BAKAS–tula ni E. San Juan,Jr.


BAKAS:  Dalumat ng Gunita’t Hinagap, Memorya ng Kinabukasan

— ni  E. SAN JUAN, Jr.

tapaya_mural

 

  1. AVENIDA RIZAL, STA. CRUZ (1938-1944)

Buhay ay pakikipagsapalaran, lihis sa iyong pagnanais o pagnanasa

Pook na dinatnan ay hindi nakaguhit sa dibdib, balintunang hinala

Pook na binagwis ng alaala’t pag-aasam

Tumatawid sa agwat/puwang ng panahong gumugulong sa buhangin

Nakalingon habang dumudukwang sa agos ng alon—

anong kahulugan ng pagsubok at pangakong itinalaga ng panahon?

Tayo ba ang umuugit sa daluyong ng kapalaran?

Lumilihis sa bawat liko, sa bawat sandali nag-iiwan ng bakas ang katawan

Sa bawat sulok, matatagpuan ang uling/alabok ng buong kasaysayan—

Bumabagtas sa bawa’t yugto ang tunggalian ng uri, saan kang panig makik

isangkot, kaya kailangang magpasiya

Upang masunggaban ang sungay ng tadhana, ikawing ito

sa ating adhika’t pangangailangan ng komunidad—

Tanong mo’y saan? Sagot ko’y kailan?  Bibingka ng hari, di mahati-hati….

Tuwing umaga’y nalalanghap ang anghot ng ihi’t dumi ng kabayo

     sa kuwadra ng San Lazaro tabi ng Oroquieta Ospital ang kinagisnan—

Agwat/puwang ng panahon, kaluluwang humibik

     sa pagitan ng Tayabas at Batangas, bininyagan sa Iglesiya Espiritu Santo

Kapagkwa’y tumawid at naipit sa riles ng Blumentritt at estero ng Dimasalang

malapit sa pugad ng pampang si Marina noong 1945….

—“dala-dala’y buslo…pagdating sa dulo”—

Sa mga eskinita lumalagos ang bango ng piniritong isda’t ginisang bawang 

sibuyas   kamatis  luya

Sa bingguhan asaran biruan ng mga kamag-anak 

Amoy ng dura’t pawis masangsang na putik sa harap ng 2121 Avenida Rizal

    kung saan napanood ang prusisyon ng libing ni Manuel Quezon

Kakatwang estranghero ang sumaksi sa tahanang

ginawang motel para sa ‘short-time” tipanan ng magtatalik—

Agwat ng umaga’t dapithapon sa naghihintay na musmos, binibilang ang patak 

ng ulan

Puwang ng paglalaro sa lansangan ng Tayuman at Bambang, inaabangan—

Sakaling wala ang ina’t ama, “buhok ni Adan hindi mabilang,”

himutok ng ulilang musmos

Sagisag na walang lakas hubugin ang daloy ng karanasan, biktima ng pangya yaring

    matagal ang panahon ng pagkagulang, nabulabog sa bawat gulong ng trapik….

Gayunpaman, nabaluktot sa balisa’t di-pagkakapalagay, stigmata sa gunita:

Unti-unting nahuhulog kumpol-kumpol ang dilawang bulaklak ng punong-akasya

     sa harap ng dungawang tila masamyong dibdib ni Nena, nag-alagang katu

long, mangyaring pagpalain  ng Inang Kalikasan

ang kaniyang mairuging kaluluwa.

 

2.   MONTALBAN, RIZAL (1945-1950)

Bukal ang kinabukasan sa iyong gunita, sa tukso ng pag-asa

Sa guni-guni, tila huni ng ibon sa bulaos ng kalabaw tungo sa ilog Pasig

Bumubuhos sa Montalban, agos ng panahong sumusukat sa isip

Tinutugis ang kaganapang bulong at anasan ng mga nagdarasal

sa sementeryo ng La Loma…

Lalakarin daw ang haba ng dinulang, doon masusulyapan ang Irog

bago manampalok—Sinampal muna bago inalok?

Halinghing ng kabayo sa gubat  ungol ng baboy aso’t manukan

Pangarap ng paglalayag habang nakadukwang sa estero ng Reina Regente

gumagapang  gumagala sa Binondo San Nicolas Dibisorya

Takas, pumipiglas—

Pinaulanan ng bala ng gerilyang Huk ang PC istasyon sa munisipyo ng Montalban

—hindi lamang pito ang baril nila, di lamang siyam ang sundang—

Taginting ng salapi’y hungkag sa hinagap ng Boddhisatvang umakyat

sa lambak doon sa Wawa kung saan

nagkublli sina Andres Bonifacio’t at mga gerilyang Katipunan….

Umahon mula sa kabilang ibayo ang kamalayang sumasagap sa tinig ng panata

     hindi mula sa Benares o Herusalem kundi sa Sierra Madre

upang humabi ng sutrang kayumanggi mula sa tadhanang gumugulong….

Sunggaban ang suwag ng kapalarang naligaw sa rumaragasang unos

Malayo na sa kilabot ng mga Hapong umurong sa Wawa

Pinaligiran ng tropang Amerikano, sindak ng imperyalismong sumasabog…

Gumising doon sa bukang-liwayway ng Liberasyon at tuloy sa dagundong

   ng magulong Maynila, sunog sa Korea at Arayat

  mabilis pa sa alaskuwatrong tumungo sa sinehang Lotus at Noli

Kung saan narinig ang “Fascination” nina Dinah Shore at Belle Gonzales—

Bigkasin mo ang pangalan ng mga kolaboreytor at bayaning nagbuwis ng 

buhay….

Ngayon ay alingawngaw ng panahong

Lumikha sa mga pangyayaring

Lihis sa iyong pangarap at panimdim

Kapwa ninais at pinilit

Kapwa tinaggap at tinanggihan: kailan? saan?

Sa pag-inog ng pakikipagsapalarang tila walang simula’t katapusan.

 

 

3.  BALINTAWAK, QUEZON CITY  (1951-54)

Pangangailangan  ang umuusig sa pagkikipagsapalaran, gumaganap ang bu

lag na simbuyo

Sa daluhong ng kasaysayan, hindi maiiwasan o maitatakwil

Kaya ang sumunod sa nesesidad ay malaya’t magpapalaya

sa kahinugan ng panahon, pahiwatig ng mga pantas….

Sumisingit sa baklad ng gunitang balintuwad:

Minsan tinapos ko ang Crime and Punishment ni Dostoevsky

isang hapong maalinsangan

Di ko malilimutan ito, gabi na ng ibaling ang paningin sa bintana

Lihim na pagkahumaling ko kay Esther Deniega (lumisan na) ay iburol sa ba

long. malalim, punong-puno ng patalim, balong hindi malingon

Tulad ng pagsasama namin nina Ernie at Pete Daroy

Sa limbo ng mga pagliliwaliw, sa impiyerno ng mga pag-aalinlangan at 

agam-agam

Mabuhay kayong mga itinapon,

Nakarating na kayo sa ipinangakong himpilan, ipinaginip na himlayan.

“Dalawang pipit, nagtitimbangan sa isang siit, sumusungit ng bituin”

Di nagluwat, sumabak sa pakikibaka laban sa US-Marcos diktadurya—

Minagaling ang basag kaysa baong walang lamat

Sapagkat sa kaibuturan ng aksidente, pagbabakasakali, namumutawi

ang siglang pagbubuhatan ng tagumpay ng ating minimithi,

Hindi salita kundi hibo’t hikayat ng panaginip at guniguni, matris ng himagsikan,

ang lugar ng panahong nahinog sa yapos at aruga

ng mga magulang at mga gurong nagmalasakit…

 

Huwang mong basahin ito

Tatak ng titik  titik ng tiktik

Huwag tingnan  huwag sipatin

Huwag silipin  huwag sulyapan

Tatak ng titik  titik ng tiktik

Huwag mong titigan  baka ka malikmata’t maalimpungatan….

Asul ang kulay ng langit sa parang at lambak ng Diliman—

Aso ko sa pantalan, lumukad ng pitong balon, humugos sa pitong gubat

bago natanaw ang dagat—

Walang katuturan ang panahon kung walang pangarap o pag-asa

Pagnanais ang matris ng pangyayari, pagnanasa ang ina ng katuparan

Kabiyak na niyog, magdamag na kinayod,

Naghasik ng mais, pagkaumaga ay palis—

Huli ng balintataw ang mailap na buntala ng iyong mithing talinghaga,

pangarap ng pithayang alumpihit pumaimbulog sa kawalan.

4.  CRAIG, SAMPALOC, MAYNILA (1955-60)

….Subalit ang kalayaang magpasiya’y nagkabisa

Sa isang tiyak na pook at itinakdang pagkakataon

Bagamat limitado ang kapangyarihang umalsa’t bumalikwas

Walang pangyayaring magaganap kung wala ka,

Sintang itinapon sa gitna ng maburak na Pasig.

Bumagsak ang eruplano ni Magsaysay ngunit nkalimutan

na ang CiA ahenteng Lansdale, sa gayon

Neokolonyang teritoryo pa rin tayo hanggang ngayon….

Agos de pataranta sa Palomares at Gardeniang dinalaw ng mga GI

pagkatapos sumuko si Aguinaldo’t nawala si David Fagen

Magkabalikat kami nina Ernie at David Bunao sa bilyaran sa Quiapo

Di inalintana kung may hirap, hanapin ang ginhawa 

Aralin ng pakikipag-ugnayan sa Culi-Culi, Marikina, massage parlor sa Raon

Walang matimtimang birhen sa lagalag na kaluluwang naghuhunos

Di bumibilang ng bukas-makalawa upang paraanin ang nagparaan—

Walang matiyagang hayup sa magayumang kalapating sumasayad sa pam

pang….

Shantih   Shantih      Weiilala  leia        Wallala  leialala   

Bago umakyat sa Baguio, tumawid kami sa Tayug, Pangasinan, nina Mario Alcantara

at Pablo Ocampo, kumakampanya para kina Recto-Tanada

Hindi ko batid noon na malapit sa Binalonan, bayan ni Carlos Bulosan….

Noong 1972 ko na lang napag-alaman ito sa lilim ng Pulang Bandila

Lumangoy at lumutang sa usok sa Luneta’t daungan ng Manila Bay

Tudyo’t halakhak ng mga kaibigang nakausad mula sa Tundo hanggang

Sta Cruz  & Quiapo & Escolta patungong Binondo

Tatlong bundok ang tinibag bago dumating nang dagat

Walastik, para kina T.S. Eliot Joyce Nietzsche Sartre, tapos ang boksing sa

Sarili

Walastik, naghalo ang balat at tinalupan sa turo ng pilosopong galing sa Popular Bookstore

Di naglaon, tumubo ang sungay at tumindi ang pagnanasang makahulagpos

—“karga nang karga, kahit walang upa” ang islogan ng anarkista

bago sa engkuwentro kina Marx Engels Lenin Lukacs noong dekada 

1965-72…

 

Pumalaot na mula sa daungan ng Subic Bay

Lupa’t tubig ang nakalunsad

Apog at asin sa lagusan

Tinalunton ang landas pabulaos mula sa Ilog Montalban

Halos magkandarapa  halos sumubsob

Hindi pa nakaraos

Hindi pa natutuklasan: kutob, ligamgam

Hangin at apoy ang bumuhos

Hindi pa yari ang proyektong idaraos

Pumalaot na sa hanggahang di-abot-tanaw

Humugos sa dalampasigan

Tubig  lupa   hangin   apoy   

Apoy  hangin  apoy

__________________________________________________________________

Tungkol sa Awtor

Kilalang kritiko at manlilikha sa larangang internasyonal, si E. San Juan, Jr. ay emeritus professor ng English Literature, Ethnic Studies, & Comparative Literature, University of Connecticut at Washington State University; at dating fellow ng W.E.B. Du Bois Institute, Harvard University; professorial lecturer, Polytechnic University of the Philippines, at visiting professor of English, University of the Philippines (2018). 9Awtor siya ng maraming libro, kabilang na ang Balikbayang Sinta: E. San Juan Reader (Ateneo University Press), Filipinas Everywhere (De La Salle University Publishing House), Between Empire and Insurgency (University of the Philippines Press), U.S. Imperialism and Revolution in the Philippines (Pagrave), Learning from the Philippine Diaspora (U.S.T. Press), Carlos Bulosan: A Critical Appraisal (Peter Lang), and Racism and the Filipino Diaspora (Ateneo de Naga Press). Muling ipinalimbag ng U.S.T. UNITAS ang 1988 libro niyang Subversions of Desire: Prolegomena to Nick Joaquin (Ateneo University Press). Ilan sa mga kalipunan ng mga tula niya sa Filipino ang nailunsad kamakailan: Ulikba (U.S.T. Press), Kundiman sa Gitna ng Karimlan (U.P. Press), Ambil (Philippines Studies Center), at Bakas Alingawngaw (Ateneo U Press).

__________________________________________

First published in UNITAS (2018),98-113; included in Bakas, Alingawngaw (Ateneo U Press, 2019).

Posted in DISCOURSES ON CONTRADICTIONS

Faustino Aguilar’s novel BUSABOS NG PALAD: Critique & Metacommentary


KWALTA, ANG SAGRADONG PUTA, PAGWAWALDAS:

Politikang Sekswal at Tunggalian ng Mga Uring Panlipunan sa BUSABOS NG PALAD, nobela ni Faustino Aguilar

 

—E. San Juan, Jr.

University of Connecticut

 

…The flesh will still be the thinking place of the soul. The soul is never without its flesh…

Collected Writings circa.160 CE (Tertullian 2016)

     Since money, as the existing and active concept of value, confounds and exchanges all things, it is the general confounding and compounding of all things—the world upside down—the confounding and compounding of all natural and human qualities….It therefore serves to exchange every property for every other, even contradictory, property and object: it is the fraternization of impossibilities. It makes contradictions embrace.

—The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 

(Marx 1964)

Kahit sino ay dudura talaga sa Pangulo dahil sa pagkamuhi sa kanyang walang kaparis na kabastusan. Maliligo siya sa laway ng mamamayang galit na galit sa kanyang kamanyakan at pagka-inutil. Kasuklam-suklam ang paggamit niya ng kanyang posisyon para ipabatid sa publiko ang kanyang kalibugan at pagnanasa sa kababaihan.

—GABRIELA WOMEN’S PARTY, Statement on President  Duterte’s gross remarks in Bacolod City (28 October 2018)Picasso-Les Demoiselles d'Avignon

 

     Nang maipalimbag ang pangalawang nobelang Busabos ng Palad ni Aguilar dalawang taon mula nang ipagbunyi ang pasinayang akda, Pinaglahuan (1907), pinuri siya ng

kamanunulat na si Inigo Ed. Regalado: “Ganap na napatunayan ang pagiging pangunahing nobelista ni Faustino Aguilar dahil sa kaniyang marikit na Busabos ng Palad na totoong kinagiliwian at hinangaan ng madla  at siya na ring sanhi ng nagkakaisang palagay ng tanang mahiligin sa pagsulat at sa pagbabasa na si Aguilar ay siyang Alejandro Dumas ng Panitikang Tagalog” (2013, 167). 

Gawi pa rin noon ang imbokasyon ng awtoridad ng Kanlurang kabihasnan. Reperens dito ang nobelang La Dame aux Camelias (1848) na lalong pinatanyag ng opera ni Verdi, La Traviata (binanggit ni Kendrick 1988, 117). Itinampok nito ang nasawing pag-iibigan nina Marguerite Gautier, isang alagang puta na may sakit ng syphilis, at Armand Duval, dahil sa interbensiyon ng ama. Hango ito mismo sa buhay ng awtor na narahuyo sa isang kurtesano, si Marie Duplessis, na may pulang kamelya kung may regla at puting bulaklak kung handa siyang makipagtalik sa sinumang makababayad ng karampatang halaga. Paksain noon ang tabu sa prostitusyon, hindi lang ang desgrasyadang-may-ginintuang puso, na palasak na reputasyon ng tipong pornograpiko na siniyasat nina  Richard Lewinsohn (A History of Sexual Customs; 1958), Walter Kendrick (The Secret Museum; 1988), Edward Lucie-Smith (Sexuality in Western Art), at iba pa.

Magkalangkap sa temang sekswalidad dito ang katotohanan at guniguni. Dahil sa maselang paksa, naikintal din ang impresyon na ginamit ng nobelista ang realistikong estilo upang magagap ang tendensiyang pampanitikan sa Kanluran. Opinyon ni Virgilio Almario na ang nobela ay tumatalakay sa mga “ligaw na damdamin na mahirap ihanap ng paliwanag sa kumbensiyon ng lipunan at may balangkas na tulad ng mga nobela nina Zola at magkapatid na Goncourt” (1974, 26; 2009, 70-72). Mababaw at malabong salat ito. Hindi ligaw na damdamin ang pinagkabalahan dito kundi siklab ng libog, galit, panibugho, ngitngit, pagkasuklam, pagkamuhi, panggigipuspos—sa madaling salita, mabagsik at nakagigimbal na emosyong mahirap gabayan o pigilin sa kongkretong sitwasyon ng buhay.

Anatomiya ng Pakikipagsapalaran

Upang mailinaw ang kontrobersyang kasangkot dito, inihahain ko ang isang maikling lagom. Bago himayin ang istruktura at tekstura ng akda upang masubok ang teorya nina Marx/Engels at Georges Bataille, sulyapan muna natin ang pinigang banghay ng isinalarawan na eksploytasyon ng laman, ang alitan ng kalampasan (transcendence) at hilagyo o esensiya (immanence).

Sina Celso at Rita ang protagonistang susubaybayan. Nag-umpisa ang salaysay sa gitna ng takbo ng buhay ni Celso, isang petiburgesyang estudyante, at nagwakas sa pagkamatay ng makasalanang babae, si Rita. Nakasentro ang anggulo ng naratibo sa lalaking nangasiwa sa sakripisyo, lumabag sa tabu at sumuway sa patriyarkong institusyong sekular na nakasalig sa Simbahan at kwalta/puhunan. Maipapalagay na ang prostitusyon ay pagkumpleto sa burgesyang pag-asawahan (Reiche 1970). Sa kakatwang pagpihit ng posisyon, si Celso ang naging biktimang tinanggalan ng halaga (sentido komun); sa halip lumampas sa mundo ng mga kagamitan, nawaldas siya. Nalubog sa petisismo ng erotikong ideya ng mga nahibang sa pag-ibig na itinuring na isang sakit, ikinulong siya sa asilo ng mga lunatiko. Trahedyang may bahid komedya (sa pagkatakas ni Celso sa balighong orden ng salapi at maka-patriyarkong dahas) ang kinahinatnan.

Sa paraan ng anamnesis o gunitang isinadula sa kasalukuyan, ang krimeng naganap ay pangyayaring sakramental, nagsilbing tagapamagitan, na nagbubuklod sa dalawang kaluluwa-katawan. Iyon ang disgrasya o sakunang nagbabalik ng nawalang “intimacy of the divine world, of the profound immanence of all that is,” (pinakabuod ng banal na mundo, ng pinakataimtim na kalantaran ng lahat ng umiiral) ang daigdig ng sagradong kaisahan/katalagahan (Bataille 1992, 44). Sa perspektiba naman ng antropologong teorya ng sakripisyo, ang konsekrasyon ni Rita, ang biktimang inihandog sa mundo ng espiritu o mga bathala ay nakapag-iba sa kondisyon ni Celso, ang ahenteng espiritwal, na pinurga o nilinis sa bisa ng sakripisyo (Hulbert & Mauss 1964). Ang nobela ay pagsasadula ng akto ng sakripisyo na garantiya ng kabuhayan ng komunidad, kung saan ang totem (bathala, espiritu) ay pinagsaluhan sa isang pista—ang tagal ng pagsasama o pagsasalo nina Rita at Celso sa isang liblib na tahanan malayo sa gubat ng kalunsuran.

Makahulugan ang trajektori ng muling pagtatagpo ng dalawang tauhan—ang binata na lumaki sa lungsod, ang dalaga na itinapon mula sa nayon at ikinulong sa isang gusali sa Maynila. Sa minsang pakikitungo sa madla, nadiskubre ni Celso, pagkaraan ng dalawang taon, na ang dating kasintahan niyang si Rita, isang ulila, ay nasadlak sa isang putahan—“mananayaw sa isang kabaret,” maling hula ni Soledad Reyes (1982, 46).  Matapos gahasain ng isang talipandas na “ama,” ipinagbili siya ni Pepe, ang patriyarkong kriminal na bumitaw sa kasunduan. Sino ang tutubos sa utang ni Pepe (si Rita ang collateral)? Mahigpit ipinagbawal ni Mang Ulpiano, ama ni Celso, na bitiwan ang pag-aaral at lubos na sumabak sa pagnenegosyo. Sinuportahan ito ng relihiyosong ina, si Aling Memay, na umaaangal sa kamunduhan ng guniguni ng anak. Nang mabalitaang dumalaw si Celso sa kinondenang lugar, nagalit ang ama’t pinalayas ang anak. Nilibak si Celso ng kaniyang mga kaibigan. Pinarusahan si Celso ng ama niya sa pag-alis ng kaniyang mana. Utang sa kaniyang tiyaga at talino, nailigtas ni Celso si Rita. Kapuwa tumaliwas sa kodigong burgis-piyudal. ‘Di naglao’y lumala ang sakit ni Rita at ‘di nagluwat, sa pagkamatay, nagsalisi ang tuwa’t pighati ni Celso. Tuluyang nabaliw siya at napiit sa Hospicio de San Juan.  

Pagtatapatan: Simbolo ng Komunidad

Sa ganitong maliksing pagsusuma sa kumplikadong daloy ng naratibo, melodramatikong dula lamang pala ito. ‘Di pambihira ang pagkabiktima na karaniwang nangyayari sa babae, at pagkabaliw ng nahumaling na lalaki—isang palasak at nakasusuyang paksa ng mga komersiyalisadong babasahin. Makatuklas kaya tayo ng isang lihim na kahulugang kontra sa kumbensyonal na interpretasyon? Makukuro na ang pag-andukha sa isang “puta” ay hindi ordinaryo, lalo na ang matingkad na pag-aruga’t pagbuhos ng lakas upang mapurga ang babae sa istigmang inilapat ng lipunan.

Tandaan na ang salaysay ng sawing babae ay nakabaon sa paggunita niya ng nangyari, na nakalakip sa pagbalita-pagtatapat kay Celso, isang pakikibahaging kumpisal (covenant). Ito’y panimulang pagsasalo. Ibinahagi ni Celso ang sekretong naiparte sa isang kaibigan, at tuloy naikalat sa madla. Naging balita sa komunidad. Nakakulong sa maraming sisidlan ang buhay ng babae: ugnayang Celso-kaibigan, ugnayang Celso-kamanunulat. May agwat mula sa ugnayang ito at pamilya ni Celso, bagamat nagbigay ng suporta ang ina. Mapapansing tiwalag din dito ang paring dumulog at ang katulong na babae sa huling tatlong kabanata. Samakatwid, hindi ito simpleng paghimay ng personalidad kundi pagbulatlat sa isang sindromang sosyolohikal o sakit ng buong lipunan.  

Nakatanghal ang problema ng komunikasyon at krisis ng lipunang indibidwalistiko sa neokolonyang lungsod. Bukod sa anomie (ligalig pangkaluluwa) at alyenasyon, salapi at ilusyon ang magkasangkot. Ang suliranin ng kasarian, laluna ang katayuan ng kababaihan, ay naliliman ng romantikong pilosopiyang sumaklot sa diwa ni Celso, isang artistang nakapailalim naman sa komoditi-petisismo. Sa simula, magkahidwa ang sining ng makata at kapangyarihan ng salapi/pagpapalitan-ng-halaga (exchange-value), na tatak ng kapitalismong lohika ng pananakop ng U.S. Subalit pinilit siyang tanggapin ang sistema ng utangan: tutubusin niya si Rita sa halagang 400 piso. Sa balintunang kalakasan, nakataya ang kinabukasan ng petiburgesyang intelihensiya sa kolonya (imahinasyon/dunong ni Celso) at puri ng kababaihang bihag ng pamilyang patriyarko.

          Sa punto-de-bista ni Freud, ang sitwasyon ay kahawig ng matandang labanan sa pagitan ng ama at mga anak. Sa Totem and Taboo, inilahad ni Freud ang pinagmulan ng pagsamba sa totem mula sa salamisim at haka-haka ng inang nagdadalang-tao: ang sanggol ay dulot ng hayup-totem (1989, 487-88) na fundador ng lipi. Ngunit hindi naging ina si Rita: pinalaglag ang sanggol sa utos ng gumahasa. Sa malawakang pagsusuri, ang galit ni Mang Ulpiano ay nagmula sa udyok na pagbawalan ang pakikibahagi ng mga babaeng upahan na pagsaluhan ng lalaking magkaisang-dugo (Freud 1989, 490-91). Bawal ang incest, kailangang sarilinin ng patriyarko ang mga babaeng magsusupling ng taga-pagmana ng poder at aria-arian. Sumuway si Celso, tumangging magpakasal sa anak ng kaibigan ng ama. Bagamat humihingi ng patawad, itinaboy ni Mang Ulpiano ang nagsisising anak at tuluyang itinakwil siya bilang tagapagmana.

Nakasalalay ang mapanghikayat na bisa ng nobela sa polarisasyon ng damdamin ng mag-anak at ng mga kaibigan ni Celso. Masalimuot ang intertekstong alegoryang mahuhulo. Sa kabila ng opinyon ni Mojares na “the novel’s tendency to romanticize the power of fate is an ideological regression” (1983, 238), nakuha rin niyang wikain na “the novel defines honor in an individual sense and poses it against the unimaginative notions of popular morality” (237).  Ngunit kailangan ng isang caveat. Dapat tandaan na ang dangal ay birtud ng aristokratang uri sa piyudalismong orden, hindi ari-arian ng mala-proletaryong makata. Magkatumbalik ba itong impresyong naisaad?  Imbestigahin natin ang mabusising pagsasalaysay ng dalawang kapalarang binusabos at binansagang “Dapat ilagan”—ang kapalaran nina Celso at Rita. Datapwat katumbalikan ang naiusal ng alegorya: ang lalaki’y nakaigpaw sandali, nakapagbili ng produkto ng diwa, at tumakas sa dominasyon ng pamilya at pamilihan. Sa erotikang bugso ng Ego ng umiibig, pumanaw ang dinadakilang sinta. Pumuslit ang thanatos, paghupa ng bagabag at panlulupaypay. Naging handog sa espiritung ‘di malalampasan, ang laging-birheng imahen ni Rita.  Ang sinta ay marumi, pinagdirihan, kaya naging “sagradong” puta na ‘di masalang, pagkakataon upang maitampok ang malilnis at mapagpupugayan sa pamamagitan ni Celso, ang saserdote sa ritwal ng sakripisyo. 

Mula krisis ng sakit tungo sa pagbubunyag, uminog ang naratibo sa palapag ng kasukdulan at pagkalas—ngunit nauntol ang pagkakilala sa palaisipang sino ang talagang naisakripisyo, si Rita o Celso? Isang paradoha ng relihiyon ang naibilad dito. Sabi ni Battaile: “Insofar as it is spirit, the human reality is holy, but it is profane insofar as it is real…The corpse is the most complete affirmation of the spirit” (1989, 38-40). Ganap na kamalayan-sa-sarili ang kailangan upang matamo ang nawalang pagtatalik ng espiritu at katawan, ngunit iyon ay walang panahon, samakatwid, kamatayan. Pagnanais, kasanib ng pansariling pakiramdam, ay nagtutulak sa kilos, gawain, o aksiyong sumisira sa bagay na ninais, na nagtatransporma nito—halimbawa, ang pagkain ay nadudurog, nagbabago. Sanhi ng pagnanais, na sumasalanta o sumisira, lahat ng ginawa ni Celso ay pagwawaldas, negasyon, sakripisyo, upang makasali muli sa larangan ng kapalagayang-loob ng kabanalan, ng pamumuspos (immanence) ng lahat.

Pagpapalitan ng Mga Kasangkapan

Sa halip na realistikong dibuho, naaninag natin sandali ang kahulugang nakatago sa mga anino ng mga insidente at karakter. Sinalamin na katotohanan o tunay na datos ba ang naipahayag dito? Ano ang katuturan ng mga suliraning inungkat at kinilates dito?  Maisasapantahang naisip ni Aguilar na ang naipagbili ni Danding sa kaniyang unang nobela, Pinaglahuan, ay maihahawig sa isang puta—katumbas ng halaga ng utang ng ama, si Don Nicanor, sa naging asawang si Rojalde. Kwalta ang namagitan, ipinalit ang utang sa katawan ng babae, hindi sa puso o kagustuhan, alalaong baga’y isang kalakal sa pamilihan. At ang kalakal (katawang tinatablan ng sakit, katawang-hayup) ay nakatakdang mamatay—mayroong “expiration date,” wika nga. Alalahanin: ang puta’y tabu, ang bahay-aliwan nila ay tinaguriang sona ng “No Trespassing,” teritoryong mapanganib at tigib ng pahamak, ngunit nagsisilbing suhay ng burgesyang moralidad. Dapat isakonteksto ito sa larangan ng magulong ebolusyon ng relasyong pamproduksyon at etika-politikang kasangkot nito.

Sa simula, nais kong ilapat ang perspektibang historikal-materyalistiko. Sa pangkalahatan, naipaliwanag ni Frederick Engels sa akdang “The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State” (1968) ang pagtimbang sa kasarian.  Buhat nang magsimula ang agrikulturang antas ng pagsulong ng produksyong panlipunan, nawalan ng mahalagang papel ang kababaihan. Napako sila sa gawaing reproduksyon sa tahanan, laluna sa panganganak at pag-alaga sa mga bunso’t musmos. Nang mapalitan ang barbarismo ng antas ng sibilisasyon (Oikumene), ang dibisyon ng gawain—ang pagkawalang-halaga ng trabaho sa tahanan at gawaing pampamilya kumpara sa trabaho sa labas, sa bukid o pastulan—ay nagtakda ng aping estado ng kababaihan. Sa palagay ng ibang iskolar, nawalan ng halaga ang tungkulin ng mga babae pagsapit ng kabihasnan sa siyudad kung saan ang karunungang militar at pakikidigma ng kalalakihan ang naging instrumento sa pagkamit ng poder at paglasap ng yaman (Armstrong 1993, 50). Doon nagsimula ang pag-alipusta sa kababaihan.

Sa saliksik naman ni Johann Bachofen, napalitan ang jus maternum ng patria potestas nang natuklasan na ang talino/utak, kaisipan o karunungan, ay mas importante kaysa sa katawan, sa paglunsad ng sibilisasyon ng mga batas na nakasulat, sa yugto ng paglinang ng agrikultura at pag-alaga sa mga hayup sa tulong ng mga kagamitang bakal, yero, atbp. (Lewinsohn 1958, 11-13). Bago naitayo ang disiplina ng monolitikong simbahang Katoliko, itinampok ng mga Gnostikong pantas ang kapantay na halaga ng partisipasyon ng mga babae sa kabuhayan (Pagels 1979). Buhat noon lumaganap ang patriyarkong pagsasamantala sa kababaihan.

Paliwanag ni Engels hinggil sa transpormasyong naturol: The emancipation of women and their equality with men are impossible and must remain so as long as women are excluded from socially productive work and restricted to housework, which is private(1968, 579). Ibig sabihin, hanggang hindi kalahok sa produktibong gawain ang kababaihan at nakakulong sa tahanan, hindi sila kapantay ng kalalakihan. Bukod sa pagkakulong sa tahanan nina Rita, Berta, ina ni Celso, at ang katulong na Marta, kung saan ang ama (makapangyarihang ulo o panginoon ng pamilya) ang namumuno, nakasilid sa konsepto ng Kalikasan ang kanilang panganganak at pagbibigay ng kalinga. Kahawig sa hayop ang tingin sa kanila. Samakatwid, labis sa larang ng gawaing napapakinabangan ang silbi ng ina, ngunit iyon ay pangangailangang hindi maitatatwa. Nakapangibabaw sa Kalikasan (kategorya ng babae) at Kahayupan ang mapagyaring Utak/Dunong ng lalaki. Sa kabilang banda, kailangan ng monogamiya at pagbabawal ng insesto upang matiyak kung sino ang likas na magmamana ng ari-arian.

Balik-tanaw sa Kolonyalistang Milyu

Walang pasubali na ang sitwasyon ng kababaihan noong panahong ika-1900-1910 ang hulmahan ng aksyon at dalumat ng mga tauhan sa nobela. Sadyang nalimitahan ang sistemang piyudal ng burgesyang kalakalan. Napatunayan ng dalubhasang pananaliksik ni Elizabeth Eviota (1992) na mahigpit naapekto ng kapitalistang Amerikano sa panahon ng pananakop ang proseso ng produksyon at relasyong pampamilihan o kalakalan. Bumaba ang bilang ng mga babaeng gumagawa ng produkto sa bahay (tela, sombrero, banig). Karamihan ay nagipit o naipit sa tahanan nang walang bayad ang gawain, at ang iba’y nakuhang empleyado sa serbisyo sa upisina o tahanan ng mariwasa. Ang natira’y nakadestino sa serbisyong sekswal o prostitusyon, sa gahasa sa labas o loob ng legal na pag-aasawa na, kung tutuusin, ay ligal na paggahis sa katawan ng babaeng pag-aari ayon sa regulasyon ng simbahan at sosyedad sibil (Marx 1970).

Samantala, naghari ang ama/asawang angkin ang monopolyo ng kalugurang sekswal. Nagpatuloy ang sistemang kerida kaakibat sa pamamayani ng ideolohiya ng paglilingkod sa pamilya, at ang double-standard kung saan pag-aari ng kalalakihan ang puri ng babae: Virginity is seen as a valued commodity in a commercial market; girls who lose their virginity are no longer valuable or saleable in the marriage market.” Upang matugon ang simbuyong sekswal ng kalalakihan, pinahintulutan ang pagbebenta ng katawan/damdamin ng mga pulubing babae. Saad ni Eviota: The value of women varies according to the extent of women’s function as sexual beings in relation to men…With the double standard, chastity is the essence of female virtue, with prostitution, promiscuity; one is a virtue for marriage, the other for outside it” (1992, 22), nakasalig sa relasyon ng pag-aari at kulturang katugma sa pribilehiyo ng kalalakihang samsamin at gamitin ang kakayahang sekswal ng mga babae. 

Lumalabas na pinawalang-bisa ni Celso ang dahas ng pagkalalaki nang lumagay siya bilang tagapamagitan. Siya ang paring mediator, naghuhugpong sa sosyedad ng mga utilitaryong bagay—ang mundo ng kalapastanganan—at ang banal na rehiyon ng pagkapalagayang-loob. Sa tungkuling ito, si Celso ang Magong nangangasiwa ng ritwal ng pagbayad sa kasalanan, pagpapatawad, pagtatawas, kumunyon o pagniniig. Siya rin ang pinurgang aktor ng pagpapasakit na negasyon ng ordeng walang karisma, karidad o pakikiramay. Sagisag nito ang ospital ng mga nasiraan-ng-bait, ibig sabihin, ayaw tumanggap sa lehetimasyon ng lapastangang kaayusan. Kakatwa na ang sagradong espasyo ay likha ng krimen ng paglabag sa mga batas na pinaiiral ng tribu o komunidad; doon naitapon ang prostitutang pagkatao ni Rita.

Agenda ng Kalabisan at Pagwawaldas

Bukod sa materyalistikong pananaw nina Marx at Engels, idadag rito ang paningin ni Bataille hinggil sa Pangkalahatang Ekonomya (General Economy) na bumabalot sa gawaing pangkabuhayan (Bataille 1985, 105-115). Sa pilosopyang tradisyonal, ang pagkatao at kasaysayan ay bunga ng negatibong bisyon ng tao na baguhin ang kaniyang mundo sa paraan ng talino, lakas-paggawa, maniobra sa digmaan at pulitika. Sa prosesong pagyari ng istruktura ng lipunan, kultura, institusyong pampulitika, hindi mawawalan ng pagwaldas ng enerhiya, kalabisan, aksaya, pagkasalaula, pagkasayang. Nagaganap ang sakripisyo ng tao sa mapanganib at mapangahas na kilos. Ani Bataille: “Sacrifice is in essence the ritual violation of a taboo” (1962, 104), tulad ng masasaksihan sa relihiyon, pag-aasawa, praktikang sekswal, krimen, pagkamatay. Ang tabu—bagay na nilapastangan, si Rita—ay niyakap ni Celso, na siyang nagsakatuparan ng sakripisyo upang mailigtas ang babae/kasintahan sa hatol ng marahas na lipunang burgis. 

Paghihimagsik ang ‘di-inilantad na panukala ni Celso at may-akda. Ang paglabag sa tabu ng trabaho, sa poder ng awtoridad (patriyarkong kumprador, panginoong may-lupa) at regulasyon hinggil sa kasarian, ay pangyayaring marahas, nakasisindak—larong tumatanggi at nagkakaila, tinaguriang “expenditure” o gastahan ni Bataille (1985, 116-129). Sa matinding kasukdulang erotika na pumapatid sa siklo ng burgesyang rasyonalidad, bumubukal ang matimtimang kabanalan ng tao, ang pag-aalay o paghahandog na walang inaasahang bayad o gantimpala. Kasabay nito ang ligaya ng soberanyang kamalayan, sa pagkabaliw o pagkasira ng bait, sa kamatayan—ang sinapit nina Rita at Celso. Samantala, nasalanta sina Pepe, Mang Ulpiano at ang kanilang pamilya at naitakwil ang komoditi-petisismo, pagsamba sa kwalta, at mga idolo ng pari at siyensiya sa huli. Ito ang aral o mensahe ng alegoryang hinalungkat natin.

Partikular sa yugtong ito ng kasaysayan ang patalastas nina Marx & Engels. Bago sa lahat, kailangan munang isakatuparan ang paghihimagsik laban sa umaaliping kapital upang maitugma ang kalikasan at species-being ng katauhan (Marx 1975, 327). Sa halip na pribadong pag-aari, komunismo o pakikibahagi ng lahat ng kayamanan ang kailangan. Kailangan ng gawaing pisikal, agham, organisasyon. Ang tiwalag dito—sining, laro, marahas na pagsasanay ng katawan at kaluluwa—ay dapat bigyan-pansin at pahalagahan, giit ni Bataille, upang masukat ang nasisikil na kakayahan o birtud ng tao. 

Tumiwalag tayo sa diktadura ng salapi, tubo, pagsamba sa komoditi o kagamitang lumulupig sa mapanlikhang potensiyal ng sangkatauhan. Sa paningin ng mga Gnostikong sumasampalataya kay Kristo bilang isang gurong nag-alay ng buhay upang mailigtas ang lahat, taglay ng kababaihan ang isang mala-himalang pagsasanib ng mga magkaiba o magkasalungat (Pagels 1988, 70-77). Maingat na suriin ang isang tulang sinambit ng mga Gnostikong Kristyano na rebisyon ng ortodoksiyang dogma: “I am the first and the last. I am the honored one and the scorned one. I am the whore and the holy one. I am the wife and the virgin… I am knowledge and ignorance… I am shameless, I am ashamed. I am strength and I am fear… I am godless, and I am one whose God is great (Pagels 1979, 55-56). Tantuin na katumbas ang paradohang narito sa saloobin ni Rita, at sa ritwal ng pagdakila’t pamimintuho ni Celso sa imahen at ulirang representasyon ni Rita sa kaniyang isip. Katangian ito ng metamorposis ng mundo ng kalapastanganan tungo sa sagradong kaharian ng dinuhagi’t nilapastangan.

Gumagana ang diyalektika ng kontradiksiyon ng kalampasan o nakatawiran (transcendence) at pagkakulong sa kagustuhang instrumental ng karaniwang orden. Ang sakripisyo ng lakas sa mga aktibidad na walang kabuluhan, sa punto-de-bista ng burgesya, ay siyang sinapupunan ng soberanya. Ngunit, sa katunayan, mapipisil iyon sa himutok at panangis ni Rita habang nawawaldas ang lakas ng katawan. Mawawatasan iyon sa hinuha ng pag-aaksaya, ligalig at balisa ni Celso—hindi na kailangang bayaran pa ang utang. Ang nagastang halaga ay alay o handog sa komunidad na sasaniban niya lampas sa kwadro ng burgesyang diwa, ang komunidad ng walang-hanggang katalagahan (Richman 1982, 112-37). Ipinaubaya si Celso sa ospital ng mga walang-disiplina-sa-sarili, sa institusyong kontrolado ng burgesya. Ang mga nasiraan-ng-bait, ang mga rebeldeng tutol sa normatibong kalakalan, ay kinulapulan ng estigma upang masugpo ang ‘di-masawatang hinagap, ang maapoy na udyok ng maka-hayup na pangangailangan, na pumpitlag din sa ideyalistikong pangarap at pagnanais. Patuloy si Celso sa paghabi ng mga tula alay kay Rita.

Maitanong natin sa taga-subaybay: Kampi ba tayo kay Celso sa kaniyang paninindigan? O kaaway sa kaniyang naisakatuparang sakripisyo at kaganapang naranasan niya? Huwego ba ito ng tao laban sa diyos o pakikipagsapalarang marating ng tao ang kabanalang nakapunla sa kaniyang pagkatao? Kailangan bang umigpaw tungo sa pakikiisa sa abstraktong diyos o sumisid sa kaibuturan ng ating maramdaming pagkatao?

Rasistang Rehimen ng Imperyalismo

Ilagay muna natin sa kontekstong historikal ang problema ng mga tauhan dito.  Sa unang pag-unawa, maimumungkahi na ang sawing kapalaran ni Rita ay paraan lamang upang maisiwalat ni Aguilar ang sitwasyon ng lipunan at ng bansa sa dekadang ika-1900-1910. Sa pagkagapi sa Republika ng Malolos, pagkabitay kay Heneral Sakay, at pagkasugpo sa iba’t ibang rebelyon—kina Papa Isio sa Negros, Felipe Salvador, at mga Babaylanes at Pulajanes sa Cebu, Leyte at Samar, atbp.—nahimok ng 1902 Philippine Bill ang mga ilustrado upang magsilbi sa gobyernong pinangangasiwaan ng mga Amerikano. Napatay si Papa Otoy, ang pinakahuling hepe, sa Samar noong Oktubre 1911. Nahuli si Hen. Artemio Ricarte noong 1904, ibinilanggo at ipinatapon. Patuloy ang oposisyon ng mga Moro sa Amerikanong manlulupig.

Busabos ng imperyalismo ang sambayanan. Umusad ang Palising Filipinisasyon, nahirang sa mababang saray ang ilang edukadong katutubo na produkto ng edukasyong publiko at sistemang pensionado. Naitatag na rin ang malayang kalakalan, patakarang “free trade,” ng Payne-Aldrich Act, na pinanaig ang subordinadong katayuan ng bansa. Pumayag na sina Quezon at ilustradong prinsipalya na ipagpaliban ang kagyat na kasarinlan upang harapin ang mabagal na pag-unlad ng ekonomiya sa ilalim ng soberanyang banyaga (Constantino 1975, 320-21). Malaking puwang ang naghiwalay sa publiko at pribadong interes, pinagkabit lamang ng kwalta at mga babaeng pinagpapalit at pinagtutubuan upang mapanatili ang reproduksyon ng tiwaling relasyong panlipunan. 

Hindi ito haka-haka o sapantaha lamang. Paglimiin ang komentaryo ni Stanley Karnow na “flawed” ang U.S. “performance”: “The Americans coddled the elite while disregarding the appalling plight of the peasants, thus perpetuating a feudal oligarchy that widened the gap between rich and poor. They imposed trade patterns that retarded the economic growth of the islands, condemning them to reliance on the United States long after independence. The American monopoly on imports into the Philipines also dampened the development of the native industry. At the same time, the unlimited entry of Philippine exports to the United States bound the archipelago inextricably to the American market. Economically at least, the Filipinos were doomed to remain ‘little brown brothers’ for years—though many, despite their nationalist rhetoric, found security in the role” (1989, 198). Sa simula, ang “little brown brothers” ay nilait at minura bilang gugus”, “niggers,” “Indian savages na taglay ang Oriental duplicity,” “deceitful and treacherous.   Naipagtibay lahat ito nang mangyari ang 1901 Balangiga masaker ng 45 sundalong Amerikano (Miller 1982, 202-04, 230, 272). Kakilakilabot nga ang mga Indyo!

Lumaganap at sumigasig ang negosyo ng mga korporasyon sa asukal, kopra, abaka, minahan, transportasyon, at manupaktura ng pangkaraniwang komoditi. Nagbago ang panlasa at gawing pangkonsumo ng mga Filipino; nawili sa sigarilyong Amerikano, “Virginia-style,” at naging depende ang ekonomiya sa pagluwas ng hilaw na materyales at pag-angkat ng produktong yari sa Amerika. Patuloy ang kliyentelisimo sa sistemang asyenda at pag-abuso ng mga kasike at panginoong-may-lupa. Hihintayin pa ang taong 1917 nang mabuo ang Unyon ng Magsasaka sa Bulacan, at 1929 nang itayo ni Pedro Abad Santos ang Partido Sosyalista sa Pilipinas. Samantala, naghuhunos ang pag-iral ng patriyarkong awtoridad sa buong bansa. Hindi nakatulong ang Protestanteng ideolohiya, bagkus nagpasahol pa ito dahil sa rasismo: tabu ang pag-aasawa ng puti at may kulay. Isang Amerikano ang nagmalaki na ang kaniyang asawang Pinay ay nagsilang ng “half-caste pickaninnies” (Karnow 1989, 214). Bagamat nagkaroon ng krusada laban sa prostitusyon, pinayagan ang “double-standard.” Pinahintulutan ng Konseho Munisipal ng Maynila ang mga kabaret bilang kapalit sa bordello o putahan (kung saan nalublob si Rita). Diumano’y pinilit isabatas ang utos na dapat magpatingin ang mga babaeng mananayaw at puta kung may kapansanang pangkasarian tulad ng syphilis, gonorrhea, at iba pang sakit. Dapat pangalagaan ang salinlahing sabjek ng imperyo.

Isang nakatatawang insidente ang karapat-dapat banggitin dito. Nang magpatalastas na humingi ng pondo noong 1925 sina Gobernador Leonard Wood, Chief Justice Taft at iba pang mataas na pinuno, para sa mga ulila, panuyang sumbat ni W.E.B. Du Bois, Aprikano-Amerikanong iskolar: “The American people in bringing peace and civilization to the Philippines have left 18,000 bastards in the islands!  Isn’t this fine work? Can you not see the Godly White Race struggling under the Black Man’s burden!  [The United States government] have somehow let American skunks scuttle from the island and leave their helpless and innocent bastards to beg and perish, and their deserted mothers to starve or serve as prostitutes to white newcomers…. Nanawagan si Du Bois na dagsain ng mensahe at panawagan ang U.S. Congress “to lambaste the heads of Congressmen who permit the holding of the Philippines as a house of prostitution for American white men under the glorious stars and stripes (1983, 149). Ang siste ay parausan lang ng libog at makamundong kasakiman ang buong Pilipinas!

Paano maisasaanyo ang predikamentong iyon sa danas ng ordinaryong mamamayan? At paano masasapol ang ipokrisyang nakabubulag ng isang matalisik na kritisismo ng mga institusyong sumusuhay sa institusyon ng gahasa at panlilinlang?

