These are life lessons from from the warfront, if the metaphor for surviving and making it in life is that of a war.
Or a game of cards.
Or one in a cockpit, snakepit, the lotto house, the betting stations of all kinds.
What defines all these and lays down a common ground is the play of contradictions, the play of opposites, the contradictions awaiting synthesis, the opposites awaiting fusion, uniting.
The reality of these metaphors are more heightened in exile, when the circumstances of daily life are not necessarily normal, and when the senses are all attuned to watching for the clues and cues of making it past the war ground, the place of battle, the site of conflict within and outside the self.
You get to be more sensitive to many things, and sometimes, just sometimes, you get to be overly sensitive, as is the psychological state of all peoples who are disenfranchised, dislocated, displaced, deprived.
Yes, for all the claims to financial success of any exile, there is always that tradeoff: that in this new land, you are always the alien however you try not to show the signs of being one, however you camouflage the reality that you were once an outsider coming in and tresspassing into this sacred ground of the original claimants of the good life.
However much you flaunt your success, with that characteristic statement--"Look at me, kaya ako yumayaman ay ismarte ako at negosyante at hindi umaasa sa blah-blah-blah"--you cannot deny, can never deny, well, not a whit, that you are a newcomer over here and that you get no inherent right to lord it over those who just came in and are finding their way to win this battle, to come out a victor in this war.
For such is the case of the many of those who have made it here.
You have seen them, sizes, shapes, mindsets, and the company they keep.
There are always the braggart kind, with their superiority complext intact, their survival trophies on display for all to gawk at and see and envy.
There are always the namedroppers: sinong kakilala mo, sinong kakuneksyon mo, sinong politiko ang kakabit ng iyong bituka at kawalang-hiyaan?
But there are those who have remained human, all too human. You count your fingers though.
There are, of course, many contours of selfhood and self-knowledge even in immigrant land as they are many configurations of that selfhood and self-knowledge in the homeland.
People are always people everywhere.
People are always a bundle of surprises. And shock.
But the fact of the case is that one when an im/migrant like you throws his weight around and makes you feel and sense and accept that, well, here you are, the newest of the newcomer who has not made it yet, not yet, while he, the old newcomer has made it with his wealth and connections and the names of this-and-that that he can always drop at an instance, the namedropping a callous act to account his security blanket.
Exilic life, im/migrant life, and diasporic life is a a conflicted psychology unto its own.
There is one thing that has taught you as a writer and novelist: your serious study of people.Who they are? Their motivations, the fears and troubles lurking in the deepest crevices of their heart?
They say that every novelist is always an applied psychologist, one who is always on the ready to see people as they present and re-present themselves in public spaces.
In all these, you learn.
You pray for humility that you learn more in life.
The learning is not easy but the learning is itself the prize.
You start life anew and you look around again with the lens of an illumined mind. And then you see.
A. S. Agcaoili
July 14, 2006