(I had also been given permission by Leoncio Deriada to make available online the following story of his, which appeared in his first collection of short stories The Road to Mawab and Other Stories. Together with “For Death is Dead in December,” I encoded “Lunacy” for my undergraduate thesis. Like the former story, this one has also received generally negative critical feedback for its stylistics, and like with the former story I continue to maintain my disagreement with these critical opinions. “Lunacy,” like much of Deriada’s fiction, is autobiographical. I was fortunate enough to meet the real Rolly, Rolando Bajo, just recently)
by Leoncio Deriada
Suddenly he was awake. But the sound of the sea still echoed and he saw that the moonlight was in the room. It filtered through the pomelo tree in the window.
The dream. He was on the beach throwing pebbles at the moon. He hit it, and like fireworks, its face burst into rainbow flames. The peacock splinters filled the heavens. he poised his hands to catch the drops of blue and red and green, but they all fell into the sea in sizzling magnificence. He watched the pageant in a mixture of fear and admiration, till there was no more of the moon but the moan of the tide… the darkness screamed. He was lost, afraid.
He woke up and saved himself from that chaos.
He felt his face and his mouth with his trembling hands. He was not dead. It was great to be alive somehow, to rediscover that he was one of the inhabitants of this room of hanging shirts, unplanned lesson plans, and the smell of tempera.
Alex’s tempera of trees and hills were carelessly thumb-tacked above Dardo’s cot. The moonbeams did not hit the paintings but they concentrated on Dardo’s prosaic figure, zebra like in his pajamas. Inside his mosquito net, he must be dreaming of the preserved animals in his biology room.
Alex hated biology back in college and so he ended up teaching grammar and economics. Economics! There was nothing to dream about the law of diminishing returns; he would rather dream of prehistoric flora and fauna. But there must be color and movement in all: tangerine toads jumping on ponds of blue bordered by dragon-green thalophytes and bryophytes, while in the background, Van Gogh inspired paramecia danced a bayanihan of mammoth slippers all fiery in Martian red.
Alex’s hand dangled out of the mosquito net (ah, Durer’s hand of the artist!), limp and graceful in a ballet of its own. The wall above him was a wilderness of canvases – cardboard, cartolina, Manila paper, formal theme notebook sheets – enough to shame any thin bloodied impressionist.
Three men in the room. They would have been four, but Rolly’s girl got him in mid-August before the poor boy could find a boardinghouse for honeymooners. So right now, in the other room, Rolly and Tina dreamed married people’s dreams. Children perhaps. Or a house of their own.
The dreamer of the moon got up. His cot creaked. He had slept with all his day clothes on. The mosquito net was not hung; the tiny suckers must have feasted on his moon-maddened blood. It did not matter anyway. Nobody thought of malaria in the moonlight.
For now his blood was thick, surging, boiling. The full moon had stirred a high tide in him, a passion or a curse more intense than a vampire’s. There was a hunger in him, a thirst for something he did not know yet was there reflected on the leaves the moment the moon painted the town white with silence.
And this silence roared with the strength of an ocean against a coral beach.
The beach was far away (90 kilometers) and long ago (five years), when he was still a college junior tired of class meetings, lectures, and the school paper that printed his sobbing poems. During those days a vacation or a sound sleep was as precious as diamonds. And when the summer vacation came, the diamonds were found on the beach.
Moonlight on the beach in mid-May never became part of the lost summers. It cam again and again – long after he had thrown all those tearful verses into the fire and Alex had become editor of the school paper, long after a girl who could sing told him over barbecue and coke he had been a very good boy and she liked him very much but sorry she loved somebody else very very much.
He could have cried. He could have screamed why didn’t you tell me long ago damn you damn you damn you! But he was a good boy and he said I wish you all the luck in the world. The girl smiled and he walked her home in the moonlight.
He did cry later, not because of his lost first love (that was something to laugh at), but because the moonlight was so beautiful and the world wasted it by sleeping. That was the mid-May on the beach far away and long ago.
Teaching poetry to high school seniors was a matter of God’s grace, he foolishly thought more than thrice, or else he would not have stayed in this dusty-muddy town for four years. Then Alex and Dardo came. These gum-chewing boys in college were now teachers! With some extra gift from the Holy Ghost, they were all ready to set the town and the world on fire with their liberal arts and ratio studiorum. You better start from the ABC, he warned them. This is not the Ateneo or La Salle. Rolly said be careful you don’t stay old bachelors (as if 25 were an age). Look at Nonong. And soon he’ll lose his moon to the Russians. Laughter. I’m twenty, Alex said, and the first day of class he reported that five of his 1A students were older than he. Dardo had something more sensational to say: he was the smallest boy in 2A. Congratulations, Alex said.
The school year dragged on – his fourth – and for the fourth time, he resigned himself to the fate of correcting themes and reading “The Raven” and Rizal’s good-bye in the most insipid translation. Rolly’s marriage broke the companionship started in English 1, Room 21, first year A.B. Rolly was barely fifteen then but he was quite a companion in playing charade and condemning Filipino movies. Together, they fairly gave justice to the Jesuits.
Rolly knew how to conjugate Latin and he wanted to go to the seminary. He told Rolly: you’ll get married at twenty-four. Rolly became Tina’s husband at twenty-two. Indeed, love was blind and lovers could not hear.
This year Alex and Dardo were there to share his room in Mrs. Edillon’s house on top of a low hill overlooking the town. The bachelors, people referred to them as they marched off to school or to church – intent and invulnerable to all acts of God: floods, thunder and lightning, winds, women – yards ahead of Rolly who had just had an appendectomy and a wife.
With his brushes, easel, palette, and bottled and boxed colors, Alex brought a scrabble set. They played deep into the night – inventing words, quarreling over them, intimately mocking one another for ignorance of a certain term. Thinking of the sandwiches he would lose at Foa Yee’s, Dardo usually said, this is a term in biology. Proof, Alex said, his voice taunting with the authority of a pocket Webster. The biologist searched the indices of his pile of textbooks while he man named Nonong struggled over his addition of the points, now and then watching the moon filter through the pomelo leaves.
Now the moon stared harder from its solo eyehood, stirring him to madness, drawing him to somewhere he did not know but was reflected on the leaves the moment the moon painted the world with white silence.
He opened the window wider and without a second thought, stepped out onto the roof under the window where the pomelo tree extended branches inviting enough to wake up the boy in every man. And the boy swung the man over the branches noiselessly like the tread of the moon on the clouds.