Ang Kaharian ng Mga Barako

Sa ganitong interregnum, ang suliranin ng kasarinlan sampu ng awtonomiya ng diwa ay naitago sa suliranin ng indibidwal sa kolonyang padron. Sa maligoy na salaysay ni Rita sa kaniyang pagkahulog sa pakana ni Pepe, mapapansin na puspos ng pagdidili-dili at pagsasakdal-sa-sarili ang kaniyang balik-tanaw. Tinukso’t ginipit siya ni Pepe, isinasamo ang pag-ibig upang maisuko ni Rita ang kaniyang puri. Napuna niyang nanunubok at naninibugho si Berta, ang asawa ni Pepe, na ginawang katiwala ng kanyang inaama. ‘Di batid o ‘di ipinalagay na wala siyang karapatan bilang tao na ipagtanggol ang sariling dignidad. Paliwanag ni Rita kay Celso: “Ako sana’y magsasalita na, sasabihin ang buong katotohanan upang mapawi ang kanyang maling hinala, ngunit lumalabas kaya akong malinis pagkatapos?… Ako ba kaya ang paniniwalaang iba pa namang tao at nakikisilong lamang sa bahay na iyon?  Malayo!  Noon ko nasukat ang laki ng kasawiang palad ko, noon ko nawatasang ako’y nag-iisa at silang lahat ay aking kalaban” (Aguilar 1950, 24). Ni hindi niya nakuha ang habag o simpatiya ng kabarong si Berta. ‘Di lamang ang pagkababae niya kundi kawalan ng kamag-anak o salapi, ang nagpalala sa krisis ni Rita.

Matinik ang estratehiya ni Pepe sa paglalaro sa damdamin ng dalawang babaeng sinasamantala niya. Nang maibalitang pasa-Maynila si Rita, lumunok ng lason si Pepe upang ipakita sa asawa na wala siyang dapat ipanibugho. Narsisitikong lansi o lalang ito upang makasilo sa malambot na damdamin ng alaga. Nagamot si Pepe, sinabi niya kay Rita na ‘di na dapat siyang umalis; at tuloy natulak si Berta na ibulalas: “Sa aki’y wala na ang lahat mabuhay ka lamang” (Aguilar 1950, 25).  Nang matanggal itong balakid na pagdaramayan ng dalawang babae, naisakatuparan ang paglapastangan kay Rita. Kamangha-mangha ang reaksyon ng biktima: “Kinahabagan ko ang lalaking iyon na may asawa pa naman. Kung bakit ba siya’y nahaling ng pag-irog sa akin gayong ako nama’y ‘di nagbibigay-daan” (Aguilar 1950, 26). Ngunit sandali, paano nahimok ng tampalasan ang dati’y mailap na damdamin ni Rita?

Makahulugan ang naisakatuparan ni Pepe, kung ilalapat ang ipotesis ni Bataille tungkol sa pagtakas sa mundo ng komersiyo. Iyon ay isang tipo ng pagwawaldas, pagwawalang-bahala sa tadhana. Ang krimen ng pagsuway sa pinagbabawalan—pagpapatiwakal o pagbalewala sa buhay, at pagyurak sa dignidad ng babae—ay ritwal sa paglunas sa sakit ng indibidwalistikong pag-iisa. Sa isang banda, kontra iyon sa ordinaryong gawi na lumalabag sa tungkulin ng ama at katiwala. Sa kabilang banda, pagsunod iyon sa patriyarkong pribilehiyo. Sindak at hilakbot, kawalang-hiyaan at ganid na pagpuwersa, ay katambal ng pag-aalsa’t pagtampalasan sa tabu ng pagkagahasa, kaya mahihinuha ang sensibilidad ni Rita noon. Ayon kay Bataille:“Shame, real or pretended, is a woman’s way of accepting the taboo that makes a human being out of her (1985,129). 

Kabanalan ang bunga ng krimen. Natanggal ang tabu ng pagkabirhen, naging ordinaryong nilalang si Rita. Sa ironikal na pahiwatig, ang terorismong dumuhagi kay Rita ay sakripisyo, simbolikong pagwawaldas, paghubog ng sagradong bagay o danas na salungat sa kwalta, sirkulasyon ng pare-parehong komoditi, alyenasyon sa pamilihan  (palitan ng kagamitan o instrumentong magagamit, halimbawa, ang katawan ni Rita). Regalong walang kapalit ang nawalang puri ni Rita, na pinagtiisang matalukbungan ng naipagbiling produkto ng guni-guni ni Celso. Kung gayon, bumalik ang tabu nang ilagak si Rita sa bahay-putahan, sagisag ng dumi at pagkasalaula.

Demarkasyon ng Gawaing Panlipunan

Napagtibayan dito ang mapinsalang resulta ng dibisyon ng trabaho sa proseso ng transisyon ng lipunan. Bukod sa pagkaulila ni Rita, siya ay nakulong sa tahanan sa dominasyon ng patriyarkong pamilya malayo sa publikong kabatiran. Sanhi sa walang kinalaman sa paghahati ng oras ng paggawa, trato sa kaniya ni Pepe ay isang alipin, walang silbi kundi ihandog ang katawan at damdamin kay Pepe, ang ama-katiwalang nangangasiwa ng lupain ng amain ni Rita. Ang gahasa ay paghahanda upang ang babae ay tahasang maging isang obheto o bagay, isang kagamitang mabibili at magagamit ninuman. 

Tila bugso ng tadhana ang sumalisi. Binabalaan siya ni Pepe, alinsunod sa maginoong asal ng mga korido’t awit ng panahon nina Balagtas at mga tagahabi ng pasyon: “Ayaw kang mahabag, ikaw ang bahala sa mangyayari. Ang mga ulol at walang pag-asang paris ko ay walang pananagot sa ginagawa lubha pa’t itinutulak ng isang pag-ibig na masimbuyo. May panahon pa. Kundi mo ako iibigin at masisiyahan ang apoy ng pagsintang tumutupok sa aking puso ay umasa kang maging halaga na ng kahi’t ano ay papaakin ikaw” (Aguilar 1950, 21).  Retorikang mandaraya ito. Sentimentalismong magayuma’t nakapanliligaw, kung ikakabit sa isang haliparot at talipandas na lalaki. ‘Di nagtagal, si Rita’y “sumuko sa kapangahasan ng tampalasang ‘di na nahabag sa aking pagkamahina” (Aguilar 1950, 29). Kinapootan siya ni Rita, lubhang nagalit: “Kung mahihimay ko lamang ang kanyang laman, kung madudurog ko pati ng kanyang buto ay ginawa na sana upang makilala ng tampalasang hindi gawang biro ang umapi sa mahina” (Aguilar 1950, 29). Alingawngaw ito ng turo nina Rousseau at Kant na pantas ng Kaliwanagan (Enlightenment) sa Europa paglubog ng imperyo ng Simbahan sa wakas ng Edad Medya, alinsunod sa nabanggit na analisis ni Engels.

           Maituturing na si Rita ay ginawang sakripisyo ng makapangyarihang lalaki/ama. Bahaginan o salu-salong unawaan ng dalawang kamalayan ang bunga ng sakripisyo. Mahuhulo din iyon sa proseso ng pagdurusa ni Rita na nagdulot sa kaniya ng katangiang sakramental. Ayon kay Bataille, “The sacred is only a privileged moment of communal unity, a moment of the convulsive communication of what is ordinarily stifled (1985, 242). Lumitaw ang mahiwagang salik sa karumihan, sa pag-aaksaya o pagwawaldas, sa sinumpang kamunduhan. Diyalektikang pag-ikot ng mga kontradiksiyon ang masisipat sa motibasyon ng huling dalawang kabanata. Bumalikwas sa makamundong kasalanan, sa pagkasalaula sa lusak ng watak-watak na ordeng walang pakundangan, ang paghihirap ni Rita at pagkalinga ni Celso. Kaipala’y pumaimbulog sila sa rehiyon ng mapagbigay at mabiyayang kalikasang kadluan ng nagbanyuhay na humanidad—ang komunismong ideyal ng rebolusyonaryong proletaryong kilusan, antitesis ng salapi at petisismo ng nabiling bagay.

Sa pagsisikap maihabi ng naratibo ang pagkasawi ng babae, nagkaroon ng kamalayang-sarili (“self-consciousness” at pagkilala) at karapatang pantao si Rita. Unang hakbang ito sa paghihimagsik. Kalangkap iyon ng sakripisyo’t pagwawaldas na nabanggit.  Ang diyalogo ng dalawang protagonista ang nagsilbing matris sa pagluwal ng talambuhay ng dalawang kapuwa itinakwil ng burgesyang lipunan, busabos hindi ng palad kundi ng kongkretong kondisyon ng ugnayang panlipunan at ideolohiyang umuugit sa pakikisalamuha ng bawat tao. Bumulas ang makamundong kasalanan sa kahinugan ng komunidad na nakahulagpos mula sa piitan ng kwalta, komoditi-petisismo, pribadong pag-aari, tubo, monopolyo-kapitalismo. Maituturing na rebolusyong pang-ideolohiya ito laban sa paghahari ng monopolyo-kapitalismo, ng imperyalismong Amerikano noong pagbukas ng siglo 1900.

  Sandaling makisabad: si Rita ba ay inkarnasyon ng makabagong Gabriela Silang? O inkarnasyon ng mabangis na lobong ina na gumala’t naging kakila-kilabot na banta sa mga prayleng umutas sa buhay nina Padre Burgos, Gomez at Zamora noong dekada bago sumabog ang1896 Rebolusyon ng Katipunan? Siya ba ay simbolo ng mapaghiganting persona ng kababaihan tulad ng maalamat na Romanang Lucretia (Jed 1989; Thompson 2004)?

Pagbuwelta ng Tala, Katumbalikan ng Kapalaran

Sa maramdaming pagsasalaysay ng awtor nahulma ang pagkasangkot ng “palad” na pumapatnubay sa ekonomyang pampulitika ng bansa. Nabatid na natin ang basehang materyal na pinagbuhatan ng kasawian ng magsing-irog. Ang pamumukod nina Rita at Celso ay bunga ng alyenasyong bumabalot sa lipunan dahil sa palitan ng salapi/komoditi na batayan ng kabuhayan. Reipikasyon (ibig sabihin, salapi o komoditi ang tumatabing sa hayagang pakikitungo) ng relasyong panlipunan ang resulta. Sintomas ang sukab na pagpilit kay Rita, isang laro ng biyolensya ng lalaki, pagpapatibay sa nasunggabang kapangyarihan ng kalalakihan—walang tuwa o galak ang napitas sa oportunismong pagpalayaw sa libog. Kakatwa o baligho na walang galak o sarap ang nakamit sa pagpapasasa sa kasakiman at paglamuyot sa katawan ng babae.

Bukod sa libog, pinuhunan ang paglapastangan. Lumundo sa pakanang gamitin ang nagamit-na-katawan ni Rita bilang sangla sa utang na kinuha ni Pepe. Layon ng gahasa ang tanggalin ang pagka-birhen ng babae, ipalaglag ang sanggol, at ipagpalit ang katawang nahalay sa salaping inutang. Panalo ang kapitalistang ekonomiyang nagtatakda sa kapalaran ng bawat mamamayan: hindi mo pag-aari ang inyong katawan, wala kang karapatang angkinin iyon.

Kompetisyon sa pagkamal ng yaman/kwalta, palitan ng kagamitan, lamangan—ito ang normatibong panuntunan sa burgesyang status quo. Sa simula pa lamang, magkatambal na ang pagtatalik ng mga katawan sa mediyasyon ng salapi at merkado sa tema ng nobela. Kung ang pag-ibig ay kusang inihahandog, regalong ‘di-kailangang gantihan—sakripisyo sa aksaya’t kusang pagbibigay, ayon kay Bataille (1992, 52-56), magwawagi kaya ito sa batas ng pagpapalitan ng mga babae na lohika ng tabu sa incest?  Ang pagbabawal sa incest ay kailangan upang magarantiya ang reproduksyon ng pagmamana ng yaman ng bawat salinlahi alinsunod sa dugo ng ama. Batay sa pag-aaral nina Marcel Mauss at Claude Levi-Strauss, nakatindig sa unibersal na pagbabawal sa incest (kaakibat ng imperatibo ng exogamy), ang institusyon ng pamilya ay umaandar sa bisa ng mga prohibisyon at regulasyong gumagabay sa pag-aasawa, linya ng kamag-anakan o pagkakaugnay sa dugo at pakikipagpalitan ng mga tribu (Hays 1964; Godelier 1975; Murphy 1970). Kung gayon, sumusunod si Celso sa batas ng pagbabawal sa incest.

Paglabag sa tabu, pagtitinda ng serbisyong sekswal, at hilakbot sa lupit ng parusa ng magulang at publiko—ito ang mga elementong pinagtali-tali bilang palatandaan ng pambubusabos. Tumutol si Celso, sinaway ang utos ng lipunan, bagamat napilitang ibenta ang likha ng imahinasyon upang ihandog ang kwalta sa kaligtasan ng biktimang babae. Sa bangis ng ama at lupit ng sinakop na bayan, walang kaganapan ang sakripisyong naisiwalat. Sa bisa ng pagtulong ng ina, si Aling Memay, nalusaw ang Oedipus-Complex at nailuwal ang suwail na sabjek na tumiwalag sa kapitalistang orden (Foucault 1980; Zaretsky 1976). 

Gayunpaman, ironikal ang resulta ng mga pangyayari. Sa matinding balisa at ligamgam ng kalooban, dumanas si Celso ng umaapaw na panimdim na pumigtal sa kamalayang subalterno. Sa halip na maigiba ang institusyon ng salapi at putahan, nasira ang bait ng tagapamagitan sa mundo ng kalakalan/kagamitan at sa mundo ng matimyas na kapalagayang-loob. Naglaho ang tunay na makataong kaayusan. At sa maniobra ng tagapagsalaysay, nauwi sa pagkadestino ng mala-saserdoteng tagapagligtas sa babae—afirmasyon ng kanyang dignidad bilang tao—sa institusyon ng mga baliw. Pahiwatig ba nito na kontrolado ng piyudal-burgesyang awtoridad ang sekswalidad, imahinasyon, saloobin, pagkatao (katawan at kaluluwa), sa huling pagtutuos? Saang panig ba kumakatig ang awtor?

Krisis ng Pagpintuho sa Propiyedad

Walang patlang ang naratibo ng pakikipagsapalaran ni Rita. Kumpisal sa kasintahan ang pumalit sa normal na komunikasyon. Ipinagtapat ni Rita kay Celso ang detalye ng pagkapariwara, subalit nagdududa pa rin na wala siyang sala sa nangyari: “Ang nangyari sa aki’y hindi mapaghihinawan ng paghihinaw Pilatos, sinoman ang makatatalastas ay sapilitang may isisisi sa akin kaya ako’y tumahimik at nagkasya na lamang sa pagluha” (Aguilar 1950, 29). Nang mabuntis, lalong natabunan si Rita sa kahihiyaan. Sinayang ang bunga ng paglabag at pagsusuwail. Idinala siya ni Pepe sa isang tirahan sa Maynila, na siya ngang bahay ng bilihan ng trabahong sekswal ng mga babaeng upahan, mga babaeng napikot at nabihag. Ginawa siyang collateral ng utang ni Pepe, isang komoditi—“babae ng lahat.” Komunismong huwad. Labag ito sa panuntunan hinggil sa incest. Sagradong alay sa balighong kaayusang nag-aaksaya, nagwawaldas, sumisira sa kalikasan, sa tingin ni Bataille. 

     Mapusok si Rita sa pagtatanggol ng sariling dignidad. Nang takutin niyang isasakdal ang “madreng” may-ari, tugon kay Rita ng operator ng tindahan ng erotikang bilihin: “Nagbabayad ako ng ukol na buwis, at ang babaing mapasasaakin ay babaing nagbibiling talaga ng katawan sa lalaking dumulog” (Aguilar 1950, 32). Respetableng subalterno ang kausap niya. Apat-na-raang piso ang katumbas niya. Nagkaroon siya ng kabatiran sa sulat ni Pepe na sinipi niya sa pagsasalaysay kay Celso. Ang sulat ni Pepe ay wangis hatol ng tadhana, determinasyon ng isang makapangyarihang diyos o bathala: “Huwag kang mag-isip ng anumang higanti at wala kang mararating…Una-una’y ibinabalita ko sa iyo na ngayo’y hindi na ikaw si Ritang malinis, kundi isang babaing may mahalay na kabuhayan. Lahat ng paraang maipagsasakdal mo ay aking naayos, at ngayo’y walang-wala nang malalabi sa iyo kung di makiayon sa iyong palad.” Sa pagwawaldas na ito sumupling ang pigura ng sagradong biktimang inihandog sa altar ng paglulustay at pagmumudmod ng likas na yaman ng artistang si Celso. Kaipala’y gumanap ng papel ng shaman na tanging namamagitan sa daigdig ng mga bathala at lugar ng kasuklam-suklam na kasalanan, sa kabanalan at kamunduhan.

Binansagang tabu at kinalupulan ng estigmata ang babae, partikular ang taktak na instrumentong magagamit ng sinumang magbabayad.  Babae siya, pero kagamitan o instrumento ng sinumang lalaking may kwalta. Ang pangalan ni Rita ay ilalagay sa talaan na ipadadala sa pamahalaan, na siya’y nakalagda sa isang “katibayang nagsasaad ng aming mga pinagkasunduang bagay.” Isang kontrata ang gumapos sa babae. Hindi niya mauusig si Pepe sapagkat hindi ito ang nakipag-usap sa madre, at hindi rin niya maisasakdal ang madre “pagka’t ako ang lumalabas na nagkusa sa pagkuha ng kuwalta at nangakong magbibili ng laman.” Nabulusok sa isang predikamentong malalim: “Makapagsasakdal ako dili hindi, ngunit isang babae bang masama ang mag-uusig ng kapurihan?” (Aguilar 1950, 33). Wala siyang karapatan sa harap ng korte o institusyon ng hustisya sa kolonyang sakop. Nabitag si Rita ng mga institusyong makapatriyarko’t makaburgesya.

Tunay na nailagak sa isang kuwadrong masikip si Rita. Una, ang sistema ng bilihan ng katawan ng babae ay tanggap na, lalo na sa sistema ng pangungutang (credit system) simula sa yugto ng merkantilismong kapital. Iyan ang pampinansiyal na kaayusan sa kalakalan, sa ugnayan ng bumibili-nagbebenta sa pamilihan. Maisisingit dito ang huwaran ng pagbibili ng serbisyong sekswal na nagawang legal sa imperyong Roma: “The Roman jurists defined a prostitute accurately as a woman who earns her livelihood with her body (quae corpore meret). The official word for her was meretrix—earner (Lewinsohn 1958, 70). Hindi ito tanggap ng mapagkunwaring burgesya. Pangalawa, ang pagka-birhen ay tatak pa rin ng puri o karangalan ng kababaihan sa sistemang piyudal, na tumatayong presyo ng babae bilang asawa ng taong may ari-ariang ipamamana. Makapangyarihan pa rin ang kalalakihang nag-aangkin ng birtud ng mandirigma (Harris 1977).  Pangatlo, ang patriyarkong orden, ang mga ama, ang naglalapat ng hatol sa kalagayan ng dalagang-anak. Amin ni Rita na naging “makina” na lamang siyang magpaparaos sa simbuyong libog ng mga lalaking bumibilil. Isang kagamitan o instrumentong hawak ng iba.

Humantong na tayo sa sangandaang mapanganib. Nasugpo “ang bunga ng katampalasanan ni Pepe,” at ‘di kalauna’y nabilibid ang lalaki hindi dahil sa dahas na ginamit sa pagyurak ng karapatan/dignidad ni Rita kundi “dahil sa kasalanang pagdaraya” (Aguilar 1950, 33). May utang pa rin si Rita, dalawang-daang piso na ang natubos niya, katumbas ng dalawang daang lalaking bumili ng kaniyang katawan. Tila isang tropa ng sundalo ang bumagtas sa kaniyang katawan bilang landas tungo sa pakikihamok. Walang tinitimbang dito kundi salapi, pagkasangkapan sa katawan ni Rita bilang makinang paupahan. Nasaan ang diwa, budhi, mabuting kalooban ng ipinagmamalaking demokrasya’t makataong lipunan ng imperyong sibilisado? 

Pagtuklas at Pagkilala

Sa kapitalismong orden, lahat ay maipagpapalit sa kwalta na sukatan ng halaga. Sa diskursong sosyolohikal at pampilosopya, ang pangingibabaw ng salapi (halagang-pampalitan; exchange-value) ay pahiwatig ng pag-iral ng transaksiyong impersonal at ‘di-makatao. Dahil sa salapi, nakukuha ang lahat ng bagay na makalulugod at makaaaliw sa bumibili, kahit na bagay na binalewala, sinayang, winaldas. Tinalakay ni Karl Marx ang kapangyarihan ng salapi sa burgesyang lipunan sa kaniyang Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts (1844): 

                 …Money is the pimp between man’s need and the object, between his life and his means of life. But that which mediates my life for me, also mediates the existence of other people for me…. Is [money] not, therefore, the universal agent of separation? It is the true agent of separation as well as the true binding agent—the [universal] galvano-chemical power of society…. The overturning and confounding of all human and natural qualities, the fraternization of impossibilities—the divine power of money—lies in its character as men’s estranged, alienating and self-disposing species nature. Money is the alienated ability of mankind….  Money is thus the general overturning of individualities which turns them into their contrary and adds contradictory attributes to their attributes…It therefore serves to exchange every property for every other, even contradictory property and object: it is the fraternization of impossibilities. It makes contradictions embrace (1964, 165-69).

Sa interbensiyon ng kwalta sa negosyo, ang magkasalungkat ay nagsisiping, nagyayapos. Kung ilalapat ang persepsiyong ito sa ating pagsusuri, lumilitaw na ang transpormasyon ng status/posisyong panlipunan nina Rita at Celso ay nangyari sa grasya ng salaping inutang ni Pepe. Subalit ang pangungutang ay posible lamang sa isang ordeng inuugitan ng mga batas na nagpapatibay sa pribadong pag-aari na maipapalit sa salapi, kung saan ang salapi ang batayan ng pamilihan at paghahanap-buhay. Kwalta ang lumulutas sa hidwaan, banggaan, alitan o pingkian ng mga puwersang nagpapagalaw sa burgesyang lipunan.

          Sa pagnanais ni Celsong matubos at mapalaya si Rita, kinailangan niyang kumita ng salaping itutumbas sa “presyo” ng kalayaan ng sinta. Pinalayas siya ng ama, walang inintindi kundi ang adhikang matubos si Rita: “Sa silakbo ng pag-irog, sa alab ng pagsinta ay walang kamatayan. Lahat ay buhay at sigla, lahat ay aliw at kaligayahan” (Aguilar 1950, 38). Kodigo ito ng romantikong pananampalataya ng maginoong kabalyero. Sa diskurso ni Denis de Rougemont tungkol sa mito nina Tristan at Isolde, erotikang pag-ibig ang primaryang udyok sa buhay, hindi kasal o kooperasyon ng mag-asawa upang magkaanak (1969). Walang inilarawang genitalya o pisikal na kilos ng magkasuyo; pawang pahayag ng pagyakap o pagsamba sa birtud (ganda, bait) ng babae na tila espiritung tumutukso’t gumaganyak sa pinakasasabikang sarap ng pag-iisa ng dalawang magkasuyo sa kamatayan. Tila layon ay pakawalan ang espiritung nakabilanggo sa luwad na katawan—isang Gnostikong hilig ng mga sinaunang Kristiyano (Pagels 1988; Rahner & Vorgrimler 1965, 184-86).

Ang Kayumangging Kabalyero

Si Celso ang bayaning Tristan sa mala-burgesyang Maynila. Ayaw niyang lumuhog at humiling ng tulong sa mga kamag-anak. Kinailangan niyang humanap ng “mapapasukang sukat ikita ng ikabubuhay”—tatak ng nagsasariling indibidwal sa burgesyang orden. Batid niya na ang panukala niyang “sukuban, pagpalain at isadakila” ang babaeng napakaapi, ay magbubunga ng kapaitan, paglibak at pagdurusta. Walang kailangan, lubos siyang sumusumpang tuparin ang ‘“isang katungkulang marangal.” Sumagi sa isip niya ang “manghuhulang taga-Nazareno” na nagpatawad. Hindi, ang ibig lamang ni Celso “ay tangkilikin si Rita, iligtas, hanguin sa pagkakabaon sa burak. Ito ang udyok ng kanyang puso, ito ang makapangyarihang utos ng budhing sarili at siya namang gagawin” (Aguilar 1950, 45). Caritas at Agape, hindi Eros, ang gumaganyak sa kaniyang kalooban. Huwag nating kalimutan na tinulungan siya ng kaniyang ina, isang paglabag sa patriyarkong rehimen.

Masinsing paglimiin ito: hindi tuwa o pagpasasa sa ligayang erotika ang hangad ni Celso kundi pagtupad sa “utos ng budhing sarili.”  Isang pagsunod sa “Categorical Imperative” ni Kant, isang tungkuling unibersal kung saan dapat itaya ang tao bilang pinakamahalagang prinsipyong hindi magagawang instrumento lamang. Nang makatagpo ang katoto’t kadaupang-palad, sinalaysay muli ang nangyari sa unang bahagi ng nobela, at inulit ang kinasapitang suliranin ni Rita hanggang mapunta sa kalagayang “pinagsawaan ng lahat.” Sa pakikibahagi ng danas niya nabuo ang komunidad ng mga mapagkawanggawang kalooban.

Hinarap ni Celso ang problemang etikal at moral. Pagkatapos ng pagtatanggol ni Celso sa kanyang panukala, binalaan siya ng kaibigan na masaklap na pagpula ang ipupukol sa kaniya kung makikisama sa “isang babaing hango sa burak.” Dagling pakli ni Celso sa kaibigan na ang pag-ibig niya ay dakila, at susundin niya ang ipinag-uutos ng puso: “Ang kapurihan, katoto, ay nagkakakulay ng ayon sa matang tumitingin.  Ang gagawin ko’y mangyayaring ipalalagay ng iba na pagsira sa kapurihan kong sarili, ngunit sa palagay ko ay hindi bagkus isang gawang marangal…. Naniniwala ako sa kabutihan ng aking nilalayon at makagawa lamang ng magaling ay nagtagumpay na ako” (Aguilar 1950, 49). Pumasok na si Celso sa sona ng ipinagbabawal, sona ng kabanalang kakabit sa tabu ng ginahasang birhen.  Tinig ito ng mago/saserdoteng taglay ang karismang nagdurugtong ng sekular/makamundong espasyo at sagradong teritoryo, pinapatnubayan ng babaeng naging pariah at isinumpa ng lipunan.

Ilang obserbasyon ang maisususog dito. Una, gunita at repleksiyon ng kamalayang pansarili ang bumabalangkas sa identidad ng protagonista. Tatak ito ng modernistang estilo sa sining. Pangalawa, ang ideya hinggil sa alituntuning moral—ang purong batas na dapat sundin ng konsiyensiya ng tao—ay abstraksiyon kung ito ay tiwalag sa kostumbre at kinagawian ng masa kung saan nakaugat ang konsepto ng kabutihan, ginhawa, ganda. Ito ang tuligsa ni Hegel  sa Phenomenology of Spirit  (1977) at The Philosophy of Right (1952) sa pormalistiko’t hungkag na maxim o tagubilin ni Kant. Sa pananaw ni Hegel, magkakaroon ng laman ang katungkulan kung ang tao’y sumusunod sa hinhingi ng kaniyang situwasyon sa kongkretong lipunan. Kailangan mayroong ordeng etikal, mga matinong batas ng Estado batay sa mga kaugalian; kung wala ito, hindi malilinang ang likas na birtud ng mamamayan na salamin ng pakikitungong etikal (Hegel 1952, 7-9; tingnan ang kritika ni Marx 1970). Sa lipunan nina Celso at Rita, walang gayong orden sapagkat bawat mamamayan ay nakasingkaw sa pagtaguyod ng personal na layon: pagkalap ng salapi, laging paggiit sa pribadong interes. Utilitaryanismo’t indibidwalistikong kapakanan ang unibersal na panukat at pamantayan, hindi ang totalidad ng kabuhayan at kapakanan ng buong lipunan.

Sa masinop na pagsisiyasat, maaaring maunawaan ang alternatibong proyekto ng mga tauhan sa nobela. Maituturing na ang paglilinis sa reputasyon ni Rita sa sakripisyo ay lumikha ng sagradong talab sapagkat binalewala ang mundo ng utilitaryong pamumuhay. Sa paglisan sa publikong lunan, siya’y naging ‘di-mahihipong bagay, isang tabu. Pinawalang-bisa ang kwalta na instrumento ng dangal/respeto ng subalternong madla. Pinurga ang makamandag na kapaligiran. Sa lihim o tagong kanlungan, isang radikal na kalayaan ang lumapag sa silid ng dalawang magkasintahang nakaharap sa walang hanggang kinabukasan: kamatayan, kabaliwan (Bataille 1992, 75-77). Nalubog sila sa larangang matimtiman (intimacy) kung saan masidhi at marubdob ang paglasap ng enerhiya ng buhay. Pumalag sila’t pumaimbulog sa sona ng pakikipagkapwang matimyas at dalisay. Ito kaya’y malikmatang ilusyon, mistipikasyon o taktika ng kapalarang mapanukso?

Imbestigasyon ng Awtonomiya

Masalimuot ang usapang naungkat dito. Mainam na suysuyin natin ang etikang deontolohikal ni Kant na natukoy na natin. Nakapokus iyon sa katungkulang dapat gawin ng bawat nilikha, obligasyong dapat tuparin batay sa wagas na pangangatwiran kaakibat ng unibersal na aplikasyon (Kant 1957, 336-37). Tumalima tayo sa batas ng likas na rason. Sa gayon, naipagtitibay nito ang ating kalayaan sa pagpapasiya, ang kasarinlang personal na katambal ng ating esensiyang rasyonal. Ang wastong kilos ay dapat piliin dahil rasyonal, makatwiran, pangkalahatan.  Ito ang deklarasyon ni Celso bilang lohika ng kaniyang pagsisikap na iligtas si Rita. Bukod sa may hilig pagka-romantiko, alagad si Celso ng kabihasnang ibinunto ng Kaliwanagan (Enlightenment) at nilinang nina Rousseau, Goethe, Schiller, Coleridge, atbp.

Sa masusing pagsipat, mungkahi ng punto-de-bistang natukoy na dapat isaalang-alang muna ang prinsipyo ng kabutihan na masisinag sa aliw, ligaya, tuwa (hedonistikong etika nina Epicurus, J.S. Mill). Mauurirat din rito ang etikang klasiko (Aristotle) na nakasentro sa birtud na bunga ng mahusay at magaling na aksyong may kaganapang maipagkakapuri sa lahat. Sa tulong nitong dalawang pangitain-sa-daigdig, maiging pagnilayin ang layon ng anumang balak, hindi lamang ang resulta o kahihinatnan nito. Naipagsanib ang dalawang aspektong hinimay dito sa perspektibang sumasalungat sa komoditi-petisismo, ang erotikang karanasan ng paggastos at pagwaldas, hango mula sa teorya ni Bataille na ipinaliwanag ko sa unahan.

Sa epistemolohikang paglilirip, hindi obhetibo kundi suhetibo ang punto-de-bista ng binata. Sa pagninilay ni Celso sa kaniyang panukala, ang prinsipyong nakataya sa intensiyon niya ang importante,” isang banal na katungkulan ang kumandili kay Rita” (Aguilar 1950, 54-55) sapagkat ang babae ay karapat-dapat galangin, dakila, mapagkalinga, mapagbigay — kahit pasakit at kabiguan ang kaniyang nalasap, kahit pinaratangan pang makasalanan ang kanilang ugnayan. Malamang umaangkas ito sa ideolohiyang maternal, na sinuri ni Rose Torres-Yu (2006) sa isang pag-aaral. Ang pagkaganap sa binabalak ni Celso ay gantimpala na mismo na magbibigay-katuturan at saysay sa kanyang ginawa. Sa ibang kuro-kuro, mas malapit ang dalumat niya sa humanistiko’t naturalistikong birtud (kagandahang-loob, magpagkawang-gawa) na inilahad ni David Hume sa An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals kaysa sa matigas na tagubilin ni Kant o ni Plato (1955). Si Hume at Kant ay kapwa inspirasyon ng utilitaryanismong doktrina na kumalat sa industriyalisadong lupalop, at naging programa ng imperyalismong Europeo at Amerikano mula ika-1800 dantaon hanggang sa kasalukuyan.

Usisain natin ang dalumat ng lalaking umiibig. Sa gitna ng masalimuot na hidwaan at pagtatalong ideolohikal na masisilip sa takbo ng kaniyang kaisipan, laging idinidiin ni Celso ang abstraksyon ng kaniyang pag-ibig sa isang malabong metodo: “Ang pag-ibig kailanma’y dakila at malinis. Kung ang pagsisisi’y ikinakakalas sa kasalanan, ang pag-ibig ay humugas sa anumang dungis. Ako’y umiibig kay Rita at ang isang umiibig ay walang muni-muning sarili, hindi nagpupuna sa bulung-bulungan. Ang tunay na pag-ibig ay di nangangailangan ng pagkalugod ng marami…” (Aguilar 1950, 54). Muli, ang pokus dito ay Agape o caritas, hindi Eros. Bigwas ito sa utilitaryanismo. Gayunapaman, may masasalat na bahid ng ethical egoism at pagkamakasarili na pasaring ng awtor. Pinipilit pa rin ni Celso na ipinaglalaban niya ang simpatiya at pakikiramay sa sinumang kailangan ng ayuda, pag-ilag sa sakuna, o tulong sa paglunas ng sakit. Ibig sabihin, sasaklolohan niya ang sinumang babaeng biniktima ng dahas ng patriyarkong poder. Humigit-kumulang, pakiwari kong ito’y sintomas ng paglihis sa kontrata ng sibikong kalipunan, ang Sittlichkeit ni Hegel (1977).

Balintunang impresyon ang kinalabasan. Nang matubos na si Rita, payo ng babae sa nagagalak na tagapagligtas: “Mula sa sandaling ito ikaw ay patay na.” Tunay na propetikong diyagnosis, mula sa desgrasyada.  ‘Di inalintana, sagot ni Celso: “Tumawa na ang tatawa.  Ginawa ko ang ganito sapagkat siya kong katungkulan.” Sumbat naman ng babae: “Ngunit may kapisanan, may mga tao, may kaugalian” (Aguilar 1950, 59). Napakalinaw at matalisik ang pormulasyon ng awayan ng diwa rito. Ipinamalas ni Aguilar na hindi lamang siya kumiling sa motif ng “masamang babae na may ginintuang puso” na napoot at tumiwalag sa walang konsiyensiyang lipunan. Ang kasamaan niya ay pahiwatig ng kabulukan ng kinalalagyan. Ang pagtataksil at pagsumpa sa kaniya ng ipokritang lipunan ay sagisag ng malubhang salot sa buong sistema ng kolonisadong mentalidad. Hindi malulunasan ang sakit na iyon sa indibidwal na pagtutol o pagtakas—kailangan ang kolektibong pagbabalikwas—kaya ang resulta ay umabot lamang sa tagumpay ng burgesyang lipunan sa pagkukulong kay Celso sa ospital ng mga baliw. 

Bukod dito, ang oryentasyong panlipunan ay nanatiling tagilid. Iyon ay nakasalig sa pagsasamantala at subordinasyon ng kababaihan, estrukturang binubuo (ayon kay Frigga Haug) ng “the system of the division of labor operating throughout society, the gender-specific ascription of the role of reproductive tasks (caring for the family) and the system of cultural values and norms” (1992, 171). Mula pa noong sinaunang yugto ng agrikulturang ekonomiya, at pagmonopolyo ng kakayahang militar ng kalalakihan, ang tahanan at pamilya ay nagsilbing bilangguan ng babae.

Pag-inog ng mga Kontradiksiyon

Dagdag na pasubali ito. Hindi naman tuluyang naging bulag o hibang si Celso. Isang halimbawa na mulat siya sa kapaligirang panlipunan, sa materyal na kinalalagyan, ay masisipi rito. Nang itaboy siya ng ama, lumakad sa lansangan ng Maynila hanggang makarating sa daungan o muelle kung saan namasid ang maraming manggagawa. Ang mga bapor ay nagpagunita sa kaniya “ng malaking ikinasulong ng isipan ng tao sa lahat ng gawang pakikinabangan. At napalarawan tuloy sa kanyang isip ang araw-araw ay pag-agaw ng tao sa katalagahan ng sari-saring gamit na naiuukol sa mga hanap-buhay” (Aguilar 1950, 43). Pagkilala ito sa burgesyang ordeng nakaugat sa pagpapayabong ng tubo sa pagnakaw ng halagang yari ng uring manggagawa at tiwaling operasyon sa pamilihan, na siyang unang aral nina Marx at Engels. Ito ang nabuwal/bumagsak na lagay ng tao sa sekular at makalapastangang kaayusan.

Namasdan ni Celso ang modernismong teknolohiyang dala ng imperyalismong U.S. at indibidwalismong mapanghamig. Tarok din niya ang utilitaryanismong pananaw sa likod na kaunlaran sa lungsod. Gayunpaman, ‘di nalingid ang panganib ng bayarang trabaho. Nasaksihan niyang nadurog ang paa ng isang ordinaryong obrero na nabagsakan ng isang mabigat na kahon, na nakayanig sa kaniyang puso: “Pagkawala nga namang kandili ng mga manggagawa. Saanmang dako’y hubad sila sa maraming bagay na kailangan, at sa katunayan ang gayong pangyayari ay ‘di sasalang ‘di man lamang papansinin ng pinag-aarawan ng napalungi. At ang naharap tuloy ng pagkukuro ay ang mga anak dalita. Kaya lamang napaalis doon ay nang totoong tanghalli na” (Aguilar 1950, 43). Sa tulak ng problemang gumigiyagis kay Celso, naputol ang simpatiya sa kalunos-lunos na lagay ng mga trabahador. 

Isang krisis sikolohikal ang pumilit kay Celsong maghanap ng trabaho bilang kompromiso. Bago tubusin ang desgrasyada, isiningit ng awtor ang mga pagmumuni-muni ni Celso na nagulumihanan sa imahen ng mga lalaking gumagamit kay Rita. Minsan, nabalino siya sa apula’t pagkutya sa kaniyang ginawa, mga tinig na nagsasabing “bagong bayani siya ng katunggakan.” Hindi pa lubos na nagwalang-bahala si Celso sa madlang hukom na humatol sa iskandalong kinasuungan niya. Maipapalagay na ang kritisismo ng lipunang kolonyal ay alingawngaw mula sa ulirat ng nobelista:

     Hindi masabi ni Celso kung bakit gayon na ang kapisanan: ayaw makakikita ng ibang mga pangyayari, ayaw makapagmasid ng isang gawang hindi karaniwan. Alinmang bagay ay pinadaraang pilit sa maiksi at kapos niyang panukat, ibig makapaghari sa lahat, galit makaririnig ng isang pagsuway, ang kanyang mga tadhana’y pinapagiging utos, at lubhang napakalupit naman sa pagpapatupad.  Nagtatakda ng mga kaugalian at hilig ng loob, lumilikha ng mga kasamaan at kung makakita ng masama ay siyang nasusuklam na una-una at kunwa’y nagpipikit ng mata sa pagkarimarim, bago’y hindi diri ang iginagawa ng gayon, kundi ang pagkahambal sa kanyang mga gawang sarili.

     

Napakaaba ang tao, at lalo pang napakaimbi ang kanyang mga palakad sa buhay at pagsasamahan. Hindi mapagkuro ni Celso kung bakit ang isang likha ng katalagahan, paris ng tao, na puspos sa kaningningan at maraming biyaya, ay magkapusong-ganid (Aguilar 1950, 53).

Ito na marahil ang buod ng mala-didaktikong tuligsa ni Aguilar sa pamantayang kolonyal/piyudal na pumayag makalusot ang krimen ni Pepe, ang pahintulot sa prostitusyon, ang kalupitan ng ama. Nakabilad dito ang paglagom sa kontradiksiyon ng burgesyang status quo kalangkap ang piyudalismong barbarismo. Kakatwa ang sitwasyon: pagsuob sa kalayaang personal upang mapabuti ang sariling kapakanan sa gitna ng mabangis na digmaan ng bawat isa—lobong sumasakmal sa ibang lobo (ayon kina Hobbes at Darwin)—na tatak ng anarkiya ng pamilihang kapitalista. Paano malulutas ito maliban sa paglayo sa sibilisasyon, pagpapatiwakal, pagpapaubaya sa tadhanang kamatayan, sa kabaliwan? Malagim at malungkot ang musikang mauulinigan sa isip ni Celso at ng tagapagsalaysay. Mapait ang lasa ng nakalipas, maalingasaw ang kasalukuyan, masungit ang tanawin ng kinabukasan.

Pananabik sa Kasukdulan at Pagkalas

Sinira ng dalawang tauhang itinaboy ang kostumbre at kontratang sosyal. Sa kongkretong situwasyon ng alyenasyong sumaklot sa pamilya—kina Pepe at Berta, kina Mang Ulpiano at ni Aling Memay, kasangkot na si Aling Marta—ang solusyon ay indibidwalistikong hakbang: pagbenta ni Pepe sa ginahasang Rita, pagtakwil ni Mang Ulpiano kay Celso bilang suwail na anak—alusyon sa mito ng patriyarkong may monopolyo ng aliping sekswal. Lahat na iyon ay penomenang historikal-sosyolohikal. Naisakatuparan ang natukoy ni Marx: naghahati ang salapi, nagsasanib din (sina Celso’t Rita’y nagkapisan din). Nagtagumpay si Celso, ngunit marubdob ang pagsisisi ni Rita. Ano ang tubo nila sa puhunang inialay? Tinanggal na ang babaeng naputikan sa parametro ng pamilihan, datapwat naging isang bagay na ikinulong sa isang bahay malayo “sa kaligaligan at kaalinsanganan ng Maynila,” isang sanktuwaryo sa salu-salong piging ng sakripisyo na magbubuklod sa komunidad, ang sinasambang kabuuan/totalidad.

Usisain muli natin ang gamit ng salapi sa pagbuhol at pagkalag ng kontradiksiyong sekswal-moral. Salungguhitan ang panukalang-isipan natin na hindi ang puta ang siyang kinatatakutang puwersang magbubuwag sa militaristiko-burokratikong aparato ng lipunan, kundi ang posibilidad na maraming babae ang makikipagsapalarang maglimayon at kumita ng salapi sa ‘di-aprubadong paraan (Young 1964, 125-54). Ginagamit din sila, wika ni Alphonso Lingis, “to justify the power and discourse that maintains the disciplinary structure of the family” (1994, 63), kung saan itinakda ang katawan ng babae na walang pagpapasiya o kapangyarihan, gumagana lamang bilang instrumento sa produksyion ng anak—ang ideolohiya ng maternidad (Torres-Yu 2006; Red Collective 1978).

Bakit nga—ulitin natin ang ‘di-mailagang tanong—naisip ni Celsong iligtas si Rita at hanguin mula sa pagkasumpa-sumpang kalagayan? Isinagip nga ang bulaklak mula sa layak, sa basura at yagit ng lipunan, ang babaeng biktima ng karahasan ni Pepe, ang patriyarko na umaktong nagpatiwakal upang hamunin ang tadhana. Ngayon naman, si Celso ang pumalit bilang lalaking tagapangalaga, ngunit walang gamot sa sakit ni Rita. Nanatiling matapang si Rita, maalab ang pagkapoot sa lipunan. Sa pagsusumamo ni Rita na huwag silang magsama, tugon ni Celso: “…susuwayin kita pagka’t ‘di ako makapagbibigay-loob. At saka huli na ang iyong pinita. Ako’y ipinagtabuyan ng aking ama, dahil sa iyo ako’y kinasusuklaman ng aking mga kamag-anak, dahil sa iyo ako ay pinawalang halaga kong matagal na ang aking kaligayahan sa hinaharap, at dahil sa iyo, Rita, ako’y natatalagang umakyat sa maringal na kalangitan, o kaya’y magpatihulog sa lalong kalalim-lalimang bangin. Dahil sa iyo…” (Aguilar 1950, 60). Iyon ang panata ng pintakasi, ang tagapamagitan sa kamunduhan at kabanalan.

Kaipala’y tulad ni Pepe si Celso na handang utasin ang sariling buhay. Litaw na gamit ang inangking babae upang itanghal ang kaniyang pagkamartir—isang kalabisang negasyon ng lipunan, kamag-anakan, burgesyang Estado, ekonomyang pampulitika. Lantad ang masokistang tendensiya sa pantasya ni Celso, na nagtatambal ng jouissance at humaling-mamatay (death-drive; thanatos), katibayan ng “essentially traumatic nature of human sexuality” (Laplanche 1976, 105).

Kilig ng Pagwawaldas

Matampuhin, hindi matimbang at walang kiling, ang argumento ni Celso. Nasaktan siya sa pampublikong anunsiyo ni Mang Ulpiano na wala na siyang pananagutan sa anumang utang ng anak. Sa pangalawang pagkakataon (una sa kaibigan), nakibahagi si Celso ng kaniyang pinagdaanan sa mga kamanunulat, isang senyal ng patuloy na komunikasyon sa madlang kamalayan na pundasyon ng makatuturang komunidad. Huwag kalimutan na naipagbili ni Celso ang mga naisulat niya upang tubusin si Rita, ebidensiya na kalahok pa rin siya sa sistema ng salapi/pagpapalitan ng halaga (exchange-value). Hindi regalo ang bunga ng kaniyang pag-iisip; naging komoditi iyon upang ibayad sa utang at hanguin ang katawan ng babae mula sa pamilihan ng karne. Gayunpaman, may pahiwatig din ng potlatch, pagwawaldas, na maigaganti sa utang-na-loob at sirkulasyon ng pagmamana na saligan ng rehimeng piyudal. Ang pagwawaldas at pag-aksaya (kontra sa kapital at tubo) ang indeks ng paglipat sa sagradong palapag ng matinding pagtatalik ng mga kalooban.

Sa harap ng mga kamanunulat, nagdalamhati si Celso bilang biktima ng walang-mukhang kapalaran, datapwat mapalad siya ngayon:” …at upang huwag magambala sa paglasap ng aliw sa piling ng aking irog, ako’y pumailanlang sa kaitaasang bughaw at masaya, at mula roo’y pinagmamasdan ko nang may pagdusta ang kilusan at nakatatawang pag-iring sa akin ng mga tao” (Aguilar 1950, 66-67).  Ginawang sandata ang seks upang laitin ang ipokritang lipunan. Akala niya’y si Kristo siya at tumupad lamang ng katungkulang iniatas. Kumpisal niya na ang minimithi lamang niya ngayon ay “lumawig sana ang katamisan ng aking buhay sa piling ng ginigiliw na babae, pagka’t sa gayon ay malilimot ko ang kahirapan at hinagpis” (Aguilar 1950, 67). Paglimot ay pagpanaw.  Lumalabas na tumatalima si Celso sa tinaguriang eudaimonistikong argumento na ang hinahangad ay kaligayahan sa paglinang sa birtud, sa kabutihang tumatangkilik sa kaginhawan ng iba, hindi ang sariling kagalingan.

