The Bus Ride Back to Los Angeles

The bus ride back to Los Angeles was another pilgrimage, no less.

You count the hours, and you be kind to yourself.

You leave Williamsburg on a Saturday morning, right after the heavy rains and floods in the East Coast have gone away to hide in some other seas and lands and oceans for awhile, and you arrive in Los Angeles on the dawn of a Tuesday morning on that same day these Americanos are calling it a day because that Tuesday is the memorial of their freedom, their independence, their democractic rights, their birth as a nation, a people who know how to be one.

You count your fingers, and you realize that you have spent four days on the road, plus or minus.

It is not the arithmetic of the fingers that matters at this time.

It is the spirit of the four days of witnessing what America is like beyond the billboards, the ads, the political rhetoric about what is wrong and what is right, about what makes a nation a nation and what destroys it, about what to do with the war on terror, about what to do with this centuries of freedom gained from the motherland, the England of an empire and power and colonization-oriented supremacy all over the world, about what to do with the dollar in order to come to terms with the economic foothold the euro is gaining against it.

Away from those days, you realize the big events: the hour-long layovers to change coaches in Richmond and Dallas, that scary border check in New Mexico, past the Columbus International Border, in the middle of a vast desert with only the heat-stroked cacti and some other sturdy kandaroma-like shrubs for company.

Two of your co-passengers did not make it past the border check.

You were humbled by this incident.

You were reminded, in self-reflection, that the fate of these two men could have been yours.

You tell yourself: You are not yet a citizen so you better watch out when you go past borders.

You tell yourself: as an alien, you are living a liminal life, you are a liminoid, one who is neither here nor there. You laughed the laughter of the scared man, scared of his wits.

One, a man you met in Richmond and who talked to you in Spanish, believing that you came from some country in South America because of your dark looks and your demeanor, like one Hispanic man on the road to freedom, or in the pursuit of one.

Que bus a Dallas, por favor? he asked me, or least that was what I understood he said.

No lo se, senor, I said. Hablo Espanol un poco. I am not Hispanic.
I could have said I am still a Filipino, the word "still" underscored, but he left me to look for other Hispanic-looking passengers in that huge Richmond station.

The man had all the trimmings of a traveler like me: a maleta of all his wordly possessions double the size of my own, a toolbox, another hand-carried big bag.

He had my own skin: the dark skin of the Ilokano man who had known no snow in his youth but just the sun, the sea, the sand.

He must be in his 40s, or so I thought, in those years that a father has to look for some other creative means to send children to college.

The other man is much younger, perhaps in his 20s.

No documents for both. Nothing to show.

They got them off the bus, the border patrols, who were as mean as the desert air, the desert landscape, and the border check itself, with their questioning as if you were in a Gestapo-like cross-examination to ferret out the Gestapo notion of truth and its only brand of truth.

Oh, well, the terrorist succeeded in implanting paranoia in the hearts of the Americans.

But there are border crossings and border crossers as well.

These are ugly truths, the everyday ugly truths.

This is a psychological game of wits and war.

And if the terrorists are working on destroying the fabric of the economy, that is going to be another problem America has to address head-on.

We sped off past the border, past the heat of the check point.

I remembered Martial Law in the Philippines.

I remembered the militarization of the countryside, the hamletting of villages, the Operation Orange in the Cordilleras, the Zinundungan Valley, the Marag Valley, the loss of freedom, the loss of dreams.

I remembered the curfew hours, the ID check, the cedula, the community service for the vagrants.

We gained speed on I-10, as if in a current of motion. I looked at the desert country behind me only to see more of this desert before me that begins in Texas and ends in California, in the Palm Springs.

And then the coach conked, yanked, died, just died.

We were in the middle of the vast desert-land and the engine just died. The heat was more than a hundred and the rising sun was rising and rising and rising.

It took us three hours before the coach from Dallas got to where we were.

And we were in America with all its technological greatness, with its rockets and spaceships to boot, including this penchant to conquer other planets.

Ha, I was thirsty, the children were crying, and the next stop in Deming is hundreds of miles away.

Many passengers were fuming fire: they had to be in other terminals to catch their connecting coaches.

A. S. Agcaoili
Columbus International Border
New Mexico
July 2, 2006

When a Work is Done

When a work is done, you take a deep breath and you can only thank your God.

I did: I breathed and I thanked my God and then walked the length of Richmond that cross into Bypass Road and Lafayette.

It was at Bypass that we had the first Mongolian barbecue on one night that hunger was in the wind.

It was on Lafayette that I pulled my luggage from the transportation center to Fairfield on Richmond, a Marriot inn we stayed for a week.

No, I went through the motions of all settlers coming here to roost even if for a while, coming to seek shelter and refuge and haven from all that had been, from a memory of pain and longing and everything a life's pilgrim could dream of.

For indeed, I was a pilgrim in Williamsburg, the place almost totally unknown to me except for some tidbits of information from here and there, some speculations from stories heard from some acquiantances who had been there.

In my vagabond ways, I heard stories of various kinds and had become a beneficiary of that age-old ritual of listening to stories of a wayfarer who had gone faraway and had come back to tell of what had happened in his journey. In a way, my knowledge of Williamsburg had come through this means and method to knowing.

I pulled my luggage, one hand carrying the laptop that contained all my thoughts about being an immigrant and about being a journeyman, another bag containing all the more personal things on my shoulder, its weight in the noonday sun as heavy as my thoughts about the future. I realized later on that my shoulder would show the weight of this bag, with the red marks proving the sacrifice that I had to put in.

As I took that small step to Lafayette, I thought of thoughts so many they come crisscrossing. But then one thing bogged me down, doggedly insisting their significance in my mind: I am leaving a place I have loved and dreamed I could make it there, hoping as well that something great could come along in the way to pursue the idea of a good life.

In my case, my journeying to America is more personal, having had the good fortune of being part of the academe that knew, more or less, how to give freedom to its striving and struggling intellectuals.

I was a beneficiary of a country's grace and goodness to its wanna-be writers and scholars, with such grace and goodness the very reason for my having had the chance to travel and link up with other scholars of the world, the perk the realization that you have someone to talk to about your weird and wild ideas about many things including how to live life to the fullest.

The lot of the scholar and the intellectual--and thus, the writer--is to be lonely, in the full sense of the word.

And in this loneliness, he needs to reach out, to communicate, to talk, to diffuse his ideas, to share with other lonely people in this lonely world creative by their lonely lot in life.

I thought of all these things while I started to pull my luggage on Lafayette. I checked again the mapquest: it said, Go, go south until you hit Richmond.

I looked at the noonday sun with its promise of more sweat and sunburn.

I took the first steps to go south, one of the many thousand steps I had to make.

No, I will not take a cab, I told myself.

Yes, I will try to feel that experience of being a miserable pilgrim, luggage and all on my hands and on my shoulder because this is the only way to share the pain of pilgrims who came over to Williamsburg to find and found something here.

My foot ached but never mind. My mind ached more, my spirit ached more, my soul ached more.

Some parts of Lafayette curved to forests on long stretches, some did not even have pedestrian lanes such that I had to compete for space with the onrushing vehicles.

No, no one stopped for me, no one offered to help me, which was okey because I would have refused anyway.

So on to Lafayette I went until many crosscroads came to view.

The roads forked left and right although Lafayette remained my steady reference point.

I said 'Hi!' to a man, in his 50s, on his bike, on this Sunday that I reached Williamsburg. I am lost, I said, could you tell me where Fairfield Inn and Suites is?

Oh, Fairfield, he repeated, the way every informant over here repeat a questioner's words.

Yes, Fairfield.

Down here, on this trail, he showed. Come follow me.

I looked at the trail and I said, You are sure this trail leads to Fairfield?

Yes, Fairfield Timeshare. It is at the back of my house.

No, Fairfield Inn, I told him, with some seriousness in my tone voice.

Oh, no, he said, scratching his nape. Sorry, I got it wrong.

Thank you just the same. Thank you for your kindness.

And so I got my things again, back to the ramp, back to the Lafayette without the pedestrian lane.