Soon he was sitting on the grass with all his day clothes on. His feet were bare and he felt the moisture on the grass but he sat there watching the moon, feeling an undefinable ecstasy, thinking of the beaches of the future, waiting for anything, probably a vision of himself who, for so long, had been alien and remote.
He was a madman.
And he saw the vision. Alex was beside him, with all his day clothes on, barefooted and lean-faced and smiling and serene, and he felt like embracing his nearness, aching all over with the brotherhood. He looked at Alex but said nothing. Silence made the strongest bond, even outside monasteries.
But Alex was not a madman. Was he?
And so they conversed in silence:
Why are you here?
Didn’t you wake me up many times to see your moon?
I didn’t wake you up tonight.
That’s why I woke up.
Silly. How did you come?
Through the window.
Two men in the moonlight. Did Alex see the moonlight on the beach far away and long ago? Did Alex weep because the night was beautiful and the world wasted it by sleeping? Did Alex lose a girl because he was always very good? Did Alex teach in this dusty-muddy town because of God’s grace?
They said nothing. They sat on the grass and watched the moon.
Alex wrote verses about the life of men and the death of cigarettes. (he wrote verses, too, and burned them.)
Alex painted trees and hills. (He painted, too. The crazy portrait of a farm boy devouring a pile of durian done on black cartolina with crayola and Myrisia pomade was still hanging somewhere in the law library.)
Alex came from Claveria Street (damn the men who changed it to Claro Recto!), a neighbor to three banks, a moviehouse for first-run run Filipino cowboy pictures, a girl’ college where he studied up to the fourth grade, and a blockful of offices. I live on Wall Street, Alex would say. Haha, Dardo would say.
He came from a house on top of a cliff, in Calinan, overlooking a river, his river. Last Christmas vacation he brought Alex and Dardo there. They spent days in the river, not bathing, just sitting on the boulders and watching the water form into eddies to spin forever. You should see my river in the moonlight, he said. But it was December and it rained.
Dardo came from Bansalan, in the far south, where people planted corn and killed each other on the wayside. I’m a pacifist, he said and carried a knife to the barber ship the first week he was in this northern town.
He looked at Alex’s profile against the glossy leaves of Mrs. Edillon’s potted plants. He opened his mouth to say something but he forgot what to say. For he saw something. Deeper than the younger man’s well etched silhouette he saw again, and well-defined now, the terrible identity that arrested him anew. He saw himself! And suddenly, the alien and the remote became so fearfully familiar, so near he wanted to hold it and crush it till it escaped no more. He must destroy this hound, this reminder, this mirror before it made him completely mad.
And Alex almost screamed for he saw a transfiguration. His companion stood tall blocking the moonlight. There was an instant change in his face: his eyes grew dull and blank and heavy like a somnambulist’s, his lean veined arms extended as if to embrace him.
And Alex saw the hands, the fingers flexed like talons towards his throat…
The moon was in his eyes!
They grappled on the grass in the moonlight. In the maze of images in his pulsating moon-maddened mind, he was aware of the struggle: but it was not against a concrete though protean form of some voluminous fear. It was a struggle against an abstraction that had been given texture and dimensions such as he could perceive in his innumerable nightmares.
Alex gripped the two slender wrists before those hands could touch him further and shook the other man with all his might.
You are mad, Nonong! Alex’s voice was a repressed fear. You are hurting me. Wake up! Wake up!
And the madman woke up from the trance. He did not hear Alex’s voice but the sudden burst of piano notes from the house. Mrs. Edillon was playing the piano in the middle of the night. Was it Schubert Serenade? No. Orchids in the Moonlight? No. I’ll Be Seeing You? No. Just notes, exercises, now straining into a magnificent crescendo, now fading…
And he knew he was sick, mad.
Are you all right? Alex was worried. You wanted to kill me!
I wanted to destroy something, some monster that has been hounding me all these years!
But why me – me?
Because you remind me of many things. Because I see myself in you!
You are mad!
He said nothing.
You scared me. And you are not even sorry for it!
Sorry. Please forget it.
Forget it! My God, I don’t understand you!
You do! You do! He turned him with a sudden violence in his voice. You understand me! You think my thoughts, you dream my dreams; you feel my pain, my joy. Don’t you see? You are mad with my own madness!
Alex stared at him puzzled.
Why in hell are you with me? He shouted. Why aren’t you asleep like all the rest?
I can’t sleep.
Because like me you are mad! Because like me you are ruled by the moon. Because like me you hunger for another world!
He paused. Alex looked at him long. Slowly, in an instinctive gesture of recognition and understanding, he laid his hand on the other man’s shoulder.
I see, he said simply, sincerely.
They left the grass and the moon for the house, saying nothing but feeling the loudness of each other’s presence. They remembered that the house was locked from inside and to knock at the door would be a scandal: imagine, boarders leaving the house through the window and knocking in the middle of the night to be let in!
They looked at each other and with faint familiar smiles walked around the house to where the pomelo tree extended branches inviting enough to wake up the boys in men. Mrs. Edillon’s fingers were mad on the piano keys, as if aware of something unnatural happening in this world ruled by the moon.
Was Mrs. Edillon also mad? No. She slept the whole afternoon and could not sleep at night so she played the piano to wake up lunatics from their trance.
Yes, he had met other madmen and madwomen before. But where were they now? Some had wakened up into sanity by selling floor wax and insurance, but just the same: they had been mad, crazed by color and sound, by sunset and moonlight, by voices in the night…
Where were they now? Choy, Butch, Cely and Samy were married. Paddy was dead. Cancer. She was buried among the dead of the Assumption nuns of Herran. Lydia was the maddest of all. She finished chemistry and joined the Belgian Sisters. Now she was teaching grade Four at St. Theresa’s.
The moon was now on the other side of the eaves. The darkness in the room was soft and the piano notes sounded loud but far and haunting like a memory. In the honeymooners’ room, Rolly mumbled meaningless syllables in his sleep. Dardo stirred in his cot but did not wake up to see the two men arrive from an unmeasurable journey. Inside his mosquito net, he must be dreaming of the preserved animals in his biology room.
For Dardo was not a madman. For Dardo was not of the brotherhood. So was Rolly – and so were all the faces of men and women he had met but seen nothing through them – the men and women who were not mad, who slept while the moon painted the world with white silence.
Close the window, Alex.
The man from Claveria Street slowly, reluctantly, closed the window, his movements like a ritual. In the dark, the loudness of their thoughts rhymed with all the mad piano notes in the town.
Outside, the moon painted the world with white silence.
