PRAGMATISM & MARXISM: An Articulation by E. San Juan,Jr.


by E. San Juan, Jr.

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If we can trust to the lessons of the history of the human mind, of the history of habits of life, development does not take place chiefly by imperceptible changes but by revolutions… That habit alone can produce development I do not believe. It is catastrophe, accident, reaction which brings habit into an active condition and creates a habit of
changing habits.

—Charles Sanders Peirce, The New Elements of Mathematics (1979)

Humans make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly found, given and transmitted from the past….Communism as the positive transcendence of private property, or human self-estrangement, and therefore as the real appropriation of the human essence by and for man; communism therefore as the complete return of man to himself as a social (i.e., human) being—a return become conscious, and accomplished within the entire wealth of previous development.

—Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte; 1844 Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts (1978)
Why Peirce and Marx? But why not? As we approach the centennial of the Bolshevik Revolution and the death anniversary of the United States’s most innovative philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce, it might be a wise ecumenical gesture to review the fraught, even contentious, relation between Marxism and pragmaticism. A precautionary word: I use Peirce’s “ugly” rubric “pragmaticism” to distinguish it from the vulgarized coopted use of the term to classify the world-views of William James, John Dewey, Richard Rorty, and latter-day saints of neoconservative instrumentalism. “Pragmatism” is used here to designate the broad tendency.

Peirce’s insights have suffered a sea-change since his death in 1914. His notion of continuity welcomed growth, mutation, variability. Either awesome or awful, postmodern neopragmatism—despite Cornel West’s (1993) conciliatory defense—serves today as the ideology of globalized predatory capitalism par excellence. Peirce who subtly denounced US imperialist annexation of the Philippines in 1899 would be appalled by Rorty’s unconscionable jingoist ethnocentrism (Haack 2018). Today, Peirce’s logic of diagrammatic hypothesis-making or abduction is being exploited by business, government, and military Establishments in a globalized economy managed by the knowledge-industry (Burch 2010). In any case, Peirce’s thought/influence remains an event, a process of interrogation, in progress.

Early on Peirce felt scandalized that he had become an overnight celebrity due to James’s popularization of selected formulas and idioms ostensibly derived from Peirce. In 1878, Peirce qualified the Cartesian requirement for ideas to be clear and distinct with a third criterion for propositions to be meaningful, namely, practical consequences (Weiss 1965; Bernstein 2010). The phrase “practical consequences” (in the sense of a guide to future practice, not current usefulness for private ends) has become the source of persistent misconstruals. Peirce stated: “Consider what effects, which might conceivably have practical bearings, we conceive the object of our conception to have. Then our conception of these effects is the whole of our conception of the object” (1998, 146). In one of his last caveats on how to interpret the maxim, he stipulated that the elements of every concept in logical thought enter “at the gate of perception and make their exit at the gate of purposive action” (998, 241) or “controlled conduct” with an ethical rationality. In this context, John Dewey’s term “instrumentalism” is not only rebarbative but inappropriate for Peirce’s world-view.

In the widely-quoted Pragmatism, William James offered a cheap psychological fix: “Ideas become true just so far as they help us get into satisfactory relations with other parts of our experience” (1955, 12). This is a feel-good recipe for mass consumption. James’s valorization of self-centered expediency or pivate utility compelled Peirce to disclaim any complicity with it. The lesson seems clear. We need to rectify not only our terms but also their references or designata, better yet, their interpretants if we hope to rescue pragmaticism from transmogrification, and re-establish a fruitful dialogic transaction between these two streams of radical or non-conformist thought. Our agenda in part is an affair of unraveling Peirce’s “snarl of twine.”

Suspicions Sparked by the “Glassy Essence”

Suspicion if not outright hostility has characterized the participants of this vexatious dialogue. Obviously the task of comparison cannot be done outside already sedimented parameters, doctrinally charged contexts, and polemical presuppositions. One can try only at the risk of exacerbating, or even confounding, the motives and goals of such a dialogue. Perhaps the most provocative scholarly review of this fraught relation to date was Brian Lloyd’s Left Out: Pragmatism, Exceptionalism, and the Poverty of American Marxism 1890-1922 (1997), which aroused predominantly adversarial reactions. Obviously Lloyd restricted himself only to a limited historical period and well-known protagonists, not even seriously engaging with Peirce’s theses and arguments. As Michael Denning aptly remarked, Lloyd begged the question of pragmatism’s originality by subjecting the “theoretical acumen” of one of its applications, the Debsian socialist program, to the “litmus tests of the European war and the Bolshevik Revolution” (1998, 39). Lacking the historical specificities grounding the emergence of such phenomena as revolutionary industrial unionism, Veblen, radical Darwinism, etc., Lloyd failed to explain the exact measure in which such theories acquired their rationale from the interplay of social forces, intellectuals, and historical legacies. That is why Lloyd excludes such players as W.E.B. Du Bois and C.L.R. James in his narrative of anti-capitalist ideas and movements, not to mention late-nineteenth century anticolonialists such as the Filipino intellectuals, Jose Rizal and Isabelo de los Reyes (San Juan 2008), and the Cuban Jose Marti (Lewis 1993).

Right off, I should warn the reader that I am not concerned here with elaborating on the virtues or inadequacies of Lloyd’s work (which deserves a separate essay). The point simply is to underscore the importance of this heuristic attempt to find analogues, if not echoes, of materialist dialectics in Peirce’s speculations. A cognate enterprise focused on a single figure which may profitably be compared with Lloyd is Christopher Phelps’ Young Sidney Hook: Pragmatist and Marxist (1997). Again, I will refer to Hook only insofar as his inflection of pragmatist motifs might be useful in demarcating it from Peirce’s evolutionary/cataclysmic hypothesizing apparatus (see Anderson 1995, 198-200; Jameson 2009, 140).

This schematic mapping also involves the more troubling question of Marxism and its historical interpretation and concrete realization. This pertains to the multiple marxisms, not just “Western Marxism” (Lukacs, Gramsci, Adorno). Aside from disavowing any longing for some authentic or true marxism, I believe something can be gained by socialist militants becoming familiar with Peirce’s semiotics and the value of his normative realism in the critique of fashionable Nietzschean/Heideggerian avantgardism, for example, or its parodies. We cannot escape Karl Korsch’s advice that Marxism be grasped as centered on historical specification (1971). This coincides with Lukacs’ own insight that Marxism is really the unity of theory and practice hinging on the dialectical/historical method of analyzing systemic change (1971). Neither Lenin’s axioms nor the Bolshevik paradigm can serve as the universal measure of the potential value of Peirce’s original discoveries. Nor can the failures of its alleged proponents be considered decisive in spelling the end of a complex research program first envisioned by Peirce as the elucidation of meaning generating controlled praxis or conduct, including the analysis of the purport of propositions claiming to be substantive, productive knowledge (on the Peircean linkage of theory and praxis, see Apel 1995; Bernstein 1971).

We are engaged here with the history of ideas/theories in their historical grounding and sociopolitical resonance. Just as Marx sought to fuse theory and practice, dismantling the conventional disjunction of traditional materialism and pietistic idealism, Peirce conceived his task as a singular if necessary one: it is that of defining the proper vocation of the philosopher/public intellectual as the discoverer of testable knowledge by a community of inquirers. To put it another way, it is essentially the resolution of philosophy’s salient and enduring problems by reconstructing the foundations of logic, of the scientific method, within an evolutionary communal perspective. By the same token, pragmatism also has to be judged in terms of historical specificity and local efficacity. Its practictioners, from Peirce and James to Dewey, Mead, Quine, Putnam, and others, need to be framed in the historical context of the cultural, political and economic conflicts of their times, that is, the concrete contradictions in the U.S. social formation within the global historical process (Wells 1965; Lear’s 1981; San Juan 2018). Accordingly, our itinerary will be tentative and provisional, treated basically as steps in the interminable road of inquiry, heeding Peirce’s slogan not to block that road.
Purged from the Sanctuary

We might inquire less on how pragmatism became the object of attack by Marxist critics as on what key ideas seem most objectionable. A history of misconstruals can eventually be drawn up after sketching the “bones of contention.” Elaborations of these crucial anathemas and oppositions may be sampled here. Apart from the somewhat inept condemnation of pragmatism as a “philosophy of imperialism” mounted by Harry K. Wells in 1954, one may cite the Trotskyite George Novack’s treatise, “Dialectical Materialism vs. Pragmatism: The Logic of John Dewey” (1974; later published as a book in 1975) and the orthodox British Marxist’s Maurice Conforth’s Science Versus Idealism: In Defense of Philosophy against Positivism and Pragmatism (1962; reprinted in 1975). As late as 1976, John Hoffman lumps pragmatism as a species of “subjective idealism” (145) similar to empiricism, phenomenalism, and positivism. This is long after the 1967 publication of Karl-Otto Apel’s judicious summing-up of Peirce’s philosophy and its refutation of neopositivism and crude empiricism ascribed to Peirce. A survey of the attacks against pragmatism as consolidated in John Dewey’s instrumentalism, but also implicating William James, will be attempted on another occasion.

For a start, let us look at the definition given by the Soviet authorities. The 1967 edition of A Dictionary of Philosophy, edited by M. Rosenthal and P. Yudin, sets a standard for delimiting pragmatism as subjective idealism or obscurantism. Peirce is charged for being responsible for the principle of determining the value of truth by “its practical utility.” To William James is ascribed the practice of solving philosophical disputes “by means of comparing ‘practical consequences; truth, for pragmatists, is ‘what works best in the way of leading us, what fits every part of life best and combines with the collectivity of experience’s demands” (1967, 357). The tendentious manner of quoting is revealing. The Soviet authors further ascribe a subjectivist understanding of practice and truth to pragmatists, making a concept an instrument of action (Dewey) and “cognition as the sum total of subjective truths,” as in the humanism of British philosopher F.C.S. Schiller. The Dictionary posits the belief that pragmatists uphold the “subjective interests of the individual,” which are equated with “practical utility.” The pragmatists are labelled “radical empiricists,” identifying objective reality with experience in which subject and object are permanently disjoined and polarized.

The Soviet text thus indicts pragmatism as subjectivist because it limits truth to practical utility viewed from an individualist optic, from crass expediency. James is dismissed as an open irrationalist, Dewey a covert one who regards the laws and forms of logic as useful fictions. The brunt of the charge is uncompromising: “Pragmatism subscribes to meliorism in ethics, while in sociology it varies from the cult of “outstanding individuals” (James) and apology for bourgeois democracy (Dewey) to an outright defence of racism and fascism (F.C.S. Schiller)” (1967, 358). Sidney Hook is then charged for anti-communism, for his “experimental naturalism.” Other manifestations are condemned: C.W. Morris’ semantic idealism, P. W. Bridgman’s operationism (sic) , and the equally reprehensible logical formalism of C.I. Lewis, R. Carnap and W. Quine. Finally the Soviet experts conclude that pragmatism has given way to neo-positivism and religion as the dominant influence on the spiritual life of the United States (for updated reports on the controversy, see McClellan 1988; Trohler, Schlag & Osterwalder 2010)

A clue to the stubborn fixation on characterizing pragmatism as subjectivism may be found in the entry on Peirce in the Dictionary. Peirce allegedly decreed the law that “the value of an idea lies in its practical results” (1967, 335). And because results are identified with sensations, Peirce becomes a follower of Berkeley. This subjective-idealist theory of knowledge is then tied to the three methods of pragmatism: the methods of persistence, of authority, and the scientific method. The last statement was a blatant error, so it was omitted in the 1984 reprint. Finally, the authors acknowledge that Peirce also worked out an objective-idealist theory of development based on the principle of “chance” and “love” as guiding forces. Nonetheless Peirce is credited with having made significant contributions to semiotics, the theory of probability and the logic of relations (for innovative exfoliations of Peircean concepts, see Shapiro 1995; Colapietro 2000).

Genealogy of Mystifications

How the Soviet experts can completely mis-read Peirce’s texts, may be clarified by examining the possible source of this muddle. In his polemic Pragmatism: Philosophy of Imperialism, Harry K. Wells identified the three methods of fixing belief that Peirce outlined as those of pragmatism. Clearly Peirce rejected the first two traditional methods, tenacity and authority, and proposed the third, the method of science. But Wells dismissed this as demagogy and solipsism, charging Peirce with positivism. This tack is often repeated in numerous “Marxist” judgments of pragmatism implicating Peirce’s early essays of 1877-78, “The Fixation of Belief” and “How To Make Our Ideas Clear” (1998), without reference to the more substantial expositions of pragmaticism in the last decades of his life (Robin 1998; San Juan 2014).

Peirce’s pragmaticism needs to be historically specified to distinguish the early nominalist leanings and the later realist conviction. His early formulations (expressed originally in those two foundational essays but modified later in 1903 Harvard Lectures on pragmatism) seem to be so enigmatic that they generate the opposite of what they purport to convey. When Peirce argues that scientific beliefs depend on “some external permanency” not dependent on any single individual consciousness, Wells interprets this as a denial of the objective material world. When Peirce asserts that “Reality, like every other quality, consists in the peculiar sensible effects which things partaking of it produce…” and that in turn “cause belief” when reworked in consciousness, Wells accuses Peirce of reducing reality to a belief or a habit of action in which “we act as though a thing were real” (1954, 37). While Peirce was striving to emphasize that reality does not depend on individual interest, Wells adamantly insists that Peirce was proposing a “doctrine of sheer expediency in means and ends, the doctrine that the end justifies the use of any means” (39). Such distortions are typical, replicated and inflected in various ways.

One would think that after a decade or more, Peirce’s ideas would finally receive a more intelligent reading. The highly acclaimed Marxist thinker Leszek Kolakowski follows the trend of labeling Peirce a positivist and, more flagrantly, a nominalist. He focuses on Peirce’s pragmatic test of meaning. The meaning of any statement lies in “what practical consequences it involves. Peirce explicitly goes so far as to say that the meaning of a judgment is entirely exhausted in its practical consequences” (1968, 151). But practical testability did not constitute truth, Kolakowski explains, since for Peirce, truth was “a relation of correspondence between judgments and actual states of affairs” which empirical criteria help humans to discover. On the contrary, Peirce’s triadic semiotics required various interpretants to mediate actualities and thought-signs leading to the transvaluation/reconstruction of habitual behavior (Dussel 2013). While correctly estimating Peirce as chiefly concerned with “perfecting knowledge, not with its possible immediate benefits,” Kolakowski insists that Peirce’s denial of essences or any authentic reality behind phenomena distinguish him as a positivist, a “champion of scientism,” who holds that all questions that cannot be settled by the natural and deductive sciences be ignored or relegated to the realm of nonsense.

This is directly contradicted by Peirce’s belief that “our logically controlled thoughts compose a small part of the mind (1998, 241). The fact is that Peirce posited in Firstness the source of inexhaustible qualities, not a Kantian incognizable essence but a real generality retroducted or abducted by intersubjective communication (Habermas 1971, 135-37). This is the cognizable reality behind primitive sense-data which by inference becomes perceptual judgments, the outcome of intellectual operations. Moreover, Peirce emphasized that the act of conceiving effects translatable into habits of action allows “any flight of imagination, provided this imagination ultimately alights upon a possible practical effect” (1998, 235), with the imagination operative in the “general purposiveness” of action immanent in the category of Thirdness (on Peirce’s emergent ethics, see the essays in Parret 1994; San Juan 2018).

Why was Peirce engaged in examining the formation of beliefs (rules of action), habits of action, the interface between rationality and conduct? Kolakowski cannot reconcile the larger ethical and political implications of Peirce’s inquiry, a task fully explored by the German philosophers Apel (1967; 1995) and Jurgen Habermas (1971). Nonetheless, Kolakowski concludes that in his theory of meaningfulness, Peirce belongs to the school of the Vienna logical positivists, associating him with Bertrand Russell, Alfred Ayer, and the early Ludwig Wittgenstein. Ayer, however, astutely separates James’s notion of the “cash value” of words evoking sense-experiences from Peirce’s scientific standards of fixing the meaning of words based on publicly repeatable procedures and evolving changes in our apprehension of the laws of nature (1982). However, this is not merely abstract formal verification as performed by the Vienna School and their followers; it involves prediction of outcomes of possible action, with social values and purposes invested in the logical clarification of meanings. As Kaplan puts it, pragmatist knowledge is not just a record of the past but “a reconstruction of the present directed toward fulfillments in the emerging future” (1961, 27).

It is not extravagant to reiterate a corrective to the prevailing doxa: Peirce’s pragmatism hinges on the thesis that “the rational purport of a word or other expression lies exclusively in its conceivable bearing upon the conduct of life,” in effect, on paradigms or frameworks of beliefs enabling purposive action/practice (Maurer 1966, 627).

“By Their Fruits, Ye Shall Know Them”

Before proceeding further in registering misreadings and one-sided glosses, let us review the fundamental theorems behind Pierce’s pragmaticist intervention.
The distinctive feature of Peirce’s theoretical stance is his affirmation of the reality of generals, of concepts that enable thought and the production of knowledge. This conviction regarding real general forces and objects constitutes Peirce’s realism (of the moderate kind aligned with the scholastic realism of Duns Scotus). He describes his position thus: “No collection of facts can constitute a law, for the law goes beyond any accomplished facts and determines how facts that may be, but all of which never can have happened, shall be characterized. There is no objection to saying that a law is a general fact, provided that it be understood that the general has an admixture of potentiality, so that no congeries of actions here and now can ever make a general fact” (1.420). For Peirce, “What anything really is, is what it may finally come to be known to be in the ideal state of complete information, so that reality depends on the ultimate decision of the community” of inquirers (5.316). In the key notion of “potentiality,” which functions in Peirce’s analysis of the shifting roles of chance and determination, one may discern the motive-force of change, novelty, and sociohistorical transformations in people’s lives. Not only is the new always in the process of emerging; movements in reality are prefigured and anticipated in the deployment and articulation of signs.

Whatever inadequacies Peirce’s postulation contains, this fundamental realism is diametrically opposed to nominalism which characterizes the foundational platform of positivists, idealists, neopragmatists. This realism is more the scholastic Scotist type, not to be confused with Platonism (Boler 2004). The nominalists are concerned only with particulars, dismissing generals or universal concepts as mere names, arbitrary fictions useful for language-games. Thus for nominalists there is no such thing as beauty or virtue, only particulars with properties that can be designated beautiful or virtuous. Facts, events, objects are entirely disconnected, for the nominalists; only the mind unites them. This also explains the voguish rejection by deconstructionists and transnationlizing scholars of all generalities stigmatized as essentialism or universalism, or any claim to discovering knowledge applicable to societies across a range of cultures, times and places. An agnostic relativism ensues, with its attendant politics of nihilism or opportunism, at best of charitable pluralism and its latter incarnation, humanitarian imperialism (the refurbished version of the old “civilizing mission” of European empires).

But how do we define a concept? Peirce holds that if we act in a certain manner, then we will have certain experiences providing ideas—the practical result; these ideas constitute the meaning of the concept or general being defined. According to Peirce: “In order to ascertain the meaning of an intellectual conception one should consider what practical consequences might conceivably result by necessity from the truth of that conception, and the sum of these consequences will constitute the entire meaning of the conception” (5.9). Note that “consequences” here simply means the process of connecting antecedents and consequents; the sum-total of those connections, sense-experiences eventually arranged into beliefs and habits of action, will enable the discovery of the relation between general ideas and reality (outside of any one’s mind), which Peirce’s realism privileges as the goal of experimental inquiry.

Peirce’s realism underlies his theory of the scientific method. In this way belief is fixed by the pressure of reality, not our consciousness, by means of publicly observable modes of investigation leading to some agreement, a social consensus. This socialized cooperative endeavor ultimately leads to the achievement of “concrete reasonableness.” It advances knowledge and the human control of the social and natural environments. Peirce argues that “reasoning is essentially a voluntary act, over which we exercise control…Logic is rooted in the social principle” (2.144, 654), hence the directionality or motivated character of communal inquiry/social reconstruction.

To be sure, the charge of subjectivism immediately dissolves when we bear in mind Peirce’s stricture: “The real is that which is not whatever we happen to think, but is unaffected by what we may think of it” (8.12). This coincides with the Marxist principle of epistemic realism, with theory as “empirically controlled retroduction of an adequate account of the structures producing the manifest phenomena of socioeconomic life” (Bhaskar 1983, 434). Knowing what is true is then not a result of copying of appearances (the reflectionist or correspondence view of truth) but a product of a process of systematic inquiry. Theory, the field of generals for Peirce, involves the making of hypothesis, more precisely abduction (the pragmatic maxim, in short) as the positing of universal propositions about structures (generals) inferred from perceptual judgments in experience (more on abduction later).
From Catacombs to Cosmopolis

Realism (inflected as naturalism and materialism) embraces both epistemology and a research program, Peirce’s “logic of inquiry.” Antithetical to Alex Callinicos’ (1985) claim that Marx’s realism holds that reality is independent of all interpretive activity, the second thesis on Feuerbach proclaims that “the question whether objective truth can be attributed to human thinking is not a question of theory but a practical question” (Marx-Engels 1978, 144). Marx concurs with Peirce provided “practice” is broadened to include the whole repertoire of logical-semiotic experimentation, with its ethical and aesthetic resonance. Both Marx and Peirce recognized an objective reality independent of consciousness, but they also subscribed to the historicity of knowledge, to the susceptibility of cognitive agents to unfolding its virtue in its material-secular consequences.

Analogous to Marx and Engel’s reliance on organic intellectuals of the proletariat, Peirce also emphasized the community of knowledge-seekers, not solitary geniuses, committed to the pursuit of knowledge. It is a collective project sustained by publicly shared results and the fallible process of verification: “The opinion which is fated to be ultimately agreed to by all who investigate is what we mean by the truth, and the object represented in this opinion is the real” (5.407). Truth then is the outcome of social agreement, subject to the test of falsifiability, and open to correction; a truth-claim refers to the real, to objective reality. Peirce’s theory of reality emerges from communal agreement adjusted to the needs of society, to the consensual program of social transformation.

Accordingly, reality is defined in terms of correlated human experiences, common deliberations, and comparative testing of results governed by rationally agreed rules of action. The process of knowing thus is a practical activity, though this does not reduce science to merely an epiphenomenal expression of the historical Zeitgeist and consequent ethical relativism. Nature and social forms are transitory and emergent, but their appearances cannot be fully cognized or comprehended without positing structures/theoretical ensembles via abduction, hypothetical inferences, and evaluating them via deduction, induction, and even intuitive guesses. Marx and Peirce are agreed on this methodological principle. When Marx’s historic rationalism (its progressive impetus informs Peirce’s “concrete reasonableness”) is combined with a nuanced epistemic realism, we obtain the most creative transaction between Peirce’s pragmaticism and Marx-Engel’s practical materialism and its singular mode of dialectical reasoning based on what John Bellamy Foster calls “the logic of emergence” (2000, 233), or what Bertell Ollman calls “the philosophy of internal relations” (2003;.see also Bodington 1978; for an early review of the conflicted relation between scientism and Marxism, see Aronowitz 1988).

For Peirce the critical realist, the actual regularity of the universe can be explained by the action of forces acting in accordance with laws, but also accounting for deviations. In Marx’s view, the phenomenal appearances in the universe can be understood only from hypothetical structures (for example, value) which are irreducible to phenomena or sense-data. The concrete real can be grasped in thought by a critical transformation of pre-existing theories and conceptions constitutive of the phenomena being analyzed. Marx, however, required the testing of hypothesis through praxis. Likewise, Peirce subjected hypotheses to tests and practical results converging in common agreement. Perhaps this impelled Peirce to posit mind (later, a non-psychic Interpretant) as basic when it is linked to habits that assume natural lawlike behavior; however, such habits are never precise nor rigid, hence the intervention of absolute chance in the universe. This is the dimension of historicism that “Western Marxists” (such as Adorno, Marcuse, etc.) adopted in reaction to a deterministic, positivist science that dominated the triumphalist technocrats of the Stalinist epoch.

One needs to stress here that Peirce’s science is definitely not mechanistic, without feedback checks, teleological, nor hermeneutically opaque to humanistic traditions and social exigencies. Nor is it premised on Enlightenment meliorism tied to Auguste Comte and Herbert Spencer. One can speculate that Peirce’s doctrine of tychism (enabled by the categories of Firstness and Secondness) emerged in diametric opposition to various forms of scientistic determinism. Because habits congregate and form larger networks, totalities, wholes (his theory of synechism), Peirce holds that the universe is moving from domination by chance at the start toward complete order through habit-formation and its purpose-directed mutations. This process of evolution impelled by an inner principle of creative love, leading to a stage in which everything is infused with “Reasonableness,” the universe becoming “a vast representtcoamen, a great symbol of God’s purpose, working out its conclusions in living realities” (5.119). Evolution, however, generates good results (“the realization of the dormant idea”) and also an indifferent outcome in the “variation of types,” a tychistic “corollary of the general principles of Synechism,”—the principle of inexhaustible, creative possibility which always outruns actuality (1992, 11, 53-54).

