I should be sleeping, I really ought to, and even though I’ve had trouble with sleeping for the past nights, I just wanted to share a brief snippet of what I’m working on, a short story called “Mercidita.” After watching several Lino Brocka’s films, an amazing, amazing Filipino director who, despite the Marcos regime, produced some of the greatest cinema on the human will to live and survive, and attending the fabulous Kula Arts event, “Fictions of Dictatorships,” I came to my writing desk and was able to write this short, brief scene (I wrote more, which I want to edit, but I wanted to only share this moment–maybe because I feel like it accomplishes that: a moment). The past era is coming alive in my mind; it’s a world that I am borne from, that my parents had lived, that my grandparents had suffered, that my family would rather forget, but it is coming alive, and that’s what writing does: it exhumes the stories from silence.
Also, I wanted to say how touched I was by Kula Arts’ performance last night. There was this insane improvisation of video & sound of psychedelic proportions that used snippets of Lino Brocka’s Insiang (the first Filipino film to enter the Cannes Film Festival), photographs of the Marcos and the People’s Power Revolution, protests, police brutality, and many other amazing films that I need to watch. They distorted the images with a Technicolor moving hue, stratify the moving pictures, and the DJ improvised the music as the production played. It was insane and wild and amazing. My good friends Von and Janice read for Jason Magabo Play’s play on Narciso & Perez. The last act was a sincere acoustic rap by Dirty Boots, and it really did move me–it moved me to tears. The effects of the Marcos regime is imbedded in the Filipino psyche like a seed, and will be for a long, long time, and I realized last night that the power of words, art, sharing, and differing shades of storytelling in appropriate & divergent venues and settings are important. That all voices are important. That the community’s words and the writer’s words are important, nuanced, varied, and political in engaging, dissimilar, similar, and conflicting ways. I was empowered and left the show (despite the fact that some beginning moments bothered me) with the relentless will to finish my stories. They’re important and I need to remind myself that. I’m writing for the love of language, the love of writing, and the love of exhuming the voices that were once forgotten or silenced.
Also, another note, Bolaño does amazing things to my writing. I can’t write like him. I don’t think anyone can. But the way he writes inspires me, and even if this short snippet isn’t what I’m going to use later on, I felt the energy in the words. I felt Bolaño. I felt Brocka. I felt free by fiction’s power to illuminate and conjecture. I felt like writing (which is something I have a love-hate relationship with, mostly because of my insecurities) was my venue and my way to explore and play.
Enjoy this very brief snippet:
This is what could have happened that night: the city lights of Manila cloud the darkness with a crimson hue and the streets are rowdy and loud, the men thirsty, the women laughing, and the cars roar and roar and roar. It’s 1973. My father, Narciso, is running down the corridor toward Malate, the tourist belt, in search for his sister Gloria. Narciso is running and running, past the smoke from fish-ball carts, past the yelling men in collared shirts—ay, boy, slow your ass down—past the women and their short dresses, past the cars that screech and honk and crowd the sidewalks, past the blinking lights, the sounds, the smell of fried fish and cooked meth, the flaming air of the night.
He sweats like a madman. He has reached the whorehouse. He looks up to the neon lights of Casa de Lady. He’s swallowed by the glow, the heat, the burning of his mind, America, he keeps thinking, America—but then, Até, what about the food we need to eat?
He seizes the gated door and a man opens it, flicking his cigarettes ashes. My father, Narciso, has always told me this: he remembered the way the man smoked, like a bad ass, with his hand on the hip and the other in the air, the cigarette between his fingers, the vapor blurring Narciso’s vision. A coarse voice, an angry demand for money or no girls. My father, Narciso, shakes his head—not here for the girls, just my sister—and the man clutches my father, Narciso, by the neck and says it again: No money, no women.