WITH two kids barely out of their toddling years in tow, I paid a visit to that house a sneeze off a military camp that you and your Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan comrades-in-arms were set to assault sometime back in the 1950s, ah, how time flies, Ka Takyo.
With their rangy leanness and steel-taut wiry physique so rare in these days of the obesity epidemic, my kids could have been your grandsons had I sired them off your daughter Shelley—no, that wasn’t her name but that’s what I called her. That’s after an author who wrote Frankenstein. The novel somehow told me that grand dreams patched out of corpses’ carcass can come to life, but don’t expect such dreams to smell like roses.
Shelley and I, we had then fire in our loins and a blaze of suns in our eyes. We got away with arson, oh, ‘twas her that I had in mind for the lyrics I had wedged in that three-act gangster musical I wrote in the early 1980s. Something called Ang Pangalan Niya ay Bien Aligtad. Sampay-Bakod na Mamamayan ng San Roque. Katulad Natin. The first few verses went like this:
Kalabitin ang gatilyo ng damdamin
Ako’y sa ‘yo, gitara mo, kalabitin.
Katawan kong gapok
Dalhin mo sa rurok
Sa liyab ng apoy
Nais kong matupok…
Hamog na may himig
Sa akin idilig
Ang buong magdamag
Sa akin itigis.
Near dusk as the dying rays of the sun laps at Shelley’s mien, her cheeks effuse a spread of rose petals as she gazes at me with shy longing with her doe eyes. Effusions like that lead to fusion. Tinder lips and flint crotches are struck. Make that stuck. Sparks fly between partners in crime. Tender arson ensues.
I’ve learned from neighbors that the entire family moved to Canada. Shelley found a job there. You died there. Your remains lie there. In Canadian soil which is quite quaint, there’s not much earthworms to be dug up in Canadian soil. There must be oodles and oodles of earthworm predators in that foreign land.
During that visit, I had espied something wonderful that entwined its spindly arms like tender tendrils on a tar-dark lamp post a few steps off what was once your home, Ka Takyo. ‘Twas a cultivar of Jasminum sambac or sampaguita. Sumpa kita, wasn’t that the tender phrase from which our national flower got its name? It’s a pledge of love, I guess.
That particular cultivar whose embrace blotted out the charnel color of the lamp post, Southern Tagalogs call that sampaguitang lalaki. The flowers resemble a maiden’s nipples chockfull of milk. And that sampaguitang lalaki was in showy flowering. It made a Milky Way set off in lush green out of that pitch-black lamp post.
I construe the sight as a sigil of sorts. A national symbol struggling out of impoverished soil toward a stun of flowering. My eyes ached at the sight.
So we proceed out of painful memory and aching awareness. Jasminum sambac our national flower came from India and Indians have been flocking to this neck of the woods for God knows how long. They have been thriving. They’ve plunked down hereabouts their talents—ah that parable Jesus Christ told to multitudes about talents being taken away from the individual who wouldn’t make use of such a talent.
Aside from Indians, there is now a steady influx of Taiwanese, mainland Chinese and South Koreans to the homeland that you have left, Ka Takyo.
I’ve talked to some of ‘em. I even made horizontal diplomatic ties with a South Korean damsel. Talaga palang masarap ding lantakan ang kikim chee. I’m having sekantots, oops, second thoughts about what they’re telling me. They’re telling me that they love our homeland and there are a lot of opportunities here. They assure me our homeland is something short of paradise. Some piece of prime real estate worth regaining. Uh, have we lost it or we’re about to?
I do believe them. I miss Shelley though. More than memory, there’s this awareness that that grand dreams patched out of corpses’ carcass can come to life. We can’t expect such a quilt work of dreams to smell like roses.