Nakem and Its Anti-thesis

I could have composed this as a letter to myself.

In the heat of all the preparations for the 2006 Nakem Conference--in the frenzy of what to be done from the smallest task to the biggest--I can only sit down in my little corner, down here at the Spalding overlooking the Manoa mountains. I smell the clean and crisp air that moves freely, as if in wild abandon, among the leaves of the April showers. Their blooms in the fall are not as riotous as in the summer, but the petals are there, in their hues of yellow and white and baby pink, the clusters reaching out to the blue skies. It is fall in the country of my voluntary exile but here, in these islands, the tropic of cancer is the ruler, permitting the sun to come as expected each day, liquid sunshine or no liquid sunshine, the daily sun like a faithful lover.

It is late in the afternoon now. The young dusk is around the corner, in the nooks of cold buildings that dot the landscape in the foot of these mountains. Did they call this part The Manoa Valley, the old Hawaiians who were one with nature, they who saw that the connection of the human spirit to the spirit of the earth and the universe must remain so?

I look out the window now, and my view is blocked by the window pane, moist and hazy because of the eternal whirring of the Panasonic that seems to have declared that it is both the alpha and the omega of all the air that is conditioned by this whimsical manipulation of man the rapist of that which is cosmic.

I feast my eyes on the mountainside, its verdant hue a kind of a shawl to drive off the cold of the coming evening. The tree tops are veritable crowns in that most glorious of crowns: luscious leaves and luscious leaves circling and circling to trap the energy of the coming hours, right before the October moon peeps from behind the hills farther west. I look out the vast expanse before me and I sigh: what smallness, I tell myself.

I am small in this huge universe and my sighing is huge, aware that in a few days, this panic on panic that I feel gets to be real. 2006 Nakem Centennial Conference is not for the weak of heart and soul, I realize. It is for the visionaries, those people like Raymund Liongson who in his youth had seen what it takes to fight, shouting on top of his lungs all the social injustices he must have witnessed in our old Ilocos when our small city was still that respectable city of light and more light as its name suggested. He ran those streets with the red paint that announced to all those who cared that in the land of our birth, in the land of our umbilical cords, something was wrong, something was awfully wrong.

Early this afternoon, something cropped up in the mail, something out of the blue, some uncalled for message from some unthinking soul and there, there was Manang Precy Espiritu who was just by herself, her cheerfulness a bit snagged somewehre else but carefully handing to me one letter from someone with a claim to power but whose ability to do things with words is not in keeping with someone of his stature, he a symbol of authority, he who represents us all and not only his lackeys. This lousy soul without the 'nakem' did not understand perfectly well the meaning of coming together with all the 'nakem' around. He should have known that celebrations--all celebrations--are symbolic and the play of meanings in them are all of a play, in the playfulness of a play. But this one letter Manang Precy handed to me was a verdict of the most terrible kind. There was hesitance in her hand and I saw that, but there was firmness as well, aware of the possible difficulties ahead, aware of the consequent hurts and wounds, aware of the scars.

This is one price we have to pay, I tell myself, in silence as in pre-thought, if ever there was one. Of course, I write this now as an afterthought.

I read the letter and I saw in there the voice of an emperor without any clothes, naked in his impossible grammar of self-importance and pompousity, naked in his illusion of grandeur. What tough luck! I pray to the air, to the lord of the skies, to the kind earth, to the early afternoon sun.

Some minds could not fathom the 2006 Nakem Conference, I thought, as if we owe it to him, to them, to all the capitalists out there who almost always forget anyway that their profits are from all of us, we consumers who patronize them, directly or indirectly. There is greed here, there is ingratitude. I tell myself, once, twice, thrice--sayang.

Evening has come and the dark has claimed its reign all around me. I look at the cross before me as I type this. A man hangs in there, aware, in a symbolic sense, of what I am going through to come together again, call that energy back in order to get out of this snag, this knot.

Some people could be so almighty they have forgotten what power is, and how corrupting it could become. Some people do not learn their lessons, I suppose. And they grow old without grace except the self-respect they probably have bought from some place else.

I look at the dark. I look for healing in the dark mountains, darkened by the delusions of some people with lots of misplaced feelings of self-importance. Kawawa naman da tanga. Mulengleng a talaga.

A Solver Agcaoili
Manoa, Oct 12, 2006

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