The man got into his bungalow and swallowed up by his screened door.

I was left on the street by my lonesome, with the dense trees witnessing my fate.

I kept walking on until I reached another crossroads with the Staples close by, with a construction site in shambles in the right corner, perhaps another one of those humonguous malls to hold the ceaseless ceremony of capitalism and consumerist life.

Richmond hit me there, on this crossroads.

I had hope springing eternal, my good luck.

I turned right, on the gravel-strewn road and kept walking on. I met two young men and I asked for direction.

They were from New York and they only had their maps to guide them. No, we do not know where Fairfield is, they told me. Perhaps you can ask from the Dunkin Donuts? they suggested.

Thanks just the same, I said, while squirming to the midday sun. The heat had taken the better part of me and sweat had drenched my long-sleeved shirt. I felt the sweat on my skin, one feeling I had not known for a long while. I remembered our farming days when we were young in my father's barrio, when we were taught the meaning of the difficult life by being asked to help around with harvesting rice that were taller than us.

I kept moving on until I saw Fairfield on my left.

Right up ahead was the busy Bypass Road with the bridge crossing Richmond.

I planned my way to cross the road under construction.

I made an eye contact with the driver on a while car. I raised my right hand, as if I was volunteering to a teacher to respond to her question.

She smiled a wide smile and stopped her car.

I hurried past to cross the road to my redemption, towards the Fairfield that would give me a semblance of home for many days and many nights.

Alone, and sacredly alone, until on July 1, our work was done.

A. S. Agcaoili
Williamsburg, VA
July 1, 2006

A. S. Agcaoili
Williamsburg, CA
June 30, 2006

Captain Galley's Buffet on Richmond and the Taste of the Atlantic Ocean

The taste of Atlantic Ocean is through the oysters fried crisp, with its salty aftertaste evident in the heart of the meat.

It is its vastness that turns my head in a spin, like the vastness of the Pacific that limns my homeland's eastern coastlines, in turn separating it from other lands, other peoples, other languages. Even in this same eastern coastlines, we see the plurality of voices, the impossibility of mapping the numberless possibilities of outlining what the World is by virtue of Word.

It is Thursday now in this colonial city in this eastern state, this Williamsburg of Lolinda Ramos, she who had the vision to come here and say, "This, this could be the next settlement place for many Filipino Americans in the future."

In April 2006, Manang Lolinda died, leaving her Center Grill Resto in the hands of her two sons who had chosen to settle here rather than in Honolulu. The 2007 historical celebration is just seducing, seducing, seducing.

For a time, Manang Josie and I talked of going there and relishing a memory we have kept of the old friend departed.

But we resisted the idea: the people there would not know us, not even the Ramos children.

And so we settled for that fine dining resto down the road from the colonial city, some hundreds of steps away from the fenced off city, that colonial city whose road we tried to walk on, trod on as silently as we could, remembering as always the blood on which these roads were made of, invested upon, capitalized on. We knew one thing: we are walking on sacred ground. We could have kissed the ground like the way Pope John Paul II did each time he went to a new land but we resisted this idea as well, knowing that we could turn out to some exotic laughing stock.

And so to Captain Galley's Buffet on Richmond, the owner a Greek man and a Greek wife who had operated the resto since the early 50s.

The resto buffet had all the promises of a good meal, hearty and generous, the aroma of seafood wafting through the doors as we got in.

A. S. Agcaoili
Williamsburg, VA
June 29, 2006

The River James in Twilight

It was that going-to-nowhere thing with Manang Josie and Clint, a couple I have had the privilege of company since Sunday, at the start of our work--Manang Josie and I--in Williamsburg.

Clint, of course, had always been our gracious host for all the things that we needed including him looking for the better places to go soon after we were done with our work.

Our idea of 'better places' hews on what history has left of them, or the memory of a by-gone era relived, revived, reconstructed, fossilized in time for tourist to get an education on how to build a nation from a dream of a revolution to gain independence from a mother country.

So, where to this time? he asked us, Manang Josie and I.

Could we go to Jamestown, the river where the settlers first anchored from the Atlantic? I asked him.

Since I got to Williamsburg, I had been immersed in this world of my imagination--of the Jamestown that the first settlers founded out of vision to live in religious freedom and dignity.

I entertained in my thought how the first settlement looked like, how that river could have borne the weight of time and the troubles of all migrants and pilgrims and settlers from many places in order to spring from its currents and tributaries and refreshing waters a new lease on life--or what could be properly called one.

Yes, I went there this morning, Clint said.

We figure we could go to West Point first before going to Jamestown, all of us in the belief that we could retrace the steps of the former President Fidel Ramos when he spent some years here forming his mind and consciousness on leadership, governance, and some abstract notions about security and nation building.

Going through West Point is every colonial soldiers' wild dream as it affords him the opportunity to brush elbows with the future leaders of other countries' military organizations, the Unites States' included.

In my mind was a quiant town, a queer city, a rustic place, with only the hummingbirds breaking the silence of the forests strewn in mountainsides.

Which was so as we navigated two big rivers, one on its banks a huge gravel and sand and cement processing plant, its towers like guards standing watch of the river's banks, its flora and fauna, its waters turning dark green in the fading light of a late afternoon.

It was eight o'clock and we were running to the Jamestown Settlement in the city of Jamestown in Virginia, some miles away from Colonial Williamsburg.

More so, it was twilight: the time when the dark gathers here and the canopy of trees serve as stage for the fireflies to have their show.

And the fireflies did not fail us.

First, the huge trunks of trees vomitted the fireflies as if the abode of all the light came from these trunks that only centuries of patient waiting could have formed. These mute trunk are witnesses to all that had happened here in this lonely settlement now reserved for tourists.

Second, the fireflies gave generously of their gift of light, lighting the forest as if in a dance, as if in the fleeting glow of light that seduces and temps, the fireflies saying goodbyes, as plural as one can have, but never leaving, not at all.

They formed all geometry of shapes and wonder, their glow feeding on the dark, the dark feeding on their glow until the dark has finally gathered in the forest and only the outlines of tree trunks are visible, only the outlines of their crown against the dimming lights of the skies.

The road got to be narrower as we moved away from the freeways and in some portions of the road to the settlement place, a one-line country road was the come-on, some kind of a well-thought out strategy to keep the commuters slow, and sacredly slow, so that those memories of faith lived simply and in freedom are forever etched in the leaves of trees, in the flowers growing in wild abandon on river banks.

Far ahead, you stopped for that roadside show: the wild river ducks coming into a late afternoon formation as if in a military parade, graciously wading in the darkening waters of the River James, the waters ending up in the Atlantic, and then coming home again to the same river by the virtue of the storm, the wind, the dream.

In 2007, Jamestown celebrates its 400th year. Four hundred years of memories boggles me; I do not understand the meaning of years.

I sat still on the green grass on the river bank as I watched the duck parade.

I looked at a flower shooting up to the heavens as if in an eternal oblation, erect and proud with its pistil of yellow and some other hues, its petals the sign of hope, like arms outstretched, awaiting benediction and blessing.

I thanked my God for this chance to come over and see for myself what dreams of freedom are made of.

They are, these dreams, made of sterner stuff, like the dreams of every migrant in this im/migrant-land.

A. S. Agcaoili
Jamestown, VA
June 30, 2006

When the Sunshine is Liquid

Gratitude and Generosity of the Spirit

Children grateful always makes you cry rivers.

It is the idea, it is the thought.

All these years of sacrifice are erased, becoming some palimpsests that make us remember and never forget the wisdom of giving your children the chance to live way the way they know how.

A. S. Agcaoili
Williamsburg, VA
June 27, 2006

Williamsburg, Have Come, Am Here

It comes straight from a Jose Garcia Villa piece, its exuberance an exact imitation of the original, this one more of pride than being youthful: Williamsburg, here I come.

Or we can rephrase it by plagiarizing Villa again: Have come, am here and into your bosom you take me, take me, take me. I suck the marrow of your bones, I suck the marrow of your past, your present, your future.

Finally I am here with much trepidation.

