“Redemption” tackles the life of five daughters and a mother. Two of the daughters are in the United States; the three are left in the home country trying as much as they could to live life in earnest and in the raw. All the five daughters carry with them the wounds that precede redemption: the wounds of life, the wounds of memory, the wounds of family, the wounds of relationships, the wound of discovering the rugged path to self-discovery and healing.
“Redemption” is an allegory of the Filipino condition, with the mother going nuts and out of her senses, losing sight of the time, losing sight of the healing power of forgiveness, and leaving the daughters to trek through life’s rough roads without her, without her blessing, without her word that ought to have soothed and salved them. The daughters, after forgiving each other, discover their common pains. They learn to forgive themselves and all the people who wronged them. In the end, they conquer their own private purgatories.
Even as you try to keep fighting on with your life as an unwed mother, I try as much to hang on in here as well.
I am your mother, true. However, I have my demons as well. And when they do come and visit me, I cease to be your mother. I become helpless. I become your daughter.
From where I am, I know I need to do something urgent: I have to keep on taming them, these demons that spring from so many wells within me.
You cry in your corner.
By all means, cry.
Shed all the tears.
I did that.
For many nights, I did that when the soldiers came to rape my mother.
I was her child during war, the war of my generation.
I was two and I saw how two young Japanese soldiers grabbed her with all the might and force that I have never seen in my lifetime.
She was breastfeeding me when they came one young evening. At two, I did not know what rape was. I came to realize that that was rape when I became older.
I know only about the bad people with their shining bayonets, their helmets and the strange sounds they uttered. I heard of “Banzai!” many times, a sound whose meaning, until now, I refuse to know.
I knew about the soldiers who raped my mother on the roadside.
The formed a queue.
One by one, they piled up to feast on my mother’s body now splattered on the dark earth of my father’s coffee and cocoa plantation.
My father has gone away to help drive away the enemy.
The last time I saw him was a long time ago, he with his khaki and his boots, and his bolo. I did not see his gun. But I thought that at that time that he asked my mother her blessing, they both cried.
My father said, “I am doing this for our children. For the land. For our future.”
Mother said, “You do not have to go away.”
Father said, “For my peace of mind.”
Mother said, “I do not know how to raise your children by myself. I will die before you know it.”
Father said, “You do not say that. We have goodness in us. The Lord is not asleep.”
Mother said, “You cannot leave us by ourselves.”
Father said, “I know that you know that I cannot. But I have obligations. Each man must face his own war.”
Mother said, “You have children.”
Father said, “Other soldiers have their own children.”
Mother said, “Sige, fight your own war. We will find a way to live. May the Lord Creator bless you.”
And then my memory of the scene faded.
I see the Japanese soldier on top of mother’s naked body. Almost.
Her duanaig has been ripped off.
Her long hair is the only covering of her breast, the same breast that gave me food.
All these things I see in my dreams.
The dreams did not come to me when I was younger.
The dreams started coming when I began to see the light of day, when I began to understand, bit by bit, the meaning of sorrow.
I do not know if father knew what had happened to father.
He grew cold after the war.
Sometimes I would see him spading the earth of her coffee and cocoa plantation, the manner of spading a ritual.
Off onto the earth, the spade, its point seeking its bottom.
At times, the rays of the sun would compete with him and outsmarted him in seeking the heart of the earth out of the hole he dug.
In the whole, he would put in all his sorrows because of the war and despite the war.
Mother kept her silence.
She knew that in my silence, I knew that the soldiers raped her.
I was two at that time. The spirits and the demons taught me of the ways of the older people and they brought me back to that past that I kept in my mind.
I had the spirits with me. I had the demons in my soul, those entities that talk to me about the possibilities of living the good life.
I was scared of the spirits.
I would get garlic and a pinch of salt, the fine one from the Ilocos even when we were already in Angadan to farm Father’s coffee and cocoa plantation.
Having learned to sew from Bai Regina one summer when I was seven, I cut a piece of cloth from a rag and made a pouch for the garlic and the salt.
I always carried the pouch wherever I went.
I needed to drive the spirits.
I needed to drive the demons.
I needed peace and quiet and not the rambunctious life I have with the entities with no names.
No. They told me their names.
But I was poor with language.
So I never got to distinguish who was who.
There was one who told me about his name.
I thought that he was handsome. He walked the walk of the confident man who knew what he wanted and who knew himself.
I got to like him.
And then he was gone.
I looked for him in the fields.
I looked for him in my dreams.
I looked for him in the waters that flow through the cocoa and coffee plantation of father.
I looked for him in the rays of the sun and the moon and the light.
I looked for him in all the songs that I head from Bai Regina.
I looked for him in my memory.
I looked for him in the past.
But he never came. He never showed himself to me again.
And so I had to look for him in the faces of the men that came into my life.
I had to.
That was my salvation. To see him again in whatever way I could.
I thought that I could not live life, the good life, without him.
The demons urged me on.
The spirits egged me on.
Demons, spirits—all wanted me to go look for him in the valleys and mountains and stories and language of the days and the nights that passed by as if these were just illusion.
Some kind of a magic.
Some kind of phantasm that I needed to exorcise.
Take out from my system.
Until I met your father, he who had those round eyes and sweet smile.
He had loved mo so.
I had loved him so.
But that was in the past.
Even in that love, the demons and spirits urged me on.
And I ran away with other men as if to run away was the only way to exorcise the ghosts lurking in all the nooks around, the ghosts residing in me, the ghosts that stole my spirit and that took hold of my name.
If Ria had told you about her hatred of me, I would not blame her.
If Lagrimas had told you about her hatred of me, I would not blame her.
If Lorena had told you about her hatred of me, I would not blame her.
If Rosario had told you about her hated of me, I would not blame her.
For in the shadows was my soldier. He came from the dark, from some place I do not know and remember. Then he conquered me.
One night, near the river that forked to the left of the valley from where you see the cocoa and coffee plantation, I met up with my soldier.
We were to talk about the revolution he and the other comrades were waging in the countryside.
Father was with them, the rebels who mouthed slogans against Marcos and the imperialists.
Father gave them revolutionary money so the comrades would be able to further the cause of the revolution.
Father needed to clean his conscience. He needed to purge it of the scenes of the two children his truck run over in Dagupan. He would dream of these children becoming soldiers and he would go with them, teach them the ways of the revolution, teach them how to read the stars and the winds and the howling of dogs to hint the coming of the enemy.
With the force of the wild winds from the north, he ravished me like a wild boar.
I resisted in the beginning. His strong arms were like the wild winds that roared like the storms.
I felt his heaviness that made me light, so light I was with the angels, the good demons, and the good spirits.
I welcomed him, the soldier that would inaugurate my sad and sorrowful life.
Then I had you, Rosario, and Lorena.
Now I see how the heavens had changed. I am here, in this old and rickety house, with my sad and sorrowful memories.
I would not have loved less. I gave love a chance to all the wilds winds that came caressing my lost soul.
I have yet to find my soul, balasangko. Help me pray that I will have peace.
With all my love,
Pub, INQ, V1N21, Nov 2005