(The following is a short story by Palanca Hall of Famer Leoncio P. Deriada. It appeared in, among other publications, his collection of short stories Week of the Whales and Other Stories. I encoded it for my undergraduate thesis, and while Facebook group of the Ateneo de Davao’s SALEM has had its copy of it for over a year now, Deriada has allowed me to make it accessible online to the general public for the first time. The story has generally received negative feedback from critics, with Jonathan Chua complaining of its being “stylistically contrived,” ultimately labeling it “the worst story” in Week of the Whales. Deriada himself has not been too kind about his own story. But I would like to believe that there is still value in contrived stylistics, particularly in trying to introduce stylistic devices to beginning readers. The almost unnatural symmetry in the story attracts me, just as much as Poe’s “The Raven” appeals to me. And the fact that the story is set in the Ateneo de Davao of the 50s has a particular fascination for me.)
For Death is Dead in December
by Leoncio P. Deriada
It was December and the wind was cold over the pines in the park.
It was December and Dario said, I want to die.
But his friend Leo said, dream Dario dream. For death is dead in December.
Dead in December.
Leo wrote poetry. Dario wrote love letters and later he wanted to die. It was not because of a poetic impulse but because he felt so alone – so alone in spite of Leo and Rolly and Henry and Miss Cobangbang who taught him T.S. Eliot and Shakespeare and Descartes and Thomas Aquinas. It was not once he had wished to die – to dissolve with the wind and wail over the pines in the park. The wind was always a sadness and Dario fancied that to be one with the wind was to be away from the sadness that it was.
For Dario was 17 and did not know what it was to be young. Philosophy could not make much of youth. Literature only deepened melancholia and made intense the desire to die, to cease within the midnight with no pain, to say, oh death where is thy sting!
For Dario was 17 and Nena said she didn’t love him.
For Dario was 17 and his father was dead. Long ago.
And December was the month of winds. There was a two-week vacation though – away from Miss Cobangbang and the thick books and the blackboards that were not black but green and forever powdered with chalk. Miss Cobangbang did not write much on the board and Henry and Rolly always made use of the space by sketching legs and priests during the class breaks while Leo bent out of the window and reached for the acacia blossoms.
Leo, Rolly and Henry wee the best friends in the world. And he went with them, laughed at them.
Ha ha ha!
Cut classes with them. But he would die alone.
It was December 24 and Dario was in the park. He sat on a bench under a pine tree. Above, the wind strummed the pine needles into a peculiar thin sound that was neither noise nor music but a sadness. He saw people, probably trying to be lost like him. But they talked, they laughed.
They sat on benches and ate ice cream and peanuts. Children ran around with balloons pregnant with helium, on which Santa Claus said in colored greetings: Merry Christmas, Happy New Year. Tomorrow is Christmas Day, Dario thought. But there was no excitement in it; the celebration had been there since December 1 and the anticipation made the Day cheap, ordinary, uninteresting like Christmas trees thick with tinsel leaves and bulbs that winked mischievously, even maliciously. Christmas was nothing but bargain sales and populated parks and winds, sad winds.
I’m dreaming of a white Christmas. The song was cold like the wind.
The world was people, places, things. It was the wooden white building in Jacinto Street with acacia trees and benches of wood. It was pens and compositions and debates and exams. It was the beach at Kabacan and Talomo and Dumoy – white, free, forever related to sunburn. It was Nena – beautiful, proud, tall and slim like the silhouette of a palm. The simile was Leo’s. One day in the beach:
That old pagatpat is Fr. Malasmas, said Rolly.
That rugged rock is Miss Cobangbang, said Henry.
That palm is Nena. Tall, proud, slim, beautiful, said Leo.
Let’s swim, said Dario.
Yes, the world was quite enjoyable, what with these crazy friends and Miss Cobangbang and her popped eyes and her awful name and epistemology and romantic poetry. Apparently, Dario remembered nothing but Byron’s defective foot and Keat’s nightingale. Henry called him Ram. Rolly called him Dar. The arid instructors (except Miss Cobangbang – she wasn’t dry in spite of her pistol of a name) called him Mr. Ramos. People were funny. Nobody called him by his pet name. At home his mother called him Boy. At home, Mr. Santos, his mother’s husband, called him Boy. The neighbors referred to him as Boy Santos or Santos Boy. Imagine to be called Boy when you were 17 and a campus sensation. Only Leo called him Dario. There was a certain beauty in his name when said by someone, not necessarily Nena. It sounded strange the way Leo said it. It sounded strange, unfamiliar, but real – with a farawayness and a sadness like the wind over the pines. Dario Dario Dario.
All of a sudden, the noise of the park was there. Dario looked up. Leo was in front of him – smiling, tall, in a blue shirt with ink stains on the left pocket.
Hi, he said and moved to the right. Leo sat beside him.
What would they talk about? Nothing. They had had a good share of ideas and always ended up with Leo’s sham scolding: You cynic!
Once on the campus, after Nena.
Dream Dario, dream. For death is dead.
What shall I dream about? He snapped. He was angry, miserable.
I’m not a poet. He stressed poet with obvious malice.
You are a man.
I want to die!
Nonsense! Everybody is a poet. You are a poet. Poets don’t die. They just pretend to die for dramatic effect. Man is empty. He needs something to fill him up. Gloom empties the heart. And dreams heal the inner scars. You are sick, Dario, with a sickness of your own making. Cure yourself, Dario baby. Think of love, not Nena. Love is deep, deeper than the ocean floors, depper than any woman’s face.
You talk too much, he told Leo.
We are good friends, Leo told Dario.
Stop playing big brother! He shouted inside him but he could not say it. for the truth was he had been wishing he had a brother.
We are good friends, Leo said. So Rolly, Henry and I will get you tonight for the midnight Mass. Okay?
They hastily left the park and headed towards the city’s mini-zoo. They passed the cage of monkeys that amused people (or was it the monkeys that were amused?), passed the shop with windows with their gaudy displays, passed some beggars, and finally over crackers and Coke:
You are not happy, Dario.
I remember my father.
They listened to the soft drink running hoarsely through the straw.
You are tired, Dario. Go home and sleep.
I will, Dario said.
They went home.
During supper, Dario surprised Mrs. Felisa Santos.
Mama, tell me about my father.
At the head of the table Mr. Santos looked up but Dario did not wait for his mother to answer. He drank two glasses of water and hurried to his room unaware of the new magic of the Christmas tree in the sala.
He didn’t open his door.
