Pearl of the Orient

Since self is writing about an 18th century Spanish priest who is sent to the Philippines to found a mission on an island widely thought to be inhabited by demons, she has to read up on Philippine colonial history.

It begins with Magellan’s murder. Then, with Spain sending voyage after voyage. Then, the Legazpi expedition of 1571 when the 17-year-old Juan de Salcedo marched up and down Luzon, planting the One True Cross.

It amazes self to realize that the line of Spanish governor generals began in 1571 (Legazpi was the first). What was the Philippines like in the 16th century? Juan de Salcedo and his men starved in the Mountain Province. Manila was attacked by pirates from China.

Even the 17th century seems positively medieval. Yet there was an unbroken line of Spanish governors for over three hundred years. Some governor generals were better than others; some were downright awful. But Spain kept sending them. It must have been a hellacious appointment. One governor general was even murdered. By friars.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Laughter of My Father, by Carlos Bulosan

One of our foremost Filipino writers was a migrant worker who died at 40 of tuberculosis, in a Seattle boarding house.

His name was Carlos Bulosan, and The Laughter of My Father was one of Dear Departed Dad’s favorite books (Gallery Bookshop in Mendocino found this copy for me, previously used naturally!)

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Reading it now, self can understand why. She’s reading the Bantam edition, published August 1946.

p. 2:

Laughter was our only wealth. Father was a laughing man. He would go into the living room and stand in front of the tall mirror, stretching his mouth into grotesque shapes with his fingers and making faces at himself; then he would rush into the kitchen, roaring with laughter.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Bartolome de las Casas (1484 – 1566), Bishop of Chiapas

  • In the 16th century, Spain’s newest colony, the Philippines, was administered from Mexico. Luckily, Manila’s first Bishop was “a disciple of Bartolome de las Casas . . . bishop of Chiapas. De las Casas, writing about the injustice, torture and decimation of the American Indians in Mexico, fueled a reform movement that led to a royal decree in 1542 banning the enslavement of Indians and virtually ending the encomienda system by limiting ownership of slaves to a single generation.”

La Casa de Dios: The Legacy of Filipino-Hispanic Churches in the Philippines, by René B. Javellana, SJ

A Cousin’s Farm, Oliva Dos, near the town of Murcia in the Central Philippines

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Near Murcia, Negros Occidental, the Philippines

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Path cleared for a tractor, Oliva Dos, near Murcia

Self lived the first 20 years of her life without knowing there was another Murcia. In Spain.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Antonio Vivencio del Rosario Archives, University of Santo Tomas, Manila

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Main Building, University of Santo Tomas, Manila: January 2018

The University of Santo Tomas is the oldest university in the Philippines. The first book printed in the Philippines, the Doctrina Christiana, is housed there, in the Antonio Vivencio del Rosario Library (named after self’s great-great-grandfather). At the opening, self’s great uncle, who donated the money for the archives, cited a thesis self had written in the Ateneo de Manila, which traced the del Rosario family history back, four generations. But self wasn’t there. Her brothers went, and great was their shock when they heard her name mentioned as the reason the archives exit. (Self couldn’t go because — well, she couldn’t afford the airfare. Husband was out of work. None of her family offered to make up the fare)

She FINALLY got to drop by in January 2018, met the librarians, and took pictures. The archives survive on the generosity of individual donors. Three full-time employees are responsible for digitizing the vast collection.

“How many books have been digitized so far?” self asked.

The answer: 150.

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Self is thinking about the archives because today she decided to try and work on her 18th century novel-in-progress, Blue Water, Distant Shores. Her novel — a product of over-reach, self is no historian — is about a Spanish priest who, in 1736, is sent to the Philippines to fight demons. She’s reading about books by the early missionaries, books like the Ilocano catechism of 1621, translated by Fray Francisco Lopez.

“Your books should be here, ma’am,” she remembers the librarians telling her. “We’ll add them to the display.”

What? No . . .

On second thought! She’ll contact her press right now. Please send copies to the Antonio Vivencio del Rosario Archives in University of Santo Tomas, stat!

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Found these copies of self’s third short story collection in the National Bookstore in Gateway Mall, Cubao, Metro-Manila! (January 2018)

Afterwards, self dropped by the Program in Creative Writing, and got to pose for a picture with the professors:

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University of Santo Tomas, January 2018: Creative Writing Program Director Jing Hidalgo is on self’s right.

Dearest Mum’s only response, when self showed her the pictures: Why are you so short?

lol

lol

lol

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

San Francisco Chronicle Datebook, 27 January 2019

Loving the cover story:

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In 1969:

Nixon became President, the Beatles released Abbey Road, Sly and the Family Stone released Want To Take You Higher, The Who released Tommy.

Midnight Cowboy, Easy Rider, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid premiered. TV’s Star Trek got cancelled.

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Woodstock happened, Chappaquiddick happened, the moon landing happened, Berkeley’s People Park happened, Charles Manson happened, The Gap opened its 1st store, the Vietnam draft lottery was televised, William Calley was convicted of six counts of murder for My Lai.

Self was in summer camp in England. That’s where she heard about the moon landing.

Ferdinand Marcos won re-election as President of the Philippines.

Wonder what groundbreaking books were published that year? No mention in the Chronicle. There must have been some.

Where was Gloria Steinem?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Sunday Read: Philippine Religious Imagery in Ivory (Exhibit Catalogue, Intramuros, Manila, 1982)

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Self’s childhood home in Manila was crammed with santoses (religious statues). Dearest Mum collected them.

