Monday, March 7, 2011

The Letter from Pili

[Part 2 of the "Insurrections" series]

Pili, Camarines Sur
September 11, 1945

Dearest Antonio,

First, let me say that I do not write letters to a dead man with as much frequency as I write news articles in the local daily for the living. It is bad enough to be a journalist under the guise of a name I do not own. The worst part of the bargain is that I have to use a man's name. Still, if I write at all, the length is short but the points, I reckon, are succinct. With that in mind, I cannot help but say what I have to say, or write what I have to write. Pardon me but this 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.

Avoid flooding your words with metaphors just to make a point. Consider the art of cooking. You do not want to put too much water for your broth. Otherwise, it will end up tasting just like water and not quite like succulent beef or chicken stew. Like having a mistress, always treat your metaphors with impassioned care, but do so at the right moment by having a design in mind. Either you spread them around in places where they should necessarily fall or you concentrate them in a paragraph as if they carry the weight of the whole narrative. They are the iron bars that hold together the entire structure in one formidable piece.

Consider martial arts. Counter punches or kicks are only thrown in the right angle at the right time. Precision is as vital a virtue as timing. With blades, the trick is to spot the proper flesh to inflict the incision without getting wounded yourself.

While that is so, do not be stale. Every sentence is suspect of feigning originality. It may have already been written in the past long before you were even born. Synonyms and negative antonyms may come handy; both are not always the same. Think that the reader who knows her literature may find your prose the very epitome of all things empty, like a hollow jar, should you fail to temper your words with the right adjectives. Do not forget, though, that a misplaced adjective can be as glaring to the eyes as a stain on pristine white cloth. Not only will it not make sense; it will not make anything sensible at all. It will ruin everything. Sometimes, a descriptive word or phrase can be one too many when one is not needed.

But what the hell, a letter is not a newspaper entry.

In your letter, you said you were already dead. That is good. It is a sign that you are still alive, at least on the day you wrote it. I cannot help but wonder. You write of death as if you have been there before and you have risen from your grave on the third day to tell the world about it, like a messiah. I sense trouble fomenting close to where you are. Your sympathies do not go with either the Japanese or the Americans. Be careful, the bullets of the Constabulary might eventually nail you to your coffin. I understand, though, that your insurrection against all semblances of authority in Manila is the least of your worries. But remember this: not every force is always against you.

Not too long ago, my father would chop firewood from large logs with ease. He would maul every fallen tree mercilessly until it turns into a hundred or more pieces of itself, yet the way he did it tired him the least. By the time he swung his axe for the final hack of the day, he still had enough strength to transport the piles back to our hut which was at least half a kilometer from the site. I remember now that gravity is an invisible force but is nevertheless there, waiting to be harnessed with the swing of the hatchet, causing damage beyond repair to anything laid before it.

I know you can see through metaphors with little aid and write one with urgent dispatch. It will take little effort for you to milk the essence out of this letter, from the first paragraph until at this point. We live in a time more interesting than one could think.

One more thing. The pen and moleskin were for my sister, Sylvia, but since you already have them with you they are now yours. Treat them as my gift for having taken good care of her for three months. I know Manila is not the friendliest place for girls from the province in these turbulent times. If by any chance you get to see her one of these days, send her my regards. But do not bother yourself too much with my request; I wrote her a separate letter.

Five hundred miles away,


Part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5


Anonymous said...

nice one.. gud morning!

Umi said...

Ang ganda. :) Magandang umaga!

SPLICE said...

Thanks! Have a pleasant week ahead :)

Maraming salamat at isang magandang araw din sa'yo :)

Anonymous said...

Hi there, Splice! I couldn't find a tagboard on your blog-slash-literary repertoire so I just thought of writing you a comment instead. :)

Oh, the avatar? You mean from Ragnarok Online? Wow, you're a gamer too?! xD

I feel so flattered that a fellow gamer and literary aficionado came to visit my blog. By any chance, are you a Literature student or just a prose hobbyist?

I wish I could write just like you; most of the time I feel short of words so I can't fully express every bit of idea into the story I'm currently working on. Anyways, your works are so expressive and I'd love to see more. :)

SPLICE said...


I played the game from way back. I started playing in 2003 during the beta days, stopped for a while, played again by 2010, and went back to hiatus.

I'm just a prose hobbyist, but I would like to study comparative literature, or creative writing, in a formal institution one of these days.

Thank you for the compliment Miho :)

Anonymous said...

Wow... I still play the game once a months just to check the gameplay updates (especially when they implement modified exp rates, haha!)

Thanks for visiting my fanpage as well. It's actually not a biggie, just a way to interact with my readers. xD

I see. I'm sure you'll make it big in the literary industry one day.

Oh, yes. Thank you for your interest. ^_^ Mind if I ask for your Facebook or YM?

sub said...


lol, now im confused if antonio is really dead!

pang matalino mga wento mo!

SPLICE said...

I sent you a message through your formspring :)

Hi Sub! Buhay pa si Antonio, but I can't wait to kill him hahaha! :D