The reasons are as complex as a Rubric's cube or the Saduko fad now, squeezing grey matter--or whatever is left--between the ears.

I am jolted by the elegance of the city, its imposing brick buildings, its architecture of magnificence I have seen in old Europe particularly that area that borders the culture of the proud Romans and the equally proud Greeks in the Mediterranean.

This is old Europe, this Virginia of old and this Virginia standing proud and tall in the present, this present peaking to its 400 years of existence next year.

I imagine the celebration: a fireworks display of all things Virginian including its ugly colonial past, in two counts: its confrontation with the native culture, and its obssession with slave labor, the labor many times over taken as if this was a commodity in the market to be sold and resold and disposed.

There is no way by which we can ever stand before the scrutiny of history except to be be honest with it.

This is what this city of trees and quiet and solitude is doing: to be authentic to itself.

When I got here in Williamsburg on a late Sunday morning, I had looked for a church.

From the transportation center where I got off from the third Greyhound bus--no, they call it 'coach' here, not 'bus'--I took in Richmond, VA, I had hoped I could bump into a church and pray.

But then I remembered two things: that I carried two bags and that I had to keep pulling my earthly belongings that consisted of the more formal things that I would need to face up to the scrutiny of my bosses and colleagues at a federal center where I would have to serve as a consultant for a federal program we cannot divulge. There is an oath here--and security is necessary.

There is another fact, of course, that I have to contend with: that Virginia, according to a colleague's husband, is proud of its more than 6000--read: more than six thousand--religious denominations. So many confusing ways of calling out to the same God of all humanity!

So ok, let us grant that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo had an audience with Pope Benedict and that the pope told the president she is doing fine with her triad of programs that included the no-divorce teaching of the church, the no-to-death penalty (read: this is also contentious because the well-connected and moneyed rich do not ever land in death rows but are always given some chance to have a quick conversion and they become proponents of healing and deliverance and fellowship and become leaders of foundations that are meant to alleviate the sufferings of the pooor, ahem-ahem!) and the 'preferential option for the poor, a copycat of Medellin Conference and liberation theology and even Vatican Council II.

What has this Arroyo visit to the Pope mean to my trip to VA?

First of all, you are pissed by the fact that some members of the Tuazon and Arroyo clans are candidates for beatification.

Come on, leadies and gentlemen, this is a holy sickness and this Virginia country has not been a protestant country for nothing. This is what the Arroyo camp is drumbeating, this sanctity and holiness and heavenliness of landlords and beneficiaries of Spanish conquest and evangelization.

Come on, ladies and gentlemen: there is no way landlords, a.k.a. allies and appendages of the colonial and imperial project can ever become saints and holy persons, whatever charity to the poor had they demonstrated. You get tired and get sick of this bribery even to the halls of holiness.

Stop it, I would say, stop this blasphemy.

I keep saying this, with some sounds in the beginning as if talking to the wind from the Atlantic and goes through the West Point and the Naval Academy and then eventually telling it to the raging rains.

And then my persoanl rage becomes one of silence.

Here in Williamsburg, I cannot even find a Catholic church building here, just a church building, if you please so I can at least try to pray for the pretenders of pontifical blessing.

In the heat of the Sunday sun, I realize many things.

We look for God in our deeds.

In our hearts.

In our souls.

The red-brown brick churches are ok for their 'homeyness' but other than that, the church is in the heart.

So in the heat of the summer sun, I had hoped for a cab ride in the Greyhound, to bring me to my Fairfield suite down on Richmond Road towards the southeast part of the city.

No cab.

No bus.

No nothing, dear God!

I get nervous: I look for the mapquest on my luggage to figure out where am I.

I am miles away from the Fairfield and the streets are not kind to pedestrans, at least in Lafayette, the same way jeepney drivers in Manila have declared that they are kings of the streets.

I survey Lafayette again and fear gets into my heart: there are no pedestrian lanes on this part, the lands end in this so you have to go around that parked car but before your do that you need to stop, look, and listen for incoming cars.

I am frantic now.

There is no cab, there is no bus, there is no nothing.

There is only this eternity of waiting for something you are not even sure of.

I have my feet.

I tell myself: I might as well buy a veggie Subway, six inches, with all the olives I like, with all the tomatoes I like, with all the greens sandwiched in all the cucumbers and lettuce leaves and carrots.

And the cheese.

So I decide: walk and get that Subway veggie sandwich.

So in the heat of the noonday sun, I walked the stretch of Boundry, down onto South Lafayatte, down onto West Richmond.

I do it once in while, this walking.

But this time around, I am not even sure if in this noontime sun, the east that I know is the east that is real and the west that I am going, presumably, is the west that leads to Fairfield.

In the morning, the directions are easier: east is where the sun gets to start to warm our cold hearts, remove the estrangement in our view of things, and welcomes us into the home of the sun's rays, the home in the fields, the home in the green, verdant leaves of tall trees, some of them pines that remind you of Baguio, Kalinga, Apayao, and Nueva Viscaya, the very places where pines grow in wild abandon.

But I take the chance, as I always do.

A man in bike is at my back and I muster all the courage to ask him: I am lost, can you help me figure out where Fairfield is?

Come this way, he tells me, his accent Irish, or Scottish or plain Virginian, I do not know. But it is not the kind of English people of Los Angeles speak.

I am looking for Fairfield on Richmond.

Oh, Fairfield on Richmond?

Yes, the inns and suites?

I thought the time-share.

No, sir.

I do not know where is that. I have lived here for a long time but I do not know where it is.

Oh sorry, I say. Thank you for your time.

So one baggage on my right shoulder, the other baggage my left, the biggest of them all pulled on the street pavement, I take N Boundry, make a right on Lafayette, and make another right on Richmond.

I do all these past houses with no people in them, trees in their summer grandeur, and vehicles wheezing by, speeding off to the horizons I do not know where they end.

Walk, I did, with some pauses to ease my shoulder.

I have not carried so much weight on my shoulder for a long long while except that of the weight of running a paper for immigrants, a paper that went defunct.

I take one step at a time, believing honestly that I am taking the right turn in all these streets that I am taking.

Once, I had to pull my luggage with wheels up on the ground, away from the pavement because a car was speeding by as if its driver is immortal.

Halfway through my right turn on Richmond, Fairfield looms large.

I get past all those eating places I am familiar with, in California and elsewhere including my colonial and colonized country.

For the first time, I feel the pangs of hunger after going through four days of living on food sold on vendos and traveller's cantinas.

A. S. Agcaoili
Williamsburg, VA
June 25, finished June 26, 2006

The Journey to the Heart of America

The journey took me four days, literally.

I took the Greyhound 7176 to Williamsburg, Virginia, site of many of the wars the United States had to wage before it became the nation that it is now, a nation among nations.

Virginia was also one place that had troubles with the history of slavery and then the eventual, unconditional munimission of all that which is connected to this dark history of a democratic country: from thought to practice, from idea to deed.

From Los Angeles, where there is also that sense of the colonial experience with basically the Spanish missionaries, the East Coast, the first 13 states of the U.S. in particular, share a different experience. Virginia is one of the first 13. But this is another story.

This bus trip is a dream long held, kept in my heart.

A long time ago, I had dreamed of going vagabond into the heart of the United States of America, of going the way of the participant observer and observant participant in the attempt to learn something, just something, to be jolted by realities that you do no get in your sanitized and deodorized notion of things in this country's big cities.

For in my more than three years of im/migrant life here, I have been spoiled and bastardized by the big cities--and delighted and terrorized by them as well.

But each time I go to the rural America, the heart of America, to Fresno or Stockton, for instance, there is that image of America that is evoked in me, an image not in the books, not in the glossy pages of touristy publications.

It is an image with the terror and surprise that I want to discover and then to write about.

I am looking for that reality of the image behind the 'good looks' and 'eternal youth' of Hollywood and the obsession of California for that which is beautiful on the outside, in the external--one for public relations and global consumption.

So here I am, queueing up to get my bus ticket so I could take that dreamed-of bus ride to as many states as I can cover from the fringes of the Pacific to the fringes of the Atlantic.