So much for Pierce’s metaphysical speculations that resemble those of Alfred North Whitehead and other scientific thinkers engaged in cosmological extrapolations. For example, Peter Ochs (2005) has finessed Peirce’s schema into a flexible theosemiotics that would gloss the logic of scripture to repair society’s maladies, a maneuver analogous to deconstructive, while others would articulate Peircean linguistics with Freudian psychoanalysis (Colapietro 2000) and with film and media theory, specifically the anatomy of scandals as :narrative meaning production (Ehrat 2005; Ehrat 2011). The power of Peircean semiotics is only beginning to be confirmed and appreciated.
Constellation of Modalities

Generality and potentiality are linked together in Peirce’s theorizing of knowledge and the horizon of inquiry. This parallels Marx’s interface of mode of production and social relations in the analysis of historical development. The moot point is how change or motion proceeds and is grasped on various levels of abstraction. How to describe and interpret the import of matter in motion, history, this logic of emergence of social life in nature, not only the past and present but also the future, both potentiality and actuality–all these can be illuminated and charted by Peirce’s semiotics along the path that Marx, Engels, Lenin, Mao and others have traced, provided we take into account the historic origin and limits of Peirce’s metaphysics within the epoch of the United States’ transition from industrial capitalism to imperialism, from the end of the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, the annexation of Cuba and the Philippines, and World War I (see Kolko 1984; Zinn 1980; Zwick 2001).

Before we pursue this theme further, it is necessary to expound Peirce’s epistemology, closely tied to his semiotics or triadic theory of signs. Next to the nominalist-realist demarcation which clears up the muddle caused by tagging Peirce as a positivist, Peirce’s categorial scheme might be the best key to unfolding what may be his immanent dialectics. “Methodeutic,” or “Speculative Rhetoric” is Peirce’s rubric for dialectics (Anderson 1995,52-56). His version is one much more infinitely complicated than Engels in its articulation of the interweaving of complex varieties of signs or signifying processes that comprise patterns of experience, including variations or changes in cultural styles, tastes, norms–in short, the stratified and differentiated reality that Marx treated in Capital. In both the Grundrisse and Marx’s Notes on Adolph Wagner (Carver 1975), we encounter Marx’s methodological principle that while transhistorical structures or concepts are necessary, the experience and institutions of specific societies at different periods, as well as the complex of historical determinations that comprise its concrete reality, need to be carefully investigated and meticulously analyzed. That lesson was drawn from criticizing the reductionist fallacies vitiating the political economy of Adam Smith, David Ricardo, John Stuart Mill, etc.

While analytically distinct, Peirce’s ontological categories of Firstness, Secondness and Thirdness are articulations of modes of being, not transcendental dogmatic absolutes. They operate differently in logic, metaphysics, epistemology, language analysis, etc. These three modes of being may resemble the casuistry of scholastic metaphysics, but their application in semiotics and social critique differs from Christian apologetics. They provide the rationale for the pragmatic method of ascertaining the real meaning of any concept, doctrine, proposition, word or other signs. Their connections and transitions spell out the actual configuration of change in observable phenomena, calibrating the play of contingency and determination in the passage and vicissitudes of events, peoples, and their interaction with the biosphere.

The three categories are not hierarchical but interpenetrative or interactive. In summary, Firstness refers to the potentiality of an actual idea, a possibility. It is not the domain of Plato’s hypostatized Forms nor scholastic essences, but a transitional moment between nothing and an existent thought or object; not a nothing but less than an actual thought, only its possibility. Firstness may be a color sensation, not yet red or blue, but only its possibility. The sense experiences are possibilities that may become actualized in the next step of understanding. In terms of the triadic sign-system, Firstness refers to a mere quality, a presence, a sin-sign or icon in relation to its object, the site of novelty and emergences. Firstness is the prelogical, intuitive feature of immediate appearances that defy description. It is the domain of feeling, autonomy, freedom registered in icons.

Secondness designates an actually existing object or event analyzable into qualities and properties of matter. It involves reaction or brute striving, “the blind force [that] is an element of experience distinct from rationality or logical force” (1.220). This is the realm of conflict, antagonism, resistance. In terms of signs, Secondness is a token or sin-sign, an object or event, with indices as signs with dynamic or causal relations to their objects. Secondness is the realm of constraint, effort, struggle, revolutionary agitation and mobilization. In this context, Peirce rejected Hegel’s system committed the “capital error” of ignoring “the Outward Clash…No matter of fact can be stated without the use of some sign serving as an index” (8.41; 2.305; for a pragmatist reading of Hegel, see Brandom 2019).

Meanwhile, we note that qualities of bodies belong to Firstness, but they are actualized when only they are experienced, thereby generating a percept in the mind. In turn this sense-percept or sense-data, the result of a psychological process, appears in consciousness as a feeling or image, already an intellectual judgment. While Peirce asserted that “the percept is the reality” (5.568), to make full sense, immediate perception undergoes modification when the mind confronts linkages and crossings of percepts and begins to abstract concepts expressed in symbols, the realm of Thirdness, of conventions, transhistorical paradigms and structures. This is the realm of manifold sociopolitical argument and debate, the arena of confrontation and the “Outward Clash” of historical forces and classes epitomizing antagonistic modes of production.

We then move to Thirdness, a meaning or general concept, derived from percepts through the power of abstraction (exemplified in the mind’s capacity to infer by induction, deduction, and abduction). Peirce posits the category of Thirdness as mediation, synthesis, articulation, in short, continuity. This is the sphere of generals that constitute meaning; they are real because they have verifiable, external counterparts in the percepts. In the percept one encounters Firstness in the perceived object become actualized. To be meaningful, every abstract concept or idea must refer to a percept (Secondness). All men are mortal, but mortality is not the same for all men; the mortality that belongs to each man is similar to the mortality that belongs to each of his fellow men. It is the same with Marx’s concept of value, the two-fold character of labor concretized historically into use-value and exchange value (Marx-Engels 1978, 308-328). Value is a mediation, a synthesis, which analytically manifests itself disparately as a means of satisfying human need at the same time as it fulfills its role as a circulating commodity in the market.

We confuse similarity with identity when we handle concepts as pure abstractions, or pure Firstness, without reference to their actualization. Peirce made the same point when he noted that for nominalists, “man” is applicable to something real, “but he believes that there is beneath this a thing in itself, an incognizable reality. His is the metaphysical figment….The great argument for nominalism is that there is no man unless there is some particular man” (5.312). Early on Peirce rejected Kant’s unknowable thing-in-itself (in the 1868 essays on “Questions Concerning Certain Faculties Claimed for Man” [1998b, 64-118]). Peirce remarks that the species “man” is real because it may be found in any man by abstracting it from his accidental or particularizing characteristics. We make a distinction between the species in any man and his other accidental characteristics, by the process of abstraction (logical inferences synthesizing perceptual judgments, etc.). The nominalists are the positivists who dare not proceed further than the realm of sense-data, fictional names, atomistic facts. We can see clearly here a parallel with Marx’s discrimination of value into use-value and exchange-value, value itself being a real general comprehensible apart from its varied historical incarnations and without which the variable phenomena–for example, the fetishistic commodity-form–cannot be made intelligible for any purposive research program. Pedagogical intervention becomes a necessity to transcode complex theory into determinate social practice.

From Fixated Beliefs to Conjectured Hope

What are some consequences of this mode of cognizing reality when compared with Marxist historicizing epistemology? Is Peirce’s formulation idealistic or materialist, grounded in Hegelian ideas or empirical observations and rational hypothesis? Is Peirce’s pragmaticist theory of meaning inconsistent with the dialectical schema of investigation as delineated by Bertell Ollman, for example? I have already suggested parallels or analogues between Peircean pragmaticism and Marx’s structuralist-historical dialectics earlier, but a few more affinities may be mentioned here for future elaboration.

By consensus, Marx’s method in analyzing capitalism as a historical system is materialist dialectics with a lineage dating back to Heraclitus and Epicurus up to Diderot and Hegel. Marx criticized the idealist basis of Hegel’s dialectics in various works: Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of the State, Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, The Holy Family, The German Ideology, and The Poverty of Philosophy. In demystifying Hegel’s method and rescuing its rational kernel, Marx emphasized the metabolic process welding nature and social labor. The Communist Manifesto delineates the historicity of social forms and attendant ideologies/legitimation rationalizations sutured to developing modes of production.

From another optic such as Roy Bhaskar’s formulation, Marx counterposed to Hegel’s idealist inversion “a conception of universals as properties of particular things, knowledge as irreducibly empirical, and civil society (later modes of production) as the foundation of the state.” Marx replaced Hegel’s “immanent spiritual teleology of infinite, petrified and finite mind” with “a methodological commitment to the empirically-controlled investigation of the causal relations within and between historically emergent, developing humanity and irreducibly real, but modifiable nature” (1983, 123). From Peirce’s perspective, the interaction of nature and society evolved into historically-defined epistemologies, together with varying phenomenologies. In effect, Firstness (potentialities) and Secondness (actualities) were privileged in grasping the concrete determinations of Thirdness, the lawful regularities inferrable by hypothesis or abduction from perceptual judgments. Thirdness, however, can only operate as a result of the synergesis of Firstness and Secondness, just as the semiotic symbol cannot be fully comprehended apart from the constituting stages of the icon and the index.

Overturning the topsy-turvy world of Hegel’s Geist, Marx rejected Hegel’s absolute Spirit and its tacit link with atomistic empiricism, conceiving matter and motion as irreducible to thought. Marx valued differentiation and complexity (as in the notion of uneven and combined development), causal and not conceptual necessity, and empirically verified totalities. This was demonstrated particularly in his discovery of the two-fold character of labor and the existence of surplus labor (a generality) apart from its particular sociohistoric embodiments. He initiated a science of history thickened with nuanced ontological stratification, analysis of rational purposes in social praxis, and a flexible apparatus for charting the vicissitudes of sociohistorical becoming or change (Farr 1991). This way of “doing science differently,” as Daniel Bensaid observed, shown in Marx’s critique of classical political economy “aspires to a different rationality…. Constrained by its object (the social relations and economic rhythms of capital), by the non-linear logic of its temporalities, by disconcerting ‘laws’ that contradict themselves,” Marx’s science deploys “a strategic thought” attentive to what is hidden, obscure, irrational–in short, to chance, as Peirce located it in an open-ended, evolving universe: “The premisses of Nature’s own process are all the independent uncaused elements of fact that go to make up the variety of nature, which the necessitarian supposes to have been all in existence from the foundation of the world, but which the Tychist [partisan of chance] supposes are continually receiving new accretions” (1998a, 194). Qualitative changes in human experience occur within more or less regular patterns of development.

“Prove All Things, Hold Fast That Which is Good”

The core of Marxian dialectics has been the subject of numerous disparate, even incommensurable or incompatible expositions. For this occasion, we can attach it to the way Marx defined the contradictions of capitalism. In one instance, he diagnosed it as deriving from the structural contradictions between the use-value and the value of the commodity, between concrete, useful and abstract social aspects of labor, and their expressions in class antagonisms. Reciprocal interaction, subsumptions, and playful alternations characterize opposites. The fundamental structural contradictions of any social formation (between forces and relations of production, between production and valorization process, etc.) are inclusive oppositions, interpenetrating with each other, all sprung from the historical legacy of the separation of the immediate producers from the means and materials of production and from the nexus of social relations with nature.

Contending that dialectics is universally applicable, Fredrick Engels proposed that it is “the science of the general laws of motion and development of nature, human society and thought” (1931, 39). In his Dialectics of Nature, Engels summed up the three main laws of materialist dialectics, often converted into scriptural dogmas by party fanatics: 1) the transformation of quantity into quality and vice-versa; 2) the interpenetration of opposites, and 3) the negation of the negation (1940, 26). For third-world Marxists in the Sixties, these three laws were condensed in Mao’s aphorism, easily carried out by subaltern vulgarizers: “To know what a pear is, just eat it,” quod erat demonstrandum! Dialectics was reduced to self-evident immediacy, ignoring the capitalist reification of the social totality. Incidentally, pears in the Philippines were imported from the neocolonial power, the masters of US corporate agribusiness.
In retrospect, the empire sponsored the propagation of statistical empiricism and Parsonian structural-functionalism as the legitimizing ideology of modernization. As for Engel’s summation, such “laws” or tendencies also need to be made concrete in thought. One way is by spelling out manifold determinations involving the three modalities that Peirce outlined in order for their meaning to be socially proved via hypothetical inferences, validated by logical rules of deduction, induction, etc. Incidentally, Mao’s empiricist deviation may have been influenced by John Dewey’s missionary lectures during his visit to China in 1919-21, at the height of the May Fourth/New Culture Movement, when Mao was newly active in the Communist movement (Terrill 1980, 37-58).

Since I am mainly doing an exploratory survey in finding out how Peirce’s thinking can help strengthen and sharpen the way Marxists have analyzed social change, I will limit myself to the theme of contradiction at this juncture.

Bertell Ollman has aptly stressed the critical and revolutionary nature of the Marxist dialectic, critical because it helps us learn and understand our situation as victims and actors with power (if mobilized and organized) to change things, and revolutionary because it grasps the present as a moment of transformation. Science becomes a causal agent when translated by a community with an activist program: scientific understanding of the laws of motion of bourgeois society forces us to comprehend where present capitalist society came from and where it is heading, and our role in this transformation. Marx’s dialectical critique of reality (alienated in capitalism) concentrates on four kinds of relations (identity/difference; interpenetration of opposites; quantity/quality, and contradiction). Elucidation of these relations enabled Marx “to attain his double aim of discovering how something works or happens while simultaneously developing his understanding of the system in which such things could work or happen in just this way” (Ollman 1993, 13). That method combines Peirce’s three modes of inference (induction, deduction, abduction), germinating a network of provisional beliefs and habits of conduct that would be seminally active in fashioning future hypotheses.

Notwithstanding its ambiguous nuances, I submit that Peirce’s Thirdness is the sphere where contradiction, which is most vivid in Secondness, finds appropriate mediation. Thirdness is mediation or intelligibility, for Peirce, instanced in the legi-sign, and the symbol which functions as a sign of an object by virtue of a rule or habit of interpretation. While Firstness (presence) is unthinkable, and Secondness (brute actuality) is unintelligible—an element of experience distinct from rationality or logical force, the experience of Thirdness is the experience of the intelligible, of “concrete reasonableness.” Once Marx has explained the ineluctable contradictions in the motion of socialized capital, its necessary dissolution in crisis and the emergence of class consciousness in its victims, we reach the moment of Thirdness: the sociohistorical totality grasped in its multifarious contradictions and determinations..

The discovery of general laws of motion—by Lenin in the rise of capitalism in Russia, by Mao in the possibilities of peasant uprising contributing to proletarian mobilization—ushers us to a feasible point of grasping the import of phenomena synthesized by general laws. Thirdness, to the Marxist sensibility, designates the hazardous unpredictable course of revolution, with its contingencies, necessities, and ineluctable vicissitudes. Logic itself thrives on the errancy and unpredictability of experience.

Totality in Process Contra Reification

Using a quasi-Peircean method of abduction–hypothetical inferences tested by historical testimony and evidence, Marx discovered the general laws of motion in capitalist society. In accord with ongoing political struggles and theoretical praxis, he drew out their implications and entailments in the political-ideological crisis of bourgeois hegemony. The interpretation of these laws were in turn refined, enriched and developed by Lenin in the imperialist stage, and by Gramsci, Mao, W.E. Du Bois, C.L.R. James, Che Guevara, Frantz Fanon, and Amilcar Cabral in the dependent, peripheral outposts of Empire. The interpretants (linking the present and future, the actual and potential) included the organic intellectuals and the popular struggles in each social formation. This included William James, Mark Twain, William Dean Howells, John Dewey, and others opposing U.S. imperialist aggression in the Philippines, Cuba, and elsewhere.

One of the first scholars to link Peirce’s method of abduction to Marx’s critical-dialectical method is Derek Sayer. In abstracting the essential relations from the phenomenal forms of the commodity, as well as the historical instantiations of surplus value, Marx applied not deductive apriorist thinking nor a posteriori inductive reasoning. Instead, as Sayer demonstrates, he mobilized a realist mode of explaining the empirical correlations, “the mechanisms through which they are brought about, and behind them their conditions” (Sayer 1983, 114). This is the logic of hypothesis formation (N.R. Hanson’s retroductive scheme, for Sayer), positing mechanisms and conditions that would explain how and why the phenomena observed come to assume the forms they do (Hanson 1965).

Following a form of Peircean retroductive analytic, Marx attempts a dialectic mode of presentation which Sayer calls Kantian but which is more properly described as comic, cathartic, demystifying narrative. It historicizes the allegedly transcendental forms fetishized by bourgeois, classical political economy. In his commentary on the 1857 introduction to the Grundrisse and 1879-80 Notes on Adolph Wegner, Terrell Carver (1975) also highlighted Marx’s dialectical synthesis of phenomena and structures to generate the concrete universal concerning value, social relations of production, surplus value, and, in particular, the historic singularity of capitalist society. Rejecting eternal verities and the Robinson-Crusoe archetype of bourgeois economists, Marx began with the hypothetical premise that “the socially determined production carried on by individuals,” when thoroughly analyzed, can elucidate the changes and development in various aspects (both universal and specific) of social life. His task involved both a critique of previous theories and an empirical investigation of sensory and intellectual experience of whole societies in the process of transition. One can observe an analogous procedure in Peirce’s only commentary on the hermeneutics of historical-archival research, “On the Logic of Drawing History from Ancient Documents, Especially from Testimonies” (1998, 75-114).

Historical materialism seems to confirm Peirce’s thesis that these laws were not just mere conjunctions of actual individual instances, as empiricists would posit. The totality of relations—both social and international—that Lukacs (1971) privileged and that Engels crystallized in the interpenetration of opposites (unity, not identity, of opposites) functions within the category of Thirdness. Peirce’s view was part of his synechism or doctrine that the universe contains genuinely continuous phenomena. Continuity does not imply linear causal determinism, or a closed universe of necessity; it allows the role of chance (Peirce’s tychism), spontaneity, and an evolutionary cosmology premised on regularities of nature and mind as products of growth. Chance evinced in the Darwinian play of heredity and adaptation is accepted by both Peirce and Marx (for Christopher Caudwell’s contribution, see Foster 2000). In his 1898 lecture, Peirce reflected that “the world of forms” emerged from the “contradictions of the vagueness of that potentiality of everything in general but of nothing in particular” (1992, 97).

Synechism, Peirce’s doctrine of continuity, holds that “ideas tend to spread continuously and to affect certain others which stand to them in a peculiar relation of affectability. In this spreading they lose intensity, and especially the power of affecting others, but gain generality and become welded with other ideas” (6.104). Peirce explains further that synechism is “founded on the notion that coalescence, the becoming continuous, the becoming governed by laws…are but phases of one and the same process of the growth of reasonableness” (5.4). The interanimation of ideas epitomized by synechism led Sidney Hook (1962) to associate it with Hegel’s dialectical synthesis of thesis and antithesis, the temporal unity of opposites via sublation (Aufhebung).

Hook is wrong. Peirce, however, grounds his dialectical ontology of internal relations in sociohistorical praxis (Sayer 1987), not in the transcendental domain of Absolute Spirit. The ideological refusal to appreciate these laws (tendencies, if you like) of motion and their outcome leads to the irrationalism and self-destructive impulses in bourgeois rule and its toxic ideology disseminated by sophisticated media and State apparatuses, e.g. spreading freedom and democracy in Afghanistan by drones, torture, subjugation of the populace the US is claiming to save and enlighten. Illusions bred by reality reinforce the ideological persistence of deceptive facts taken to be common sense, normal, business-as-usual routine. In this epoch of the COVID-19 pandemic, we find this flagrantly manifest in Trump’s crusade to “Make America Great Again,” precisely the monstrous superstition that Peirce bewailed as the nemesis of scientific progress.

There is an exciting reservoir of dialectical insights hidden in Peirce’s tychism that allows novelty, irregularity, complexity and change in the universe (Brent 1998, 208). Because chance operates in the universe, the basic laws of nature and history are not apodictic but inexact, probabilistic, fallible. Peirce’s world-view allows the kind of revolutionary ruptures that utopian Marxists like Ernst Bloch and Walter Benjamin would prophesy in moments of apparent harmony in bourgeois systems. It encourages prediction of what is unexpected, unlikely, implausible; it entertains the unpredictable momentum of hidden forces behind the fetishized appearances of quotidian, commodity-oriented life. In this regard, Peirce allows instinct to be a motive-force of change since it “is capable of development and growth,” arising from “the souls Inward and Outward Experiences” (1992a, 121).

A Scandalous Novum: The Actual As Real

Realism becomes the germinal anchor of hope. Believing that reality cannot be identified with actuality, Peirce asserts that there are real, objective possibilities ‘based on his realization that many conditional statements, for instance, the ‘practical’ conditionals expressing the empirical import of a proposition…cannot be construed as material or truth-functional conditionals, but must be regarded as modal (subjunctive) conditionals” (Hilpinen 1995, 568). In this framework, hope is deemed as real as any weapon in the class struggle. Such objective possibilities pervade Marx and Engels’ speculations on a future communist society (first prophesied in The Communist Manifesto), Rosa Luxemburg’s foresights on women’s liberation, and C.L.R. James’s anticipatory politics of an evolving socialist era.

Aside from the semiotic triad of sign-production and the logic of abduction, I think Peirce’s notion of potentiality is the closest to the idea of dialectical sublation or Aufhebung in Hegelian idealism. While possibility belongs to Firstness, potentiality belongs to Thirdness, the realm in which “an actualized sign’s potentiality for becoming what it is within its nature to come into interrelation and interaction with all other signs. Potentiality is future-oriented, while possibility is present oriented” (Merrell 2000, 130). This notion of potentiality can prove to be the most creative, versatile tool for a Marxist activist intellectual desiring to appropriate what is useful in Peirce’s pragmaticism for transformative praxis. We have seen that the pragmaticist maxim valorizes the totality of modes of rational conduct triggered by a practicable concept, taking into account also “the possible different circumstances and desires” of the participants involved in interpretation. Meaning is not indefinitely deferred; rather, as Leroy Searle observes, it “accepts meaning (as it does thought and reality itself) as a continuous process, which we determine, with arbitrary precision (depending on ‘different circumstances and desires’) in communities of inquiry” (1994, 562). We can envisage a united front, a counter-hegemonic bloc of classes, genders, sexualities, peoples, etc., their diverse interests and motivations articulated under the aegis of interminable Peircean inquiry.

One may venture that the final logical interpretant (the mediating catalyst between object and signifier or representamen) in Peirce’s semiotics may be figured as the leading or decisive force in the community of researchers. It may be the revolutionary agent, bearer of intelligibility, aware of qualities (Firstness), immersed in existential agony (Secondness), but specifically removed in comprehending the totality of the situation (Thirdness) (Liszka 1996) and in synthesizing the measures needed to change the situation. This allegorical translation speaks volumes if translated into the function of intellectuals/leaders in popular mass organizations seeking thoroughgoing, radical change.

In Marxist dialectics, the resolution of a contradiction proceeds through spirals and swerves that defy precise calculation and final judgments. The potential order of evolving society is immanent in the conjuncture of events and their sequences. Given Peirce’s realism, the idea of general potentiality is as real as individual particularity. Continua or the continuum of events bear unactualized possibilities (Murphey1993, 394). Richard Robin paraphrases Peirce by saying that potentiality is part of reality and cannot be defined simply as future actuality, in the sense that revolutionary rupture is a potential quality in U.S. society but it can be actualized only in the future by way of fortuitous actions and organized interventions.

If pursued correctly, Peirce’s critical realism becomes a pedagogical heuristic for a kind of prophetic politics. If Marxists as revolutionaries seek to prefigure, anticipate and invent the future, just as scientists aspire to predict what’s to come, then their task is to assert meaningful propositions about events not yet actualized. In doing so they seek to prepare for the coming of these events. We therefore take the position that the realia are not just particular undecidable individuals, as nominalists and positivists hold, but also real indeterminate potentialities (on its application to communicative problems (see Apel 1995). Communism is already an extant if not nascent potential, so to speak, not just the seeds whose death spells the birth of new life and order. In short, it is already an emergent actuality in people’s everyday lives.

Peirce’s idea of potentiality may already be present in the Marxist concept of praxis enunciated in “Theses on Feuerbach.” It may also be embedded in Gramsci’s organic intellectual as the fusion of interpretation and action, or Lenin’s idea of a revolutionary party, educator and mobilizer of masses of people. Knowledge entails actionable or practicable assumptions. Richard Robin suggests that if “the function of knowledge is to enable us to control the future, then we must take potentialities seriously, for the future as known in the present consists entirely of potentialities, some of which will be actualized and some of which will not…An epistemology that takes into account the facts of human behavior and the working practices of science must recognize that potentialities, while they cannot be identified with any class of individuals, are nevertheless real. And the reason they are real is because, as Peirce first showed us, the world is general” (1998, 42).

The Crucible of Experience: Assaying Politics, Ethics, Morality

As partisans of radical inquiry, Marx and Engels worked all their lives to educate and inspire a community of inquirers (analogous to that envisaged by Peirce) that would join theory and practice, knowledge and action, to produce significant changes in society for the better: to liberate human potential, to enhance the domain of free activities, to promote beauty and self-fulfillment for all (see “Critique of the Gotha Program”). These changes precede and follow the pragmaticist call for habits or dispositions founded on rational activities. For Peirce, as James Hoopes notes, “thinking is behavior,” an action just as real and historical as operating a machine or fighting a war (1991, 9). Peirce’s final reflection on the interface of ethics, politics and his brand of pragmaticist epistemology conveys a trenchant emancipatory message:

Just as conduct controlled by ethical reason tends toward fixing certain habits of conduct, the nature of which…does not depend upon any accidental circumstances, and in that sense may be said to be destined, so, thought, controlled by a rational experimental logic, tends to the fixation of certain opinions, equally destined, the nature of which will be the same in the end, however the perversity of thought of whole generations may cause the postponement of the ultimate fixation (CP 5.430, 1905)

For “perversity of thought,” one can substitute irrational social practices and institutions, and for the “ultimate fixation,” “concrete reasonableness” arrived at in the fated convergence of inquiry fulfilling the paramount ends of truth, rightness and beauty via logic, ethics and aesthetics. The last three normative sciences Peirce regarded as the foundation of pragmaticism (1998 a, 371-397). In 1898, James gave a lecture entitled “Philosophy and the Conduct of Life” (1998a). This was also the period in which he sympathized with the goals of the Anti-Imperialist League of William James, Mark Twain, and others denouncing U.S. imperialist aggression in Cuba and particularly the Philippines. On various occasions Peirce alluded to the barbaric effects of US colonial invasion of the Philippines (see Brent 1993). In his lecture, he contended that for advancing scientific knowledge, reason is key but for the vital concerns of morality and ethics, sentiment and instinct suffice. This has led many to consider Peirce an ambivalent if not inconsistent thinker.