Dario stood in front of the mirror. He smiled at the man there and his eyes laughed. Crew cut, proud nose, a pimple on the forehead. The small mouth opened slightly, rehearsing kisses for all flowers – the rose, the acacia, the gumamela, the azucena, the cogon, the mimosa – everyone, even the lotus… he had been shaving long before ROTC and now a blue shadow rainbowed faintly above his lips – beautiful, asserting manhood that would love all but die alone.
The night before Dario dreamed that he had died.
But he woke up.
I’m dreaming of a white Christmas. The neighborhood children were singing carols.
Dream Dario dream – for death is dead in December…
Damn Leo and his ideas!
He switched off the light, opened the window wide and sat in the window beside flower pots the Christmas moon was still on the other side of the roof.
Dario Ramos Sr. was a lawyer. He died when Dario Jr. was in the nursery. In the sala was a set of law books and a collegiate dictionary which Dario searched page by page looking for weird words and invisible marks that were his father’s.
Mr. Santos, his step-father, was two hundred pounds, the manager of a bottling company, and a Knight of Columbus.
In college, Dario was president of this and vice president of that: Debating club, Sodality, Credit Union, Club Cervantino, et cetera. He did not make the Art Club, for his grasp of art was as bad as his handwriting which looked like a doctor’s that baffled even the most sophisticated pharmacist. In fact Dario started as a pre-med student but changed to a pre-law after one of his instructors, a balding scholar who never learned the art of public speaking in his Augustinian alma mater, flunked him in organic chemistry.
Above all, Dario was a Consonant – a member of a four-man club named Consonants for reasons even Athene would not think of. Leo wanted to be president. Rolly wanted to be president. Henry wanted to be president. So Dario wanted to be president. They made 36 Valentine cards last February. Miss Cobangbang said thank you very much L.D.R.H. Those were their initials. Dinky gave Henry a shy grin. Nilo, the school’s best actor, tore the card they gave to Inez. Bobby and Letty quarreled: the student pilot thought Rolly still wrote love letters to her. Samira, who received the one with the gold thumb tack, gave Leo a Lebanese grin that reminded him of cedars and Fr. Wieman’s nose. Nena made a book marker out of the red heart and a doodle sheet out of the envelope.
Tonight the Consonants would go to midnight Mass.
I will sleep, Dario said to his pajamas. And so he slept.
He was sitting on the cement base of the stairs, biting his nails. In the house Perry Como was loud with the smell of cooking pans in the kitchen.
Mr. Santos was at the top of the stairs. Dario did not look up.
You are sad. Don’t you like the things I bought you for Christmas? The scooter, the shotgun, the pingpong set, the-
Will you stop spoiling me! He shouted, surprised at the rise of his voice. You are not my father. Why don’t you beat me up? You are so good good good. You make me forget my own father.
Don’t call me Boy! I’m Dario Ramos Jr. Dario Ramos Jr.!
Soon his mother was there – flushed by the tonic of the kitchen, worried, still young, beautiful.
I’ll go away, he said.
For at the gate somebody was waiting for him. He was tall, with the crew cut, with the proud nose, with the laughing eyes. A thin, blue shadow rainbowed above his lips which were half-parted as if poising kisses to all flowers, even the lotus…
Papa Papa Papa!
And his arms were around his father. He kissed his forehead, his cheeks, his chin, and then his forehead again and his cheeks again and his chin again with a passion that was more intense than the thirst of deserts and a thousand fatherless sons.
But the eternity in his embrace ended just there, the cloud of sleep melted and presently disclosed an obese face – prosaic and benign, the face he had been afraid of because it was always kind and good. Under the light, Mr. Santos glistened like a Buddha and Dario, in his trance, saw an oasis.
And again it just ended there. He was now in his senses and the discovery of his arms around this commonplace man was an embarrassment. He pulled his arms away instinctively. Behind he saw his mother and he had a momentary feeling of guilt.
Dario was hoarse and hearing his own voice with relief.
Are you sick, Dario?
He must have talked in his sleep and he felt something odd, something undefinable that was almost a sense of guilt for something that could not be named. His step-father called him Dario and, in an instant, he felt so ashamed of his inadequacy in all these years of morbid introspection and silent rebellion.
I’m going to midnight Mass, he said.
The moon was now on the west side of the roof. The Consonants would be knocking at the door any minute, singing their greetings and their joy. He wondered how they would look tonight. It seemed that they suddenly became remote, as remote as his fear and love for the dark somewhere far away, farther than the silhouette of palms, farther than the source of the wind in the park…
Henry and Rolly would be loquacious forever, but tonight, it would be different. He would not hear them. For Leo would speak to him like a nemesis or a reminder or a conscience or a ghost that haunted him forever. Dario. Dario. Dario.
Tonight God is born. Death is dead. Dream Dario –
Leo would not be different. For he had always been different. He had always seen through people and, worse, he would tell what he had seen there.
Did Leo lose his father? He didn’t ask. Did Leo lose Teresita? He didn’t ask. A tall palm was in Dario’s mind in a moment. He never lost Nena. She had never really belonged to him.
Yet something was lost. It was not his father. He had never belonged to him.
A noisy knock startled Dario. His friends were there and here he still was in his pajamas. Mrs. Santos hurried out of the room to answer the call. Her husband stayed.
Dario jumped from his bed to dress up. Outside, the world was bright and noisy with carolers. It was Christmas. The moon was bright; it was obese, benign, like the face he had been afraid of not long ago…
And Mr. Santos smiled.
They intend to awe men in Aomen
There, history becomes the pavement,
the yellow and blue you can just walk on,
and a colonial past is sold
five patacas a picture, ten a keychain, three for twenty.
By the time you reach the top step
you will be breathless
at the sight of Ruins, of Lisboa
and of tree branches heavy with pink.
Stanley will show you how
cabbages are carved from jade
and tree carved from tower,
while Wynn’s tree, or dragon (depends on the time)
will come out from the ground.
The dragons in the City of Dreams though
will be made of gold, or light.
And Sands will strip two islands bare
of each other’s distance and link them together
as it links piers on canals four storeys above,
peppered with gondolas,
and as it paints the sky
in ever day
on its bird-chirping ceilings.
In Galaxy’s high suites
The city lights become the stars
Constellating before your feet.
There, you are free to drink (coke or milk tea?)
to eat (almond cake or bakkwa?)
to roam (walk, or hotel bus?)
to dream (roulette or poker?)
But even there, ah even there!
Love is not even free,
can put her warmth in Venetian pillows,
and no special lights
can project on your window-night
a reflection of her beside you,
for loneliness is unsinkable
even there, where money flows
even there in Macau, Monte Carlo of the Orient,
the meagerness of millions
mere mei (not even chow!)
in the mahjong of the heart
How luck and money
cannot even win love
or buy away loneliness
will awe men in Aomen
This week I was fortunate enough to meet one of my great literary influences, Dr. Leoncio P. Deriada.
