An Exile's Post-Thanksgiving Languor

So many poems get into my head these days, so many metaphors I do not understand because they are as ambiguous as my sense of emptiness on thanksgiving day. I think of thanksgiving as some remnant of the Peregrine Days, when people were kinder and more attuned to the earth and to the universe--and to themselves. I think of the earthy metaphors here: of rain raining down on the green grass, of top soils coming fown from the mountains to fertilize the valleys, of a picture perfect scene out of an early morning of crystal dew at the tip of a rose bud.

I heave a sigh, finding in the sigh the healing that I need. I heave some more.

I have gone through four thanksgivings in the United States, practically all on my own, avoiding as much as I can any form of a crowd. Holidays in the land of exiles are all oxymoronic to me: they do not make sense because I cannot understand how an exile has to have a holiday. Or I refuse to understand, this refusal a resistance, this resistance an insistence on the right of all exiles to be by themselves during holidays like this thanksgiving day yesterday.

On thanksgiving day, I chose to be alone, leaving the house before lunch after having stuffed myself with the obligatory breakfast that reminded me of home: sliced fresh tomatoes and a couple of newly fried smoked Indian mackarel.

I ate with my hands, imaginging that the rite of eating is held with grace and gusto in my humble home in Marikina, the home I remember most, the home I know so well, with the living memories of children growing up and knowing only that home as well.

There is that smoked fish because the sister I live with knows I hate meat--or I avoid it and so each morning, she tries to look for leaves or fish or anything that she thinks would win me back and make me sit down at her dining table. Otherwise, off I run to beat the horrendous traffic that is twin to H-1 or H-3, the two freeways I need to navigate each day to get to work.

The Marikina home is a geography of joy--and now also a geography of sacrifices. There, the memories are intact, solid, ever-fresh, etched in stone.

I remember that the oldest of the three children remembers the Apartment D where we lived for some months before we moved to our Marikina home. Then again, our Marikina home is where he grew up and where he brought his girlfriend so we would get to formally know her. I remember how well he authoritatively told the tricycle drivers where we would go home to when he was just three or so: Sunnyville 2, po, mama.

This Marikina home, a humble abode of love and longing, is one of beautiful memories of parenthood: how the newspaper whacking had to be called for several times when hard-headedness stood in the way of their reasonableness, and how, as soon as the children were grown, would recall the same event with derision and insult and triumph as if the whacking father were a Mr Bean doing the unncessary and the idiotic. For them, I was Mr Bean incarnate, with all the funny stupidity and lousiness of that TV character on Skycable. This is the home that we all remember and which, in the four thanksgiving holidays that I have had the chance to celebrate in this country, I would always go back to, in memory as well as in speech, thanksgiving or no thanksgiving day.

Yesterday, I just sat down, like a Zen monk in all the consciousness of the universe I could muster.

No thoughts, wayward or otherwise, just that act of letting go, of allowing the energy of the universe to come flow through me, and releasing that same energy I have got to the wind, to the trees, to the young evening that was my witness to what, indeed, thanksgiving meant to an absent father like me.

Or an absent family, if I had to be kinder to myself, but the family's absence more of the immigration requirement to wait for the petition to be approved, go through the process of waiting for the visa to come about, and pray that sooner or later, all things will fall in place as planned.

Or I would read and read and take down notes, reminding myself that I have to write two talks for next week's activities, one a joint administrator's conference between the University of Hawaii at Manoa and the Mariano Marcos State University, and a roundtable between the Ilokano and Philippine Drama and Film Program of the university and the MMSU-Philippine delegation.

I took down notes, mentally planning what to say, how to structure my talk, how to sell the consortium program between and among universities, with UH Manoa's Ilokano and Philippine Drama and Film Program taking the lead.

When things got to be heady, I closed my books, set aside my 5X6 cards duly stapled and which I used to take down notes, and I got out to watch the mountainside turn to a deep hue as the dark gathers.

Today, I came back to work, on my own volition. The Spalding is all mine, all four floors, and there is the quietude that I so enjoy in the evenings that I chose to stay late and keep working. I know one thing: that I have to keep on writing about the sorrows of exile and the pain of going away so that the nation we left behind will not forget: that it will not forget us and our sacrifices.

Of course, I went back to my table and prayed: That one thanksgiving day--and in all thanksgiving days that will come after-- no father or mother or child would ever spend the day alone, in sadness, and in the United States.

I ended my prayer with Amen.

Now I think of a poem and a metaphor to capture all these thoughts in order to drive away forgetting, the huge forgetting.

A Solver Agcaoili
U of Hawaii at Manoa
Nov 24, 2006


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