I understand that in the summer which this year officially began on June 21, the waters of the Atlantic in the side of the East Coast, for instance, are warmer than those of the fancy beaches of Malibu or Huntington Beach or Manhattan Beach.

I take the plunge--and I take in all: the experience and its promise, the sacrifice that this whole thing entails, justifying all these irrational acts as a writer's quirky habit of finding something to write about.

I imagine the cost it entails in terms of the tolerance and patience and prayer that I would arm myself with.

I imagine the sleepless four nights that I have to put in as my investment to have something to write about.

I imagine my teacher Bien Lumbera's apt phrase--"anong gusto mong patunayan, na ikaw ay isang protipong lagalag na Ilokano"--is also mine apart from all those who have done the same thing that I am doing now.

Carlos Bulosan did, this gallivanting, this senseless wandering, this venturing into the unknown at whatever cost.

Except that Bulosan came up with a memorable story of his experience in "America is in the Heart" and that I have yet to dream about my poor imitation.

He is a good storyteller, this Bulosan, a.k.a. Allos and I only wished I could get some of his art's spark.

Oh, boy, four days, technically.

I left Los Angeles on a Thursday, June 22.

On a rainy and sunny Sunday, June 25, here I am in Virginia.

I am in Williamsburg now, in the same city where we have the West Point.

Did former President Fidel V. Ramos ever come this place in Richmond Road where I am staying? Did he eat in these restaurants offering all these country menus?

I will have to find out.

In the meantime, I am taking my first bath since Thursday, a long hot bath on a good and clean bath tub to remove all the guilt and grime of travelling with no sleep, with a calculated ingestion of food, with endless writing on my field notebook even at the cost of calling all the nights that I was on the road as days as well.

I take all in, this experience that pampers my poor and struggling writer's soul and heart.

A. S. Agcaoili
Williamsburg, VA
June 25, 2006

Cross-Country Pilgrimage, This

This is a pilgrimage of a different kind.

The sanctuary is different: it is in the mind of a writer struggling to survive.

The shrine is not a Black Stone or a Magnificent Bassilica made out of slave labor or polo from some colonized who did not have to be baptized in the first place except that the need to baptize them in the name of a white god was in the tortured mind of missionaries who did not have any idea of what hell looked like when inflicted upon others peoples of other lands.

The journey began in a poor writer's heart trying to understand many things that overwhelm him all the time.

I confess: I am that writer.

I thought that there is only one thing that will deliver me from all the torment's of a migrant's life: take this trip to the heartland of America, the heartland that still has the beat and pulse of life the cities have robbed, hostaged, shanghaied, kidnapped, or put on the e-bay for ransom.

I take the first steps of this journey.

I call up Amtrak, but my rewards could not be found.

Sorry no trace, says the email, no trace if you cannot give us the number.

The card was stolen, I tell in an impatient immigrant's anger, more to myself now. It is in the police blotter of Long Beach, this stealing of my checks and cards and identity. A police detective found this out. I am a victim here so why should I bear the consequence?

But no sweat, no, no number, no rewards.

So this is what high-technoligized life is all about: you and everyone one else is reduced to a number.

Anywhere else here in the United States, you are a number: you social security, your last four digits that you need to memorize, your zip code, your visa account number, the number to call when you pay your debts (and you have many in this plasticized life).

So I call up Greyhound, the bus company with the leaping dog for a logo.

Well, call that a capitalist's icon to suggest a service that leaps, hopefully, to the right direction.

That is the tacit text of a promised made to all clients: Bastante bueno nunca es sufficiente.

Give me that route that goes all the way to the land of slaves in the past.

Be clear, sir, says the imaginary clerk.

I say: I want the longest trip to Williamsburg. I need to be there by Sunday, June 25.

You go all the way to Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, and then to Virginia.

That is all? I ask. I want more.

There is a longer route but you cannot hit Williamsburg on Sunday. You go to Alabama and others.

No, that will do for now, I say. Put me in on your bus on Thursday afternoon then.

Okey, just come in earlier to get your 'will-call ticket'.

What is that?

Your 'will call ticket', sir. This is what we term for all tickets bought on the phone.

So the pilgrimage begins.

First the packing.

Travel light, travel light, I remind myself.

The books to be read, priority.

The field journal notebooks, priority.

The writing pens, priority.

The suits to fight the cold in the East Coast, you bet you need to fight off the cold in those parts. The climate here is cranky, a friend writes. Be prepared.

I take off the thermal, I folded five long-sleeved cotton shirts for the night wear after a long day's work at a government office.

Semi-formal office wear, well, do not be like your son who goes to an interview for a teaching job in a government-run university wearing nothing semi-formal but his self-confidence and his knowledge of the subject matter he would have to talk about.
Take those you can carry, for five days, spray all the Magic you can to stiffen the collar and the sleeves, and iron, iron, iron, man!

The ritual ends with a prayer that the trip will give you insight on what is it to be a pilgrim of another land.

You are a pilgrim of life, that you know well.

Peregrines, one saint has said. Peregrinos todos, pilgrims all.

But this trip is a pilgrimage of faith as well: faith in what the future offers to countries other than your own.

Let us see, I tell myself.

This I write on my field journal to account the subject, which is me, positioning myself in all these experiences that need to be accounted in the field journal. I am pretending I am another ethnographer of the better kind.

I put my bags on the back of a truck and to the Greyhound I go, the one on the 7th and Alameda in the south of Downtown.

I smile the smile of the just, a struggling writer, but just.

Or so I can take that as a virtue I can call my own.

A. S. Agcaoili
Los Angeles, CA
June 22, 2006

The Face of the Im/migrant

The face of the im/migrant is a familiar face.

The lines of worry and homing anxiety are all in there in the forehead, etched there as if they are abstract reminders of what had happened along the way.

I see them, these faces.

And these faces see me.

And the recognition becomes mutual, this seeing that is born out of looking and looking kindly at each other's fortune and failure.

It is this seeing through, this seeing with a vision and insight that makes you recognize the face of the im/migrant.

It is not the voice nor the speech, although this is somehow a giveaway in many circumsntances.

The voice can be faked, the speech can be acquired, the play of words can be learned the way a parrot learns some human noise, some blabber, but always without that sense of the self-reflexive.

The gait can be learned as well the way models in the fashion stage of those who think of sytle as a marker of meaning and humanity can fake sophistication with their callousness, their inability to make a meaningful connect with humanity in blood, in flesh, in fears, in tears.

Even a presidential swagger whether in the Philippines or in the United States can be a by-product of all the historical circumnstances that lead one to rule a land and rule it the way you would probably rule a midnight kitchen, with no obligation to the public.

No, the im/migrant is a face--and a face with that gaze only another im/migrant understands.

The face looks far and wide, the looking always a looking through beyond the barriers, beyond the imaginary walls: it is that look of hope, of a promise, of a joy that has yet to find its place in the guts.

In effect, the face of the im/migrant is a laughter that comes after a full meal.

The face of the im/migrant is a future with a past drawn up from the present.

The face of the im/migrant is a eureka of that which is possible beyond pains, sufferings, sacrifices--the possible that is true, good, and beautiful.

I see them all as I take the Greyhound 7176 and then 6119.

I recognizes theses faces: one of hope, one of courage, one of daring.

I see them, these faces, I see them come to me in my dreams: the Black immigrant, the Latino immigrant, the Asian immigrant, the European immigrant, the Arab immigrant.

I see them come, these faces, I see them come into a union with other faces to form a community of faces, one that knows what dreams are made, what seeing through demands in the dreamer, what amount of boldness is necessary to pursue the dream.

Ah, these faces on these buses that I take and in the other buses that I take.

A. S. Agcaoili
Phoenix, Arizona
June 22, finished June 23, 2006

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

The Im/migrant Confronts the Heart of America

This piece is first written in the mind.

Or read there before it is written.

Because it is about me, an immigrant, confronting the issues on immigration in the United States at this time that the immigration issues are as hot as the just laddled out mashed potato, without the E, without the S, in the spelling of a vice president of this country not so long ago.