But all the evidence points to the contrary. Eugene Rochberg-Halton connected Peirce’s notion of “instinctive mind” of the inquirer with purpose as a transaction in a complex environment susceptible to growth and correction: “Instincts are accordingly, in their proper environment, true ideas” (1986, 10). As Cheryl Misak (2004) has cogently shown, Peirce adhered to a cognitivist, fallibilist standard which subjects any belief to the test of experience and rational argument. Consequently, moral and ethical deliberations are responsive to the broad range of experience, including “the spontaneous conjectures of instinctive reason” underlying abduction. Mizak reminds us that Peirce conceived of logic as normative, ethical, thought under self-control: “Thinking is a kind of action, and reasoning is a kind of deliberate action, and to call an argument illogical, or a proposition false, is a special kind of moral judgment” (Peirce quoted in Mizak 2004, 170). Writing at the beginning of the Cold War, Donald S. Mackay summed up the original intent of pragmatism: “Instead of elaborating theories about ‘passive’ states of knowledge in a knowing mind, or ‘contents’ of knowledge within its own fixed and immutable forms, pragmatism offered a working hypothesis concerning the practice of knowledge in ‘the real business of living’ (1950, 398).

Finally, one can venture the “musement” (Peirce’s term for imagination) that Peirce’s socialism inheres in his trust in the moral universalism of the scientific community. Cornel West noted Peirce’s “agapastic theory of evolution” as a critique of Darwinian mechanical necessitarianism and its implied individualism (1989, 52-53; see also Smith 1963, 32-37). If thinking is already practice, then all humans—as Gramsci reminded us, are already intellectuals in one degree or another, functioning according to their capacities and social situations. In effect, all citizens are protagonists in the shaping of their everyday lives; and as collectives, in the reconstruction of their societies. Peirce would concur with this notion of a communal enterprise striving toward “concrete reasonableness” in the reconstruction of the old decadent, oppressive, iniquitous society. This hypothesis captures the essential relevance of Peirce’s pragmaticist realism for Marxist intellectuals whose program of research and its implementation coincides with the problematic of their effective and feasible intervention in the revolutionary process of their time.


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JOSE RIZAL, honoring the national hero of the Philippines, 19 June 1861

A HOMAGE TO JOSE RIZAL, REVOLUTIONARY NATIONAL HERO, on the occasion of his birth anniversary

By E. SAN JUAN, JR.RizalPhoto
Philippines Studies Center

On the occasion of Rizal’s 150th birth anniversary in 2011, the Paciano Rizal Family Heritage released for sale replicas of an exquisitely handcrafted book devised by Rizal when he was in exile in Dapitan (1892-96). The improvised fortune-telling kit bears the title, “Haec est Sibylla Cumana”/ “This is the Sibyl of Cumae,” a book of oracles (Yuchengo 2015). The figure referred to is the priestess/prophetess presiding over the Apollonian oracle at Cumae, a Greek colony near Naples, in ancient times. She played a pivotal role in Virgil’s Aeneid, helping guide Aeneas in his journey to the underworld to visit his dead father Anchises. Bridging the realms of the living and the dead, the old and the new, she reminds us of her sisters (the most famous being the Sibyl of Delphi) who also offered to help smooth the passage of the traveller from regions of the past to the present and future (on six other sibyls, see Benjamin 2015, 303-08).

Ancient oracles served to appease the gods, revealing what secret messages are hidden behind visible occurrences and natural phenomena. During the medieval age, the Sibylline books (like Virgil’s Eclogues) were thought to prophesy the birth of Christ and the ultimate salvation of humankind. Thus, worldly time acquired import and a direction, everyday life found a specific gravity in the chartered chronicle. So would the time Rizal spent in exile—a dragging duration which he filled with socially rewarding accomplishments—bear significance, charged with still unravelled purport and portentous meanings.

Divining Incommensurables

What motivated the deported filibustero to spend his time and energy in inventing this game? Was it simply to while away the boredom of exile? Or does it suggest the artist’s preoccupation with fate, temporality, the hazardous passage from past to future? Rizal did not foresee his forced removal to Dapitan when he left his mother and relatives in Hong Kong in 1892. He formed the Liga Filipina on July 3. On July 6, he was arrested for allegedly transporting subversive material in his sister’s luggage, and summarily deported. During those years of exile, he appealed several times for a change in his situation, but to no avail. Chance, luck, happenstance, accident—was he the plaything of unknown mischievous forces?
Fortune-telling was no stranger to Rizal. In the festivities described in Chapter 24 of Noli Me Tangere, men played cards and chess while the women “curious about knowing the future, preferred to ask questions of the wheel of fortune” (2006, 202). Denouncing their games as if they induced fornication, Padre Salvi wrenched their sinful book and tore it to shreds. As for the matter of chance, Elias may be allowed to speak for the free-thinking spirit when he replied to Ibarra’s query whether he believed in chance—an apt response also to skeptics of the Sibylla Cumana game: “To believe in chance is tantamount to believing in miracles; both beliefs assume that God does not know the future. What is chance or contingency? An event that absolutely no one has foreseen. What is miracle? A contradiction, an upsetting of natural laws. Contradiction and lack of foresight in the Intelligence which controls the world’s machinery signifies two great imperfections” (2006, 300). The Deist Cartesian persona of Rizal is surely ventriloquizing here to dodge censorship.

Whatever the wager of this ludic exercise, Rizal’s parlor-game is delightfully provocative. It offers the player 52 questions and 416 answers (each question has 8 possible answers) all cryptic, ambiguous, vague enough to trigger wild speculation. You roll a wooden top with 8 sides in order to pick your answer from an elaborate table; chance decides which answer you will receive. One answer may be gambled here: “A mother-in-law is not just a mother-in-law; she is also a mother—and you are an enemy of mothers?” A symptomatic query. Overall, the game is user-friendly, advising us not to be afraid of the future. But whether we like it or not, we are thrown into our common lot, guessing, suspicious, left in the lurch.

According to the Rizal clan, this precious heirloom was preserved by generations of safekeepers and descendants, foremost among them Narcisa Rizal Lopez. It survived the disasters of the 1896 revolution, the Filipino-American War, the Japanese occupation, and MacArthur’s horrific “liberation” of Intramuros where millions of Filipinos perished (Yuchengco 2015). Its survival presages the hero’s fortuitous intervention into our humdrum shopping/consuming affairs in this new millennium.

Deciphering Origins in Oak Leaves

Three years before his Dapitan sojourn, Rizal was engaged in some kind of reasoned guessing, specifically in conjuring the future of the islands from the vantage-point of the Madrid-based La Solidaridad. This time it’s not divination via a wooden top or roulette-wheel. Using hi knowledge of the past and intuition of the character of nations, Rizal tried to predict the vicissitudes of the islands in the judicious calculations of “The Philippines A Century Hence.” It would be a search for what’s genuinely autochtonous, motivated by the historian’s quest “to make known the past so that it may be possible to judge better the present and measure the path which has been traversed during three centuries” (cited in Cushner 1971, 224)..

Noli Me Tangere demonstrated the protagonist’s chief malady, Ibarra’s temporary loss of roots after seven years abroad. His family’s victims would reanimate his atrophied memory. To proceed in his journey of rediscovering his homeland, Rizal had to retrace its original condition. On his return to Europe, in 1888-89, he rescued Antonio de Morga’s 1609 chronicle, Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas, from the London Museum and had it published in Paris with his annotations.

Armed with testimonies of a flourishing pre-conquest civilization, Rizal dares to foretell the fate of his country a hundred years from the close of the 19th-century. Note that the extrapolation is based on a continuing dialectical movement in which potent unused qualities persist, transmuted but preserved by the forces that seek to destroy them: “Religious shows, rites that caught the eye, songs, lights, images arrayed with gold, worship in a strange language, legends, miracles and sermons, hypnotized the already naturally superstitious spirits of the country but did not succeed in destroying it altogether, in spite of this the whole system afterwards developed and operated with unyielding tenacity” (1984, 366). Given elements of the pristine past transmigrating to the fallen present, Rizal hypothesizes what may occur:

…Will the Philippine Islands be separated from the mother country to live independently, to fall into the hands of other nations, or to ally themselves with neighboring powers?
It is impossible to reply to these questions, for to all of them both yes and no may be answered, according to the time desired to be covered. When there is in nature no fixed condition, how much less must there be in the life of a people. being endowed with mobility and movement! So, it is that in order to deal with those questions, it is necessary to presume an unlimited period of time, and in accordance therewith try to forecast the future (1984, 367).
Geopolitics of Circumvention

Notice Rizal’s accentuation of “mobility and movement,” a sign of global modernity foregrounded in his 1889 article, “On Travel” (1962, 22-28). Other signs highlighted what’s relative, arbitrary, and undecideable where circumstances prevailed over all. In his essays, Rizal historicizes geography, connecting Egyptian, Greek and Roman civilizations with newly opened China and India via commerce and migration. He attributes all the advances in modern societies to the movement of bodies, ideas, perceptions and impressions. This compression of time-space is hinted by his pen-name, “Laong Laan,” “ever ready,” prepared for any comeuppance, as he confessed to his associate Marcelo del Pilar after dreaming of dead relatives and friends: “Although my body is very strong and I have no illness and no fear, I am preparing myself for death and for any eventuality. ‘Laong Laan’ is my true name” (quoted in Zaide 1984, 172).

Whatever the epochal contingencies involved, Rizal anchors his prediction on a constant factor: the Malayan “delicacy of sentiment,” sensitive “self-love,” readiness to sacrifice everything “for an aspiration or a conceit.” He has “all the meekness and all the tenacity and ferocity of his carabao.” Moreover, “brutalization of the Malayan Filipinos has been demonstrated to be impossible,” nor can they be totally exterminated. He concludes that “the Islands cannot remain in the condition they are without requiring from the sovereign country more liberty. Mutatis mutandis. For new men, a new social order.” Self-determination of Indios looming in the horizon cannot be ignored, given the emergence of novel productive forces bursting the integument of the repressive, decadent social order.

It is only a matter of time. Sooner or later, Rizal asserts, a natural law dictates that the colonies will declare themselves independent. When the country secures its independence “after heroic and stubborn conflicts,” no other power will dare to take up what Spain has been unable to hold, not even the United States whose traditions will not allow it—a seriously misleading oversight. Rizal closes with an eloquent hymn to a vision of a bountiful, free, convivial homeland reminiscent of the naturalizing invocation of the 1882 essay, “Amor Patrio” / “Love of Country” (1962, 15-21).

Very likely the Philippines will defend with inexpressible valor the liberty secured at the price of so much blood and sacrifice. With the new men that will spring from their soil and with the recollection of their past, they will perhaps strive to enter freely upon the wide road of progress, and all will labor together to strengthen their fatherland, both internally and externally, with the same enthusiasm, with which a youth falls again to tilling the land of his ancestors so long wasted and abandoned through the neglect of those who have withheld it from him (194, 391).

A mood of exultant self-confidence pervades the landscape of blood-soaked, scorched fields where zealous tillers appear, poised to strike with plow and harrow. To be sure, Rizal cannot indulge in probabilities. He ventures to chart a destiny vulnerable to random, haphazard incidents. But immediately he assures us, with nonchalance, “It is not well to trust to accident, for there is sometimes an imperceptible and incomprehensbie logic in the workings of history. Fortunately, peoples as well as governments are subject to it.” Soon Rizal will render transparent this dystopic conspiracy of history.

Indeed, Rizal cannot allow the gratuitous and the aleatory from taking over, for he discerns a hidden pattern under surface contingencies. There’s more hidden behind appearances. He interpreted his dreams as enigmatic forecasts of the future. Does this mixture of law and luck, decorum and delirium, capture Rizal’s own strategy in confronting his relations with women, not just with his mother and sisters, whose feelings and sensibility somehow gravitated to his orbit?

Scandalous Missing Object

We may now segue, with “fear and trembling,” into the perilous domain of sexual politics. Benedict Anderson’s meticulous catalogue of European influences on Rizal’s thought in his book Under Three Flags analyzed Rizal’s susceptiblities. Rizal absorbed omnivorously the heterogenous colors, valence and savors of European culture. But was he gay? Or was he secretly an anarchist, a closet nihilist? Anderson sought to anatomize Rizal’s psyche and its bizarre libidinal permutations. It’s an intriguing detective itinerary that unfortunately succumbs to smug Eurocentric vainglory.

However, we need to focus our discourse on “the woman question.” Since our task here is limited to investigating the situation of Sisa as a metaphor for the problem of gender inequality, the fraught issue of Rizal’s sexual identity is entangled with the position of the Others—the outcasts, lunatics, profane flunkeys, perverse guardians of “the sacred,” etc. In this context, it might be profitable to survey the aleatory as well as reiterative performance of his erotic disposition and disclaimers. His go-ahead signal for this inquiry was sounded at the end of his prognostication: “The masks have fallen…” We no longer see through the glass, darkly.

Earlier, in his 1884 speech praising the painters Juna Luna and Felix Hidalgo, Rizal announced: “The patriarchal era in the Philippines is waning…The furrow is ready and the ground is not sterile” (2011, 18-22). Nature has been historicized; the androcentric cosmos needs to yield to the nurturant, generative principle of the cultivators, fisher-folk, artisans, women, indigenes or ethnic minorities—the exploited Indio workers seeds of tomorrow in cities and countryside.

Biographers have eagerly inventoried the fabled targets of Rizal’s affections, with their varying if incalculable pressure on his political and ethical pursuits. Ultimately, the aesthetic/hedonistic level of engagement would be surpassed, shifting the burden of responsibility to the ethical and eventually political field of symbolic violence. We owe this angle of interpretation to the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard (1813-55) who lived before Rizal was born, his writings unknown to the Filipino exiles in Madrid and Paris. So far we can trace the critical moments of evasion in all encounters with the desired subject/object of cathexis and its fetishistic resonance, including the two eccentric cases: the Japanese companion and the Irish paramour.

Trauma of Counter-Identity

In Either/Or and other texts, Kierkegaard defined the alternative modalities of living with Others endowed with the power of recognition or refusal. They are inscribed in the tortuous passage from the aesthetic to the ethical and then to the religious domains characterized by “the baptism of the will” (1946, 107-08; 129-30). For Rizal, however, the leap into faith is circumvented by his rationalist disposition acquired during his European schooling. Aside from frailocracy’s stranglehold, the path of orthodox piety is blocked by the commitment to the mother/nation, a universal category, in which immanent martyrdom aborts mystifying transcendence. The ideal of honor, self-esteem (pundonor or amor propio), grounded in his appreciation of native practices, also thwarts subservience to dogmatic absolutism. The Kierkegaardian concept of repetition, the recollection of past experiences superimposed on a future trajectory of conduct, has distinguished Rizal’s handling of his affairs with women. Nostalgic retrospection marks all his letters from Europe, syncopated with dreams of retrieving the years of childhood innocence and customary family/clan solidarity.

But Rizal was not a naive idealist habitually looking backwards. He was always forward-looking, given to utopian speculations (for his Dapitan experiments, see Craig 1913; Zaide 1984; for the Borneo scheme, see Rizal 2011, 321-28). One way of implementing this existentialist orientation is to foreground Rizal’s development as a versatile artist-thinker, his gradual maturation by force of circumstance from a quasi-romantic reformist public intellectual to a radical-democratic revolutionist, as Fr. John Schumacher has suggested (1987). After completing the Noli, Rizal was already a revolutionist, confident that “the peaceful struggle shall always be a dream, for Spain will never learn the lesson of her former South American colonies” (letter to Blumentritt dated 26 January 1887, cited in Cushner 1971, 225). The discordant vortices of natural
endowment and historical opportunities converge in this metamorphosis of Rizal’s world-outlook.

The inaugural moment of the psyche’s reflexivity, as we have
discussed earlier, is the aborted affair with Segunda Katigbak, circa 1878-79. Rizal was 16 years old when he met her in Trozo where his maternal grandmother resided at that time. He found the “sylph” alluring, Her engagement to a townmate in Lipa, Batangas, may have deterred Rizal from proposing. But he blamed his shyness when he failed to detain her carriage as it passed by for the imagined tryst he had carefully prepared in his mind. In his Memoirs, she is represented as a swift ”floating shadow.”

At the time when Rizal’s mother was losing her eyesight and could not recognize her son, the son remembers his first love’s expressive eyes, ”ardent at times, and drooping at other times, a smile so bewitching and provocative,” while her entire self “diffused a mysterious charm” (1984, 308). Rizal was paralyzed, saying nothing. And so, later on, he drew this painful lesson of disenchantment that would haunt him for a long time:

[Segunda Katigbak] bowed to me smiling and waving her handkerchief, I just lifted up my hand and said nothing. Alas! Such has always happened to me in the most painful moments of my life. My tongue, profuse talker, becomes dumb when my heart is bursting with feelings… In the critical moments of my life, I have always acted against my will, obeying different purposes and mighty doubts. I goaded my horse and took another road without having chosen it, exclaiming: This is ended thus. Ah, how much truth, how much meaning, these words then had! My youthful and trusting love ended! The first hours of my first love ended. My virgin heart will forever weep the risky step it took in the abyss covered with flowers. My illusion will return, indeed, but indifferent, incomprehensible, preparing me for the first deception on the road of grief” (1984, 317).

The montage of illusions would unfold quickly. After this traumatic wound whose scars would rankle for a long time, Rizal slowly recovered via the phantoms of Miss L. of Calamba with “seductive and attractive eyes,” and of Leonor Valenzuela of Pagsanjan, Laguna. A recharging station on the way to his sacrifice for the motherland was Leonor Rivera of Camiling, Tarlac, who attracted him as a tender “budding flower with kindly, wistful eyes.”Again, the beloved’s enthralling eyes, surveillance without relief. Leonor’s mother objected, so Rizal’s parents advised him not to visit her in Dagupan when he returned from Europe. It was the ultimatum to abjure the local femme fatale and circumvent residual elective affinities with previous acquaintances.

Occlusions and Disclosures

Goodbye, Leonor, and welcome our other sisters who beckoned, mournful sirens languishing in moribund Europe. In 1890, while attending a play in Teatro Apollo, Madrid, Rizal lost his gold watch chain with a locket containing the picture of Leonor, a weird omen. Remember Maria Clara’s locket given to the leper, then owned by Juli, and finally claimedby Simoun? Subsequently, Rizal received Leonor’s letter announcing her forthcoming marriage to an Englishman (the British engineer Edward Kipping), her mother’s choice.

In contrast, Maria Clara (modeled after Leonor) lost her mother early, so it was another father (Padre Damaso) who dictated her choice, her quarantine in the convent “safeguarded” by the cagey Padre Salvi. Leonor asked for forgiveness, but Rizal broke down, agonizing for weeks, comparing himself to an immense volcano exploding and “putting an end to everything living and breathing.” His Austrian correspondent Ferdinand Blumentritt tried to console him with folkloric, homegrown platitudes:

…but you are one of the heroes who conquer pain from a wound inflicted by women, because they follow higher ends. You have a courageous heart, and you are in love with a nobler woman, the Motherland. Filipinas is like one of those enchanted princesses in the German legends, who is a captive of a horrid dragon, until she is freed by a valiant knight….I am grieved with all my heart that you have lost the girl to whom you were engaged, but if she was able to renounce a Rizal, she did not possess the nobility of your spirit. She is like a child who cast away a diamond to seize a pebble….In other words, she is not the woman for Rizal (quoted in Zaide 1984, 180).

Is it possible that Blumentritt had in mind Rizal’s 1882 essay “Amor Patrio”?
Rizal affirmed this love of “patria” (motherland) “just as the child loves its mother in the midst of hunger and misery.” We follow the procession of the children in his fiction: Basilio, Crispin, Elias, Juli, Tano, Placido Penitente, Isagani, and other nameless orphans.

Before Leonor’s confession of infidelity in 1890, Rizal seemed to have been bewitched by Consuelo Ortiga y Perez. It was shortlived; he had to give way to his rival, Eduardo de Lete. It was only in Japan on his second trip to Europe in 1888 when he met 23-year-old O-Sei-San, a samurai’s daughter, that he may have experienced carnal bliss. With a geisha’s simulacra? It is impossibe to test the veracity of his record of intimacy in this quite exceptional liaison.

Rizal’s testimony can be taken as sincere, unless he is pretending to be the victim of Orientalist fantasies: “O Sei-San, Sayonara, Sayonara! I have spent a happy golden month; I do not know if I can have another one like that in all my life…No woman like you has ever loved me. No woman like you has ever sacrificed for me. Like the flower of he chodji that falls from the stem fresh and whole without falling leaves or without withering—with poetry still despite its fall—thus you fell. Neither have you lost your purity nor have the delicate petals of your innocence faded…Your name lives in the sight of my lips, your image accompanies and animates all my thoughts. When shall I return to pass another divine afternoon like that in the temple of Meguro?” (quoted in Zaide 1984, 132).

Rizal’s apostrophe extolled his Japanese companion as the “last descendant of a noble family, faithful to an unfortunate vengeance….” What the last two words signify remains a puzzle. Is it simply an extravagant cliche to compensate for an unresolved aporia of doubts, virile pride and intractable premonitions? Or is it a vow to fulfill a long-forgotten promise?

Deterritorializing Interlude

We follow Rizal in his peregrination. Next in line was Gertrude Beckett with brown hair, blue eyes, and rosy cheeks, the oldest of three sisters in his boarding house at Primrose Hill, London, near Frederick Engels’ residence. But though the flirtation became hot and heavy, as it were, Rizal quickly realized that he could not marry Gettie. It was at this time (22 February 1889) when Rizal composed in Tagalog his provocative “Letter to the Young Women of Malolos.”

We may pass over the episode with Petite Suzanne Jacoby who pursued him with her letters in French when he fled to Madrid in July 1890. Rizal confided to his sister Soledad: “In my love affairs, I have always acted with nobility, because I myself would have felt humiliated had I behaved otherwise. I have despised and considered unworthy every young man I have seen hiding himself, prowling in the dark…” Earlier he expressed the reason for his temporizing and diffidence: “I cannot deceive her; I can’t marry her, because I have other affections to remember in our country…. (Palma 1949, 130, 133). What are these other affections?

Neither ascetic nor hedonist, Rizal did not isolate himself, vowing chastity and performing rituals of self-purification. The next challenge was posed by Nellie Boustead. In romantic Biarritz, Rizal courted Nellie who supposedly reciprocated. But Nellie’s mother registered objections, and Nellie herself required Rizal to become a Protestant, which he shrugged off. His friends Tomas Areola and Antonio Luna encouraged Rizal to choose the matrimonial path, to no avail. it was only when Josephine Bracken came to Dapitan, accompanying the blind Englishman George Taufer, that Rizal recovered, with due qualifications, the unrepeatable experience he recorded with his Japanese muse. That was also the year, 1893, when Rizal received the news of Leonor Rivera’s death.

The historian Ambeth Ocampo psychoanalyzed the recurrence of snakes as phalllic symbols in Rizal’s dreams. A trivializing suspicion. He speculated that Rizal may have been a closet gay: “It dawned on me that the fact that Rizal had many women [“had” is arguably a masculinist hyperbole] was probably an indication that he was incapable or perhaps had difficulty in maintaining a stable relationship with one woman” (2011, 67-68)—except with patria, which, for Ocampo, was too lofty, too inhuman. No one has claimed that Rizal “possessed” any of his female acquaintances except perhaps O-Sei-San and Bracken.

Finally, Ocampo contends that given the unresolved Oedipus complex, Rizal could have been a homosexual. But his yearning for his Nanay, Rizal’s idolizing his mother, was “very Filipino,” Ocampo concludes, so that could not serve as a proof of homosexuality. But why deflect the inquiry to this topic, obscuring the gendered division of social labor (including reproductive/sexual behavior) that undergirds the androcentric system?

Encountering the Irish Sibyl

The coming of Josephine Bracken, a “wandering swallow” for Rizal, disrupts this maneuver to dismiss “the woman question” as superfluous if not irrelevant. To return to Anderson’s aside on Rizal’s sexuality, the scholar’s tactic is to demonstrate that the milieu rendered in the novels witnessed gay and lesbian practices thriving without any overt stigmatization, as in Chapter 21, “Manila Characters,” and Chapter 22, “The Performance.” It’s all very entertaining if not distracting. So what?

In truth, Anderson does not have anything worthwhile to say about Sisa, Juli, Salome, Dona Consolacion, nor about Segunda Katigbak, O-Sei-San, Leonor Rivera, etc. His references to Bracken are a summary of inferences made by Coates, Guerrero, and Ocampo regarding her spurious progenitors. Since she was not of authentic Irish provenance—her mother was alleged to be a Chinese laundress, the father unknown, and therefore Bracken could not be evidence of Rizal’s heteronormal disposition. Anderson devotes three pages to Rizal’s Dapitan exile but ignores any role Bracken may have played in the martyr’s struggle to endure his punishment.

