Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Tabada: ‘Buwan, buwan’


WHERE do I find voice?

The “I” that speaks is strongest in fiction, where the writer, the creator, amplifies the voice through techniques.

She can isolate the voice by creating only the character and no Other. Or she can cram a story with characters but use point of view to focus the reader only on the “I” speaking.

She can also put the “I” in claustrophobic relations with a “you,” who can be the reader privileged with unprecedented access to the “I”.

If the writer bleeds enough into the story, the “you” can feel deep enough empathy for the “I” to close the distance until, merging with the “I,” there is only the “I” once more, no Other.

The stories I like best keep the distance. The “I” and the “you” can dance closely, even have a dalliance, but preserve their solitude. How else can one hear the voice?

I recently wrote a series of stories—allegory to my literary friends, a very short story for my generation—about moons and dictators. And the sea.

There are two great mysteries I retain an unequivocal awe for: the moon and the sea. The first story was written in August, “Buwan ng Wika (Month of the National Language).” August is also History Month.

There is no voice without language. No one exists outside of history.

The first story about the last dictator came as I stood by an upstairs window, watching the moon. “Buwan, buwan (moon).”

While August gifts us with language and history—expression and context—September 21, 1972 stilled the voices of Filipinos, including at least 92,607 victims of torture, summary execution, disappearance, and public order violation arrests from September 1972 until February 1986—the 14-year dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.

This is according to the “Statistical Summary of Human Rights Abuses,” part of the Ferdinand Marcos Human Rights Litigation collection of the University of Hawai’i at Manoa’s School of Law Library, which acquired the papers of the late Jon Van Dyke, who helped martial law survivors seek compensatory damages from the Marcos Estate.

According to the University of Hawai’i, the Marcos papers remain important because “the issue of Martial Law has not been rectified in the Philippines.”

Indeed. Congress passed this week a bill declaring Marcos’s birthdate of September 11 as a non-working holiday in Ilocos Norte. If the Senate approves its own version, President Rodrigo Duterte will sign this into law as surely as the moon is framed by the upstairs window, as buwan ng Agosto is followed by buwan ng Septyembre, as voice is stilled by repression.

The great postcolonial undead in our collective narrative, Ferdinand Marcos is the “you” surfacing the “I” that should never forget, never be silent.


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