I read the data on the Mexican presidential elections, this Lopez Obrador versus the Fox bet who represents capitalism and elite interest and I can only cry.

Accounts on Mexican migration during the time of the Fox presidency are clear: four million Mexicans left home during those years to find life in the United States alone.

We wonder how many more are in other countries, scratching out a life in strange places as well.

And here, in the U.S., they are talking about putting up wall to the 2,000 miles of border lands between countries, the lands of vast and murderous deserts whose wild winds howl like mad wild dogs in the evenings and whose desert sun could kill even the wilest of a fox, whether he is president of a pack or a lone ranger.

Many still die crossing these deserts; many still are being caught everyday just trying to cross the land with much promise just to get away from a land with no promise left.

The 'masa' canditate gives the prognosis: corruption and corruption, with the fruits of corruption ending in the hands of the opportunists, the elites who have no social conscience, the rich who always want to make a killing in order to corner the wealth of the nation.

The machinations are the same in the homeland.

The plotlines are familiar: the rulers robbing the ruled, the rulers ruling forever in the eternity of time, a time that they have even already owned up.

The class of evil that makes it possible for the idea of im/migration to be worth the pursuit is the same class that we have back there in the home country: the greed of the ruling elite, the greed for more wealth, the greed for more power, the greed for more of the resources at the expense of the poor--the greed in wild abandon, the greed boundless as all forms of greed are.

The Mexicans are leaving their homeland in droves, with or without the formidable deserts in those borders.

The Filipinos are leaving the homeland in droves, with or without the Pacific between the Philippines and the U.S.

You cannot catch the idea of im/migration unless you look into the root causes.

You cannot imprison the idea of making it better here in the United States even if in reality that idea does not happen to all.

An idea moves a mountain and may flatten it to become a valley--or the reverse, as is the case in this bus ride to Williamsburg.

There seem to be no passengers who are born here.

The accents, of various lilt and tone and timber, give away class, origin, ethnic loyalty, even occupation.

I look at them, all of them, all of these passengers on this Greyhound 7176 and they are all like me: migrant, immigrant, alien, stranger.

Some are citizens now but citizenship is a habit of the mind too.

The citizenship paper does tell you all what is in the heart, what songs are there silently being sung in the soul, what contour of a country your chest craves.

And so we take this journey together, we kindred spirits, among Hispanics, among Native Americans, among Blacks running away from themselves.

We are all pilgrims now in this bus ride to Dallas where there we will change bus, where in the changing of bus, we permit our roads to a real, if at all possible, American life, fork to other directions.

I am the only Filipino in this long bus ride.

I look, I look around, and I see, the seeing one of recognition.

A. S. Agcaoili
Phoenix, Arizona
June 22, 2006

The Heart of America

I am taking this long trip to the heart of the United States of America.

It is a consulting job that I am taking with a federal agency that provided the impetus to taking this trip to America's heart.

I will go through its heartland, this country that was founded on sheer political imagination of settlers who had the courage to call it quits with the colonizing masters of the motherland, the England of long time ago.

The trip takes three days from my base in Los Angeles, with only a few stopovers, with two bus changes, one in Dallas, another in a city in Virginia, a few hours from Williamsburg.

I imagine the distance: Washington, D.C. is two hours away by car; New York is six hours away. Ah, I tell myself, I am beginning to imagine the energy of the thirteen states in the East Coast that had the temerity and daring to call it 'Enough, enough!' with the English colonial administrators and rulers.

I have encountered the State of Virginia and the city of Williamsburg when I took my World and U.S. Histoy in high school, a requirement then in my pre-college program in some fancy Catholic institution run by missionary religious.

We were made to memorize all the fifty states of the U. S. and so we had to invent some mnemonics, some device to get it through all the list.

I developed some sort of sing-song, with the imagined tadada-tadada-tadada rhythm to recite the strange names of places I have not been nor ever dreamed of, these places including their stranger capital cities: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas...and down your line until you reach the kulelat of them all, Alaska and Hawaii.

I do not know why in those years, the 70s, the Alaska and Hawaii were both at the bottom, violating all the rules of categorizing logic.

So now, I take these trip as some kind of a ritual to get to know those places whose stange names and meanings I was made to memorize by the colonizing education I got in the Ilocos of my heart in the 70s, in those years when 'nationalism' was the buzzword of both the reigning regime and the oppositionists.

Sometimes they call this act 'cross-country': you cross the countries in this country, the countries as nations, the nations within a nation, with this U.S. as veritably a prime example of a nation among nations.

A colleague at the University of Hawaii Manoa encouraged me to do it, saying, 'Take it, take that bus trip so you will finish your book and I will get to read it, I would love to read it.'

So beginning today--no I started a long time ago--I keep a journal of this cross-country experience.

I will listen to the silences.

I will take cues from the gaps and gulfs of the mind and the senses.

I will open my eyes.

I will see things, even those that are strange and alien.

I will see what America is like to an alien like me, alien because I came here to savor its blessings.

Because I came here to be a beneficiary of the sacrifices and prayers and gifts of life of its founders.

I will try to see America in this light and in the light of its commitment to life in this country and in other countries.

I will see it in accord with the parameters of democracy and justice, humanity and understanding.

I will see it more and more beyond that which is familiar to me, beyond the lens that I already know.

And I am open to all its surprises, including adjusting my accent to suit the particular accent of the places and peoples I will encounter.

Tomorrow, June 22, I will take that trip.

I ask the Maker for blessings so I can see things better with the light of the Maker's enlightening Word.

So I can tell the story of this trip afterwards.

A. S. Agcaoili
Torrance, CA
June 21, 2006

Submitting to the Mysteries of Life, Joyful or Less So

There is wisdom in this, this submission to the mysteries of life.

It is, of course, easier to say so when we have the mysteries clothed in joy and this joy comes eternal, boundless, endless every single day.

But this is the lot of the residents of the Philippine Congress, them who think that the right to rule over the people is their inheritance.

Add that to the list of those who abuse their power, whether on the streets of Metro Manila, with the traffic blue boys and girls and the traffic brown boys and girls and the traffic yellow boys and girls of the cities adding luster to the claim of privilege by the new rich and the old rich, we are reduced to being mute.

The last time I went to visit the country, I was caught off-guard by a sudden 'turn-around' in what used to be wide lane of an arbor-lined boulevard leading to the Cultural Center of the Philippines on Roxas.

The traffic blue boy of a mayor whose son was my student boldly told me, Ano ka, nagba-bayoleyt ka ng trapik. Tabi, tabi.

Sensiya na kayo, di ko nakita ang senyal. That's me.

A, wala, wala, tabi, tabi. Doon. With arrogance on his pointed lips, he told me to pullover to the side of the concrete island. Buti sana kung wala ang mga taga-Metro.

Sensiya na, sabi ko.

Walang pasensiya dito, andiyan ang taga MMDA. Mga buwaya ang mga yan.

Anong MMDA? tanong ko.

I have not been to this place for many years, to this part of the big city.

The whole scene and site overwhelms me in this summer heat.

The heat gets into my head.

I am furious now, ferociously mad because there is no visible sign that says I cannot do what I did: to change my lane.

Yang mga brown boys, he said. Matitindi. Dalawang libo ang penalty mo. With bragadoccio one gains from the street for not fixing the traffic jam but for running after violators so you can have the reason to extort money from the ordinary people like them. Akin ang driver's license mo.

I have been away from the country long enough not to have renewed my license.

I have a foreign license I can use anywhere and if this guy gets this one, I will have to go back to taking the bus in Los Angeles again, I tell myself.

A nameless anger is getting the better of me now.

I am becoming livid of so many things. I am beside myself in this summer heat.

I could have turned to a raging bull ready for the fight with the matador--or I am matador confronting the raging bull?

I am upset, pissed off.

I have a litany in my list:

About the rotten country.

About the rotten traffic rules.

About the rotten re-routing scheme with no clear instructions where to turn.

About the traffic that does not move.