Only Dolores Feria, among a plethora of feminist scholars, succeeded in defining the role of the 19-year-old Bracken as the “missing menber. ” While sutured to the Rizal narrative by fortuitous circumstance, she could not eclipse the formidable Teodora Alonzo. The stern mother and her daughters objected to Bracken’s rejoining Rizal in Dapitan after Tauffer’s ailment was somehow relieved. The Catholic priest Father Obach who refused to marry them was scandalized when the two held hands together and married themselves.

Rizal’s mother resigned herself to this unorthodox arrangement—the authorities tolerated the hybrid Bracken as a legitimate phenomenon within the querida system. Alonzo opined that it was better to “live in concubinage in the grace of God than to be married in disgrace” (Palma 1949, 254). Due to an accident, Bracken prematurely delivered an eight-month old baby boy whom they christened “Francisco” (in honor of the hero’s father) before burial (Zaide 1948, 240; Craig 1913, 123-25). Rizal thus vanquished both the ancestral totem taboo, the archaic fetish of the virgin bride, and the myth of his indeterminate sexuality.

Visionary Swerves

So many nearly Faustian accomplishments transpired in Dapitan. We can only cite here one fulfilling act: Rizal proved the value of his medical studies when he successfully operated on his mother’s eyes. His education was not wasted; he was already earning a doctor’s income in Hong Kong before his fateful return to Manila. A few days before he left for Spain as a medical volunteer for the beleaguered Spanish army in Cuba, the plebeian Andres Bonifacio fired the first volleys of revolution on August 26, 1896. Rizal was impicated and brought back to Manila, imprisoned in Fort Santiago, and condemned to death by a military court which had already agreed on its verdict before the trial.

Before his execution, Rizal bequeathed his copy of Thomas a Kempis’ Imitation of Christ to Bracken, with the dedication “To my dear and unhappy wife.” She was also memoralized in Rizal’s “Ultimo Adios” in the penultimate line: “Farewell, sweet stranger, my friend, who brightened my way.” This “dulce extranghera” later marched and fought with the Katipunan detachment together with Rizal’s brother Paciano, fighting Spanish soldiers in Cavite, Laguna, and the surrounding hinterland before she was finally persuaded by her fellow partisans to return to Hong Kong and assist the revolution from that relatively secure vantage point.

As cited earlier, Feria paid homage to Bracken’s participation in the armed struggle against imperial Spain. Bracken’s role as Insurrecta offers the direct antithesis to the iconic Colegiala, the model for the Maria Clara character-type. Feria compares her with Salome, the polar opposite of the convent-bred woman, recalling for us the legendary figure of the earth-goddess Maria Makiling, naturally generous, an emancipated spirit. Her power to give joy to Elias, her beloved, may be deemed “an act of grace, with its own moral justification.” Feria elaborates further:

The orphan Salome…anticipates the twentieth-century woman’s frankness and sexual freedom and the pre-Spanish Filipina’s ignorance of original sin…Josephine, like Salome, was an outsider…[She] has been successively portrayed as Magdalene, Mata Hari, Kitty O’Shea, Sadie Thompson, and Joan of Arc; but her own preferred image of herself was as Insurrecta. In fact our last really detailed glimpse of her, provided by the memoirs of General Ricarte, shows Josephine fleeing from barrio to barrio after the Spanish capture of San Francisco de Malabon, hungry, and the soles of her feet bleeding, but refusing to lag, as the long retreat moves across the Maragondon mountains to Laguna…Josephine signifies more in the experience of Rizal than simply an imprudent infatuation or the eroticism of pity…For Rizal, Josephine Bracken was a breath of fresh air; and in her he found an expression of freedom from class restraints, conventionality, and a practical impertinence which his own original environment, the conservatism of his family and friends had so long denied him. Indeed, Josephine was Rizal (1968, 110-20).

This substantial homage to Josephine Bracken as an integral part of the Rizal saga may neutralize all suspicions regarding the hero’s performative sexuality. He could live with strangeness, even the phantasm of Bracken’s enigmatic past, because he knew her before in the volatile conduct and catalyzing disguises of Segunda Katigbak, Leonor Rivera, Consuelo Ortigas, and the foreigners O-Sei-San, Petite Jacoby, and Nellie Boustead, not excluding the veiled countenance of the “hospitality” lady of Vienna.

Articulating the Excess/Exclusion

At this juncture, I would call attention to the previously excluded chapter on “Salome and Elias,” now restored by Soledad Lacson-Locsin in her expert translation of the novel. This episode rounds out Elias’ character as more than a capable, intelligent peasant victimized by adverse circumstances. In contrast to the naive Ibarra (in the Noli), Elias personifies the cunning “labor of the negative” by claiming that he loves his native land because he owes her so much pain and misery” (Agoncillo 1969, 39). He is adored by a mature, sensitive woman who respects him and allows him the final decision to leave her for her own sake so that she won’t be persecuted as his accomplice. We hear Rizal’s parting words to his intimate acquaintances in Europe: “Take advantage of your youth and beauty to look for a good husband whom you deserve. No, no, you still do not know what it is to live alone, alone in the midst of humanity” (Noli 2004, 216).

In effect, Rizal knew himself thoroughly as a marked protagonist, soon to be a dangerous dissident. This dates back from the time he penned Amor Patrio, “A La Juventud Filipina,” his annotations to Morga, the incendiary diatribes and polemics in La Solidaridad, and certainly the two explosive novels that no doubt contributed to inciting his countrymen to organize the Katipunan and launch the national uprising of 1896, morphing into the stubborn resistance to U.S. imperial aggression and its ferocious genocidal onslaught.

As for the controversy over Rizal’s alleged retraction and marriage to Bracken, which Zaide dismissed as immaterial to the hero’s achievement (1984, 255-56; for a different view, see Pascual 1962), I refer students to ponder on the various perspectives explored in the scripts of two screenplays by Clodualdo del Mundo, Jr. and Mike de Leon, Rizal/Bayaning 3rd World (2000). A rigorous study of Rizal’s writings in the context of the historical specificities of their appearance, as well as their impact, would be the most judicious way of appraising the worth and pertinacity of the controversy (San Juan 2000).

Constellation of Motives

Initially conceived as an extended metacommentary on Rizal’s message to the women of Malolos, this essay has exceeded its intended goal. But one thing leads to another, as they say. Not only because one cannot really grasp the totality of Rizal’s impact on the popular consciousness, including ilustrado and plebeian interlocutors. But with “the woman question,” every element in the fabric of his discourses and their purport counts as an integral factor/force in determining their reality-effects, their consequence in action. Past melancholia and future hopes converge in his reflections on the harsh present.

Rizal pursued a mode of inquiry similar to that of Rosa Luxemburg who applied Marx’s logic of crises and ruptures. Frigga Haug describes how Luxemburg’s method of appealing to the masses rejects empathy with the wretched situation of the oppressed: “Instead of empathy, she seeks the germs of the future in the defects of the present. This approach is disconcerting because it is alien, familiar only in the form of hope. But by presenting hope as sadness about being torn free and dispossessed, her criticism becomes truly radical…Her route goes out into the world, not back into the home….This politicization of experience, the political articulation of everyday experience, the transformation of the wish to endure into the will to change—these things are indispensable for women’s politics” (1992, 230-43). From the wish simply to survive to “the will to change”–that formulation captures quite aptly the Desire called “Rizal” parlayed into this current project.

In this perspective, Rizal was not simply a moralist endeavoring to educate the minds and dispositions of his compatriots. Nor was he simply deploying a conscienticizing agency whose efficacy transcends the aesthetic reach of his novels. He was instilling hope by politicizing everyday experience, transmuting the instinct of self-preservation into “the will to change”—precisely his message to the women of Malolos, a dynamic conatus (to use Spinoza’s concept) embodied in the barbed insinuations and innuendoes of the Noli and Fili.

Benedict Anderson begs to differ. He faults Rizal for being a short-sighted moralist. In contrast, Austin Coates contends that Rizal’s novels are essentially political, not literary, artifices (Ocampo 2011, 97). While elucidating the sociopolitical context of Europe in which Rizal’s ideas germinated, Anderson finds Rizal limited in depicting the brutal exploitation of natives and their social misery: “There is nothing in Rizal’s
voluminous writings like Luna’s horrified description of the Parisian iron foundry, the painter’s naively expressed, but telling remark that the Filipinos were fortunate compared with the industrial workers of Paris seems utterly outside the novelist’s frame of reference” (2005, 108).

The remark is incredibly wrong-headed and rebarbative. It pointedly ignores the quite discrepant economic and social reality of feudal/agrarian Philippines. The colony’s chief production consisted of export-crops abaca, sugar, indigo, hides, etc. Its sole industry of textile weaving in Iloilo was quickly destroyed by the importation of cheap cotton from England (Arcilla 1991, 134-46). Labor organizing in the cities in the form of gremios and embryonic cooperatives for mutual aid in the countryside only started in the first decades of U.S. colonial rule.

The colonial reality of 19th-century Philippines, its historical specificity, eludes Anderson’s optic. As already suggested, Rizal matured quickly in the aftermath of his mother’s imprisonment and the 1872 Cavite Mutiny together with the execution of Fathers Burgos, Gomez and Zamora. His disillusionment with his compatriot’s reformist program intensified in 1890 with the eviction of his parents from their Calamba farm and the persecution of relatives (see the articles, “On the Calamba Incident” and “Justice in the Philippines”; 2011, 296-99; 317-20).

But even before that, Rizal already expressed complete disenchantement on many occasions, as evinced in the 1884 article, “Reflections of a Fiipino,” and in a letter from Madrid, dated November 1884: “Studying at Madrid disillusions me. [Filipinos are] dishonored, entrapped, debased, opposed and tyrannized. I was also there [in the mass demonstrations of students and faculty]. I had to disguise myself three times…”(Zaide 1984, 76).

Circumscribing a Paradigm-Shift

Mimesis, following Aristotle, seeks to render the configuration of experience in a plotted sequence of events. But the modern naturalistic representation of incidents could not by itself register the nuances of feelings and sentiments of the Indios undergoing the symbolic and actual violence of the colonial system. To do that, Rizal had to politicize their experiences in both domestic/familial sphere and public space. Thus we observe the heteroglossic rendering of social gatherings and the focus on concrete locations: busy homes of notable personages, the plaza, church, market, theater, cockpit, urban/village festival sites, prison, transport vehicles, farms, schools, leisurely retreats, graveyards, offices of bureaucrats and officials, streets and remote trails, domestic interiors, and the liminal zones between rural and urban settings. The massive repertoire of events and the spectrum of particulars marshaled are meant to produce a plausible, veridical reality-effect.

Without doubt, the milieu transcribed by the artist is labyrinthine, multilayered, enticing and bewildering at the same time. One example is the arrangement of sensorily vivid crowd scenes in Makamisa, including the ribald, mock-heroic tuktukan game, which testifies to the writer’s virtuoso gift. Rizal’s dialogic imagination encompassed a wider range of themes, motifs, dramatis personae and their ramifications than those found in Eduard Dekker, Galdos, de Larra, Baudelaire, or Malatesta’s pseudo-sophisticated ruminations (for further evidence, see the compendium of Rizal’s Tagalog texts in Ocampo 2002)..

Granted, Rizal may have been influenced by European intellectuals such as Bakunin, Proudhon, Dostoevsky, and others during his two sojourns in Europe. Anderson, in fact, credits those myriad influences as the real sources of Rizal’s creativity, the templates for his plot and characters. He cites, for example, Rizal’s casual conversation with two Russian women nihilists in Paris in the lodging of Trinidad Pardo de Tavera.

Ferreting similitudes between European events and personalities, and the gothic/baroque furniture of the Fili, Anderson pronounces on the derivative quality of the novel: “The prolepsis is mostly engineered by a massive, ingenious transfer of real events, experiences, and sentiments from Spain to the Philippines, which then appear as shadows of an imminent future….El Filibusterismo was written from the wings of a global proscenium on which Bismarck and Vera Zasulich, Yankee manipulation and Cuban insurrections, Meiji Japan and the British Museum, Huysmans and the Commune, Catalonia and the Carolines, Nihilists and anarchists, all had their places. Cochers and ‘homeopathists’ too” (2005, 120).

Indeed, we are served a mindboggling potpourri of leavening substances to yield a buffet of exotic dishes for further meditation! At one “Soiree at the Home of Mr. B.” in Berlin (circa 1886), Rizal reflected how one “young barbarian from the Philippine Islands” exchanged pleasantries with the blonde, blue-eyed “granddaughters of ancient barbarians…who astonished the patricians of Rome,” an encounter proving how the world “turns round and round” (1962, 216).

Anderson’s comparativist mind-set can be praised for encyclopedic erudition. But he seems too self-satisfied with his cosmopolitan bravura. He disingenuously insists on a mistaken assumption, spiced with a racist innuendo. Surely Rizal is not vying to be an epigone of Huysmans, Bakunin, Malatesta, Nietzsche, Herzen, etc. In his 1908 prologue to an edition of the Fili, Wenceslao Retana performed a similar autopsy of European influences and putative mimicry. But, unlike Anderson, Retana (despite his imperial hauteur) buttressed his assessment with allusions to the concrete experiences of the wretched subalterns. He also accentuated the singular predicament of the native intelligentsia seeking reforms.

Moreover, Retana underscored the specificity of locations and the constellation of incidents shaping Rizal’s sensibility: “During his very first years he hardly witnessed anything around him except human misery pictured on a landscape replete with melancholy and mysterious poetry; and stimulated by an exquisite nervous sensibility, the child Rizal, on the shores of the great lake which gives its name to the province (la Laguna) asked whether there was beyond, any social state better than the one he saw in his hometown, in the urban part of which he knew the dominant despotism of the friar-landholder; and the suburban part of which the bandits govern” (1979, 33-34).

The “bandits” noted here would epitomize the numerous Indio victims with their load of grievances against colonial authorities (both civil and religious) in that period. Filibusteros included women protesting their brutalization by their husbands or confessors, beggars who became outlaws (tulisan), and heretics labeled infidels or savages by the theocratic regime.

In the lifetime of Rizal’s parents, filibusterismo was already rampant. Examples are the1815 Sarrat rebellion, the 1823 Novales revolt, the 1832-41 uprising of the Cofradia followers of Apolinario de la Cruz, the 1872 Cavite Mutiny, to cite only the most dangerous or threatening to the status quo (Constantino 1975, 132-44). In his “Data for My Defense” written in Fort Santiago, Rizal enumerated some of those separatist movements (2011, 342). A sampling of native grievances can be gleaned from the satirical articles such as “A Freethinker,” “A Pompous Gobernadorcillo,” “The Vision of Fray Rodriguez,” “By Telephone,” “The Lord Gazes at the Philippine Islands,” “The Religiosity of the Filipino People,” aside from the more widely influential diatribes such as “The Indolence of the Filipinos,” “The Philippines a Century Hence,” and other relevant documents in Tagalog (see Ocampo 2002).

Apocalyptic Reverberations

One can argue that Retana’s journalistic sensorium was better adjusted to apprehend the historically specific conflicts and crises that informed Rizal’s worldview. Retana recorded the ethos of the rural countryside, the predatory feudal monstrosities, and one native response to the regime’s barbarism that Rizal may have condensed in the following paragraph: “When a people is gagged; when its dignity, honor, and all its liberties are trampled; when it no longer has any legal recourse against the tyranny of its oppressors; when its complaints, petitions, and groans are not attended to; when it is not permitted even to weep; when even the last hope is wrested from its heart, then….it has left no other remedy but to take down with delirious hand from the infernal altars the bloody and suicidal dagger of revolution! Caesar, we who are about to die salute thee!” (2011, 129; see also Retana 1979, 146-47). Echoes of Padre Florentino’s farewell prayer to the dead Simoun?

The concept of the Kantian sublime predominant in Rizal’s melodramatic staging animates the conclusion of the essay “The Sense of the Beautiful” in which the ancestors shed their tears on the child’s cradle “so that the sacred plant of liberty and progress may bloom” (1962, 32). Friedrich Schiller, author of the play William Tell which Rizal translated into Tagalog, once declared that one encounters and actualizes freedom/autonomy through the creation of beauty as “living form” via the calibrated, nuanced play of instinct and reason(1952, 407-08). Rizal was thoroughly acquainted with this solution to the quandary of the artist grappling with the recalcitrant, refractory materials of quotidian existence.

Aesthetics mediates the ethico-political burden of Rizal’ s narrative craft. It is Intriguing how the image and voice of the Roman slave-gladiators acknowledging the glory of the Emperor (quoted earlier) recall Juan Luna’s masterpiece, El Spoliarium. The painting depicted in sombre tone the gory gladiators’ corpses, their sacrificial tribute, dragged from the arena of combat in the Roman amphitheater. Rizal celebrated Luna’s evocation of the carnage as a sign of resurrection—a prelude to the planned fireworks of Simoun/Ibarra, this double agent of a repressed community, passionately envisaging the apocalyptic triumph of his cohort of avengers.

In Luna’s painting, according to Rizal, “can be heard the tumult of the multitude, the shouting of the slaves, the metalllic creaking of the armor of the corpses, the sobs of the bereaved, the murmurs of prayer, with such vigor and realism as one hears the din of thunder in the midst of the crash of the cataracts or the impressive and dreadful tremor of the earthquake” (2011, 19).

Rizal’s celebration of Luna’s art is instructive. Notice the naturalization of a historical occurrence, as if the phenomenon has been providentially decreed, at the same time that nature functions as figural presentiment of what is bound to happen. It is Rizal’s diacritical gesture of temporalizing space and spatializing duration, collapsing the past into the present and future to generate the stage for the fulfillment of Sisa’s “vengeance.” It also posits the hypothesis that what appears as fate or destiny is nothing but a sociopolitical construction, a social practice or a wholly human contrivance open to alteration, reversal, change. The social order is mutable, contingent, subject to unpredictable transformations. The future is open for our choices and actions.

We then enter the realm of possibilities, of necessity converted to freedom, and the principle of self-determination as a guide to collective action, with the collaborative subalterns acting as rational-natural subjects and impassioned, mobilized communities. We behold the awakened nation-people forging at last their common destiny in mass insurgency.

The issue concerns the subtlety, depth, and sharpness of artistic rendition of the lives of the major protagonists and their doubles. Certainly, one can construe Simoun’s unconscionable scheme of killing government officials and innocent associates as one inspired by the European anarchist propaganda of the exemplary deed. Further, his scheme of rescuing Maria Clara from the nunnery replicates certain motifs and themes in canonical European texts.

But the inventory of the horrendous torment and anguish endured by Elias’ family, the suffering of Sisa and her children, and the intolerable ordeals that afflicted Cabesang Tales, Tandang Selo, and Juli (reminiscent of Rizal’s family evicted from Calamba), as well as Capitan Pablo and his band of rebels (see the Noli, Chapter 46, “The Fugitives”), would be more than enough carnage to surpass the hardships of the Parisian workers singled out by Anderson.

Actually, the issue is more embroiled and vexing. In my view, it is not a question of comparing the veracity or scale of one kind of misery against another. Rather, it is a question of selecting which scenes of conflict and struggle can synthesize the distinctive gravity and resonance of an entire people’s experience of centuries of colonial domination and the durable intensity of their resistance to it. Can art simply be reduced to a narcotic coaxing the audience to submission, or apathy? Can postmodern cynical reason be recruited to make us indifferent to this classic dilemma? Can the deconstructionists be summoned to arbitrate the merits of the case between a voluntarist artist serving the cause of the oppressed masses and a determinist critic enforcing reactionary norms and regulations for the sake of upholding high standards and refined tastes? We can imagine various scenarios and hypothesize multiple endgames and warring consequences by way of dialectical sublation or Kierkegaardian repetition.

Anatomy of the Terrorizing Sublime

Notice has been made earlier regarding Rizal’s predilection for melodrama tempered with Rabelaisian farce. Whatever sophistic qualifications may be offered, I submit that aside from the poignant rendition of Sisa’s agony and the Tales’ family’s seemingly endless punishment (analogous to Elias’ family’s tribulations), Rizal’s artistic shrewdness may be discerned in such episodes as the slow torture of Tarsilo Alasigan in Chapter 58 of the Noli and the hideous plight of the prisoners in Chapter 38 of the Fili, among others.

At such moments in the Fili, the montage of horror is framed and distanced by an explicit cut in the narration. This can be quickly ascertained in a few instances. Take the episode where, after the report of the assassinated landgrabbers (Chapter 10), the narrator abruptly shifts to addressing his readers by dissolving the illusion: “Do not be alarmed, peaceful citizens of Calamba…” For another instance, consider the freezing of the camera-eye in Chapter 23 when Maria Clara is reported dead, stupefying Simoun, at which point the narrator interrupts to perform a pacifying invocation: “Sleep in peace, unhappy child of my unfortunate motherland….” These are just samples of the obvious defamiliarizing semiotic device of the narrative designed to reconcile on the imaginary plane painfully lived contradictions energizing the plots and characters of Rizal’s fiction (Balibar and Macherey 1996).

By themselves, spectacles of misery and human degradation do not by themselves trigger anger leading to sustained mass agitation and insurrection. In fact, as the historical precedents show, they often lead to the emergence of a populist demagogue whose authoritarian violence serves as catharsis for moral panic and mass hysteria. Were the proletarian viewers of Luna’s El Spoliarium, or the readers of Zola’s portrayals of brutalized workers, stirred up enough to demand immediate action? Can literary artifice serve as an effective tool to improve the victims’ wretched condition? Other contingencies and variables involving audience reception, their race/gender/class-defined dispositions, and attendant institutional constraints have to be taken into account. Needless to say, political propaganda like commercial advertisements can employ artistic means; but their effects are dependent on imponderable contingencies, so that intentions and motives are not always realized.

Nonetheless, one can venture the proposition that the aesthetic level of response cannot really be measured and judged apart from their ethico-political ramifications. We can pose the following questions: what conceivable sequence of conduct can be inferred logically arising from such scenes as the encounter between the sanctimonious Dona Victorina and the feral Dona Consolacion in Chapter 48 of the Noli? Or what effect is intended to be produced by the last chapter of the Fili?

I have in mind specifically Padre Florentino’s impassioned appeal for the youth “who would generously shed their blood to wash away so much shame, so much crime, so much abomination” even while he condemns Simoun’s call for sacrifice, for blood, to guarantee their “rights to social life.” The priest’s appeal does not exactly block a sanguinary path to extremist purification.

One is disquieted, if not disconcerted, by the ambiguous resolution of the Fili. A sequel did not materialize with the author’s demise. The final chapter is charged with the purpose of satisfying readers’ expectations, but the scene is invested with contradictory ideological implications, just like the Noli’s closure. When an official representative of the government visits the convent of Santa Clara (where Maria Clara was confined) to speak to the abbess and meet all the nuns, we are suddenly confronted with this shocking spectacle, a cryptic intervention from the author’s buried past: “It is said that one of the these appeared with her habit soaking wet and torn to shreds; weeping, she asked for the man’s protection against the violence of hypocrisy, and revealed other horrors. It is said that she was very beautiful, that she had the loveliest and most expressive eyes that were ever seen (2004, 565)

Again, we confront those “expressive eyes” gesturing to the missing object! We have encountered this scopic insignia before, first underscored in the “Memoirs of a Student in Manila by P. Jacinto,” where the transgressive coupling of love and death, of desire and its perversions, configured the first twenty years of Rizal’s life (for the interplay of eros and thanatos, see San Juan 2011, 37-50). The surveillance of a patriarchal nomos continues in the world of make-believe. And this is where Rizal’s reflections on women’s surbordination, the sexual division of labor, and gender inequity, becomes fraught with radical, ultimately subversive political consequences when translated into either spontaneous or organized mass action–filibusterismo on the rampage.

Signposts of Deliverance

Rizal’s heroic achievement is generally identified with the ideas and actions enacted in the two novels. For schools and official functions, the “Ultimo Adios” serves as a precis of the hero’s credo. One can assert here that, by a formidable consensus, Rizal’s novels have been judged as the foundational scripture of the republic, a national allegory of our collective experience as colonized object-become-emancipated subject. In effect, they constitute the epic of our ethnogenesis, of becoming ideally a nation-state with popular-democratic sovereignty. They operate as the paradigmatic exemplum of our acquiring a historic national identity. And by “national allegory,” we allude to Frederic Jameson’s thesis on the peculiarity of political-didactic romances fashioned in colonial terrain. He reflects on this topic: “Third-world texts, even those which are seemingly private and invested with a properly libidinal dynamc, necessarily project a political dimension in the form of national allegory: the story of the private individual destiny is always an allegory of the embattled situation of the public third-world culture and society” (2000, 320). Embattled up to now, even beleaguered, given the insidious neocolonial bondage we continue to suffer.

In Rizal’s unconventional allegory, the hero’s situation is cast as a microcosm of the body politic, the historic predicament of the majority writ large. As synedochic figure, Ibarra’s plan to improve schooling (inflected later in the students’ demand for a Spanish academy) fuses private and public spheres. Both attempts are foiled. The conflicting sides mirror the asymmetry between lord and slave (in Hegel’s famous tableau). But through agonizing labor and initiative, the slave acquires self-consciousness, elicits recognition, and liberates herself as an emblem of transcending the syndrome of contradictions. The pathos of awakening–the recognition of the totality of the situation after the reversal and catharsis of repressed emotions–initiates us to enter, at last, the threshold of national-popular revolution.

Argued from another vantage-point, we engage with the disruption of assemblages, compromises, and temporizing unions. Diremptions prevail over fusion and linkages. What the novels strive to convey, among other aims, is the break-up of the matrimonial market and its cognate family structure, the basis of masculine domination. Sisa’s plight and Elias’ genealogy condense this trajectory. Its aftermath coincides with the swift disintegration of the decaying tributary structure and its supernaturalist legitimizations. Sexual difference comes to the foreground in Rizal’s counter-metanarrative and exfoliates into pathetic submission, serial tragedies, or into the fury of nihilist rage (for an argument against gender dimorphism, see Butler 2000, 143-79).