To list Sir Leo’s accomplishments would be a great labour, for the man’s curriculum vitae is one of the most voluminous in Philippine Literature. It will suffice to mention that, among other awards, he is a Palanca Hall of Famer, having won in the most categories and in the most number of languages in the prestigious Philippine literary prize. The man is also a seasoned man of the academe, having taught and served as administrator in schools all over the country. He writes in English, Filipino, Cebuano, Hiligaynon and Kinaray-a, and one of his greatest accomplishments is the birth of Kinaray-a literature, whose young writers only began writing in the tongue upon his urging. He continues to influence young writers by paneling in various writers workshops around the country.
I have always been something of a Deriada fan. The fact that he graduated AB English from the Ateneo de Davao (my own course and alma mater) is a point of particular interest to me. I have read almost all of his stories, and during my time as SALEM president I promoted his works to young AdDU students. I ended up studying two of his short stories as my undergraduate thesis.
I sent this very thesis to him in Iloilo after I defended it (it got a 98 out of 100!), and through his daughter ma’am Dulce, I learned that he was quite pleased with it. I looked forward to meeting him during this summer’s Iligan Writers Workshop, where he panels, but I had already committed to a fellowship in Silliman and I had to turn the Iligan fellowship.
Just last week, ma’am Dulce informed me that she and Dr. Deriada were coming to Davao to attend the funeral of sir Leo’s deceased sister, and that the great writer wanted to meet me. I was elated! I quickly arranged for students and writers in Davao to meet him.
They arrived from Iloilo on a Saturday but proceeded directly to Mawab, where his sister’s wake was. Bu they returned to Davao the next day.
It was a rainy evening when I first met sir Leo, at the residence of one of his nieces at San Rafael Village, near Marfori Heights. The family was kind enough to welcome me for dinner.
My first chat with sir Leo was immediately fruitful. We talked of the Davao of his childhood, of the Ateneo during his day. He laments the denudation of woodlands in the Davao area, and fondly recollects his experience with the Philippine Eagle. Then he shared my frustration at the neglect the Ateneo de Davao is showing on the literary arts (and the arts in general). “What we had that you don’t have now were good teachers” he declared. With the leaving of Dr. Mac Tiu and sir Don Pagusara from the Ateneo faculty, AdDU would be a literary no man’s land if not for the efforts of sir Dom Cimafranca. I was delighted to know that since he had retired he had been writing, and now he he had two novels waiting to be published. What excited me even more was when he said a “People at Ateneo Jacinto” novel was in the making. Finally, the most fantastic thing I heard was that in his childhood he recalled squirrels going up trees and gnawing Durian shells in Calinan.
Later that evening we went to another relative’s residence in Villa Abrille subdivision, the Robin family’s lovely home. There we continued chatting, and this time the chat became even more revealing. He talked about his old friend the local playwright Rolando Bajo, and recollected old but nevertheless intriguing personal details. Sir Leo came from Barotac Viejo in Panay, but they moved to Davao when he was in early elementary. He would go on to finish his AB English in the Ateneo de Davao, then serve as administrator at Assumption College in Nabunturan. Here, he shared that he sent a story to a publication in Manila, but Nick Joaquin, the editor, refused to publish it because of his back address (who would publish something from a far flung village in Mindanao?). he would then return to Davao to teach in the Ateneo de Davao, then take his master’s degree at Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro. Finally he would go to Silliman University to take up a PhD.
When the conversation touched Silliman, I asked if in case he was ever asked, he would panel in the Silliman Writers Workshop. His answer took the conversation to a stage of the most explosive revelations. Without betraying the details (he intends to use the details for his works), he gave his own unheard side to the infamous Tiempo-Deriada War of the ’70s. He had a bitter fight with Silliman’s Literary giants, Dr. Edilberto Tiempo and the National artist Edith Tiempo, which ended with his moving to UP Visayas in Iloilo and the Tiempos’ exodus to Iowa. He also revealed some hitherto unspoken of scandals surrounding the personages involved in the whole affair. But he did say that the conflict was ultimately resolved many years later, when common friends, among whom was National artist Rio Alma (Virgilio Almario), mediated to reconcile the two parties. Having just been a Silliman fellow this summer, the revelations concerning people I’ve met and come to love was provocatively enlightening for me.
The night ended with him giving me a free signed copy of his novel, People at Guerrero Street, and we agreed to meet again the next day.
The next day I served as his tour around Davao. We first went to Magsaysay Park, where he bought fresh durian. From there, we had lunch at Yellow Fin, where we continued to chat about language. Over Fish Laing and Lengua I learned a Hiligaynon word, dihon, which was untranslatable in exactitude. It means to craft poetically, and such words, we agreed, ought to be added to the Filipino language to expand its lexicon.
After that we proceeded to the University of Southeastern Philippines, where my friend Macky Marquez, president of USEP’s UneLites, organized a lecture by Mac Tiu and Rolando Bajo in partnership with SALEM and UIC’s LSS. Also present was Dr. Jondy Arpilleda, who brought his legion of Holy Cross of Babak students. There, sir Leo got to meet sir Bajo for the first time in decades. In the middle of the lecture he was asked to share his own thoughts, and the USEP, Ateneo, UIC and Holy Cross students present got to hear his provocative and not too good opinions on Ed Tiempo and National artists Nick Joaquin and Jose Garcia Villa. He reiterated the need to write in one’s own language and about one’s own worldview.
After the lecture we went to Chicco di Cafe Roxas, where several members of Ateneo de Davao’s SALEM, led by promising writer Greysh Tubera, met him. Sir Leo talked about the Davao and Ateneo of his day, and proceeded to give a lecture on good poetry. After the gathering, the SALEM members purchased his books and asked for autographs. I gave my old club a copy of his “Little Critiques, Little Workshops.”
We then proceeded to Apong Kula, where the Davao Writers Guild had arranged a dinner with him. Present were sir Mac (whom we just met at USEP), ma’am Maria Virginia Yap-Morales, sir Ricky de Ungria, ma’am Aida Rivera-Ford and sir Jondy. Sir Ricky revealed that he was working on a historiography on Davao Literature, and asked sir Leo questions. Sir Leo shared his experiences in Silliman, and the innocent ma’am Aida could only express surprise at the shocking revelations from ages past. With sir Leo around the conversation will always go to language. Observations were made, such as how Hiligaynon seems to be the language of romance while Cebuano the language of combat, or how Tagalog seems to be more related to Visayan languages than with the other tongues in Luzon (sir Leo even concluded that Tagalog is a Visayan language). Amidst the conversation my attempt to get a teaching fellowship in Silliman came up, and sir Leo jokingly asked “you’re not trying to follow my footsteps aren’t you Karlo?” A shiver came down my spine as I laughingly said I forgot to apply at Xavier University.