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L: San Vicente Ferrer R: San Pedro Martir

The santos carvers were unknown. It was an industry, like making furniture. The head and hands of the figures were usually ivory.

The caption for San Pedro Martir reads, in entirety:

  • Ivory head and hands on batikuling body. A bolo (machete), now missing, the instrument of his martyrdom, was originally embedded in his cranium. He is usually depicted holding a palm of martyrdom, also missing. 19th century.

Batikuling is a Philippine tree, presently listed as endangered.

Stay tuned.

 

For Sarah Balabagan, OFW, by Marianne Villanueva

FOR SARAH BALABAGAN, OFW 

Note:  OFW stands for “Overseas Filipino Workers.” As of 2010, there were believed to be close to 2 million OFWs working in almost every country in the world, including Albania, Mongolia, Romania, and Swaziland.  

You with the round face, the dark blue headscarf, I saw you first at 3 p.m.

It was a hot afternoon in September.  I’d opened Marie Claire or Glamour, I don’t now remember which, and there you were, grave and unsmiling. (But what cause would you have to smile?  I found out all, later.)

Your father’s name was Karim, and your mother’s, Bai.  You grew up in the island of Mindanao, in the Philippines.  You were fourth in a family of fourteen children.

The man who raped you was dead (I was happy to read).  You stabbed him 34 times.

You knew that most likely you were never going to get a husband. Not after what had happened.

It was the worst thing you ever imagined.  Not just the pain, no — it was worse than that.  The telling to your mother – it nearly finished you.

He gouged the skin of your throat with his long fingernails.  You were afraid, but the fear was nothing compared to your shame.

You asked yourself, “Why?”  Your brothers too said it, but they pointed fingers at your mother (who wept, who refused to leave the house for months, who even attempted suicide) and sometimes, (though not as much) at your father.

Your brothers shouted, “Why did you let her go?  To a place like that?”

The newspapers recorded every accusation.

As if anyone could ever have foreseen such a catastrophe.

The man who sat across the table from you at the police station in Abu Dhabi, the man you knew only as “Pak,” said over and over:  “You said that such and such a thing happened on such and such a day.  Why do you make up such stories?”

You said, “I swear to God – “

“Swearing is a sin.  Whose God are you swearing at?  You will be tortured if you don’t stop these lies.”

They said you would be permitted to return home, but only after you confessed.

You held out for four months.  Then, the man named Pak came again with the form and this time, you signed it.  “Now you have nothing to worry about,” Pak said.

A week later, you were in the courtroom to hear your sentence. While you waited for the translation, you imagined yourself back home.  Your lawyer patted your hand.  The look on his face was sorrowful.

Sentenced to death, he said.  “What?” you said.  He repeated, Sentenced to death.

I read how the murdered man’s sons spoke on your behalf.  Yes, they told the court.  We believe our father capable of rape.

Because of their testimony, the sentence was reduced to 100 lashes.  After another year in prison, you returned home.  You were thin and wan – Oh, you were much changed.

They said you became a singer. Your voice, though untrained, was described as “pure,” which must have pleased your brothers no end.

You became quite well-known, and sang in shows with Heart Evangelista and Dulce Amor. You opened for Dingdong Avanzado, and were invited to record a duet with the popular Ogie Alcasid.

As for your mother, she still says, over and over, It was never my idea.

You had your first child at 18.  The father was a journalist.  He left you after two years.

In your mind, you have never left Abu Dhabi. You are still in that small barred cell, shrinking in horror from the jailers who point at your shaved head and mutter curses. You will always be there, enacting penitence for an event that never ends and a guilt that never leaves.  It is there always, in your blood, as is fear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

– End

Novel-In-Progress: Hard Pruning

Self has cut so much from her novel-in-progress, Blue Water, Distant Shores, it’s now just 314 pages.

The parts that stay, that made it through three drafts, will be part of the end manuscript now. For sure.

Such as this passage:

The new Gubernador-General announced his intention to establish a system of garrisons ringing the southern Philippine kingdoms of Maranao and Sulu, to contain the Moslem threat. Everyone knew this was idle talk. Spain could not send more soldiers. As the situation stood, she could barely hang on to her prize, the Most Holy City of Manila.

Matias’s watchtower preceded the Church. The site he found was a narrow spit of land that followed the Bago River from its mouth to the Guimaras Strait, which united the Visayan and Sulu Sea.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

Novel-In-Progress: FARM, MOUNTAIN, SEA, Ch. 1

Self’s novel is set on the island of Negros, in the central Philippines, at the start of the Japanese Occupation during World War II. Honorato, an hacendero‘s son, and Moses, the enkargado, are ordered to the mountains by Honorato’s father.

Self is bringing it, people. Just bringing it. Right now, her manuscript stands at 247 pages.

The next day the forest rears up before them, indescribably dense. It takes them a mere hour to reach the first line of trees. Upon entering, they find themselves under a thick canopy of foliage, the light fading to a cathedral dimness. Birds and an occasional monkey frolic overhead.

Moses leads the way, hacking the heavy vines and tree branches that block their path. Soon, his back is soaked with sweat. Honorato watches silently as the enkargado removes his shirt. The older man’s back is ribbed and corded and hard-looking, with small scars pocking the surface, from what past injury Honorato can only guess.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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