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.

Another Novel-in-Progress, Found

This one takes place in the Philippines during World War II.

The working title is Farm and Mountain:

Four days later, the enkargado took Honorato to the mountains.

It was almost too late. From across the narrow strait separating them from the neighboring island of Panay, smoke had been rising, for days. The Zeros had made straight for the fuel depots in Iloilo.

243 pp.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Opening Page, an Old Manuscript (244 pp) About World War II in Bacolod

It was mid-April. Honorato was sent to the mountains. He had just turned 18.

His parents worried because he was tall, because he was good-looking, because he was the eldest and bore his family’s hopes on his slender shoulders. So, hide, his father told him. Get as far away from here as you can.

How long must I stay in the mountains, Honorato asked.

As long as the Hapon are here, his father said. And don’t try to come back, not until the war is over. We will get word to you, somehow.

 

It was still dark when the enkargado knocked softly on the door of Honorato’s room. “‘Toto,” he called softly. “Time to get up.”

 

Reticence

The husband of the narrator of The Door has been in hospital for about six or seven pages (which means a few weeks). Communication between the narrator and the housekeeper, Emerence, break down.

When the husband is finally allowed home, Emerence celebrates the occasion by bringing over a pot of chicken soup. The soup tureen is a fancy one. A real work of art.

“A present,” Emerence tells the narrator, from “one of her employers, Mrs. Grossman.”

“The one thing” the narrator doesn’t “need was the thought of her” housekeeper “helping herself to the contents of someone’s shattered and abandoned home.”

The narrator wants to refuse the gift but she doesn’t want to “upset” her husband: “At the time I was allowing him only carefully monitored doses of reality.” lol

“The thought of being fed from some knick-knack that had belonged to a destitute stranger bound for the gas chamber would have made him leap out of bed, half-dead as he was.”

This book is about wartime collaborators in a small village in Hungary. Who knew? Self is absolutely delighted by this surprising turn of events.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Still On P. 27 of THE DOOR

  • All the time, my stepfather was shaking and swearing, because call-up letters were flying around like birds.

This evening self suddenly thinks about her World War II novel (244 pages) and realizes it has no heart. The only thing it describes is how an 18-year-old is sent into the mountains with the enkargado.

When Bacolod was occupied, self’s Dear Departed Dad was 12. The Japanese High Command chose the biggest house in Bacolod to commandeer. Which at the time was Dear Departed Dad’s family’s house.

It had a winding staircase made of imported Carrara marble! With a working Otis elevator! Of course the occupiers must have marveled about how that house had come to be, in such a small island in the center of the Philippines.

Must have been pretty tense, right? When self knew her grandfather, he was an old man in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the neck down. He was always that way, always a sublime paralytic in her memory. It wasn’t until six years ago that self learned that her grandfather suffered the stroke during the Occupation.

There’s a war story self’s Dear Departed Dad told her about how, one day, everyone in Bacolod was made to line up around the Plaza. There was a prisoner seated in the middle of the Plaza and he was beaten pretty badly. The guards wanted him to point out his accomplices. Right when two of my father’s uncles passed in front of the prisoner, his guards gave him a particularly vicious beating. And his arm came up and he pointed, without thought. And he was pointing at one of my father’s uncles. Who was immediately taken away and never seen again.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Accusations

Page after page, The Door, by Hungarian writer Magda Szabo, is dispatching self’s numerous pre-conceptions about it.

Self was under the impression The Door was a charming, restrained novel about a woman and her housekeeper and even imagined she’d skim through and be done with it quickly, for after reading three novels by Daphne du Maurier and a crackling biography (that had as much drama as a du Maurier novel), she thought it would be difficult to get into a quiet novel about quiet lives.

Instead, she had to cope with a grisly murder of a cat. By the woman’s next-door neighbor. Who even murders the replacement cat.

That was horrible. Self felt sick to her stomach.

Then, she encountered this passage, casually flung onto p. 15, about Emerance (That’s a pretty fabulous name, for a housekeeper yet!):

She reminded young men of the country of their old village, their own grandmothers, their distant families. They in turn never troubled her with the fact that the charges against her included murdering and robbing Jews during the war, spying for America, transmitting secret messages, regularly receiving stolen goods in her home and hoarding vast wealth.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Bataan Peninsula, 1942

Looking through her bookshelves, self never runs short of reading material.