I dropped him to the Robins Home later that evening and said good bye. He thanked me for the time, and said if it weren’t for me he wouldn’t be able to meet young and established writers alike, We both knew were to meet again soon.
On my way home I recalled the past two days, and could not help but feeling that the meeting with sir Leo showed how much I was a part now of the vast, vibrant and colourful world of the Filipino Literati. I was finally starstruck, but I was starstruck at the thought that in Philippine literature you can be starstruck.
(The Cebuano poem “Tulukibon” by my friend and Silliman co-fellow CD Borden appeared in the BalaKista, a blog dedicated to Cebuano Poetry run by my Iyas co-fellow Romeo Bonsocan. Special thanks to Iyas co-fellow Ioannes Arong for sharing the blog. All three friends are based in Cebu and are at the forefront of the thriving literary scene in the Cebuano heartland. CD in particular has gained a reputation for his startling and often surreal images.)
ni CD Borden
Unsa man ka tinuod ang kamatuoran?
Sama ba kini ka tinuod sa sanggot nga mikulit og tingsi sa buwan?
Sama ba kini ka tinuod sa saging nga milamoy sa unggoy?
Sa bukog nga mitangag sa iro?
Sa tiguwang nga nagbisikleta sa panganod kaha?
O sa babaye nga gitaban sa tabanog?
Sama ba kini ka tinuod sa bata nga mikuhag bituon sa langit, gibutang sa lamparilya, ug gitayhop sa takna sa tingkatulog?
by CD Borden
How true is the truth?
Is it as true as the sickle that etches a grin on the moon?
Is it as true as the banana that devours the monkey?
As the bone that gnaws the dog?
As true as the old man who rides a bicycle in the clouds, perhaps?
Or as true as the girl flown away up to the air by the kite?
(One of those functional pieces of writing I come up with. Whenever people ask me why I write, I just share this)
Why should you write?
- Because basta, the paper’s waiting and you know without understanding that you have to write.
- Because teacher Jane was a horrible teacher who ignored you in Grade 6 because you didn’t come from a well off family and you weren’t as active as the class honor students, so you have to demonstrate your written eloquence by immortalizing the injustice she had done on you. Come to think of it, the whole school system did not give you notice because they thought good writing only came from students with good grades.
- Because when Martin had no idea what to write when he was chosen as the script writer for the required stage play in Filipino (what on earth were they thinking requiring Grade 6 students to stage plays) and the burden to come up with something mounted on you as director gave you the chance to see that coming up with plot twists and killing characters is infinitely better than just scribbling “I hate you teacher Jane” in your heart (it was a good thing they required Grade 6 students to stage plays!)
- Because damn the people loved your stage play and damn they loved your stories and damn you love the attention. And when you reached High school, damn you love the string of best scripts for stage play competitions.
- Because ma’am Nilda Tan your Filipino teacher said you could write, and ma’am Nilda Tan is one of the best teachers in the world.
- Because you aren’t just a passive appreciator of art. You loved the stuff you read or saw but you wanted to own them, so you took the parts you liked and added your own stuff in.
- Because you are no longer a baby who would cry when suffering. The boo-boo had to be pointed out some other way; while your classmates cut themselves to ease their pain, you found expression in stories of beheaded classmates and suicides.
- Because everybody is ugly and there is no God and those that ought to end up together drift away and end up banging some tramps from public schools, so all you can do to see beauty and meaning is to create a world of your own in letters.
- Because dammit you can’t freaking draw, you can’t play instruments, you can’t sing and you can’t dance. And the beauty inside you is bursting to come out.
- Because people around you are genuinely stupid and you need to knock some sense into them. You need to slap their pretentious politeness in the face with frankness and kick their mediocrity in the shins with some sarcasm.
- Because wit, sarcasm and intellectualism have an almost emancipating pleasure. Sure, Chicosci’s lyrics are cool, whatever, but nothing beats using your Catholic classmate to demonstrate how Intelligent Design isn’t exactly that intelligent.
- Because damn people still love what you write, and they even cry and tell you without knowing you’re the author that your short story they read was “a true story.”
- Because writing is magic, with which you make islands out of Apo’s peaks that peek out from a sea of clouds, stars out of the city lights and constellations out of the streets.
- Because you were not made to court an amorous looking-glass, were rudely stamp’d and want love’s majesty to strut before a wanton ambling nymph, so you experience love as creator instead. You could not love, so you create characters that could.
- Because your hometown has no identity, and conceited as you are you will endeavor to weave the fabric of the town’s soul.
- Because there are no demons in this world, only idiots, and the writer is the exorcist of stupidity.
- Because people forget and ignore even people, but they remember and notice when things are pointed out to them.
- Because Bacolod has Kansi, Muscovado, the Ruins, and the kindness of Dr. Coscolluela, and Dumaguete has sans rival, bodbod, dolphins, the writers’ baptism of sunrise, and life, and writing can get you there.
- Because writing can get you to different places and meet different people: a drinking mentor who will teach you Vodka, a girl who will show you infinite possibilities, maybe even friends.
- Because there is a pleasure in reducing the young heart’s cries of pain to mere t-e-a-r-s, heard by all mankind and thus silenced.
- Because it is orgasmic to make clouds cry, to lionize humble kittens and kittenize wannabe lions, to gouge out reality’s heart and carefully mount it, still pulsating, on paper, or to simply catch adjectives, verbs and nouns, stuff them into a sentence and watch them clash until a single, potent amalgamation of meaning emerges, all for the sadistic word-sex of it.
- Because at this point nothing else makes you more than what you would be otherwise, and because nothing really can make you more than what you are as you write. You with your delusions of grandeur are God on the paper.
- Because while politicians control the collective, doctors save lives, architects build homes and teachers train future politicians doctors and architects, you who write create them all. Because as you live writing you write life, and these “important” people are just characters in your story.
- Because yes, at this point writing becomes living, and living becomes writing. You, the God on the paper, have only the exaltation of authorship and the abjectness of silence to choose from.
- You really don’t have to, but you still cannot get shot of knowing that you ought to.
- Because you’ve been writing forever, all since Martin couldn’t come up with a story for the Grade 6 play. It would be being consistent. Continuity has a beauty of its own.
