Monday, March 14, 2011

The Letter from Nabua

[Part 4 of the "Insurrections" series]

Nabua, Camarines Sur
November 2, 1945

Dearest Antonio,

If mountains can move insurrections, the end of an artificial catastrophe called war can displace innocent civilians. I do not claim to be an innocent civilian but the circumstances do not permit a stationary life for one whose diet includes an unhealthy plate of death threats for breakfast. The last time an investigative article I wrote in my name was published in the The Local Independent more than a year ago, the Americans shut down our office. It's the last shit to hit the fan, they said. I hid under a nom de plume since then. For the coming issue of the Nabua Herald, I decided to use your name in place of the one I have been using. I'll tell you why.

A large portion of Pili suffered from extensive devastation. Even now, both the government and the renegade forces are sifting the town, or what little is left of it, for the vaguest signs of their fiercest critics. A false move can make you a sitting duck within shooting range. It was clear then: relocating to Nabua was out of the question. It was the only answer for the bare inklings of survival. It may be true that the pen is mightier than the sword. Bullets and bombs, however, are an entirely different matter—a sui generis, if you will.

I left Pili about six days ago. Riot and people running amok swept the main arteries of the town like a torrent. It was a sequel that was all too clear to be ignored even before the Japanese forces began to withdraw during the assault. The Americans would only care less, especially since they realized there was nothing else left to gain from a municipality that is as desperate as its people. As for the local leaders, there was none to lead except the regular funeral march every now and then. Pili was as lifeless as a patient in irreversible comatose.

Looking back, the conditions were on the verge of being merciless. Nabua is not all too different, though. Barely a hundred miles further south of Pili, the town almost bears the same imprints of the onslaught. It is almost equally grotesque. The only consolation I have is that Nabua is a less perilous haven, albeit the dangers are still present. It is an imperfect sanctuary, or a refuge with its own desecrated shelters. Here, I feel like a fetus transplanted from another womb, waiting to be delivered into another maternal sack, never to be born so as never to die. It is only quite recently that I found out that things are not as different as they first seem. The difference in Nabua, perhaps, is just the same as in Pili.

Today is the Feast of All Souls. There really is no reason for the people to visit the cemetery. The streets have become the ready graves for the dead. In fact, the town has already run out of candles, making any effort to commemorate the death of the departed an exercise in futility if one is to measure it in terms of how many candles one can light. It is dark in Nabua, the outskirts even more, with neither a candle nor a soul in sight by evening. But come to think of it, there is more reason to appreciate life than otherwise. Death in this part of the country is no longer rare. It is life that is not too common, I must say.

It is true that your little insurrection pales in contrast to the larger armed conflict between the foreign belligerents. I think the least recognition that you and your comrades may have several years from now is to be mentioned in a random footnote in history books read in institutions that teach everything but history. It is a cheap consolation, if at all it will console anything or anyone, including you. Someone in a distant year may find your name in a footnote, read it as if to summon the spirit of a warrior, only to lift another page and close the one that bears the print of your insurrections, and never to remember that little portion of your life until someone else in a more distant year shall chance upon your footnote.

But I guess even that requires extending the possibilities to ridiculous lengths. I cannot blame you if frustration has begun to seep into your mind. I will not be surprised either if you go ballistic on random days. You know quite well, however, that sacrifice is always a prerequisite to any struggle. Which is why I decided to sacrifice, or use, your name for the article I have submitted to the Nabua Herald. The article is about your story. Like I said in my letter from Pili, it is the closest I can get to playing French—like a Chinese mouthpiece for a Bonaparte standing before a cavalry of French revolutionaries—without being one. Your name and your insurrection, I hope, will be remembered long after this country has risen back on its feet.

I find it strange, though, that it took a confession before you could know with certainty that there is a traitor in your midst. I think you already knew, but you were afraid to confront the fact. I sense that you have something else in mind. You wrote your words without really telling me the message you wanted to say, at least not directly.

I haven't heard from Sylvia.

Farther south but never far,


Part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5


sub said...

is this part of a whole story you're writing?

next chapter...

SPLICE said...

Yes Sub, this is the second to the last installment of the letters I've been working on :)

I'll be posting the Last Letter from the Grave soon.

Kumusta na? :)

sub said...

yesterday was the worst tuesday i had! but you know me, i worked my way out of it :)

alam ko na hihingin kong gift sayu sa bday ko, heheh

book...xempre yung ikaw ang sumulat, may lagda at iaabot sakin ng personal habang kumakain ng tanghalian sa dampa! hehe

lunch is on me. see yah!

SPLICE said...

Your birthday is on April 23, I believe :)

Yeehaw! Free lunch! :D