About the lies and the deceptions of those in power, the cha-cha, the impeachment, the heat of summer, the price of gas, the price of vegetables.

I am mad about many things and I tell myself: take it easy, dude.

No, give me your Philippine license.

I am visiting here, I do not know your latest rules on where to turn with your re-routing scheme that is as scheming as this country is doing to its people.
I could have said the whole thing, but I withheld the last part of the sentence.

Two thousand ito, boss, tubusin ninyo sa traffic center sa may...

Bullshit, I tell myself. Tanginang buhay sa bayan, tangamang buhay sa bayan.

Tangamang dalawang libong yan na ang hirap kitain sa dayong bayan, I tell myself without saying a word, not uttering any sound. There is murder in my lips and in my words and I know.

I drive to the Cultural Center of the Philippines parking lot, with the missus, the mother-in-law, and a seven year-old young niece ever so silent.

I went up the CCP and met up with Hermie Beltran.

Of course, he knew nothing about what happened to me on the road.

We talked about liberation, freedom, democracy, and literature.

We talked about cultural advocacy work.

We talked about the forthcoming Ani that has my work in it, my works on im/migrant life.

The whole CCP complex is as hot as a volcano spewting lava. The central airconditioning has not been fixed and everyone is fanning themselves to drive away the May heat from their heads.

That airconditioning was put when Marcos was in power and his fisrt lady was patroness of the arts and culture of the country, I kid him, the director.

Oo nga, he tells me, perhaps partly amused of my sophomoric reckoning of recent history.

Now we have a new regime, I tell him, as if he does not know, our exchange a part of our repartee, part of missing the fun of each other's literary company.

And the airconditioning is out of commission. This has been going on for some time. The repair people come and they leave and they come and they leave, he says, now fanning himself profusely, beads of heat appearing as if in apparition from his forehead.

The director of literary arts of CCP is in heat, I kid him.

We laugh the laughter of the poets who have known hunger in the heart, hunger in the arts, our laughter coming from our guts.

I say my goodbye.

But before that I hand him my autographed Dangadang, a novel I have written way back when the University of the Philippines in Diliman was still the home of my wandering/wondering mind, when, at a certain point, I could have been the prototipong lagalag as my professor Bien Lumbera once emailed to me.

I go to the parking lot where the mother-in-law, the missus, and a niece are waiting, drenched in the early afternoon heat.

This is resignation, I tell myself.

This is submission to life's sometimes terrible mysteries.

Like this traffic aide and his cabal of thieves making a living out of commuters' terrible experiences.

The motherland has not changed a whit, I tell my passengers. But have we ever got another one, another one indeed?

I only have silence as an answer.

The mother-in-law, a retired government employee, kept her silent corner in the car, guarding her space fiercely even as I burst out with my anger.

A. S. Agcaoili
Torrance, CA
June 20, 2006

Drawing the Energy Inward

To draw the energy inward, your energy, is to commit to self-preservation and its moral necessities.

Im/migrants have only this energy to hold on to when the going gets rough, I suppose.

For im/migrants trying to come to terms with the definitions of the American dream when im/migration questions are big questions, the energy ought to be drawn inward, much of it.

In the basic binary of migrant life over here, there are only two terms: the 'ligal' and the 'illigal'.

There is no in-between, no gray areas.

With these big issues of migrant life being tackled with political undertones by both the U.S. Congress and and the Immigration Services, and with both sides interested to come up with an honest-to-goodness immigration program for this country, some 'ligal' Filipinos who are desperate to get to the 'green card' stage are wishing, Sana, sana, nagtago na lang ako, naging illigal para makasama sa amnesty.

This is not amnesty, we tell them. This is a guest worker program, and there are no blanket guarantees here.

Mas mabuti pang naging illigal ako, they would counter-argue. There is despair without a name here.

Silence would set in when conversations like this become some kind of an either/or, a Kierkegaardian choice like that of Abraham's offering of his son to his Yahweh.

Because the popular notion--and in a way it is true--is that when you get the green card, all the doubts and worries of migrant life would be erased.

That wish is unfounded, as a matter of fact.

The 'ligal' can not qualify in this new experiment on what is loosely understood as 'a guest worker program' courtesy of President Bush the son, this one who presided over the invasion of Iraq to counter-act the terrorist ideology of all the enemies of democratic life.

So there, more energy needs to be drawn inward.

Last night, we heard a discussion. If one were on an employment-based immigration process, you need eight years before you have that card that says you are a registered resident alien.

Or ten years if fate is not so much on your side.

But the waiting is worth it.

In the meantime, there is not much choice for the Filipino migrant worker on a working permit: he has to stay here for all the years until he gets that card of deliverance, that green card that is no longer green.

It is that light pink plastic card of hope with your picture and your name and your alien number and the ten-years of expiration date, assuming that in between its issuance and the tenth year, you shall have decided whether you want to become the next president of Malacanang and only Malacanang and never your own people and country, or sing the "for the land of the brave/and the home of the free".

A. S. Agcaoili
Torrance, CA
June 19, on Rizal's nth b-day anniversary, finished June 20, 2006

Calling it Quits

To call it quits is to say, cut and cut cleanly.

This is how I see things now between me and Los Angeles and all those things that this city stands for.

I have picked up the courage here, the strength to go on, the purpose to hang on to dear life.

It is in Los Angeles that I had ever tried my longest walkathon ever when the Metro buses called a month's strike in November 2003 during the time that I first went back to the country for a brief visit and the strike extensing for a few weeks more after returning.

I know when to quit Los Angeles and it is now.

Manoa on the hills beckons and at least, at least, I have to try figuring out the connection among the islands in the Pacific.

In Hawaii, I could pick up ethnology again, that part of anthropology that makes you a producer of knowledge from the library, from an armchair, from a desk, lonely with your thoughts but always looking for the electric light that makes you view things in a new light, always in a new light.

I have walked the streets of Los Angeles and I cannot complain.

I have found a connection in Skid Row on 4th Street in Downtown.

On the day I had my interview for the stamping of my permanent residency, I walked the stretch of the USCIS and Downtown, praying, thanking, praying, thanking.

In that long walk in the balmy heat of the spring sun, I could sense the lighness in me, the lightness of my walk while witnessing the terrible scenes of homelessness and deprivation and social injustice on Skid Row.

I tell myself, One day, one day, I will pay this country back for this kindness it gave me, for taking me in as its permanent resident alien, for believing that I can do something, something good, something better, something best.

I count my blessings: it is not everyday that someone like me is granted the residency in a few months. This sweet good luck is given only to a few and I am grateful for being one of the few.

I am lucky--and now I am quitting Los Angeles to start something somewhere else.

I know, I know, the scenes will not be the same.

But there are homeless in Aala Park and I have seen them, I have talked to them.

I tell myself: I can never serve all. I serve some justly and that will suffice.

In the meantime, I begin to pack my bag.

First to a government work in Williamsburg, for the cause of im/migrants, for the cause of legal justice.

And then this posting in Manoa for a longer, much longer time.

No, I am not calling it quits.

I am welcoming other opportunities to serve.

A. S. Agcaoili
Torrance, CA
June 20, 2006

Loving a Place and Leaving It

Today is a Saturday of deep despair.

This despair has no name.

Not even a naming ceremony of the 'sirok-ti-latok' kind can remedy this heaviness of the heart.

At 8:30, the sun has just set, but the last lights of the day come as a fuzzy haze of orange and bloody red.

Or crimson, the color of courage.

It is not yet night in these parts.

Evening comes late when the clouds are high and the winds are in the mountaintops and the tide teases the rocks on cliffs in Palos Verdes, this enclave of the moneyed and the poweful in the Southlands, the other name for Southern California.

In this summer season, the days are long despite the fact that in the East Coast, the mindful have began to worry about the prelude to the typhoon season, with Alberto's gift of water and wind steaming and storming the Florida lands of Hispanics and migrants, Cuban Americans and other exiles from all over.

I breathe deeply.

I sense my connection to Los Angeles, the other city and county I have learned to like.

The place I have learned to love.

In a few days, I shall start the transition from a permanent resident of this place to a transient visitor.