Pinuri ng mga nakikinig si Celso bilang “lalaki ka nga at manunula pa.” Kahit man sinuhayan ang paninindigan niya, hindi pa rin mahinahon si Celso. Nang naglalakad siya sa lansangang matao, hinala niyang “tila siya na lamang nang siya ang pinagmamasdan ng madla. Waring sa kanyang noo ay may natitik na mga salitang tagapagpahiwatig ng kung siya’y sino at kung ano ang ginawa” (Aguilar 1950, 97). Ang marka ng kondemnasyong sikolohikal ay tila naukit sa katawan. Sintomas ito ng kumplikado’t sala-salabat na gunam-gunam, salamisim at hinagap na bumabagabag sa kaluluwa ni Celso at sa totoo’y gumigiyagis din sa mambabasa ng akdang ito. 

Hinggil sa yugtong ito, maipapalagay na magkahalong Eros at Agape ang tendensiyang gumugulo sa isip at damdamin ni Celso. Naikintal din ito sa mito nina Tristan at Isolde (De Rougemont 1969), at sa neoplatonikong pilosopiya na hango kina Plato at San Agustin. Hinggil sa modernistang kalakaran, nagtawiran ang lakas ng Reality-Principle at Pleasure-Principle ni Freud at sa pagsasabwatan ng Diyos at jouissance ng babae sa siko-analytikong ispekulasyon ni Jacques Lacan. Maidadagdag din ang obserbasyon ni Wendy Doniger, dalubhasang mananaliksik, tungkol sa sitwasyon ng magkatalik: “A woman being possessed in sex, may yet be the subject, the only possessor, of the volatile element of awareness….For there is no way in which this pristine clarity, this strict division into sexual subject and object can withstand the facts of human experience in the world, the deviousness and duplicity, the lies and illusions that mark the relations and especially the sexual relations between people” (2000, 15). Samakatwid, nalulusaw ang mga kontradiksiyon sa proseso ng negasyon-ng-negasyon na pinuntirya sa unahan.

Lalong Magiting ang Magbigay kaysa Tumanggap

      Sa disiplina ng antropolohiya (sangguniin sina Mauss, Levi-Strauss, Godelier), ang sekswalidad sa kalikasan ay walang tiyak na determinasyon, manapa’y pasumala o palambang. Sa mundo ng mga hayup, kahit sino ay pwedeng makipagtalik kaninuman. Nabuo ang lipunan sa bisa ng maayos na pagpapalitan ng babae sa pag-aasawa (exogamy), na nagdulot sa babae ng halagang kultural. Pinagpapalitan ng mga tribu ang kanilang kababaihan sa isang tiyak na panuntunan ng regulasyong bumubuo sa bawat pangkat. Nakilala kung sino sila, sino tayo—-sino ang naiiba, ang ‘di kasali o banyaga/etsa-pwera. Kakawing ng regla sa kasal at pag-aasawa ang gawing pagtumbas (reciprocity) o palitang patas. Sa gayon, kung may ibinigay ka, tatanggap ka rin (Mauss 1990). Ipinaaalala sa lahat na ang anumang gusto mo ay hindi laging masusunod—namamayani ang tunggalian ng mga pwersa’t interest, ang kontradiksiyong tumutuhog sa bawat bahagi ng kaayusan. Ang babaeng ‘di-nag-asawa at nagkaanak ay sintomas ng gusot, ligalig, gulong gumigiba sa pinagkasunduang kaayusan, sagisag ng potensiyal ng humanidad na sinisikil at sinusugpo. Samakatwid, implikasyon ng nailahad sa pambungad, si Rita ang tabu, ang sakripisyong alay, na susi sa pagbukas ng mas marangal at dakilang kinabukasan ng bayan.

Sa balangkas ng ugnayan sa nobela, tila nalabag ang tabu ng incest (kahit hindi magkadugo ang dalawa) sa dahas ni Pepe at pagtaksil sa asawang si Berta. Asersiyon iyon ng karapatan ng patriyarko sa unang pagbawi ng pagkabirhen ng babae, poder na biglang naisalin sa halagang apat-na-raang pisong utang. Ipinalaglag ang sanggol na bunga ng dahas—isang krimeng ‘di masambit muli, paglabag sa doktrina ng namamayaning relihiyon.  Naging ari ng pamilihan ang nasiphayong babae, magagamit ng sinumang kayang umarkila. Upahan ang lakas-paggawa ni Rita tulad noong mga arawang trabahador na napanood ni Celso sa daungan. Hindi ito resiprokal na pagpapalitan—ninanakaw ng Madre ng burdel ang sarplas-na-halaga sa panahong ginagamit si Rita, hindi lang panahon kundi buong pagkatao. Karaniwan ang babae ay nasanay sa pag-aalaga ng pamilya sa tahanan, buong-pusong inihahandog ang sarili sa kapakanan ng mga kadugo, hindi sa gawaing walang kauuwian. Kaya kusang tanggap ang sakripisyo (tula ng maraming karakter sa literatura, halimbawa, Clarissa Harlowe ni Samuel Richardson o Justine ni Marquis de Sade, na tinalakay ni Carter 1978, 48) nang walang inaasahang gantimpala. 

Magkaiba nga ang sensibilidad ng babae sa lalaki. Nailahad ni Virginia Held na ang maka-lalaking moralidad ay walang muwang sa sensibilidad ng kababaihan na kung magpapasiya, laging kasangkot ang “actual relationships between embodied persons…And [women] often pay attention to feelings of empathy and caring to suggest what we ought to do rather than relying as fully as possible on abstract rules of reason” (1994, 168), alinsunod sa saliksik nina Carol Gilligan at iba pang peministang dalubhasa. Sa kasong ito ni Rita, naduhagi ang babae sa putahan, natuyuan ng reserba o panlaan, at naging instrumento sa pagpaparaos ng mga lalaking naging kalakal din ng hibo o bugso ng kabiguan. Kapansanan at korapsyon ‘di lamang ng katawan kundi ng buong pagkatao/kaluluwa, identidad, ang mapapala.

Nabanggit na sa unahan ang “double standard,” kumbensyon ng kerida o concubine, at pahintulot ng gobyerno sa operasyon ng mga cabaret, salon, casa, at iba pang lugar sa promiskuwong ugnayan. Halimbawa, pinahintulutan ng Amerikanong administrasyon ang pag-iral ng pulang distrito ng Gardenia, Sampaloc, Maynila. Isang ‘di-maiiwasang himpilan ng bisyo iyon sa tingin ng pamahalaan. Maisusulit na ang pananagutan ay dapat iukol sa lipunan, hindi sa indibidwal na itinulak ng mga pangyayari (Simmel 2004). Sa binayarang pagtatalik, lahat ng katangiang personal ay nawawala, ang halagang pambihira ay napapawi. Natanggalan ng puri o dignidad, walang lugod na nalasap, sa halip nasadlak sa yamot at hinanakit, si Rita ay naibalik nga sa sirkulasyon ng mga komoditi ngunit walang katumbas na makapag-aanak at makapag-aaruga ng mga kadugo sa isang pamilya. Ang kasalanan ay hindi kina Pepe o Rita kundi sa lipunang nagpapaganap ng mga batas at panuntunan sa malisya’t deshumanisadong pakikisalamuha.  Ang lipunan ay totalidad ng samot-saring relasyon, hindi bunton ng mga lumulutang na monad (nagsasariling diwa, sa metapisika ni Leibniz) o kamalayang watak-watak at atomistiko.

Ilang pag-uulik-ulik ang ‘di maipagpapaliban. Naaksaya ba ang pagkakataong iyon? Nailigtas si Rita mula sa negosyo ng Madre at naging alaga siya ni Celso. Walang kapalit—hindi na kasali sa normal na pakikitungo. Naputol ang bahaginan, ang pagsasalu-salo, ang paghahandog ng regalo, at pag-aalay ng walang-silbing bagay. Nailigpit ang biktima at tagapagligtas sa isang masukal na sulok sa gilid ng lungsod, isang taguan ng mga takas, isang asilo ng mga mongha’t asetikong nagpepenitensiya. Hinihintay na lamang ang panghihina ng katawan ni Rita, lubhang paghihirap sa sakit na walang lunas, at ‘di maipagpapalibang paglaho ng kamalayan. Tumawag ng manggagamot ang katulong, ngunit pari ang dumating. Misteryo ng kabilang ibayo ng buhay ang dapat asikasuhin, hindi na makamundong ligaya supling sa erotikang pagsasanib na lumulunas sa indibidwal na paghihirap. Ano ang leksiyon ng pagwawaldas, ang gastahan ng nauubos na elan vital sa romantikong komunikasyon ng kaluluwa?  Iyon ba ang kalayaan o kaluwalhatiang minimithi ni Celso?

Tatsulok ng Gantihan at Bigayan

     Sa teorya ni Marx, ang pagharang ng salapi at pagtalukbong ng komoditi-petisismo sa tunay na ugnayan ng mga tao ay dahilan ng alenasyong lumulukob sa lipunan. Hindi masapol ito ni Celso: payag siyang ipagbili ang kanyang nilikhang katha at, sa bayad noon, bilhin ang kalayaan ni Rita. Pansamantalang mediyasyon ito bago negasyon ng negasyon: pagtubos ng utang.  Kinukubli ng salapi-komoditi ang awtentikong relasyon ng bawat nilikha. Sa pagkasakit ni Rita sa tagong pook, hiwalay sa madla, tumambad kay Celso ang kamatayang sumisira sa ilusyon na siya, walang iba pa, ang umuugit at gumagabay sa kanilang buhay. Tumalab ito dahil sa papel na ginaganap ng babae bilang sakop ng tabu at paglabag dito, ang eksena ng sakripisyo at pagsilang ng sagradong pagkilala sa sangkatauhan (Mauss & Hubert 1968; Dupre 2008).

Si Rita ay sumuko kay Pepe at naging tampulan/timbulan ng simbuyong erotika ng kalalakihan. Isang ekstrabagansang pista ang nilahukan nila ni Celso. Ang babae ang paraan ng komunikasyon: “The sexual relationship is itself communication and a movement. It is like a celebration of nature, and because it is essentially a communication it provides an outward movement in the first place” (Bataille, sinipi ni Richman 1982, 80).  Sa 2/3 bahagdan ng nobela, nagsilbing pretext o alibi si Rita upang makipagtalastasan sa kaibigan at sa mga kamanunulat. Ngunit simulang lumigpit sila sa kubling lugar, naputol ang ugnayan nila—si Celso’y lubusang itinakwil ng ama, at si Rita nama’y nabura sa sirkulo ng kumbersasyong publiko. Lumayo si Celso sa madla, “Hindi sapagkat ikinahihiya ang pakikisama kay Rita, kundi sa pag-ilag na ang pinakamamahal niyang katauhan nito’y maging sangkalan pa at tadtaran ng sari-saring upasala” (Aguilar 1950, 69).  Sapat na ba ang pag-ibig sa pagpapanatag at kusang paghilom ng sugat ng magkasuyo? Salungat sa kanilang inaasahan, sadyang nabulabog at napadpad sa tabi ang dalawang magkasiping, nawalan ng balanse at nauyot. Wika ni Bataille: “The violence of love leads to tenderness, the lasting form of love, but it brings to the striving of one heart toward another the same quality of disorder, the same thirst for losing consciousness and the same aftertaste that is found in the mutual desire for each other’s body” (Richman 1982, 84). Magkasiping na naman ang Eros at Thanatos, jouissance at kamatayan, naisantabi ang polarisasyon ng Eros at Agape.

Sa antas na ito, kailangang maibukod ang erotikang pag-ibig (Eros na tinukoy ni Plato at Griyegong milotohiya) sa pagmamahal sa kapwa o Agape (sa teolohiyang Kristiyano). Ito ang klasikong basehan ng teorya ni Bataille. Sa diyalogong Symposium ni Plato, ang pag-ibig ay pagnanais sa isang bagay na wala sa atin ngayon (aktwalidad) ngunit nasa ating kalooban (ideyalidad).  Ang nais natin na wala pa ngayon ay kaganapan—pagnanais sa pagbulas ng sarili, pagsilang sa isang mabuti’t magandang kabuhayan. Sa erotikang pagnanais sa Forma ng kagandahang nasa isip, nagpapasasa tayo sa “true virtue to become the friend of God and be immortal” (95). 

Sa kabilang dako, Agape ay pag-ibig ng Diyos na katambal ng pagnanais ng tao na pagsunod sa batas ng kalikasan, na kaakibat sa batas ng kalangitan, ayon kay Santo Tomas. Ayon naman kay Bishop Anders Nygren, Agape ay walang motibasyon, mapanlikha, at taga-usig ng pakikisama sa Diyos na nagbubuklod sa lahat, kapit-bahay man o estranghero (1971, 158-61). Sa unang sulyap, Eros ang gumana sa ugnayan nina Celso at Rita, subalit kung maiging timbangin, Agape ang nakasalalay doon, lamang hindi Diyos ang bukal noon kung hindi paglabag sa tabu at batas ng burgesyang lipunan. Nakasabit din ang pagtuklas sa wagas na kabanalan bunga ng sakripisyo, likas na pag-alay o pagwawaldas na yumayari ng bago’t mas makatuturang komunidad—isang utopikong kaayusan—na, sa gitna ng dekadenteng orden, ay matatamo lamang sa kabaliwan at pagtampalasan sa baligho’t buktot na kapaligiran.

  Natabunan ang Agape, ang diyos ng paring sumuko at dagling lumisan, ng Eros, libog o rahuyo. Ito ang Pleasure-principle (antitesis ng Reality-principle) ni Freud na umugit sa death-drive, ang Thanatos (hinggil sa limitasyon ni Freud, sangguniin ang Red Collective 1978). Sa akdang “Beyond the Pleasure Principle” ni Freud, ang sapilitang pag-uulit (repetition compulsion) ay nakapangingibabaw sa udyok ng kaluguran at nagtutulak sa tao sa kawalan-ng-gulat o pagkamanhid—sa madaling salita, kamatayan. Pagpanaw ang bunga ng libog. Pagunita ni Freud: “If we are to take it as a truth that knows no exception that everything living dies for internal reasons—becomes inorganic once again—then we shall be compelled to say that ‘the aim of all life is death’” (1989, 613). Paulit-ulit si Celso sa balak na tubusin si Rita, paulit-ulit niyang isinalaysay ang nakaraan sa kaibigan at taga-hanga; paulit-ulit na parang litanyang dasal ang kanyang paghanga’t papuri na isang sakramentalisasyon ng dilag: “Pagkadilag-dilag ni Rita sa kanyang masid. Ang kahapon nilang puno ng matatamis na alaala at masasaklap na pangyayari, ang nagdaang mabulaklak at lipos ng tinik ay paminsanang napalarawan sa kanyang alaala. Si Ritang talaga ang tunay niyang pag-ibig, dito napabuhos ang kanyang kalooban, at saka siyang mamamatay…” (1950, 84). Sumingit na ang distansiyang pang-estetika sa imbentaryo ng lalaking alam din na “ang kamatayan ay isang bagay na kailangan ng buhay upang ito’y lumusog…” (1950, 77). Laging pinagpipilitan na ang pag-ibig niya ay dakila, “pag-ibig na di magmamaliw”—isang kalkulasyon ng sugalero sa panaginip upang ilagan ang pagkatalo.

Adyenda ng Paglabag at Pagsusuwail

Tanggap na ang sakripisyo ng dalawang protagonista ay bukal ng awtentikong identidad, ang rebolusyon laban sa imperyalismo at kakutsabang piyudal-komprador-oligarkong uri. May ilang tanong pang dapat sagutin sa buntot ng ating interpretasyon. Halimbawa: bakit pinalawig ni Aguilar ang naratibo sa huling eksena ng paghihirap sa sakit at nakapupukaw na kamatayan ni Rita? Bakit nagwakas sa nakapanlulumong kabaliwan ni Celso?  

Nasiyasat na natin ang isang parikala: ang prinsipyo ng katungkulang sinunod ni Celso ay ‘di nakabawas sa paglabag niya sa ortodoksiyang moralidad ng epoka ni Reyna Victoria: petisismo ng kasal, birheng asawa, sagradong pamilya. Winasak niya ang tabu ng pagpapahalaga sa isang puta, isang bagay na marumi, salaula, masama. At sa pagsuway sa utos ng patriyarkong orden, hindi lamang paglabag sa ama kundi sa kodigo ng burgesya’t Kristiyanidad, si Celso ang kumatawan sa negasyon, sa pagwaldas, sa pagsira sa kinagawian. Naging pagkakataon ang pagligtas sa nabuwal na babae na nagpalaya ng natimping kapangyarihan ng emosyon, ng mapanirang kahumalingan.  Ang pag-aksaya, ang pagsayang sa rahuyong simbuyo na dapat iukol sa trabahong kumikita ng yaman, ay maituturing na rebelyon sa kapitalismong nagpapanggap na banal. Walang tubo kundi aksaya, inihandog ni Celso ang panahon at enerhiya sa walang pakundangang kasiyahan at kolektibong pagtanggap sa anumang pambubusabos na ipinataw ng kapalaran. 

Totoong nakasisindak ang pagwaldas at pagsayang ng lakas ni Celso sa kasiyahang karnal na hinaluan ng neo-Platonikong ideyalismo. Walang layong magtayo ng pamilya ang magkasintahan, kahit pahihintulutan ng kalusugan. Ang kilabot na ito lamang, ang sakripisyo ng dalawang gumaganap, ang makapagpapanumbalik ng kabanalan. Ang pagwawaldas ang maglulunsad ng sakramental na katangiang taglay ng kalupitan at kapinsalaang bunga ng erotikong pagtatalik. Ngunit sapat na ba ito upang baguhin ang lipunan? Sa pagsansala sa patriyarkong herarkiya ng salapi at aping trabaho, pati na sa inang sinusuob, nabuksan ang daan tungo sa pagkawala sa mapangamkam na sarili, konsumerismo, kalkulasyon ng tubo sa puhunan. Paggastos, paggugol, sinumpang pagsuway sa ipinagbabawal, walang-ganting pagbibigay, pag-sayang sa anumang sagwil sa engkwentro-sa-kaibuturan—ito ang isinakatuparan ni Celso pagtalikod sa masunuring pakikisalamuha. 

Nakahulagpos nga sa bilangguan ng salapi at mapagsamantalang pamamahala ng kolonyallismo’t monopolyo kapital si Celso. Subalit si Rita? Natabunan siya ng lungkot at pagsisisi, hangad na iwanan ang pisikal na pag-iisa sa kamatayang magbubuklod sa kanila sa kalahatan. Himutok niya: “Ang kamatayan ko ay iyo namang ikabibihis sa maraming mga tiisin at pagkadustang binabata ngayon” (Aguilar 1950, 81). Alingawngaw ng pangako ng magong tagapagligtas? Hindi pa rin makatalikod si Rita sa dikta ng komersiyo: “Celso, mamamatay akong di man lamang nakaganti sa iyong mga pautang!” (Aguilar 1950, 72).  Sayang lang ang pagpupunyagi ni Celso, sayang lang ang pagsisikap—iyan ang husga ni Rita, alay ang sarili sa ritwal ng komunyon/komunikasyon.

Bagamat nagduda si Celso sa katarungang mapapala sa paniniwala, umasa pa rin siya na mangyayari iyon. Gulong-gulo ang isip ni Celso habang naghihingalo ang kasintahan: “Kung nagkataong ang kapalaran ay isang tao, marahil kanyang hinamon. Kay dami ng mapapalad at nasasagasaan, kay dami ng nagtatawag sa kasawian ay kung bakit siya pa ang napag-itingan ng masamang palad…Hindi pala Hudas lamang ang dapat magngitngit, ang mga paris man niya’y dapat ding mapabulusok sa pagpapatiwakal” (Aguilar 1950, 77). Naisip ni Celso na “hindi makasasama ang mangumpisal: sinumang haharap sa darakilang hukuman ay dapat maglinis ng anomang nagawang kasalanan dito sa lupa” (Aguilar 1950, 78). Nang dumating ang pari na handang dinggin ang kumpisal, nakita ang mga larawan ng Venus na hubo at biglang nagpasiyang “Impiyerno pala ang aking kinasuutan” (Aguilar 1950, 80). Nakakikilabot ang mga imahen!

Naligaw ang Sugo ng Diyos

Tigib ng parikala’t nakatatawang detalye ang mamamatyagan sa engkuwentro ng Babaeng Nabuwal at ministro ng simbahan. Naakit ang pari sa kagandahang nasulyapan. Nag-umpisang manalangin ang pari, ngunit sa panimdim ni Rita, ang alagad ng Diyos ay isang kliyenteng handang kumubabaw, isang palalong pusakal: “Ako’y pagod na, hIndi mangyayari. Hindi naman ako kasangkapan at dapat magpahinga kahit sandali. Ano ngayon kung ako’y nasa bahay ng masasama? Kay daming ibon, kay ningning ng mga tala. Ibig ko’y maging ibon, ibig ko’y makalipad” (Aguilar 1950, 82). Hinimok ng pari na huwag magkaila ng kasalanan, na tinugon ni Rita na akala’y bagong panhik na “customer”: 

“Ako’y walang sala…Sila ang nagbulusok sa akin at si Pepeng may kagagawan ng lahat ay ‘di ko mapapatawad na talaga…Naging kalakal ang aking laman, naging pamatid-uhaw ang katawan ko…. Ako’y hindi na sa lahat ngayon, hindi na kahalaga ng pilak ang aking katawan. Kay Celso na lamang ako, sa aking irog at pinakamamahal na si Celso.  Ang kanyang pagmamahal ay siyang bumihis sa akin. Lumayas ka rito,” at ang pari’y itinulak. “Celso, halika, yakapin mo ako nang mahigpit, nang ang panlalamig ng aking mga laman ay mawala. Halika, aking irog, hahagkan kita ng isang pahimakas. Ibig kong maging saksi ang kamatayan ng paggiliw ko sa iyo. Ang mga paru-paro, ang mga bulaklak…. (Aguilar 1950, 82-83).

Sa wakas nitong melodramatikong tagpo, binigyan ng puwang ng nobelista ang mga pagbubulay-bulay ng pari. Sa balik-tanaw, iyon ay tumutugma sa mga sentimyento ng tagapagsalaysay-na-medyo-maalam nang lumisan na: “…Napagwariwari ang kawalang-halaga kung minsan ng kanyang banal na tungkulin sa kapangyarihan ng tukso. Bakit naman kaya ang tukso’y pinapanaig kung minsan ng Diyos. Upang masubok marahil ang kabanalan ng tao. Ngunit hindi rin naman, sapagkat kung ganito nga ay maipalalagay na nalito marahil ang lumalang ng lupa at langit kaya ‘di nasukat kapagkaraka ang kalooban ng tao. Datapuwat ang Diyos ay marunong sa lahat…” (Aguilar 1950, 83-84). Sa pananaw ni Bataille, “Sacrifice is the remedy to a world devoid of transcendence” (1962, 69)—ang sakripisyo ni Rita sa mundong walang diyos kundi salapi, ang idolo ng merkado at materyalistikong modernidad (Mauss & Hubert 1968).

Karugtong lang ito ng mga panimdim ni Celso nang ikumpara niya ang sarili sa mga taong sawa na sa buhay: “Tila nga naman walang totoo kundi ang kamatayan…Ngunit kung sa lupa man ay naghahari ang walang likat na pagpipingki ng mga damdaming ibinubunga ng simbuyo ng kalooban, sa itaas, sa bughaw ng kalangitang bayan ng mga tala at bituin, ay panatag na kapayapaan ang nakapangyayari. Naitanong tuloy sa kanyang sarili kung bakit gayon sa itaas at sa ibaba’y hindi na. Doon ay tahimik at dito’y masigalot. Kinusa kaya ng Dakilang Lumikha ang ganitong pagkakaiba, upang magkalibangan siyang panoorin pagkatapos?” (1950, 53-54). Napagwari niyang nagkamali ang Lumikha o nakaligtaang iukol ang isang araw “sa paggamot ng mga sugat ng katauhan. Sayang!” (Aguilar 1950, 54).  Kung pati ang balakyot at salanggapang ay likha ng makapangyarihang Diyos, walang sayang—lahat ng nilikha ay may kabuluhan.

Gayak sa Pagbabanyuhay

Sumapit tayo sa pansamantalang transpormasyon ng birtwal na daigdig nina Rita at Celso. Ang mga palamuting larawang nagsabit sa palarindingan na pawang nagdiriwang sa kagandahan ng mundong nadarama ay wala ng bighani o gayuma. Isinumpa iyon ng paring nakasulyap doon. Si Marta, hindi ang pari, ang karismatikong tauhan sa huling tagpo na nagdulot ng kaunting normalidad sa sanktuwaryo. Si Marta ay nagsilbing pintakasi, naging tulay ng pari upang makapasok sa altar ng sakripisyo. Bigo ang pakay ng pari na purgahin ang kasalanan ng babaeng halos bangkay. 

Isinadula ni Rita ang ritwal ng pasyon, ang paglampas sa taning at paglabag sa hanggahan upang makamit ang sakramentong kasukdulan. Orgasmikong tuwa ang himatong ni Rita: “Ikaw ang humango sa akin sa katayuan kong api at ikaw rin ang nagbukas sa akin ng pinto ng kabuhayan…Mamamatay ako upang ikaw ay mabuhay” (Aguilar 1950, 73). Nagsanib ang magkalaban. Nawalat ang tabu, lumaya ang enerhiya ng kaluluwang kumilig at pumaimbulog sa kawalan. ‘Di maikakaila: “Post coitum animal tristis est.  Ang namatay ay pamanhik ng komunidad sa makapangyarihang puwersang makapagliligtas sa anumang panganib—salot, baha, lindol, sunog, tag-tuyot, malaking disgrasya. Si Rita ang sinakripisyong “scapegoat” na tutubos sa utang ng lipunang buktot at lapastangan.

Nagwakas ang kasaysayan sa eksenang madaling bumuntot sa pagkapiping bigla ni Celso sa “mabangis na dagok ng kapalaran.” Nang makita si Celso ng bantay-libingan na nagkukutkot ng lupa sa burol ni Rita at itinanong kung ano ang hinuhukay niya, sagot ni Celso: “Huwag kang maingay, hahatian kita sa kayamanan kong naririto kung makuha” (Aguilar 1950, 85). Alalaong baga’y nagsaginto ang nilalangit niya, hindi umakyat sa itaas, Naging minero ang makatang dati’y lumilipad sa kaluwalhatian. Sa pinakamababang lugar ng pinakahamak at pinakaaba namugad at bumulaos ang banal na sangkap na gumigiba sa mga pader, bakuran, tarangkahan, at nagsisiwalat ng kaibahan, ng tsansa, aksidente, kalampasan. Ito ang hubad na katotohanan: ang sindak at hilakbot sa masagwa’t mahalay na pangyayari ay signos ng sakripisyo, ang danas ng pagtawid sa kaibuturan. 

Sa tagpong ito lumilitaw ang sakramentong kaganapan, ang maigting na esensiya, ang makatuturang buod ng buhay ng tao (Bataille 1992, 43-52). Natuklasan sa pagkaputa ni Rita, sa mahapding kahayupan ng pagbibili ng katawan ng mga babae, ang natatanging pagkakataon ng pagsugod sa hangganan, ang komprontasyon sa itinakdang espasyo na hindi malalagpasan. Ang biktima ay gumanap ng mediyasyon sa pagitan ng kabanalan at kabuktutan, sa pagitan ng inulilang nilikha at malikot na komunidad. Sa panig ni Rita, inialay niya ang sarili (sa parirala ni Julia Kristeva tungkol kina Romeo at Juliet ni Shakespeare) “to death in order to become immortal within the symbolic community of others restored by love…An Ego is a body to be put to death, or at least to be deferred, for the love of the Other and so that Myself can be. Love is a death sentence that causes me to be. When death, which is intrinsic to amorous passion, takes place in reality and carries away the body of one of the lovers, it is at its most unbearable; the surviving lover then realizes the abyss that separates the imaginary death that he experienced in his passion from the relentless reality from which love had forever set him apart: saved…” (1987, 252-53). Sa matalisik na pagtatasa ni Kristeva, na siya ring mapangahas na tesis na inilatag natin sa komentaryong ito, magkayapos lagi ang Eros at Thanatos.

Maaring ilagom na ang pangunahing adhika ni Aguilar dito ay umaayon sa nabanggit na programa ni Bataille: buhayin ang dalubhasang kabatiran hinggil sa banal o sakramentong kakayahan ng tao (tungkol sa motif ng sagradong danas, tingnan din sina Eliade 1987 at Dupre 2008). Nagsilbing barometro rin ito ng Zeitgeist. Walang di-masasarhang agwat sa pagitan ng tao at bathala, ng kalikasan at espirituwalidad.  Itinampok sa nobela ang pagsanib ng immanence (kaibuturan/katimtiman) at transcendence (kalampasan), kahayupan at kagitingan, sa diyalektika ng magkabilang dulo ng sambayanang sinakop habang masilakbo pa ang paghihimagsik sa kabila ng pagkagapi’t pagsuko ng puno ng Republika.

Sa halip na anarkiya, makatuturang pagbabagong-buhay ang inasinta ng imahinasyon ni Aguilar. Sa paglabag ni Celso sa tabu ng lipunan—pagtakwil sa ama, pagbunyi sa maruming babae, pagsira sa ipinagbabawal, pagkagumon sa gawaing pag-aksaya’t pagwawaldas, walang direksiyon na paglaboy sa lungsod, pagluhog sa guniguni at damdaming mailap—umigkas ang nasikil na enerhiya ng haraya at nagapi niya ang anomie/alyenasyon ng burgesyang orden ng komoditi-petisismo na binulatlat nina Marx at Engels (Aguilar 2002; San Juan 2017). Kaalinsabay nito, nailunsad ang pundasyon ng sakramentong larangan: pagkasanib ng mga Kaibahan (Otherness) at pagkilala sa mapangahas at mapagpalayang kakayahan ng taong may sariling kamalayan sa pagbabago ng kaniyang kabuhayan at mundo. Wala nang mas makabuluhang asignaturang naisakatuparan ang manunulat kaysa rito sa panahon ng pananakop ng imperyong Amerika at walang-kaluluwa’t palamarang paghahari ng mapagsamantalang oligarkiyang naghari noon at patuloy na nagpapasasa hanggang ngayon.

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Posted in DISCOURSES ON CONTRADICTIONS

Signals for a Filipino Exile– sent by E. San Juan, Jr.


EMERGENCY SIGNALS FROM A FILIPINO EXILE

BY E. SAN JUAN, JR

Vinta

 

 

Ang hindi lumingon sa pinanggalingan
ay hindi makararating sa paroroonan.
[One who does not look back to where he came
from will not reach his destination.]

–Ancient Tagalog Saying
By Way of Prologue

“Inside and outside my country, tyranny reigns….” Thus began the unforgettable narrative of Florante at Laura (1838) by Francisco Balagtas, a poem recognized as the inaugural discourse of Filipino nationalism. It inspired popular and ilustrado agitation, including the Cavite Mutiny of 1872 which led to the execution of the three martyr-priests Jose Burgos, Mariano Gomez, and Jacinto Zamora. In his travels in Europe, Jose Rizal, the national hero, constantly read Balagtas’ awit which inspired his novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo; smuggled into the islands, Rizal’s writings acted as “emergency signals” that sparked the Katipunan revolt of 1896. Charged for being filibusteros in the wake of the Cavite Mutiny, influential Filipino intellectuals were deported by the Spanish colonial government to Marianas Islands. Rizal himself was exiled to Dapitan, Mindanao, in 1892 four years before being shot on December 29, 1896 in Manila, the capital city.
During Spanish rule, the physical movement of the Indios was tightly regulated, under strict surveillance by both secular and spiritual authorities. Outside and inside the colony, the Filipino subaltern was a marked man. Women of course were confined to domestic and institutional “prisons” and their disciplinary regimes. Space was systematically policed, monitored, and demarcated. After Marianas Islands, Guam (not counting the prison of Montjuich in Barcelona where Rizal and Isabelo de los Reyes were once interned) became the next destination for insurgents. After the United States crushed the revolutionary forces of the first Philippine Republic, it sent the most distinguished Filipino insurgent Apolinario Mabini to Guam for refusing to sign a loyalty oath. Others chose Hong Kong, Japan, or recalcitrant solipsism as alternative surrogates for the occupied homeland.
In the period of direct U.S. imperial domination, space came under the rule of market capital and commodity exchange. The practice of removal or transporting Filipinos from their regional habitat to other parts of the Empire would no longer be called deportation or exile but recruitment or migrant passage—mainly to the Hawaii sugar plantations. Although Filipinos were now U.S. “wards,” still, Pedro Calosa, leader of the Tayug revolt, was banished from Hawaii to the Philippine Islands territory for the “crime” of union organizing. In the next decades, the generation of Carlos Bulosan and Philip Vera Cruz—thousands of dispossessed peasants and workers—shifted their port of entry to San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle to become the migrant farmworkers and cannery workers who would pioneer the heroic project of mobilizing the multiethnic U.S. proletariat from the thirties to the sixties, ending with the formation of the United Farmworkers of America.
Meanwhile, subaltern pensionados, some schooled by the soldiers who defeated Aguinaldo, traveled to U.S. universities under contract. They returned to serve as bureaucrats and propagandists in the U.S. administration and, afterwards, in the Commonwealth experiment of neocolonialism under Manuel Quezon and in the post-World War II Republic. A lonely deviant was Jose Garcia Villa. His revolt against hypocritical bourgeois morality (which the pensionados symbolized) and surviving feudal mores led to his self-exile, first in Albuquerque, New Mexico, as a melancholy soul, and then to New York City as a kind of hybrid denizen of the “internal colonies” of the metropole. Although celebrated today by a few isolated Filipino writers, Villa has never really been admitted to the canon of American literature, so that no country or people can really grant him any credential or status of belonging to a distinct cultural heritage except the Philippine nation-state and the handful of Filipinos who care about a national culture. Cosmopolitanism or the universal citizenship of globalization is still a mirage for neocolonials.
Today, Filipinos count unofficially as the largest Asian American group—more than three million—in the United States. They no longer work in the agribusiness of California or the plantations of Hawaii—some argue that General Cesar Taguba of recent fame as investigator of the Abu Ghraib prison scandals, may testify to the distance Filipinos have come from being cooks in the White House or stewards in the U.S. Navy. But, as everyone notes, the community is more scattered and divided politically, certainly economically (social class), than other nationalities, owing chiefly to the unsettled neocolonial condition of their country of origin. What is more ominous is that after September 11, 2001, several hundred Filipinos have been summarily deported, and many more are threatened by exclusion or expulsion, under the controversial USA Patriot Act. We seem to be returning to the time when Filipinos were hunted and lynched by white vigilantes in Washington and California, or else exhibited as exotic specimens in Exposition Centers or safely policed shopping bazaars. We are again an important target population.
Of more consequence today is the unprecedented “diaspora” of ten million Filipinos around the world, mainly as domestics, semi-skilled workers, caregivers, entertainers, and professionals—the Philippines has surpassed other countries in becoming the largest supplier of contract labor (the infamous Guantanamo detention cells were built by Filipino workers). But this has also meant that the image of the Filipino has become that of “servants of globalization,” as one textbook puts it.
The following reflections—in truth, fragments from an exile’s journals— were written in the mid-nineties to address this altered situation of the Filipino abroad, at the end of the Cold War and the beginning of the era of what is now labeled the “clash of civilizations” with the “war on terrorism” as its offshoot. It is coincidentally the era of the homeless, the displaced, the refugee of genocidal wars. For us, it is the era of the Overseas Filipino Worker, of Flor Contemplacion, and the contrived scourge of the “Abu Sayyaf.” Individual or personal cases of Filipino exile have metamorphosed into the generalized plight of economic refugees or of political asylum (like Benigno Aquino Jr. in the period of the Marcos dictatorship), émigrés, expatriates, and into some kind of diaspora sponsored by the World Bank/International Monetary Fund—of course, a diaspora with Filipino specific characteristics, not to be confused with the prototypical Jewish diaspora, or subsequent replicas (Chinese, Indian, African).
Exile has now assumed multiple masks. Victim of Zionism and Western imperialism, the late Palestinian scholar Edward Said describes exile as “the unhealable rift forced between a human being and a native place, between the self and its true home: its essential sadness can never be surmounted” (Reflections in Exile and Other Essays, 2000). He is echoing the great Dante’s elegy of the exile in Divina Commedia: “You will leave everything loved most dearly; and this is the arrow that the bow of exile shoots first….” Bewailing the predicament of millions of Palestinians, and by extension, millions of refugees all over the world (now including Filipinos), Said attests to the pathos of exile in “the loss of contact with the solidity and the satisfaction of earth.” This pathos of alienation does not, I think, befit the examples offered by Rizal, Mabini, or sacrificed representatives of the Filipino nation/people-in-the-making. Nonetheless, my “untimely” intervention in the book From Exile to Diaspora (Westview Press, 1998) can be considered an attempt to recover the solidity of Filipino “earth” via the route of the Filipino proverb cited as epigraph and its allusion to the nascent reality of beleaguered but liberated zones in the homeland (homecoming is thus always a permanent possibility wherever and whenever we commit ourselves to the principles of social justice and communal-democratic sovereignty) which are the places of hope and eventual reunion. Despite local differences and multiple languages, the submerged rallying cry of all Filipinos abroad, of all Filipinos overseas, is: “Tomorrow, see you in Manila!”
____________________

It has been almost 40 years now, to this longest day, 21 June 1996, of my sojourn here in the United States ever since we left Manila. The time of departure can no longer be read in the number of passports discarded, visas stamped over and over again. A palimpsest to be deciphered, to be sure. But you can always foretell and anticipate certain things. For example, when someone meets you for the first time, this Caucasian–in general, Western–stranger would irresistibly and perhaps innocently (a reflex of common-sensical wisdom) always ask: “And where are you from?” Alas, from the red planet Mars, from the volcanic terra of the as yet undiscovered satellite of Andromeda, from the alleys of Tondo and the labyrinths of Avenida Rizal….
The sociologist Zygmunt Bauman delineates the possible life-strategies that denizens of the postmodern era can choose: stroller, vagabond, tourist, player. In a world inhospitable to pilgrims, I opt for the now obsolete persona of the exile disguised as itinerant and peripatetic student without credentials or references, sojourning in places where new experiences may occur. No destination nor destiny, only a succession of detours and displacements.
Apropos of the sojourner, Cesar Vallejo writes during his exile in Paris, 12 November 1937: Acaba de pasar sin haber venido. [“He just passed without having come. “] A cryptic and gnomic utterance. One can interpret this thus: for the sake of a sustained bliss of journeying, the “passenger” (the heroine of the passage) forfeits the grace or climax of homecoming. But where is home? Home is neither on the range nor valley nor distant shores—it is no longer a “place” but rather a site or locus to which you can return no more, as Thomas Wolfe once elegized. We have not yet reached this stage, the desperate act of switching identities (as in Michaelangelo Antonioni’s The Passenger, where the protagonist’s itinerary ends in the ad hoc, repetitious, inconsequential passage into anonymous death) so as to claim the spurious originality of an “I,” the monadic ego, a.k.a. the foundation of all Western metaphysics. Our post-deconstructionist malaise forbids this detour, this escape. Antonioni’s existential “stranger” forswears the loved one’s offer of trust, finding danger even boring and trivial. After all, you are only the creature—not yet a cyborg—shunted from one terminus to another, bracketed by an a-methodical doubt and aleatory suspicion.
So here we are, “here” being merely a trope, a figure without referent or denotation. To such a denouement has Western consumerized technological society come, trivializing even Third World revolutions and violence as cinematic fare.

Beyond Rangoon is the latest of such commodities in the high-cultural supermarket of the Western metropolis. The setting is no longer Burma but Myamar. The names don’t matter; what is needed is some exotic location on which to transplant a white American woman’s psyche suffering a horrendous trauma: discovering the murdered bodies of her husband and son upon coming home from work. Desperate to put this horror behind her, she and her sister then join a tour to Myamar. Soon she gets involved in the popular resistance against a ruthless military dictatorship. So what happens? Carnage, melodramatic escapades, incredible violence and slaughter, until our heroine begins to empathize with the unruly folk and arguably finds her identity by rediscovering her vocation; as physician, at the end of the film, without much ado she begins to attend to the victims without thought of her own safety or pleasure. She is reconciled with the past, finding substitutes for the dead in “Third World” mutilated bodies. And so white humanity redeems itself again in the person of this caring, brave, daring woman whose “rite of passage” is the thematic burden of the film. It is a passage from death to life, not exactly a trans-migration from scenes of bloodletting to moments of peace and harmony; nonetheless, strange “Third World” peoples remain transfixed in the background, waiting for rescue and redemption. So for the other part of humanity, there is no movement but simply a varying of intensity of suffering, punctuated by resigned smiles or bitter tears.
So the “beyond” is staged here as the realization of hope for the West. But what is in it for us who are inhabiting (to use a cliche) the “belly of the beast”? But let us go back to Vallejo, or to wherever his imagination has been translocated. Come to think of it, even the translation of Vallejo’s line is an escape: there is no pronoun there. Precisely the absence of the phallus (if we follow our Lacanian guides) guarantees its infinite circulation as the wandering, nomadic signifier. Unsettled, travelling, the intractable vagrant….
Lost in the desert or in some wilderness, are we looking for a city of which we are unacknowledged citizens? Which city, Babylon or Jerusalem? St. Augustine reminds us: “Because of our desire we are already there, we have already cast our hope like an anchor on these shores….” By the logic of desire, the separation of our souls from our bodies is finally healed by identification with a figure like Christ who, in Pauline theology, symbolizes the transit to liberation from within the concrete, suffering body. What is foreign or alien becomes transubstantiated into a world-encompassing Ecclesia, a new polis in which we, you and I, find ourselves embedded.
__________

Stranger no more, I am recognized by others whom I have yet to identify and know. Instead of Albert Camus’ L’Etranger (which in my youth served as a fetish for our bohemian revolt against the provincial Cold War milieu of the Manila of the ’50s), Georg Simmel’s “The Stranger” has become of late the focus of my meditation. It is an enigmatic text whose profound implications cannot really be spelled out in words, only in lived experiences, in praxis.
Simmel conceives “the stranger” as the unity of two opposites: mutating between “the liberation from every given point in space” and “the conceptual opposite to fixation at such a point,” hence the wanderer defined as “the person who comes today and stays tomorrow.” Note that the staying is indefinite, almost a promise, not a certainty. But where is the space of staying, or maybe of malingering?
Simmel’s notion of space tries to bridge potentiality and actuality: “…although he has not moved on, he has not quite overcome the freedom of coming and going. He is fixed within a particular spatial group, or within a group whose boundaries are similar to spatial boundaries.” The wanderer is an outsider, not originally belonging to this group, importing something into it. Simmel’s dialectic of inside/outside spheres is tricky here; it may be an instance of wanting to have one’s cake and also eat it:

The unity of nearness and remoteness involved in every human relation is organized, in the phenomenon of the stranger, in a way which may be most briefly formulated by saying that in the relationship to him, distance means that he, who is close by, is far, and strangeness means that he, who also is far, is actually near. For, to be a stranger is naturally a very positive relation; it is a specific form of interaction. The inhabitants of Sirius are not really strangers to us, at least not in any sociologically relevant sense: they do not exist for us at all; they are beyond far and near. The stranger, like the poor and like sundry “inner enemies,” is an element of the group itself. His position as a full-fledged member involves both being outside it and confronting it. (footnote omitted)

And so, following this line of speculation, the query “Where are you from?” is in effect a token of intimacy. For the element which increases distance and repels, according to Simmel, is the one that establishes the pattern of coordination and consistent interaction that is the foundation of coherent sociality. Neither paradox nor aporia, this theme needs pursuing up to its logical or illogical end.
Between the essentialist mystique of the Volk/nation and the libertarian utopia of laissez-faire capitalism, the “stranger” subsists as a catalyzing agent of change. In other words, the subversive function of the stranger inheres in his being a mediator of two or more worlds. Is this the hybrid and in-between diasporic character of postcoloniality? Is this the indeterminate species bridging multiple worlds? Or is it more like the morbid specimens of the twilight world that Antonio Gramsci, languishing in prison, once alluded to, creatures caught between the ancien regime slowly dying and a social order that has not yet fully emerged from the womb of the old?
We are brought back to the milieu of transition, of vicissitudes, suspended in the proverbial conundrum of the tortoise overtaking the hare in Zeno’s paradox. This may be the site where space is transcended by time. The stranger’s emblematic message may be what one black musician has already captured in this memorable manifesto by Paul Gilroy: “It aint where you’re from, it’s where you’re at.”
Historically, the stranger in Simmel’s discourse emerged first as the trader. When a society needs products from outside its borders, a middleman is then summoned who will mediate the exchange. (If a god is needed, as the old adage goes, there will always be someone to invent him.) But what happens when those products coming from outside its territory begin to be produced inside, when a middleman role is no longer required, i.e. when the economy is closed, land divided up, and handicrafts formed to insure some kind of autarky? Then the stranger, who is the supernumerary (Simmel cites European Jews as the classic example), becomes the settler whose protean talent or sensibility distinguishes him. This sensibility springs from the habitus (to use Pierre Bourdieu’s term) of trading “which alone makes possible unlimited combinations,” where “intelligence always finds expansions and new territories,” because the trader is not fixed or tied to a particular location; he doesn’t own land or soil or any ideal point in the social environment. Whence originates his mystery? From the medium of money, the instrument of exchange:

Restriction to intermediary trade, and often (as though sublimated from it) to pure finance, gives him the specific character of mobility. If mobility takes place within a closed group, it embodies that synthesis of nearness and distance which constitutes the formal position of the stranger. For the fundamentally mobile person comes in contact, at one time or another, with every individual, but is not organically connected, through established ties of kinship, locality, and occupation, with any single one.

From this paradoxical site of intimacy and detachment, estrangement and communion, is born the quality of “objectivity” which allows the fashioning of superior knowledge. This does not imply passivity alone, Simmel argues: “it is a particular structure composed of distance and nearness, indifference and involvement.” For instance, the dominant position of the stranger is exemplified in the practice of those Italian cities that chose judges from outside the city because “no native was free from entanglement in family and party interests.” Can the court system in the Philippines ever contemplate this practice, courts which are literally family sinecures, nests of clan patronage and patriarchal gratuities? Only, I suppose, when there is a threat of interminable feuds, a cycle of vindictive retribution. Otherwise, legitimacy is always based on force underwritten by custom, tradition, the inertia of what’s familiar. So strangeness is subversive when it challenges the familiar and normal, the hegemony of sameness.
On the other hand, it may also be conservative. The stranger then, like Prince Myshkin in Dostoevsky’s The Idiot, becomes the occasion for a public display of intimacies. He becomes the hieratic vessel or receiver of confessions performed in public, of confidential information, secrets, rumors, etc. He is the bearer of guilt and purgation, the stigmata of communal responsibility and its catharsis. His objectivity is then a full-blown participation which, obeying its own laws, thus eliminates–Simmel theorizes–“accidental dislocations and emphases, whose individual and subjective differences would produce different pictures of the same object.” From this standpoint, the Prince is a stranger not because he is not Russian but because he “idiotically” or naively bares whatever he thinks–he says it like it is. Which doesn’t mean he doesn’t hesitate or entertain reservations, judgments, etc. Dostoevsky invents his escape hatch in the Prince’s epileptic seizures which become symptomatic of the whole society’s disintegrated totality.