In the Beginning: Exchange of Women

In this context, Pierre Bourdieu’s insight into the role of women in the economy of reifying commodity exchange yields heuristic pertinence: “The principle of the inferiority and exclusion of women, which the mythico-ritual system ratifies and amplifies, to the point of making it the principle of the division of the whole universe, is nothing other than the fundamental dissymmetry, that of subject and object, agent and instrument, which is set up between men and women in the domain of symbolic exchanges, the relations of production and reproduction of symbolic capital, the central device of which is the matrimonial market, and which are the foundation of the whole social order—women can only appear there as objects, or, more precisely, as symbols whose meaning is contributed outside of them and whose function is to contribute to the perpetuation or expansion of the symbolic capital held by men” (2001, 42-43).

Responding to this crucial question cannot be shirked: what can abolish this market and the salient role of symbolic capital in organizing social relations? Victimized women’s rebellion and the sympathy or solidarity it elicits, is one answer. Rizal, of course, responded within the given opportunities of his time and place, cognizant of the hierarchies of power and knowledge limiting his agency, resources, and reflexivity.

Changes in the mode of production are bound, sooner or later, to modify the reproduction of the whole power-arrangement, including the distribution of wealth and symbolic capital. With the changes in the family structure and domestic/household set-up, plus opportunities for remunerative work outside, women gained more autonomy. They were gradually freed from strict parental control and the burden of rigid traditional mores regulating kin-network (Goody 1998, 79-95).

From this point of view, we can appreciate the shattering of masculine domination in the wreckage of Ibarra’s courtship of Maria Clara, the sundering of families and murder of daughters (Sisa’s case), the farcical rigmarole of Dona Victorina and Dona Consolacion, estrangement among relatives and friends, as well as the interruption of Paulita Gomez’s wedding and the heart-breaking separation of Elias and Salome. Such reversals transpired in the process of disclosing the truth behind appearances, alongside satiric lampoons, sardonic interior monologues, and tragicomic interludes.

Let us rehearse Rizal’s attitudes and sentiments touched on earlier. The curse of patriarchal ascendancy is over. It has been exorcised, and a new epoch of indeterminacy and dicey possibilities glimmer in the horizon. The dice have been cast. Shall we greet the new age of hope convulsed in its bloody birth-pangs? Whatever the reader’s response, this advent of a new epoch is welcomed by the hero on the eve of his execution:

Mis suenos cuando apenas muchacho adolescente,
Mis suenos cuando joven, ya lleno de vigor,
Fueron el verte un dia, joya del Mar de Oriente,
Secos los negros ojos, alta la tersa frente,
Sin ceno, sin arrugas, sin manchas de rubor,…

Mi patria idolatrada! Dolor de mis dolores!
Querida Filipinas, oye el postrer adios!
Ahi te dejo todo; mis padres, mis amores,
Voy donde no hay esclavos, verdugos ni opresores,
Donde la fe no mata, donde el que reina es Dios!

My dreams, while yet merely a child, or when nearing maturity,
My dreams, when a youth full of vigor at length I became,
Were to see Thee one happier day, O jewel of the orient sea,
Thine ebon eyes dried of their tears, thine uplifted brow clear and free
From the frowns and the furrows, the stains and the stigma of shame….

My idolized motherland, whose grieving makes me grieve,
Dearest Filipinas, hear my last farewell again!
I now leave all to thee, my parents, my loved ones I leave.
I go where there are no slaves, a brute’s lash to receive;
Where faith does not kill, and where it is God who doth reign.

(Tr. Frank Laubach; Palma 1949, 321-22)

Frame of Intelligibility

Our meditation on the sexual politics of Rizal’s allegory is nearly over for now. We have concentrated on the representation and elaboration of his ideas on “the woman question,” broadly construed, in his fiction and in various speech-acts. It will take another treatise to explore further the transformation of Rizal’s artistic project via complex dialectical mediations to a fully fleshed ethico-political program of action. We have witnessed its initial outline in the constitution of the Liga Filipina. We can also glimpse the concept of the “general will” adumbrated in “The Rights of Man,” “By-laws of the Association of Dapitan Farmers,” and the proposal for the development of north Borneo by Rizal’s family and relatives.

The principles enunciated in the documents of the French Revolution can be extrapolated from Rizal’s manifestoes or public statements drawn up before his trial and execution, such as “An Address to the Spanish Nation” and “Data for my Defense” (2011, 309-91). Those discourses contain both negative/critical insights combined with positive/utopian projections and their corresponding affects. They are impregnated with a totalizing vision of the whole imperial system–Spain/Europe vis-a-vis Philippines/Asia–where History appears as pivotal events of confrontation between lords/bondsmen, colonized and colonizers.

We can assert that those events are also moments of decision in which heritage (the past), including its barbarism and lethargy, are dialectically converted by agents into destiny via group praxis. We offer the following semiotic diagram spelling out agencies and other thematic strands and their interweaving in the novels to supplement an earlier schematic tabulation found in Rizal in Our Time (2011, 94):



Toward.a Radical Architectonic

Suffice it for this occasion to suggest the direction for a future
critical negative/positive hermeneutics of Rizal’s life-work to discover hitherto unexamined aspects. Almost all his biographers concur that Rizal’s self-formation diverged from the usual pattern of a linear evolution due to the impact of sociohistorical circumstances. The planned course of his studies was interrupted in 1882, then in 1888, followed by the Depitan exile in 1892-1896. The itinerary of his thought unfolded in ironic or paradoxical ways. Sometimes Rizal argued for revolutionary change only to back-track with the usual qualifications about means and methods. But when faced with extreme urgent situations, Rizal committed himself to dissidence, remonstrance, protest, intransigent resistance.

The vicissitudes of Rizal’s speculative adventure, its “structure of feeling” (to use Raymond Williams’ rubric), may be tracked in his narratives. Adopting the genre of gothic melodrama popular in Europe, Rizal reworked the reversal of fortunes (including peripeteia and anagnorisis) caused by institutions into naturalistic scenes where the charismatic or supra-empirical tendencies predominate, Scrutinize, for instance, the chapters portraying Mr. Leeds’s Imuthis, the mummified Egyptian talking-head; the ghostly phantom on the convent roof; crocodiles in the lake; the philosopher Tasio’s uncanny intuitions; Dona Jeronima’s escapades, and other seemingly bizarre phenomena. They all problematize the intrusion of forces beyond one individual’s control, suggesting the pressure of structures and received group mores or folkways–the power of Necessity circumscribing people’s will and choices, the ruses of Spirit (in Hegel’s philosophy) to determine individual/group fates immanent in the antagonism between the advancing forces of production and the inherited social relations that inhibit progress.

With the onset of global commerce, the exchange of commodities and ideas in the second half of the 19th-century, a new landsape of urban speed and technological mobility began to erode the inertia of old rules and habits. Anomie and alienation began to unsettle the normal modes of perception and social behavior, opening gaps for intervention. Crisis actually presents us with the twin moments of danger and opportunities. Perspective is gained by people wrestling with these sudden unexpected turns, allowing the larger horizon of the social drama to surface. In the novels, the texture of the social landscape seems saturated by disappointments, miscarriage, delays, failures, aborted schemes, remorse, melancholia, flailing anger, fits of delirium.

The Sibyl of Cumae seems to be beckoning from the edge of the crossroad. Fate and capricious fortune are invoked, beseeched, and denounced. Tragic and comic affects blend in contrapuntal rhythm as when, for instance, we juxtapose the legend of Dona Jeronima with the painful trials of Maria Clara, Dona Victorina, Paulita Gomez, Juli, and other women. Sisa’s agony punctuates this lanscape with an abject experience impossible to categorize or normalize. In brief, the course of alienated existence in the colony was utterly precarious and the outcome of plans could not be fully extrapolated, hence the accidents, the exigencies, the dizzying variety of contingencies and constraints that defy the conjectures about the future offered by any number of SIbylline oracles awaiting at the wings.
Regrounding Our Agenda
We have now traversed the zone of dead quotidian space/time, coming from the Empire’s petrified duration, to the Now-time: the settling of accounts. Sisa’s torment precipitates kairos, the ripeness of all that King Lear proclaimed. By existentialist retrieval/repetition, the gaps and silences of the staus quo have been exposed. The sacrifices of Elias, Cabesang Tales, Capitan Pablo, and Sisa have been staged and witnessed by all. So now we can understand how Rizal’s preoccupation with individual lives (veridical as well as fictional) was dictated by the sheer pressure of turbulent occurrences. The imperative of family-kinship solidarity and the claim of Indio-tempered honor compelled him to move away from the customary analysis of the ego-centered psychic dimension to the more demanding ethico-political inquiry into purposes, ideals, and principles lived by communities and regions. Acquisitive individualism and instrumentalist beliefs have to be re-evaluated against the wider socio-political background, together with the ideological apparatus of Empire that legitimized extraction of surplus-value/profit, as well as feudal tribute (rent, exorbitant landlord credit), from the natives based on church/state-sanctioned inequities of race, gender, religion, and class.

The memorable dialogues of Ibarra-Elias and Simoun-Basilio, among other exchanges, illustrate Rizal’s grasp of the unity of opposites, the role of contradictions, in all social processes. Of prime importance is the dialectical reflections of the phliosopher Tasio who appied the logic of negation on all experience, thus counseling Ibarra that failure always yields a measure of success: “…Lay the first stone, sow; after the storm is unleashed, some grain of wheat will perhaps germinate, survive the catastrophe, save from destruction the species which would later serve as seed for the sons of the dead sower” 2004, 231).

Unlike the either/or stance of his townmates, Tasio’s mediation seeks to resolve antinomies, aporias, and the one-dimensional thinking validated by church/state metaphysics. As antithesis, we note the personalistic indecisiveness and temporizing abstractions found in the thoughts and deeds of the youthful Basilio, Isagani and other characters (including Don Custodio, Padre Fernandez, the opportunist lawyer Pasta, and many more) which are tested and proved inadequate, forcing one to assume more distancing, suspicious, critical, self-estranging, interrogative stances.

One standpoint for further examination is the equivocal role of Simoun, Ibarra’s double or shadow (Elias functioned in the Noli as Simoun’s avatar). His self-righteous judgment of defending the oppressed is undercut by his obsession with a frozen past, a petrified ideal (Maria Clara’s purity now compromised in the convent). This turn of events seems predestined by the middle of the narrative. In demonstrating the futile idealism of Simoun’s plan (arguably a cynical inversion of Ibarra’s pedagogical meliorism) to stir up mass unrest and chaos for the sake of salvaging his beloved–a surrogate for the dishonored father whose corpse iwas ordered disinterred and thrown to the lake, Rizal’s twin narratives evince the transition from an aesthetic exercise to an ethico-political engagement, a movement from the anomie/barbarism of Capitan Tiago and the friars to the stage of an existential leap to judgment, passing through Sisa’s and Elias’ sacrifices, the most pregnant gifts to patria.

Subterranean Mobilizations

We have been prepared for such a transition. Even before his execution, Rizal always affirmed his convictions about freedom and rights and his obligation to perform his duty to patria regardless of costs. This testifies to the inherently contradictory mechanism of the ilustrado sensibility and intellect in dealing with the crisis. The solitude of Simoun and Padre Florentino’s piety converge at the end, not without generating contradictory, extravagant impulses–other lives are on the move outside the remote retreat, advancing toward the fortified metropolis.

At this conjuncture, the emergence of a counterhegemonic bloc is not far from the scene. The ilustrado’s seemingly irresolvable predicament can only be remedied by class suicide, fulfilling its tendency to dissolve its vacillating status into that of a nomad operating as an integral component of the proletarian-peasant, united-front formation so long held dormant in the process of slow germination. With Elias’ death and the tell-tale absence of Isagani and Basilio (youth as hope of the motherland), as well as the vigil of Cabesang Tales and other insurgents surrounding Intramuros, we are left suspended in that pregnant interregnum occupied by Sisa as synoptic emblem (see the semiotic diagram in a previous page) before the quiet smuggling of “Ultimo Adios” from Fort Santiago and the tumutuous cry of Balintawak–a passage of rebirth and redemption for the subjugated multitude.

We arrive at this temporary station of our journey of interpreting and understanding Rizal’s achievement. We have compressed all the issues of gender, class and nation into the metaphor of “Sisa’s vengeance.” This may now be conceived as a symbolic labor of negation and secular transubstantiation, converting the people’s blood into the wine of redemption. The process of narrativizing routine time, everyday life, into the twists of the plot (modeled on the quest, ordeal, mission, etc.) transforms abstract theory into concrete praxis. In this context, the couple Simoun/Elias incarnates all the victims of patriarchal, frailocratic power. Meanwhile, Padre Florentino mourns over the dying Simoun confessing his real identity, The good priest implores the Christian God with His juridical wisdom to provide the weapon of retribution. He appeals to this metaphysical providence to rescue someday the treasures that he consigns to nature’s oceanic womb.

Padre Florentino’s “ultima razon” for getting rid of gold/money/commodities may be Rizal’s paramount message overriding others. The die is cast. This gesture of sacrificing merchant capital, labor/wealth stolen from the masses, is a promise of compensation for the fidellity, patience and trust of those praying for the last day of judgment—in this case, for an imaginary resolution of real-life contradictions, which is art’s socially redeeming vocation. The destruction of Simoun’s treasure (the sweat and blood of human labor turned to waste) reawakens Sisa’s muffled cry of grief and protest.

Wanting to reconstitute the lost aura of her home and children, “Sisa’s vengeance” functions as the trope of that confluence of all the energies desiring change that were blocked, sublimated, or repressed. It heralds the emergence of a popular counterhegemonic agency designed to carry out to the end the program of anticolonial, national-democratic liberation. On the whole, Rizal’s narrative of mayhem, withdrawal, defeats, arrests, torture, murder, and generalized chaos may permit the grassroots messiah, the bathala of the boondocks, to intervene in sabotaging and eventually terminating for good the hitherto tolerated, but now bloodied, barbaric, wasted march of imperial history.

Yo muero cuando veo que el cielo se colora
Y al fin anuncia el dia, tras lobrego capuz;
Si grana necesitas para tenir tu aurora,
Vierte la sangre mia, derramala en buena hora
Y dorela un reflejo de su naciente luz!

I die just when I see the dawn break,
Through the gloom of night, to herald the day;
And if color is lacking my blood thou shalt take
Pour’d out at need for thy dear sake,
To dye with its crimson the waking ray.

(Craig 2010, 148)






By E. San Juan, Jr.,

Philippines Studies Center, Washington DC

Let us not forget that in the Negro people, there sleep and are now awakening passions of a violence exceeding, perhaps,…anything among the tremendous forces that capitalism has created.  Anyone who knows them, who knows their history, is able to talk to them intimately,…must recognize that although their social force may not be able to compare with the social force of a corresponding number of organized workers, the hatred of bourgeois society and the readiness to destroy it when the opportunity should present itself, rests among them to a degree greater than in any other section of the population in the United States.

–C.L.R. JAMES, “The Revolutionary Answer to the Negro Problem in the USA”  (1948; 1992)

          As a slave, the social phenomenon that engages my whole consciousness is, of course, revolution.  The slave—and revolution.

–GEORGE JACKSON, Blood in My Eye (1972)

     The end of the twentieth century witnessed a universal recognition of the horror of genocide and the reciprocal need to compensate the survivors of such catastrophes. One such expression is the ongoing reparations movement for the victims of slavery and colonization in the United States the groundwork of which was laid by the 2001 UN World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. Slave trade, slavery, apartheid, and colonialism were judged as “crimes against humanity.”  As Fidel Castro put it: “What is undeniable is that tens of millions of Africans were captured, sold like commodity and sent beyond the Atlantic to work in slavery while 70 million indigenous people in that hemisphere perished as a result of the European conquest and colonization” (2001, 24). Historians such as Walter Rodney (1982), Eric Williams (1944), and others have cogently documented this unprecedented holocaust.

     We need to face the outrage of this commodity system that continue to wreak havoc today. Since any vision of a caring and nurturant future can only be extrapolated from the persistence of the past in the present, a critical analysis of conjunctures is imperative. How can restitution be made for past wrongs so as to undo what has been done to an entire people? What is problematic is the paradox of the solution: justice conceptualized as a fair exchange of values, the compensation for labor-power expropriated from the slave, follows of course from a liberal understanding of value as a product of free labor. However, it reveals in its fold the real inequality of the parties involved: the slave’s labor was coerced, her/his freedom alienated from her/him. As everyone admits, this inequality (impervious to market calculation) includes not only the deep psychological trauma of free persons being enslaved but also the disastrous social and political structures that have damaged the lives of the survivors—something “non-reparable or “incompensational “ (Martin and Yaquinto 2004, 22). Can deprivation of freedom be repaired or rectified by an attempt at “equal” exchange?  Can disparity of life chances be remedied by equality before the law of the market?

In this essay I want to explore briefly this disjuncture between the form and substance of the reparations dilemma, and its feasible resolution, by using as touchstones certain heuristic observations by Du Bois, George Jackson, and Mumia Abu-jamal concerning the passage of the African American people from slavery to bourgeois democracy.


     History discloses the instructive duplicity of the emancipation narrative. In his classic testimony The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. Du Bois evokes the melancholy time of the destruction of the South’s plantation empire and the transformation of the slave into that “the most piteous thing,” the black freedman. Using his uncanny feel for dialectical twists and turns, Du Bois describes the irony of the “mockery of freedom” in the wake of the Reconstruction :

Not a cent of money, not an inch of land, not a mouthful of victuals,–not even ownership of the rags on his back. Free! On Saturday, once or twice a month, the old master, before the war, used to dole out bacon and meal to his Negroes. And after the first flush of freedom wore off, and his true helplessness dawned on the freedman, he came back and picked up his hoe, and old master still doled out his bacon and meal.  The legal form of service was theoretically far different; in practice, task-work or “cropping” was substituted for daily toil in gangs; and the slave gradually became a metayer, or tenant on shares, in name, but a laborer with indeterminate wages in fact. (1965, 308-09).

The transition was not linear but disingenuously warped. While the Union’s victory abolished the trappings of chattel slavery, it introduced an illusory form of liberation, the serf-like class of share-croppers. The change was a sleight-of-hand conversion of status and objective identity in the web of social relations. The  Reconstruction promise of “forty acres and a mule” brought the former slave from the auction block to the ballot box; but it clearly did not bring economic independence via land ownership. It was an intermediary stage between the slave’s total lack of ownership of his body and its capacities and the worker’s right to sell “freely” his labor-power in the capitalist market. The ex-slaves were “free,” not legally owned; but they were unable to participate fully in decision-making processes concerning their collective fates.

There may have been justice of the liberal sort implemented after 1865, but how about substantive life and efficacious liberty for the black nation? Du Bois focuses on this transitional stage as a microcosmic scene in which the obsolescence of slavery registers itself in two ways: the dependence of the former slave on the “old master” has become detached, the organic ties between lord and “his Negroes” dissolved, while the “freedman” subsists on “indeterminate wages,” now dependent on a force that imposes an illusion of liberty which proves more ruthless than the paternalistic reign of the dispenser of “bacon and meal.” 

     What Du Bois tried to dramatize in that quoted passage from his allegorical narrative is the irony of emancipation within the racial polity of the United States. He  sought to trace the dialectical movement of the totality: the negation of one part coexists with the sublation of another into a different level of significance. The destruction of chattel slavery in the South precipitated a dynamic social mutation that both released the African slave from ownership only to imprison him in the deceptive thrall of another condition: wage-slavery. This is a learning process registered by the protagonists of this particular historical conjuncture. Du Bois sums up the lesson: the appearance of change disguises but also reveals a reality with an ethical demand: capitalism needs to be exposed as complicit in the persistence of subordination and permanence of racialized hierarchy. The change in form has to be recognized, but the lack of change in substance also admitted.

     The reparations movement for America’s “holocaust” enunciated by the Black Manifesto captures the hidden double movement of meanings unveiled by Du Bois. The major premise stems from “the historical fact that the United States was constitutionally founded on slavery and that the persistence of racial inequality and injustice in American society is derived from slavery” (Martin and Yaquinto 2004, 3)  Given the damage wrought by slavery and its consequences, justice can be rendered only if indemnification is made through the juridical intercession of the state. Such compensation—a demand for a just share–is based on the contribution of the entire African American nation to the economic wealth of the country. Such a claim requires a disruption of the mirage of political change (from servitude to parity), and a grasp of the real motion transpiring in consciousness and in the praxis of collectivities engaged in social production. This encapsulates the succinct answer to the objection that reparation is futile because past crimes cannot be undone, the dead parties—the guilty perpetrator and the victims–cannot be brought back to life, and history must start anew.

Du Bois has precisely pointed out that the crime is continuing in its effects: segregation, dependency. Despite surface alterations, the unequal position of the parties remain unaffected (even though the specific members of the group occupying the positions may have changed). What is implied in Du Bois’ account is that the social contract can become operative again if contingent rules and norms are put on trial when the principle of justice is made answerable to the substantive universal values of life and freedom, as embodied in the U.S. Declaration of Independence and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen. The resonance of those values are reaffirmed and elaborated in the United Nations Charter and its foundational principles.

     A crime has been committed, to be sure, but where is the “body,” as it were, the encountered evidence? While the ideals of justice and equality are definitely the two  motive-forces that underpin the demand for reparations, I think the movement is far more significant in its educational and practical implications. First of all, it has revived an interest in the understanding of historical causality and the critique of accountability. What made possible the condition of humans being treated as a privately owned commodities? What perpetuates this denial of their control over their labor and their fruits, and over the quality of their own reproduction?  Why can the slaveowner grant manumission in acient Rome, for example, without affecting the system of slavery, unlike that of the ante-bellum South? A slave’s life is generally equated to involuntary labor, with non-economic compulsion enabling its reproduction. Who is accountable for it? Who can be held responsible for its long-term effects, its impact on psyches and the communal memory?  Is just retribution—say, the return of stolen property–an end in itself or only a means to the discovery  (if not invention) of a more all-encompassing ethico-political concept of justice? These are some of the questions provoked by the resurgence of this campaign for indemnification of the victims of a system that has been abolished and yet survives as an unhealable wound of the body politic.

     The existence of slave society in the New World (in the U.S. as well as in the Caribbean and Brazil) was a historical anomaly.  In 1857 Marx observed: “The fact that we now not only call the plantation owners in America capitalists, but that they are capitalists, is based on their existence as anomalies within a world market based on free labour” (1973, 513).  As Eugene Genovese (1969) has shown, this anomaly is captured in the slaveholders’ belief in their unlimited patriarchal authority even as implacable world-market forces and ascendant bourgeois hegemony eroded the moribund paternalistic ethos, unleashing the racist violence immanent in the system.

The apparent incongruity of the “unfree” (slave) inhabiting the terrain of the “free” (laissez-faire market) disappears if we apply the two analytic concepts of social formation and mode of production. While the U.S. then may be defined as chiefly an emergent capitalist social formation from the time of its independence to the Civil War, one can discern in it two discordant modes of production: the slave mode in the South and the mercantile-industrial one in the North. The triumph of the juridical framework of capitalism (based on Lockean principles of alienable labor, etc.) and its state machinery led to the legal abolition of slavery in 1865. This is a clear sign that New World slavery was not similar to that in Graeco-Roman societies where slavery was not abolished by a legal act but by a long period of evolution when it was eventually superseded by another kind of dependent labor (serfdom) which became dominant, even though chattel slaves continued to exist up the late Middle Ages. What is clear, however, is that the elite in the U.S. South was mainly parasitic on coerced labor for its wealth and reproduction (Finley  1983, 441). Reconstruction eliminated the practice of coercion, the aristocratic habitus (Bourdieu and Wacquant 1992), only to replace it with that of the market legitimized by Constitutional amendments, and (after 1877) by wholesale fraud, Jim Crow laws, and vigilante violence.

     In effect, slavery in the U.S. performed a dual function. It was part of the social relations of production and simultaneously of reproduction. The labor of the slave yielded surplus value (value realized over and above the cost of its reproduction, or profit) that accumulated as capital within the world market of alienable labor, as Marx remarked. This became the basis of the political power of the plantation regime and its successor in Jim Crow. At the same time, this productivity, enabled by non-economic force (violence synchronized with tradition, rituals and other pedagogical, disciplinary apparatuses), reinforced the juridical and ideological mutation of the system. What is reproduced is the racist legitimation of the entire social order based on private ownership of land and other vital means of production.

     Now the ideology that rationalized the political exclusion of the black nation was racism in its various ramifications. In late-nineteent century culture, racism functioned as a theory that certain human types are superior morally and intellectually and therefore have the right to subordinate, dominate and exploit other types regarded as inferior on the basis of ascribed qualities and imputed characteristics.  Such a theory, in the aftermath of the Nazi defeat in World War II, has been repudiated by the UNESCO Statements of 1950, 1964 and 1967 (Montagu 1972).  But it is the persistence of this racist ideology in various disguises and its institutional machinery that distinguishes the U.S. racial polity from other societies where diverse forms of slavery continue to exist (as in India where a debtor can be treated as property, in Peru or Brazil where plantation workers are held in bondage), although the existence of domestic servants (illegal Indonesian immigrants) sold to wealthy Los Angeles homes (Cashmore 1984, 284) may be a symptom of the return of the phase of early capitalist primitive accumulation to a postmodern globalized economy.