I do intend to maintain two residences, one here and the other in Honolulu just to even the terrain of a memory that makes me alive and kicking.

Then again, the painful reality is this: that Honolulu will claim me as its own as well and I will allow that claiming to happen if only to struggle to survive.

If only to struggle to be alive.

There are other cities in this nation awaiting my exploration, my liking, my loving, I know.

But like the faithful visitor and then eventually a visitor-that-did-not-leave, it is in Los Angeles that I got to see America for what it is.

And today, this Saturday of my deep despair, a despair without any name, I decided not to go home at once and work on my blog, as I always do.

On the road, I felt this pang of pain, the one that gets into the guts, and kicks you in as if you are some kind of a ball to be tossed in the air and then kicked again as soon as it hits the earth.

And in an endless bouncing of ball and the motion of kicking earth, the ball bouncing up to the heavens that do not seem to darken because the electric lights on businesses and on happy streets are taking over the duty to mask the coming night.

I look at the Del Amo mall, reputedly the largest of the shopping complex in SoCal, perhaps a bit smaller than the Mall of Asia in Pasay, the mall that is neighbor to one shrine of the Christ, the shrine administered by the SVD Fathers.

I look at the neon lights, their promise of eternal dawn.

No, window shopping always bores me.

I have no virtue to satiate my visual faculty by imagining that I can afford to buy the branded shirts manufactured by Asian factory hands whose salary is as meager as the blessings of rice when hunger sets in and resides in the bones and the stomach.

I hit the road.

I hit the road to anywhere.

Anywhere. Basta.

First off, I thought of going to the Blessed Sacrament in St Philomena on Main.

This church is where Filipino Americans congregate, mingling with all the colors of people in this nation of immigrants: the Blacks, the Asian Pacific American Samoans, the Hispanics, the other Asiatics, the native Latin Americans.

Right before your very eyes, it is at St Philomena where you see the beginnings of a community defined pure and simple in the 'Acts of the Apostles,' with the Sunday singing of worship songs in Filipino (well, call that Tagalog, if you wish), Samoan, the Spanish of the Hispanics. I am imagining to hear a song or two sung in Ilokano but the imagination has failed me.

It is also at St Philomena that I met once again, by the accidental power of Christmas, on that Christmas Day Mass, a classmate in theology school who is now running a parish in Cerritos.

I remember that I taught in the Quezon City seminary of this priest but did not have the chance to meet him there because he was busy bringing all the pilgrims to the Holy Land and I was busy giving my share in the forming of the 'religious mind' of their seminarians.

It would take St Philomena, on Christmas day, for us to bridge the more than twenty years of not seeing each other.

Here, in the sacredness of the hour before 9:00 post meridian, they had closed the small chapel on the right of the church.

I go back to the parking lot defeated, disappointed, dejected.

Under a lamppost, I write:

They closed the chapel to hide the Blessed Sacrament in the evenings so that we could see it again and adore it again the following day because the robber is not given any chance at all to turn the bejeweled chalice into pieces of American silver that bears 'In God we trust'.

I hopped in on my old, trustworthy white Mazda and get out of the church yard.

I am directionless--and that is my direction at this hour.

Ahead of me is the Seafood City, one landmark of Filipinoness.

Here, the kababayans congregate to get the latest chismis on Kris Aquino and them the stars that make us forget our hunger and the injustices in the homeland, to discuss the pathetic politics of the ugly politicians with familiar and infamous names, to win believers to a fellowship such that of the many youngs and singing and zealous evangelists on a mission to convert all immigrant Filipinos to the cause of salvation not on this earth but in heaven, to pose for posterity at the statue of Jose Rizal with his overcoat, to see and to be seen.

I turn left on Carson and then right on Avalon.

Carson is where we imagined The Weekly Inquirer.

It is the street, across Grace, on Grace Commercial Square that we imagined the best paper of them all, the paper that would advocate im/migrant rights.

Avalon is where I would stop after taking the bus from downtown Los Angeles in the early months of my coming over to this city and county, when fame and fortune were wild dreams, as wild as the fantastic that is twin to hitting the numbers game here in the various waging places, the casinos of the Native Americans, them who now depend on this for work and state support.

I have good memories of Avalon: this is the same street that leads to the city hall where I got to meet the mayor and had him featured many times in the Inquirer.

One wintry night, I sat here alone in this bus stop waiting for the last bus coming from Long Beach.

It was 11:00 PM, and the cold gets into the tired bones even if I had thermal and the long sleeves, the double jacket, and the bonete and the balabal.

And I was hungry and chilling while a homeless, young and articulate and an orphan, was also waiting for that same bus to take him to a park on Main where he would spend the night, away from the prying eyes of the police.

I have been doing this for months, he says. They took away my home as soon as my parents died. I used to go to school, in my senior. But here I am, alone and with the sky as my roof. Dunno where else to go. I have turned 18 and I am supposed to know how to live. But where?

I just looked at him, and Avalon comes to me as a painful memory.

I still remember where that young man sat, waiting and waiting for that last bus to come before the cold winds of winter could get into our bodies.

Farther up towards the 405 Freeway is the post office and past the freeway is the Carson Commercial complex that I went to, in April 2003, to find out what the meager dollar can buy.

I remember now that I had to get three buses from Gardena where I used to live in order to get here to this complex: the Gardena 4, the Gardena 2, and the Torrance 3.

And I remember one sad event as well: I lost my one field journal with all the notes on my first days of exile in the U.S. mainland, my first two or three weeks of finding out if there is something greener down here, something greener than what the brown country of brown people and brown promises offered.

I had to reconstruct those notes by going back to my organizer and to notes scattered here and there, some from receipts, some from paper napkins taken from fancy restaurants and cafes.

I meticulously did the reconstruction while self-reviewing for the California examination for teachers.

I took a left turn on Avalon and moved to Del Amo.

For almost a year, I took a job in Artesia and there, every morning and every evening, I would pass by this long stretch of road, about 23 miles, to get to work or to go home.

As soon as I hit the bridge spanning the 405, I would smell the soil on that vacant lot, the smell of soil newly furrowed. Barrio life hits me hard when I reach this place.

I got past the underpass spanning 110 going to Los Angeles, to the 91 or to some place else.

I hit Vermont, turn right on Carson going west, to the hills of Redondo Beach, to the seashores of Redondo, Manhattan, Palos Verdes.

I take in all the scenes, each scene.

I hit Harbor UCLA Hospital.

It is here where I had my first traffic violation, the ticket issued by an overzealous highway patrol and for which violation I had to contest in court.

In my heart, I believed I could win my case. I thought that overzealousness is not different from fanaticism and fundamentalism and force.

I was acquitted, my bail money returned, right before christmas day.

I memorize all the details so that when these details are needed when I get to sit down and write my three years of exilic life in Los Angeles, I will have something to say by connecting all the jigsaw pieces together.

No, all is not lost in this leaving.

We always leave a beloved place in order to return to it some other time.

A. S. Agcaoili
Torrance, CA
Began June 17, finished June 19, 2006

Pristine and Primeval This Sacred Place of the Heart

The sacred place of the heart can only be this: pristine, primeval, pristine and primeval.

And it ought to be.

For there we meet up with the spirit of life, the one spirit that is twin to ours.

The twining is eternal like no other, like the dawn and sunset, like the day and the evening, like the wind and the skies, like the storm and the placid waters.

To be continued....

A. S. Agcaoili
Torrance, CA
June 17, 2006

A Daughter's Haitus and the Clarity of Her Blog

No, the daughter says.

No, this is not a stop to the blogging but one hell of a hiatus that I need to impose upon my respectable self.

I could imagine her excuses: one, father, who is far away and slaving it out in a land of exile many thousand miles between us, has declared his ultimatum that unless, unless I moderate my blogging with my duty to cultivate my mind by minding my school books and academic life in college, I would have to go the ways of the ancestors who had to sell off, at bargain, all their property so they could meet the demands of their everyday bill;

two, I have been given the choice by my parents, two choices: I moderate my blogging or I stop going to college.

To be continued....