- Basta. You can write, and dammit, do you really need a better reason than that?
(The following is a translation from the original Bisaya of Paul Gumanao’s short story “Sa Kalsada.” The story first appeared in the Banaag Diwa, Literary Folio of the Ateneo de Davao’s Atenews. It won second place in the 2011 Satur Apoyon memorial award for Bisaya Fiction. It consequently appeared in two installments in the Dagmay, journal of the Davao Writers Guild. In my selection of best short stories written by Ateneo de Davao writers for 2011-2012, this was my choice for best short story. Paul has allowed me to translate the story to English for greater accessibility.)
In the Streets
by Paul Randy Gumanao
Stella didn’t get to finish her coffee.
“Yes kuya, I’m on the way. Really, how impatient you are” said Stella while rinsing her toothbrush on the faucet. It was six thirty in the morning and she and her kuya Lucas were about to head for school.
“Sorry about that. We have an assignment in Araling Panlipunan, you see. I still have to copy from my classmates, that’s why we have to hurry. Let’s go.”
Lucas took his sling bag, which was on the table near the TV. He apparently forgot to close its zipper, and some loose change and his phone fell from it when he took it.
“Oh will you be careful, son! What’s wrong with you, you’re running around like a beheaded chicken. Take care of your things! Remember, we aren’t exactly rich. You’re lucky you get to have cellphones, but you don’t even take care of it? Goodness.” so said their mother, who tried hard not to start a sermon that early in the morning.
Lucas merely smiled as he picked up his disassembled phone. He reassembled the battery, keypad and casing. Then he pressed the buttons to see if it worked. Stella saw that her brother was agitated, observing the large beads of sweat on his forehead, and his somewhat slight trembling of the hand. She could only help pick up his loose change.
When they were done, they said good bye to their parents and went out.
While the two were walking in haste out of the narrow alley to wait for a jeep, Lucas noticed that Stella was lugging with her backpack. He felt sorry for this second year high school little sister of his. She’s an honor student, and she refused to leave any of her books and notebooks behind. If she could just have clothes with a built in bag sewn, she would have done so long ago. But then she didn’t want to look stupid, either. After all, those of that age were already beginning to be conscious of their looks. Stella was a young woman now. By now she should already be having admirers and crushes.
“Let me bring your bag. Here, let’s swap.” They stopped walking and Lucas handed his own sling bag while taking his younger sister’s backpack.
“Uy, kuya cares about me.” Stella smirked while poking Lucas’ right dimple teasingly. The older brother just smiled.
“What are you talking about, hahaha. I just took your bag so we can walk faster and get to school earlier. You thought I was being doting, huh?” He teased his sister and struck her left ear with his fingers. Then, he trotted ahead.
“Ouch! Just you wait kuya, you’ll see. I’ll tell on you to ate Lea. I’ll tell her to break up with you. Hahahaha.”
When Lucas heard his sister’s threat, he suddenly stopped running. He took out his phone and walked slowly while reading some messages from it. Stella caught up to him and retaliated with an ear-flick of her own. But she got no reaction from Lucas. He just continued walking, looking straight. He walked briskly. Brisker.
“Let’s hurry while the jeep is still there.” Lucas said.
Before long, they arrived at City High. It was six fifty and they had returned each other’s bags.
The siblings parted ways to head to their respective classrooms. Stella said aloud, “Bye kuya! I’ll head to you after class, okay?”
Lucas just nodded. Without a word. Without a smile.
He went to the fourth year building, then to their classroom. There, he came upon his classmates huddled together and hastily copying their assignment. Lucas decided not to join the flag ceremony that morning, there wasn’t enough time to copy. The assignment had to be an essay.
His classmate Ben called him. “Hey, Cas! Copy mine, I’ve finished answering it.”
“Oh come on, Ben. And when did you ever learn to think, huh? Haha. You can’t make a fool out of me. Give me that, let me see, you might make me copy something wrong.” His smile returned. For a while, he forgot what he was worrying about a while ago.
“And you’re to talk. You don’t trust me, man? I copied that from someone in pers klas! You don’t want it? Well, let me have it back.”
“Hm… it looks right. We had the same idea. Whoever answered this is smart, yup, smart. Payts, this’ll do.” And Lucas copied it hurriedly.
For some reason, Lucas always had low grades, and he kept on just copying. Almost all of his grades were line of seven. He really only got 80 in Math and MAPEH, thankfully.
“Hurry man, I still have something to tell you. Important very much.” said Ben.
Lucas looked up and asked what it was.
“Just finish that first, you might turn emo after what I tell you. I don’t want you to go soaking my assignment in tears. Later.”
After copying, Lucas tucked his paper in his notebook and returned Ben’s assignment. He asked Ben what the latter wanted to say.
Ben brought him to the garden behind their classroom.
Ben looked around to check if no one was listening to their conversation. Then, he said, “Cas, now you have a reason to join the Spiders. When you hear this, you won’t hesitate to join us anymore.”
“What is it, then? Will you hurry.” Lucas was growing impatient.
“Your girl, Lea.”
“Lea? Why, what happened?”
“Last night. She and Paclar. The gang saw…”
“And who the hell is that Paclar?” Lucas was really impatient now as he held Ben by the chest. Blood was rushing to his face and his forehead wrinkled. It was difficult to see where the brow started and where they joined, and Lucas was just as uncertain.
“Paclar, Kristofer Paclar, the right hand man of the leader of our enemy gang, the Bloods. The gang’s been tailing him for some time now. And last night,” Ben looked around again, “the gang saw the two of them… fondling each other there at the covered court. He and your girl.”
Lucas was pissed off at what he heard. In spite of the coldness of the morning, a drop of his sweat dripped down to the sandy earth, which absorbed it.
So that was why Lea didn’t reply to his text. That was why Lea was avoiding him whenever they met. Lucas remembered how the other week, Lea texted him that she was feeling hot and that she wanted Lucas to satisfy her. Lucas was confused for a while before he understood what she meant. Now he knew it was an invitation with temptation.
Lucas leaned against the Talisay tree and looked up to glimpse the gleam of the sun from behind the tree’s leaves and branches. He looked up to suppress the falling of his tears on the wet earth. The earth was still damp from the rain the night before.
“So, what about it, man? What’s the plan? The Spiders are ready to help you,” assured Ben. Before Lucas could reply, the school bell rang, signifying the start of class.
“Can I talk to you Spiders later? After class?”
Ben nodded and the two went into the classroom. Lucas, in no sound state of mind.