     At this juncture I would like to proceed to the topic of the repercussions of this modern historical phenomenon in the whole polity. How do we estimate the resonance and legacy of slavery, segregation, and colonization in the social fabric of U.S. modernity? The economist Glenn Loury  (2000) has argued that instead of demanding a “money settlement” or any kind of indemnity to correct the racist past, we need to invoke “national fellowship and comity,” presumably a higher moral order, that would bring reconciliation between the conflicting parties similar to the aim of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This certainly repudiates mere formal exchange of commodified values, the norm and rule of a market-centered society. But lacking equality, which is not an independent universal value but a necessary condition for “the complete and unfailing actualization of the values of life and freedom” (Heller 1987, 122), these latter two being the authentic universal values, what is the point of “national fellowship and comity”?  Indeed, before such a level of moral enlightenment can be attained, we need to go through the complex mediations of historical development to grasp the import of the axiomatic values of life and freedom.  This is the route which George Jackson, the author of the highly influential  collection of prison letters Soledad Brother (1972), took before he was killed  in Quentin Prison on August 21, 1971, two days before the opening of his trial.


    Jackson symbolizes, in Manning Marable’s (1983) assessment, “the plight of the Black domestic periphery” that has suffered severe underdevelopment, the result of integration into the predatory world-market economy after slavery and segregation. For stealing $70, Jackson languished for more than ten years in inhumane jails—a crime against property usually merits one to five years in prison for a black person. Assassinated in prison at the age of 31, Jackson’s life epitomized the demand for freedom and meaningful life, not just equity alone: “Underdevelopment and the imprisonment of the Black masses will not die a natural death until the real criminals within America’s powerful ruling class taste something of the bitter anguish that distorts and cripples the Black majority” (1983, 130).

      For Jackson, emancipation of the slave ushered a period of internal colonialism,  the “free” subject willing or consenting to be ruled. In a letter  to his lawyer, Jackson comments on how blacks embrace capitalism as “the most outstanding example of man against himself that history can offer.” In the process he emphasizes the continuity and disruption in the lives of African Americans after the Civil War. We return to Du Bois’ perception of duplicity which needs to be clarified in this way:

After the Civil War, the form of slavery changed from chattel to economic slavery, and we were thrown onto the labor market to compete at a disadvantage with poor whites.  Ever since that time, our principal enemy must be isolated and identified as capitalism. The slaver was and is the factory owner, the businessman of capitalist Amerika, the man responsible for employment, wages, prices, control of the nation’s institutitions and culture. It was the capitalist infrastructure of Europe and the U.S. which was responsible for the rape of Africa and Asia…. Imperialism took up where the slave trade left off.  It wasn’t until after the slave trade ended that Amerika, England, France, and the Netherlands invaded and settled in on Afro-Asian soil in earnest. As the European industrial revolution took hold, new economic attractions replaced the older ones; chattel slavery was replaced by neo-slavery.  Capitalism, “free” enterprise, private ownership of public property armed and launched the ships and fed the troops; it should be clear that it was the profit motive that kept them there (1972,  176).


Several points need to be underlined here. First, the shift to wage-slavery entailed the new mask of the property-owner as the businessman who runs the factories and also administers the entire cultural/ideological order—the split between economic structure and ideological “superstructure” disappears. The producers reproduce their own condition of domination. Second, it was this logic of accumulation that underpinned imperial conquest and trade in slavery—colonial conquest led to the capture of dark-skinned natives, the plunder of their habitats, and their subsequent transport to distant lands where they were sold and forced to work.  Capitalism as the infrastructure of “neo-slavery,” Jackson contends, is the necessity that compelled the ruling classes of Europe and the United States to invade and possess colonies, this time driven by a new contradiction: “private ownership of public property,” the usurpation of social wealth for private gain. We have finally reached the stage of imperialism when formal liberal rights serve to disguise its twin half, the alternative face of fascist authoritarian domination, as lived by millions of African Americans in prison or its counterpart, the ghettos and inner cities..

   The historical plot of causation charted by Jackson seems to impose a surface logic of linear duration and inevitability to the whole enterprise of slavery and its metamorphosis. This is not exactly a valid inference.  Grounded on his commitment to radical political change,  the central preoccupation of Jackson’s thought concerns the  subject-position of the former slave—how is her/his bodily movement determined, how is collective agency and its libidinal expressions circumscribed by the new configuration of space/time in post-bellum America? This exceeds the functional analysis of racism or race prejudice as the rationale for exploitation since Jackson poses the question why those “freed” could not grasp and outgrow the character of their subjugation. Notwithstanding the relative autonomy of the ideological sphere from the economic determinant, racism is not simply a reflex attitude completely divorced from the material conditions that sustain and enable it. As Barbara Fields succinctly formulates the materialist hypothesis: “If the slaveholders had produced white supremacy without producing cotton, their class would have perished in short order” (1990, 112). The same holds for the proprietors/owners of transnational corporations and their political representatives in the epoch of Homeland Security and the pre-emptive imperialist war against terrorism.

     What justifies this intervention to elucidate the links between chattel and wage slavery?  Underlying the overarching historical pattern, the semblance of continuity, behind the varying shapes of quotidian phenomena, Jackson searches for what he regards as the governing principle of his analysis: the ideal of self-determination in both individual and collective senses. This synthesizes the universal values of freedom and life to which I alluded earlier. (One gleans from this theme of self-determination a long tradition of historical-materialist discourse from Fredrick Douglass and Du Bois to Harry Haywood, William Z. Foster, C.L.R. James, Amiri Baraka, Nelson Peery, and others.) This presupposes the rigor of scientific knowledge converted to the versatile tactics and stragegy of practical reason, sociopolitical praxis, dedicated to the fulfillment of the whole community’s radical needs, beyond what isolated individuals merit in return for services rendered:

Chattel slavery is an economic condition which manifests itself in the total loss of absence of self-determination…..The new slavery, the modern variety of chattel slavery updated to disguise itself, places the victim in a factory or in the case of most blacks in support roles inside and around the factory system (service trades) working for a wage.  However, if work cannot be found in and around the factory complex, today’s neoslavery does not allow even for a modicum of food and shelter.  You are free—to starve…. If you’re held in one spot on this earth because of your economic status, it is just the same as being held in one spot because you are the owner’s property….

      Neoslavery is an economic condition, a small knot of men exercising the property rights of their established economic order, organizing and controlling the life style of the slave as if he were in fact property.  Succinctly: an economic condition which manifests itself in the total loss or absence of self-determination. Only after this is understood and accepted can we go on to the dialectic that will help us in a remedy. (1972, 190-91).

It had to take this singular, untypical prisoner, most of the time confined to isolation in maximum security cells, to grasp the essence of self-determination as the ability to decide on one’s own where to go, how to position and maneuver one’s body, how to inhabit space and experience time in the process of performing and triangulating one’s destiny—in short, how to actualize life to its fullest. An ironic turn, this intellectual exercise, and also an eloquent parable of the predicament of the black nation.

        The overriding importance of self-determination informs Jackson’s search for how the “crime against humanity” can be repaired. What Jackson attempted to do was to make critical reason realize a double task, something that Du Bois tried earlier. He had to reconstruct history as the confluence of contradictory trends, and from this deduce the ideal of radical freedom as a necessary future horizon based on the historicity of human needs.  Critical reason is no longer confined to moral agency; it becomes a sociopolitical practice motivated not just by interests—for example, the idea of retribution—but primarily by the collective needs of the human species. Jackson is applying Marx’s method of historicizing the “species essence” of humanity alienated in history, a humanity whose needs cannot be satisfied by the existing order; hence, the bearer of social practice—the slaves/workers—needs to destroy the oppressive order in an act of revolutionary transformation.


     We are still far from the stage of genuine liberation envisaged by Jackson, a moment of establishing the unity of the individual and the species-essence in a realm of self-determination, the autonomy of associated producers. We are still operating in the realm of necessity where market forces prevail, where authority/morality is still dictated by external forces (state, church, etc.), and where justice is still the formal application of reified norms and rules of the group to everyone regardless of manifold differences that make individuals and groups unique and incommensurable. In this context, the French philosopher Daniel Bensaid comments on the limits of formal justice (which underlies the call for reparations) as one “based on actual inequality and duress…, as limited and illusory as the contractual freedom of wage-laborers compelled to sell their labor-power to survive….” He points to exploitation as “the unity of the formal justice of the purchase of labor-power and the actual injustice of its exploitation as a commodity. This double-dealing accords with the general duplicity of the reign of the commodity. It prolongs and reproduces the split between use-value and exchange value, concrete labor and abstract labor, production and circulation” (2002, 128). 

     The reparations movement acquires its moral force precisely from the conviction that justice is needed so long as we remain in the realm of necessity. And one of the stark evidence of this is the character of the repressive  and unjust racial polity we inhabit, the United States as a sociopolitical order of “white supremacy,” in which “whiteness is property, differential entitlement,” and racial exclusion is normative and central to the system (Mills 1999, 29).

     Robert Staples has summed up the context in which we should evaluate the appropriateness of reparation: “However one defines racism in the 1990s, this country is more racially segregated and its institutions more race driven than any country outside South Africa.” After citing massive statistical indicators, Staples concludes: “The net effect of the color-blind theory” is to institutionalize and stabilize the status quo of race relations for the twenty-first century: white privilege and black deprivation” (1993, 230-31). This may serve as an antidote to the “amnesic principle” that has depoliticized social antagonisms and neutralized the “otherness” of black power into the reifying logic of bureaucratic rationality and pluralist hegemony (Reed 1999).

      Of all the institutitions that have distilled with painful immediacy the cumulative resonance of slavery and segretation for African Americans, the prison, or criminal justice, system remains unsurpassable.  Angela Davis has characterized the U.S. justice system as a “punishment industry.” Crime or criminalization of the poor, preponderantly blacks and latinos, becomes the masquerade behind which “race” with all its ideological ramifications “mobilizes old public fears and creates new ones….[so that] prison is the perfect site for the simultaneous production and concealment of racism” (1998, 271). I will not rehearse in detail here the known facts of the prison system. Suffice it to mention the following: of the two million people in prison, African Americans comprise 47 percent while representing less than 6 percent of the population. Close to a million young black men suffer the exploitative regime of the modern prison industrial complex, where their virtually unpaid labor is coerced and extracted for corporate profits (see Buck 1999; Davis 1998). This is not just a matter of ethnic stratification or status difference, as George Fredrickson (2000) and others would suggest. This is a situation that resurrects the biophysics of spatio-temporal reduction imposed by slavery and segregation, this time utilizing the sophisticated apparatus of bourgeois/liberal justice.

     To convey the historic gravity of the prison system today as a proxy/surrogate for the old plantation regime, we might cite here the prisoners’ revolt at the Attica State Correction Facility in 1971 (54% of  1200 inmates were blacks) when they failed to get even minimal relief for their grievances. After its violent suppression, the  government’s McKay Commission summed up the event in these words:  “With the exception of Indian massacres in the late nineteenth century, the State Police assault which ended the four-day prison uprising was the bloodiest one-day encounter between Americans since the Civil War” (Hampton and Fayer 1991, 561).


     This sense of “the return of the repressed,” of the duplicity of the passage from slavery to the narcotic freedom of the consumer-citizen, is captured  most acutely in the writings of Mumia Abu-Jamal, journalist and activist. Charged for the murder of a police officer in 1981, Jamal has been languishing in death-row ever since.  He has been widely acclaimed for his award-winning work with the Association of Black Journalists, National Black Network, and other radio stations.  He has distinguished himself for his powerful exposure of racial violence in Philadelphia in the late seventies. Convicted and sentenced to death on July 3, 1982, Jamal was saved from execution by the huge rallies held around the world protesting the Court’s refusal to acknowledge the 22 separate violations of rights and procedures that occurred during his first trial. He remains incarcerated in the maximum security unit in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania.

     Jamal’s case has become something of a scandalous celebrity dangerous to the Establishment. Suffice it for this occasion to quote a passage from his unforgettable testimony, Live from Death Row, a cunning riposte to the generic slave narrative, in order to demonstrate the way in which the “middle passage” of the trans-Atlantic trade is re-enacted in late-modern United States. For refusing to cut his hair as a sign of loyalty to the teachings of John Africa, a charismatic religious teacher/leader, Jamal has been placed in disciplinary custody status. He reflects on the milieu of death row at the State Correctional Institute at Huntingdon, Pennsylvania:

    Life here oscillates between the banal and the bizarre.

     Unlike other prisoners, death row inmates are not “doing time.” Freedom does not shine at the end of the tunnel.  Rather, the end of the tunnel brings extinction. Thus, for many here, there is no hope.

     ….All death rows share a central goal: “human storage” in an “austere world in which condemned prisoners are treated as bodies kept alive to be killed.” Pennsylvania’s death row regime is among America’s most restrictive, rivaling the infamous San Quentin death unit for the intensity and duration of restriction. A few states allow four, six, or even eight hours out of cell, prison employment, or even access to educational programs. Not so in the Keystone State.

     Here one has little or no psychological life. Here many escape death’s omnipresent specter only by way of common diversions—television, radio, or sports.  TVs are allowed, but not type-writers: one’s energies may be expended freely on entertainment, but a tool essential for one’s liberation through judicial process is deemed a security risk…. (1995, 6-8)

In 1994, he analyzes the effects of incarceration:

     That prisons are hotbeds of violence is undeniable, but overt expressions of violence are rarely daily ones. The most profound horror of prisons lives in the day-to-day banal occurrences that turns days into months, and months into years, and years into decades. Prison is a second-by-second assault on the soul, a day-to-day degradation of the self, an oppressive steel and brick umbrella that transforms seconds into hours and hours into days. While a person is locked away in distant netherworlds, time seems to stand still; but it doesn’t, of course. Children left outside grow into adulthood, often having children of their own. Once loving relationships wither into yesterday’s dust. Relatives die, their loss mourned in silent loneliness. Times, temperaments, mores change, and the caged move to outdated rhythms.

     Encased within a psychic cocoon of negativity, the bad get worse and feed on evil’s offal.  Those who are harmed become further damaged, and the merely warped are twisted.  Empty unproductive hours morph into years of nothingness. This is the furrowed face of “corrections” in this age, where none are corrected, where none emerge better than when they came in. This is the face of “correction,” which outlaws education among those who have an estimated 60 percent illiteracy rate.

     The mind-numbing, soul-killing savage sameness that make each day an echo of the day before, with neither thought nor hope of growth, makes prison the abode of spirit death that it is for over a million men and women now held in U.S. hellholes. (1995, 64-65).

Unlike the traditional neoslave narratives, Jamal’s interrogates the individualist outlook and romantic sensibility found in conventional stories of the fugitive or runaway slave. He strives to articulate the intertwined fate of those condemned to solitary confinement, crossing the boundaries of race and ethnicity to concentrate on their common subjugation,  converting abject minds and bodies into the solidarity of  speaking subalterns. Jamal indicts a corrupt system that “eats hundreds of millions of dollars a year to torture, maim, and mutilate tens of thousands of men and women; a system that teaches bitterness and hones hatred.” What makes Jamal’s prison commentaries a powerful pedagogical instrument in mobilizing the masses to support the cause of reparation is its emphasis on causality and the instigation of agency. In his second volume, Death Blossoms, Jamal asserts: “When you don’t oppose [an unjust] system, your silence becomes approval, for it does nothing to interrupt the system…Do you see law and order? There is nothing but disorder, and instead of law there is only the illusion of security. It is an illusion because it is built on a long history of injustices: racism, criminality, and the enslavement and genocide of millions. Many people say it is insane to resist the system, but actually, it is insane not to” (1997, 11).   

      In their contrapuntal affinity, Jackson and Jamal have sharpened the demystificatory and critical program that Du Bois first launched at the end of the Reconstruction as he recharted the historical trajectory of the African American community. Their purpose is not just the production of useful knowedge, or the acquisition of truth, but also the preparation for ethico-political action.  The call for repairing a collective wrong pursues the liberal quest for justice or fairness beyond the “stigmatization of racial bias” that Randall Kennedy (1997) celebrates in the annals of U.S. jurisprudence. But surely it goes beyond that in so far as it seeks to empower the majority of citizens to destroy the material practices, laws, habits, and institutions that reproduce the terror of racial, class, and gender injustice. In a period of war against “terrorists” defined by the neoimperialist state as “others” hostile to Western civilization, the demand for reparation returns us to a time when those “others” (slaves and colonized aborigines) enabled that civilization to survive and flourish. These “others” today are the victims held in Abu Ghraib prison, the Delta Camp in Guantanamo, Cuba, and other dungeons where suspects are tortured in order to confess their “crimes.” The violence of the U.S. military in Afghanistan, Iraq, Colombia, the Philippines, Haiti, and esewhere recapitulates in undisguised if self-righteous form the inaugural violence of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the barbaric genocidal aggression against American Indians, Mexicans, and other people of color around the world.

     Meanwhile, the unconfessed “crimes” of the slave trade, colonial domination, segregation, and more subtle forms of subjugation have never been properly addressed in a world court or international tribunal.  The millions who have suffered injury, loss, or wrong at the hands of white supremacist capital remain crippled by the experience, coopted and silenced, quarantined and repressed. The instrumentalities bequeathed by the past continue to inflict damage that requires redress and the enforcement of justice—the fair distribution of goods, not just amends or apology for a minor grievance. What is possible for citizens with rights in the liberal order is “restitution,” the act of returning to the rightful owner (the oppressed group) what has been taken illegally in violation of market rules. What is needed is indemnity, a reimbursement for loss or damage caused by a series of unjust acts. We are concerned here with social justice within a racial polity, a regime of unequal groups. But if a group categorized as a “race” or “minority” is not treated equally as the rest, then we face the problem that Du Bois, Jackson and Jamal faced, the problem of the racial polity that denies substantive freedom and purposeful life to the majority of citizens, not just to the African American constituency.

     Thus far we have confined ourselves to justice as the attribute of actions, not of persons. This is because the cry for reparation concerns a situation or a state of affairs structured by a history of actions, not of psyches or personalities. We are not engaged in conflating justice with virtue, as Aristotle and classical ethics would insist. On the other hand, we are not utilitarians who focus only on consequences because, in the ultimate analysis, equality or the exchange of equal values as it occurs in the realm of necessity—in the arena of class-divided society–has to give way to the transcending primacy of human needs in a possible realm of freedom when classes have been abolished, work is no longer alienating but pleasurable, and material abundance obtains for all. To expedite that transition analyzed by Du Bois, the passage from various forms of unfreedom, we need to advance the struggle for the recognition of collective rights, here those of African Americans as a symbolic part of the totality. Any act to compensate, redress, or indemnify the African American community will only be a first step toward that transformation of the status quo which Jamal evokes in a 1996 interview in prison when he observed how African Americans moved out of de-facto segregation and slavery in response to Fredrick Douglass’ teaching that “Power concedes nothing without a demand.”  Within this frame of intelligibility and solidarity, we can appraise the demand for reparations as the initial catalyzing move of a long over-due popular-democratic challenge to the inhumanity of corporate Power.

In the 1960s, Malcolm X called on African Americans to invoke the issue of human rights in order to escape the repressive juridical boundaries of the U.S. state. Since the domain of civil rights was chiefly controlled by white supremacists, it was futile to appeal solely to the hegemonic institutions of the racial polity.  Full  substantive equality can not be guaranteed by the simple assumption of formal citizenship, Malcolm X implied (Asad 2003, 142).  Rectifying the effects of slavery, together with the full restoration of inalienable human rights, requires adjudication by a court or judge other than the U.S. state which enforced slavery and, after its abolition, has continued to sanction or legitimize its dehumanizing consequences. 

It is clear then that neither moral conciliation, electoral representation, or therapeutic integration can fully resolve a fundamental conflict embedded in the larger socio-historical context of power and social justice. Any resolution would require an agency, using legal persuasion and force, to carry out the terms of the settlement, the binding decision, of this historic dispute.  To be sure, the enforcement of this mode of justice requires truth or reasonableness (Golding 1975, 122), objectivity, impartiality, rationality in procedures, weighing of evidence, etc. But the substantive question of equality and inequality—how to discriminate between them is, as Aristotle long ago pointed out (see Golding 1975, 121)–is basically a political question. Ultimately, the politics of reparations, as I have argued here, concerns what kind of good society we want to prevail—the “joinder of issue,” in legal parlance. Engaging the global problem of the “good society” embodying and universalizing the principles of justice and equality, the politics of reparation returns us once again to two heuristic insights: W.E.B. Du Bois’ conception of the “Negro problem” as “a local phase of a world problem” (Horne 2003, 79-80);  and Malcolm X’s conviction that “colonialism or imperialism, the international power structure,” is primarily responsible for oppressing “the masses of dark-skinned peoples all over the world” (Collins 1992, 73). Indeed, the issue is joined in ways that connect the local and global, affording multilevel dialogue among diverse peoples, traditions, and cultures that neoliberal capitalist globalization today continues to prey upon, commodify, and enslave.


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—.   1997.  Death Blossoms:  Reflections from a Prisoner of Conscience.  Farmington, PA: The Plough Publishing House.

Asad, Talal.  2003.  Formations of the Secular.  Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Bensaid, Daniel.  2002.  Marx for Our Times.  New York: Verso.

Bourdieu, Pierre and Loic J. D. Wacquant.  1992.  An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology.  Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Buck, Pem Davidson.  1999.  “Prison Labor: Racism and Rhetoric.”  In Race and ideology: Language, Symbolism, and Popular Culture.  Ed. Arthur K. Spears.  Detroit: Wayne State University Press.

Cashmore, E. Ellis.  1984.  Dictionary of Race and Ethnic Relations.  London: Routledge.

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Davis, Angela.  1998a.  The Angela Davis Reader.  Ed. Joy James.  Oxford, UK: Blackwell.

—-.  1998b.   “Race and Criminalization: Black Americans and the Punishment Industry.”   In The House That Race Built.  Ed. Wahneema Lubiano.  New York: Vintage Books.

Du Bois, W.E. B.  1965 (1903).  “The Souls of Black Folk” in Three Negro Classics. With an Introduction by John Hope Franklin.  New York: Avon Books.

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Golding, Martin P.  1975.  Philosophy of Law.  Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc.

Hamptom, Henry and Steve Fayer.  1991.  Voices of Freedom: An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement from the 1950s through the 1980s.  New York: Bantam Books.

Haywood, Harry.  1976.  Negro Liberation.  Chicago: Liberator Press.

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Horne, Gerald.  2003.  “Race for Power: The Global Balance of Power and Reparations.”  In America’s Unpaid Debt: Slavery and Racial Justice, ed. Michael T. Martin and Marilyn Yaquinto.  Bowling Green, OH: Department of Ethnic Studies.

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—-.  1972.  Blood in My Eye.    New York: Bantam Books.

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Staples, Robert.  1993.  “The Illusion of Racial Equality: The Black American Dilemma.”  In Lure and Loating: Essays on Race, identity, and the Ambivalence of Assimilation.  Ed. Gerard Early.  New York: Penguin Books. 

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Interrogating Transnationalism by E. San Juan, Jr.

INTERROGATING TRANSNATIONALISM: The Case of the Filipino Diaspora in

the Age of Globalized Capitalism


Philippines Studies Center, Washington DC, USADSC_0405 [Desktop Resolution]

Contemporary cultural studies posit the demise of the nation as an unquestioned assumption, almost a doctrinal point of departure for speculations on the nature of the globalization process.  Are concepts such as the nation-state, national sovereignty, or nationalities, and their referents obsolete and useless?  Whatever the rumors about the demise of the nation-state, or the obsolescence of nationalism in the wake of September 11, 2001, agencies that assume its healthy existence are busy: not only the members of the United Nations, but also the metropolitan powers, with the United States as its military spearhead, have all reaffirmed their civilizing nationalism with a vengeance.

In this epoch of counter-terrorism we have entered, the local and the global find a meeting ground in the transactions among nation-states and diverse nationalities while global hegemony is negotiated among the metropolitan powers. Their instrumentalities–  the World Trade Organization, NATO, the World Bank and IMF, and other consortia–are all exerting pressures and influence everywhere.  Citizenship cards, passports, customs gatekeepers, and border patrols are still mundane regularities. Saskia Sassen has described the advent of the global city as a sign of the “incipient unbundling of the exclusive territoriality of the nation-state.”  At the same time, however, she adds that what we see looming in the horizon is the “transnational geography of centrality…consisting of multiple linkages and strategic concentrations of material infrastructure,” a “grid of sites and linkages” (1998, 214) between North and South still comprised of nation-states.

     With WTO and finance capital in the saddle, the buying and selling of labor-power moves center stage once more. What has not escaped the most pachydermous epigones of free-market apologists who have not been distracted by the Gulf War, the carnage in Bosnia and Kosovo, and now in Afghanistan, are the frequency and volume of labor migration, flows of bodies of color (including mail-order brides, children, and the syndicated traffic in prostitutes and other commodified bodies), in consonance with the flight of labor-intensive industries to far-flung industrial zones in Mexico, Thailand, the Philipines, Haiti, China, and other dependent formations. These regularities defy postmodernist concepts of contingency, ambivalence, and indeterminacy. Such bodies are of course not the performative parodists of Judith Butler in quest of pleasure or the aesthetically fashioned selves idealized by Foucault and the pragmatic patriot, Richard Rorty.

