And one of the ladies, it might even have been Edalyn, said: “Late 50s?”
Self was so completely mortified.
Today, self encountered one of those taxi drivers who claims to know her father, Oso. He ran for Congress back in the 80s, everyone seems to remember him for that. Some taxi drivers even go so far as to maintain that they voted for him. Well, self’s Dear Departed Dad ended up seventh place out of a field of eight, so she’s not sure how much to trust these drivers’ memories. She knows her Dad made it a point of honor not to issue a single bribe, and this might have partially accounted for his poor showing. People probably thought: Swapang! They might have thought: Oso lives in that big white house, and he doesn’t want to share his wealth, he wants to keep it all for himself.
The taxi driver said he used to work as a security guard in the family resort, “the one that’s owned by the Parreños now,” he said. And what resort is that, self asked. “Santa Fe,” the driver said.
“That resort is not owned by the Parreños,” self tartly informed the taxi driver. “It’s owned by the family corporation of the Villanuevas” (of which, self might have added, “I am a shareholder, equal to every single one of my cousins.”)
“Didn’t your lolo also own a taxi service?” the man said.
Yes, self replied, he did. She remembers summers, being told by the relatives to ride only in the cabs that said “GV & Sons.” And when she did take one of those GV & Sons cabs, they would take her and her siblings anywhere they wanted to go, for free.
The city of Bacolod was like Disneyland. No, better than Disneyland! It was hers, theirs, everyone’s. No one got angry at self, no one tried to take advantage of self, she felt Bacolod was a place where she belonged, truly belonged.
Now she knows what Obama means when he writes how he felt after his first miserable attempt to organize a political rally. Thirteen people showed up, and Obama “sat there, roasting like a pig on a spit.” That was when he realized that “in politics, like religion, power lay in certainty — and that one man’s certainty always threatened another’s.”
Chapter Eight ends with this:
I realized then, standing in an empty McDonald’s parking lot in the South Side of Chicago, that I was a heretic. Or worse — for even a heretic must believe in something, if nothing more than the truth of his own doubt.
Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.