Delusions of (a) Grand Whore

191/ Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak

The thinkers got the genocide going, and the militants paid for the damage.

How does one even begin to imagine the 1994 carnage that took place in the marshes of Nyamata and the streets of Ntarama? How to understand the machete-wielding Hutus cutting thousands of their neighbor Tutsis to pieces and soaking them in their own blood? What to think of the murderers getting up early in the morning, polishing their machetes, going out in the field, hunting for Tutsis, butchering their finds, and coming back home for dinner – and they followed this routine religiously and unquestioningly for two months as though it was just all work and nothing more?

Elie, one of the killers, ratiocinates: “In the end, a man is like an animal: you give him a whack on the head or the neck, and down he goes.” That simple.

And, all this hate, where is it coming from? I am struggling here because I refuse to believe that Hutus hate Tutsis for the latter’s elegance and beauty and snootiness. So envy brought about one of the most inconceivable bloodbaths in history? So envy explains the killers’ readiness and willingness to slaughter their neighbors? So it all comes down to envy?

What I find most bewildering though is how the killers have easily moved on from the genocide. It’s almost naïve how they feel entitled to forgiveness without even being sincerely sorry about what they did. It’s aggravating how they look forward to their release thinking they can just go back to their village, cultivate their land, and be neighbors again with the remaining Tutsis they failed to butcher.

“Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak” is all about the individuals who participated in the genocide and what they have to say about their unspeakable acts. Jean Hatzfeld masterfully got them to talk in the hope of making sense of the bloodshed. But I have to say it’s still the victims whose words and views I find most heartfelt:

Berthe: Before, I knew a man could kill another man, because it happened all the time. Now I know that even the person with whom you’ve shared food, or with whom you’ve slept, even he can kill you with no trouble. The closest neighbor can turn out to be the most horrible. An evil person can kill you with his teeth: that is what I have learned since the genocide, and my eyes no longer gaze the same on the face of the world.

190/ Xerxes

A confession: Jonathan Buckley’s “Xerxes” aroused my interest because of its cover, front and back—an illustration of a woman’s naked body, her partly covered breasts, navel, and shaved vagina up close. So even before I got to the first page, I was already thinking—page after page of erotic adventures, hopefully the Erica Jong kind.

But, no, August Ettlinger bored the lust out of my pants with his extremely dull courtship with the love of his life, Helene von Davringhausen, and with his extremely dull although a tad mysterious alliance with his rival, Johann Friedrich von Wolgast. Their fancy names are equaled only by their dullness.

In the end, this is the raciest I could get from “Xerxes”, and it’s definitely does not, by any measure, comes close to the Erica Jong brand of the erotic —

On the stage of a deserted theatre, a number of nuns and soldiers were engaged in an orgy, making use of various trapezes and vaulting horses to achieve their improbable couplings; the one spectator, a drunken general, sat on a costume trunk in the wings, fiddling with the erection that protruded from his unbuttoned breeches. The next illustration continued the theme: it showed a queue of young men, the one at the front ejaculating over the breasts of a pubescent girl, the others each sodomising the one in front of him.

189/ Ilustrado

An important clue to writers like you. Rizal’s books were good, but their lyrics on the page were most certainly futile against the Guardia Civil, not to mention tanks. But their lyrics in the hot head and swelling heart of a young reader, well, Mr. Heaney, there by the grace of God goes your tank buster.

The thing about being Filipino is that we know the deep shit we’re in and we’re all dying to come up for fresh air. We know exactly what’s wrong with us, we know what do about it, we talk and argue about it.

We know that our leaders are too corrupt and incompetent to lead us, so we ousted a couple of them, yet we send them and their ilk back to power nonetheless. We know that it is our government that should provide relief and assistance when disaster strikes, and we rant about their lack of action and organization, so we end up doing the job for them—then we happily call it resiliency, Pinoy brand. We know that our transportation system is so inefficient we might as well work and shop and socialize and do every thing else from home, still we allow ourselves to be squeezed real tight inside vans, jeepneys, buses, and trains to bursting capacity.

