Thursday, March 10, 2011

Second Letter from the Grave

[Part 3 of the "Insurrections" series]

Saint Jude Cemetery
Calauag, Quezon
October 12, 1945

Beloved Matilda,

Some say insurrections, like faith, can move mountains. Only now do I realize that it is not always true. For the past few weeks, it is the mountains that have moved us, as if we are transients in a wilderness lorded over by an invisible caretaker who only accepts blood as payment for rent. The Constabulary, or whoever it is whose bullets have been trailing us, is on a relentless pursuit. My comrades and I, on the other hand, feel as though we are jungle cats desperately running away from our own tails. With the trees and bushes as cushions for the flesh by day, we can only hope under the same sky to dream the same dream—a safe trek by night through one dense forest to the next. It seems that ours has turned into a voyage with no definite course, to the point that everywhere is always a preferred destination than nowhere. We have become tourists of countless graveyards and our passport is death.

You were right when you said that not every force is always against us; some are with us. Like gravity, a traitor is invisible. He blends seamlessly with the group, but he will be with you if only to be against you. The being with you part is easy enough to see. It is the going against you that is difficult to recognize. Fortunately, a conscience as heavy as the weight of a boulder can tear down the sheaths of any proud heart.

Three days ago, a comrade confessed his sin just before daybreak. As he knelt, I pointed the cold and moist muzzle of my rifle on his right temple. I gave him five minutes to talk so that he himself can listen to what he is saying. My ears were open but I could not hear his mumbles. By the time I released my finger from the trigger, the morning sky was already clear and the ground beneath my feet had a momentary shower of crimson. He still showed some vital signs—his eyes had a menacing stare that darted through the misty space between our faces—as he laid there with his final breaths, so I had to shoot him again. One thing is certain: the second bullet is always worth more than the life of all traitors in the world combined.

We left his body as an offering to the unknown scavengers of the vast forest. As it should be, a traitor's grave is his own carcass.

I have heard the news. Without much suspicion, the surrender of the Japanese to the Americans heralds the end of their protracted war in a land that belongs to neither belligerent. The Land of the Rising Sun has finally met its sunset and the shadows in Nippon will stretch longer until they become one with the night. Together with their white conscripts, Sherman tanks will have to be shipped back to America as well. Long after their mass transports have sailed and flown back to the bosoms of their motherland, the dust in Manila and elsewhere in the country will eventually settle, revealing a macabre sight at the wake of an insolent war that has nothing to do with glory. The remains of the victims of the mass annihilation will have to stay a little longer. I can imagine it now. For days and weeks, the streets of Manila will turn into a marketplace of dead and mutilated bodies with not one wartime survivor able to set the kinsfolk apart from the stranger. They will all look the same in blood and scattered debris of concrete asphalt.

It frightens me to think that people will never know this little insurrection that we are waging. Death trails us through this wretched spine of terra incognita that probably extends from the city to more mountains than we can count. There is every chance to die from the crossfire, if not from starvation or the wrath of nature. I can imagine it now, too. We will all look the same in blood and the thick foliage falling from the forest canopy and onto our corpses.

I just found out that Saint Jude the Apostle is the patron saint of lost causes and desperate situations. Sometimes I get to think that heaven has its ways of stupefying a carefully chosen number of men by playing divine jokes on them, until they come to the point that they want to wring their hearts dry, as if to cleanse the heart from its own blood. But I like it that way. I like divine comedy more than anything else. Religion is too hilarious to be even granted a serious thought.

By the way, I have not seen your sister, Sylvia. The last time I saw her was January this year back in Manila. Now, she isn't in the mountains, either.


Two hundred miles closer to where you are,

Antonio



Part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

8 comments:

mayen said...

hi thanks for following me. i followed you back. you're a good writer I must say. i'm looking forward to more of your post. take care!

SPLICE said...

Thank you for the visit Mayen! :)

Sey said...

OMG! Incredible! I can't say anything but would rather clap my hands. This is great.

Like gravity, a traitor is invisible. You got me thinking. I agree, this is sometimes true.

sub said...

kain tayo lunch!

SPLICE said...

@Sey
Maraming salamat! :)

@Sub
Kailan? :)

Désolé Boy said...

another great writer in the making...
.
.
awesome!

sub said...

after ng finals mo :)

SPLICE said...

@Desole
Maraming salamat! :)

@Sub
OK, check :)