I already know the storm, and I am troubled as the sea.
I leap out, and fall back,
and throw myself out, and am absolutely alone
in the great storm.
- Rainer Maria Rilke, A Sense of Something Coming
I don’t know how to write this post. It’s just too difficult to hear the stories of friends and family who have lost everything from Typhoon Ondoy. It’s too difficult to watch news reports of people high above their rooftops, with all their possessions destroyed, their lives ruined, their spirits sagging like anything would in strong winds and powerful storms. My own story for this storm is to be stuck for 18 hours in the office. That’s nothing, compared to the unlucky folks in evacuation centers and the homes of the generous friends and relatives living in higher ground. They’re drenched, cold, sick, with literally nothing but the clothes on their backs.
Yesterday was an unfortunate day. A tragedy, a disaster. There are pictures of trucks and entire homes submerged in floodwaters, stories of stranded commuters who right now sleep in the cold floors of shopping malls. Pumpboats – not buses – ply the streets of Manila. Fields and paddies have been wrecked in Eastern Luzon. This is not a simple wet-spell, but a raging river of destruction.
It’s just a piece of cloth. The Flag has been used for everything from jackets to social networking avatars to computer wallpaper to boxer shorts and yes, boxers’ shorts. Yet the difference between ordinary pieces of cloth and the Flag is that the latter evokes emotions, stirs the national conscience, and establishes the national consciousness. Among many things, it is what makes us Filipino.
I’m not a patriotic flag-waver: it’s been a very long while since I waved the Philippine Flag, and there are few-and-far-between flag ceremonies for me to pay my reverence and respect to the country’s national symbol. Yet Sen. Richard Gordon authors a bill – and it passes in Congress – to add a ninth ray to the Sun of the Flag. He defends his bill by saying:
This is a great step in recognizing the fact that we had Muslims such as Lapu-Lapu, Sultan Kudarat, Amai Pakpak, Sorongan, who kept fighting the Spaniards long before this country thought of a revolution against Spain. This would foster unity, make sure that nobody is excluded. If we are to have national unity in this country it must begin in our flag, it must be symbolized in our flag.
There’s an old saying that goes: Patriots wrap themselves around the Flag to protect it, yet scoundrels wrap themselves with the Flag to be protected.
Of the last gasps of the dying: we wait for them to exhale.
Save for my grandmother, I’ve never seen anyone die. I just check obituaries, or I hear the bad, sad news from a friend or an acquaintance that someone I know passed away. Yet those are for sick and old relatives. Over the years, I’ve grown used to the idea that my friends and acquaintances would probably die by suicide. Many of them already have.
There’s a friend who hanged herself. There’s a friend who overdosed on drugs. I know someone who died from a vehicular accident because he was piss-drunk racing on the highways. A couple of acquaintances shot themselves. Someone sliced the flesh of her arm too deep, and died from hemorrhage. One jumped off a bridge. One by one, they died before they knew what it’s like – what it’s really like – to live. I stopped counting at 20: either my memory fails me, or that the idea of counting every single dead friend and acquaintance is too much to bear. I could have counted more, and I could probably count more as time passes by.
It’s particularly difficult to deal with it at funerals and wakes, where you’re supposed to remember the life and times of that friend in the coffin. Yet no round of tong-its or mystery of the Rosary will ever change the fact that this particular person’s last memory is that they died by their own hands. Somehow, I can’t stand that thought.
The Lumix was capturing every bit of the tattoo session, from a comfortable distance. They call it “dutdutan,” where art and commerce – pleasure and pain – marry. Then again, there’s a difference between watching someone get tattooed, and being tattooed. Thank goodness I wasn’t seated on that chair.
Back in college, I was enamored by a professor’s lecture-exhibit on tattooing and tooth-staining in the Cordillera. She showed us pictures and videos of how ritual tattooing was done in places where there were no tattoo parlors. A man burned a sharpened stick of guava wood to soot, and the slow and painful process of “dutdutan” took place. The designs were meaningful, although the prospect of getting tattooed with a very simple instrument looked – at least from where we were seated – extremely painful indeed.
That was many years ago: a bunch of soon-to-be – and wannabe – anthropologists have to unlearn cringing and squirming in the name of turning cultural curiosities into scientific discoveries. Yet when I heard the tattoo gun start whirring and buzzing in the background, I felt my knees go weak. Heck, I wasn’t the one getting tattooed, but my good friend, roxstar + photographer extraordinaire, Fritz Tentativa.
So, will this entry come across as a difficult-to-read blog entry that’s a futile attempt at trying to write a magazine article on the Internet? Why, yes, of course.
Along with Dementia, my name is Marocharim, here at UP Theater for etonAPOsila: a fundraising/solidarity concert for Noynoy Aquino and Mar Roxas 2010. This, of course, does not signify an endorsement or anything; as usual, I have nothing to do on Eid’l-Fitr.
7:45 PM. The APO Hiking Society is now performing. For those of you who don’t know who APO, that’s Buboy Garovillo, Danny Javier, and Jim Paredes are an institution in Philippine music, and are quite political in their points of view. And guess who’s suffering from technical difficulties with his fucken’ camera… ewuroihsdfjsdk.
7:53 PM. Juana Change, resplendent in a yellow wig and a yellow shirt, is up. Say what you will about the “populism” of the Juana Change message, but it is very effective for the bunch of supporters they have here. Juana Change had the audience eating out of the palm of her hand.
8:05 PM. Aiza Seguerra is up. She’s singing “Kaleidoscope World:” the acoustic version. Brings back memories of Francis Magalona. And apparently, our liveblogging has just been called up (and no, Manolo Quezon is not here, Juana). You can email the Noynoy Aquino for President Movement ay napm2010 at yahoo dot com. There’s something for you. Technical difficulties… arrrgh…
8:14 PM. Aurora – whoever they are – is up for a rocker number. Yellow may not be the color of rock, but they’re spreading a message of change, as well. Reminds me of the “Two Sides Live” concert… you know what, I didn’t eat yet.