I used to take pride in our being resilient. We keep our cool and find a way to stay above cataclysms. But I think we have become too resilient for our own good. We readily gather our resources and apply them as needed. A super typhoon strikes, we gather food and  water and clothes and medicine and we ourselves bring them to the victims. Meanwhile, our leaders have become too lazy and corrupt to look for long-term solutions; instead, they rely on us – donor citizens – for stop-gap measures. They have so skillfully exploited the undying bayanihan spirit in us. Or they have so expertly manipulated our being inured with our government’s incompetence and corruption.

Miguel Syjuco says: “And write to explain the world to yourself and to others.” That’s exactly what his “Ilustrado” does: it explains us to us. I just hope there are enough hot heads and swelling hearts out there to pay heed.

188/ A Marriage Made in Heaven or Too Tired For an Affair

The impact of television on marriage was awesome. There wasn’t a woman who wasn’t threatened by it. Meals were planned around it. Social life revolved around its schedules. Sex was worked in around the commercial breaks. But mostly, our lives were shaped by its contents.

Erma Bombeck whips it up light and fun but what her “A Marriage Made in Heaven or Too Tired For an Affair” comes down to really is this: marriage is work; tiring, perhaps, but also quite rewarding.

187/ The Children’s Book

What angered her was the lie. Those who are lied to feel diminished, set aside, misused.

My friends and I, we didn’t grow up with stories. We didn’t have books in our houses. Television was unheard of in our barrio. Radio did not interest us; it was for old people.

But we grew up with games. We needed to use our imagination to create magic — to make armored cars out of empty tin cans, laser swords out of dry sticks, rope bridges out of rubber bands.

We were so much like the children in A.S. Byatt ‘s “The Children’s Book”. But I hope not as fucked up as those children were when they grew up. I hope it was clear to all of us that we were in a perfect world only in our imagination. And I hope we all got out of that perfect world free of angst and illusions, without feeling lied to.

186/ My Mother Was Nuts

But like most people, I needed to live most of my life before I could look back and understand how lucky I was to have been tortured.

Penny Marshall, I have no doubt, is witty smart talented. I love the way she told “A League of Their Own” on the big screen. It has such a big heart I always feel nostalgic every time I watch it.

But if there’s one thing “My Mother Was Nuts” tells me, it is this: Hollywood thrives on nepotism, even incest. It is not enough that one knows somebody. That somebody has to be family. If they’re not, one has to fuck that somebody to make them family.

185/ The Private Lives of Pippa Lee

When the twins were small, I had a recurring dream that I was served up on an enormous platter and my children ate me. They had always loved ribs; they snapped mine off with strong, greasy fingers and consumed them voraciously, with barbecue sauce. The strange thing was, I was conscious in the dream, and I was smiling. All I could think of was how much protein the kids were getting.

Love, the unconditional kind, is overrated. Pippa devotes herself to Herb Grace Ben and what does she get? She finds herself floating away from Herb Grace Ben and toward anywhere but where she is right now. She yearns to go away, maybe with Chris, maybe with any one.

Herb’s liaison with Moira is actually a small mercy dropped from the high heavens. It expunges every bit of her doubts about going away. It affirms her need for a new adventure. More importantly, it allows Ben and Grace to understand the changes in her.

Rebecca Miller makes a touching and thoughtful case for a midlifer’s shot at happiness. This is “The Private Lives of Pippa Lee”.

184/ A Long Fatal Love Chase

Let me be happy for a little while, then I will be wise.

I have always admired people with strong mind strong will strong ideas. Everything after all is possible to a strong will. But Philip Tempest and Rosamond Vivian take the idea of strong to a whole new surreal level. It’s almost like their will is law.

When Tempest decides to own Rosamond, he decides to own her utterly. He stalks her beyond reason, with insane possessiveness and competitiveness. Interestingly, when Rosamond decides to leave Tempest, she decides to leave him completely. No giving in and no looking back.

They are such a good match I was hoping they would ultimately end up together. Well, in a way, they did. For they pursued their obsession right to the very end.

Louisa May Alcott wrote “A Long Fatal Love Chase” in 1886, but her publisher would not have it for being too long and sensational. So big thanks to editor Kent Bicknell who unearthed Alcott’s manuscript and finally published it in 1995. It took more than a century but “A Long Fatal Love Chase” is worth the long wait.

183/ The Origin of Species

So it is that what we still think of as our unique heritage, the thing that sets us apart, what the gods have given us, the magic moment of “Let there be light,” is perhaps only a passage on a much longer journey, one that is primal beyond reckoning and that goes back to the very beginnings of life itself.