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We begin to become more acquainted with this stranger as the spiritual ideal embedded in contingent reality. Part of the stranger’s objectivity is his freedom: “the objective individual is bound by no commitments which could prejudice his perception, understanding, and evaluation of the given.” Is this possible: a person without commitments, open to every passing opportunity? Baruch Spinoza, G. E. Moore, Mikhail Bakhtin are not wanted here. Ethics be damned.
At this juncture I think Simmel is conjuring up the image of the value-free sociologist who has completely deceived himself even of the historical inscription of his discipline, finally succumbing to the wish-fulfillment of becoming the all-knowing scientist of historical laws and social processes. Simmel is quick to exonerate the stranger, the middleman-trader, from charges of being a fifth columnist, an instigator or provocateur paid by outsiders. On the other hand, Simmel insists that the stranger “is freer, practically and theoretically; he surveys conditions with less prejudice; his criteria for them are more general and more objective ideals; he is not tied down in his action by habit, piety, and precedent.” The stranger has become some kind of omniscient deity, someone like the god of Flaubert and Joyce paring his fingernails behind the clouds while humanity agonizes down below.
Finally, Simmel points out the abstract nature of the relation of others to the stranger. This is because “one has only certain more general qualities in common,” not organic ties that are empirically specific to inhabitants sharing a common historical past, culture, kinship, etc. The humanity which connects stranger and host is precisely the one that separates, the element that cannot be invoked to unify the stranger with the group of which he is an integral part. So nearness and distance coalesce again: “to the extent to which the common features are general, they add, to the warmth of the relation founded on them, an element of coolness, a feeling of the contingency of precisely this relation—the connecting forces have lost their specific and centripetal character.”
One may interpose at this point: Why is Simmel formulating the predicament of the stranger as a paradox that too rapidly resolves the contradictions inherent in it? The dialectic is shortcircuited, the tension evaporated, by this poetic reflection: “The stranger is close to us, insofar as we feel between him and ourselves common features of a national, social, occupational, or generally human, nature. He is far from us, insofar as these common features extend beyond him or us, and connect us only because they cannot connect a great many people.” What generalizes, estranges; what binds us together, individualizes each one. A symmetrical truism, or another liberal platitude?
We witness an immanent dialectical configuration shaping up here. Every intimate relationship then harbors the seeds of its own disintegration. The aborigine and the settler are fused in their contradictions and interdependencies. For what is common to two, Simmel continues to insist, “is never common to them alone but is subsumed under a general idea which includes much else besides, many possibilities of commonness.” This, I think, applies to any erotic relationship which, in the beginning, compels the lovers to make their relationship unique, unrepeatable, even idiosyncratic. Then estrangement ensues; the feeling of uniqueness is replaced by skepticism and indifference, by the thought that the lovers are only instances of a general human destiny. In short, the lovers graduate into philosophers reflecting on themselves as only one of the infinite series of lovers in all of history. These possibilities act like a corrosive agent that destroys nearness, intimacy, communal togetherness:

No matter how little these possibilities become real and how often we forget them, here and there, nevertheless, they thrust themselves between us like shadows, like a mist which escapes every word noted, but which must coagulate into a solid bodily form before it can be called jealousy…. similarity, harmony, and nearness are accompanied by the feeling that they are not really the unique property of this particular relationship. They are something more general, something which potentially prevails between the partners and an indeterminate number of others, and therefore gives the relation, which alone was realized, no inner and exclusive necessity.

Perhaps in Gunnar Myrdal’s “America,” where a universalistic creed, once apostrophized by that wandering French philosophe De Tocqueville, prevails, this privileging of the general and the common obtains. But this “perhaps” dissolves because we see, in the history of the last five decades, that cultural pluralism is merely the mask of a “common culture” of market individualism, of class war inflected into the routine of racial politics. Witness the victims of the civil rights struggles, the assassination of Black Panther Party members, violence inflicted on Vincent Chin and other Asians, and so on.

As antidote to the mystification of hybridity and in-betweeness, we need therefore to historicize, to come down to the ground of economic and political reality. What collectivities of power/knowledge are intersecting and colliding? In a political economy where racial differentiation is the fundamental principle of accumulation, where profit and the private extraction of surplus value is the generalizing principle, it is difficult to accept Simmel’s concept of strangeness as premised on an initial condition of intimacy and mutual reciprocity in a mythical level playing field. Simmel is caught in a bind. He says that the Greek attitude to the barbarians illustrates a mind-frame that denies to the Other attributes which are specifically human. But in that case the barbarians are not strangers; the relation to them is a non-relation. Whereas the stranger is “a member of the group,” not an outsider. Simmel arrives at this concluding insight:

As a group member, the stranger is near and far at the same time as is characteristic of relations founded only on general human commonness. But between nearness and distance, there arises a specific tension when the consciousness that only the quite general is common stresses that which is not common. [Here is the kernel of Simmel’s thesis.] In the case of the person who is a stranger to the country, the city, the race, etc., however, this non-common element is once more nothing individual, but merely the strangeness of origin, which is or could be common to many strangers. For this reason, strangers are not really conceived as individuals, but as strangers of a particular type: the element of distance is no less general in regard to them than the element of nearness.

Examples might illuminate these refined distinctions. Simmel cites the case of categorization of the Jew in medieval times which remained permanent, despite the changes in the laws of taxation: the Jew was always taxed as a Jew, his ethnic identity fixed his social position, whereas the Christian was “the bearer of certain objective contents” which changed in accordance with the fluctuation of his fortune (ownership of property, wealth). If this invariant element disappeared, then all strangers by virtue of being strangers would pay “an equal headtax.” In spite of this, the stranger is “an organic member of the group which dictates the conditions of his existence”—except that this membership is precisely different in that, while it shares some similarities with all human relationships, a special proportion and reciprocal tension produce the particular, formal relation to the “stranger.”

An alternative to Simmel’s hypothesis is the historical case of Baruch Spinoza, the archetypal exile. A child of the Marrano community of Jews in Amsterdam, Holland, who were driven from Portugal and Spain in the 14th and 15th centuries, Spinoza was eventually excommunicated and expelled by the elders of the community. Banned as a heretic, Spinoza became an “exile within an exile.” It was, however, a felix culpa since that became the condition of possibility for the composition of the magnificent Ethics, a space of redemption in which deus/natura becomes accessible to ordinary mortals provided they can cultivate a special form of rationality called scientia intuitiva. The “impure blood” of this “Marrano of Reason” affords us a created world of secular reason that, if we so choose, can become a permanent home for the diasporic intellect. Unfortunately, except for a handful of recalcitrant spirits, Filipinos have not yet discovered Spinoza’s Ethics. I suspect, however, that Rizal and the Propagandists, Isabelo de Los Reyes, Mabini, S.P. Lopez, and Angel Baking, were not unaware of its dissemination in the radical anarchist and socialist tradition of the Enlightenment.
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You will leave everything loved most dearly;
And this is the arrow
That the bow of exile shoots first….
–Dante Alighieri
So where are we now in mapping this terra incognita of the nomadic monster, the deviant, the alien, the stranger, the Filipino subaltern?
We are unquestionably in the borderline, the hymen, the margin of difference that is constituted by that simultaneous absence and presence which Jacques Derrida was the first to theorize in his strategy of suspicion. It is, one might suggest, an epileptic seizure that is regularized, as the character of Prince Myshkin (in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Idiot,1868) demonstrates. When asked by that unforgettable mother, Mrs. Yepanchin, what he wrote to her daughter Aglaya—a confession of need of the other person, a communication of desire for the other to be happy as the gist of the message, Prince Myshkin replied that when he wrote it, he had “great hopes.” He explains: “Hopes—well, in short, hopes of the future and perhaps a feeling of joy that I was not a stranger, not a foreigner, there. I was suddenly very pleased to be back in my own country. One sunny morning I took up a pen and wrote a letter to her. Why to her, I don’t know. Sometimes, you know, one feels like having a friend at one’s side….”

Dear friend, where are you?
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Since we are in the mode of a “rectification of names,” a semantic interlude is appropriate here. Just as our current hermeneutic trend seeks etymologies and obsolete usages for traces of the itinerary of meanings, let us look at what Webster offers us for the word “exile”: it means banished or expelled from one’s native country or place of residence by authority, and forbidden to return, either for a limited time or for life; abandonment of one’s country by choice or necessity. “The Exile” originally refers to the Babylonian captivity of the Jews in the 6th century B.C.

The Latin exilium denotes banishment; the Latin exilis denotes slender, fine, thin; “exilition,” now obsolete, “a sudden springing or leaping out.” This “sudden springing or leaping out” offers room for all kinds of speculation on wandering strangers inhabiting borderlines, boundaries, frontiers, all manner of refusals and evasions. But the movement involved in exile is not accidental or happenstance; it has a telos underlying it. It implicates wills and purposes demarcating the beginning and end of movement. As Spinoza teaches us, everything can be grasped as modalities of rest and motion, of varying speed. Even here ambiguity pursues us: rest is relative to motion, motion to rest. If everyone is migrating, then who is the native and who the settler?

Another word should supplement “exile,” and that word is “migration.” The movement from place to place that this word signifies in one usage is quite circumscribed: it is the movement from one region to another with the change in seasons, as many birds and some fishes follow, e.g., “migratory locust,” “migratory” worker: “one who travels from harvest to harvest, working until each crop is gathered or processed,” to wit, the Filipino “Manongs” and their Mexican counterparts. The species of homo sapiens pursues the line of flight instinctively followed by bird and fish, but this calibration of the instinct itself is drawn by the rhythm of the seasons, by earth’s ecological mutation. So exile betrays political will, while migration still obscures or occludes the play of secular forces by the halo of naturalness, the aura of cosmic fate and divine decree. The fate of Bulosan and compatriots of the “warm body export” trade today—all ten million bodies, with at least five of them returning daily at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport as cadavers—offers the kairos of an exemplum. The “disappeared” in the era of martial law has now been replaced by the “returned” in the era of transnational corporate globalization.

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The life-history of the national hero Jose Rizal offers one viable paradigm for Filipino intellectuals in self-exile.
When this leading anticolonial propagandist-agitator was banished to Dapitan, in the southern island of Mindanao, in 1892, he assured his family that “wherever I might go I should always be in the hands of God who holds in them the destinies of men.” Despite this unabashed deistic faith, Rizal immediately applied himself to diverse preoccupations: horticulture, eye surgery, collecting butterflies for study, teaching, civic construction, composing a multilingual dictionary, and trying out a liaison with an “alien” woman, a stranger. He also maintained a voluminous correspondence with scientists and scholars in Europe and Manila. Even though the Spanish authorities were lenient, Rizal had no utopian illusions: “To live is to be among men, and to be among men is to struggle…. It is a struggle with them but also with one’s self, with their passions, but also with one’s own, with errors and with anxieties.”
The anguish of Rizal’s exile was assuaged somewhat by his female companion, Josephine Bracken, an Irish Catholic from Hong Kong. But he could not deny that his being transported to Dapitan was demoralizing, unsettling, given “the uncertainty of the future.” This is why he seized the opportunity to volunteer his medical skills to the Spanish army engaged in suppressing the revolution in Cuba. Amplifying distance and alienation, he could resign himself to the demands of duty, of the necessity “to make progress through suffering.” Fatalism and service to the cause of humanity coalesced to distinguish the ethos of this exile at a time when rumblings of popular discontent had not yet climaxed in irreversible rupture. When Rizal was executed in December 1896, the revolution had already exploded, concentrating scattered energies in the fight against a common enemy, first Spain and then the United States. Homecoming was near.

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In the context of globalized capitalism today, the Filipino diaspora acquires a distinctive physiognomy and temper. We can exercise a thought-experiment of syncretism and cross-fertilization. The Pinoy diaspora is a fusion of exile and migration: the scattering of a people, not yet a fully synthesized nation, to the ends of the earth, across the planet throughout the ’60s and ’70s, continuing up to the present. We are now a quasi-wandering people, pilgrims or prospectors staking our lives and futures all over the world—in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, North and South America, in Australia and all of Asia, in every nook and cranny of this seemingly godforsaken earth. Explorers and adventurers all. No one yet has performed a “cognitive mapping” of these movements, their geometry and velocity, across national boundaries, mocking the carnivalesque borderland hallucinations glorified by postmodernist academics of color.

Who cares for the Filipino anyway? Not even the Philippine government and its otiose consulates—unless compelled by massive demonstrations of anger such as the one that followed the execution of Flor Contemplacion in Singapore. What can you expect from parasitic oligarchs and flunkeys of finance-capital? We are a nation in search of a national-democratic sovereign state that will care for the welfare of every citizen, particularly those historically oppressed (Moros, women, indigenous communities). When Benigno Aquino was killed, the slogan “the Filipino is worth dying for” became fashionable for a brief interval between the calamity of the Marcos dictatorship and the mendacity of Corazon Aquino’s rule and her even more unconscionable successors. But today Filipinos are dying—for what? For the status quo? For more self-sacrifices for parasites?

In 1983 alone, there were 300,000 Filipinos in the Middle East and close to a hundred thousand in Europe. I met hundreds of Filipinos, men and women, in the city park in Rome, in front of the train station, during their days off as domestics and semi-skilled workers. I met Filipinos hanging around the post office in Tripoli, Libya in 1980. And in trips back and forth I’ve met them in London, Amsterdam, Madrid, Barcelona, Hong Kong, Taipeh, Montreal and of course everywhere in the United States—a dispersed nationality, perhaps a little better than Bulosan and Philip Vera Cruz and his compatriots during the ’30s and ’40s, field hands and laborers migrating from harvest to harvest from California through Oregon to Washington and Alaska. A whole people dispersed, displaced, dislocated. A woman from Negros watched her husband flying to Saudi Arabia in 1981: “Even the men cry on leaving and cling to their children at the airport. When the airplane lifted off, I felt as though my own body was being dislocated.” Like birthpangs, the separation of loved ones generates a new experience, a nascent “structure of feeling,” for which we have not yet discovered the appropriate plots, rhetorical idioms, discursive registers, and architectonic of representation. Indeed, this late-capitalist diaspora demands a new language and symbolism for rendition. As picaresque fable? Epic saga? Or as tragic-comic spectacle?
The cult hero of postcolonial postmodernity, Salman Rushdie, offers us a harvest of ideas on this global phenomenon in his novel, Shame. The migrant has conquered the force of gravity, Rushdie writes, the force of belonging; like birds, he has flown. Roots that have trammeled and tied us down have been torn. The conservative myth of roots (exile, to my mind, is a problem of mapping routes, not digging for roots) and gravity has been displaced by the reality of flight, for now to fly and to flee are ways of seeking individual freedom—a flight of escape for more profound engagements?

When individuals come unstuck from their native land, they are called migrants. When nations do the same thing (Bangladesh), the act is called secession. What is the best thing about migrant peoples and seceded nations? I think it is their hopefulness. Look into the eyes of such folk in old photographs. Hope blazes undimmed through the fading sepia tints. And what’s the worst thing? It is the emptiness of one’s luggage. I’m speaking of invisible suitcases, not the physical, perhaps cardboard, variety containing a few meaning-drained mementoes: we have come unstuck from more than land. We have floated upwards from history, from memory, from Time.

Rushdie finds himself caught not only in the no-man’s-land between warring territories, but also between different periods of time. He considers Pakistan a palimpsest souvenir dreamed up by immigrants in Britain, its history written and rewritten, insufficiently conjured and extrapolated. Translated into a text, what was once a homeland becomes a product of the imagination. Every exile or deracinated subaltern shares Rushdie’s position, or at least his invented habits: “I, too, like all migrants, am a fantasist. I build imaginary countries and try to impose them on the ones that exist. I, too, face the problem of history: what to retain, what to dump, how to hold on to what memory insists on relinquishing, how to deal with change.” We select the construction materials of our salvaging vessel from the driftwords of memory, shipwrecked souvenirs—emergency signals flashing from flotsam and jetsam, the wreckage of dreams, promises, wagers risked.
And so this is the existential dilemma. For all those forced out of one’s homeland—by choice of necessity, it doesn’t really make a difference—the vocation of freedom becomes the act of inventing the history of one’s life, which is equivalent to founding and inhabiting that terra incognita which only becomes known, mapped, named as one creates it partly from memory, partly from dream, partly from hope. Therefore the stranger is the discoverer of that region which becomes home in the process whose termination coincides with the life of the planet Earth, the stranger dissolving the estranging homelessness of our galaxy.
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At this crossroad, let us seek pedagogical counsel from the mentor of the Palestinian diaspora, Edward Said, who has poignantly described the agon of exile. Said cited the Philippines’ colonial dependency in his magisterial study, Culture and Imperialism (1993). Caught in medias res and deprived of geographical stability or continuity of events, Said elaborates, the Palestinian narrator of the diaspora has to negotiate between the twin perils of fetishism and nostalgia:

Intimate mementoes of a past irrevocably lost circulate among us, like the genealogies and fables severed from their original locale, the rituals of speech and custom. Much reproduced, enlarged, thematized, embroidered and passed around, they are strands in the web of affiliations we Palestinians use to tie ourselves to our identity and to each other… We endure the difficulties of dispersion without being forced (or able) to struggle to change our circumstances…. Whatever the claim may be that we make on the world—and certainly on ourselves as people who have become restless in the fixed place to which we have been assigned—in fact our truest reality is expressed in the way we cross over from one place to another. We are migrants and perhaps hybrids in, but not of, any situation in which we find ourselves. This is the deepest continuity of our lives as a nation in exile and constantly on the move….
Said’s hermeneutic strives to decipher the condition of exile as the struggle to recover integrity and reestablish community not in any viable physical location but in the space of cultural production and exchange. Despite its cogency and the eloquence of its truth-bearing signs, Said’s discourse can only articulate the pathos of a select few, the elite intelligentsia. Meanwhile, the intifada partisan has indeed gone beyond the irony of Said’s humanism and the hubris of Derrida’s difference to challenge U.S.-supported Zionist occupation.

We Filipinos need a cartography and a geopolitical project for the masses in diaspora, not for the elite in exile. Many of our fellow expatriates, however, are obsessed with beginnings.

Speaking of who arrived here first on this continent, our “born-again” compatriots are celebrating the first men from the archipelago who landed one foggy morning of October 21, 1587 at Morro Bay, California. These sailors from the Spanish galleon Nuestra Senora de Buena Esperanza were of course colonial subjects, not “Filipinos,” a term that in those days only referred to Spaniards born in the Philippines (in contrast to the Peninsulares, those born in the European metropolis). But no matter, they have become symbolic of the renewed search for identity. Any relic seems useful.

Such “roots” seem to assimilated Fil-Americans a prerequisite for claiming an original and authentic identity as a singular people. After all, how can the organic community grow and multiply without such attachments? Margie Talaugon of the Filipino American Historical National Society points to Morro Bay as the spot “where Filipino American history started” (Sacramento Bee, 19 May 1996). If so, then it started with the Spaniards expropriating the land of the Indians for the Cross and the Spanish crown. Do we want to be part of the gang of bloody conquistadors (whether Spanish, French, or Anglo-Saxon Puritans) guilty of the genocide of Native Americans?

Under the command of Pedro de Unamuno, “a few Luzon Indians” acting as scouts (because of their color) accompanied the exploring party into the California interior. Lo and behold, they were ambushed by the natives who failed to correctly interpret their offerings. In the skirmish born of misrecognition, one Filipino lost his life and Unamuno withdrew. Other expeditions followed—all for the purpose of finding out possible ports along the California coast where galleons sailing from Manila to Acapulco could seek refuge in case of attack from pirates. When the Franciscan missionaries joined the troops from Mexico, mandated to establish missions from San Diego to Monterey that would serve as way stations for the Manila galleons, Filipinos accompanied them as menials in colonizing Indian territory in what is now California. Do we need to cherish this memorial of complicity with blood-thirsty conquest?
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Anxiety underlying the claim to be first in setting foot on the North American continent also accounts for the revival of interest in the fabled “Manillamen.” The rubric designates the Malay subjects of the archipelago who allegedly jumped ship off Spanish galleons and found their way into the bayous of Louisiana as early as 1765. In contrast to the early Luzon “Indians,” these were rebels protesting brutal conditions of indenture; they were not knowing accomplices or accessories to colonial rampage. There is even a rumor that they signed up with the French buccaneer Jean Baptiste Lafitte ; if true, they then took part in the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812. These fugitives settled in several villages outside New Orleans, in Manila Village on Barataria Bay. They engaged chiefly in shrimp-fishing and hunting.

The most well-known settlement (circa 1825) was St. Malo which was destroyed by a hurricane in 1915. The Filipino swamp settlers of St. Malo were memorialized by one of the first “Orientalists,” Lafcadio Hearn, whose life-configuration appears as amphibious and rhizomatic as the transplanted Malays he sought to romanticize. Hearn loved all things Japanese, and all things that can be exoticized. Here is an excerpt from his article, “Saint Malo: A Lacustrine Village in Louisiana” (Harper’s Weekly, 31 March 1883):

For nearly fifty years, there has existed in the southern swamp lands of Louisiana a certain strange settlement of Malay fishermen—Tagalas from the Philippine Islands. The place of their lacustrine village is not precisely mentioned upon maps, and the world in general ignored until a few days ago the bare fact of their amphibious existence. Even the United States mail service has never found its way thither, and even the great city of New Orleans, less than a hundred miles distant, the people were far better informed about the Carboniferous Era than concerning the swampy affairs of the Manila village….

Out of the shuddering reeds and grass on either side rise the fantastic houses of the Malay fishermen, poised upon slender support above the marsh, like cranes watching for scaly prey…. There is no woman in the settlement, nor has the treble of a female voice been heard along the bayou for many a long year…. How, then, comes it that in spite of the connection with civilized life, the Malay settlement of Lake Borgne has been so long unknown? Perhaps because of the natural reticence of the people…

What is curious is that Hearn, in another “take” of this landscape (in Times-Democrat, 18 March 1883), shifts our attention to the mood and atmosphere of the place in order to foreground his verbal artistry. The need to know these strange swamp dwellers is now subsumed into the program of a self-indulgent aestheticizing drive; the will to defamiliarize turns the inhabitants, the “outlandish colony of Orientals,” into performers of fin-de-siecle decadence. Voyeurism feeds on invidious contrasts and innuendoes that weakly recall Baudelaire’s posture of worldly ennui:

Louisiana is full of mysteries and surprises. Within fifty miles of this huge city, in a bee line southwest, lies a place as wild and weird as the most fervent seekers after the curious could wish to behold—a lake village constructed in true Oriental style, and equally worthy of prehistoric Switzerland or modern Malacca…. The like isolation of our Malay settlement is due to natural causes alone, but of a stranger sort. It is situated in a peculiarly chaotic part of the world, where definition between earth and water ceases—an amphibious land full of quiverings and quagmires, suited rather to reptile life than to human existence—a region wan and doubtful and mutable as that described in “The Passing of Arthur,” where fragments of forgotten peoples dwell…a coast of ever shifting sand, and, far away, the phantom circle of a moaning sea.

…Nature, by day, seems to be afraid to speak in a loud voice there; she whispers only. And the brown Malays—forever face to face with her solitude—also talk in low tones as through sympathy—tones taught by the lapping of sluggish waters, the whispering of grasses, the murmuring of the vast marsh. Unless an alligator show his head—then it is a shout of “Miro! cuidado!”

Since the voices captured are in Spanish, we know that these brown settlers have been Hispanicized and estranged from their original surroundings. But never mind: the sounds blend with the other creatures of the bayous, a cacophony of organic life orchestrated by Hearn’s precious craft. St. Malo’s miasma is domesticated for the elegant French salons of New Orleans and the adjoining plantations. Unlike the foggy, damp and rainy Siberia of Chekhov’s story “In Exile” (written in 1892), which becomes the site of epiphanic disclosures and cathartic confessions, Hearn’s theater affords no such possibility. Old Semyon, Chekhov’s choric observer, can demonstrate his toughness and fortitude all at once in the face of Czarist inhumanity: “Even in Siberia people can live—can li-ive!”

The repressed always returns, but in serendipitous disguise. Hearn would be surprised to learn that St. Malo’s descendants, now in their eighth generation, are alive and well, telling their stories, musing: “Well, if we don’t know where we come from how do we know where we are going?” The indefatigable filmmaker Renee Tajima interviewed the Burtanog sisters in New Orleans and notes that “there are no mahjongg games and trans-Pacific memories here in the Burtanog household. The defining cultural equation is Five-card Stud and six-pack of Bud (Lite). The talk is ex-husbands, voodoo curses, and the complicated racial design of New Orleans society.”

Out of the mists exuding from Hearn’s prose, the Burtanog sisters speak about anti-miscegenation and Jim Crow laws, the hierarchical ranking and crossing-over of the races in Louisiana. But, in conformity with the Southern ethos, they consider themselves “white.” These exuberant women certainly do not belong to Bienvenido Santos’ tribe of “lovely people”—a patronizing epithet—whose consolation is that they (like artists) presumably have ready and immediate access to the eternal verities. No such luck. Not even for internal exiles like Mikhail Bakhtin, Ann Akhmatova, Ding Ling, or for “beautiful” souls like Jose Garcia Villa and their epigones in the miasmic salons of the Empire.
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Why this obsessive quest for who came first? Is precedence a claim to authenticity and autochthonous originality? What if we came last, not “fresh off the boats,” clinging to the anchors or even floating on driftwood? Does this entitle us less to “citizenship” or the right to inhabit our constructed place here? Who owns this land, this continent, anyway? Weren’t the American Indians the stewards of communal land before the cartographer Amerigo Vespucci was recast as the name-giver to a whole continent?

In his semantic genealogy, Raymond Williams (in Keywords, 1983) traces the etymology of “native” to the Latin nasci (to be born); nativus means innate, natural; hence, “naive” as artless and simple. After the period of conquest and domination, “native” became equivalent to “bondman” or “villein,” born in bondage. This negative usage—the ascription of inferiority to locals, to non-Europeans—existed alongside the positive usage when applied to one’s own place or person. Williams observes further:

Indigenous has served both as a euphemism and as a more neutral term. In English it is more difficult to use in the sense which converts all others to inferiors (to go indigenous is obviously less plausible than to go native). In French, however, indigenes went through the same development as English natives, and is now often replaced by autochtones [sic].

We may therefore be truly naifs if we ignore the advent of United States power in Manila Bay (not Morro Bay) in 1898. This is the inaugural event that started the process of deracination, the primordial event that unfolded in the phenomena of pensionados and the recruits of the Hawaiian Sugar Plantation up to the “brain drain” of the seventies, the political opportunists who sought asylum during the Marcos dictatorship, and the present influx of this branch of the Filipino diaspora. To shift to the romance of the Spanish Galleons is to repress this birth of the Filipino in the womb of the imperial body, a birth which—to invoke the terms in which Petrarch conceived his exile as the physical separation from the mother’s body—implies liberation. This is probably why Jose Marti, the revolutionary Cuban who lived in exile in the United States while Spain tyrannized over his Motherland, spoke of living in the “belly of the beast.”

Here the metaphor becomes fertile for all kinds of movements, of embarkations and departures. For Petrarch, exile served as the fantasy of discontinuity that allowed the poet immense relief from the tremendous anxiety he felt because of his “belatedness,” his advent after the decline of classic Roman civilization. Petrarch was “wounded” by his Greek precursors; he resolved to heal the wound by conceiving the act of writing as a process of digestion, of engulfing, regurgitating, and absorption. We find analogous strategies of sublimation in Virgil, Dante, Gramsci in his Prison Notebooks, and so on. This displacement of the original trauma, which assumed earlier Gnostic resonance as the imprisonment of the soul within the body, may perhaps explain the preponderance of oral and gustatory images, eating and digesting activities, in the fiction of Jessica Hagedorn, R. Zamora Linmark, and others.

Are Filipinos condemned to this fantasy of cannibalism as a means of compensation for the loss of the mother? Are we in perpetual mourning, unable to eject the lost beloved that is still embedded in the psyche and forever memorialized there? Are we, Filipinos scattered throughout the planet, bound to the curse of a repetition compulsion, worshipping fetishes (like aging veterans of some forgotten or mythical battle) that forever remind us of the absent, forgotten, and unrecuperated Others?

That is perhaps the permanent stance of the exile, the act of desiring what is neither here nor there. This paradigm is exemplified in the last speech of Richard Rowan, the writer-hero of James Joyce’s Exiles, addressing Bertha but also someone else, an absent person:

I have wounded my soul for you—a deep wound of doubt which can never be healed. I can never know, never in this world. I do not wish to know or to believe. I do not care. It is not in the darkness of belief that I desire you. But in restless living wounding doubt. To hold you by no bonds, even of love, to be united with you in body and soul in utter nakedness—for this I longed.

The quest for the mother as the cure for jealousy, for the illness accompanying the discovery that one cannot completely possess the body of the loved one (the mother-surrogate), is given an ironic twist by Joyce’s meditation on women’s liberation in his notes to Exiles:

It is a fact that for nearly two thousand years the women of Christendom have prayed to and kissed the naked image of one who had neither wife nor mistress nor sister and would scarcely have been associated with his mother had it not been that the Italian church discovered, with its infallible practical instinct, the rich possibilities of the figure of the Madonna.

I recall somewhere that photo or drawing of Rizal’s mother Teodora Alonzo contemplating the urn containing the remains of her son. This pieta attitude symbolizes the longed-for fulfillment of the exile’s wish to return to the homeland’s bosom, the completion of his earthly journey.
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Come now, are we serious in all these melancholy reflections? Was Jose Rizal indulging in this when, in exile at Dapitan, he was preoccupied not just with Josephine Bracken but with a thousand projects of cultivation, teaching, polemical arguments with his Jesuit mentors, correspondence with scholars in Europe, ophthalmological practice, and so on? “What do I have to do with thee, woman?” Or Isabelo de los Reyes—our own socialist forebear—hurled not into the Heideggerian banality of our quotidian world but into the dark dungeon of Montjuich prison near Barcelona for his anarchist and subversive connections: was he troubled by porous and shifting boundaries? And that perchance he was not really inside but outside, something like the in-between hybrid of postcolonial orthodoxy? Indeed, one may ask: for General Artemio Ricarte, self-exiled in Japan after the victory of the Yankee invaders, is imagining the lost nation a labor of mourning too?

Let us leave this topos of Freudian melancholia and ground our speculations on actual circumstances. Such postmodern quandaries concerning the modalities of displacement of time by space, of essences by contingencies, could not have cajoled the tempered will of Apolinario Mabini into acquiescence. A brilliant adviser to General Emilio Aguinaldo, president of the first Philippine Republic, the captured Mabini refused to swear allegiance to the sovereign power of the United States. This “sublime paralytic” conceived deportation as a crucible of his insurrectionary soul. Intransigent, he preferred the challenge of physical removal to Guam where he was incarcerated for two years.

Imagine the paralyzed Mabini being carried in a hammock along the shores of Guam at the threshold of the storm-wracked twentieth century. Scouring the horizon for a glimpse of his beloved las islas Filipinas across the Pacific Ocean, Mabini must have felt that we needed to bide our time because surrender/defeat was not compromise but a strategy of waiting for the next opportunity. He envisioned a long march, a protracted journey, toward emancipation. One can only surmise that Mabini’s shrewd and proud spirit was able to endure the pain of banishment because he was busy forging in his mind “the conscience of his race,” writing his memoirs of the revolution, his wit and cunning deployed to bridge the distance between that melancholy island and the other godforsaken islands he was not really able to leave. Who cares now for Mabini? Or for Macario Sakay and the countless “brigands” whom the U.S. hanged for sedition?

At this point in our journey, we can’t stop to savor the pleasure of nostalgia. We are on the way home—“Tomorrow, Manila!”
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By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept when we remembered Zion….
How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?

— PSALM 137

Exile then is a ruse, a subterfuge of the temporarily weak subaltern against the master. It is a problem of deploying time against space—the classic guerilla stratagem against superior firepower. It is the cunning of conviction, of hope.

We thus have a replay of Hegel’s choreography of master and slave in a new context. Long before Foucault and Michel de Certeau came around to theorize the performance of everyday resistance, Bertolt Brecht had already explored in his Lehrstucke the theme of Schweikian evasions and underminings. The moment of suspended regularity, the interruption of the normal and habitual, becomes the occasion to vindicate the sacrifices of all those forgotten, invisible, silenced. In Peter Weiss’ play Trotsky in Exile, in the scene before his execution, Trotsky expresses this hope amid setbacks, defeats, losses of all kinds:

I can’t stop believing in reason, in human solidarity…. Failures and disappointments can’t stop me from seeing beyond the present defeat to a rising of the oppressed everywhere. This is no Utopian prophecy. It is the sober prediction of a dialectical materialist. I have never lost my faith in the revolutionary power of the masses. But we must be prepared for a long fight. For years, maybe decades, of revolts, civil wars, new revolts, new wars.

In times of emergency, Trotsky’s waiting in exile proves to be the time of pregnancy, of gestation and the emergence of new things.

Apart from being a symptom of defeat, exile then can also serve as a weapon of resistance. After the Jewish diaspora in the sixth century B.C., the captivity in Babylon, and the centuries of imperial devastation, now we have the situation of the Palestinians, deprived of their native habitat, finally on the way, in transit, to—we don’t know yet. A nation-state: is that the harbor, the terminal, of the passage from darkness to light? Unless the transnational bourgeoisie conspire together in this post-Cold War era of inter-capitalist rivalry, I hazard that after so much sacrifices the new social formation will not be a simple mimicry of the bourgeois nation-state. Let us hope so.

For so many years after World War II, the Palestinians were the “wandering Jews,” also known as “terrorists” by their enemies. One of the most eloquent poets of this diaspora, Fawaz Turki, described how Palestinians in exile attest to “the transcendence…in the banal,” how they agonized “over who is really in exile:/they or their homeland,/who left who/who will come back to the/other first/where will they meet….” Exiles are like lovers then who yearn not for homecoming but for a meeting, another tryst, the long-awaited encounter and reunion. At first, the land was the loved one; later on, the land metamorphoses into events, places, encounters, defeats and victories.

For Edward Said, however, exile is the space of the “extraterritorial” where the Baudelairean streetwalker of modernity finally arrives. Said celebrates exile with a vengeance. In After the Last Sky, he recognizes the pain, bitter sorrow, and despair but also the unsettling and decentering force of the exile’s plight, its revolutionary potential. Even though Said believes that “the pathos of exile is in the loss of contact with the solidity and the satisfaction of earth: homecoming is out of the question,” he seems to counterpoint to it a Gnostic, even neo-Platonic, response by invoking Hugh of St. Victor, a twelfth-century monk from Saxony:

It is, therefore, a source of great virtue for the practiced mind to learn, bit by bit, first to change about in visible and transitory things, so that afterwards it may be able to leave them behind altogether. The person who finds his homeland sweet is still a tender beginner; he to whom every soil is as his native one is already strong; but he is perfect to whom the entire world is as a foreign place. The tender soul has fixed his love on one spot in the world; the strong person has extended his love to all places; the perfect man has extinguished his.

On second thought, this asceticism may be culture-bound, or it may be peculiar to a continental mentality overshadowed by surrounding mountains. Like our brothers in the Caribbean, we Filipinos are archipelagic creatures trained to navigate treacherous waters and irregular shoals. Our epistemic loyalty is to islands with their distinctive auras, vibrations, trajectory, fault lines. John Fowles is one of the few shrewd minds who can discern the difference between the continental and the archipelagic sensorium:

Island communities are the original alternative societies. That is why so many islanders envy them. Of their nature they break down the multiple alienations of industrial and suburban man. Some vision of Utopian belonging, of social blessedness, of an independence based on cooperation, haunts them all.

Islands signify our solidarity.

With this Utopian motif, we may recall Shevek, in Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed, for whom exile is the symbol for inhabiting an unfinished, incomplete world. It is a site where fulfillment (happiness, reunion, homecoming) is forever postponed. This sustained deferral is what exile means: “There was process: process was all. You could go in a promising direction or you could go wrong, but you did not set out with the expectation of ever stopping anywhere.”

Meanwhile, consider the fate of partisans of the South African struggle now allowed re-entry into their homeland. Exile for them always entailed a return to a national space to exercise the rights of reclamation and restitution. Yet when the “rendezvous of victory” arrived in 1992, we find “translated persons” and partisans of metissage at the entry points. Commenting on Bessie Head’s achievement, Rob Nixon considers the exiles as an invaluable asset for the construction of a new South Africa: “Re-entering exiles should thus be recognized as cross-border creations, incurable cultural misfits who can be claimed as a resource, rather than spurned as alien, suspect, or irrelevant.”
Toward the predicament of uprooting, one can assume polarized stances. One is the sentimental kind expressed poignantly by Bienvenido Santos:

All exiles want to go home. Although many of them never return, in their imagination they make their journey a thousand times, taking the slowest boats because in their dream world time is not as urgent as actual time passing, quicker than arrows, kneading on their flesh, crying on their bones.

The antithesis to that is the understated, self-estranged gesture of Bertolt Brecht. Driven from Europe by Hitler’s storm-troopers, the path-breaking dramatist found himself a refugee, neither an expatriate nomad nor border-crossing immigrant. Crossing the Japanese Sea, he watched “the grayish bodies of dolphins” in the gaiety of dawn. In “Landscape of Exile,” Brecht cast himself in the role of the fugitive who “beheld with joy…the little horsecarts with gilt decorations / and the pink sleeves of the matrons / in the alleys of doomed Manila.” His visit to the Philippines was short-lived, like those of Hemingway and Faulkner in the years of the Cold War. Situated on the edge of disaster, Brecht discovered that the oil derricks, the thirsty gardens of Los Angeles, the ravines and fruit market of California “did not leave the messenger of misfortune unmoved.” By analogy, were the Pinoys and other Asians at the turn of the century messengers of a messianic faith, underwriting visions of apocalypse long before Brecht sighted the coast of the North American continent?
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From these excursions into delinquent and wayward paths, we return to the idea of transit, passage, a movement of reconnaissance in search of a home everywhere, that is, wherever materials are available for building a shelter for work and community. This may be the ultimate philosophical mission in our time whose most provocative prophet is John Berger. Berger’s meditations on home, migration, and exile in And our faces, my heart, brief as photos deserve careful pondering. By way of provisional conclusion to these notes, I want to summarize here a few of his insights on the complex phenomenology of exile.

You can never go home again, Thomas Wolfe counseled us. But what do you mean by home? we respond. Berger speculates on what happens after the loss of home when the migrant leaves, when the continuity with the ancestral dead is broken. The first substitute for the lost, mourned object (kins, home) is passionate erotic love that transcends history. Romantic love unites two displaced persons, linking beginnings and origins, because it pre-dates experience and allows memory and imagination free play. Such passion inspired the project of completing what was incomplete, of healing the division of the sexes—a substitute for homecoming. But romantic love, like religion and the sacramental instinct, has suffered attenuation and transmogrification in the modern world of secular rationality. It has been displaced by commodity-fetishism, the cash-nexus, and the cult of simulacra and spectacles. Berger then expounds on the other alternative historical hope of completion:

Every migrant knows in his heart of hearts that it is impossible to return. Even if he is physically able to return, he does not truly return, because he himself has been so deeply changed by his emigration. It is equally impossible to return to that historical state in which every village was the center of the world. One hope of recreating a center is now to make it the entire earth. Only world-wide solidarity can transcend modern homelessness. Fraternity is too easy a term; forgetting Cain and Abel, it somehow promises that all problems can be soluble. In reality many are insoluble—hence the never-ending need for solidarity.

Today, as soon as very early childhood is over, the house can never again be home, as it was in other epochs. This century, for all its wealth and with all its communication systems, is the century of banishment. Eventually perhaps the promise, of which Marx was the great prophet, will be fulfilled, and then the substitute for the shelter of a home will not just be our personal names, but our collective conscious presence in history, and we will live again at the heart of the real. Despite everything, I can imagine it.

Meanwhile, we live not just our own lives but the longings of our century.

Revolution, then, is the way out through the stagnant repetition of suffering and deprivation in everyday business life. It is Walter Benjamin’s Jetzt-Zeit, Now-Time, that will blast the continuum of reified history. It is an ever-present apocalypse whose presiding spirit in the past, Joachim da Fiore, finds many incarnations in the present: for one, the Filipino overseas contract worker and his unpredictable, unlicensed peregrinations.

Meanwhile look, stranger, on this planet Earth belonging to no single individual, our mother whom no one possesses. We find solidarity with indigenous peoples an inexhaustible source of comfort, inspiration, and creative renewal. The aboriginal Indians, dispossessed of their homelands and victimized by those merchants—agents of Faust and Mephistopheles—obsessed by private ownership and solitary hedonism, express for us also what I think can be the only ultimate resolution for human exile and diaspora for Filipinos as well as for other peoples: “We and the earth, our mother, are of one mind.”—###
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Posted in DISCOURSES ON CONTRADICTIONS

NICK JOAQUIN’S APOCALYPSE by E. San Juan Jr.


NICK JOAQUIN’S APOCALYPSE: Women and the Tragi-comedy of the “Unhappy Consciousness”

 

by E. SAN JUAN, Jr.

Emeritus professor of English & Comparative Literature, University of Connecticut, USAnickjoaquin

When we say of things that they are finite, we mean thereby..that Not-being constitutes their nature and their Being…Finite things…are related to themselves as something negative, and in this self-relation send themselves on beyond themselves and their Being….The finite does not only change…it perishes; and its perishing is not merely contingent…It is rather the very being of finite things that they contain the seeds of perishing as their own Being-in-self, and the hour of their birth is the hour of their death.

—G.W.F. Hegel, Science of Logic (1929), 142
by E. San Juan, Jr.

The elevation of Nick Joaquin’s reputation to a Penguin Classic in 2017 signalled an apotheosis of sorts but also an exoticizing marginalization. Under the rubric of the “postcolonial,” the endorsers relegated the Filipino author to a fraught academic trend in rapid obsolescence. But his acclamation as our Garcia Marquez, the exemplar of postcolonial “doubleness,” albeit overlain by “a tribal civilization,” ascribed an “aura” fit for our glorified addiction to commodity fetishism. No, we are not alluding to Duterte’s total war against suspected drug-lords and terrorists. I am referring to that inescapable “aura” that Walter Benjamin anatomized in “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” It is the aura of Joaquin’s “Portrait of the Artist as Filipino” as the quintessential Filipino theater. It is the aura of a sanctified writer whose mastery of English has allowed him to define, for the whole nation (whose existence is still contentious since the popular/people remains outside the neocolonized polity), its historical genealogy, political predicament, and destiny.

Benjamin is also the source of Vicente Rafael’s view of Joaquin’s craft as a sign of a reprieve from U.S. colonial subjugation. Together with his contemporary Anglophone writers, Joaquin “epitomized the modernizing promise of colonial rule” (xx). Using English as the “very idiom of modernity itself,” in Rafael’s reckoning, Joaquin succeeded in “regaining the capacity of remembering itself in order to constitute the remembering self” (xxi). This is premised on the “attenuation of experience” which led to the “demise of the craft of storytelling” (xv). This, I submit, is a flawed construal of Benjamin’s essay “The Storyteller.” Actually, Benjamin linked narrative art to the web of determinate social relations, specifically the mode of production and conflicted classes (peasantry, guild artisan, merchant trader, capitalist industrialist), which produced the substance and circumscribed the narratability of diverse experiences. Story-telling is tied to the rhythms of work and the oral context of a a long-vanished communal audience. With the onset of capitalism, that context dissolved; the “short-lived reminiscences of the storyteller” gave way to the “perpetuating remembrance of the novelist” in a commodified milieu.

Memory, homeland, the narration of collective experience, shared fate—this is what is at stake in judging Joaquin’s relevance today. It is the novel as “the form of transcendental homelessness” (a concept borrowed from Georg Lukacs) to which Benjamin attributes the function of revitalizing epic memory. And so it is the novel, such as Joaquin’s The Women Who Had Two Navels and Cave and Shadows, that evokes the genuinely epic experience of time: hope and memory….” (quoting Lukacs, 99). Whether such mode of experience salvaged from the “ruins of modernity” can be conveyed by the tales and legends that comprise the bulk of the Penguin collection, is what needs to be clarified. We cannot echo what Gorky once said of Gogol’s “The Overcoat,” that Filipino writing all came out of Joaquin’s two navels.

Rebirth of the Author?

Postructructuralist critics have long pronounced the death of the author in its conventional sense as autonomous creator. Earlier Marx, Darwin, Saussure, Freud, Nietzsche, etc. concurred in the demise of that individual-centered cosmos. But Barthes and Foucault have resuscitated the author as a function, a site of discursive contestation, rather than an originating presence with the mystical halo given by the Penguin Classic editors and blurbs. One American reviewer ventured peremptorily to dismantle that halo by ascribing to Joaquin a melancholy anger, relentlessly composing “a fierce elegy for a past that never was.” She sums up Joaquin’s central preoccupation thus: “The older generation is bitterly impotent against the sea changes of the present; and the younger generation is desperate to understand the world, but adrift between potential and petrfication” (Valentine).

The thematic problem that Joaquin engages with concerns the question of the Subject of a hypothesized Filipino national experience. This involves accounting for the subject-positions offered by the texts. It is not the mismatch or incompatibility between generational attitudes, but rather how this Subject, confined to the pettybourgeois urban sector, asserts itself, its negativity, in the process of evolving to a dynamic self-conscious historically concrete position. Esentially, this Subject is an evolving identity-in-difference (Marcuse). Situated in the transition from the feudal/colonial mode of production to a bureaucratic-comprador mode, this Subject undergoes diremption. Defined by Otherness, it proceeds to recognize its difference/alienation and struggles to sublate the antagonisms converging in its life-world in order to construct its new subject-position, a relatively autonomous, free, rational self-consciousness in command of its lived experience.

The Subject as an identity-in-difference, for Joaquin the hispanicized Filipino creole (Rizal, Luna, etc.) bifurcated by Spanish and Anglo-Saxon subjugation, refuses to accept the domination of alienated labor (capitalist exploitation) and struggles to maintain the honor-centered norm of theocratic Manila. Proof of this is Joaquin’s 1943 essay on “La Naval de Manila,” a celebration of the Spanish victory over the Dutch in 1646, which won him a scholarship to St. Albert seminary in Hong Kong in 1947 (De Vera). From the Commonwealth period up to the installation of the “puppet republic” of Roxas, Quirino and Magsaysay, Joaquin’s endeavor to construct this Subject—the metamorphosis of the ilustrado sensibility into a civic-minded citizen of the Republic—founders. Only the sisters of Antigone—Candida and Paula of “The Portrait”–remain as testimony to this heroic attempt to shape a national allegory. This would be nothing else but a self-determining reflexive story of private lives and individual destinies encapsulating the “embattled situation” of the third-world public culture/society (Jameson 320).