Reading Face of Empire: United States-Philippine Relations, 1898 – 1946, by Frank Hindman-Golay:

On January 1942, “a quartermaster inventory revealed that food stocked on the peninsula comprised a thirty-day supply of unbalanced rations for one-hundred thousand men . . . This shortfall was serious enough, but it was compounded by the existence of eighty-thousand USAFFE troops and twenty-six thousand civilians on Bataan . . . The success of Japanese arms in the first month of the war left little prospect that USAFFE could be supplied from the outside. On January 5, MacArthur ordered the troops and civilians on Bataan reduced to half-rations. At this rate, the USAFFE stocks would be exhausted in less than two months . . .

“. . .  most critical was the failure to deal with malaria. One medical officer serving on Bataan later estimated that 95 percent of all those on the peninsula during the first quarter of 1942 contracted the disease.

“To prevent the debilitating consequences of this mosquito-carried disease, the entire defense force should have been taking quinine or some substitute drug. But the supply of such drugs on Bataan was so short that they were reserved for the treatment of active cases of malaria. As a result, the rate of infection increased steadily as the disease was transmitted from those already infected.

In late March, General Wainwright “reported to Washington that food on Bataan would last only until April “at one-third ration, poorly balanced and very deficient in vitamins . . . The troops will be starved into submission.”

The Bataan peninsula fell in April 1942. Corregidor was able to hold on one month longer. There were 12,000 people on Corregidor, as opposed to 100,000-plus on the Bataan Peninsula. And when Bataan fell, this is how the people on Corregidor knew it: there was a deathly silence from across the water, instead of the constant sound of artillery barrages. And then smoke began to rise.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

6 June 1944: Manderley Forever, p. 170

Self’s rate of reading has picked up quite a bit.

It’s the war, and Daphne Du Maurier has secluded herself in her beloved Menabilly while her husband Tommy gets himself promoted to lieutenant general but still travels everywhere with his “eight favorite teddy bears.” He signs his letters to his wife “with all the love a man’s heart can hold.”

On June 6, 1944, Daphne gets a call from her sisters, who tell her that “while they were taking care of their tomatoes for the Women’s Land Army, they noticed that, by evening, there was not a single American ship in the bay.”

Operation Market Garden, “the biggest airborne operation of the war,” is about to start, and Daphne’s Tommy has expressed his doubts about the operation to General Bernard Montgomery in no uncertain terms: “We might be going a bridge too far, sir.”

At the bridge at Arnhem, “seventeen thousand soldiers are killed.”

At this point, her husband is 47 years old. He earned a medal for valor at just 19, he has served in the military for almost 20 years and the experience has gutted him.

It reminds self of Tim O’Brien’s In the Lake of the Woods, that novel’s main character could never recover from what he witnessed at Vietnam, things so unspeakable.

But Daphne goes on writing. She writes a play that reminds self of The Return of Martin Guerre (great, great short novel by Janet Lewis. Self feels like re-reading it, even just so she can get to that last line, which totally shattered her) A wife loses her husband at sea, manages to forge a new life, and falls in love with another man. Then her husband returns. That’s a good trope.

“At the end of 1944,” Daphne’s husband becomes Lord Mountbatten’s chief of staff in Ceylon and . . .  Daphne begins writing her next book.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Current #wip: The History of War On An Island (Working Title)

About the occupation of a Philippine island during World War II:

Honorato was sent to the mountains. He had just turned 18. His father worried because he was tall, because he was good-looking, because he was the eldest and bore the hopes of his parents on his narrow shoulders. So, hide, his father told him. Hide as far away from the city as you can.

Originally, this was even longer than my other historical novel, Blue Water, Distant Shores. But, a month ago, I broke it apart and it’s now very fleet: just under 250 pages.

Stay tuned.

Silence: Antonio Vivencio del Rosario Heritage Library, University of Santo Tomas, Manila

This week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge (as of 17 January 2018) is SILENCE.

I love having time to myself — solitude re-charges me . . .  I had never really immersed myself in a long stretch of silence beyond my occasional hour-long meditation sessions. I went to this hermitage on a silent retreat for uninterrupted, unstructured time to think, to walk, to read, and just be.

— Cheri Lucas Rowlands, The Daily Post

The University of Santo Tomas is the oldest university in the Philippines. It was founded in 1611.

During a recent three-week sojourn in Manila (city of her birth), self had the privilege to drop by the University a visit. Her first stop: the Antonio Vivencio Historical Library, named after self’s great-grandfather.

How her heart ached to see these precious books, 30,000 volumes (which had been carried out of Intramuros by hand, just before the Battle for the liberation of Manila, at the end of World War II).

If she could, she would happily spend the rest of her days in that library.

But she is back now in San Francisco. When will she return to Manila? Who knows.

The answer is: SILENCE.

DSCN0068

DSCN0060

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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