Alex Fratarcangeli has relationships of Galapagan likeness. In each relationship, he is like an island of rare precious raw qualities. Primordial.

He is giving thoughtful diffident with his women (Liz Ingrid Maria Esther, except for Amanda). He is subservient respectful deferential yet critical with his superiors (Shapiro Jiri Klein). He is casual and sometimes exploratory with his friends (Miguel Felix Stephen). He is strangely apathetic but politically submissive with strangers (Desmond Santos). And he is so vulnerable unsure hopeful with his son (Per).

Hopeful is right. Because it is hope that will ultimately extricate Alex from the primordial state of his relationships. It is hope that will allow him to survive and evolve.

It seems though that the only ones who have not evolved yet in Nino Ricci’s world are Filipinos. He peoples his “The Origin of Species” with the likes of Molly the dumb/mysterious caregiver to Esther, the passable English-speaking crewmen of the ship that rescued Alex and Santos from Galapagos, and the small and dark nurse who took care of Esther.

So. It is 1980s in “The Origin of Species” and Filipinos are stuck in these house help seaman nurse stereotypes.

182/ Ligo Na U, Lapit Na Me

Wala akong natanggap na abiso, pero mukhang nagtakda si Batman ng araw upang mamudmud ng talino at husay sa pamimilosopo. At, sa dami niyang alam at sa husay niyang mag-analyze ng mga bagay-bagay, mukhang si Intoy lang ang nakapunta sa araw na itinakda ni Batman.

Dahil umaapaw ang talino at husay ni Intoy, nagmistula tuloy na isang mahabang sanaysay-komentaryo na lamang ang “Ligo Na U, Lapit Na Me”. Walang humpay si Intoy sa pagtuligsa sa katangahan at kasakiman ng mga opisyal ng gobyerno, sa katangahan ng kanyang mga guro, sa kaplastikan ng mga relihiyoso, at sa kababawan ng kapwa niya mga mag-aaral. Kahit sumusuka na sa kalasingan, wala pa ring humpay si Intoy sa pagpuna sa kakulangan o kalabisan ng mga pangyayari sa buong mundo. Oo, ganyan kahusay si Intoy—sa murang gulang niya na bente anyos, alam niya ang lahat ng kaganapan sa Pilipinas at sa ibang bansa.

At dahil nga sa dami ng komentaryo at walang humpay na pamimilosopo ni Intoy, hindi ko na tuloy nasundan pa ang tunay na kalagayan ng relasyon nila ni Jen. Sa totoo lang nawalan na ako nang gana na alamin pa. Nawala na kasi sa isip ko na nobela nga pala ang binabasa ko at hindi sermon ng may akda nito na sa Eros S. Atalia.

Gayunpaman, sang-ayon ako kay Atalia sa layunin niya na gawing accessible sa bawat mamamayan ang kanyang “nobela,” at ang literatura sa pangkalahatan. Naniniwala ako na dapat hikayatin ang lahat na magbasa—bata matanda mahirap mayaman lalaki babae bakla tomboy pangit maganda guwapo. Naniniwala ako na mahalaga ang pagbabasa sa paghubog ng kamalayan ng bawat tao. Kaya sana, noong isinusulat pa lamang ni Atalia itong “Ligo Na U, Lapit Na Me,” naglaan siya ng kaunting panahon man lang upang tingnan sa diksiyunaryo kung mayroon ngang mga kataga tulad nang “undestructible,” “invinsible,” “rabbies,” at “leche plan”. At kaunti ring panahon upang saliksikin ang tamang gamit ng “specie/species,” “use/used,” at “breath/breathe”. Sana rin inalam niya kung ano ang mali sa paulit-ulit niyang paggamit ng mga expression na “If symptom persist…” at “10th year anniversary”.

Hindi naman sa nagmamarunong o nag-iinarte ako pero, para sa akin kasi, bilang manunulat na naglalayong imulat ang kamalayan ng ordinaryong mamamayan, may tungkulin si Atalia na ituro sa kanyang mga mambabasa kung ano ang tama. May tungkulin din si Atalia sa mga katulad ko na bumili ng kanyang aklat na magbenta nang maayos at inayos na nobela.


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