Whether Joaquin succeeds or not in re-inventing the national allegory of the Filipino Subject, the rational self-conscious intelligence of the Filipino middle-stratum. beyond sensuous certainty, selfish interests, animal passions, etc., is the topic adumbrated later in this essay. It seems to me simplistic to reduce the complex theme to the conflict between the priests and satyrs, between the pagan, totem-and-taboo tribalism—the brute world of the “bitch-goddess” worship in the Tadtarin cult—and the sadistic chastity of Christian ascetics. Even though Joaquin may be fascinated with the primitive ideal of cyclic regeneration, this is easily incorporated into a Christian paradigm of death-and-resurrection, this syncretism being a false dialectic of subsumption and rechristening—the well-tried colonial ideology of cooptation and assimilation.
Marginalizing the Metropolis

At the outset, I would argue that Joaquin’s focus on the agon, the ordeal, of the urbanized Indios of MetroManila fails to resolve their predicament. On the contrary, it refracts the syndrome. It reproduces the contradictions of the past by negating the challenges and opportunities of the present. The chief symptom of this inability to dialectically transcend the past is its exclusion of the peasantry and the whole proletarian world of serfs, women, tribal or indigenous communities (Muslim, Igorot) marginalized by Spanish and U.S. colonial domination. However, the mediations offered in “The Order of Melkizedek,” “The Woman With Two Navels,” and “The Portrait”—resigning to the contingency and accidents of life, asserting impetuous will, or welcoming the priestly intervention of the alienated citizens of a competitive egocentric society—are flawed, temporary stop-gaps. Nonetheless, this may constitute Joaquin’s most instructive contribution to the current dialogue on national-democratic reconstruction.

At the end of the day, the Unhappy Consciousness (as described by Hegel in Phenomenology of Spirit) of Joaquin’s Subject yields up the fruits of labor and enjoyment for the absolving act of the intermediary consciousness (such the father’s in “Three Generations” or the epiphany of Candido and Sid Estiva, Bitoy Camacho and Pepe Monzon). But they occlude the fate of Others: of the sisters Paula and Candida, of the children such as Guia and the Monson brothers, and neighbors of the decaying house in Intramuros. In the tales, as well as in “The Summer Solstice,” “Candido’s Apocalypse,” etc., moral decision and understanding are sacrificed for a stance of stoic fatalism, or abject sinfulness. This is not useless if one conceives this stage of the experience as one aware of its particularity, the limits of mechanistic self-satisfaction, abstract solipsism, and alienated privacy. One can convert the experience of the Unhappy Consciousness as a prelude to attaining the stage of the universal, the rational self-conscious stance of the Subject, the self-determining agent of historical praxis.

Crucible of Experience

The key concept of experience is central to our inquiry. Benjamin asserted that the old sense of communal experience embodied in Leskov’s stories has been destroyed, replaced by information. Information consists of incidents, positive facts or factoids, mixed with explanation. In industrial capitalist society, the business media communicates information, with instant verifiability, eradicating the amplitude of traditional storytelling based on the interactive collaboration of the audience. The modern audience consists of atomized psyches devoid of memory, victimized by the reifying impact of universal commodification. Memory, death, and time disappears; experience degenerates to information in an anomic society.

What Benjamin has condensed in the term “information” is the reduction of life as the passive undergoing of the phenomenal world. Empiricism and sensationalism informed the scientific exploration of the world by bourgeois merchants and industrialists. Kant rejected this by positing the active thinking of the cognizing subject, leaving the thing-in-itself untouched. It was Marx who revised contemplative materialism by affirming human practical action to change the material world. By investigating the necessary properties and the laws of motion of the phenomenal world, and the rational methods of activity to transform it, humans have given the concept of experience a new meaning. Experience thus denotes the interaction of the social subject with the external world, merging with the “sum total of society’s practical activity” (Rosenthal and Yudin 154).

Experience is thus a complex notion of imbrication of various layers of phenomena, both subjective and objective. It was Hegel who defined experience as a transactive interface of subject and object working its way in a dialectical process in his Phenomenology of Spirit. From a phenomenological frame, Hegel conceived of experience as that which later views of reality have of the earlier ones; that is, what a more mature and self-conscious grasp of reality reveals is the “experience” of what was inscribed in earlier, naïve notions. In effect, it is the experience of the passage of consciousness, “the dialogue between natural consciousness and absolute knowledge” (Heidegger 146; see also Findlay 87).

Now, exactly what is that raw complex of experience bedeviling Joaquin’s conscience? Everyone knows that the passage of our country into modernity was interrupted twice: the first, by the defeat of Aguinaldo’s revolutionary forces by the U.S. invasion and bloody pacification from 1899 to 1913; and, second, by the U.S. failure to prevent the Japanese occupation and destruction of Manila, followed by more than two decades of neocolonial subservience to U.S. diktat. The harmony of Spanish monastic supremacy subtending the feudal/patriarchal order was broken not by the 1896 Katipunan uprising but by U.S. imperial conquest. While accepting the compromise of the Commonwealth, where the ilustrado fathers (Recto/Don Perico in The Portrait) found token recognition, Joaquin could not accept the collaboration (and U.S. acquiescence to) with the Japanese. This was due to the horrendous devastation of Intramuros, the prime symbol of a sophisticated Catholic ethos and ancien regime manners. It is the event of WW2 disaster, the “orgy of atrocities” matched only by the 1937 Nanking massacre (Karnow 321), that traumatized Joaquin’s psyche crawling out of the rubble of Intramuros. The Filipino ilustrado soul entered the phase of “transcendental homelessness,” the theme of the classic European novel and of Joaquin’s fictional and dramatic attempts to assuage and cure the trauma.

Except for the tales and folkloric adaptations—“The Legend of the Dying Wanton,” Dona Jeronima.” “The Mass of St Sylvester,”—the major stories in the Penguin anthology strove to confront the two crises by resolving, in an imaginary sphere we call “ideology,” the contradiction between the project of reconstructing the tradition by sublation—negating the archaic residues, preserving elements of Christian humanism (free will; reason under grace), and lifting them to a richer, more universal level—and accepting the fate of imperial domination. Whether the experience of his protagonists demonstrate a genuine dialectical resolution of the schisms in their world, remains to be demonstrated.

Mapping the Oral Space of Time

Let us examine how this adventure of the Unhappy Consciousness unfolds toward a sublimation of its immanent contradictions. Joaquin’s two novels originate from the matrix of tale-telling. The core problem we need to engage with is the nature and consequentiality of those experiences rendered by Joaquin’s moralizing tales. We need to understand what shapes of memory and hope may be glimpsed and delineated so as to give counsel, warning or ultimatum to its modern audience. Who this audience is and where, remains also as problematic as the specific contingencies underlying both Joaquin’s life and the still taken-for granted sociohistorical situation that is the condition of possibility of his art.

To answer this question, let us take as specimen the widely-anthologized “The Summer Solstice.” The time-period (1850) is still colonial, materialized in the suburb of Paco (also replicated in Obando, Bulacan) outside of the Walled City,still pervaded with pagan practices. The Tadtarin, a three-day fertility festival overlaid/legitimized by the Christian feast of St. John the Baptist, enacts the death, flourishing, and birth of the sun/life-force. The Tadtarin is represented by an old woman who ritually dies, carrying a wand-fetish and a sheaf of seedlings; she is resurrected, the crowd of women-worshippers dancing around her, with St. John the Baptist figuring as the somewhat tabooed, engulfed phallic icon. The orgy is supposed to synchronize human biological time and the rhythm of the universe, here intimated by the triple-time dance steps evoking the sound of a circumcision ceremony (Roces). It is less a Dionysian debauchery than a celebration of desire, passion, lust, attuned to the organic cycle of animal/natural life.

But history, not myth, preoccupies Joaquin in celebrating June. In the zodiac-designed Almanac for Manilenos, Joaquin assigns the solstice month to Juno, the patroness of marriage and fertility, following prehistoric Roman tradition. But more significant is June 12, 1898, Aguinaldo’s proclamation of the independent Malolos Republic. June 24 is the feast of St John the Baptist canonized by Christ himself; “all the rest of humanity were born in sin,” adds Joaquin, except for St. John, Christ and the Virgin Mary (Almanac 170). But what for Joaquin is more significant is the founding of Manila by Legaspi on June 24, 1571, because with city records and chronology of deeds, Spanish conquest gave history to the country and began to eradicate pagan myths and animist/obscurantist practices like astrology and occult fortune-telling.

Communal time, however, is cyclical and cannot be reduced to the spatial linearity of the merchant’s calendar. What Joaquin does is to use this social/cultural arena to dramatize the phase of consciousness which Hegel described as the conflict of slave and lord, the bondsman and master. In it the slave wins recognition (self-consciousness) via his labor and creation, whereas the lord remains in-himself, sunk in empirical solitude, treating the slave as a thing/object. In the relation between Dona Lupeng and the husband Rafael Moreta, the archetypal gender-war centers on the woman’s introflection of the collective, universal for-itself of the community. She is no longer just wife or mother, for she now embodies the in-itself/for-itself Subject that mediates between the patriarchal law of property-owning society (wives and children are the slaves in the Roman familia). The melodramatic episode of the husband crawling to kiss the wife’s foot has externalized the Unhappy Consciousness into a fight between two humans reduced to animal/physical sensations, with mastery as the object/goal, in the realm of the empirical/natural life. We are remote from any hope of reaching the self-conscious Universal that sublimates the organic/natural impulse into the ordered ethical sphere of the family and self-reflecting Spirit of civilization.

Joaquin’s resort to the strategy of Christian evangelicism assimilating/adapting pagan rituals can also be observed in the other tales: “Dona Jeronima,” “May Day Eve,” “Guardia de Honor,” and “The Order of Melkizedek.” In the latter, the sacrifice of Guia betokens the return of the Manichean casuistry personified by the guilt-ridden Fr. Lao.
But at the same time, with Fr. Melchor standing for a recurrent urge to repeat the inaugural sacrament of the Feast of Circumcision, and the founding of a new millenary movement to renew society, Joaquin revives the roots of the Unhappy Consciousness by focalization on a utopian biblical image: his toothbrush and the “burning bush’ of a plane-ticket illuminating the void of the niche in Salem House. The once displaced native has vowed to stay in the homeland and solve the mystery of the unfulfilled promise of national redemption.

The would-be dialectical mediators of opposing forces, the tutored Candido and the moralizing Sid Estiva, seem unable to grasp the negativity of the empirical surface. They remain trapped in sensuous certainty, the antinomy of desire and sinfulness, unable to leap to a further stage to capture the Other’s inwardness, remaining torn by heterogenous immediacy. In this busy detective story, the “Sign of the Milky Seed –a pun on seminal fluid—historicized as the Order of Melkizedek, opens the occasion for introducing the character of Father Melchor, acompanied by the revenger Fr. Lao. The latter, a double or the obverse face of the former, seems to parody the vocation of those “justified and sanctified by God’s grace” and who offer their lives “in sacrifice to God’s incomprehensible dominion (Rahner and Vorgrimler 376). Sid Estiva is just a catalyst in the return of the priestly order so that the political millenarism of the youth (Guia and her circle) is sublimated into the erotic affairs of the adult guardians (for a diagnosis of this shift in Western philosophy, see Taylor).

A millenary impulse of prefiguring the return of the Messiah underlies this project of Joaquin to resolve the sordid dilemma of the Unhappy Consciousness. It evokes the delusionary phantasies of victims of overwhelming catastrophes in the Middle Ages, replete with a demon scapegoats, messianic leaders, millennial mirages, together with the army of Saints ready to purify earth so as to establish “the new Jerusalem, the shining Kingdom of the Saints” (Cohn 73). The Pauline image of the crucified Christ, performed by Father Melchor, invokes the millenary tradition of revivalist sects inspired by St. John’s apocalypse (Smith 172-79), a repetition-compulsion lacking catharsis.

What needs underscoring is St. Augustine’s insistence that the millennial kingdom wished-for by millenarian movements actually began with the birth of Christ. One historian notes that in the anti-Papacy movements (for example, the Anabaptists) from the thirteenth to the sixteenth, “the earlier millenarianism bloomed again in full vigor. It became part of the baggage of the Reformation and has continued to the present day, a seemingly necessary consequence of verbal inspiration of the Scriptures” (Mead 492). Joaquin’s revival of this chiliastic, millenarian tendency testifies to a proto-revolutionary impulse in his work that connects with the genealogy of our rich tradition from Tamblot to the Colorums and Mt Banahaw sects, the Rizalistas, up to the revolt of the Lapiang Malaya of Valentin de los Santos on May 21, 1967 (Agoncillo and Guerrero 508).
Triangulating Counter-Modernism

Counter-modernist reformation evokes not a return to a utopian past but a futuristic projection of an authentic fulfillment. This is a transitional subject-position occupied by the Unhappy Consciousness whose itinerary we are tracing here. It might be worthwhile to note first, as a heuristic guide, the time-span spanning Joaquin’s production of his stories and novels, between 1946 and 1966, except for “Three Generations,” published in 1940. We are plunged into the postwar milieu of “Liberation,” the onset of the Cold War, the founding of Communist China, the Korean War, the upsurge and crushing of the Huk rebellion, and the Vietnam War. For Joaquin, as his polemics against U.S. neocolonialism in the articles on WW2, Bataan, Corregidor, etc. indicate (as mentioned earlier), the single traumatic event is the destruction of Manila and Intramuros in 1945. That holocaust also spelled the confusion, anomie, and decadence of a feudal, comprador formation, evinced in “The Order of Melkizedek,” “Candido’s Apocalypse,” and “A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino,” and the two novels.

So anchored is Joaquin to this sequence of episodes that one might categorize Joaquin’s art under the rubric of trauma-psychodrama due for psychoanalysis. But if one seeks a pedagogical or ethico-political motivation behind this obsession, it might be heuristic to sketch here a metacommentary on the singular way that Joaquin selects events, personages, locales, etc., in order to resolve recurrent aporias and conflicts that block normal everyday life. What we need is a symptomatic deciphering of this fixation, the repetition-compulsion if you will, in order to ascertain Joaquin’s position in the unfinished struggle for our country’s genuine independence and popular sovereignty.

It is easy to demonstrate how Joaquin exorcises the haunting specter of WW2 catastrophe by imposing a break, an ineluctable cut between past and present. This is clear in “The Mass of St, Sylvestre.” The GI soldier’s colloquial flat idiom to convey his witnessing is both truthful and parodic. Anglo-Saxon technology/photography cannot capture the aura of a ritual, the sacramentalizing cathexis of joining past and future through collective repetition. What supersedes the soldier’s momentary vision is the recording of the sight of ruins, blocks and blocks of ruins—the heritage left by McArthur’s “liberation.” The present sensibility can never fully capture the substance of Manila’s history, the implied narrator hints, so therefore let us just resign ourselves to that stark separation, that gap or rupture in time which seems impossible to cover up.

In stories like “Three Generations,” “May Day Eve,” and “Guardia de Honor” where the problem of continuity is also center-staged, the moment of epiphany connecting generations is Joaquin’s easy fix. The father in “Three Generations” compulsively repeats the past which the son refuses to accept. In “May Day Eve,” the weeping Badoy struggles to discover coherence in the discordances of the past afforded by the urban rituals of Intramuros. Meanwhile, in “Guardia de Honor,” the contingency of everyday life furnishes the space for humans to exercise free-will by following sensuous inclination and intuition (chiefly Natalia Ferrero’s) who bridges the gulf between parental authority and the children’s right to decide their destinies. In all three stories, we find a formula to reconfigure the repetition-compulsion as a wound healed by the same passage of time that allows the subject–here designating the spiritually tormented protagonists of three decades of US occupation–to accept historical necessity without the benefit of Christian transcendence. In “A Portrait,” the role of Bitoy Camacho, the narrator-participant, easily fulfills the role of mediator, tying past and present, suturing the wounds of self-denials, hypocrisies, compromises, and fatalism distributed among family members, relatives, and strangers.

Confounded Temporality

Modern times ushered in fierce individualist competition among clans, family dynasties, and ethnic assemblages. I think it is imperative to remind ourselves that our colonization aborted our entrance to modernity defined by the instrumental rationality of bourgeois society. U.S. rule strategically preserved the feudal landlord system supervised by a comprador-bureaucratic apparatus managed by American administrators. Except for a semblance of urbanization (railroad, highways), selective meritocracy and a paternalistic electoral system, the old order of exploitation of workers and peasantry, together with the repression of the indigenous/ethnic folk (Moros, Igorots, Lumads), prevailed. Proofs of this are the numerous peasant revolts, uprising of millenary sects, and the Sakdal/Huk rebellion of the thirties, forties and fifties. The center failed to hold, everything seemed to be falling apart. The surrender of Bataan and Corregidor was a prelude to the rapacious epoch of the next thirty years after MacArthur’s bombing of Manila which coincided with Joaquin’s most productive period as fictionist, poet, playwright, and journalist.

In brief, we failed to make the transition, suspended in the dying world of Don Lorenzo Marasigan and a new world (ambiguously represented by Candido, the Monzon brothers, etc.) struggling to be born. In between these poles, we witness morbid, bizarre symptoms of the passage of lives. We see how the reality of uneven/combined development preserved an ethos of authoritarian conduct, patriarchal despotism, and superstitious beliefs anchored to a backward economy that clashed with imperial financial interventions which undermined its drive for efficient industrialization. How to reconcile the polar opposites of communal solidarity and individualist-familial selfishness, is one way of formulating the problem. There is no returning back to a golden age of theocratic diplomacy and honor-centered decorum. Joaquin’s praise of “custom and ceremony” and its twin children, beauty and innocence, seems an ironic resignation to the implacable onslaught of social Darwinism in the twenties and thirties, a period of repression dominated by the predatory business compromises of family dynasties during the postwar regimes of Roxas, Quirino, Magsaysay, Garcia, Macapagal, Marcos, Aquino, up to the present conjuncture.

Counterfeiting the Tale-teller

In the rural/pastoral world of the three centuries before the outbreak of the Katipunan rebellion, the oral narrative provided not only entertainment but knowledge. From Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales to Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, the tale served to distill folk-wisdom in the guise of fantastic occurrences (as in folklore dealing with supernatural characters), or the prowess of heroic pioneers (Paul Bunyan). In the Philippines, aside from the pasyon and saint’s lives, the medieval romances of chivalric protagonists elaborated in Ibong Adarna or Bernardo Carpio postponed death by the Scheherezadesque trick of endless multiplication of episodes. Medieval vision literature as well as the exempla in the Gesta Romanorum, or the prodigious inventions in Rabelais’ Gargantua and Pantagruel, or in Voltaire’s Candide, offer models for adaptation. The duration of storytelling afforded a home for raconteur and listeners, as well as practical advice that can be extrapolated from the ending of the adventures.

This is the tradition of the short-story form followed by Joaquin. It is basically the orally-disseminated tale that goes against Joaquin’s prejudice against it in favor of the visually-oriented narrative (Joaquin Discourses 67-72). Ironically, Joaquin’s gothic retelling of legends invokes the power of the aural or auditory imagination so carefully documented by Walter Ong. But, as T.S. Eliot once said, tradition cannot be inherited. Joaquin labored hard to contrive versions of the tall tale, or traveller’s yarn, in “The Legend…” and “Dona Jeronima.” They are aesthetic stories fabricated out of stylistic devices and motifs taken from gothic romances which utilized the “gradual heightening of psychological tension of the sensation story and the concealment of meaning associated with the detective story, along with ‘fine writing,’ to make an overt bid for high prestige” (Ferguson 189).

The crisis confronted in them inheres in the sharp division between the sacred and profance, the worldly and the spiritual. Incorporating vice and piety, Currito Lopez’s soul is saved by the intervention of the Virgin. However, this event cannot be made intelligible to a secular crowd without the mediation of Dona Ana de Vera. The contradictions between the debased world of sixteenth-century Spain/Manila and its exaltation of saintly virtues are resolved by the domestic routine of a devout Dona Ana. There is no hint of suspicion that the miraculous and the ordinary can co-exist in the person of Dona Ana, the exemplary mother of an official in the early years of Spanish pacification of the islands.

Unless amnesia has overtaken the colonial state in 1613, the memory of the 1574 Lakandola-Soliman revolt as well as the 1587 Magat Salamat and Agustin de Legaspi conspiracy in the Manila area has probably not been wiped out. In 1589 and 1695, several uprisings in Ilocos and Cagayan against reduccion and tributes might have disturbed conscientious administrators of the provinces. And before the decade passed, the Bankaw uprising (1621) was followed by the Tamblot rebellion (1622) which exploded in Bohol with thousands of natives rallying to the native shaman, attacking churches and defying the fifty Spaniards and one thousand native troops recruited from Pampanga and Cebu (Constantino 85; Veneracion 57, Zafra 72). No doubt Currito and Dona Ana seemed oblivious of rebellions happening around them, turning the rest of 17th-century Philippines into a cauldron of indigenous fury against Church and State.

With the flourishing of the galleon trade and its eventual demise, the schism between the worldly and the spiritual intensified. The reliance on tribute, polo y servicios, ravaging of the natural resources (gold and silver), and exploitation of native labor can no longer be maintained in the face of British naval superiority in the 17th century. The capture of Manila by the British in 1752 kindled numerous uprisings against Spanish tyranny throughout the islands. One can no longer expect the Catholic Church and its hegemony to continue without serious erosion and eventual collapse. Joaquin wrestled with this threat in Dona Jeronima: she becomes the symbolic return of the repressed, only to be tamed, recuperated, ultimately subdued. But the dialectical process of subsumption of the wild or dangerous appear spurious or fraudulent: a myth-making compromise yokes the penitent Archbishop/lover with the wasted Jeronima. She becomes the local deity of the place, the new diwata celebrated by varying generations. But both lovers transcend their original historical matrix and exert mystifying reverberations, thus forfeiting the possibility of realizing the identity-in-difference born of self-consciousness and the labor of negative determination.

Parabolic Synthesis

It is relevant to ask at this juncture: Is the narrative scheme of unifying opposites a mystification? Native Catholicism is a syncretic product of the blending of medieval doctrines and folk mythology, This approximates the lesson of “Dona Jeronima.” However, the process of reconciliation elides a final closure because the Archbishop’s ring cannot be recovered from the river, emblem of the flux of nature and worldly exigencies. We are suspended in the sphere of what Hegel calls “the Unhappy Consciousness,” the transitional passage of Spirit (“Geist,” Hegel’s term, translates into the Aristotelian enargia or cosmic life-force) from Stoicism, a thoroughgoing negation of the world sunk in fear and servitude, to Scepticism which dissolves all rules, perceptions, certainties. But this freedom of the Skeptic “reinstates the dogmatism that it both requires and negates.” In short, it embodies a truly paradoxical situation suffused with inner contradictions which were one-sidedly resolved by the proud self-righteous Stoic and by the ironic dialectic of the slave’s mastery over the lord in an earlier stage of the process.

Hegel’s notion of the “Unhappy Consciousness” alludes to the dual experience of medieval Christendom, a tension between the Changeable and Unchangeable. It epitomizes the negativity of human existence. Hegel explains that this contradictory, inwardly disrupted consciousness typical of Judaism and medieval Christianity “is the gazing of one self-consciousness into another, and itself is both, and the unity of both is also its essential nature. But it is not yet explicitly aware that this is its essential nature, or that it is the unity of both” (126). We follow the pious man’s struggle “to synthesize his double consciousness, in which each of the opposed terms finds itself again and again in the other, but in a merely implicit union with its other, which again and again dissolves and sharpens the agony of severance” (Mure 79). As Findlay paraphrases it, “Each approach to the Godhead must, therefore, be succeeded by the painful reaffirmation of its own nothingness, each positive achievement or enjoyment by an act of humble thanksgiving for Divine Grace” (98).

Hegel’s description of the “Unhappy Consciousness” in The Philosophy of Religion can be applied to the experience of the Archbishop in “Dona Jeronima,” as well as to aspects of the Dying Wanton’s life, and the predicament of the major protagonists in “Candido’s Apocalypse,” “The Order of Melkizedek,” and The Woman Who Had Two Navels. Note the syncopated turns of consciousness and reciprocal effects of each on the other: “In thought I raise myself to the absolute, transcending all that is finite. I am therefore an infinite consciousness, and at the same time I am a finite consciousness of myself in my whole empirical make-up. The two terms approach each other and fly each other. I am the feeling, the intuition, the imagining of this unity, of this conflict; and I am the connection of the conflicting terms. I am this combat. I am not one of the combatants engaged but both of them. and the combat itself. I am the fire and the water which make contact. I am the contact and the unity of the utterly self-repelling” (quoted by Mure 49-50).

The circumscribed mercantilist milieu of the galleon trade traverses the entire seventeenth-century punctuated by the Reformation, Counter-Reformation, and St John’s “dark night of the soul.” Mexican silver was then exchanged for Chinese goods via the port of Manila on the way to Acapulco and eventually to Spain. The tragicomedy of the Archbishop’s rescue from shipwreck, and withdrawal from the city to inhabit the riverside hermitage to confront his past, renders by analogy one way by which the colony survived in the face of rapid socioeconomic changes—for one, the subordination of Spain to British commerce (Constantino 110). One can perceive the shiftings, permutations, and reiterations of Subjective Spirit registering those historical transformations in this passage where Joaquin animates the vicissitudes of the “Unhappy Consciousness” caught between the encapsulated city and the navigable river, the aporia of the changeless and the mutable, where the meaning of the quest is at stake:

Riding forth from the city at twilight, the Arch bishop shivered with senseless excitement and wondered if revelation was at hand. On the desert isle and the retreat on the riverbank, he had pressed with might and main for an answer… Children accepted the earth with frank pleasure; and lost innocence only in the grief of knowing themselves exiles from elsewhere. Was the quest, then, a relearning of this frank pleasure—and of reverence for the despised flesh, astonishment for the scorned world? Was it this quest which, extending beyond this life, made flesh and its fevers, even if they be forever and ever, not hell but at worse a purgatory, a school for lovers? (163).

While there is combat between the priestly lover and the pagan woman, there is no internalization of the Other. What reconciles them is their shared belief, transforming both into legendary patron-spirits of the place. The negative totality of each does not evolve into self-conscious “negation of the negation.” Instead, a fetishized halo shrouds both, elevating them into a timeless, supernatural realm. Similar but different from “The Summer Solstice,” where the dionysian revelry of a phalanx of women mediates Dona Lupeng’s sensuous self into a demand for recognition, here the vision of the eternal river—the cycle of natural existence. the mirage of immediacy—abruptly terminates the Unhappy Consciousness’ quest.

Engendering Labor

We have tried to sketch here a cognitive mapping of the terrain encompassed by Joaquin’s effort to thwart the onslaught of alienated labor. Its symptoms in a still ascendant but eroded patriarchal institution and its ideological legitimacy survives in the family. The bourgeois family sustains the servitude of women, wives and mothers, all confined to domestic work and the care of children. Masculine domination of the public sphere is guaranteed by the relegation of women to the sexual/animal domain (as in “The Summer Solstice”), or treated as sacrificial offerings (Guia, Concha). It would need the intervention of Connie Escobar and the two sisters, Paul and Candida, to untangle the misery and greed of the pettybourgeois family, the tyranny of the fathers and their surrogates, in order to actualize the concept of the Subject construed as an identity-in-difference.

In the archive of critical commentary on this story (extended into a novel), the theme of doubleness, hybridity, and ambivalent identity predominate. For example, Bienvenido Lumbera is impressed by Joaquin’s “dramatic rendering of an obssesive problem of the Westernized Filipino intellectual caught between the pressures of his people’s history and of two colonial cultures—that of national identity” (Lumbera and Lumbera 244). More recurrent is the theme of the “divided Filipino psyche” insisted on by the Singaporean critic Shirley Lim. She locates the problem of Filipino identity not in its dualism but in “the denial of that fracture” (73). Most commentaries subscribe to the consensus that the two-navelled woman emblematizes the syndrome of the disrupted or differentialed psyche of Filipinos. This is surely a reductive formulation that collapses the complex manifold antagonisms into a simplistic proposition (for a deviant take, see San Juan, Toward a People’s Literature; Subversions).

Opposed to this individualistic, empiricist reading, I propose focusing attention on the institution of the family and its embeddedness in a society of exchange and its reifying ramifications. This includes the mediation of labor, the metabolism between society and nature (Lukacs 109-2). The trope of duality is only an offshoot of the logic of determination construed as negation, then as negation of the negation, a trajectory registered in the vacillations of the “Unhappy Consciousness.” But what is crucial is to ascertain the historically variable content of this trope and other ambiguous figures which define the meaning of substantive ethical transactions enacted in the texts.

In Joaquin’s ilustrado family, we discern not the unifying force of love, but “the barbarism of private property against family life” (Marx, Critique 99). The labor of the negative in history escapes the narrative armature of these tales. They subsist in the sphere of natural needs, egocentric appetites, with brute force imposed on workers and peasants. Would “The Woman with Two Navels” and “The Portrait” be able to clearly demonstrate a contrary process of resolving the contradictions of a disintegrated society and its ethos of inward spirituality and hypocritical sociability? We have noticed that in spite of forced denouements, all the knots are not tied by the convergence of events and the compromise negotiated by the characters. The texts reveal their fissured, twisted fabric, “disparate and diffuse from being the outcome of the conflicting contradictory effect of superimposing real processes which cannot be abolished in it except in an imaginary way” (Balibar and Macherey 284).

One indication of this ideological subterfuge may be observed in the situation of Paco Texeira. Haunted by the totemic mother (represented here by Concha Vidal), the story’s viewpoint maneuvers from the pole of narcissism to object-eroticism by shifting the libidinal object to Connie Escovar. His journey and sojourn in Manila is an attempt to heal the wounds/disruption of his own family and thus achieve self-integration. But even after the combat with Connie, Paco emerges victorious, only to be hounded by the Furies in the shape of the Philippine landscape that his father told him about. He thought he had escaped Connie/Concha, “But looking up and seeing the mountains, his heart stopped, his eyes started out of his head, his throat screamed soundlessly. He had not escaped, he had not fled at all—for there she still was, stretched out under the sky, the sly look in her eyes and the bloody smile on her lips, and her breasts and shoulders naked” (Joaquin 103).On this function of equating mother/homeland, Geza Roheim remarks: “Neurosis separates the individual from his fellows and connects him with his own infantile images. Culture (sublimation) leads the libido into ego-syntonic channels by the creation of substitute objects. The most important of these substitutes is a human being, the wife who replaces the mother (quoted in La Barre 167).

And so it is Paco Texeira, the hybrid child, outsider/insider to the Hong Kong exiles, that fulfills what the Monson family failed to do: return to the father’s homeland, affirming patriarchal origin. Paco’s memory reinstates the position of his vagrant father, bringing him to life, acknowledging him as a source of vital wholeness: “He had clutched at the railing as he gazed at the mountains in astonished delight, thinking of himself as a boy, seated on the bed, staring at his father’s photograph, and trying to stir up some feeling over his father’s death….The astonishment had renewed itself all the time he was in Manila, every time he looked up and suddenly saw the sleeping woman outlined against the sky—and it changed the indifference with which he had come into his father’s country into a stirring of clan-emotion–a glow, almost, of homecoming” (89). But the homeland offered only the camaraderie of the band of musicians, semantically charged with the Oedipal threat of incest and the killing of the totemic father.

From Family to Polis: The Antigone Effect

From Hegel’s perspective, the family serves as the natural basis of political life, making humans ethical beings. It is the “obscure right of the natural element within spiritual relationship.” It stands for individual versus communal right. Hegel perceives that in Greek society, “the old Gods are assigned the right of family situations in so far as these rest on nature and therefore are opposed to the public law and right of the community” (quoted in Rose 133). In Sophocles’ tragedy Antigone, the conflict is between family right, the right to bury the dead, and communal right, the law of society. Both ethical powers clash. Antigone is compelled not by her character, but by pathos.”an inherently justified power over the heart, an essential content of rationality and freedom of the will” (Rosen 133). Collision of two equally necessary and substantial rights results into tragedy—those of Connie/Concha and of Candida/Paula—modulated into comic resolution with the reinstatement of the extended neofeudal family. The reason for this outcome is that in modern capitalism, only freedom in thought, not actual freedom, exists; while in truth commodity-fetishism, reification, imposes the fatal necessity that constitutes the normal routine of everyday life.

Meanwhile, Joaquin shifts the stage of the conflict from mother/daughter to father/sons. It is the cultural milieu of the Monson family that becomes the mode of sublimating anxieties, a network of defense mechanisms consisting of Pepe Monson, Father Tony, Rita Lopez, and the domestic hearth of Mary Texeira, the wife. It is the wife who substitutes for the mother, stabilizing the gap between narcissistic fixation and object-eroticism. The wife serves as the matrix of the family which in turn serves multiple functions (economic provision, exchange of sexual services, socialization). But more important than all the tasks performed by the family, Eric Wolf reminds us, “it remains also, even where ties of kinship are highly diffuse, the bearer of virtue, and of its public reflection, reputation. Because the family involves the ‘whole’ man, public evaluations of a man are ultimately led back to considerations of his family” (8).

The Matrix Paradigm

Women protagonists therefore uphold the familial niche containing the emblem of virtue in Joaquin’s imaginary polis. But this presumes the recognition of the unity-in-difference of women in the family. In Connie Escobar’s situation, Joaquin allegorized the fantasy of division and the spirit’s diremption. This is possible because she is not afflicted with the schizoid temperament of the Unhappy Consciousness. It is Paco Texeira, the musician, half-Filipino half-Portuguese, who undergoes the shifts, displacements, and confrontations of the Negative Totality that is Manila/Philippines after Liberation. Fleeing the clutches of the mother Concha Vidal, he pursues the daughter Connie. After offering a sacrificial doll to a Chinese god in Manila’s Chinatown—the flagrant Others demonized by the Spaniards by consigning them to the Parian ghetto outside Intramuros—Connie wrestles with Paco, a struggle that emblematizes the agon of master-slave relations long superseded by the ordeal of the Unhappy Consciousness. Illusion and the pleasure-principle confront the reality-principle immanent in Paco’s identification as member of the band. In any case, his temporary return to his family reaffirms the husband-wife relation as, in Hegel’s terms, the one “in which one consciousness immediately recognizes itself in another, and in which there is knowledge of this mutual recognition” (Hegel, Phenomenology 273).

The two-navelled woman thus represents in part a return of Mother-right in the guise of Persephone replacing Demeter, or the Virgin’s immaculate privilege overshadowing the son/father link. Joaquin’s fable, in its diegetic aspect, returns to the predicament of the patriarch Monson disenchanted by the reign of anarchic individualism illustrated by the aggressive Escovar and his mirror-image Paco. The older Monson is oblivious of positive changes in neocolonial society, still believing that he cannot utter “Nunc dimmitis servum tuum, Domine” (according to his children) because he still believes he is needed. This bubble of fixation is threatened and destroyed by the intrusion of Concha Vidal and the daughter Connie, as though the Divine Law controlling natural existence represented the reality of neocolonial Philippines and its violent repression of peasants, workers, etc. in the Huk rebellion and the Cold War fascist curtailment of civil rights and other democratic liberties.

We can surmise that the two-navelled Connie and the flamboyant Concha Vidal are the twin faces of a society from which the Hong Kong exiles have kept a precarious distance. Their refuge is menaced by a world of “dust and crabs…” Innocence has devolved into bitter disenchantment, not wisdom. This quasi-Gothic romance turned mystery thriller also unfolds the education of the Monson children and friends, as well as their initiation into the sphere of antagonisms and incongruities, violating traditional conventions and negating pious decorum:

The mirror’s cracked world was safe no longer; was perilous with broken glass, teeming with ghosts; was now the world where Paco waited for the strangle-hold and dear good Mary told lies and the cautious Rita was dazzled by dragons and Tony hid in a monastery and fathers took drugs and mothers had lost their dictionaries and young women had two navels….(Joaquin, The Woman 111).

This concludes the short story, which was expanded later into a novel at the end of which Connie and Paco together set out on a new journey, presumably suggesting the dynamics of “free will” and a future unchained from contingency and undecidabiltity. We await the messianic event, the sublime refusing conceptualization: for Joaquin, the return of the globalizing missionaries, the armed evangelists. It is the birth of another illusion: the Kantian noumenal world of abstract universality without content, a floating signifier vulnerable to forces that can limit and eviscerate it.

Assaying Consumable Artifacts

In Joaquin’s expanded novel, the tension between private and public worlds is dissolved with the compromises of both Connie and the patriarch Monson. Both “The Woman” and “Portrait” are Joaquin’s attempts to heal the rupture between the Spanish decrepit heritage and the dominance of Anglo-Saxon utilitarian norms. This rupture, however, was constituted by heterogenous elements: the betrayal of the revolution by the ilustrado intelligentsia, the suppression of peasant and workers’ insurrections by the U.S.-patronized oligarchy, and the destruction of Manila and the whole country for the sake of maintaining U.S. imperial hegemony. In “The Woman,” the thematized problem is how to rescue the patriarchal regime from disruption by the natural powers (embodied by the mother-daughter’s wild pursuit of Paco, the wandering half-breed occupying both worlds) unleashed by the savagery of survivors and returning masters. In “The Portrait,” the crisis is shifted to the eve of World War II, just as Manila was preparing to become “the Open City” to the Japanese invaders, an eventuality muted by the La Naval procession that punctuates the concluding scene. And this time, the burden of discharging the blockage of sentiment, hopes, and aspirations—a profound trauma unrelieved by mourning and melancholia–is placed on two sisters, Candida and Paula.

Let us return to the perilous zone of familial ethics. Having deployed the Hegelian notion of the “Unhappy Consciousness” to characterize the situation of typical protagonists such as the Archbishop in “Dona Geronima,” the father in “Three Generations,” Sid Estiva in “The Order,” and the adolescent in “Candido’s Apocalypse,” it might be useful again to invoke Hegel on the role of the nuclear family, in particular the sisters, in diagnosing the ethical problem. Here, of course, it is the artist Don Lorenzo, afflicted with a spiritual lethargy similar to the elder Monson, whose painting, read as a metaphor of his social/moral predicament, has become an albatross on the lives of the sisters. But why assign the therapeutic agency to the sisters?

The traditional family is in crisis here. But the free individualities of the children prevails—they have no desire for one another. Hegel contends that “the feminine in the form of the sister. has the highest intuitive awarenss of what is ethical. She does not attain to consciousness of it, or to the objective existence of it, because the law of the Family is an implicit inner essence, which is not exposed to the daylight of consciousness, but remains an inner feeling and the divine element that is exempt from an existence in the real world.” The ethical life of the woman, the sister, is distinctive because “in her vocation as an individual and in her pleasure, her interest is centered on the universal and remains alien to the particularity of desire.” In the sisters Paul and Candida, we behold the affirmation of the individual’s right to recognize and be recognized, not ruined by desire. They fulfill the governance of the household and “the guardian of the divine law” from which the community derives its power and authentication” (Phenomenology 276).

It is not impertinent to ask here: are Candida and Paula finally liberated from the spell of their father’s painting and the obligations accrued by his gift? This insight into the vocation of the woman as mediating the natural/divine sphere and empirical legality occurs within the framework of the family. Within the ethical perspective sketched by Hegel, the family holds a universality based on intuition, separate from the all-embracing concept of the Kantian categorical imperative. Each family member sees herself in the others and acknowledges the difference; but being a form of natural cohesion—notice how need and material desires command the behavior of the elder siblings, Tony Javier, etc.—it cannot serve as the model of a coherent sociopolitical system. That is why the play dramatizes the disintegration of that old order anchored to needs, appetites, and various libidinal investments governing the vicissitudes of the Unhappy Consciousness.

Remembrance as Tragicomic Closure

We come finally to the apocalypse of the hispanicized Filipino artist. Assuming that “The Portrait” is an attempt to depict the Filipino as an artist endowed with a sensibility attuned to the sensuous, empirical environment, why is Don Lorenzo’s painting such a burden to the sisters and a point of bitter conflict in the family? And does the drama really convey the emancipation of the sisters and Don Lorenzo from bondage to a nostalgically invoked utopia?

As part of this metacommentary, let us consider the opinion of Leonard Casper, reputed to be a knowlegeable expert on Filipino writing. Casper extols the proselytizing message that we need to ponder on : “For the public, the play is an elegy for lost virtues—childhood innocence; it is a reminder of the First Fall; its appeal therefore is to every man…..Victory for the spirit here (one cannot quite say the soul) is so nearly complete that, finally, there is no sense of loss. The past is carried into the future on the shoulders of the present, as in Marasigan’s painting of Aeneas bearing from Troy on his shoulders an Anchises whose face is his own” (141). If the past is simply transported to the present without any change, given the incestous doubling of the artist’s face in both father and child, then we are confronted with the triumph of necessity, contingency, and the force of brute fatality antithetical to the “innocence and beauty” born from custom and ceremony. Instead of a tragic collision of two morally valid positions, as in Sophocles’ Antigone (Wimsatt and Brooks), we have a comic ending devoid of catharsis. In the final reckoning, the sisters demonstrate their fidelity/kinship with the father’s sense of honor indivisible with Catholic dogma (signified by his heading the La Naval procession), absorbing the father’s artifice and testimony into the vortex of their endangered lives.

We can ask whether Geist (ilustrado esprit de corps) or private property proved victorious in Joaquin’s allegory of the Filipino artist. If spirit is equivalent to the autonomous person, the free-thinking individual of modern industrialized society, Gillian Rose reminds us that persons were first defined in Roman law as “bearers of legal property rights…The possessor [of property] is recognized in law as a person. ‘Personality’ is an abstraction of the law, and the claim to possess is the basis of the right to be recognized by law” (66-67). From this proceeds the institutions of exchange and contract based on the division of labor and the control of surplus. “Exchange and contract depend on the recognition of formal equalities which presuppose lack of identity or inequality” (Rose 67). In the Philippines during U.S. colonial rule, the institutions of exchange and contract prevailed over the old traditional social customs premised on honor, gift-giving, noblesse oblige, and near incestuous arrangements.
We are still muddling through this legacy.

What seems hidden by the aura of Don Lorenzo’s painting is the reality of what’s going on around that decaying zone. The atmosphere of defeat and desperate panic to escape from a devastated city keeps us distracted from the fierce antagonisms of individuals surrounding the family. In the colonial order administered by bourgeois bureaucrats, every individual has the right to own property. But this presupposes people without property, considered as “things,” and therefore subordinated or enslaved. It is the family governed by intuition or feeling that restores genuine totality of multiple connections, an identity of needs, sexual difference, and relations of parents to children outside of formal contractual relations of ownership. Ownership of the art-work becomes a crux for dispute.

One thing seems established: despite the varying interpretations of the meaning and significance of the painting, the drama’s focus has always been on the artist/creator, not the circumstances or context of its genesis. Thus, even with its disappearance, we never grasp the principle of unity (e.g., property relations) binding the characters squabbling over the sacralized object. The universal spirit of the community cannot spring from particularistic appetites and needs (Hegel, Phenomenology 267-787). We may infer their distinctive motives and interests, but we never see the process of recognition in which each person internalizes the other as a possible element or stage of her development. A glimmer of self-consciousness only arrives with Bitoy Camacho’s retrospective summation, a choric voice that substitutes for the missing universality of a rational civic spirit (here fulfilled by the ritual of La Naval Procession) that synthesizes the old and new, lifting them onto a higher level of historical evolution. Consciousness of the protagonists do not return to themselves to become self-reflexive. Except for the self-distanced, encompassing view of Bitoy Camacho, the identity-in-difference sought for never materializes even in the superimposed procession of the Virgin
and the exaltation of the charismatic patriarch, Don Lorenzo.

Better To Give Than to Receive?

The question faced by the sisters revolves around the disposition of the father’s painting. Do they have the right? Since it was the father’s gift to them, does that act entail obligations that prevent its sale or transfer to another? At one point, Senator Perico and his contemporaries suggested that the painting should be donated to the government since, somehow, it is a national treasurer that belongs to all the citizens. However, the need of the sisters to survive physically forces them to consider its sale, which they hesitate to do, since they still operate in the realm of intuition, sentiments, and blood-ties. They struggle between the realm of intuition/feeling and the realm of conceptual thought and legality, between their respect for tradition and the commonsensical advice of their siblings and friends. Paula’s resistance to Tony Javier, the failed attempts of Candida to secure a paying job, and the refusal of Manolo and Pepang to subsidize the household, all conspire to shape the final decision to destroy the painting as an act of the sisters to free themselves from necessity, from the anarchistic war of persons competing for profit, possessions, domination over others defined as non-persons. Instead of the gift (the art-work, the father’s honor, the “conscience” of the clan) becoming a commodity, it becomes a sacrifice, a sacramental offering, to propitiate the gods of the household and the clan. At the end, Paul and Candida affirm that they “stand” with their father, upholding all the values the Marasigan house incarnate. And their beatific vision of the father heading the Virgin’s procession seems to confirm their disjunction from the debasing power of a contract, with the devaluing exchange of property thwarted by the demands of sheer physical survival.

We behold finally Bitoy Camacho’s rhetorical praise of the two sisters and his claim that though the father, the sisters, and the house were destroyed by the global war, “they were never conquered. They were still fighting—right to the very end—fighting against the jungle.” Joaquin concludes with a tragic-comic flourish in Bitoy’s vow to remember and preserve the memory of the Marasigan household and the “city of our affections,” amid the encroachment of the jungle and the falling of bombs. But his promise to continue and preserve what, is not clearly enunciated. What exactly will he celebrate when he sings about the fall of the house of the Marasigans? What standard or norms immanent in his vocquation can legitimize his appeal to be listened to and be taken seriously?

Interrogation and Inquest

And so, in the ultimate reckoning, the civilizing Spirit that Joaquin celebrates personified by the ilustrado families of Intramuros remains the feudal order leavened with Anglo-Saxon elaborations represented by the journalists, the musicians, and unruly pettybourgeois intruders. Gifts instead of commodities confer prestige, status, honor. In this context, I endorse Lucien Goldmann’s view that the novel form—here applicable to Joaquin’s entire body of work—transposes into literary form the everyday life of people in market society. Consequently, the author represents the collective consciousness of a segment of the society he addresses, with which he identifies and whose destiny he is trying to articulate (1-17).

In identifying this collective agency, I began this essay with the notion of experience exchanged via story-telling and then charted the evolving drama of consciousness variously rendered in Joaquin’s narratives. The dramatic crisis of the “Unhappy Consciousness” rehearses the problem of articulating a split Filipino subject. Torn between the feudal regime of the clan and the necessity of survival in a bourgeois-capitalist milieu, Joaquin’s bifurcated subject dissolves into the mirage of unifying myths, or becomes reconciled to the alienating order by artistic fiat. The chief contradiction between the agonized psyche of the victims of colonial violence and the artist’s transcendent vision is displaced into the plight of women protagonists–doubling tropes of sisters, mother-daughter parody of incest–personified by characters such as Guia or Dona Jeronima who are compelled to resolve the social crisis by imaginary compromises.

The public consensus seems widespread that Joaquin is the artist of the hispanicized group of Filipinos, the intelligentsia ensemble comprised of Rizal, Juan Luna, Marcelo del Pilar, Cecilio Apostol, Claro Recto, Joaquin’s father Col. Leocadio Joaquin, Jose Garcia Villa’s father Dr. Simeon Villa, and many more whose world swiftly disintegrated with the success of U.S. colonial subjugation. Col. Joaquin was “a prominent lawyer in the American era; and the businessman who turned Herran street (now Pedro Gil) into the commercial hub of Paco” (Yuson and Arcellana; Lanot). Of more significance for the artist was the death of his father when he was 13 years old; the family status declined when they transferred from Paco to another district farther from the ancestral home.

