#amwriting: Novel-in-Progress

The priest, Matias, is being sent to the Philippines to fight demons. Before he leaves Spain, he has a conversation with the Archbishop in Madrid:

“You are no dissembler, Matias. I know. It is all there in your eyes. You have suffered, but — the past is past. I have got you now!”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

More from the Novel-in-Progress

Excerpt from a letter Matias writes to his Superior in Madrid, dated the 29th of October, 1757:

Your Reverence,

The ship lumbered forward, like a mighty beast. Finally, we sailed into a beautiful natural harbor. I was eager to be down the gangplank and standing on the pier. The Archbishop of Manila sent his carriage to fetch me to his residence, which sits directly behind the magnificent Augustinian church. The Archbishop has informed me that there are representatives of many religious orders within the walls of the Old City: There are Franciscans, Dominicans, Recollects, Capuchins, Discalced Carmelites, as well as the Society of Jesus. In other words, within this very small city, there are enough priests and nuns to tend to the souls of the natives in the most meticulous fashion.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

#amreading, #amwriting

The book self is reading is The Ship, by Bjorn Landstrom (Doubleday).

On p. 102, there are a series of diagrams about the Santa Maria (“With the exception of Noah’s Ark, Columbus’s flagship is surely the most well-known ship in the world, and there are many, many thousands of models to be found today which are supposed to represent the Santa Maria.”)

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And now, an excerpt from self’s novel-in-progress, which is about a fighting priest, an Augustinian, sent by Spain to establish a mission on an island in the central Philippines.

The priest, whose name is Matias, arrives in Manila and is granted an audience with the Archbishop. And they somehow get off on the wrong foot:

“They only send the worst sort,” Archbishop Hontiveros grumbled. “Mutant mores. Have you heard the expression? Men change according to circumstances. One could be taken for a saint there but a devil here . . . ”

The Archbishop paused and abruptly changed his tone. “How long have you been in the priesthood? You are very young.”

“I am not young,” Matias said, struggling to keep a note of deference in his voice. “I am twenty-six.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Now For One of Self’s: “The Lost Language”

This was published many years ago, in a magazine called Isotope.

Published in Utah and edited by a poet, Chris Cokinos.

It joined together two things: science writing and creative writing.

You would find, in the same issue, a play by a physicist, a nature essay, a poem by a mathematician. That sort of thing.

Self loved it.

Chris Cokinos, what are you doing now? Know that self considered Isotope a very noble experiment.

Here’s an excerpt from the story they published, which became the title of her third collection. It’s one of those hybrid things: part essay, part memoir, part myth, part short story.

The Lost Language

Filipinos once had an ancient written language. If I were to show you what the marks look like on a piece of paper, they would look like a series of waves. Or like Egyptian hieroglyphics. Like the eye of the Pharaoh I saw in my old high school history books.

The language was written on tree bark. Epics were probably written in this language, but I don’t know what they are. My ancestors are shadowy people. Shadows.

When I was a little girl, perhaps eight years old or so, my mother gave me a book of Philippine legends. The legends were mostly about beautiful maidens and enchanted animals. But the story I liked best was about Hari sa Bukid, which means King of the Mountain.

Read the rest of this entry »

A Good Match 2: Vibrant Orange, 2 Philippine Seascapes

This week share a photo of a satisfying pairing from your own life.
— Ben Huberman, The Daily Post

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Orange Lydia Davis book cover + woven portfolio from the Philippines + crinkle potato chips = A Good Match (One copy is self’s; the other is her niece’s)

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Sea + Sky = Philippine Seascape, An Excellent Match

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Sea + Sky: Dumaguete, Island of Negros in the Central Philippines, a Breathtakingly Good Match

Magellan Without Elcano

Ferdinand Magellan set out from Seville with five ships in 1519.

Two years later, he was dead on a Philippine island.

Why does he get credit for the “first circumnavigation of the globe”?

If it weren’t for Juan Sebastian Elcano, who completed the circle, there would be no circumnavigation.

Self thinks the return leg was just as important — no, more — than the first leg.

Magellan set out with five ships and 270 men. Stocked to the gills, supported by experienced crew. Two years later, it was left to Elcano to return a demoralized crew back to Spain. He did it in one year, with one ship, the Victoria, which sailed from the Philippines to Borneo, across the Indian Ocean, around the Cape of Good Hope, north along the west coast of Africa, finally reaching Spain on 6 September 1522, with 18 of the original 270 men.

Now, that’s a journey. That’s epic.

Three years later, Elcano went on another expedition, but this time he was not so lucky. According to Wikipedia, Elcano died while on the Loaisa expedition to claim the East Indies on behalf of Charles I of Spain.  The cause of death was malnutrition.

Stay tuned.

“Magellan’s Mirror”: Self’s Pushcart-Nominated Story, 2012

Magellan’s Mirror

  • Note: In this story, The Philippines is the home of giants. In the history books, Ferdinand Magellan is credited with their discovery.