     Culture wars are being conducted by other means through the transport and exchange of bodies of color in the international bazaars. And the scaling of bodies proceeds according to corporeal differences (sex, race, age, physical capacity, etc.). Other diasporas—in addition to the historic ones of the Jews, Africans, Chinese, Irish, Palestinians, and so on—are in the making.  The editors of The South Atlantic Quarterly special issue on “diaspora and immigration” celebrate the political and cultural experiences of these nomadic cohorts who can “teach us how to think about our destiny and how to articulate the unity of science with the diversity of knowledges as we confront the politics of difference” (Mudimbe and Engel 1999, 6).  Unity, diversity, politics of difference—the contours and direction of diasporas are conceived as the arena of conflict among disparate philosophical/ideological standpoints.  Contesting the European discourse on modernity and pleading for the “inescapability and legitimate value of mutation, hybridity, and intermixture” (1993, 223), Paul Gilroy has drawn up the trope of the “Black Atlantic” on the basis of the “temporal and ontological rupture of the middle passage.”  Neither the Jewish nor the African diasporas can of course be held up as inviolable archetypes if we want to pursue an “infinite process of identity construction.”  My interest here is historically focused: to inquire into how the specific geopolitical contingencies of the Filipino diaspora-in-the-making can problematize this infinitude of identity formation in the context of “third world” principles of national liberation, given the persistent neocolonial, not postcolonial, predicament of the Philippines today (San Juan 1996).

Postmodern Cultural Studies from the counter-terrorizing North is now replicating McKinley’s gunboat policy of “Benevolent Assimilation” at the turn of the last century (Pomeroy 1992). Its missionary task is to discover how without their knowing it Filipina domestics are becoming cosmopolitans while working as maids (more exactly, domestic slaves), empowering themselves by devious tactics of evasion, accommodation, and making-do. Obviously this task of naturalizing servitude benefits the privileged few, the modern slave-masters. This is not due to a primordial irony in the nature of constructing their identity which, according to Ernesto Laclau, “presupposes the constitutive split” between the content and the function of identification as such since they—like most modern subjects—are “the empty places of an absent fullness” (1994, 36).  Signifiers of lack, these women from poverty-stricken regions in the Philippines are presumably longing for a plenitude symbolized by a stable, prosperous homeland/family that, according to postcolonial dogma, is forever deferred if not evacuated. Yet these maids (euphemized as “domestics”) possess faculties of resourcefulness, stoic boldness, and ingenuity. Despite this, it is alleged that Western experts are needed for them to acquire self-reflexive agency, to know that their very presence in such lands as Kuwait, Milan, Los Angeles, Taipeh, Singapore, and London and the cultural politics they spontaneously create are “complexly mediated and transformed by memory, fantasy and desire” (Hall 1992, 254). The time of labor has annihilated indeed the spaces of the body, home, community, and nation. The expenditure of a whole nation-people’s labor-power now confounds the narrative of individual progress on which the logic of capital and its metaphysics of rationality are hitherto founded.

Space-time particulars are needed if we want to ascertain the “power-geometry” (Massey 1993) that scales diasporic duration, the temporality of displacement. I might state at the outset an open secret: the annual remittance of billions of dollars by Filipino workers abroad, now more than eight million, suffices to keep the Philippine economy afloat and support the luxury and privileges of less than one percent of the people, the Filipino oligarchy. Since the seventies, Filipino bodies have been the No. 1 Filipino export, and their corpses (about five or six return in coffins daily) are becoming a serious item in the import ledger. In 1998 alone, according to the Commission on Filipinos Overseas, 755,000 Filipinos found work abroad, sending home a total of P7.5 billion; in the last three years, their annual remittance averages $5 billion (Tujan 2001).  Throughout the nineties, the average total of migrant workers is about a million a year; they remit over five percent of the national GNP, not to mention the millions of pesos collected by the Philippine government in myriad taxes and fees. Hence these overseas cohorts are glorified as “modern heroes,” “mga bagong bayani” (the “new heroes”),  the most famous of whom are Flor Contemplacion who was falsely accused and hanged in Singapore, and Sarah Balabagan, flogged in Saudi Arabia for defending herself against her rapist-employer.

This global marketing of Filipino labor is an unprecedented phenomenon, rivalled only by the trade of African slaves in the previous centuries. Over one thousand concerned Filipino American students made this the central topic of the 1997 FIND Conference at SUNY Binghamton where I was the invited keynote speaker. These concerned youth were bothered by the reputation of the Filipina/o as the “domestic help,” or glorified servant of the world. How did Filipinas/os come to find themselves scattered to the four corners of the earth and subjugated to the position of selling their selfhoods? What are we doing about it? In general, what is the meaning and import of this unprecedented traffic, millions of Filipinas/os in motion and in transit around the planet?

Lifting the Embargo

Of the eight million Filipinos, there are more than a million Filipina domestics (also known as OCWs or “Overseas Contract Workers”) in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan today, employed under terrible conditions. News reports of brutal and inhumane treatment, slavery, rape, suicide, and murder suffered by these workers abound. The reason for why thousands of college-educated women continue to travel to Hong Kong and other destinations even as the procession of coffins of their sisters greet them at the ports of embarkation, is not a mystery. I can only sketch here the outline of the political economy of migrant labor as a subtext to the hermeneutics of diasporic representation.

Suffice it here to spell out the context of this transmigrancy: the accelerated impoverishment of millions of Filipino citizens, the oppressive unjust system (the Philippines as a neocolonial dependency of the U.S. and the transnational corporate power-elite) managed by local compradors, landlords, and bureaucrat-capitalists who foster emigration to relieve unemployment and defuse mass unrest, combined with the economic enticements in Hong Kong and other Newly Industrializing Countries, and so on–all these comprise the parameters for this ongoing process of the marketing of bodies. The convergence of complex global factors, including the internal conditions in the Philippines, has been carefully delineated by, among others, Bridget Anderson (2000), Delia Aguilar (2000), Grace Chang (2000), and Rhacel Parrenas (2001). We may cite, in particular, the devalorization of women’s labor in global cities, the shrinking status of sovereignty for peripheral nation-states, and the new saliency of human rights in a feminist analytic of the “New World Order.”  In addition to the rampant pillage of the national treasury by corrupt Filipino compradors, bureaucrat-capitalists and feudalistic landlords, the plunder of the economy by transnational capital has been worsened by the “structural conditionalities” imposed by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Disaggregation of the economy has registered in the disintegration of ordinary Filipino lives (most from rural areas) due to forced migration because of lack of employment, recruiting appeals of governments and business agencies, and the dissolution of the homeland as psychic and physical anchorage in the vortex of the rapid depredation of finance capital.

In general, imperialism and the anarchy of the “free market” engender incongruities, non-synchronies, and shifting subject-positions of the Other inscribed in the liminal space of subjugated territory. Capital accumulation is the matrix of unequal power (Hymer 1975; Harvey 1996) between metropolis and colonies. The historical reality of uneven sociopolitical development in a U.S. colonial and, later, neocolonial society like the Philippines is evident in the systematic Americanization of schooling, mass media, sports, music, and diverse channels of mass communication (advertisements, TV and films, cyberspace). Backwardness now helps hi-tech corporate business. Since the seventies, globalization has concentrated on the exploitation of local tastes and idioms for niche marketing while the impact of the Filipino diaspora in the huge flow of remittances from OCWs has accentuated the discrepancy between metropolitan wealth and neocolonial poverty, with the consumerist habitus made egregiously flagrant in the conspicuous consumption of domestic returning from the Middle East, Europe, Hong Kong, Japan, and other places with balikbayan (returnee) boxes. Unbeknownst to observers of this postmodern “cargo cult,” coffins of these workers (one of them martyred in Singapore, Flor Contemplacion, achieved the status of national saint) arrive in Manila at the rate of five or six a day without too much fanfare.

      Notwithstanding this massive research into the structural and historical background  of these “new heroes” (as President Corazon Aquino call them in acknowledgment of their contribution to the country’s dollar reserves), their plight remains shrouded in bureaucratic fatuities. A recent ethnographic account of the lives of Filipina domestics celebrates their new-found subjectivity within various disciplinary regimes. Deploying Foucault’s notion of “localized power,” the American anthropologist Nicole Constable seeks “to situate Filipina domestic workers within the field of power, not as equal players but as participants”(1999, 11). 

Ambivalence supposedly characterizes the narratives of these women: they resist oppression at the same time as they “participate in their own subordination.”  And how is their agency manifested? How else but in their consuming power?  Consider this spectacle: During their Sundays off, Filipina maids gather in certain places like the food restaurants of the Central District in Hong Kong and demand prompt service or complain to the managers if they are not attended to properly. They also have the option of exercising agency at McDonald’s if they ask extra condiments or napkins. Apart from these anecdotal examples, the fact that these maids were able to negotiate their way through a bewildering array of institutions in order to secure their jobs is testimony to what Constable calls “the subtler and more complex forms of power, discipline and resistance in their everyday lives” (1999, 202). According to one reviewer, this scholarly attempt to ferret out signs of tension or conflict in the routine lives of  domestics obfuscates the larger context that defines the subordination of these women and the instrumentalities that reproduce their subjugation. In short, functionalism has given way to neopositivism. To put it another way, Constable shares Foucault’s dilemma of ascribing resistance to subjects while devaluing history as “meaningless kaleidoscopic changes of shape in discourse totalities” (Habermas 1987, 277).

Nor is Constable alone in this quite trendy vocation. Donna Haraway (1992), among others, has earlier urged the practitioners of Cultural Studies to abandon the politics of representation which allegedly objectifies and disempowers whatever it represents. She wants us to choose instead local struggles for strategic articulations that are always impermanent, vulnerable, and contingent. This precept forbids the critique of ideology–how can one distinguish truth from falsehood since there are only “truth effects” contrived by power? This populist and often demagogic stance promotes “a radical skepticism” (Brantlinger 1990, 102) that cannot discriminate truth-claims, nor establish a basis for sustained and organized political action.

        The most flagrant erasure in Constable’s postmodernist inventory of episodes seems more serious. This is her discounting of the unequal relation between the Philippines and a peripheral capitalist city like Hong Kong, a relation enabled by the continuing neocolonial domination of Filipinos by Western corporate interests led by the United States (Sison and De Lima 1998). But this microphysics of learning how to survive performed by Filipino maids cannot exonerate the ethnographist from complicity with this strategy of displacing causality (a technique of inversion also found in mainstream historians of the Philippines such as Glenn May, David Steinberg, Stanley Karnow) and apologizing for the victims by oblique patronage. Anne Lacsamana pronounces a felicitous verdict on this specimen of Cultural Studies: “To dismiss the broader history of Filipino OCWs in favor of more trivial pursuits (such as watching them eat at a fast food restaurant) reenacts a Western superiority that has already created (and is responsible for) many of the social, economic, and political woes that continue to plague the country” (1998, 42).

Deracination Trauma

Now the largest constituency in the Asian American group in the United States, Filipinos have become the newest diasporic community in the whole world.  United Nations statistics indicate that Filipinos make up the newest migrant assemblage in the world: eight million Filipino migrant workers (out of eighty million citizens), mostly female domestic help and semi-skilled labor. They endure poorly paid employment under sub-standard conditions, with few or null rights, in the Middle East, Asia, Europe, North America, and elsewhere. It might be noted here that, historically, diasporic groups are defined not only by a homeland but also by a desire for eventual return and a collective identity centered on myths and memories of the homeland. The Filipino diaspora, however, is different. Since the homeland has long been colonized by Western powers (Spain, United States) and remains neocolonized despite formal or nominal independence, the Filipino identification is not with a fully defined nation but with regions, localities, and communities of languages and traditions.  Perceived as Others, they are lumped with familiar aliens: Chinese, Mexicans, Japanese, Indonesians, and so on. Newspaper reports have cited the Philippines as the next target of the U.S. government’s global “crusade” against terrorism. Where is the nation alluded to in passports and other identification papers? How do we conceive of this “Filipino” nation or nationality, given the preemptive impact of U.S. domination and now, on top of the persistent neocolonizing pressure, the usurping force of abstractive, quantifying capital?

According to orthodox immigration theory, “push” and “pull” factors combine to explain the phenomenon of Overseas Contract Workers. Do we resign ourselves to this easy schematic formulation? Poverty and injustice, to be sure, have driven most Filipinos to seek work abroad, sublimating the desire to return by regular remittances to their families; occasional visits and other means of communication defer the eventual homecoming. Alienation and isolation, brutal and racist treatment, and other dehumanized conditions prevent their permanent settlement in the “receiving” countries, except where they have been given legal access to obtaining citizenship status. If the return is postponed, are modes of adaptation and temporary domicile in non-native grounds the feasible alternatives for these expatriates (as they are fondly called by their compatriots in Manila)?

The reality of “foreignness” cannot be eluded. Alienation, insulting treatment, and racist violence prevent their permanent re-settlement in the “receiving societies,” except where Filipino communities (as in the U.S. and Canada, for example) have been given legal access to citizenship rights. Individuals, however, have to go through abrasive screening and tests—more stringent now in this repressive neofascist ethos. During political crisis in the Philippines, Filipino overseas workers mobilize themselves for support of local and nationwide resistance against imperial domination and local tyranny. Because the putative “Filipino” nation is in the process of formation in the neocolony and abroad, overseas Filipino workers have been considered transnationals or transmigrants–a paradoxical turn since the existence of the nation is problematic, and the “trans” label a chimera. This diaspora then faces the ineluctable hurdles of racism, ethnic exclusion,  inferiorization via racial profiling, and physical attacks. Can Filipino migrant labor mount a collective resistance against globalized exploitation? Can the Filipino diaspora expose also the limits of genetic and/or procedural notions of citizenship? In what way can the Filipino diaspora serve as a paradigm for analyzing and critically unsettling the corporate globalization of labor and the reification of identities in the new millennium?

       As a point of departure for future inquiry, we might situate the Filipino diaspora within its Asian American configuration—since the author is based here in this racial polity (San Juan 2002). His intervention proceeds from a concrete historic staging ground. First, a definition of “diaspora.” According to Milton Esman, the term refers to “a minority ethnic group of migrant origin which maintains sentimental or material links with its land of origin” (1996, 316). Either because of social exclusion, internal cohesion, and other geopolitical factors, these communities are never assimilated into the host society; but they develop in time a diasporic consciousness which carries out a collective sharing of space with others, purged of any exclusivist ethos or proprietary design. These communities will embody a peculiar sensibility enacting a caring and compassionate agenda for the whole species that thrives on cultural difference. Unlike peoples who have been conquered, annexed, enslaved or coerced in some other way, diasporas are voluntary movements of people from place to place, although such migrations may also betray symptoms of compulsion if analyzed within a global political economy of labor and inter-state political rivalries. Immanuel Wallerstein (1995) feels that these labor migrants can challenge transnational corporations by overloading the system with “free movement,” at the same time that they try to retain for themselves more of the surplus value they produce. But are such movements really free? And if they are cheap labor totally contingent on the unpredictable fortunes of business, isn’t the expectation of their rebelliousness exorbitant? Like ethnicity, diaspora which is fashioned by determinate historical causes has tended to take on “the ‘natural’ appearance of an autonomous force, a ‘principle’ capable of determining the course of social action” (Comaroff 1992). Like racism and nationalism, diaspora presents multiform physiognomies open to various interpretations and articulations. Historical precedents may provide clues of what’s to come.

Let us consider one late-modern interpretation of diaspora. For David Palumbo-Liu, the concept of “diaspora” performs a strategic function. It probably endows the slash in the rubric “Asian/American” with an uncanny performative resonance. Palumbo-Liu contends that diaspora affords a space for the reinvention of identity free from naturalized categories but (if I may underscore here) not from borders, state apparatuses, and other worldly imperatives. Although remarking that the concept of diaspora as an “enabling fiction” affords us “the ideological purchase different articulations of the term allow,” Palumbo-Liu doesn’t completely succumb to the rebarbative postcolonialist babble about contingency ruling over all. I want to quote a passage from his insightful book, Asian / American, that might afford parameters for the random reflections here apropos of the theme and discourse of Filipino diaspora:

…”diaspora” does not consist in the fact of leaving Home, but in having that factuality available to representation as such—we come to “know” diaspora only as it is psychically identified in a narrative form that discloses the various ideological investments…. It is that narrative form that locates the representation of diaspora in its particular chronotope. This spatiotemporal construct approximates a psychic experience particularly linked to material history.  It is only after the diasporic comes into contact with the material history of its new location that a particular discourse is enabled that seeks to mark a distance, a relation, both within and outside that constellation of contingency (1999, 355).

  Like the words “hybridity,” border crossing, ambivalence, subaltern, transculturation, and so on, the term “diaspora” has now become chic in polite conversations and genteel colloquia. A recent conference at the University of Minnesota on “Race, Ethnicity, and Migration” lists as first of the topics one can engage with, “Diaspora and diasporic identities,” followed by “Genocide, ethnic cleansing, and forced migration.” One indeed dreads to encounter in this context such buzzwords as “post-nation,” “alterity,” or ludic “differance” now overshadowed by “globalization” and everything prefixed with “trans-“ and assorted postalities.  In fact I myself used the word “diaspora” as part of the title of my book, From Exile to Diaspora: Versions of the Filipino Experience in the United States (1998b). Diaspora becomes oxymoronic: a particularizing universal, a local narrative which subsumes all experiences within its fold.  Diaspora enacts a mimicry of itself, dispersing its members around in a kaleidoscope of simulations and simulacras borne by the flow of goods, money, labor, and so on, in the international commodity chain.

Let me interject a personal note: I have lived in the U.S. for over 40 years now (the greater part of my life), with frequent visits to the Philippines without too many balikbayan cargo, unfortunately. And in my various voyages in/out, I have encountered Filipinos in many parts of the world in the course of my research. In the early eighties I was surprised to meet compatriots at the footsteps of the Post Office in Tripoli, Libya, and later on in the streets and squares of London, Edinburgh, Spain, Italy, Greece, Tokyo, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and other places.  Have I then stumbled onto some unheard-of enigmatic scandal as a “Filipino diaspora”? Or have I surreptitiously constructed this, dare I say, “reality” and ongoing experience of about eight million Filipinos around the planet? Not to speak of millions of displaced indigenous peoples in the Philippines itself, an archipelago of 700 islands, “one of the world’s most strategically important land masses,” according to geographer George Demko (1992).

For those not familiar with my other writings critical of poststructuralist approaches (San Juan 1996; 1998a), I want to state outright that I consider such views about the Filipino diaspora half-truths closer to rumor, if not sheer mystifications. Spurious distinctions about cognition and perception concerning ethnic identity will remain vacuous if they do not take into account the reality of imperial world-systemic changes and their concrete multilayered ramifications. Lacking any dialectical materialist analysis of the dynamics of colonialism and imperialism that connect the Philippines and its peoples with the United States and the rest of the world, conventional studies on Filipino immigration and resettlement are all scholastic games, at best disingenuous exercises in chauvinist or white-supremacist apologetics. This is because they rely on concepts and methodologies that conceal unequal power relations—that is, relations of subordination and domination, racial exclusion, marginalization, sexism, gender inferiorization, as well as national subalternity, and other forms of discrimination. I want to stress in particular unequal power relations among nation-states. Lest people be misled by academic gossip, I am not proposing here an economistic and deterministic approach, nor a historicist one with a monolithic Enlightenment metanarrative, teleology, and essentialist or ethnocentric agenda. Far from it. What is intriguing are the dynamics of symbolic violence (Bourdieu 1997) and the naturalization of social constructs and beliefs which are dramatized in the plot and  figures of diasporic happenings.

Excavations in the Boondocks

The testimony of diasporic narrative may be a useful pedagogical device to ground my observations here on the experiences of Filipina migrant workers as synthesized in literary form. Prior to the disruption of the postcolonial impasse and in order to situate postcolonial difference in the Philippine context, I would like at this juncture to concretize the crisis of bourgeois metaphysics and its political implications in contemporary Filipino expression.

     In my previous works (The Philippine Temptation, History and Form, and other books), I have described the domination of U.S. symbolic capital on literary and critical discourse since the annullment of the Spanish language and the indigenous vernaculars as viable media of expression in the public sphere at the start of U.S. colonization in 1898. The ascendancy of the hegemonic discourse of liberal utilitarianism expressed in English prevailed throughout the period of formal independence and the Cold War until the martial law period (1972-1986) when an authoritarian order reinforced semi-feudal and tributary norms. Meanwhile, Pilipino (now “Filipino”) has become a genuine lingua franca with the popularity of local films and television serials, aided by the prohibitive costs of imported Western cultural fare. As already noted earlier, these cultural developments parallel the intense neocolonization, or even refeudalization, of the whole political-economic system.

     Symptomatic of a disaggregated and uneven socioeconomic formation are the literary and journalistic narratives spun around the trauma of dislocation undergone by over eight million OCWs, mostly women. I analyze one specimen of this genre below. It should be recalled that this unprecedented hemorrhage of labor-power, the massive export of educated women whose skills have been downgraded to quasi-slavish domestic help, issues from a diseased body politic. The marks of the disease are the impoverishment of 75% of the population, widespread corruption by the minuscule oligarchy, criminality, military/police atrocities, and the intensifying insurgency of peasants, women, youth, workers, and indigenous communities. The network of the patriarchal family and semifeudal civil society unravels when women from all sectors (except the rich minority) alienate their “free labor” in the world market.  While the prime commodity remains labor-power (singularly measured here in both time and space especially for lived-in help), OCWs find themselves frozen in a tributary status between serfhood and colonizing pettybourgeois households. Except for the carceral condition of “hospitality” women in Japan and elsewhere overseen by gangsters, most Filipinas function as indentured servants akin to those in colonial settler societies in 17th century Virginia, Australia, Jamaica, and elsewhere.  But unlike those societies, the Middle East, Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore and other receiving countries operate as part of the transnationalized political economy of global capitalism. These indentured cohorts are witness to the dismemberment of the emergent Filipino nation and the scattering of its traumatized elements to state-governed territories around the planet.

     At this point I want to illustrate the phenomenon of neocolonial disintegration and ideological reconstitution of the “third world” subject as a symptom of uneven capitalist hegemony in a fictional account by a Filipina author who writes in Pilipino, the national language. Fanny Garcia (1994) wrote the story entitled “Arriverderci” in 1982 at the height of the Marcos-induced export of Filipina bodies to relieve widespread immiseration in all sectors of society and curb mounting resistance in city and countryside.

Garcia’s ascetic representation of this highly gendered diaspora yields a diagnostic illustration of postcolonial schizophrenia. In the opening scene, Garcia describes Filipina domestics in Rome, Italy, enjoying a weekend break in an excursion outside the city. One of these domestics, Nelly, meets a non-descript compatriot, Vicky (Vicenta), who slowly confides to Nelly her incredible experience of physical hardship, loneliness, and frustrated ambition, including her desperate background in her hometown, San Isidro. Vicky also reveals her fear that her employer might rape her, motivating her to inquire about the possibility of moving in with Nelly whose own crowded apartment cannot accommodate Vicky. Spatial confinement resembles incarceration for those who refuse the oppression of live-in contracts, the latter dramatized in Vicky’s earlier experience.

      Dialogue begets intimacy and the shock of discovery. After trust has been established between them, Nelly learns that Vicky has concealed the truth of her dire situation from her relatives back home. Like others, Vicky has invented a fantasy life to make her folks happy. After a short lapse of time, Nelly and her companions read a newspaper account of Vicky’s suicide—according to her employer, she leaped from the fifth floor of the apartment due to a broken heart caused by her sweetheart, a Filipino seaman, who was marrying another woman. Nelly of course knows the real reason: Vicky was forced to kill herself to save her honor, to refuse bodily invasion by the Italian master. Nelly and her friends manage to gather funds to send Vicky’s body back home to the Philippines. When asked how she would explain Vicky’s death to the next-of-kin, everyone agrees that they could not tell the truth.  Nelly resolves their predicament with a fictive ruse:

   “Ganito na lang,” sabi ni Nelly, “nabangga ang kotseng sinasakyan n’ya.”

    Sumang-ayon ang lahat.

    Pumunta sa kusina si Nelly.  Hawak ang bolpen at nakatitig sa blangkong putting papel na nakapatong sa mesa, naisip ni Nelly, dapat din niyang tandaan: sa San Isidro, si Vicenta at Vicky ay si Bising (1994, 334-335).

[“Let’s do it this way,” Nelly said,” she died when the car she was in crashed.”

Everyone agreed.

  Nelly entered the kitchen. Holding a ballpoint pen and staring at the blank piece of paper on the table, Nelly thought that she should also remember: in San Isidro, Vicenta and Vicky were also Bising.]

In the triple personas of Vicky nurtured in the mind of Nelly, we witness the literal and figurative diaspora of the Filipino nation in which the manifold layers of experience occuring at different localities and temporalities are reconciled. They are sutured together  not in the corpse but in the act of gendered solidarity and national empathy. Without the practices of communication and cooperation among  Filipina workers, the life of the individual OCW is suspended in thrall,  a helpless fragment in the nexus of commodity circulation. Terror in capitalist society re-inscribes boundaries and renews memory.

    What I want to highlight, however, is the historicizing power of this narrative. Marx once said that capitalism conquers space with time (Harvey 2000). The urgent question is: can its victims fight back via a counterhegemonic strategy of spatial politics? Here the time of the nationalizing imagination overcomes displacement by global capital. Fantasy becomes complicit with truth when Nelly and her friends agree to shelter Vicky’s family from the terror of patriarchal violence located in European terrain. We see that the routine life of the Filipino community is defined by bureaucratized space that seems to replicate the schedule back home; but the chronological itinerary is deceptive because while this passage lures us into a calm compromise with what exists, the plot of attempted rape and Vicky’s suicide transpires behind the semblance of the normal and the ordinary:

…Ang buhay nila sa Italia ay isang relo–hindi nagbabago ng anyo, ng direksiyon, ng mga numero.

    Kung Linggo ng umaga, nagtitipon-tipon sa loob ng Vaticano, doon sa pagitan ng malalaking haliging bato ng colonnade….