It was Joaquin’s mission to not just elegize the urbane world of his father, but to resurrect it and universalize it. His vocation was reconstructive: faced with the chaos of post-Liberation Philippines, he sought to make intelligible the fragments of a decaying public sphere. For the heirs of the revolutionary 1896 period, he sought to organize a coherent, viable understanding of their predicament that can salvage if not reconstitute in a future stage the valued mores and sacred institutions of the past amid the profane, secular imperatives of predatory business society. In short, Joaquin’s motive of attempting to reconcile polarized memories and fantasies, a project of extracting universality from particularized dilemmas, is a symptom of the predicament of the ilustrado fraction of the middle stratum. Joaquin articulates the conscience of this embattled group whose authority has been challenged by the sheer force of repressed natural drives, libidinal energies that were hitherto sublimated in subaltern negativity or in collective resistance.

In effect, Joaquin strove to recuperate the apocalyptic syndrome of the defeated, the martyrs and conquered survivors, since for him “Apocalyptic—a madness of hope born of despair—was the true, the original, climate of Christianity, and in this climate, too, evidently, revolutions are bred” (Culture 263). Whether this endeavor succeeded or not, as Joaquin speculates in his self-interpretation, “Apologia Pro Tribu Sua,” is the question posed at the outset, and answered here in the course of analyzing the ordeal of the Unhappy Consciousness. A virtuoso in performing imaginary reconciliations, Joaquin’s art is, however, unable to resolve the dialectic of the Unhappy Consciousness within a materialist historical frame, thus functioning as the allegory of an exorbitant utopian longing, with a compulsively repeated tragicomic ending.

Meanwhile, around and underlying the world of the ilustrado fraction (the Marasigan clan; the Monsons), the governing property-relation of inequality unfolds its logical end in World War II. In the worsening crisis of neocolonial society today in the regime of Duterte and deteriorating U.S. hegemony worldwide, what is needed is not remembrance as such (as Bitoy Camacho implores us to do) to appreciate and revaluate Joaquin’s works. Suspicion hermeneuts abound everywhere. But what is needed is what the feminist scholar Elisabeth Fiorenza calls “a hermeneutics of actualization” in which the potencies of Spirit—of self-conscious, critical minds—can interact with objective reality and release the repressed energies of the popular imagination. Such an actualization needs also the dialectical method of analysis first broached by Hegel in which the tragicomedy of the “Unhappy Consciousness” is properly judged as a stage in the revolutionary transformation of our everyday life. Of course, the labor of the negative operates mysteriously, even if we have not read Hegel, inscribing its own effects in the multilayered “narrative time” of history (Ricoeur). We are all caught in this narrative of our place, whether we reject metanarratives or not, as participants, observers, and readers all manifesting symptoms of this melancholy enigmatic phase of the Absolute Spirit. De te fabula narratur.

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Posted in DISCOURSES ON CONTRADICTIONS

K0NTRA-MODERNIDAD ni E. San Juan, Jr.


KONTRA-MODERNIDAD:
PAKIKIPAGSAPALARAN SA PAGTUKLAS NG SARILI NATING MAPAGPALAYANG KABIHASNAN

Kung ang katotohanan ay matatagpuan sa pagtutugma ng katuwiran at karanasan, ang kabutihan ay matatamo sa pagtutugma ng teorya at praktika.

–APOLINARIO MABINI, La Revolucion Filipina

ni E. SAN JUAN, Jr.
Philippines Studies Center, Washington DCLoboc  Spectacle---

Bakit naging problema ang modernidad ng Pilipinas? Kasi 12 milyong OFWs ang kumalat sa buong mundo? Di tulad ng maunlad na bansa sa Europa, Hapon, atbp? Nangangahulugang di pa tayo umabot sa modernidad ng mga industriyalisadong bansang siyang modelong halimbawa ng modernidad? Kaya nga naging laboratoryo tayo ng mga dalubhasa sa programang modernization tatak U.S. noong dekada 1960 batay sa paradigm nina Talcott Parsons, W.W. Rostow, atbp.

Ayon sa teoryang modernisasyon, walang “structural differentiation” sa lipunan natin. Teknolohiya ang humuhubog sa halagahan (values), ang iskema ng paniniwala, saloobin, diwa ng karamihan. Ang tipong pampersonal ay naisillid sa de-kahong “smooth interpersonal relations” (SIR) ni Fr. Frank Lynch, habang ang karakter pambansa ay nakakategorya sa kuwadrong oryentasyong Amerikano. Sa pagsusuma ng mga eksperstong sina Frederick Wernstedt at Joseph Spencer sa kanilang teksbuk, The Philippine Island World (1967): ang Pilipinas “is a unique country, of the ancient Orient, but more wholly integrated into the world of the Occident than is any other Asian country? (1967, 135).

Pinuri nito ang pagpasok ng Ingles bilang “lingua franca,” na tahasang kumulong sa kultura sa ilalim ng Amerikanisasyon. Bagamat umunlad raw ang ekonomya base sa tradisyong Malay na sadyang Hispanicized at Americanized, inamin ng mga geographers na nagpatingkad ito ng “internal pressures in such problem zones as agrarian tenancy, capital control, political structure, and social custom” (1967, 297)—ibig sabihin, tumindi’t lumala ang pagtatagisan ng mga uri sa lipunan, ng grupong makapangyarihan at mariwasa laban sa maraming pulubing pinagsasamantalahan. Samakatuwid, litaw ang “structural differentiation” sa posisyon at ginaganap na papel ng mga pangkatin sa lipunan, pati ideolohiyang kinakasangpan nila.

Sinkretikong Akda

Pinaghalong balat at inalupan, o buto’t laman? Lumilitaw na ang sukatan ng modernidad ay hango sa Kanluran, sa hegemonya ng burgesyang namumuno sa industriyalisadong lipunan. Sa pagtagumpay ng uring kapitalista, nalusaw ang ordeng piyudal at Kristyanong ideolohiyang kaakibat nito. Ito ang base materyal ng modernidad, na naging imperyalistang sandatang “modernisasyon” noong panahon ng Cold War. Laganap ang krisis ng lumang daigdig, saklot ng pragmentasyon at introbersiyon sanhi sa dominasyon ng indibidwalistikong interes. Bukod sa sopistikadong teknolohiyang nasaksihan sa WW1, ang produksyong pangmasa (assembly line), namayani’t sumidhi sa larangang publiko o sosyedad sibil ang mga teorya ng relativity (Einstein), seksuwalid & “unconscious” (Freud), kritika nina Marx & Engels, sampu ng pagdiin ni Nietzsche sa drama ng kamalayang artista na lumilikha ng realidad tiwali sa matandang realismo noong epoka ni Reyna Victoria—sining ang siyang lumilikha ng buhay, ang realisasyon ng sarili—naging pinakaimportanteng katangian ito ng modernidad bilang pluralisasyon ng pangitain-sa-mundo, ng Weltanschaung.

Nailunsad na ito ng mga Propagandista—Rizal, del Pilar, Jaena—hanggang kina Mabini, Isabelo de los Reyes, Lope K. Santos, atbp.—ang pangangailangang mabuwag ang monolitikong orden ng kolonyalismong Espanyol. Isinakatawan ito sa Katipunan at rebolusyong armado laban sa Estados Unidos hanggang binitay si Hen. Macario Sakay (1906) at rebelyon ng Moro noong 1913. Ngunit napatda, naputol ang kilusang yumari ng katutubong modernidad. Humalili ang Amerikanisasyong ng kolonya. Nugnit hindi ito pagkakataong historikal na tunay na magbabago ng relasyon ng mga tao at personalidad. Ito’y tugon sa problema kung paano pangangasiwaan ang isang kolonyang puno ng taong-may-kulay, hindi puti o Europeo, sa gayon mababang uri, hindi sibilisado, kailangang pasunurin at sanayin.

Paano pamamahalaan at kokontrolin ang katutubong populasyon? Sa halip na todong paghahari ng liberal o utilitaryang gawi, saloobin at halaga, nalimitado ito sa edukadong minorya na dinisiplina upang magsilbi sa burokrasya at institusyon ng adminitratibong kolonyal. Sinanay ang ilang pensionado, guro, abogado’t teknikal na katulong upang patakbuhin ang aparato ng gobyerno, militar, pulisya, korte, bangko, komunikasyon, transportasyon, atbp. Pinatili ang sistemang piyudal, ang pribadong pag-aari ng asyenda’t plantasyon ng asukal, niyog, abaka, at iba pang produktong pang-eksport. Kaya nang ipatupad ang Jones Law noong 1916, nahirang sa lehislatura ang mga miyembro ng mga dinastiyang siyang ugat ng kasalukuyang naghaharing oligarkiya.

Ugat at Usbong ng Pagbabanyuhay

Sa nabuong balangkas ng sosyedad buhat 1898 hanggang 1935 Komonwelt at pagsuko ng Bataan at Corregidor noong 1942, anong klase ng modernidad ang matatagpuan? Banggitin dito ang estilong modernista sa kultura: punksyonalismo sa arkitektura, musikang atonal, manerismo o abstraksyon sa sining biswal, stream of consciousness sa nobela, vers libre, sopistikadong paggamit ng teknikal na metodo, introbersiyon o matinding pagdududa’t pagtatanong sa sarili salungat sa romantisismong barokong masisilip sa El Filibusterismo o sa Spoliarium ni Juan Luna, na bunga ng ideya’t sentimyentong nasagap nila sa Europa noong panahon ng mga anarkista’t simbolistang makata.

Sa pangkalahatan, hindi tayo dumaan sa landas ng mga bansang Europa. O maski sa bansang Hapon ng isinabalikat nito ang modernisasyon simula 1873. Bakit wala itong masilakbong suhetibismo sa atin? Bakit mahinang pitlag ng reflexibidad lamang ang masasalat sa mga unang pagsubok nina Jose Garcia Villa at Galo Ocampo? Bakit iba o nagsasarili ang kilatis ng “modernidad” na bumulas sa panahong nagsusumikap makalaya ang sambayanan sa pamatok ng kolonyalismong Amerikano at mga kakutsabang subalterno nito? Retorikal na tanong ito; simpleng sagot ay iba ang daloy ng kolonisadong lipunan batay sa paghahati’t tunggalian ng mga ibat ibang uri, sektor, pangkat at sa magkahalo’t di-singkronisadong moda ng produksyon at reproduksiyon. Hihimayin natin ang masalimuot na habi ng kulturang ito.

Interbensiyon ng mga Dinusta

Sandaling unawain natin ang mapanuring optik sa modernidad ng Latino Amerika sa personahe ni Enrique Dussel. Ang konsepto ng modernidad bilang pangangasiwa ng Planetang Sentralidad, binubuo ng nasa gitna (core) at yaong nasa gilid (peripheral), ay lumipat mula sa pagtuon sa Amerindia (sa ilalim ng Espanya) tungo sa Anglo-Alemanya/Europa. Dahil mas importante dito ang quantum (bilang) kaysa sa qualitas (kalidad), sapilitang pinaging payak ang masalimuot: “This simplification of complexity encompassed the totality of the “life world” (Lebenswelt), the relationship with nature (a new technological and ecological position, which is no longer teleological) subjectivity itself (a new self-understanding of subjectivity), and community (a new intersubjective and political relation; as a synthesis, a new economic attitude would establish itself (capital’s practical-productive position)” (2013, 34). Argumento ni Dussel na ang Eurosentrikong modernidad ay sumapit lamang dahil sa kanilang pagyurak, pagsakop, pang-aalipin, at pandarambong sa katutubong Indyo sa kontinente ng Amerika (Timog & Hilaga). Sa extrapolasyon, ang modernidad ng Pilipinas ay nailuwal sa paggapi sa rebolusyonaryong bansang supling ng 1896 rebolusyon, na bunga naman ng piling kaisipang makabago na hinango o minana sa kolonyalistang Espanya. At itong ahensiya/subhetong umalsa, sakmal ngayon ng krisis ng EuroAmerikanong uri ng modernidad, ay pumipiglas upang makabuo ng kanyang sariling identidad batay sa kanyang kakayahan at pangangailangan. Samakatwid, nakasalang pa sa pandayan ng kasaysayan ang anyo, hugis, kulay at buod ng kontemporaryong kabihasnan ng Filipinas.

Paghimay sa Buhol ng Panahon/Lugar

Sinumang mangagahas mag-ulat tungkol sa sitwasyon ng mabilis na pagbabago sa ating lipunan ay sadyang nakikipagsapalaran. Nakatindig siya sa gitna ng agos ng mga pangyayaring dumarating habang nagsisikap ilarawan ang kanyang nakaraan. Produkto ng panahon at lunan, ang kamalayan niya’y nakasalalay sa sapin-saping dagsa ng mga aksyon, diskurso, tunggalian ng iba’t ibang lakas. Kaya anumang bunga ng pagmamasid, pagkukuro’t paghuhusga, ay pang-sumandali’t bukas sa pag-iiba’t pagbabago. Sa gayon, ang kaisipan hinggil sa modernidad ng ating bansa ay nakasalang sa masalimuot na naratibo ng ating kasaysayan bilang bansang namumukod sa ibang bansa, taglay ang sariling katangiang katutubo’t sariling tadhana.

Ngunit mayroon na ba tayong napagkasunduang naratibo ng ating pagsasarili? Mayroon ba tayong sariling pagtaya’t gahum tungkol sa uri ng ating kolektibong karanasan ngayon, noong nakalipas na mga siglo, at pangitain ng kinabukasan? Hiram lang ba sa Kanluran—sa Espanya at Estados Unidos—ang ating pananaw o sensibilidad tungkol sa ating pagkatao bilang bayang may natatanging nakalipas at natatanging paroroonan? Sa tingin ko, ang kulturang modernidad ng Pilipinas ay hindi isang paralisadong ideya kundi isang proseso, isang nililikhang gawain na nakaangkla sa nakalipas na karanasan na siyang ugat at binhi ng niyayaring istruktura ng bagong mapagpalayang kaayusan. Hindi utopya kundi relasyong panlipunang kung saan ang kaganapan ng isang indibidwal ay nakasalig sa kasaganaan at kalayaan ng lahat.

Mahihinuha na ang tema ng modernidad ay sadyang istorikal at may oryentasyong pangmadla. Salungat sa indibidwalistikong saloobing umuugit sa ordeng liberal/neoliberal ng kapitalismong global, ang modernidad ng isang bayang nagsisikap makahulagpos sa minanang kolonisadong mentalidad at praktika ay katambal ng proyektong liberasyong pambansa, ng nasyonalista’t demokratikong pag-aalsa laban sa kolonyalismo’t imperyalismong negasyon ng ating sariling pagkatao’t dignidad.

Maisasaloob na dalawang pagsipat sa panahon ang naisusog ng mga bayani. Isa, sa “Kung Anong Dapat Mabatid” ni Andres Bonifacio. Ipinagunit niya na sa kagandahang-loob ng mga katutubo, pinakain at kinalinga ang mga kongkistador hanggang umabuso’t sinamsam ang ating kayamanan, at hindi na nakuhang magpasalamat at suklian ang pagkamapagbigay ng ating mga ninuno. Samakatwid, himagsikan ang makapagdudulot ng katuturan sa agwat ng panahong nakalipas at ngayon. Kilos at gawa ng mga anak-ng-bayan ang makahihilom sa kakulangan ng naratibo, ang mga puwang o siwang na hindi pagkilala ng pakikitungo natin sa dayuhan. Sa panig ni Rizal, sa kanyang anotasyon sa historya ni Morga at dalawang akda tungkol sa indolensiya ng mga Pilipino at paghula sa lagay ng bayan makaraan ang isang siglo, hinagap ni Rizal na sa balikatang pagsisikap maibabalik ang mala-utopikong lipunan bago dumating ang Espanya (Agoncillo 1974). Samakatwid, sa kolektibong proyekto madudulutan ng kahulugan ang kawing ng mga pangyayari, at maibabalik ang pagtutugma ng sarili at mundo.

Kapwa nakatuon sina Bonifacio at Rizal sa karanasan ngayon, sa buhay ngayon, hindi noong nakaraan. Kapwa natuto sa mga turo ng pilosopiya ng Kaliwanagan (Enlightenment) at rebolusyong Pranses, ang importante ay kamalayang humaharap sa kasaysayan, ang pakikisangkot ng karakter sa nangyayari, at pagsusuri kung lihis o lapat ang dalumat sa kalikasan ng mga nagaganap. Ang retorika ng modernidad nila ay dinamikong pagtitimbang sa halaga ng kostumbre’t tradisyon ngunit hindi konserbatibong kumakapit doon bilang transendental na katotohanang dapat laging sundin. Bagkus lumilingon doon upang mahugot ang binhi ng kinabukasan, pinipiga’t ginagamit ang salik noon upang buuin ang makabagong yugto ng kasaysayan. Sumisira upang lumikha—ito ang buod ng rebolusyong ipinanukala. Nakalubog sa kamalayang indibidwal ngunit hindi narisistikong obsesyon ang dumurog sa lahat, tulad ng mga nihilistang ideolohiya na binabalewala ang materyales na nakapaligid upang isuob iyon sa absolutong mithi. Taglay ng modernistang kritika ng ating rebolusyon ang maingat na pagkilatis sa tradisyon upang mapili ang mabuti sa salubungan ng mga kontradiksiyon at maiangat ang katayuan ng lahat sa mas masagana at mabisang antas ng kabuhayan.

Matris ng Mga Kontradiksyon

Pangunahing suliranin ang hinarap ng intelihensiyang katutubo ng masugpo ang armi ng Republika sa pagsuko ni Hen. Aguinaldo. Paano maipagpapatuloy ang rebolusyonaryong adhikain nina Rizal, Bonifacio, Mabini at Sakay sa panahon ng okupasyon/pasipikasyon? Paano maimumulat at maimomobilisa ang sambayanan upang maigupo ang dayuhang sumakop at itindig ang isang nagsasariling gobyerno, demokratikong ekonomya at humanistikong kultura? Paano malilikha ang hegemonya ng isang diwa’t kamalayang mapagpalaya sa gitna ng piyudal at kumprador-indibidwalistikong pundasyon?

Tatlong lapit sa pagtugon sa palaisipang ang mailalahad dito, sa panimula: Una, ang alegorikong pagtatanghal sa sitwasyon ng bayan. Pangalawa, ang realistiko’t didaktikong paraan, sampu ng paggamit sa kulturang pabigkas, o pistang pangkultura ng balagtasan. Pangatlo, ang diskursong pedagohikal-agitprop ng United Front ng Philippine Writers League, at sosyalistang pagsubok ni Amado V. Hernandez. Kalakip dito ang paglulunsad na malalimang diskurso hinggil sa layon ng sining, ang etiko-politikong prinsipyo ng mapagpalayang estetika, na sinimulan ni Salvador P. Lopez sa kanyang librong Literature and Society at ipinagyaman ni Carlos Bulosan sa kanyang mga sanaysay at katha. Sa lohikang mahihinuha sa ibat ibang paraan ng paglutas sa krisis ng bansa, mailalarawan natin ang buod ng singular na mapagpalayang modernidad na may tatak Filipino.
Paano maimumulat at maimomobilisa ang bayan sa gitna na pagsuko ng Republikang pinamunuan ni Hen. Aguinaldo? Paano makayayari ng panibagong hegemonya o gahum, ibig sabihin, ang lideratong moral at intelektuwal ng masang produktibo (manggagawa’t magsasaka) sa isang nagkakaisang hanay?
Ipinatapon sa Guam ang mga ilustradong irreconcilables na sina Mabini,Artemio Ricarte, Pablo Ocampo, atbp, Dahil sa mabagsik na Anti-Sedition Law ng Nob. 4, 1901, at Brigandage Act ng Nob. 12, 1902, na ipinataw laban sa mga gerilya ni Hen. Macario Sakay na pinaratangang “tulisan,” samakawid walang makatwirang rason upang tumutol sa soberanyang Amerikano (Agoncillo & Guerrero 1970, 284-95). Sa istriktong sensura, napilitang ipasok sa alegoryang paraan ang publikong protesta ng mga mandudulang sina Juan Abad, Aurelio Tolentino, Juan Matapang Cruz, atbp. Nabilanggo’t pinagmulta sina Abad at Tolentino, gayundin ang may-ari’t editor ng El Renacimiento. Pinakatanyag ang dulang Kahapon, Ngayon at Bukas.
Malinaw ang impluwensiya ng sensibilidad pangkasaysayan ni Rizal sa sarsuwelang ito, na nilapatan ng mga eksenang may pagbabalat-kayo’t panaginip na hiram sa aparatong teknikal ng sainete, opera, bodabil, moro-moro, atbp. Tulad ng paglilihim ng tunay na identidad ni Simoun sa El Filibusterismo’t mahiwagang pagbababalik ng kaluluwa ng mga biktimang pinaslang ng kolonyalismo, ginamit ni Tolentino di-tuwirang pagbabangon ng sambayanan, sa pamumuno ni Taga-ilog upang maligtas ang Ynang Bayan sa huli. Natulak si Malaynatin, ang kasalukuyan, na sumang-ayon sa hiling ng madlang kaluluwang bumangon sa kanyang panaginip, pati na si Haring Kamatayan, upang tigilan ang paglalaban ng madla upang mapalaya ang Ynang Bayan sa mananakop (Medina 1972, 211-16).
Sa alegoriya, ang tunay na problemang inasinta ay ang tunggalian ng mga nasyonalistang puwersa laban sa mga ilustradong umayon sa kapangyarihan ng Estados Unidos: sina Pardo de Tavera, Pedro Paterno, Felipe Buencamino, Benito Legarda, at iba pang dating kasapi sa Republikang Malolos. Walang kolektibong pagpapasiya kung hati ang intelihensiya at ipinag-aaway-away ng Amerika ang mga katutubo. Lubhang masahol na kasalanan ang pagtataksil, ang pagkatraydor, na tila masisinag sa ginawang linlang ni Dr. Dominador Gomez sa kampon ni Sakay, kahalintulad nina Paterno’t Buencamino.
Puna ni Doreen Fernandez na ang teknik, pamaraan at estilo ng mga dula ay hango sa kumbensyonal na gawi sa teatro noon. Ngunit ang modernista ay nakalakip sa “their concern–national in dimension, political in character, with persuasion and action as goals. Unlike indigenous drama, they were not limited to regional or community boundaries” (1996, 102) dahil ang pakay nila ay magpasiklab ng damdamin/diwang humihingi ng kalayaan at kasarinlan. Nadulutan ng perspektibong makabago ang sensibilidad ng Filipino hinggil sa espasyo/lunan at panahon ng kapamuhayan na lihis sa kinagisnan. Sa paghahalu-halong ito ng iba’t ibang tipo o genre, masisilip ang isang tanda ng modernismo.
Sa sarsuwelang Bagong Kristo matagumpay na naisusog ni Tolentino ang proletaryong prinsipyo ng pag-aklas sa kapitalistang mananakop, bagamat alegoriyang hango sa pasyon, senakulo’t pagbasa ng nakalipas na siglo. Masalimuot ang pahiwatig ng alegoriya, kung isasaisip ang paunawa ni Walter Benjamin na siyang metodo ng paglalahad sa isang mundong tinggagalan ng kahulugan, inalisan ng espirit at wagas na kanbuhayang makatao (Jameson 1971, 70-71). Sapilitang sekularisasyon ang mahihinuha sa pag-iral ng alegoriyang estilo. Kung sa bagay, ang modang ito kaakibat ng didaktiko’y mapanturong moda’y laganap na sa gawaing ebanghelyo ng mga misyonaryong Dominikano, Francisco, Hesuwita, atbp. Laganap ang pangangaral sa sermon at edukasyong umiiral mula pa dumating sina Fr. Urdaneta kasama nina Legaspi’t Martin de Goiti. Gayunpaman, mamamalas sa Bagong Kristo na dumudulog na ang awtor sa pag-alsa’t paglago ng proletaryong uri.

Ang “drama socialista” ni Tolentino noong 1907 ay maituturing na bugtong- anak ng Banaag at Sikat ni Lope K. Santos. Pakinggan ang tila talumpating politikal ni Jesus Gatbiaya sa wakas ng dula:

Mabuhay ang mga obrero sa sanglibutan!….
Ang araw na ito, unang araw ng Mayo, ay araw na pinipintakasi ng lahat ng obrero sa sanglibutan. Sa mga sandaling ito hindi tayo lamang ang nagsasaya. Akalain ninyong nagsasaya ngayon ang lahat ng mahirap sa balat ng lupa. At ano ang ipinagsasaya? Walang iba kundi ang pagkakaisang-loob, at pagkakaisang-layon ng lahat ng obrero sa sangsinukuban….Huwag tayong magpahuli, tayo’y umanib at sumabay sa kanila upang tayo’y lumusog at maging katawan din ng nasabing sangkataohang hari…..

Katotohanan, katotohanang sinasabi ko sa inyo, na ang alin mang bayan, kapag nagkadalawang balak, na ang isa’y pawang mga poon, at ang isa nama’y pawang mga alila, ang bayang iyan ay maasahang patay na, bangkay na mistula at wala nang ibang mahihintay kung di na lamang ang mapanglaw na araw ng libing. (1975, 218).

Binalangkas ng Kathambuhay

Sanhi sa pagsikil sa teatro at iba pang palabas, nawalan ng awdiyens at tagapanood ang dulang akmang-agitprop. Maselan ang mga pagpupulong sa sperong pampubliko hanggang tuluyang pagkadakip at pagbitay kina Hen. Sakay at kapanalig. Ang 1907 batas sa pagbabawal ng pagladlad ng bandilang Katipuna ay hindi binawi hanggang 1919. Sa buong unang dekada hanggang pagtatag ng Asamblea noong Oktubre 16, 1907, ang mga lathalain ang humalili sa tulang pabigkas o pasalita, at dulang itinatanghal bilang instrumento ng kamalayang mapagpalaya. Bagamat may paghihigpit, kumalat ang mga peryodiko’t magasin na kinagiliwan—pagsambulat ng pagnanasang maibulalas ang tinitimping damdamin, sentimyento’t pagnanasang makapagsalita’t makipagbalitaa’t makipagtalastasan sa kapwa tungkol sa matinding pagdurusa’t paghangad ng ginahawa’t ligayang ipinagkait ng mga Kastila sa mahigit tatlong dantaong pananakop at pagpapahirap sa buong sambayanan.
Maipagninilay na ang pamumulaklak ng nobela mula sa halimbawa ng Noli & Fili ay utang sa ilang hakbang ng kaunlaran. Bukod sa pagrami ng palimbagan at libreria ng mg librong inangkat mula sa Europa at ibang bansa, nawala na ang sensura ng gobyernong teokratiko. Nahikayat din ang mga manunulat, sa tangkilik ng Republika, na ibuhos ang kanilang imahinasyon at dalumat sa pagsusuri’y paglalarawan ng mabilis na mga pangyayari sa kapaligiran na tiwalag sa romantikong daigdig ng corrido, pasyon, duplo. Lumabas ang mga unang nobela Tagalog nina Gabriel Beato Francisco, Lope K. Santos, at Valeriano Hernandez Pena sa lingguhang Ang Kapatid ng Bayan noong 1899-1901, at iba pang lathalain. Sabay ring bumulas ang mga nobela sa ibang wika (Pampango, Ilokano, Cebuano, Hiligaynon). Nakatulong na mahigit ang libreng edukasyong pampubliko na lumago mula 177,000 estudyante noong 1897 hanggang 530,000 noong 1913; nagdoble ang mga taong marunong bumasa sa pagitan ng taong 1903 hanggang 1918.
Nagsilbing laboratoryong eksperimental sa pagbuo ng makabansang gahum ang nobelang Banaag at Sikat (1904) ni Lope K. Santos at Pinaglahuan (1907) ni Faustino Aguilar. Makulay ang buhay at gawa ni Santos: naging unang pangulo ng Union del Trabajo de Filipinas UTF) at patnugot ng peryodikong Muling Pagsilang na naglathala ng maraming akda tungkol sa unyonismo mula sa Europa. Bagamat napaghinalaang nasulsulan siya American Federation of Labor, si Santos ay sinuporta nina Isabelo de los Reyes at Dominador Gomez. Kasapi si Santos sa rebolusyonaryong tropa sa Laguna at Batangas—hindi ilustradong nagbabad sa Espanya—at nangasiwa (katulong ang beteranong Hermenegildo Cruz) ng isang “Paaralan ng Sosyalism” (itinuro roon ang mga aralin nina Marx, Zola, Reclus, Gorki, pati na si Karl Kautsky) noong unang dekada.
Itinampok ni Santos sa nobela ang mga ideyang inani sa mga nabanggit na awtor sa pakikipagtalastasan nina Delfin, peryodistang makasosyalista, at Felipe, isang anarkista. Kapwa nakasilid at nakasadlak ang dalawa sa masalimuot na usaping palasintahan, na siyang pain o panghalina sa madlang mambabasang nahirati sa mga romantikong pakikipagsapalarang hilig. Sila ang mga “bayani ng katubusan,” ng pagbabagong-buhay. Ngunit hindi ito tahasang nailarawan sapagkat ang tiyakang hinimay at sinuri ay ang patriyarkong ugali at pamantayan ng pamilya at ang kostumbre sa pagmamana ng ari-arian, sa panig ng mayamang Meni at amang Don Ramon. Tumpak ang puna ni Jim Richardson na kahawig ng isip ni De Los Reyes, ang sosyalismo ay walang iba kundi ang prinsipyong ligal ng pagkakapantay-pantay, sa pangitain ng liberalismong moralidad ng Kaliwanagan (2011, 22). Kaya sa palagay ni Delfin, ang Konstitusyon ng Estados Unidos ay umaapaw sa mga sosyalistang mithiin,” at ang gobyernong Amerikano ay tuwirang nakasalig sa mga prinsipyong sosyalista” na higit pa sa bansang nagpapanggap na sosyalista. Ito ang isang dahilan na halos walang matipunong kritika sa manaakop ang nobela.

Diyalektika ng Indibiduwal at Madla

Napatunayang mabisa ang Banaag at Sikat sa pagkalat ng mga kaisipang anti-kapitalista—3,000 kopya ang nabili sa ilang linggo lamang pagkalabas ng nobela. Marahil, mas makahulugan ang pagmuniin na ang sirkulo ng mga peryodista, manunulat, impresores, at unyonista’y kabilang sina Crisanto Evangelista, Domingo Ponce at Cirilo Bognot, mga tagapagtatag ng Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas noong sumunod na dalawang dekada (Saulo 1990, 6-9). Bago pa man dumating sina Tan Malaka at James Allen (Sol Auerbach), malusog at mayaman na ang kaalamang mapagpalaya ng uring mangagawa’t artisano sa kalunsuran ng Pilipinas sa yugtong ito ng kasayayan.
Ang makatuturang naitanghal ni Santos sa nobela yaong wala roon o naipahiwatig lamang: ang pagkakalapat ng teorya at praktika. Ano ang nararapat pag-ukulan ng matamang pagkukuro sa mabuting pagkakatugma ng kamalayan at kapaligiran, ng simulain at pagkilos? Sa kabanatang “Dilim at Kaliwanagan,” nasaling ang pagkakaiba ng rebolusyong sosyal sa rebolusyong pampulitika sa diskusyon ng magkaibigan. Sambit ni Felipe, “panahon na ngayon ng ating Rebolusyong sosyal, sapagkat sa akala ko’y puno na sa pagtitiis ang ating ma maralita.” Sagot ni Delfin: ‘Hindi pa marahil , sapagkat hindi pa nagsisikilos nang kusa; hindi pa sumsigaw sa kanila ring bibig. Nangangailan pa ng mga taong hirang, ng mga bayaning tagaakay, tagasulsol at uliranin.” Samakatwid, wala pang integral na dalumat upang palayain ang sarili.
Maingat si Delfin sa pagtaya sa antas ng mobilisasyon ng masa; tinitimbang niya kung may saloobin o pagnanais na magbago ng buhay ang masa kaagapay ng kanilang dinaramdam. Kailangan pa ang edukasyon, disiplina, kabatiran sa transpormasyon ng pamumuhay. Sa panig ni Felipe, kailangang buwagin ang anumang poder o “kapangyarihang makagagambala sa pagkaganap ng tunay at katutubong kalayaan ng tao,” alalaong baga’y ibalik ang likas na pakikipamuhay ng walang estado o institusyong mamumuno o mangangasiwa. Alisin man ang pribagong pag-aari, nariyan pa rin ang kapangyarihan “ng iba sa iba/“ Sa anarkistang pag-iisip ni Felipe, “Ang sarili lamang ang dapat makapangyari sa sarili….” Sumasang-ayon si Delfin sa ultimong adhika ni Felipe, ngunit hindi pa napapanahon, sa tingin niya, at isinaad ang isang tanawing kasintunog ng ebolusyonaryong iskema ni Auguste Comte o ng mga alagad nina Herbert Spencer at mga ebolusyonaryong repormista :

…hindi pa araw ito ng ganap na Rebolusyon. Ang buhay ng mga lahi, ang lakad ng mga bayan, ay nagdaraan sa tatlong baitang ng panahon: una, ang panahong lahat ay iniaasa at iniuukol ng tao sa Maylikha.” Pangalawa, ang epoka ng mga bayani, at pangatlo, ang lahat ay galing sa lahat at mauuwi sa lahat—epoka ng komunismo. Payo ni Delfin: “Iangkap mo sa ating lahi at bayan ang tatlong baitan na iyan, at makikita mong iisa pa ang ating nalalampasan. Kasalukuyan pa tayong nagtutungtong sa pangalawa ng iisang paa, habang di pa naaangat ang isa sa una (1960, 538-39).

Ang naturol na baitang-baitang na pagsulong ay halaw sa linyadong pagsukat ng kasaysayan ng kahayupan nagmula sa mga imbestigasyon ni Charles Darwin. Subalit hindi angkop ito sa kasaysayan ng lipunan na batay sa kontradiksyon ng mga uri buhay maihiwalay ang nagmamay-ari ng mga gamit sa prodyksyon at ang mga walang-pag-aaring mangagawa. Kailangan ang isang diyalektikag paraan ng pagsusuri upang maiitindihan ang problema ng modernidad sa atin. Sa puntong ito, ang ambag ng nobelang Pinaglahuan ni Aguilar ay natatangi.
Maidadagdag na parikalang interpretasyon ang mahuhugot kung isasaisip na ang anarkista’t sindikalistang ideolohiyang pinag-uusapan ng dalawang magkaibigan ay kapwa lihis o salungat sa alitan ng magulang at anak, at lumulutang sa itaas o ibaba ng kalakarang palasintahan. Balighong pagbubuhol ng dalawang hibla ng naratibo kundi babasahin na sinadyang pag-aayos ito. Ibig ipahatid na malaki ang agwat ng mga kaisipan nina Delfin at Felipe sa kapaligiran, sa daloy ng kalakaran.

Kasukdulan, Tapos Kakalasan?

Kakaiba ang lapit ni Aguilar sa suliraning kontra-egemonya. Bagamat tinalakay pa rin sa banghay ng nobela ang hidwaan ng magulang at anak, tumambad ang tandisang tema ng makabagong nobela ni tinurol ni Lukacs: ang problema ng indibiduwal sa mundong walang tiyak na kahulugan o halagang pumapatnubay sa lahat, walang bathala o diyos o anumang batayan nagdudulot katwiran o katuturan sa lahat. Kung sa alegoriya ng mga sarsuwelang rebelde nagkawatak-watak ang mga nadaramang bagay at kahulugan nito, sa nobela naligaw ang tao sa isang mundong kakatwa’t banyaga, hindi mahulo kung saan nanggaling at saan patutungo.
Sinikap ng nobelistang makatugon sa krisis ng lipunang naitulak sa makabagong panahon. Ang problema ng bayaning nangungulila’t giniyagis ng pagkabahala’t pag-aalanganin, ay masisilip sa katayuan ng protagonistang mayamang si Rojalde. Litaw na kinasangkapan din ang pag-iibigan nina Danding, ang mayamang kasintahan, at Luis Gat-buhay, ang pulubing organisador ng unyon sa isang kalakal na pag-aari ng isang Amerikano, at inilarawang maigi ang maalab na sintahan ng dalawa, binigyan ni Aguilar ng malaking puwang ang realistiko’t sikolohikong analisis sa malikot at mapusok na damdamin ng kumprador-usurerong Rojalde na, bagamat matagumpay sa pagsuyo sa mga magulang ni Danding, ay bigo naman sa pagtamo ng kaganapan: ang anak ni Danding ay anak nila ni Luis, ang nabilanggo’t namatay na katipan.
Masinop ang pagtatagni-tagni ng mga pangyayari, dramatiko’t kapana-panabik ang pagsunud-sunod ng mga tagpo sa dalawang banghay ng pag-iibigan nina Danding at Luis, kaalinsabay ng maniobra ng tusong Rojalde upang masagkaan ni Rojalde ang kanilang pag-iisang-dibdib. Kasakiman at patriyarkong kalupitan ang sumugpo sa marangal at busilak na pagmamahalan ng dalawang biktima ng sistemang sumusuob sa salapi’t makahayup na pagmamalabis. Mala-Kristo ang pagkasawi ni Luis, himatong na sakripisyo lamang ang mga bayani ng kaligtasan ng uring inaalipin ng dayuhang kapitalista. Sa malas, wala pang kolektibong kapasiyahan at lakas ang mga bisig na yumayari ng produktong nagpapayaman sa kapitalista-kolonisador, bagamat inaangkin pa rin nila ang katapangan, katatagan, at makataong paninindigan na siyang tutubos sa dinuhaging lipunan sa kinabukasan.
Senyal na dalisay na pagnanais ng kalayaan ang anak ni Danding at Luis, sagisag ng minimithing pagbabago. Nang manalo ang Partido Nacionalista (PN) nina Quezon at Osmena, sa bisa ng islogang “kagyat, ganap at buong kasarinlan,” patunay na matindi’t malaganap pa rin, mula 1907 hanggang 1922, ang nasyonalistikong simbuyo ng masa. Isang paraan ito upang malinlang ang sambayanan. Ang Asambleyang Pilipino na pinamunuan ng mga NP politiko, ang bagong prinsipalya na nagsilbing instrumento sa madaling pangongolekta ng buwis upang mapondohan ang administrasyon kolonyal. Patuloy na namayani ang uring panginoong maylupa. malaking burgesiyang komprador, at burokrata-kapitalistang pangkat nina Quezon, Osmena at Roxas hanggang sumabog ang Pangalawang Digmaang Pandaigdig.
Namulaklak ang nobela sa kabila ng mga batas kontra-Sedisyon at Bandolerismo, at kasong nagparusa sa pabliser at editor ng El Renacimiento noong 1908. Naging komersiyalisado ang sarsuwela’t humina na rin ang pamimili ng nobela. Ang Filipinisasyong inilunsad ni Taft ay humantong sa pagdami ng mga Filipino sa burokrasya (laluna sa administrasyon ni Francis Burton Harrison, 1913-21).Nang ipasa ang Jones Law ng 1916, nagkaroon ng limitadong awtonomiya—palsipikado, sa tingin ng iba, sapagkat sa bisa ng “malayang kalakalang” ipinataw ng Payne-Aldrich Act noong 1909, sinagip ang bulok na sistemang agrikulturang piyudal na pumigil sa anumang industriyalisasyon, ugat ng katayuang dependienteng lipunan hanggang ngayon.
Sintomas marahil ng mga ilusyon hinggil sa pagkahuwaran ng U.S. bilang demokrasya ang “Ang Beterano” ni Lazaro Francisco. Paniwala ang ilang awtor sa ideyang kung makikilala lamang ang katapangan at kadakilaan ng Pilipinong marunong magsakripisyo para sa uliraning halimbawa ng Estados Unidos, bibigyan ng kasarinlan ang Pilipinas. Tandisang indibiduwalismo ito: ang usaping panlipunan ay malulutas sa panloob na moralidad ng bawat indibiduwal, laluna kung matalino’t taglay ang dugong maharlika sa panig ng Amerikanang si Bertha Carvel, at pagkamasunurin sa Punong Puti ni Arcadio Pulintan. Tugon ng binibini: “Ibibigay ko ang buo kung buhay sa ikapagiging dapat ko sa mga dakila ninyong pagtuturing” (1998, 156).
Bago naitatag ang Komonwelt noong 1935, madugong pakikibaka ang yumanig sa buong bansa. Nagpakita ang mga manggagawa sa Maynila at mga magsasaka sa Gitnang Luzon, Timog Luzon, Bisaya at Mindanaw ng espontanyong karahasan, kaalinsabay ng rebelyon ng mga Colorum sa Mindanao at sa Pangasinan noong 1923-24, 1931; sa mga pabrika ng asukal sa Negros Oriental, Negros Occidental, at Iloilo. Noong Mayo 2-3, pumutok ang insureksyon ng mga Sakdalista sa Laguna, Rizal, Kabite, Tayabas at Bulacan, na kasangkot ang maraming pesante, magsasaka’t trabahador. Dito lumantad ang isang tipo ng pagkakawing ng sining at pulitika sa katauhan ni Benigno Ramos, tagapundar ng Partido Sakdalista.

Pananagutan ng Sining

Kung babalik-tanawin, ang arte poetikang sinusunod ng henerasyon nina Lope K. Santos, Inigo Ed. Regalado at mga kapanahon. ay hango sa tradisyong inilatag ng mga Griyego’t Romonang pantas. Ayon kay Julian Cruz Balmaseda, “Ang tula ay isang kaisipang naglalarawan ng kagandahan, ng kariktan, ng kadakilaan,” na kailangang magtipon-tipon sa isang kaisipan (2013, 58). Abstraksyong walang laman ito kung hindi isasakonteksto sa isang tiyak na panahon/lugar. Sa pagtalakay sa paksa ng anong uri ng modernidad mayroon tayo, naimungkahi ko na ito’y isang dulo ng kontradiksiyon, kasanib sa naratibo ng imperyalismo/monopolyo kapitalismo. Walang modernidad o kamalayan-sa-sarili ang kolonisadong lipunan kundi yaong hiram o dulot ng Kanlurang sibilisasyon. Samaktuwid, ang mapagpalayang kilusang lilikha sa modernidad ng mga taong sinakop ay magtataglay ng dalawang katangiang bubuo sa pangkasalukuyang kultura: realistiko’t popular.
Madaling matarok ang dimensiyong pagka-popular: naiintindihan ng masa, ginagamit ang anyo ng kanilang komunikasyon, ipinahahayag ang buod ng kanilang paninindigan. Sa dimensiyong reaistiko, madaling mawatasan ang aspeto ng pagka-realistiko: kongkreto sa kalawakan ng detalyeng nailarawan, ibinubunyag ang sanhi ng mga pangyayari, ipinapakita ang dominanteng pagtingin na angkin ng mga naghahari. Nasipat natin itong naibadya ng mga nobelang natukoy sa una. Ang mga kaibuturang katangian ng radikal na sining ay hindi pa ganap na naisisiwalat sa nobela nina Santos o Aguilar, at utopikong pahiwatig pa lamang sa mga alegorikong dulang nabanggit.
Bukod sa paglagom sa aktuwalidad,kailangan kapain din ang potensiyalidad sa hinaharap. Ang mga elementong kailangan pang linangin ay: pagsusuri sa punto-de-bista ng uring taglay ang pinakamasaklaw na kalutasan sa mga masidhing suliraning humahamon sa bayan, ipagdiinan ang dinamikong pagsulong ng lipunan, pagpupunyaging igiit ang pinakaprogresibong paninindigan upang makamit nito ang pamunuan, iangkop ang tradisyon sa kasalukuyan na maiintindihan ng lahat, paglipat ng mga naisakatuparang kagalingan sa mga pangkat na nakikibakang makagabay sa buong bansa—sa madaling salita, ilipat ang liderato ng lipunan sa uring proletaryo/manggagawang siyang susi sa kaunlaran at tunay na kasarinlan (Brecht 1975). Paano naisagawa ito nina Jose Corazon de Jesus, tawag nating “Batute” rito (1896-1932), at Benigno Ramos (1892-1945)?

Puso’t Kaluluwang Nagsandata

Pinakatanyag sa timpalak-balagtasan (circa 1924) noon, si Batute ay abogado’t peryodista na kadalasa’y lumahok sa mainit na usaping pampulitika sa tuwiran o paambil. Nakalubog din siya sa kapitalistang milyu ng kalunsuran.
Sa panahon ng mass produksyon ng anumang maipagbibiling bagay, gumaya rin si Batute sa pagsasalisi ng talata, parirala, hulagway, na may magkamukhang tabas. Naging pabrika ng palasak na berso ang mga upisina ng Taliba (dalawang makina sa pagtabas ng taludturan ang umaandar doon: “Buhay Maynila” at “Mga Lagot na Bagting ng Kudyapi), Liwayway, Ang Mithi, Bagong Lipang Kalabaw, at Sampagita. Naging negosyante ang makata, salamat sa modernong teknolohiya ng imprenta at distribusyon ng peryodiko’t lingguhan, polyeto’t libro. Naging pansumandaling libangan ang pagbabasa ng tula, o pakikinig sa balagtasan na nagdulot-aliw sa madlang dumadalo sa mga pista.
Mapanganib ang lagay ng manunulat na medyo nakaangat sa mga karaniwang obrero sa imprenta ngunit madaling maalis sa trabaho. Minsan, sinuportahan si Batute ng pabliser sa isang sakdal ng Amerikanong guro; sa pangalawang kaso, tinanggal na siya nang hindi siya tumigil sa pagsulsol sa mga estudyante sa Manila North High School sa pagtutol sa panlalait ng mga Amerikano (San Juan 2015, 178). Bago pa rito, naisakdal at pinagmulta si Batute dahil sa pagtuligsa niya kay Mrs. J.F. Oliver, isang guro noong Marso 2, 1921. Sa tulang “Black and White,” at maraming tulang itinipon ni Monico Atienza (1995), masasalat ang popular at realistikong aspeto na nailahat ko. Tunghayan ang ilang taludtod mula sa “Dugo” at ‘Pakikidigma,” lathala noong 1929, halimbawa: “Ikaw’y makidigma sa laot ng buhay / At walang bayaning nasindak sa laban; / Kung saan ka lalong mayroong kahinaan, doon mo dukutin ang iyong tagumpay” (Lumbera & Lumbera 1982, 215-217). Mas mapusok at mapangahas ang himig ng boses sa “Malikmata,” kung saan ang tema ng dinamiko’t kongkretong kapaligiran ang paksa: “Hali-halili lang ang anyo ng bagay / At hali-halili ang tingkad ng kulay; / Kay rami ng ating inapi’t utusang / Sa paghihiganti—bukas, sila naman” (hinggil sa paksang-diwa ng mga sinipi, konsultahin si Atienza 2006).
Lubos na bantog si Batute sa kanyang tulang “Ang Bayan Ko” (1928), nilapatan ng musika ni Constancio de Guzman, at idinagdag sa tanyag na sarsuwelang “Walang Sugat” (1902) ni Severino Reyes. Kalayaan ay birtud ng kalikasan: “Ibon mang may layang lumipad /Kulungin mo at umiiyak /Bayan pa kayang sakdal dilag /Ang di magnasang makaalpas..” (kalakip sa Cruz & Reyes 1984, 142). Hindi lamang makata ng palasintahang paksain si Batute, kundi manlilikhang masaklaw ang dalumat pangkasaysayan, litaw sa epikong tulang Sa Dakong Silangan (1928). Dalawang taon bago pumanaw si Batute noong 1932, naisulat ni Amado V. Hernandez ang kanyang “Kung Tuyo na ang Luha Mo, Aking Bayan” (Cruz & Reyes 146-47), na siyang naging pampasiglang sigaw ng mga demonstrador ng “First Quarter Storm” sa bisperas ng batas-militar ng diktadurang Marcos. Sinamantalang sumakay sina Batute at Hernandez sa namamayaning hilig sa sining-pabigkas hanggang hindi pa ito pinapalis ng pagkagumon sa bodabil, radyo at pelikula sa panahong bago pasinayaan ang Komonwelt.