During the next week, no natives appeared on the shore. The beach was empty as it had been on the first day, before the crew had sighted Enrique. The men looked up at the sky, cloudless and blue. Under their breaths, they cursed their leader.

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The Beach at Capitola-by-the-Sea, late December 2016

In the middle of the third week, four of the giants were seen gesticulating on the shore. The sailors shook their heads. The natives importuned them with tragic gestures. Finally, the tribesmen boarded a massive canoe and began paddling towards the Trinidad. Magellan ordered his men to welcome them warmly. The crew offered the visitors their fill of wine. Just as the giants were sleepily dozing off, Magellan had his men shackle them.


Thanks to J Journal for nominating self’s story for the Pushcart. Self took the historical journey of Ferdinand Magellan and included magical elements. She has a Part II, called “Vanquisher.” And a third story, called “Residents of the Deep,” which she began at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig, 2014, which takes place centuries later (1840s)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Fantasy, Set in the Philippines: Self’s “Isa”

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Hinoba-an, Negros Occidental, the Philippines: December 2010

A few weeks ago, when self was attending a reading in USF, Barbara Jane Reyes, poet and teacher, told self she was teaching “Isa” in her class this fall.

YEEEESSSSS!!!!

Five families lived on Isa. At first, there was a way to walk on the ground between the houses. But gradually the water rose and that was when we began to use the rope bridges.

In self’s story the water keeps rising and rising and rising, until gradually all the other islands get submerged. And there is only one left.

The families on Isa send out an expedition to see how far the water reaches. The journey takes them far away, and they realize that they’ve long passed the edges of their known world.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

GHOST SOLDIERS: Carabao (Water Buffalo) and Benzedrine

Escape route from POW camps was facilitated by the local villagers contributing their carabaos. The Rangers started with 12, a precious gift in itself. More and more carabaos arrived, so that there were 30 in all. This was a Godsend, since most of the POWs could scarcely walk, and many had contracted diseases like tuberculosis and beriberi. This supply of carabaos was no small sacrifice on the part of the villagers. A carabao was almost the most precious possession a farmer could have.

And then, the lack of sleep: the Rangers had averaged 5 hours sleep in the last 72 hours. To keep them going, their commander handed out Benzedrine pills.

Self remembers reading about the Allied retreat to Dunkirk (She remembers the author: Hugh Sebag-Montefiore, but she can’t for the life of her remember the title of the book he wrote). The commanders were so punch-drunk from the lack of sleep that during briefings, they would doze off in the middle of a sentence. An enlisted soldier behind the officer would nudge him awake, and the briefing would continue.

And as for the pills: during the mission to kill Osama bin Laden, some of the SEALS were dozing off in the Blackhawk. It came out later they’d taken Ambien.

Here’s a passage from Ghost Soldiers (which is a really good book; self highly recommends)

During World War II, amphetamines became all the rage as a stimulant, with some 72 million handed out to both Allied and Axis soldiers by the end of the war. It was said that Adolf Hitler underwent a daily regimen of amphetamine injections. Certainly, this was the first time any of the Rangers had taken speed. — Ghost Soldiers, p. 307

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

GHOST SOLDIERS: Almost Done

Her next book after Ghost Soldiers is a biography of Jesse James by T. J. Stiles. Then, she’ll move back into fiction with Kate Walbert’s A Short History of Women. With any luck, she’ll get to Walbert’s book just in time for the elections.

She watched all three debates. This last one was potent: there was one certifiable meltdown. When a man says live, on camera, to an audience of millions, that his opponent is “a nasty woman,” you can forget everything he said earlier about respecting women. He could have said “a nasty person.” But he said: nasty woman. As if her gender made it even more nasty (And you, sir, are a nasty man!)

Someone tweeted that he thought it would be a good idea to re-name all public restrooms to read: BAD HOMBRES and NASTY WOMEN.

All those in favor, say “Aye!”

Anyhoo, Back to Ghost Soldiers. The raid to free the American POWs in Cabanatuan has a very surreal quality. First of all, the POWs do not seem impressed by the American Rangers who’ve just arrived to rescue them, and are reluctant to leave the camp. Quite a few of them have to be actually kicked in the rear end because the Rangers are on a very tight program.

After the camp is completely emptied, the leader of the raid does a last check of each and every barrack. He’s all alone. Satisfied that the Americans haven’t missed a single POW, he fires a flare into the sky, visible for miles, to signal the end of the mission.

But they do leave one man behind. A British POW who’d gone deaf, who was using a latrine, who didn’t come out until everyone — Rangers AND POWs had left. The operation had to have taken at least an hour, so — the man was constipated?

There is also an American Ranger who is shot by one of his own men (by accident), from point-blank range. And this Ranger can’t stop saying, to his last breath, “By my own men. By my own men.” The men around him try to comfort him by assuring him that he was shot by a Japanese, but he refuses to believe it and just keeps repeating, in absolute horror, “By my own men.” Until he dies.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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