    Ang Papa’y lilitaw mula sa isang mataas na bintana ng isang gusali, at sa harap ng mikropono’y magsasalita’t magdadasal, at matapos ang kanyang basbas, sila’y magkakanya-kanyang grupo sa paglisan. Karaniwa’y sa mga parke ang tuloy. Sa damuhan, sa ilalim ng mga puno, ilalabas ang mga baon.  May paikot-ikot sa mga grupo, nagtitinda ng pansit na lemon ang pampaasim, litsong kawali na may ketsup, at iba pa.  Umpisa na ng piknik.  Magkakasama ang mga Ilokano, ang mga Batanggenyo, at iba pang hatiang batay sa wika o lugar.  O kaya’y ang mga propesyonal at di-propesyonal.  Matapos ang kainan, palilipasin ang oras sa pamamagitan ng kuwentuhan o kaya’y pagpapaunlak sa isang nagpapasugal.  Malakas ang tayaan.  Mga bandang alas-tres o alas-kuwatro ng hapon, kanya-kanyang alis na ang mga pangkat.  Pupunta sa mga simbahang pinagmimisahan ng mga paring Pinoy na iskolar ng kani-kanilang order.  Sa Ingles at Pilipino ang misa, mga awit at sermon.  Punong-puno ang simbahan, pulos Pilipino, maliban sa isa o dalawa o tatlong puti na maaring kaibigan, nobio, asawa o kabit ng ilang kababayan.

     Matapos ang misa, muling maghihiwalay ang mga pangkat-pangkat. May pupunta muli sa mga parke, may magdidisco, may magsisine.  Halos hatinggabi na kung maghiwa-hiwalay patungo sa kanya-kanyang tinutuluyan…. (329-330).

        [Their lives in Italy resembled a clock—never changing in shape, direction or numbers.

On Sunday mornings they would gather inside the Vatican, there between the huge rocky pillars of the colonnade…

The Pope would appear at a window of the tall building, and would pray and speak in front of a microphone, and after his benediction, they would all join their groups upon leaving. Usually they head for the parks. On the grass, under the trees, they will spread their packs. Some will circle around selling noodles with lemon slices, roast pork with catsup, and other viands.  The picnic begins. Ilocanos congregate among themselves, so do those from Batangas, and others gather together according to language or region.  Or they socialize according to profession or lack of it.  After eating, they will pass the time telling stories or gambling. Betting proceeds vigorously. Toward three or four in the afternoon, the cohorts begin their departure. They head toward the churches where Filipino priests, scholars of their orders, hold mass in English or in Filipino, together with songs and sermon.  The churches overflow, all Filipinos, except for one, two or three whites, who may be friends, sweethearts, wives, or partners.  After the mass, the groups will again separate. Some will return to the parks, others will go to discos or moviehouses, until around midnight they will go their separate individual ways to wherever they are staying.]

Resignation is premature. This surface regularity conceals fissures and discontinuities that will only disclose themselves when the death of Vicky shatters the peace and complicates the pathos of indentured domesticity.

Ludic Mis-Representations

     The most telling symptom of uneven development caused by the new international division of labor is the schizoid nature of the Filipina response to serflike confinement. This response has been celebrated by postcolonial critics as the exemplary act of “sly civility,” a tactic of outwitting the enemy by mimicry and ambivalent acts. We read a tabulation of this tactic in Garcia’s description of Nelly’s plans to tour Europe by touching base with friends and acquaintances throughout the continent, an escape from the pressure of responsibility or accountability to anyone.  Here is the cartography of Nelly’s “imagined community” which generates a new position: the deterritorialized citizen of global capital. The space of recreation may relieve the pressure of alienated time, but it cannot ultimately resolve the dilemma of spatiotemporal dislocation and dispersal. Asked by her friends what’s going on between her and Vicky, Nelly simply smiles and shrugs her shoulders:

Mas mahalaga sa kanya ang mga tanong ng sarili. Pulos Roma na lamang ba?  Aling sulok at kanto pa ng Roma ang hindi niya natatapakan?  Pulos pagkakatulong na lamang ba?  Hindi siya nagpunta sa Europa upang paganapin lamang ang sarili sa mga istorya ng pagliliwali kung Linggo, na kabisadong-kabisado na niya ang simula’t dulo.  Hindi siya nangibang bansa upang makinig lamang sa mga usapang nakaangkla sa mga “nanay,” ‘tatay,” “anak,” mga gawaing-bahay, hinaing at problema.  Hindi upang sundan ang buhay at kasaysayan ng isang Vicenta.

     Ipinasya niyang umpisahan na ang paglilibot sa Europa.  May sapat na siyang naiipon para sa ibang bansa.  Bibili siya ng Eurail pass, mas mura sa tren.  Unahin kaya muna niya ang France, West Germany at Netherlands?  May mga kaibigan siya doon.  Nasa Paris si Orly, may kuwartong inuupahan.  Nagpunta ito sa Paris bilang iskolar, artist-observer sa loob ng tatlong buwan, ngunit tulad niya, hindi na ito bumalik sa Pilipinas. Ngayo’y nabubuhay ito sa pamamagitan ng pagpipinta at pagiging potograpo.  Sa Frankfurt, makikituloy siya kay Nora at sa Alemang napangasawa nito, dating penpal.  Nasa Amsterdam si Angie, kahera sa department store, at ka-live-in ang isang Dutch. Sapat na marahil ang isang buwang paglalakbay.  Saka naman iplano ang mga ibang bansa.  Sinulatan niya ang tatlong kaibigan. (333)

[ More valuable for her are the questions addressed to herself.  Am I to be confined to Rome alone? What corner and crossroad of Rome has she not covered already? Am I to be tied to domestic work?  She didn’t travel to Europe in order to let herself play a role in the stories of killing time on Sundays, whose beginning and end she knew thoroughly. She didn’t go abroad only to listen to talk anchored to “mother,” “father,” “child,” domestic chores, grumblings and problems.  Nor to pursue the life and history of a certain Vicenta.

   She decided to start her travels around Europe. She already has enough savings for the trip to other countries. She’ll buy a Eurail pass, it’s cheaper by train. Should she begin with France, West Germany, and the Netherlands? She has friends there. Orly is in Paris, with a rented room. He went to Paris as a scholar, artist-observer, for three months, but like her he never returned to the Philippines.  Now he’s supporting himself by painting and photography. In Frankfurt she’ll stay with Nora and her German husband, her former penpal.  Angie is in Amsterdam, a cashier at a department store, with a live-in Dutch partner.  Perhaps a month’s journey will be enough. She’ll plan visiting other lands later. She wrote her three friends.]

In the above passage, we discern the contradictions immanent in Filipina agency as she negotiates her position in the locus between wage-labor under serflike conditions and the mobility promised by the “free market” of late capitalist Europe. This situation may provide us the source of scaling the postcolonial dilemma suffered by Filipinas, conceving scale as (in Neil Smith’s definition) “the geographical resolution of contradictory processes of competition and co-operation” (1993, 99). But the chance for an escape to resolve the contradictions is foiled for the moment when Nelly and her friends learn of Vicky’s death.

Contrary to postcolonial alibis concerning decentered subject-positions, Garcia’s narrative posits an interrogation of presumed agency: Is the charm of adventure enough to heal the trauma of dislocation and obviate the terror of rape?  Are the opportunities of consuming images and experiences offered by the wages of indentured labor enough to compensate for the nullity of citizenship and the loss of intimacy and the support of family and community? Is this postcolonial interstitiality the new name of servitude under the aegis of consumerist transnationalism where physical motion transcending fixed locality becomes a surrogate for the achievement of dignity and freedom? 

    What is clear is the dialectical unity of opposites embedded in the geopolitical predicament of OCWs captured in Garcia’s narrative. The homeland (or its internalized cartography) is cannibalized and grafted onto sites of potential reconstitution. The Filipino diaspora here is defined by the Filipinas’ social interaction and its specific differentiated geography, an interaction characterized by family/kinship linkages as well as solidarity based on recursive acts of mutual aid and struggle for survival. The political struggle over the production of scale in global capitalism is translated here in Nelly’s mapping of her coordinates as she plans her tour of Europe, a translation of abstract space into places indexed by Filipino friends and acquaintances. This is not postcolonial ambivalence or hybridity because it is centered on the organic bonds of experience with oppressed compatriots and their continuous resuscitation. Nelly’s affiliation with Vicky is tied to a web of shared stories of intimacy, dehumanization and vulnerability. The Eurocentric fabrication of Otherness is qualified if not neutralized by Nelly’s collectively assigned task of communication with Vicky’s family, a task that prefigures and recuperates even if only in symbolic terms the interrupted struggle for national autonomy and sovereignty on the face of disintegration by transnational corporate aggression.

     Postcolonial disjunctures are reproduced by acts of revolt and sustained resistance. Such acts constitute a bad example for metropolitan citizen subjects of industrialized democracies. Racism still prevents them from uniting with their victims. While it would be exorbitant to claim that global capitalism has been dealt a blow by Filipina agencies of coping and life-maintenance, I would suggest here that this mode of representation, which I would categorize as a type of allegorical realism grounded in the confluence of vernacular poetics and selective borrowings from the Western avant-garde (Brecht, Mayakovsky, Neruda), enables us to grasp the totalizing virtue of Filipino nationalism as it interpellates diasporic subjects. Perhaps this virtue manifests itself only as a potential reservoir of energies that can be mobilized in crisis situations; still, the cultural and ideological resistance of neocolonized Filipinos overseas testify to its immanent presence in what Lenin called “the weak links” of the imperialist chain around the planet, not only in the peripheral dependencies but also in the margins now transposed to the centers of empire.

Extrapolations and Reconfigurations

In summary, I venture the following theses for further discussion. My first thesis on the phenomenon of the Filipino dismemberment is this: Given that the Philippine habitat has never cohered as a genuinely independent nation—national autonomy continues to escape the nation-people in a neocolonial set-up—Filipinos are dispersed from family or kinship webs in villages, towns or provincial regions first, and loosely from an inchoate, even “refeudalized,” nation-state. This dispersal is primarily due to economic coercion and disenfranchisement under the retrogressive regime of comprador-bureaucratic (not welfare-state) capitalism; migration is seen as freedom to seek one’s fortune, experience the pleasure of adventure, libidinal games of resistance, and other illusions of transcendence. So the origin to which one returns is not properly a nation-state but a village, a quasi-primordial community, kinship network, or even a ritual family/clan. In this context, the state is viewed in fact as a corrupt exploiter, not representative of the masses, a comprador agent of transnational corporations and Western (specifically U.S.) powers.

Second thesis: What are the myths enabling a cathexis of the homeland? They derive from assorted childhood memories and folklore together with customary practices surrounding municipal and religious celebrations; at best, there may be signs of a residual affective tie to national heroes like Rizal, Bonifacio, and latter-day celebrities like singers, movie stars, athletes, and so on. Indigenous food, dances, and music can be acquired as commodities whose presence temporarily heals the trauma of removal; family reunification can resolve the psychic damage of loss of status or alienation.  In short, rootedness in autochtonous habitat does not exert a commanding sway, experienced only as a nostalgic mood. Meanwhile, language, religion, kinship, the aura of family rituals, and common experiences in school or work-place function invariably as the organic bonds of community. Such bonds demarcate the boundaries of the imagination but also release energies and affects that mutate into actions—as performed by Garcia’s characters—serving ultimately national-popular emancipatory projects.

Third thesis: Alienation in the host country is what unites Filipinos, a shared history of colonial and racial subordination, marginalization, and struggles for cultural survival through hybrid forms of resistance and political rebellion.  This is what may replace the non-existent nation/homeland, absent the liberation of the Filipino nation-state. In the thirties, Carlos Bulosan once observed that “it is a crime to be a Filipino in America.” Years of union struggle and political organizing in inter-ethnic coalitions have blurred if not erased that stigma.  Accomplishments in the civil rights struggles of the sixties have provided nourishment for ethnic pride. And, on the other side, impulses of assimilationism via the “model minority” umbrella have aroused a passion for multiculturalism divorced from any urge to disinvest in the “possessive investment in whiteness” (Lipsitz 1998). But compared to the Japanese or Indian Americans, Filipino Americans as a whole have not made it; the exceptions prove the rule. Andrew Cunanan (the serial killer who slew the famous Versaci) is the specter that continues to haunt “melting pot” Filipino Americanists who continue to blabber about the “forgotten Filipino” in the hope of being awarded a share of the obsolescent welfare-state pie. Dispossession of sovereignty leads to shipwreck, natives drifting rudderless, or marooned in islands all over the planet. Via strategies of community preservation and other schemes of defining the locality of the community in historical contexts of displacement, the Filipino diaspora defers its return—unless and until there is a Filipino nation that they can identify with. This will continue in places where there is no hope of permanent resettlement as citizens or bonafide residents (as in Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and elsewhere). This is the disavowed terror of globalization.

Fourth thesis: Some Filipinos in their old age may desire eventual return only when they are economically secure. In general, Filipinos will not return to the site of misery and oppression—to poverty, exploitation, humiliated status, despair, hunger, and lack of dignity. Of course, some are forcibly returned: damaged, deported or dead. But OCWs would rather move their kins and parents to their place of employment, preferably in countries where family reunification is allowed, as in the United States, Italy, Canada, and so on. Or even in places of suffering and humiliation, provided there is some hope or illusion of future improvement. Utopian longings can mislead but also reconfigure and redirect wayward adventures.

Fifth thesis: Ongoing support for nationalist struggles at home is sporadic and intermittent during times of retrenchment and revitalized apartheid. Do we see any mass protests and collective indignation here in the United States at the Visiting Forces Agreement, for example, and the recent invasion (circa 1998-2000) of the country by several thousand U.S. Marines in joint U.S.-Philippines military exercises? Especially after September 11 and the Arroyo sycophancy to the Bush regime, the Philippines—considered by the U.S. government as the harbor of homegrown “terrorists” like the Abbu Sayyaf–will soon be transformed into the next “killing field” after Afghanistan. During the Marcos dictatorship, the politicized generation of Filipino American youth here was able to mobilize a large segment of the community to support the national-democratic mass struggles, including the armed combatants of the New People’s Army (led by the Communist Party of the Philippines), against U.S.-supported authoritarian rule. Filipino nationalism blossomed in the late sixties and seventies, but suffered attenuation when it got rechanelled to support the populist elitism of Aquino and Ramos, the lumpen populism of Estrada, and now the mendacious Arroyo regime. This precarious balance of class forces at this conjuncture is subject to the shifts in political mobilization and calculation, hence the intervention of Filipino agencies with emancipatory goals and socialist principles is crucial and strategically necessary.

Sixth thesis:  In this time of emergency, the Filipino collective identity is in crisis and in a stage of formation and elaboration. The Filipino diasporic consciousness is an odd species, a singular genre: it is not obsessed with a physical return to roots or to land where common sacrifices (to echo Ernest Renan) are remembered and celebrated. It is tied more to a symbolic homeland indexed by kinship or particularistic traditions and communal practices which it tries to transplant abroad in diverse localities. So, in the moment of Babylonian captivity, dwelling in “Egypt” or its modern surrogates, building public spheres of solidarity to sustain identities outside the national time/space “in order to live inside, with a difference” may be the most viable route (or root) of  Filipinos in motion—the collectivity in transit, although this is, given the ineluctability of  differences becoming contradictions, subject to the revolutionary transformations emerging in the Philippine countryside and cities. It is susceptible also to other radical changes in the geopolitical rivalry of metropolitan powers based on nation-states.  There is indeed deferral, postponement, or waiting—but history moves on in the battlefields of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao where a people’s war rooted in a durable revolutionary tradition rages on. This drama of a national-democratic revolution will not allow the Filipino diaspora and its progeny to slumber in the consumerist paradises of Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, or Seattle.  It will certainly disturb the peace of those benefiting from the labor and sacrifices of OCWs who experience the repetition-compulsion of globalized trade and endure the recursive traumas of displacement and dispossession.

Caught in the cross-currents of global upheavals, I can only conclude with a very provisional and indeed temporizing epilogue—if I may beg leave from those Filipina bodies in coffins heading home: Filipinos in the United States (and elsewhere, given the still hegemonic Western dispensation amid allegations of its disappearance) are neither “oriental” nor “hispanic,” despite their looks and names. They might be syncretic or hybrid subjects with suspect loyalties.  They cannot be called fashionable “transnationals” or flexible transmigrants because of racialized, ascribed markers (physical appearance, accent, peculiar non-white folkways, and other group idiosyncracies) that are needed to sustain and reproduce white supremacy in this racial polity. Bridget Anderson (2000) has cogently demonstrated how the international labor market consistently racializes the selling of Filipina selfhood; thus, not only gender and class but, more decisively, “racial identities” conditioned by immigrant status, inferiorized nationality, and so on, are reproduced through the combined exploitation and oppression taking place in the employer’s household. Slavery has become re-domesticated in the age of  reconfigured mercantilism—the vampires of the past continue to haunt the cyberprecinct of finance capital and its futurist hallucinations.

The trajectory of the Filipino diaspora remains unpredictable. Ultimately, the rebirth of Filipino agency in the era of global capitalism depends not only on the vicissitudes of social transformation in the U.S. but, in a dialectical sense, on the fate of the struggle for autonomy and popular-democratic sovereignty in the Philippines where balikbayans (returnees) still practice, though with increasing trepidation interrupted by fits of amnesia, the speech-acts and durable performances of pakikibaka (common struggle), pakikiramay (collective sharing), at pakikipagkapwa-tao (reciprocal esteem).  Left untranslated, those phrases from the “Filipino” vernacular address a gradually vanishing audience. Indeed, this essay itself may just be a wayward apostrophe to a vanished dreamworld—a liberated homeland, a phantasmagoric refuge—evoking the  utopias and archaic golden ages of myths and legends. But wherever it is, this locus of memories, hopes and dreams will surely be inhabited by a new collectivity as befits a new objective reality to which Susan Buck-Morss, in her elegiac paean to the catastrophe that overtook mass utopia, alludes to: “the geographical mixing of people and things, global webs that disseminate meanings, electronic prostheses of the human body, new arrangements of the human sensorium.  Such imaginings, freed from the constraints of bounded spaces and from the dictates of unilinear time, might dream of becoming, in Lenin’s words, “as radical as reality itself” (2000, 278). That was already approximated by Marx in his view that “the coincidence of the changing of circumstances and of human activity or self-changing can be conceived and rationally understood only as revolutionary practice” (Fischer 1996, 170).  Or, to translate in the proverbial idiom warranted by the experience of all diasporic bodies and ventriloquized by the Angel of history (invoked by Walter Benjamin  [1969]) surveying the ruins before and after: De te fabula.


Aguilar, Delia D.  2000.  Globalization, Labor and Women.  No. 9 of Working Papers Series on Historical Systems, Peoples and Cultures. Bowling Green, OH: Dept of Ethnic Studies, Bowling Green State University.

Anderson, Bridget.  2000.  Doing the Dirty Work?  The Global Politics of Domestic Labor.  London: Zed Press.

Benjamin, Walter.  1969.  Illuminations.  New York: Schocken.

Bourdieu, Pierre.  2000.  Pascalian Meditations.  Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Brantlinger, Patrick.  1990.  Crusoe’s Footprints. New York: Routledge.

Buck-Morrs, Susan. 2000.  Dreamworld and Catastrophe. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.

Chang, Grace.  2000.  Disposable Domestics.  Boston: South End Press.

Clifford, James.  1997.  “Diaspora.”  In The Ethnicity Reader.  Ed. Montserrat Guibernau and  John Rex.  Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

Comaroff, John and Jean.  1992.  Ethnography and the Historical Imagination. Boulder: Westview Press.

Constable, Nicole. 1999.  “At Home but Not at Home: Filipina Narratives of Ambivalent Returns.” Cultural Anthropology 14:  203-228.

Demko, George.  1992.  Why in the World: Adventures in Geography. New York: Anchor Books.

Esman, Milton.  1996.  “Diasporas and International Relations.”  In Ethnicity.  Ed. John Hutchins and Anthony Smith.  New York:  Oxford University Press.

Fischer, Ernst.  1996.  How to Read Karl Marx. New York: Monthly Review Press.

Garcia, Fanny.  1994.  “Arrivederci.”  In Ang Silid na Mahiwaga.  Ed. Soledad Reyes.  Pasig, Rizal: Anvil Publishing Co.

Gilroy, Paul. 1993.  The Black Atlantic.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Habermas, Jurgen.  1987.  The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity.  Cambride, Mass: MIT Press.

Hall, Stuart.  1992.  “New Ethnicities.”  In Race, Culture and Difference. Ed. James Donald and Ali Rattansi.  London: Sage.

Haraway, Donna.  1992.  “The Promises of Monsters: A Regenerative Politics for Inappropriate/d Others.” Cultural Studies. Ed. Lawrence Grossberg et al.  New York: Routledge.

Harvey, David.  1989.  The Condition of Postmodernity.  Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

—-.  1996. Justice, Nature and the Geography of Difference.  Malden, MA: Blackwell.

—-.  2000.  Spaces of Hope.  Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Hymer, S.  1975.  “The Multinational Corporation and the Law of Uneven Development.”  In International Firms and Modern Imperialism.  Ed. Hugo Radice. Baltimore: Penguin Books.

Laclau, Ernesto.  1994.  “Minding the Gap.” In The Making of Political Identities.  London: Verso.

Lacsamana, Anne. 1998.  “Academic Imperialism and the Limits of Postmodernist Discourse: An Examination of Nicole Constable’s Maid to Order in Hong Kong: Stories of Filipina Workers.”  Amerasia Journal 24.3 (Winter 1998): 37-42.

Lipsitz, George. 1998.  The Possessive Investment in Whiteness.  Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Massey, Doreen.  1993.  “Politics and Space/Time.”  In Place and the Politics of Identity.  Ed. Michael Keith and Steve Pile.  London: Routledge.

Mudimbe, V.Y. and Sabine Engel.  1999.  “Introduction.”  The South Atlantic Quarterly (Winter-Spring): 1-8.

Palumbo-Liu, David.  1999.  Asian / American.  Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Parrenas, Rhacel S.  2001.  Servants of Globalization.  Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Pomeroy, William.  1992.  The Philippines: Colonialism, Collaboration, and Resistance!  New York: International Publishers.

San Juan, E.  1996.  The Philippine Temptation.  Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

—-.  1998a.  Beyond Postcolonial Theory.  New York: St Martins Press.

—-.  1998b.  From Exile to Diaspora: Versions of the Filipino Experience in the United States.  Boulder: Westview Press.

—-.  2002.  Racism and Cultural Studies.  Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Sassen, Saskia.  1998.  Globalization and Its Discontents.  New York: The New Press.

Sison, Jose Maria and Julita de Lima.  1998.  Philippine Economy and Politics. Philippines: Aklat ng Bayan Publishing House.

Smith, Neil.  1984.  Uneven Development. New York: Basil Blackwell.

Tujan, Antonio.  2001.  “Globalization Boosts the Trafficking of Filipino OCWs.”  Bulatlat 39 (November 11-17): 1-9.

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Poems & Texts by CARLOS BULOSAN

TEXTS BY CARLOS BULOSANbulosan-for-jacketcover

“Song for Chris Mensalvas’ Birthday”

How many years did we fight the Beast together,

You in your violent way, in your troublous world,

I in my quiet way, with my songs of love?

Over the years we fought apart and together,

Scarring our lives, breaking our hearts,

For the shining heart of a heartless world.

For the nameless multitude in our beautiful land,

For the worker and the unemployed,

For the colored and the foreign born:

And we won and we will win,

Because we fight for truth, for beauty, for life,

We fight for the splendor of love . . .

They are afraid, my brother,

They are afraid of our mighty fists, my brother,

They are afraid of the magnificence of our works, my brother,

They are even afraid of our songs of love, my brother.

“American History”, from Letter from America

Our agony is our triumph: Sacco and Vanzetti.

This is what I say:

     I am suffering because I was a radical,

     And indeed I am a radical;

     I have suffered because I was an Italian,

     And indeed I am an Italian . . .

          But I am so convinced to be right that . . .

               If you could execute me two other times,

     I would live again to do what I have done already.

I have finished.

Thank you.

Vanzetti, the dreamy fish peddler,

Hurt but not alone in the alien courtroom,

Voicing the sentiments of millions in his voice,

To scorning men voicing the voice of starved nations

In one clear stream of sentiment in his gentle voice,

That justice and tolerance might live for everyone.

* * * *



I was still unaware of the vast social implications of the discrimination against Filipinos, and my ignorance had innocently brought me to the attention of white Americans. In San Diego, where I tried to get a job, I was beaten upon several occasions by restaurant and hotel proprietors. I put the blame on certain Filipinos who behaved badly in America, who had instigated hate and discontent among their friends and followers. This misconception was generated by a confused personal reaction to dynamic social forces, but my hunger for the truth had inevitably led me to take an historical attitude. I was to understand and interpret this chaos from a collective point of view, because it was pervasive and universal. (p. 144)

The old world is dying, but a new world is being born. It generates

inspiration from the chaos that beats upon us all. The false grandeur

and security, the unfulfilled promises and illusory power, the number

of the dead and those about to die, will charge the forces of our courage

and determination. The old world will die so that the new world

will be born with less sacrifice and agony on the living …

From a letter dated January 8, 1950:

What I am trying to do, especially in my writings since I left Stockton, is to utilize our common [Philippine] folklore, tradition and history in line with my socialist thinking… in the long run we are pooling our knowledge together for a better understanding of man and his world; not to deify man, but to make him human, that we may see our faults and virtues in him. That is the responsibility of literature and the history of culture.


BAKAS–tula ni E. San Juan,Jr.

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

— ni  E. SAN JUAN, Jr.



  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 


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.




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 


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.


….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


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


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 



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).


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


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






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.


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.

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?

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.


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.


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.

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?

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.

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.

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!”

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?

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.”—###



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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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—

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.


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.