Around three in the afternoon, the students began filing out of the classrooms. Stella proceeded to the canteen near the fourth year building to wait for her older brother there. While waiting, she bought two pieces of panwich. She ate one. The other, she put in her pocket to give to her kuya Lucas when he arrives. She was sure her brother was hungry.
It had already turned four but Lucas had still not passed by the canteen Stella was in. She knew he would pass by there, for there were no other ways out of the building. She decided to go to Lucas’ classroom.
The young girl walked slowly while humming. It was already a bit quiet in that part of the school as most students have gone home. Before she arrived at her brother’s classroom, she heard the sound of boys talking, and she heard Lucas’ voice. Stella stopped heading towards Lucas’ classroom. Instead, she went around to the back of the room to see what the young men were doing inside.
“You won’t regret joining the Spiders, Lucas. We are always ready to help you. As long as you don’t betray us.”
Stella sought to see who said these words. When she looked, she saw that it was Louie Reston. The leader of the Spiders gang. She grew worried. She understood that her kuya was joining this notorious gang in Davao.
“Bros, let’s all head for the hideout and have this new friend of ours initiated there. Let’s plan on how to take care of that Paclar there too,” so ordered Louie.
The young men left. They broke into groups. Lucas went with Ben’s group, which at that time was quiet and spoke little. But hatred and the desire to get back at Lea and Kristofer Paclar were clearly seen on his face. He was ready, even to kill.
while the Spiders went ahead, Stella closely followed. But she took care not to be noticed. Stella knew that this gang was wanted in the whole city. She also knew the DDS was still out killing members of any gang in the city.
The group arrived at an abandoned billiard hall in Jacinto. That was what they called their hideout. When all the Spiders got in, Stella came nearer. She peeked into a small hole and saw that the young men were going up the second floor. In her curiosity, she went in and left her bag on a table downstairs. She tiptoed up and peeked to see what the Spiders were doing. She saw her brother blindfolded and kneeling while the other members were around him. Louie stood in front of Lucas,saying something. Stella heard the words but she did not listen. The only thing on her mind was to know what they were about to do to her brother.
After a while, Ben handed to Louie a syringe filled with a green liquid. This was injected into Lucas. Lucas merely closed his eyes while biting his lips. Louie then took a baseball bat. He kissed this before ordering Lucas to stand.
Lucas stood up. Suddenly, Louie hit his legs with the bat. He struck as if he was hacking a tree. Not just once. Twice. Thrice. The legs. The waist. The rear.
“Aaaaahh….aaah! Aaaaargh!” This was all Lucas could scream as he fell down to the ground.
“Kuya Lucas! Kuyaaaa!” Stella could not restrain herself. Out of surprise she screamed.
The group of young men were disassembled and they rushed to grab Stella. The young girl cried as the men squeezed her shoulders painfully. She also cried out of pity for her brother.
“Stella! Why… are you… here? Go home!” Lucas tried to draw near his sister though he was already limping.
Louie suddenly came near. “What is this, man? Why does your sister know about this, huh? We can’t have that here in the Spiders. She has to be taken care of!”
“Huh? I.. I don’t know how she knew we were here. She must’ve followed us. Why are you here, Stella?
“I was worried about you, kuya. I.. I was scared that.. that something might happen to you.. Why did you.. you join these bastards?”
“Damn! We’re bastards, she says, guys! Damnit!” the boys were furious.
“You don’t understand why I joined. Don’t get involved, god damn it!”
Stella was bewildered how her brother could treat her like this. She could not help but cry. Then, Louie came near her and gave a sign to the boys holding her to make her lie down on the floor. Two boys were holding Stella by the hands, two by the feet. Lucas understood what they were about to do to his sister. But he was weak, and the drug’s potency was overwhelming.
“Having done us something wrong, we might as well have fun with your sexy body and pretty face. We don’t want to waste this smooth skin of yours, now do we. Hehehe…” Louie said threateningly to Stella.
She cried violently as she struggled to free herself from the hold of the gang members. The menacing laughter of the boys and the sobbing of this one young girl melted into one another. Louie took of her shoes and opened her skirt with his tongue out, drooling. To her fearful eyes, he looked like a beast.
He opened her legs more before taking of her panties with his teeth. The boys were howling with delight. Lucas merely watched as they molested his sister.
After they took of her panties, they had her wear it as a mask. And they all laughed. Even Lucas. They laughed even louder when they saw the flattened panwich in Stella’s pocket. The panwich she was planning to give to her brother Lucas, who was now with the boys laughing while looking at her like this. Louie wiped it repeatedly on her genitals, stuffed it in, thrust it in and out, then ate it.
The young girl’s blouse and bra were taken off. All that was left were her skirt and the socks on her feet. There was a momentary silence. Louie took off his clothes and desecrated the body of this bound young girl. From head down. Down. Devoured. Desecrated. Defiled.
“Aah..ahh…aaaaahhhhhhh……animaaaaaals!!!” Stella had barely any strength to scream. She was drained.
Lucas merely went downstairs and went out of the hideout. It was dark. Blood still lingered in his face and he felt weak. He could not do anything for the sister who loved him. He bought a cigarette from the nearby store while the boys were still feasting on his sister. One after the other. Defiling her again and again.
Suudenly, a motorcycle stopped in front of their hideout. Three men with bonnets were on it, and two of them went directly into the billiard hall. He was only alerted when he heard a gunshot. Then he saw the other members of the gang scurrying away. After a while, a police car arrived and went after the members. Some of them were caught. Fearfully, he ran away too while five policemen chased after them.
Lucas was fleeing with Ben, who shouted “Run! Run! Don’t look back, let’s split up!”
When they parted at a corner, near the Freedom Park, Lucas saw a gathering of activists having a candle lighting activity. He suddenly thought of going thither and pretend to be part of the rally to avoid the police. He conversed with some of the student activists and pretended to join the rally. He saw the other members of the Spiders gang being caught. Some of them were those who were shot at the billiard hall.
Suddenly, the leader of the rally shouted.
“Justice for the victims of extrajudicial killings!”
“Justice! Justice!” The rallyists answered together with fists up. When he looked back, he saw Ben caught by the police, pointing at him. To really look like an activist, he raised his fist too and joined in the shouting of “justice.”
“Justice for the victims of all abuses!”
After a while the rally ended. The activists all left.
Lucas set off as well. Slowly, he walked while thinking about the meaning of the word he was just shouting a while ago – the word “justice.”
“Stella! Oh God, my sister!”
Lucas ran towards Jacinto to go back to his sister. But he struggled running, for his body was aching and the heaviness in his heart was weighing him down.