The Post-Colonial Confronts Colonial History

This is a piece that meditates upon the colonial projects of well-meaning democracies.

I am taking things as they come, this meditation on what counts to me an eternal colonial of a colonized mind and colonized consciousness.

I am an im/migrant of another land trying to decipher the sense and senselessness of leaving one's homeland.

Today, I am taking the longest-ever bus ride I have taken in my lifetime.

And I feel courage creeping in my bones.

And I feel fear getting into my skin as I confront the colonial in me, in my thoughts, in my dreams, in this restless pursuit of taking my art on the high road to hopefully somewhere.

I remember two long bus rides to Isabela right after the 1990 earthquake that brought fear and trembling in our hearts, we people from the cities but who knew much about the sinews of suffering in the countryside.

A land was to be redistributed in a rancho-cum-hacienda somewhere in the heart of Isabela and a brother and a sister enticed me into going there and see what could be had in those parts, if we intend to go back to the roots of our maternal grandparents or we stick it out with our blighted city lives.

I remember that Kris Aquino's mother the haciendera Cory Aquino had promised this redistribution and some balik-loob kind of rebels were into these things of making a city out of mountains, of making living communities out of despair and destitution.

So there we went to Isabela in that long bus ride that took us more than two days to navigate the stretch of Manila and Roxas, with the upturned earth in Sante Fe giving us that greatest obstacle in our lifetime as travelers on the road.

I went with my sister for a reason that was more of a curiosity on my part.

By then, I had been involved with farmers' causes and some causes on justice and peace and all those big, abstract words we cannot eat for breakfast but are nevertheless as necessary as breathing clean air to make our lives less tormenting.

By then I had been writing about social justice issues during the first-ever People Revolution, at a time when the euphoria of making it work through prayer and people's
wrath was beginning to wane.

We went through a lot of these coup d'etat courtesy of some coward military mercenaries who never gave us a chance to try something new, something not within their own definition of what is morally right.

And so we had all those nasty penchant for quick relief of what ailed us as a people--all those because we never knew and understood the meaning of nation-building, of sacrificing for the abstract causes of deliverance and redemption and liberation in the name of our people and never in our name.

And this land distribution thing was one of those, with or without the earquake.

But what has this got to do with being colonial?

Many things, obliquely as they come to me now.

I am riding on this Greyhound bus with many blacks and even if I have lived among them in Los Angeles, in Gardena, in Torrance for many years, it is only my first time to have them in my life for long hours.

They are a happy people, to say the least. And they lived on lands with their blood to fertile those lands until manumission, the final one, came on.

Land and liberty, oh, they come as twins in my mind.

They are rowdy, these black passengers and their English is so different from the way English is spoken on CNN or Fox News or ABC 7--or even by Oprah Winfrey and Tiger Woods and Halle Berry.

But that is part of their being a happy people, this noise that only they know what it means, this noise that is language-creating, language-driven, meaning-giving.

They are part of a colonial project.

I am part of a colonial project--or was I not?

So I look at them in their self-asserting ritual, in their self-affirming ceremony that is as unconscious as their authentic saying of greetings that do not sound like they are trite but sincere: How are you, man? Where you going, man? Have a nice one, man! Good for you to travel by bus, man! You will see a lot, man!

I look at the colonial in their faces.

I see freedom coming on, coming soon.

I look at the colonial project in my view of things, in the way I read things.

I see freedom coming on, coming soon.

A. S. Agcaoili
Blythe, CA
June 22, 2006

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