Paglilitis ng Tadhana

Isang pagwawasto sa ginagawiang haka-haka ang dapat isingit dito. Hindi si Batute o Hernandez ang kumatawan ng kontra-gahum na pakikibaka noong dekada ika-1930-40, kundi si Benigno Ramos. Lumahok si Ramos sa balagtasan noong 1926 sa kanyang “Balagtasan ng Kalayaan” (Zafra 2006, 274). Bago pa naging empleyado sa Senado bilang tagaslin noong 1917, naisulat na niya ang Pancho Villa: Maikling Kasaysayan ng Bantog at Kilabot na Taong Ito sa Mehiko. Taglay na ni Ramos ang istoriko-materyalistang pananaw na masisinag sa mga akda niya sa peryodikong Ang Bayang Filipino noong 1913 hanggang 1917. Pagkatapos magbitiw sa burokrasya noong 1930 sa kanyang pagtutol kay Presidente Quezon sa usapin ng Amerikanong pamamahala at karapatan ng mga Filipinong estudyante sa Manila High School, ibinuhos ni Ramos ang kalooban sa lingguhang pahayagang Sakdal na matapang na taliba ng sambayanan laban sa oligarkiya at kolonyalismong Amerikano.
Noong Oktubre 1933, itinatag niya ang Lapiang Sakdalista na sumalungat sa panukala ng naghaharing Partido Nacionalista hinggil sa usapin ng pambansang kasarinlan at katarungang panlipunan. Nang sila’y sikilin at pigilin, naglunsad ng armadong aklasan ang masa noong Mayo 2-3, 1935 sa labing-apat na bayan ng Gitnang Luzon. Bagamat naging maka-Hapon o kolaboraytor si Ramos pagkaraang mabilanggo noong Disyembre 1939, hindi mapapasubalian ang kanyang pananalig sa nasyonalistikong demokrasya para sa nakararaming anak-pawis (Tolentino 1998).
Bukod sa matalinong pagkukuro sa pagbabago ng anyo ng sining sa mga unang tula niya, si Ramos ay likas na mapanghimagsik at mapagsubok sa pagtatambal ng kamalayan at kapaligiran. Pinagpugayan siyang “poeta revolucionario” dahil sa eksperimentasyon at pagkamakabago. Matayog at mabisang nakapupukaw ang mga tulang “Gumising Ka, Aking Bayan,” “Panulat,” “Asyenda,” “Katas-Diwa,” at iba pa, makikilates sa “Mga Agam-Agam” (inilathala sa El Renacimiento, 28 Abril 1911) ang katangiang realistiko’t popular na sangkap sa paghikayat sa masang magkuro, sumuri, at maghinuha ng kinakailangang kilos sa pagsira ng di-rasyonal na institusyon at pagtutugma ng katwiran at ayos ng relasyong panlipunan. Ang aral o turo na naibigkis dito ay kasingkaw ng imahen o kakintalang maramdamin:

Ang taong kumita sa tulo ng pawis,
sa mga paggawa at banat ng bisig
ay taong marapat sa mga pag-ibig
at sa pagkilala ng bawa’t may isip.

Ang mga mahirap ang pinanggalingan
ng salaping hari ng nangabubuhay,
sa kanilang palad ito namuhatan
at sa tuyong bulsa’y siyang nagpayaman.

Ang bawat may milay ay nagmula muna
sa buhay-hikahos ngayong nakikita.
Humigit-kumulang ay nangagtamasa
ng sa mahihirap na taglay na dusa.

Ang bawa’t hangingging ng mga pagbulyaw
sa mga mahirap ay isa rin namang
hukay na sa ganid na paglilibinga’t
sasaksi sa kanyang waka na mapanglaw.

Ang palad ay walang palagiang banig
ni isang uupang sukat na makamit.
Pagkagiring pula! Siya’t magtitindig
ng api’t mamamatay sa mga malupit.

Hindi nasisilip agad ang ligaya
kung hindi magwagi sa pakikibaka.
Ang mga mahirap na nananandata
kung api ma’y busog sa mga pag-asa.

Tubig na malinis ang nakakatulad
ng pusong bayani ng isang mahirap,
kahi’t tampisawin ng paang may burak
ay hindi malabo: di mapapaglusak.

Ang pigil ng sama’y nasa dakong huli,
at kung sa gayon ma’y laging nagwawagi
asahan at bukas nama’y mga api
ang magtatagumpay at hindi ang imbi. (Ramos 1998, 13-14)

Dalawampung taon pa ang magdaraan bago pumutok ang masigabong martsa ng bayan sa Kaarawan ng Paggawa na idinakila ni Ramos sa kanyang tula. Binuo at pinamunuan ng Partido Komunista ang aksyon, na winasak ng papet na konstabularya ni Quezon sa utos ng imperyalistang Amerikano. Maraming inaresto’t ibinalanggo. Ulat ni Amado Guerrero: “Ang Partido ay ipinagbawal ng papet na Korte Suprema at ang mga lider ay sinintensiyahang mabilanggo [noong 1932]. Gayunman, sa kabila ng pagbabawal sa Partido, sumiklab ang mga espontanyong pagbabangon ng mga magsasaka tulad ng naganap sa Tayug, Pangasinan, noong 1931 at ng ibinunsod ng mga Sakdal” (1970, 52-53) noong 1935, na naibadya na sa unahan.

Aklasan: Pagsalungat sa Kapalaran

Inihudyat ng mga pagbabalikwas ng nakararaming mamamayan na nakahulagpos na sa antas ng rebolusyong Pranses ang modernong kabihasnan at humhangos na sa yugto Komunidad sa Paris ng 1871. Magkatalik na ang uring magbubukid, manggagawa’t intelektuwal sa kalunsuran sa nagkakaisang pagsalakay sa kapangyarihang piyudal, kumprador at kolonyalistang dayuhan. Unti-unting nayayari ang lideratong moral-intelektuwal ng makabayang pangkat. Masasalamin ito sa imahen ng aklasan. Mabalasik na naihatid ito sa tulang “Aklasan” ni Hernandez, na kasama sa kanyang librong Kayumanggi (1940). Nakalutang sa isang argumento na kung hindi napapalitan ang mali o masamang pamamalakad, iigpaw ang udyok ng himagsikan. Narito ang huling talugtod ng pagbabanta’t pagbabala:

Ngunit habang may pasunod
na ang tao’y parang hayop
samantalang may pasahod
na anaki’y isang limos….
at may batas na baluktot
na sa ila’y tagakupkop,
ang aklasan ay sisipot
at magsasabog ng poot,
ang aklasa’y walang lagot,
unos, apoy, kidlat, kulog,
mag-uusig, manghahamok
na parang talim ng gulok,
hihingi ng pagtutuos
hanggang lubusang matampok,
kilalani’t mabantayog
ang katwirang inaapop,
hanggang ganap na matubos
ang Paggawang bagong Hesus
na ipinako sa kurus. (Medina 1972, 345)

Pansinin na ang harayang Hesukristo ang ikinabit sa “Paggawa” ay nagpapagunita sa atin ng imahen sa huling tagpo sa nobelang Pinaglahuan, wari bagang ang sakripisyo ng sambayanan ay nagpapangako ng di-mahahadlangang katubusan sa wakas. Maaaring hinagapin na sagisag ito ng nakaugat na tradisyong milenaryo ng mga Colorum, sektaryang pangkat tulad ng Cofradia ni Hermano Pule, atbp. Sa kabilang dako, isinaalang-alang ng makata’t nobelista ang gawi, ugali, hilig ng madla na inilubog sa Kristiyanong ritwal ng cenaculo at pagbasa sa Pasyon.

Montage: Sintomas ng Kinabukasan

Ang aklasan ay nailarawan naman sa mas realistikong paraan sa kuwento ni Brigido Batungbakal, “Aklasan.” Maantig at maudyok ang ritmo ng mga pangungusap sa naratibo, katugma ng daloy ng pagbabalita sa radyo, isang teknolohiyang lumaganap na noong Komonwelt. Mas makapangyarihan ang impluwensiya ng pelikulang may tinig noong dekada 1930 (Lumbera 1998, 397-98), kung saan ang metodo ng montage ang kontra-egemonyang lakas na dumurog sa katahimikan, sa kunwaring-rasyonalidad ng kapaligiran. Maihahalimbawa na ang maikli’t putol-putol
na taludtod sa unang bahagi ng “Aklasan” ni Hernandez. Sindak sa sigalot ang hiwatig ng puta-putaking detalye sa “snapshots.” Sa kuwento, hindi lang maramdaming paglalarawan ang kinasangkapan ng nag-uulat na reporter, kundi ang pagtatagning parataktika ng eksena ang mabisang representasyon ng gulo, paglalaban ng hinagap at kalakaran—sa malao’t madali, ang sindak ng krisis sa montage ang nakasiwalat ng katotohanang binaluktot ng inilimbag na ulat ng pahayagang Katarungan. Subaybayan ang indayog ng mga pariralang nakapaloob sa talatang ito:

Muling nagsalita si Andres Santos sa kanyang mga kasamahan. Sinabi niyang ingatan ang pagsakit sa mga taong hindi kasang-ayon ng kanilang simulain. Umugong ang hiyawan. Tumututol ang marami sa kanyang ibig mangyari. Hindi maaari ang ganyan. Kailangang patayin ang sinomang mag-eskirol. Walang itatangi. Isang babae ang tumindig. Nagsalita. Kailangang ipagtanggol ang karapatan ng mga nagsisi-aklas. Kailangang ipagtagumpay ang simulain natin sa kabuhayan. Umugong ang sigawan ng mga sumang-ayon. Pamaya-maya, isang trak ang huminto. Saka naghiyawan ng Mabuhay. Makikiramay sa atin ang mga taga-La Insular. Hindi tayo pababayaan ng mga taga-La Yebana. Tigas ng loob laman ang kailangan natin upang tayo’y magtagumpay (1982, 227-28).

Kung aalagatain ang mabagal at mabigat na paglalatag ng mga pangyayari upang makabuo ng kapanabikan sa sinaunang kuwento nina Cirio Panganiban, “Bunga ng Kasalanan,” o ni Deogracias Rosario sa “Walang Panginoon,” malaki ang kaibahan ng paraan ng pagsasalaysay (Abadilla, Sebastian & Mariano 1954, 84-112). Pwedeng banggitin din ang sopistikadong pagsasalaysay ni Narciso Reyes sa “Lupang Tinubuan,” na pinagsusudlong ng pagtuklas ng nasyonalistikong saloobin sa pagkilala sa gunitang nagbubuklod sa salinlahi sa isang angkan sa isang tiyak na lugar. Dugo at lupa ang batayan ng pag-ibig sa bansa, hindi ang pakikibaka para sa kasarinlan at kalayaan ng mamamayan. Namumukod ang “Aklasan.”
Walang pasubaling kinagiliwan ang mga kuwentong nabanggit, naging popular; ngunit nakatuon ang pagmamasid ng naratibo sa inbididuwalistikong sikolohiya ng mga tauhan. Nalulutas ang tensiyon at suliranin sa moralistiko’t sikolohiyang pagkakalas ng mga komplikasyon. Sa akda ni Batungbakal, ang pag-inog ng mga pangyayari ay nagmumula sa igting ng relasyong sosyal, popular at realistiko sapagkat idinidiin ang dinamikong sagupaan at salpukan ng makabuluhang lakas sa lipunan at ibinubunyag ang pagkakaugnay ng mga puwersang siyang nagpapagalaw sa bawat sulong ng mga pangyayari sa kasaysayan. Ito’y ambag sa kabatiran ng masa at sagot sa kung paano mababago ang buhay sa kolektibong pagtutulungan.
Naitulak na naman tayo sa asignaturang ipinukol sa atin ng pilosopong Enrique Dussel nang isinakdal niya ang kapalaluan ng tinaguriang modernidad ng kapitalistang “world-system.” Ipinagtanggol niya ang etika ng liberasyon sa panahon ng krisis ng makapangyarihang kabihasnan ng Kanluran, ng kapitalismong global. Ipinataw at ipinilit sa atin ito. Ang mapanghamong tanong: tatanggapin ba natin ito? babaguhin ba, o tuwirang itatapon kung pwede? Sa kabilang banda, posible bang magsimula sa wala? Posible bang lumikha ng talagang bago, burahin ang nakasulat sa borador at mag-umpisa sa blangkong papel?

Paglalakbay sa Sangandaan ng mga Barikada

Paano nakaabot sa antas na ito ang mga manlilikha? Paano naisiyasat at naikintal sa mabalasik na artikulasyon ang pag-uugnay ng nag-iisang kamalayan/isip at ang masalimuot na pakikisalamuha sa obhetibong realidad?
Nagbago ang klima ng opinyon sa larangan ng komunikasyon at diskusyon pampubliko noong dekada ika-1930 hanggang 1942. Sumidhi ang digmaan ng mga uring panlipunan. Bukod sa pagkayanig sa status quo ng insureksiyon ng Sakdalista, at mabulas na demonstrasyon ng mga alagad ng Partido Komunista ni Crisanto Evangelista at Partido Socialista ni Pedro Abad Santos, na humantong sa pagkakasanib ng dalawang kilusang ito, naitatag ang Philippine Writers Leaguenoong 1939. Pinamunuan nina Federico Mangahas, Teodoro Agoncillo, Salvador Lopez, Manuel Arguilla, Arturo Rotor, at iba pang intelektuwal, nagkaroon ng kolektibong kamalayan at plataporma ang nakakaraming manunulat.
Ibinuod ang pagtugon ng mga manlilikha sa maselang problema ng bansa sa analitikong sanaysay ni Lopez sa librong Panitikan at Lipunan (1940). Maituturing na si Lopez ang pangunahing kritiko-intelektuwal ng modernidad bilang pag-uugnay ng pandaigdigang bisyon ng sosyalismo at kulturang katutubo. Subalit sa usapin ng wika, hindi pa rin nakahulagpos ang League sa pagdakila sa wikang Ingles: walang nobela sa Tagalog ang nagkamit ng primera premyo sa timpalak nila noong 1940. Depende pa rin sila sa “benevolent rule” ng Estados Unidos (Mojares 1983, 306-08).
Naigiit ko na sa bungad ang dalawang katangiang pagkapopular at pagkarealistiko na kailangan upang makabuo ng hegemonya ng uring manggagawa. Nakasalalay ito sa pamumunong moral/espiritwal ng mga organikong intelektuwal ng masa. Utang sa pananalig ng uring manggagawa’t magbubukid, sa kanilang pagtutol at pagkilos laban sa pang-aapi ng imperyalismo’t kakutsaba nito, namulaklak ang damdaming mapagpalaya sa kaisipang nailahad ni Lopez sa kanyang akda. Nahati ang pangkat ng mga manunulat sa dalawang bahagi: una, ang mga aesthete na naniniwala sa primaryang aksyoma ng sining-para-sa-kapakanan ng sining” at, pangalawa, ang naniniwala na ang pinaimportanteng layon nila ang “pagpapaunlad ng kagayan ng tao at sa pagtatanggol sa kanyang karapatan.” Nag-panukala na “makikilala lamang ng tao ang kanyang sarili sa pamamagitan ng pagkilala sa iba,” masinop na nilagom ni Lopez ang sitwasyon ng alagad-ng-sining sa katanungang ito: “Tutugtog ba sila ng biyolin habang nagliliyab ang Roma? …O nang hindi nakakalimutan na ang sining ay dapat manawagan sa tao sa pamamagitan ng ganda’t kapangyarihan, gagampanan ba nila ang kanilang tungkulin sa daigdig ng mga tao, hihingahin ba ang hanging hinihinga natin, pag-iisipan ba ang mga problemang lumilito sa atin, ipapahiram ba ang pananaw at pagkahenyong ipinagkaloob sa kanila upang ganap na malutas ang mga ito?” (1984, 255).
Nasambit ang tugtog ng biyolin habang naglalagablab ang lunsod. Walang puwang rito upang dumulog nang maigi sa masagana’t masinop na pag-aaral ni Teresita Gimenez Maceda, Mga Tinig mula Sa Ibaba (1996). Sa Kabanata 3 ng kanyang libro, sinikap ni Maceda na talakayin ang pagsasanib ng tradisyong katutubo at radikalismo ng Partido Sosialista ni Pedro Abad Santos. Ang tendensiyang popular ng magbubukid, ang damdamin at hinagap na nilalaman ng mga awit, ay binihisan ng nasyonalistikong porma sa halimbawa ng Sakdalista ni Benigno Ramos (Maceda 1996, 61). Ang nasyonalistikong anyo ay nasidlan ng simulaing unibersal ng sosyalistang plataporma, nakasentro sa hangarin ng proletaryong uri na matamo ang katubusan ng buong sangkatauhan sa pagpapalaya niya mula sa tirano ng kapital. Sumalupa ang utopikong panaginip, nagkatawang-lupa ang pangarap at pag-asam sa maluwalhating kinabukasan. Patunay na ang metodong diyalektikal ay siyang tahasang bumalangkas at umugit sa mga likhang-sining na taglay ang makabago’t siyentipikong kamalayan sa pagkakaposisyon ng bayan sa ekonomiyang pampulitika ng kapitalismong global, sa daluyan ng monopolyo-kapitalismo o imperyalismo.

Isang Nagbunga ng Dalawang May Pangatlo

Sa matalas na komprontasyon ng dalawang ideolohiyang natukoy, ang isa nakaugat sa burgesya/kapitalismong orden, at ang kasalungat na nakaugat sa uring pinagsasamantalahan, sumipot ang malinaw na kontradiksiyong hinaharap ng sambayanan. Ito ang kontradiksiyon ng mga gumagawa o yumayari ng kayamanang panlipunan, at ang mga makapanyarihang sumasamsam sa kayamanang iyon at nagpapalaganap ng kahirapan at kasamaan. Hustisya sosyal ang programa ni pangulong Quezon upang malutas ang kontradiksiyon.
Samantala, sa panig ng mga organikong intelektuwal ng sambayanan, ang tugon sa krisis ng demokrasyang liberal na nakasalig sa kapitalismo ay rebolusyong sosyal at pulitikal—ang pag-alis ng pribadong pag-aari ng gamit sa produksiyon, pati lupaing sinasaka, kasabay ng pagtaboy sa mananakop, sa kolonyalismong Estados Unidos. Ang modernidad ng Kanlurang sibilisasyon ay barbarismo, samantalang ang modernidad na sumisibol at lumalago sa Pilipinas ay nagmumula sa kawalan o kabiguang nasa pusod ng Kanlurang sibilisasyon: ang kalayaan at kasarinlan ng inaalipin, inaapi, pinagsasamantalahan.
Sa mga akda ni Carlos Bulosan, ang manunulat na tumungo sa U.S. noong 1930 upang makipagsapalaran kasama ang ilang libong Filipinong kinontrata ng mga pabrika’t plantasyon doon, natugunan ang hinihinging pakikipagbalitak ni Lopez at mga kapanalig sa Philippine Writers League. Naging kaibigan niya si Amado Hernandez at tumulong sa pagpapalathala ng Born of the People, talambuhay ni Luis Taruc. Nakilala rin niya sina Mangahas, Lopez, Rotor, at iba pang kababayang nakilahok sa kilusang makakaliwa (San Juan 1995). Noong 1946 lumabas ang kanyang tala ng mga karanasan niya at madlang kalahi: America Is in the Heart. Tumulong nang matagal sa pag-organisa ng mga unyon at pagtaliba ng mga simulain ng kilusang progresibo’t sosyalista, naitanghal ni Bulosan ang pagsasanib ng digmaan laban sa kapitalismo sa U.S. at ang anti-imperyalistang pakikibaka ng masang Filipino sa kanyang nobelang The Cry and the Dedication.
Ang modernidad ng bansang bumabalikwas, nagsisikap tumakas sa pagkaduhagi, nagtataguyod ng mapagpalayang diwa’t damdamin, ay makikita sa mga akda ni Bulosan. Isang testimonyo nito ang tulang “If You Want to Know What We Are,” na kalakip sa Literature Under the Commonwealth, na pinamatnugutan nina Manuel Arguilla atbp. Sinisipi ko ang bahaging sumasaksi sa panahon ng pagkamakabago na katambal ng mapanlikhang bayanihan ng mga anak-pawis bilang pangwakas sa aking diskurso:

Kami ang mga nagpapakasakit na nagdurusa para sa likas na pagmamahal
ng tao sa kapwa, na gumugunita sa pagkatao
ng bawat nilalang; kami ang mga manggagawang nagpapagod
upang ang tigang na sangkapulua’y maging isang pook ng kasaganaan,
na nagpapabagong-anyo sa kasaganaan upang maging halimuyak na walang kamatayan.
Kami ang pita ng mga di-kilalang tao kahit saan,
na nagpupunla ng yaman sa kaningningan ng malawak na daigdig
kami ang bagong diwa
at ang bagong saligan, ang bagong pagsasaluntian ng kaisipan;
kami ang bagong pag-asa bagong kagalakan kahit saan.

Kami ang pangarap at ang bituin, ang nagpapahupa ng dusa;
kami ang hangganan ng pagsisiyasat, ang simula
ng bagong kilusan; kami ang lihim ng landas
ng pagdurusa; kami ang mithiin ng kadakilaan;
kami ang buhay ng katibayan ng isang sumisibol na lipi.

Kung nais ninyong mabatid kung sino kami—
KAMI ANG REBOLUSYON!
SANGGUNIAN

Abadilla, A.G., F. B. Sebastian and A.D.G. Mariano. 1954. Ang Maikling Kathang Tagalog. Quezon City: Bede’s Publishing House Inc.
Agoncillo, Teodoro 1974. Filipino Nationalism: 1872-1970. Manila: R. P. Garcia Publishing Co.
——-& Milagros Guerrero. 1970. History of the Filipino People. Manila: R.P. Garcia.
Atienza, Monico. 2006. “Mg Tula ng Pulitika at Pakikisangkot ni Jose Corazon de Jesus.” Nasa sa Kilates. Ed. Rosario Torres-Yu. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press.
Balmaseda, Julian Cruz. 2013 (1938). “Ang Tatlong Panahon ng Tulang Tagalog.” Mga Lektura sa Kasaysayan ng Panitikan. Ed. Galileo Zafra. MetroManila: Aklat ng Bayan.
Batungbakal, Brigido. 1982 (1935). “Aklasan.” Nasa sa Philippine Literature: A History and Anthology. Eds. Bienvenido Lumbera and Cynthia Nograles-Lumbera. Manila: National Book Store.
Brecht, Bertolt. 1975. “The Popular and the Realistic.” Nasa sa Marxists on Literature: An Anthology. Ed. David Craig. Baltimore: Penguin Books.
Bulosan, Carlos. 1984 (1940). “Kung Nais Ninyong Mabatid Kung Sino Kami.” Salin mula sa Ingles nina Lilia Antonio, H. Beltran Jr., at Richie Valencia. Nasa sa Ang Ating Panitikan. Eds. Isagani Cruz & Soledad Reyes. Manila: Goodwill Trading Co.
Cruz, Isagani & Soledad Reyes. 1984. Ang Ating Panitikan. Manila: Goodwill Trading Co.
Dussel, Enrique. 2013. Ethics of Liberation. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Fernandez, Doreen G. 1996. Palabas: Essays on Philippine Theater. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press.
Francisco, Lazaro. 1998. “Ang Beterano.” 50 Kuwentong Ginto ng 50 Batikang Kwentista. Ed. Pedrito Reyes. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press.
Guerrero, Amado. 1971. Lipunan at Rebolusyong Pilipino. Maynila: Lathalaang Pulang Tala.
Jameson, Fredric. 1971. Marxism and Form. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Lopez, Salvador. 1984 (1940). “Panitikan at Lipunan.” Nasa sa Ang Ating Panitikan. Eds. Isagani Cruz & Soledad Reyes. Manila: Goodwill Trading Co.
Lukacs, Georg. 1971 (1920). The Theory of the Novel. Tr. Anna Bostok. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Lumbera, Bienvenio & Cynthis Nograles Lumbera, eds. 1982. Philippine Literature: A History & Anthology. Manila: National Bookstore.
Maceda, Teresita Gimenez. 1996. Mga Tinig Mula Sa Ibaba. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press.
Medina, Ben S. 1972. Tatlong Panahon ng Panitikan. Manila: National Book Store.
Mojares, Resil B. 1983. Origins and Rise of the Filipino Novel. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press.
Ramos, Benigno. 1998. Gumising Ka, Aking Bayan. Ed. Delfin Tolentino, Jr.. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press.
Reyes, Soledad. 1982. Nobelang Tagalog 1905-1975. Quezon City: Ateneo University Press.
Richardson, Jim. 2011. Komunista. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press.
San Juan, E. 1995. On Becoming Filipino: Selected Writings of Carlos Bulosan. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
Santos, Lope K. 1960 (1906). Banaag at Sikat. Quezon City: Manlapaz Publishing Co.
Saulo, Alfredo B. 1990. Communism in the Philippines. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press.
Tolentino, Aurelio. 1975. Selected Writings. Ed. Edna Zapanta-Manlapaz. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Library.
Tolentino, Delfin Jr. 1998. “Paunang Salita.” Nasa sa Gumising Ka, Aking Bayan: Mga Piling Tula ni Benigno Ramos. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press.
Wernsted, Frederick L. & Joseph Spencer. 1967. The Philippine Island World. Berkeley: U of California Press.
Zafra, Galileo. 2006. “Ang Dalumat ng Katwiran sa Balagtasan Bilang Salik ni Estetikang Pampanitikan.” Nasa sa Kilates. Ed. Rosario Torres-Yu. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

TUNGKOL SA AWTOR
Kilalang kritiko at manlilikha sa larangang internasyonal, si E. SAN JUAN, Jr. ay emeritus professor of English, Comparative Literature, and Ethnic Studies, University of Connecticut & Washington State University. Siya’y awtor ng maraming libro, kabilang na ang Balikbayang Sinta: An E. San Juan Reader (Ateneo University Press), Kontra-Modernidad (University of the Philippines Press), Tinik sa Kaluluwa; Rizal In Our Time (Anvil Publishing), Bakas Alingawngaw (Ateneo University Press), Salud Algabre (University of San Agustin Publishing House), at Ulikba at mga bagong tula; at Learning from the Filipino Diaspora (U.S.T. Publishing House).

Inilathala ng Lambert Academic Publishing Co., Saarbrucken, Germany, ang kaniyang Critical Interventions: From Joyce and Ibsen to Peirce and Kingston, kasunod ng In the Wake of Terror (Lexington), US Imperialism and Revolution in the Philippines (Palgrave), at Carlos Bulosan: Revolutionary Filipino Writer in the U.S. (Peter Lang).

Ilulunsad ng U.S.T. Press sa taong ito ang bagong libro niya: Faustino Aguilar: Kapangyarihan, Kamalayan, Kasaysayan, Isang Metakomentary sa mga Nobela ni F. Aguilar–pinakaunang libro ng makabagong panunuri sa mga akda ng isang rebolusyonaryong tagapagtatag ng panitikang Filipino.

Naglingkod siya bilang Fulbright professor of American Studies sa Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium; Fellow, Center for the Humanities, Wesleyan University; visiting professor of literature sa National Tsing Hua University, Hsinchu, Taiwan. Kamakailan, siya ay naging Residential Fellow ng Rockefeller Foundation Study & Conference Center sa Bellagio, Italya, at Fellow sa W.E.B. Institute, Harvard University. Siya ay kasalukuyang director ng Philippines Cultural Studies Center sa Washington, DC, USA, at katulong na patnugot ng maraming dyornal tulad ng Cultural Logic, Kultura Kritika, Unitas, at iba pa. Kasapi siya sa American Civil Liberties Union, Democratic Socialists of America, at Modern Language Association of America. Kamakailan, naging chair professor of Cultural Studies, Polytechnic University of the Philippines, at visiting professor of English, University of the Philippines.

 

 

 

 

Posted in DISCOURSES ON CONTRADICTIONS

Introduction to Carlos Bulosan’s AMERICA IS IN THE HEART


INTRODUCTION to CARLOS BULOSAN’s
AMERICA IS IN THE HEART

By E. SAN JUAN, Jr.
Emeritus professor of Ethnic Studies & Comparative Literature, Washington State UniversityBulosan-Eliseo Art Silva

When America Is in the Heart (AIH) appeared in 1946, the Philippines was about to receive formal independence from the United States after four harrowing years of Japanese devastation. Filipinos thanked the troops of General Douglas McArthur for their “Liberation.” Bulosan’s book was praised less for its avowed democratic sentiments than for its affirmation of the sacrifices made in Bataan and Corregidor memorialized so eloquently. It captures the pathos of a long-expected agonizing moment of rendezvous. Victory against Japan seemed to wipe out the trauma of the U.S. bloody pacification of the islands from 1899 to 1913—the first chapter recounts Bulosan’s farewell to his brother Leon, a veteran of the carnage in Europe. His brother fought thousands of miles away from Binalonan, Pangasinan, where Bulosan was born on November 2,1911. Two years later, the Filipino-American War ended on June 11, 1913 when General Pershing’s troops slaughtered about ten thousand Moros in the Bud Bagsak massacre (Tan). Add this toll to about a million killed earlier, we arrive at the final fruit of President McKinley’s “Benevolent Assimilation” policy justifying the new empire’s conquest. Soon the public school system and William HowardTaft’s “Filipinization” program gave rise to an entrenched bureaucratic caste with close ties to the feudal landlords and compradors that colluded with colonial administrators up to the Commonwealth period (1935-1945). When this newly formed native oligarchs accepted the onerous conditions of independence in July 1946, Stanley Karnow wryly remarked that “they submitted voluntarily to their own exploitation,” dreaming of becoming “a favored and exemplary party within a Pax Americana” (330). Bulosan’s advent into the world was thus counterpointed with such paradoxes and seemingly intractable aporias. His initiation was self-contradictory, his psyche charged with conflicting impulses and dispositions. It reflected the quandaries of the times. Historian Jaime Veneracion noted that “while the Americans supposedly introduced land reform, the effect was the intensification of the tenancy problem” (63). Throughout U.S. colonial rule, fierce antagonisms convulsed and shattered the pacified countryside up to the Cold War era. One charismatic folk-hero, Felipe Salvador, was hanged for leading a massive peasant rebellion against landlords and their U.S. patrons. Between his birth and departure for the U.S. in 1930, Bulosan was cognizant of the desperate revolts of impoverished farmers in the Colorums of Luzon, Negros, Leyte, Samar, Panay and Surigao (Constantino; Sturtevant). In Part I, chapter 8, of this memoir he vividly describes the 1931 Tayug uprising which he didn’t personally witness. It was led by Pedro Calosa, a veteran of union organizing in Hawaii who was jailed for instigating multiethnic strikes and summarily deported back to the Philippines in 1927.
Transversal Border-Crossing
How did Filipinos suddenly appear in Hawaii? After three decades of imperial tutelage, the Philippines was transformed into a classic dependency providing raw materials and cheap labor. From 1907 to 1926, more than 100,000 Filipinos were recruited by the Hawaiian sugar plantations. Driven by poverty, feudal abuses, and colonial repression, Filipinos plotted their journey to the metropole to pursue “the dream of success” depicted so seductively in the mass-circulated textbooks and newspapers that Bulosan and his generation memorized. Neither citizens nor aliens, they moved around as “wards” or “nationals, neither immigrants nor foreigners, not eligible for citizenship though carrying U.S. passports, As Carey McWilliams observed, “they were neither fish nor fowl” (x). They inhabited an ambiguous terra incognita filled with utopian fantasies and tragicomic comeuppances. It was the analogue to W.E. B. DuBois condition of “double consciousness”(11), a sensibility of permanent crisis born in the turbulent years of transition from feudal barbarism to capitalist alienation, a tortuous passage that may explain the ironic turnabouts and the precarious ambivalence encountered at every turn of the page. In this zone of indeterminacy, Bulosan found himself struggling to survive with his cohort in 1931 upon arrival in Seattle. They became easy victims of exploitation by labor contractors, agribusiness operatives, gamblers, racist vigilantes, and state laws (prohibiting their marriage with whites) from Hawaii and California to Alaska. Naïve and vulnerable, they nurtured a rich and sophisticated culture of resistance. Bulosan’s friendship with militant organizer, Chris Mensalvas (his later avatars would be Larry Itliong and Philip Vera Cruz, leaders of the 1965 Delano Grape Strike), involved him in the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). In 1933, about 4,000 Filipinos in Stockton and Salinas, California, staged numerous strikes (San Juan, “Filipinos”). As editor of The New Tide in 1934, Bulosan became acquainted with progressive authors such as Richard Wright, William Saroyan, John Fante, Louis Adamic, and Sanora Babb. When he was confined at the Los Angeles General Hospital for tuberculosis and kidney disease in 1936-38, it was Sanora Babb and her sister Dorothy who virtually educated him to write. They helped him discover through books “all my world of intellectual possibilities—and a grand dream of bettering society for the working man” (San Juan, Balikbayan 161). While convalescing, he composed the stories satirizing feudal despotism and patriarchal authority, later gathered in the best-selling The Laughter of My Father (1944, hereafter Laughter) and the poems found in the rehearsal for AIH: Chorus for America (1942), Letter from America (1942), The Voice of Bataan (1943), and his signature ode to dissidents, “If You Want To Know What We Are” (On Becoming 166-68).

Carnivalesque Interlude
We noted earlier that Bulosan’s adolescent years drew energy from the survival craft of a large poor peasant clan in which the fathers and uncles had to reckon with maternal wisdom. In the letters collected in “The Sound of Falling Light,” as well as in Laughter, Bulosan pays homage to the earthy cunning spirit of his father trying to outwit landlords, merchant-usurers, and petty bureaucrats to eke out a bare subsistence. Above all, he celebrated the exuberant resourcefulness of his mother, that “dynamic little peasant woman” who nurtured his bold, adventurous, genial spirit. Her figure is sublimated in the feisty samaritanic women in AIH. By transference she is reincarnated in his loyal female companions who, while complex personalities in themselves, function as emblems of the hidden ‘Other,” the caring double mask of an indifferent if not hostile America. Seen from a larger historical perspective, Bulosan revitalized the insurgent culture of the dispossessed and marginalized among whom he grew up. He learned the ethos of a rapidly changing society, its strategy of compromises and tactics of reconciliations. In response to the philistine putdown of his folkloric vignettes as a mode of commercializing exotic mores, Bulosan urged us to attend more to their allegorical thrust and immanent critique: “My politico-economic ideas are embedded in all my writings….Laughter is not humor; it is satire; it is indictment against an economic system that stifled the growth of the primitive, making him decadent overnight without passing through the various stages of growth and decay” (Feria 273). Other stories by Bulosan containing “hidden bitterness” couched in dark humor, retold fables attacking the predatory barbarism of the oligarchy and the iniquitous property/power relations in the colony, are now collected in The Philippines Is in the Heart (2017), the appraisal of which might revise the stereotyped notion of Bulosan’s trademark optimism. One might conclude that Bulosan’s return to the homeland began with the ritual of his departure. His apprenticeship as an organic intellectual of the emergent diaspora started with the effort to understand the trials of his family to overcome U.S.-sponsored feudal tyranny. Although Laughter and AIH substantiated his creative potential, unlike Jose Garcia Villa, Bulosan was never really accepted by the Establishment literati. He remained suspect, a subversive pariah author from the “boondocks.” His radicalization began with an act of “popular memory” triggered by the circumstances of colonial uprooting and accumulated experiences of violent ostracism.
Before the crisis of global capitalism subsided after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Bulosan had already plotted out his project of remapping the U.S. cultural-political landscape with his claim: “I want to interpret the soul of the Filipinos in this country. What really compelled me to write was to try to understand this country, to find a place in it not only for myself but for my people.” “Self” here designates the collective agency of all excluded, subjugated persons who have been defined and categorized by the instrumentalizing and commodifying totality of global capitalism.
Inventory Between the Wars
Unlike the survivors of the internment camps of Manzanar, or the wasted Chinatowns of San Francisco and New York, Bulosan cannot be labelled as a model ethnic icon in today’s multicultural shopping mall. He survived years of privation and vigilante persecution in Yakima Valley, Watsonville, etc., drifting in a limbo of indeterminacy, “nationals” without a sovereign nation, a nomadic exile. On the eve of Pearl Harbor, he summed up his group’s ordeal: “Yes, I feel like a criminal running away from a crime I did not commit. And the crime is that I am a Filipino in America” (On Becoming 173). The proletarianization of Bulosan’s sensibility surpassed the imperatives of nativism, the nostalgic return to a mythical past, or a yearning for a prosperous cosmopolis invented by postmodernist transnationals. Playing his role as “tribune” of multiethnic workers writing for New Masses, CommonwealthTimes, and New Republic, the ambit of his “conscientization” transgressed borders with the rise of fascism in Europe and Japan.
Several poems that Bulosan wrote in the late thirties—“Portrait with Cities Falling,” “To Laura in Madrid,” “Who Saw the Terror,” etc. expressed his commitment to the revolutionary ideals of the Spanish Republic. It was easy for Bulosan to make the connection between the reactionary fascism of Franco’s Falangists (supported by Filipino landlords/compradors) and the violence of the empire’s ideological apparatus of courts, police, prisons. His sympathy was for the victims of the inhuman profit-centered system. His engagement with the international popular-front strategy afforded him a philosophical worldview which gave coherence and direction to his group’s vagrant existence. His astute social conscience paid sentimental tribute to the ideals of Whitmanian democracy, transforming “America” into a metaphor of an egalitarian, racism-free society deployed throughout AIH. When the Pacific War broke out, Bulosan rediscovered the homeland as the fountainhead of his prophetic, truth-telling energies. He focused his mind on another invader more brutal than the Spanish conquistadors or the American troops inflicting “the water cure” and Vietnam-style hamletting: the Japanese occupiers. This served as the germinal site for the theme of “national liberation” sedimented in AIH, but fully elaborated in The Cry and the Dedication (hereafter The Cry). This last work was inspired by Bulosan’s friendship with the leftwing vernacular poet Amado V. Hernandez; together, they collaborated with Paul Robeson, W.E.B. Du Bois, and other progressives to publish Luis Taruc’s autobiography, Born of the People (1953). Dialectical Syndrome
Originally acclaimed as a model testimony of ethnic success, AIH’s epilogue gestures toward a popular-front politics against global fascism. Written in the middle of the war, Bulosan’s chronicle functions as a testimony to those years of struggle resisting white-supremacist violence. It is essentially a critique of the paradigm of immigrant success now celebrated by apologists of assimilation into late capitalist polity. Obliquely parodying the Bildungsroman scheme, AIH presents a massive documentation of the varieties of racism, exploitation and inhumanity suffered by Filipinos in the West Coast and Alaska from the Depression to the outbreak of World War II.

Scenes of abuse, insult, and brutal murder of these “wards” are rendered with naturalistic candor spliced with snapshots of their craft of survival and recovery–a haunting montage suturing history, confessional diary, and quotidian reports from the frontlines. Except for Part I, the remaining three parts (from Chapters 13 to 49) of this ethnobiography—a polyphonic orchestration of events from the lives of the author and his generation of multiethnic migrants—chart the passage of the youthful narrator through a landscape of privation, bewilderment, and violence. The narrator doubles alternatively as protagonist and witness of events that he recounts. His itinerary begins with his victimization by corrupt contractors on his arrival in Seattle, followed by his anguished flight from lynch mobs, his first beating by two policemen in Klamath Falls, up to his desperate flirtation with Max Smith’s cynicism. Such misfortunes are punctuated by his testicles being crushed by svage vigilantes. A hundred pages after these ordeals, “Allos” Pollyana-like sums up by reaffirming his faith in “America”—“America” is no longer the arena of painful bloodletting but a magical space “sprung from all our hopes and aspirations.”
We are immediately stunned by the stark disjunction between the violent reality and the compensatory frame of the interpretation. How do we reconcile this discrepancy between actuality and thought, between fact (the chaotic wasteland called “America” and the ideal notion in the head of “America” as the land of equality, all “milk and honey”? Is this simply a duplicitous maneuver to syncopate brainwashed narrator with subversive author? Is this Bulosan’s subterfuge of multiplying perspectives and extolling the virtues of what postmodernist scholars call “schizoid jouissance”? One way to approach this scandalous incommensurability, this impasse of divergent readings, has become routine. We can reject the commonsensical thesis that this work belongs to “that inclusive and characteristic Asian American genre of autobiography or personal history (Kim 47) designed to promote easy cooptation into the proverbial “melting pot.” Or else, one can retort that AIH invents a new literary genre which operates as antithesis to the mythical quest for Americanization—the whitening of brown-skinned natives. One can urge a focus on sly rhetorical nuances: for example, the address to the “American earth” at the end is cast in the subjunctive mood, tied to an unfolding process whose future is overshadowed by Pearl Harbor and the slaughter of American & Filipino soldiers in Bataan and Corregidor. The last three chapters reiterate the shame, anger, confusion, and terror saturating the lives of Filipinos in the “New World.” The mainstream approach to Bulosan’s work is charitable but disingenuous. Whatever the pressures of the Cold War and marketing imperatives in the time when the book became part of college courses, to judge Bulosan’s chronicle of the Filipino struggle to give dignity to their damaged lives as an advertisement for patriotism, or imperial “nationalism,” seems unwarranted, if not invidious. It is surely meant to erase all evidence of its profoundly radical, popular-democratic inspiration. At best, It distorts the narrator’s moral impetus of enhancing solidarity among peoples, regardless of race or creed, by conceiving it simply as a self-serving attempt of ingratiation.
Identifying Interlocutors
Perhaps the easiest way to correct this mistake is to identify the trope of personification, the wish-fulfilling imaginary underlying the narrative structure. Who is “America’? The voice of the main protagonist answers: Eileen Odell “was undeniably the America I had wanted to find in those frantic days of fear and flight, in those acute hours of hunger and loneliness. This America was human, good, and real.” If Eileen functions as a placeholder or synecdoche for all those who demonstrated trust and compassion for strangers like Bulosan, then the name should not be conflated with the abstract referent “America” or “U.S.A” as a whole because It specifies a concrete locus of humaneness. Overall, the positive figure is a maternal signifier with multiple personifications, including the feminized narrative stance. She represents the singular desire called “America” in the title. Viewed from another angle, the idiomatic tenor of the title refers to an inward process of acquiring self-awareness. It may be construed as a mode of internalization, a kind of self-gestation or spiritual parthenogenesis. Note the figurative resonance of such descriptions as he felt “love growing inside him,” leading to ”a new heroism: a feeling of growing with a huge life.” By metonymic semiosis, the trope of containment gestures toward pregnancy and deliverance. Although victimized, Bulosan feels remolded into “a new man” inhabiting a New World. We confront here a symbiosis of inside and outside. Elsewhere, the “heart” image of the title alludes to the “American earth” compared to “a huge heart unfolding warmly to receive me.” And so the phrase “America in the hearts of men” attributed to Macario is interpreted by Bulosan to mean “this small yet vast heart of mine…steering toward the stars.” Earlier, when he encounters Marian after the most perverse mutilation of his genitals in San Jose, he marvels at this “white woman who had completely surrendered herself to me” and counsels himself: “The human heart is bigger than the world.” Recalling the girl raped in the freight train, who in turn evoked a memory of his sisters in Binalonan, Bulosan could not touch the prostitute Marian even when “her heart was in my heart.” Of crucial importance is the equation of “heart” with “one island, the Philippines,” expanding the image. Bulosan deploys Robinson Crusoe’s predicament as counterpointing parallel. Literally and figuratively, the “heart” becomes a polysemous vehicle that signifies inclusion smf exclusion. It functions as a device to reconcile warring drives, tendencies, dispositions. Its figural use serves to categorize the text as belonging to the romance genre of fiction where time and space (“chronotope,” in Mikhail Bakhtin’s formulation) are configured in such a way as to realize the vision of an organic community materializing within the confines of an anomic, disintegrated metropolis.
Revisiting Embarkation Sites

By deploying imaginative ruses, Bulosan grapples with the contradictory trajectory of his passage through the American maelstrom. The utopian theme of imagining a community within the fold of an atomized society counterpoints the somewhat sensationally morbid realism pervading the text. It also explains the didactic and moralizing sections where the assured authorial voice seems to compensate for the disorientation of the protagonist and the episodic plot. The climax of Bulosan’s project of educating his compatriots about the unifying thread of their fragmented lives allows him to appreciate the “simplicity of their hearts” based on a “common understanding” that America “is still our unfinished dream.’ Purged of his narcissistic malaise, he confesses: “I was rediscovering myself in their lives.” This counters the Crusoe motif of individualistic struggle for survival dominating the early stages of his self-discovery. It also rejects the social Darwinist idea of the beast or wolf in every person, replacing it with the Moses/mother motif of compassionate mutuality. The narrator’s private self dissolves into the body of an enlarged “family” whose members are bound by purpose or principle. It anticipates what Bulosan would later call “the revolution” where ordinary workers would “play our own role n the turbulent drama of history…the one and only common thread that bound us together, white and black and brown, in America.” The theme of fraternity among races (enabled by the fight against a common global enemy, fascism) was sounded initially in Bulosan’s desire “to know [the hoboes in the freight trains] and to be a part of their life.” This idea of solidarity serves as the dominant structure of feeling that motivates the obsession with the Spanish Civil War, the key historical conflict of reaction and progress in this period and a touchstone of authentic internationalism. It is used again in the often-quoted programmatic testament ascribed to Macario in Chapter 25, where the narrator harps on the key metaphor of the old world dying while a new world is struggling to be born; here “America is in the hearts of men that died for freedom….a prophecy of a new society.” Framed by Bulosan’s cathartic discovery of his ability to write and his acquisition of a socialist vision of “the war between labor and capital,” the apostrophe to the multiracial masses as “America” in the context of the twin process of dying and birth is better grasped as part of Bulosan’s strategy to re-articulate the discourse of popular rights on the terrain of hegemonic liberalism itself toward a socialist direction. This, of course, incurs risks and liabilities, hence the invocation of “America” presages a recursive doublebind, a troubling paradox, as every reader will no doubt experience. So far the theme of popular-front democracy versus fascism occupies the foreground of a testimony in which Japanese aggression evokes the earlier U.S. pacification of the islands. This is obliquely conveyed by the civil war in the first twelve chapters. This antagonism signaled by the outbreak of World War II may be used to resolve the tension between native idealism and realist mimesis. We may consider this utopian resolution as one mediating the idea of “America” as a classless society and the actuality of racism and exploitation. It is achieved at the expense of extinguishing the historical specificity of what is indigenous or autochtonous, namely, the primal event of colonial subjugation and deracination which provides libidinal investment to the act of remembrance. A poetic mechanism of compensatory fulfillment is offered here when the fact of colonial domination becomes the repressed traumatic object returning to the surface of everyday life. Bulosan himself points out that as exiles “socially strangled in America,” hopelessly deracinated, Filipinos find it easier “to integrate ourselves in a universal ideal.” This truth is personified by Felix Razon who connects the peasant uprisings in the Philippines with the Loyalist cause in Spain. This is the motivation of the autobiographical schema of the narrative oriented around the development or education of a young man who matures into an artist, reminiscent of Joyce’s Stephen Dedalus. However, unlike the Irish counterpart, the vocation of writer among colonized sojourners should be considered not so much a prestigious status—a possibility foiled by circumstances—as a consciously held ethico-political disposition geared to comprehend the world through ideas and a broad knowledge of other cultures, transcending locale and origin. In short, it is a vocation of serving as the tribune of what Frantz Fanon called “the wretched of the earth,” colonized people of color mobilizing around the world. Pedagogical Mutation
Let us next consider the theme of growing up, together with the initiation into a dehumanizing milieu, which is the most commonly emphasized feature of AIH. From the time he learns the facts of landlord exploitation and sexist corruption in Part I to the abuses of labor contractors, acts of anarchic terror, and his discovery that it was “a crime to be a Filipino in California,” the narrator metamorphoses into an anti-hero and undergoes a test of character. He succeeds in his initial objective of linking up with his brothers Amado and Macario, thus reconstituting the broken family. This reunion disrupts the linear plot of the conventional immigrant story of alienation and anarchy. Eventually, the quarelling brothers dissolves the mystique of kinship and catalyzes the protagonist’s entry into an emergent community of comrades whose festival is suggested in Chapter 46. But this fulfillment of a vow to unite the dispersed family serves to provide the occasion for writing, for the composition of this diasporic text. In effect, the condition of possibility for art is imperial racist violence provoking collective resistance. This crucial turn occurs in the exact middle of the book, at the end of Chapter 23. Struggling to communicate to his fugitive brother, the protagonist narrates his own life and gains release from the prison of silence to “tell the world what they’ve done to me.” The passive victim recovers poise and mutates into an actor, a creative agent of his life. This is repeated later in Chapter 41, where he laments his brother’s suffering and tries to piece together “the mosaic of our lives.” This discovery of the capacity for expression comes after he stands up against his employer at the Opal Café two chapters earlier: “I had struck at the white world, at last; and I felt free.” Finally, when he meets the socialist lawyer Pascual, Bulosan assumes his role as witness/spokesperson for the union movement. We recall that he helped edit movement newspapers, The New Tide, and later, The Philippine Commonwealth Times. Now he envisions literature as the symbolic theater of his death and rebirth, and his role as a communal protagonist, a token of a social type, empowering the genesis of a transformed community of equals. A fortuitous change occurs when this theme of the native’s development as wordsmith (literally, letter-writer) is quickly displaced by another subplot. Pascual, the first Filipino identified as a socialist, dies at the end of Part II and the first half of the book climaxes with a totalization: “We are all America.” The apprenticeship with Conrado Torres in the Alaskan cannery, with Max Smith (whose exploits mirror the duplicity of the system), and particularly with Jose (whose mutilation bears the stigmata of the rebel outlaw) serves as an epitome of many lives whose function is to indicate what the potential is for multiethnic cross-class unity. Partly sublimated in the act of writing, Bulosan’s fear of the brutish and maudlin in himself, his wrath against sexist injustice, and his desire for participation in a “dynamic social struggle.” are registered in the drama of union activism in Part II. Illusions of Verisimilitude
What becomes noticeable at this juncture is a shift in rhetoric and style. The realistic stance of this memoir and its affinities with picaresque naturalism (distinguished by the abrupt intrusions of petty crimes, rough diction, squalid surroundings, discordant tone) are frequently disrupted by lyricized nostalgic recollections of an idyllic homeland. By this time, the generic norms of traditional autobiography, using the familliar coding for verisimilitude and linear plotting, have already been eroded by a strongly emergent comic rhythm of repetition and uncanny recovery. Characters appear and disappear with inexhaustible gusto. Incidents multiply and replicate themselves while the narrator’s comments and the dialogue he records are recycled, quoted, and redistributed in a carnivalesque circulation of energies. Polyphonic voices fill the muted void of Filipino lives until the crisis of hegemonic representation arrives, with picture and drama displaced by reflexive meditation. In Part III, a decisive break occurs. This permanently cancels out the model of the successful immigrant and its place in the “melting pot” archetype. On this edge of the narrative looms impending failure, final meltdown. Bulosan’s dreamlike “conspiracy” of making “a better America,” a forgetting of the privatized ego, is suspended by the collapse of the body—product of the years of hunger, brutality, and neglect. History, the past, materializes in the return of the “child” as invalid, the time of drifting and wandering displaced by the stasis of physical breakdown. The fundamental archetype of the comic genre—the alternation of death and rebirth in “monumental” time—organizes the allegory of a transported native who “died many deaths” in between his exile and imagined return. Bulosan has dared to record a hazardous and unpredictable reconnaissance of the heartland. In the process, he highlights two deaths whose contexts prepare us for the excavation of what is buried in the “American” heart. First, the killing by Japanese contractors of the first union cannery president, Dagohoy, after the interlude with Lily and Rosaline, when Bulosan returns to the primal scene of his arrival, concluding that sequence with “I was pursued by my own life.” Second, the suicide of Estevan whose story “Morning in Narvacan” about a town resembling the author’s birthplace, precipitates a profound spiritual change: “I began to rediscover my native land, and the cultural roots there that had nourished me, and I felt a great urge to identify myself with the social awakening of my people.” Reminiscent of earlier disappointments, those deaths impregnate the psyche, inducing the self-genesis noted earlier and reconstituting the repressed in the language of personal confrontations.

