It was in Williamsburg, Virginia that I first heard of the phrase.
"Liquid sunshine," says Dr. Josie Clausen while we were walking to a restaurant down on Lafayette, a stone's throw away from the fenched off entrance to the acres and acres of Colonial Williamsburg. There was drizzle in the midday sun.
"Liquid sunshine," I repeated, trying to let the phrase sink into my head. I allowed the words to stay for a while in my tongue and imagine the memory of sun, as solid as the earth.
I permitted my mind to wander and I was in Ilocos-land--or Ilokoslavakia if you will--and I was back to the times of my children in the homeland and I saw fallowed fields and parched fields and fields overflowing with the verdant color of the universe, the green one of a grace promised, with the strong stalks of rice plants eager to face up to the challenges of the north winds which were all too strong over here, the stalks eventually bearing fruit, the grains full and huge, as if they were all pregrant women on the verge of giving birth to a generation of heroes of the sad, sad homeland.
When I went to meet up with my department chair, the meeting to formalize the first steps to my appointment in the university, liquid sunshine came about, showering me with the blessings of the universe down here in Manoa, the campus a universe unto its own, with its copious rainbows welcoming me in the midmorning of my appointment with my chair, the teacher who took me in her fold long before the search and interviewing committee decided that I could be the next best bet to filling up the shoes of other, more accomplished people in the history of the department and the college and the university.
The university itself is hedged by mountains intertwined to form some kind of a great wall to protect it from all intellectual intruders of all kinds.
It pays that my office will face these mountains and I will have the full view to myself.
On the fourth floor where I will hold office, I imagine the mornings and afternoons that I will have to have an endless date with the muses of forests, the wild, the wildnerness, the crowns of trees, the showers in full bloom in the summer months that the heat will reach the 80's, still colder than the hundreds or so in the Mainland and the Philippines.
And now this liquid sunshine, as if they were the waters cosmic priests and priestesses would use to bless those who come here to seek refuge, redemption, relief. For more than three years, I scratched a life in the Mainland, the life was both good and not, especially during the first two years when I was at the mercy of fortune and fate and Filipinos who would not know the meaning of fraternity but opportunism, seeing oppression as a naturalized ethos in these parts where migrants have to outdo other migrants.
I left my car down the road at the back of the university theatre, that old relic of a plantation past in these parts.
Earlier, I had gone to the university visitor's parking, paying the obligatory three dollars at the entrance only to find out that the lot was full, as always. I asked myself: perhaps this is a university that does not think much of visitors and new faculty?
The theatre is a rundown kind of an establishment that must have seen better days.
The parking lot at the back was about to be filled up, as always, when you go to cities that have forgotten to walk but have used cars to accomplish anything at all.
The parking fee made me cry: five dollars or two hundred fifty pesos. I thought in terms of how much kilos of rice the parking fee cost me: about ten kilos, enough to feed a hungry family for a week. Even after more than three years in exile, I still think in terms of pesos. The dollar currency does not hit me hard, strange as it is in my way of looking at demand and supply, production and consumption, greed and poverty, war and peace.
I took the ticket, looked for the best place fronting the university so many blocks away past the formidable H-1 that linked the ends of the islands from east to west.
Despite my having here to Honolulu and the other islands many times, I could yet figure out the character of this city that has catered to tourists long before businessmen and imperialists connived to annex the islands to the Mainland U.S.
I got off the the maroon van a sister lent me to use, its gas consumption twenty dollars each trip, or your equivalent of a regular sack of rice for the not-so-rich in Manila, the kind I know of so well, so darn well. I have never believed in the graces of fancy rice grains: they are an invention of the greedy and the cheats, commerce men and women all who take advantage of the misery of others.
As if on a lunar walk, I covered my head with my hands while the liquid sunshine went on with its ceremony of giving blessings to the newcomer of this land. I prayed I was one of those being blessed.
I looked at the mountains ahead of me; I looked at the drizzle, the liquid sunshine forming rainbows above the western hills, green and welcoming.
I thought of the god of good fortune, the spirits of salvation. I heaved a sigh, believing in the great mercies of the universe around me.
A. S. Agcaoili
July 17, 2006, completed July 23, 2006, in Waipahu, HI