A more intensive semiotic commentary would pursue the trope of prophetic return or homecoming. This would endow the past with meaning and help liberate the family and peasantry from ignorance and poverty, a fantasy Bulosan entertains, perhaps, to evade the challenge of the urgent situations in his life. One can even speculate on the reasons for his malingering and temporizing attitudes throughout. But what should be given a close symptomatic reading is the structure of the dream that Bulosan records in Chapter 40 which functions as a pivotal synecdoche for what is repressed—not only by the text but by the scholarly archive. Mislabelled as “the Filipino communist” strike leader, the narrator flees from the police. Falling asleep on the bus, he dreams of his return to his hometown in Mangusmana, Philippines, where he rejoices at seeing his mother and the whole family eating together. Jolted by “tears of remembrance,” he asks himself how the “tragedy” of his childhood had returned in his sleep “because I had forgotten it.” What had been erased from memory is his youth, the period of growing up in his natal habitat. This makes up Part I of the book, Chapters 1 to 12). As remarked earlier, this section portrays the resourcefulness, strength, courage, insurgent hopefulness of the peasantry, the laboring folk personified by his mother (see Chapters 4-9) which most critics have practically neglected or quarantined, thus repeating the erasure of the revolutionary achievements of Andres Bonifacio’s Katipunan and the ill-fated Malolos Republic by the bullets and bombs of McKinley’s”Benevolent Assimilation” policy. Catharsis and Symbolic Transcendence
AIH may be grasped as the first example of an unprecedented genre in the literary archive, a popular-front allegory attuned to the turbulent lanscape of the Depression and World War (Denning). This form articulates the problems of class, race, nation, and gender in a complex, overdetermined configuration which is painstakingly unravelled in a sequence of melodramatic incidents. It is not too much to review the milestones of his itinerary here. The stages of Bulosan’s awakening follow a path away from a focus on “workerist” unionizing to a concern wih broad social issues, first through the Committee for the Protection of Filipino Rights (CPFR), which confronted the key racist law of antimiscegenation; and second, with the anti-vanguardist “communist” role of tribuneship for the masses (following Lenin’s concept of counterhegemonic alliances across class), Suspecting the orthodox left of habitual blindness to racism, Bulosan claimed to be a “revolutionist.” Against the tribalism of his compatriots, Bulosan counterposed a socialist outlook at home in symbiotic exchange with diverse, heterogenous cultures abroad. On further reflection, what I think constitutes the originality of this work is its rendering of what Julia Kristeva calls “woman’s time.” This is virtually the subtext or “political unconscious” informing the anti-generic singularity of the text. Comedy and the symbolic dynamics of the unconscious interact with the realist codes of the narrative to generate this new artifice. Space limitations forbid further gloss on the enigmatic role of women in this “pilgrimage” of finding a home in inhospitable territory. We recall the uncanny interventions of Marian and Mary (compared to the secular ministry of Eileen and Alice Odell [evoking the sisters Sanora and Dorothy Babb) resuscitating the mother/homeland, mixed with treacherous and seductive counterparts. Can we consider AIH a protofeminist text with its unique interweaving of the nomadic and sedentary lines of action, of flight and confrontation? What is certain is that patriarchal authority is questioned or suspended by a recurrent maternal signifier: “[T]o know my mother’s name was to know the password into the secrets of the soul, into childhood and pleasant memories,…a guiding star, a talisman, a charm that lights us to manhood and decency” (America 123).
We discover contained within the disfigured bosom of “America’ representatives of its other, its negative reflection. The introduction of Marian signals the establishment of dialogue and empathy. She resurrects the “good” half of America ruined by the treachery of Helen and the patriarchal debasement of women. The prostitute Marian, the ambiguous embodiment of commodification and self-sacrificing devotion, resurrects all the other images of maternal solicitude from the peasant matriarch, Estelle, the nameless girl raped in the train, Judith, Chiye, all the way to the most important influences in his life, particularly Alice and Eileen Odell and Dora Travers, followed by other lesser maternal surrogates. The mysterious Mary of Chapter 44, the last fleeting incarnation of American “hospitality” (the term is used as a pun on the author’s hospitalization, which converts him into a reading/writing agent) assumes iconic import as “an angel molded into purity by the cleanliness of our thoughts,” affording the narrator “a new faith in myself.”

In retrospect, Bulosan’s illness—his confinement at the Los Angeles Hospital where the notion of a community larger than the male-bonding of Filipino bachelors manifests itself—is not a gratuitous interruption but a crucial organizing event. It halts the spatial discontinuity, the alleged “necessitous mobility” of the wayward adventure. It ushers the protagonist into a recognition of his new vocation, not so much as the fabulist of Laughter—the index of Bulosan’s acknowledgment of the folk sources of his art—as the historian/archivist of collective memory. The numerous recognition scenes interspersed throughout comprise the healing refrain that counterpoints the pattern of fatality limiting his hopes. This potential for reconciliation informs his covenant with the “associated producers” of the ravished homeland, peasants and farmworkers as bearers of an emancipated future. Here I would like to underscore the necessity of an interpretive framework revolving around women’s time, including the haunting image of the motherland. This view would structure all possible “horizons of expectation,” since what the bulk of this dialogic historiography wants to forget but somehow cannot is in fact the absence, or lacuna, whose manifold traces everywhere constitutes the substance of the memoir: the genocidal Filipino-American War of 1899 to 1913, with over three million natives killed and a whole civilization ruined. The aftermath produced a colonial and later neocolonial system which reinforced the feudal setup called “absentee landlordism,” and drove Bulosan and thousands into permanent exile. Its other name is tributary despotism which involves Spanish falangists operating in the Philippines, American racist vigilantes in the West Coast and Hawaii, the U.S.-supervised Philippine Constabulary that suppressed the Colorum and Sakdal uprisings, and Japanese aggression—this last evoking what the text constantly refuses to name: the U.S. invasion and occupation of the islands at the turn of the century.

We can conclude that this is what the text’s recursive rhythm seeks to capture: the time of the peasantry’s collective action, the time of mothers and all women who have been victimized by patriarchal law and exchanged without the singular value of their desires acknowledged. What this work attempts to seize is the expropriated lives of women whose manifold value has been measured, calculated, and dispersed into the derelict space of “America” where Filipino male workers—including the witnessing sensibility named “Bulosan” in this book—found themselves symbolically, if not literally, castrated. It was a regime of white-spremacist, sexist violence premised on formal democracy and the logic of the free market. the bourgeois religion of the cash-nexus, commodity-fetishism.
Vindicating Prophetic Hope
World War II was at its turning point when Bulosan’s hybrid memoir appeared. McArthur’s shibboleth of returning to the Philippines had fired up Filipino hopes, inspiring Bulosan’s summing-up of the collective experience of his generation. In this context, the purpose of AIH can be reconceived as the reinscription of the inaugural moment of loss (U.S. colonization replicated by the Japanese occupation) in the hegemonic culture by a text that violates generic expectations of migrant success. It foregrounds the earth, the soil, and the maternal psyche/habitus as the ground of meaning and identity. Bulosan’s writing practice valorizes both the oppositional and the utopian impulses negated by the dominant ideology of acquisitive individualism. To renew those impulses, what is needed is the elucidation of the process whereby the unity of opposites (for example, individual rationality versus tradition) is transcoded into the protagonist’s agon of revealing duplicities and multiple causalities, together with the task of discriminating what is fraudulent from what is genuine. Whatever the prejudices of readers, Bulosan engages everyone with an interrogation about one’s role in the drama of change and transition. It is distilled in the ethico-political reflection at the end of the book: “Our world was this one, but a new one was being born, We belonged to the old world of confusion; but in this other world—new, bright, promising—we would be unable to meet its demands” (America 324). To some extent, the narrative texture displays the modernist tendency of privileging individual autonomy, imaginative transcendence, and Enlightenment progress. Has the postmodernist taste for pastiche, irony, and cynical relativism rendered AIH suspect if not inutile? Has the millennial temper of new immigrants (during Donald Trump’s presidency) obsessed with acquiring white identity become the chief obstacle for a renewal of the social energies that lie dormant in the interstices of Bulosan’s text? In the light of postmodernist trends to allegorize everyday life, it seems fortuitously appropriate to reconsider Bulosan’s species of wild, rebarbative realism as an apt mediation of existential reality. AIH allegorizes the radical transformation of the old social relations into a new one, specifically the change from colonial bondage—the culture of silence binding “the wretched of the earth”—to freedom via critical appropriation of ideas and values embodied in conflicted characters plunged in historic contingencies. This process of decolonization carried out by the witness/testifier of AIH is ultimately the project of becoming Filipino, not a successful immigrant, a task accomplished without the guarantee of consolations afforded by canonized aesthetic forms.
Tracking the Labor of the Negative
We return to the self-contradictory, now insistent voice of the narrator as he attempts a final reconciliation of the dynamic antagonistic forces in his experience. A striving for totality, an integration of all strands in his life, is also an endeavor to universalize its meaning and significance. The final thrust appears “a return to the source,” the scene of expropriation and defiance, a project of recovering a submerged tradition of indigenous revolutionary culture rooted in over three hundred years of anti colonial struggle against Spain and the United States, as well as against the Japanese invaders. We highlighted earlier the scene of the 1931 Tayug uprising against feudal landlords and the oligarchic bureaucrats, native agents of U.S. colonialism, with allusions to the 1896 insurrection against Spain. The peasant uprising in turn brings to life the 1924 Hawaii plantation strike, repeated in the 1946 ILWU rebellion. This metonymic chain of signifiers is then syncopated with the metaphoric reiteration of principles of solidarity that generate the concrete universal, the art-work of AIH. At the peak of McCarthyism and the Cold War in the late forties and fifties, Bulosan was already a blacklisted writer. The recent discovery of FBI files on Bulosan seems anticlimactic, a public display of “dirty linen” (Alquizola and Hirabayashi) that might unwittingly reinforce the current neofascist “red scare.” Haven’t we intuited this eventuality all along? Bulosan’s enduring intimacy with the radical Babb sisters made him an organic part of the Hollywood/Los Angeles milieu of fellow-travelers and partisans of the Communist Party before the war. They were all mobilized by the CIO, League of American Writers, and popular-front groups. As a journalist in Seattle, affiliated with the International Longshoreman’s and Warehouseman’s Union (ILWU), Local 37, Bulosan was considered a dangerous subversive, threatened with deportation along with union officials Mensalvas, Ernesto Mangaong, and others. But how could the government deport a writer commissioned by President Franklin Roosevelt to celebrate one of the “four freedoms,” an art-work exhibited at the Federal Building in San Francisco in 1943? By the end of the McCarthy witch-hunt in 1954, Bulosan enjoyed a modest if surreptitious prestige. The widely circulated Laughter had been translated into over a dozen languages, while AIH had been favorably reviewed and cited in Who’s Who in America, Current Biography, and other directories of international celebrities. His paean to populist democracy, “Freedom from Want,” published in Saturday Evening Post (1943), fulfilled one strategic goal of militant artists (such as Bertolt Brecht and Pablo Neruda): capturing the terrain of the ideological mode of production necessary to challenge capitalist hegemony. Bulosan succeeded in infiltrating a provocative message that escaped the censors of the Cold War Establishment: “But we are not really free unless we use what we produce. So long as the fruit of our labor is denied us, so long will want manifest itself in a world of slaves.” At the time he was composing his narrative of Huk guerrillas reconstructing their nation’s history as they tried to establish linkage with U.S.-based compatriots, Bulosan articulated his life-long agenda as a response to the question what impelled him to write: “The answer is—my grand dream of equality among men and freedom for all. To give a literate voice to the voiceless one hundred thousand Filipinos in the United States…Above all and ultimately, to translate the desires and aspirations of the whole Filipino people in the Philippines and abroad in terms relevant to contemporary history. Yes, I have taken unto myself this sole responsibility” (On Becoming 216) But it was more a promise than a summing-up. Bulosan died on September 11, 1956, at the height of the Cold War, three years after the end of the Korean War and nine years before the cataclysms of the Vietnam War.

Agendas In Transition

In retrospect, the tensions of the Cold War offered an occasion for him to transcend the nationalist program (the Filipino community was then conceived as an “internal colony” (similar to the Latino barrio and the black ghetto) awaiting proletarian redemption. In his fiction and poetry, Bulosan reinvented the historic conjuncture of class, gender, race and ethnicity that underpin the epochal antagonism between capitalism and the various socialist experiments since the 1917 Bolshevik revolution. In the process of resolving inherited contradictions, the boundary erected by U.S. Exceptionalism between the exiled Asian writer and his peasant heritage eventually proved a mirage when Bulosan encountered racist exclusion and fascist violence in the empire’s heartland. Stories like “The Story of a Letter,” “Be American,” and “As Long as the Grass Shall Grow” (the title was borrowed from Black Elk Speaks) dramatized the truth that Filipinos suffered not only class exploitation but also gender discrimination (anti-miscegenation laws) and national oppression. In this Filipinos shared a predicament common to other migrants from around the world. Given his dialogue with victims and masters, Bulosan may be the first “postcolonial” writer in the postwar period to underscore the Hegelianesque struggle for recognition. He posited an inscription of the negative power of the “third world” subaltern refunctioning the archive of Western knowledge for his benefit. He sought to undermine it by transforming it from a “liberationist” perspective inspired by Frantz Fanon, Aime Cesaire, W.E.B. Du Bois, Amilcar Cabral, and other activists of color. Bulosan’s self-contradictory situation unravelled in grappling with concrete problems evinced in his letters and essays, among them “My Education,” “I am not a laughing man,” “Labor and Capital,” and his autobiographical statements. In this context, The Cry may be read as a long argument seeking to reaffirm the right of national self-determination. Bulosan believed that Filipinos cannot exercise that right as long as the homeland remained a colony of a power that claimed to be “democratic” in policy but in practice imposed class domination and racial exclusion. Overthrowing the capitalist structure of wage-exploitation also means breaking its stranglehold on people of color in the dependencies (the Philippines remains a neocolonial territory), the source of super profits derived from cheap labor (chiefly overseas Filipino domestics) and natural resources. A decade after Bulosan’s death, Filipino workers on the grape farms of California led by Bulosan’s younger comrades began the historic strike that led to the founding of the United Farmworkers of America. It was the culmination of pioneering activism initiated during the Depression by the CIO, ILWU, and earlier formations such as the United Cannery, Agricultural, Packing and Allied Workers of America whose leaders were hounded by the FBI. Such groundbreaking disruptions vindicated the aspiration of these disinherited Malayan “natives” for equality and justice, who eventually allied themselves with African Americans, Chicanos, Native Americans, etc.—all of them drawing their energies from grass-roots memory of centuries of resistance to colonizers in an epic sage of heroic “soul-making.” This vision of “soul-making” was already prefigured in Bulosan’s self-reflexive essay, “How My Stories Were Written,” in which an old village story-teller in his home province of Pangasinan, Philippines, is revealed as Bulosan’s ancestral progenitor, the source of the “wisdom of the heart” (San Juan, Imagination 138-43),
Amid the turbulent controversy over immigration today, more than three million Filipinos comprise the largest segment of the Asian-American group coming from one single country. Despite this number, their creative force for social development remains unacknowledged. Bulosan endeavored to articulate its presence in his chronicle of multiracial conflicts and individual quests for happiness, insisting on the primacy of cooperative praxis as the mode of reconciling contradictions and gaining emancipation. While there is no guarantee of immediate victory, the process of struggle itself testified to the transformative potential and power of its participants. A few years before he died, Bulosan reaffirmed his devotion to “the collective interest and welfare of the whole people” in an editorial in the ILWU 1952 Yearbook. He reiterated his conviction nourished throughout the years of hardship and convivial epiphanies transcribed in AIH: “Writing was not sufficient… I drew inspiration from my active participation in the workers’ movement. The most decisive move that the writer could make was to take his stand with the workers” (“Writer” 31). Based on his broadly socialist orientation, Bulosan may be the first consciously historical-materialist writer in the U.S. landscape whose roots in anti-imperialist mass protests and antifascist campaigns defy cooptation into the hegemonic liberal canon. Nonetheless, he has been transmogrified into a model multiculturalist icon. As long as the Philippines remains a neocolonial bastion, and the Filipino diaspora (with its colonized mentality) subsists as an oppressed nationality here and elsewhere, Bulosan’s texts remain valuable as speculative instruments for unraveling their own self-contradictory genealogies. They can also serve as safeguards in exploring the identity of this “unhappy consciousness” and its complex, often ambiguous maneuvers of self-deception, temporizing retreat, and compromise. His works remain exemplary for other people of color claiming their right to be recognized as co-makers of history. What Mark Twain at the turn of the century perceived as “the Philippine temptation”—the scandalous crucible of the American republic subjugating millions who persist in their refusal to be enslaved, a tenacity enduring up to now, to which Bulosan’s life-work bears witness—this arena of struggle or. if you like “conversation,” may prove decisive in charting the fate of radical democratic changes in a declining empire and its dependencies in this new millennium. ##
ABOUT E. SAN JUAN Jr____________________________________________
E. SAN JUAN, Jr. is emeritus professor of English, Comparative Literature, and Ethnic Studies, University of Connecticut and visiting professor of English, University of the Philippines last Jan-March 2018. He was previously a fellow of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute, Harvard University, Fulbright Professor of American Studies in Leuven University, Belgium, and visiting professor of literature at National Tsing Hua University and Tamkang University, Taiwan. He also served as a fellow of the Center for the Humanities and Professor of English, Wesleyan University; professor and chair of the Department of Comparative American Cultures, Washington State University (1998-2001); visiting professor at the Universita degli di studi Trento, Italy; and Rockefeller Foundation fellow at the Bellagio Study Center, Italy, in 2006.San Juan’s book Racial Formations/Critical Transformations won awards from the Association for Asian American Studies and the Gustavus Myers Center for Human Rights. He received the 1994 Katherine Newman Award from the Society for the Study of Multi-Ethnic Literatures in the United States and the 1999 Centennial Award for Achievement in Literature from the Cultural Center of the Philippines. San Juan received his A.B. magna cum laude from the University of the Philippines, his M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard University. He has taught English and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Brooklyn College (CUNY), and Bowling Green State University. He is one of the internationally distinguished writers included in the HarperCollins World Reader.Among San Juan’s recent books are: In the Wake of Terror: Race, Ethnicity, Nation and Class in the Postmodern World (Lexington); Between Empire and Insurgency (U.P. Press), Filipinas Everywhere (De La Salle University Publishing House), Bakas Alingawngaw (Ateneo University Press), and Carlos Bulosan: Revolutionary Filipino Writer in the US (Peter Lang Inc.). San Juan’s works have been translated into Russian, German, Spanish, Italian, French, Chinese, Japanese, and other languages.-###

Posted in DISCOURSES ON CONTRADICTIONS

BAGUHIN ANG MUNDO! Change the world!


“HINDI LAMANG IPAKAHULUGAN, KUNDI BAGUHIN DIN ANG MUNDO”:
Proyekto tungo sa Paglunsad ng Rebolusyong Pangkultura
LEKTURA SA UPLB SIKLAB PROGRAM, Feb. 6, 2017

ni E. SAN JUAN, Jr.Demo
Sa bisa ng likas na kalakaran ng mga bagay, nasa sambayanan mismo ang lahat ng kapangyarihang nakasasaklaw rito….Kung nasa pagtutugma ng katwiran at karanasan ang katotohanan, nasa pagtutugma ng teorya at praktika ang birtud.
–APOLINARIO MABINI

It is no longer a matter of bringing death into play in the field of sovereignty, but of distributing the living in the domain of value and utility.
–MICHEL FOUCAULT

The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.
–KARL MARX

Nasaan na tayo? Galing saan at patungo saan? Umabot na tayo sa malubhang krisis ng planeta: pagharap ni Trump sa globalisadong krisis ng finance capitalism na pinalala ng giyera laban sa terorismo, at sa ating bakuran ang pag-lunsad ng giyera laban sa droga ni Presidente Duterte na umani ng mahigit 6,000 biktima. Bakit pinayagan ito?
Matindi’t umiigting ang mga kontradiksiyon sa buong mundo. At tumitining o umiigting ito sa neokolonyang bayan natin, na hanggang ngayon ay sakmal ng Estados Unidos at nakayukod sa kapangyarihan ng mga korporasyon at dayuhang kapital. Sa mga bansa sa Asya, kaipala’y tayo ay huli sa lahat, kumpara sa Indonesya’t Thailand o Vietnam.
Mahigit 103 milyong Filipino na tayo, pero mahigit kalahati ay pulubi’t nagdaralita, “below the poverty threshold.” Hindi na kailangang lagumin ang datos na mababasa sa IBON Webpage. Bakit nakasadlak pa rin ang buong sambayanan sa kahirapan, sa pagsasamantala ng dayuhang kapital, sa korapsyon at kawalang-katarungan, pagkaraan ng Pebrero 1986?
Mahigit 12 angaw na ang OFWs sa iba’t ibang sulok ng daigdig, mga 3 libo ang nag-aabrod. Hindi pa naranasan ito hanggang ngayon. Di na ba nakasisindak? Haemorrhage ng body politic, anong triage ang makaliligtas?

Inihudyat ng bagong administrasyon ang islogan ng pagbabago. Manhid na ang marami sa ganitong pangako. Tuwing eleksiyon, ito ang mantra. Anong uri ng pagbabago? Pagpapalit ng personnel lamang? Paano ang mga patakaran, gawi ng pamamahala, layun ng mga palisi? Meron bang pangkalahatang bisyon o pangitain ng alternatibong kinabukasan?

Merong kaibahan. Kahanga-hanga ang pagtuligsa ni Presidente sa imperyalismong Amerikano. Siya lamang presidente, mula pa kina Roxas at Quirino, ang nakapagbitiw ng matinik na puna sa patuloy na dominasyon ng U.S. sa atin, laluna sa foreign policy at militar. Ngunit hanggang ngayon, puro salita. Nariyan pa rin ang JUSMAG, ang VFA at EDCA. Nariyan pa rin ang mga US Special Forces, at ang marahas na Oplan Bayanihan, ngayon binansagang Oplan Kapayapaan, tila parikalang biro. At kamakailan, nagbalita na malaking konstruksiyon ang ibubunsod ng Amerika sa mga base militar upang gamitin ng kanilang mga tropa. Para saan ito kundi counterinsurgency war, pasipikasyon ng masang tumututol at naghihimagsik laban sa korapsyon, dahas ng panginoong maylupa, komprador at burokrata-kapitalistang lumulustay ng kayamanan ng bansa?

Nagdiriwang ang iba sa diplomasya, hindi sa giyera. Katatapos lamang ng pangatlong sesyon ng “peace talks” sa Roma sa pagitan ng NDF at gobyerno. Mapupuri ang Presidente sa pagpapatuloy ng negosasyon na itinigil ng mga nakaraang rehimen. Maselan at masalimuot itong usapan, ngunit patuloy ang lumalalim na paghahati ng lipunan sa minoryang mayaman at nakararaming nagdaralita. Walang tigil ang karahasan ng sistemang ipinamana ng kolonyalismong Espanyol at Amerikano.

Bumabagsik ang class war, ang tunggalian ng mga uri at hidwaang sektor sa lipunan. Nahinto pansumandali ang sagupaan ng MILF at GRP, ngunit patuloy ang sindak sa Abu Sayyaf at iba pang elementong suportado ng ISIS o Al Qaeda. Nariyan pa rin ang mga sindikato ng droga sa loob mismo ng Estado. Nariyan pa rin ang JUSMAG, ahente ng CIA/FBI sa loob ng kampo ng AFP/PNP. Tahasang neokolonya pa rin tayo, kahit may nominal na independence, depende sa tulong na militar mula sa US.
Sa pangkalahatan, masidhi ang mga kontradiksiyong fundamental at istraktural, na nagbuhat pa sa karanasang hindi na magunita ng mga henerasyong millenials ngayon–hindi ko tinutukoy ang diktaduryang Marcos/martial law, kundi ang pagkawasak sa rebolusyonaryong republika natin sa Filipino-American War, 1899 hanggang 1913. Wala ito sa kolektibong memorya ng bayan. Nang ipaalala ni Pres. Duterte ang “howling wilderness” ni Gen. Jacob Smith bilang ganti sa Balangiga masaker, nagulat ang karamihan sa atin sapagkat wala tayong kamulatan tungkol sa ating kasaysayan, mahina o malabo ang ating memoryang publiko. Pagwariin natin ang pagkagumon ng madla sa konsumerismo sa mall, sa gayuma ng midya spectacle at comodifikasyon ng bawat salik ng pagkatao natin, hindi lang katawan kundi pati kaluluwa, panaginip, atbp. Tumagos sa ating loob ang modernismong kaakibat ng industriyalisadong sistema ng pamumuhay at teknolohiya kahit piyudal at kalakalan lamang ang ekonomiya natin. Bakit nagkaganito?

Maganda ang tema ng inyong 5th Anibersaryo, ng SIKLAB:”to showcase the power of culture and the arts as tools for social change.” Klasikong paksa ito na angkop sa ating sitwasyon bilang isang bansang naghahangad pa ng kasarinlan, tunay na kalayaan, pagkakapantay-pantay, demokrasyang pambansa. Dapat ngang maging instrumento sa pagbabago ang sining at kultura. Ngunit kadalasan, hindi. Naudlot ang pag-ahon sa kolonisadong kabuhayan nang lusubin at sakupin tayo ng Estados Unidos, at hanggang ngayon, hindi pa makahulagpos sa neokolonyang kagipitan, naghahangad pa tayo ng dignidad bilang bansang nagsasarili, malayang nakapagpapasiya sa pagbuo ng makataong lipunan at masaganang kinabukasan. Nagsisikap ngunit laging bigo. Sintomas ba ng malubhang sakit ng psyche?
Sa palagay ko, hindi lamang sikolohikal ito sa isang aspeto kundi, kung tutuusin, talagang mabigat na problemang panlipunan at pangkasaysayan. Nararapat ang kongkretong (multi-dimensiyonal) analisis ng kongkretong kondisyon sa perspektibong historikal-diyalektikal.
Pagbabagong panlipunan: ito ang mithiin natin. Anong klaseng pagbaba—–go, paano at tungo saan? Dapat natin linawin ito upang magkasundo kung paano matatamo ang pagbabagong ninanais ng buong sambayanan. Inaadhikang umunlad mula sa tradisyonal na antas ng ekonomiya tungo sa isang modernong kaayusan, ngunit ang balangkas na sinusunod natin ay hango, gagad o ipinataw ng IMF-World Bank at mga teknokratikong tagapayo mula sa Estados Unidos at Europa.

Itampok natin ang alternatibong pananaw. Nais kong ihapag sa inyong dalumat ang ilang mungkahi, ilang proposisyon na marahil kontrobersyal sa marami, kaya iniklian ko ang panayam na ito upang dulutan ng malaking espasyo/panahon ang pagpapalitang-kuro at tanungan sa nalalabing panahon. Hindi upang maging moderno, kundi upang lumikha ng ating sariling landas sa pakikitungo sa kapwa sa gitna ng malalang krisis.

Totoong masaklaw at malalim ang lakas ng sining at kultura sa anumang binabalak na transpormasyon ng lipunan. Balik-tanawin na lamang ang mga makabagong pintor at iskultor ng Renaissance, at mga pilosopo’t manunulat noong Enlightenment/Kaliwanagan ng siglo 18 sa Europa, na nagbunga ng Rebolusyong Pranses, sumunod ang tagumpay ng burgesiya at liberalismo sa buong Kanluran, at ang hantungan nito sa 1848 Communist Manifesto nina Marx & Engels. Hindi payapang ebolusyon ang masasaksihan, kundi mga pagluksong marahas, nakamamanghang pagpalit ng sitwasyon ng buong lipunan, pagsira na luma’t pagyari ng bago.

Sa balik-tanaw sa kasaysayan, dagling mapapansin na ang kultura, ang nalikha ng mga alagad ng sining, ay bunga ng mga puwersang nagtatagisan sa larangan ng ekonomya at pulitika. Ibig sabihin, ang mga pangyayaring kultural ay resulta ng mga banggaan at salpukan ng mga puwersang materyal sa araw-araw na buhay, repleksiyon ng mga pangyayari sa kabuhayan at reaksyong kasangkot sa pagtulak o pagsagka’t paghadlang sa daloy ng mga pangyayari. Nababago ang kaisipan dahil sa prosesong iyon, at sa bisa ng bagong kaisipan, napapabilis ang takbo ng mga pangyayari. Sina Dante,Shakespeare, Rousseau, Voltaire, Goethe, atbp. ay gumanap ng kanilang mga papel sa bisa ng mga institusyong kinasangkutan nila, institusyong politikal at pangkabuhayan. Sa kabilang banda, tumulong sila upang mapasigla ang tendensiyang progresibo at mapukaw ang madla sa pagbabagong tutugon sa kanilang pangangailangan na hindi na binibigyan-kasiyahan ng lumang orden. Mula sa ritwal ng lumang orden sumupling ang karnabal at pista ng taumbayang mapanlikha’t masuyo sa inilaang biyaya ng kalikasan. Diyalektikal ang proseso ng pagbabagong luwal ng daloy ng mga kontradiksiyon sa mundo.

Bago natin makaligtaan, sa taong ito ipinagdiriwang ang ika-100 anibersaryo ng Bolshevik Rebolusyon na pinamunuan nina Lenin at mga kapanalig sa Rusya. Ito’y tuwirang naging masiglang inspirasyon sa sumunod na rebolusyon sa mga kolonya–sa Tsina, Biyetnam,Cuba, Algeria, Korea, atbp. Nasagap at tumagos sa diwa ng sambayanan ang alingawngaw ng pagbabagong ito sa atin sa pagtatag ng Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas noong 1938. Bagamat naibalik ang kapitalismo sa Rusya at Tsina noong nakaraang siglo, hindi ganap na mabubura ang naikintal sa kamalayan ng anak-pawis ng buong mundo ang ulirang pakikipagsaparalan ng proletaryado sa Rusya at Tsina, na hanggang ngayon ay naisasapraktika sa rebelyon ng mga inalipin at dinuhagi sa iba’t-ibang lugar, halimbawa, sa NIcaragua,Venezuela, Palestina, Nepal, Korea, at sa ating bayan.

Sa gitna ng ganitong mga transisyon, hindi lahat pasulong kundi liku-liko’t masalimuot, maitanong natin: Ano ang tungkulin ng mga nag-aaral tulad ninyo, o ng mga intelektuwal (na kabilang sa uring petiburgesya) upang maging kapaki-pakinabang sa transpormasyon ng bansa mula sa neokolonyalismong kapitalismo tungo sa isang demokratiko’t nagsasariling lipunan? Anong klase ng partisipasyon sa pagbabagong pambansa ang mapipili o mararanasan ng intelihensiyang tulad natin? Sa malas, nariyan ang huwaran nina Rizal, Bonifacio, Mabini, Crisanto Evangelista, Amado V. Hernandez, Angel Baking, Emmanuel Lacaba, Maria Lorena Barros, at marami pang bayani ng katubusan.

Ang katungkulan ng intelektuwal sa midya’t kultura, sa pakiwari ko, ay magsilbing organikong tagapamagitan sa mga uring bumubuo ng mayorya: manggagawa, pesante o magbubukid, kababaihan, propesyonal o negosyante, etnikong katutubo’t iba pang sektor na inaapi. Ang grupong ito ay magsisikap bumuo ng isang progresibong bloc o nagkakaisang-hanay upang itaguyod ang programang mapagpalaya. Maaring magkaroon ng maraming partido o organisasyong magtataguyod ng programang napagkasunduan. Ang proyektong babalikatin ng magkasanib na mga partido/kalipunan ay makapagpalaganap ng isang hegemonya o gahum ng masang produktibo, ang pangingibaw ng lideratong moral-intelektuwal ng produktibong lakas, ng sambayanang lumilikha, sa pambansang kilusan.

Ang unang salik sa programang ito ay paglikha ng ahensiya o agency/subjectivity ng rebolusyonaryong puwersa ng masa. Sa palagay ko, ang pasimunong aralin sa pedagohiyang pagsisikap ay pagmulat sa bawat indibiduwal ng isang kamalayang historikal, isang dalumat pangkasaysayan. Sapagkat lubog tayo sa kulturang neokolonyal, kinalupulan ng gawi’t saloobing piyudal at mapagsunurin, walang inisyatiba o awtonomiya ang normalisadong mamamayan (nakakulong sa kwadra ng ordeng namamayani) , kaya dapat pagsabayin ang isang pagbabagong kultural–isang rebolusyong kultural na paglalangkapin ang mga natamo sa burgesiyang kultura (siyensiya, sekularisasyon)–at ang radikalisadong pangitain na siyang tutugon sa malaking problema ng alyenasyon, reipikasyon, at komodipikasyong lohikang likas sa nabuwag na kapitalismong sistema. Ito ang tinaguriang permanente o walang-patid na rebolusyon.

Walang pasubali, unang imperatibo ang pawiin ang batayan ng komodipikasyon: ang pribadong pag-aari ng gamit sa produksiyon at pagbibili ng lakas-paggawa ng bawat tao. Mawawala na ang pagbebenta ng sarili upang mabuhay. Samakatwid, pagpawi sa eksplotasyon o pagsasamantala. Sa wakas, sa pagpanaw ng paghahari ng komoditi, halagang nakasalig sa palengke o pamilihan, na siyang nagdidikta kung ano ang pamantayan ng halaga. Pagpawi sa salapi, exchange-value, pagsukat ng halaga batay sa tubo/profit. Pagpawi sa tubo o surplus-value. Ang ideolohiyang liberalismo, na nakaangkla sa inbiduwalistikong pananaw, ay mawawala kapag napalitan ang pagkilates sa halaga ng isang bagay batay sa kung ito’y mabibili sa pamilihan at makapagtutubo. Sa halip, iiral ang malayang pag-unlad ng bawat indibidwal na nakasalig sa malayang pagsulong ng lahat.

Marahil utopiko o pangarap lamang ito? Subukin natin. Bago matamo ang antas na ito, ang proseso ng himagsikan–ang malawakang mobilisasyong rumaragasa–ang siyang magbubunsod ng mga pagkakataong makagigising sa budhi’t kamalayan ng bawat tao sa neokolonyang lipunan. Ano ang hinahanap nating kahihinatnan sa mga pagkikipagsapalaran ng bawat tao sa proseso ng pagbabago?

Nais kong ilatag ang isang ideya ni Antonio Gramsci, fundador ng Partido Komunsta ng Italya. Karaniwan, kung tatalakayin ang paksa ng kultura, o kung sino ang taong sibilisado, taglay ang dunong at kaalamang naisilid sa memorya, paniwala tayo na “highly cultured” na iyon. Paniwala na ang kultura ay katumbas ng pagsasaulo ng encyclopedia, at ang edukasyon ay walang iba kundi pagsilid ng sambakol na datos at impormasyon sa utak. Kantidad, hindi diskriminasyon sa kalidad, ang mahalaga’t magagamit sa paghahanap-buhay. Mabibilang ba ang kaalamang nakuha at mapapagtubuan–iyan ang mentalidad ng madla na kailangang baguhin na namana sa ekonomiya ng komodipikasyon.

Kasalungat nito ang pakahulugan ng kultura kay Gramsci, kung ano ang katuturan at kahihinatnan nito. Pahayag ni Gramsci: “Culture…is an organization, discipline of one’s inner self, a coming to terms with one’s own personality. It is the attainment of a higher awareness, with the aid of which one succeeds in understanding one’s own historical value, one’s own function in life, one’s own rights and obligations.”
Salin ko: “Ang kultura ay isang organisasyon/pagsasaayos, disiplina ng kalooban, isang pagtataya sa iyong pagkatao. Iyan ay pagkamit ng mas matingkad na kamalayan, at sa tulong nito matatarok natin ang halaga natin sa kasaysayan, ang ating papel na ginagampanan, ang ating karapatan at pananagutan.”
Nais kong igiit dito na ang buod ng sarili ay walang iba kundi ang ugnayan nito sa kapwa. Walang pagkatao ang isang inbidwal kapag hiwalay sa lipunang kinabibilangan niya. Samakatwid, ang kultura ay galing at kakayahang pagpasiyahan ang paghubog ng ating kapalaran sa buhay, ang pagkaunawa sa halagang pangkasaysayan ng ating natatangi o namumukod na partikular na pag-iral sa mundo sa isang tiyak na lugar at panahon.

Kung pagninilayin ang naisaad kong imperatibo, ang pagkamit ng dalumat o kamalayang pangkasaysayan–“historical awareness”–hugot sa ating karanasan, edukasyon, pakikisalamuha, ay mahigpit na kaagapay ng pakikilahok sa proseso ng pagbabago. Sa larangan ng sining at midya, ito’y rebolusyong kultural. Ito’y pakikisangkot sa pakikibakang etikal at politikal upang mapamahalaan ang pag-unlad ng kalagayan ng nakararami–mga pesante, manggagawa, kababaihan, Lumad, atbp.–ang produktibong pwersa ng bayan. Mungkahi ni Walter Benjamin: “Sunggaban, pangasiwaan ang mga kagamitan sa produksyon upang makasangkapan sa kapakanan at kapakinabangan ng lahat.”
Sa digmaang kontra-imperyalismo, ang mapagpalayang pananaw ng yumayari’t lumilikhang masa ang siyang sandatang kakasangkapanin upang maigupo ang indibidwalistikong punto-de-bista ng kapitalistang ideolohiya’t ugali. Ang pagbabago ng pagkatao ay hindi bukod, manapay matalik na katambal ng paglahok sa malalim at malawak na transpormasyon ng mga institusyong istraktural ng isang kaayusan sa isang tiyak na yugto ng kasaysayan. Ang teorya at praktika ay kasal sa napagkasunduang proyekto ng sambayanang umaalsa.

Ang tinutukoy rito ay ang neokolonyal na ayos o balangkas ng ating kasalukuyang lipunan, na lubog at lunod sa neoliberal na programa ng kapitalismong global. Paano tayo makauusad mula sa pagkalugmok sa barbarismong laganap ngayon sa krisis ng Estados Unidos at lahat ng ekonomyang nakapako sa tubo, komodipikasyon ng buhay, paghahari ng salapi at akumulasyon ng kapital? Paano tayo kakalas sa pagkabilanggo rito?

Ito nga ang hamon sa ating kolektibong lakas. Tungkulin at responsibilidad ng mga intelektwal tulad ninyo, tulad nating lahat, ang magpunla ng binhi ng kamalayang historikal, ang kaisipang malingap at mapanuri, at linangin ito sa paraang magiging mabisa ang mga ideya ng katarungan at kasarinlan sa bawat kilos at gawa. Kung paano ito maisasagawa, ay depende sa partikular na sirkonstansya ng bawat isa. Walang absoluto’t monolitikong gabay sa pag-ugit ng mobilisasyon ng kolektibong lakas. Bawat pagkakataon ay humihingi ng bagong analisis, paghimay ng kongkretong pagsalabat ng sapin-saping determinasyon, at patakaran, estratehiya at taktika sa pagresolba ng mga kontradiksiyon. Bawat okasyon ay may sariling kontradiksiyong dapat masinop na suriin, timbangin, kalkulahin, at kilatesin upang mahagilap kung saan mabisang maisisingit ang interbensiyon ng nagkakaisang lakas ng produktibong masa, ang ahensiya/subhetibidad ng bansang ipinapanganak.

Masahol daw ang suliranin ng ating lipunan, ayon sa ilang dalubhasa. Ang dahilan daw ay ito: nakabilanggo tayo sa pribadong spero ng buhay, nakasentro sa pamilya, kabarkada, sa makitid na espasyo ng ating tahanan, nayon, rehiyon. Hindi ito nakasudlong sa publikong lugar. Samakatwid, mahina o wala tayong publikong diwa, “civil society,” sanhi sa personalistikong daloy ng ating pakikipagkapuwa. Kaya atrasado ang bansa dahil sa “damaged culture,” umiiral ang pagkakanya-kanya, kompetisyon ng mga dinastiya, oligarkong pangkat, atbp. Tumpak ba itong palasak na diyagnosis ng ating pangkalahatang problema? Lumang tugtugin ba ito na dapat isaisantabi na upang makaakyat sa mataas na baytang ng pagsulong?

Upang maliwanagan ang sitwasyong ito, sa palagay ko, kailangan ang imbentaryo ng bawat buhay, isang kolektibong pagkukuwenta. Una’y balik-tanawin ang ating kasaysayan, mula kina Legaspi at Sikatuna, Dagohoy at Hermano Pule, Burgos at Propagandista, hanggang sa panahon nina Duterte at NDF/NPA. Ano ang mga kontradiksiyong hindi nalutas, na sumukdol sa kasalukuyang krisis? Saan nakadisposisyon ang pwersang reaksyonaryo’t pwersang progresibo? Anong bagong ahensiya o suhetibidad ang mabisang makakapag-iba ng obhetibong sitwasyon, ng itinakdang pag-aayos ng mga pwersang nangingibabaw at pwersang kontra-gahum? Ito ang mga katanungang dapat nating harapin–ang asignaturang kailangang bunuin upang maisakatuparan ang tungkulin ng sining at kultura sa transpormasyon ng buong lipunan. Handa na ba tayong suungin ang hamon ng kasaysayan?
Narito ang mapanuksong repleksiyon ni Apolinario Mabini sa kanyang napakamakabuluhang akda, “Ang Rebolusyong Filipino”: “Sumuong tayo sa digmaan sa paniniwalang atas ng tungkulin at dangal natin ang magsakripisyo sa pagtatanggol ng ating kalayaan hangga’t makakaya natin sapagkat kung wala ito, sadyang hindi mangyayaring magkaroon ng panlipunang pagkakapantay-pantay sa pagitan ng naghaharing uri at ng katutubong mamamayan at hindi mapapasaatin ang tunay na katarungan….Sa bisa ng likas na kalakaran ng mga bagay, nasa sambayanan mismo ang lahat ng kapangyarihang nakasasaklaw rito….Kung nasa pagtutugma ng katwiran at karanasan ang katotohanan, nasa pagtutugma ng teorya at praktika ang birtud..”
Pagmuniin natin ang proposisyon ng dakilang bayani bilang magkasudlong na interpretasyon at pagsubok baguhin ang ating kapaligiran–“not only interpret the world but change it.”–###

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E. San Juan, Jr.
3900A Watson Place NW 4 D/E
Washington, DC 20016, USA
<philcsc@gmail.com>

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