A. S. Agcaoili
Torrance, CA
June 17, 2006

Tough Times, Hard Times

The journey on a rugged can only slow your resolve, can only slow you down.

It takes you longer to get to the end, true. But the end alone is not where grace is to be found.

The interim between the beginning and that boundary dreamed of is one long moment of grace as well if you only see and see clearly.

The clue is: have mindfulness all around you.

The mindfulness of the glowing morning with its eternally glowing light of day, its promise of a beautiful sun setting in its orange magnificence.

The mindfulness of the midday when you realize you need to breathe and breathe deeply, take in all the sea air coming from Redondo Beach and the surf and the tide and the vast waters of the placid aquamarine waters of Palos Verdes, all these air convulsing in your path, converging to meet your need for chi, ruach, prana.

To be continued...

A. S. Agcaoili
Torrance, CA
July 17, 2006

Exile, Exile, Breathe and Hold Still

In between the lull of exilic pain and exilic joy, you tell yourself: Exile, exile, breathe and hold still.

You command yourself to do just that.

You go the way of Sadhana, the Qabalah, the Zen, the Yoga, the mindfulness of the evolved spirit.

You go the way of affirming life each day.

Tough times are here.

The hard times are not yet over.

The terrain is rugged and the journey takes longer than long.

But what to do? you ask yourself.

Imagine the way of the Zen.

Take in the way of the Om in Sadhana: breathe and breathe still, three times, three more times, inhale, exhale, think of the Om in its breathing, the Om as the great spirit of life.

You look at the bright sun and you sit still.

You light the candle, offer the bowl of fresh water.

You go Yoga, you offer everything.

You submit to the great spirit.

You receive the ruach.

You receive the prana.

You receive the chi.

Om, Om, Om.

A. S. Agcaoili
Torrance, CA
June 16, 2006

An Im/migant Makes Memories

There is something curious in the way one book review on Henry Shukman's "Mortimer of the Maghreb: Stories" details the distinction between an expatriate and an exile.

I know I am not an expatriate in the United States, with my vivid imagination of how expats in the Philippines live, with the International School as a model to boot: their dollars come a-flowing like water. They live like royalty, with the unifomed katulongs to complete the props of princely life.

I know what I am in this country of my exile: one of the many who are ekeing out a life here. The key here, I think, is the manner of ekeing out a life.

And so for Tim Rutten in "Tales of the Expat Life, made fresh," his review of Shukman, he says: "Exile is a bitter experience; the expatriate has a bitersweet choice. Nowadays, our globalized economy has lent it a kind of class distinction--an expatriate decides to go abroad in pursuit of fortune, freedom, or fulfillment; an exile is forced by politics or want to become an immigrant."

The quote is from the LA Times of June 14, 2006, E1.

And I have problems with the issues Rutten raises.

I wish to undescore one idea here on what he says about the exile: The exile is forced by politics or want to become an immigrant.

I am forced by want.

Have I been forced by politics? I do not know. I took part in EDSA Dos and the gratitude I got from the beneficiary of the revolution is inflation and a hand-to-mouth existence like no other.

So maybe, just maybe, I have been forced by politics.

I am forced by the idea of freedom, of art, of getting out of the dumps, from this want, from this deprivation, from the shackles of everyday that hinder you from not writing that great Filipino novel.

I am forced by the idea of fulfillment, by the idea of self-realization, or self-actualization, if you wish.

I am forced by the idea of a good fortune to be found here, in these parts, that idea that is yet elusive, is yet to come.

I am forced by the idea of buying time so I can sit down and relax and think thoughts about loosening up a bit, no all the time tensed, but relaxed in the thought that you can think thought about art and freedom and democracy and all the abstractions of Malacanang and the Senate and the Congress and the Academe and the Church--institutions that are all immune from the brutal mercies of everyday life, from the everydayness of living the same life of want.

So where do these locate me in the grander scheme of things?

I am all of the above but I am never an expatriate.

Never mind, I write my thoughs today, in this summer sunshine that warmly reaches out to my cold heart even as I think about exiles, exiling, and exiling some more.

I need to write about these things to make the memories that will lighten my load when the dark day comes.

In this mid-morning sunshine though, that dark thought has no place. I shoo it away, no, not in my thought. I want my coffee, hot and steaming.

I sit to write these thoughts, commit them on this blog, and sip my Colombia brew in 'Starbucks-silly' way as I could, the same way a daughter imagines her life centered on the cold brew from Marquinton and her other hang-outs with her artista circle of friends.

I look at the folding clock, on top of a shelf on my right and serving as my bed's headboard, with the photo of the children on the right fold. The photo, it seems, is four years old.

The smiles and hopes of the children are current--and these shall become the currency in my navigating life today and for always.

I take all these as moments--these sacred moments of our history as a family of exiles.

A. S. Agcaoili
June 16, 2006
Torrance, CA

The Missing Peace, the Missing Piece

There is this missing peace in this jigsaw puzzle we call nationhood.

There is this missing piece in the jigza we call 'the homeland as the heartland'.

Art Gives Us Wings, Us Earthlings, Heavenbound, Earthbound, Homebound

Now I know: the courage that I know in life is the courage that I have discovered because I have not stopped looking for the wings that make me journey to every where.

It is the same boldness and daring that I see in my works, the derring-do of a stuntman of ideas and concepts and the vast promise of possibilities in that terra firma of the imagination.

Or so I believe.

I am convinced that in art as in life, such daring, such boldness, such courage are necessary to make us embark on that journey even if the terrain is rugged and rough.

Or even if we know for certain that the hike in such a terrain is slower, more difficult.

As artists, we are journeymen and in this journey we create a world

We reside in this world as well, this world of our own making, a world that is an other--another.

This is why we are a bit out of this world, we artists, with some of us preferring to starve rather than possess all the wealth of the world if the tradeoff is our art.

That is why we are crazy and we want that term so much as it applies to us and to no other. The nutty ones are not crazy: they just do not know how to make art out of their being in an other world. Quick, somebody has to teach them, the nuts so that they will become one like us.

We admit this lunacy in its rational and artistic form, and the term is worn as if it were a badge of recognition among kindred spirits, as if each one is saying to the other, Artist ka rin? Writer ka rin? Bakit di ka nagugutom? Siguro nagkakalakal ka ng dangal at utak, ano?

There are those whom I have seen to have remained faithful to art and its demands.

Never mind if the world goes hang, they could not care less. For them, their art is what gives them integrity, self-respect, self-realization.

At the University of the Philippines, for instance, where there is the heaviest concentration of artists of all kinds, you meet these people.

One poet was refuted to have talked to the wall or to the ceiling while explaining the merits and demerits of a work.

One dramatist can be heard with his picturesque cusswords from the basement of a building to the third floor especially in the early evenings that the small graduate classes are held in the offices of faculty instead of the classroom.

Another one cannot part with his Olympia with the ta-ka-tak-tak-tak, in repeat mode every few seconds, breaking the silence of a late afternoon ritual with your reading and grading of students' essays instead of writing your own essay.

You reflect about art and the blessings it has given you for the many years that you tried to be faithful to its demands.

You went home with some awards that added some accidents to your name.

But the recognition that you can do something more than what the man on the street can do means a lot.

Never mind that sometimes there is much politics in art, that there is much clique in the judging that happens in the contests that you sometimes see yourself joining.

Never mind that art has betrayed you in some instances because of the poverty that you have known even as you try to pursue its promises.

Never mind that you have come to know like no other the pains of being a writer, the pains you never invented but are just there.

In all these years, your art has given you wings, you earthbound.

Your art has given you wings, one pair of good wings, you earthling.

Your art has given you wings, you earth creature, also heavenbound.

With your wings you fly: flee that which is worth fleeing to account truths some place else.

Your wings, oh, they make you cover distances by embracing the wind.

A. S. Agcaoili
Torrance, CA
Began June 14, finished June 15, 2006

The Invisibility of the Im/migrant

If I want to describe in a few words what has become of my life as a im/migrant in the last three years that I have been here in this land of my exile of my own choosing, I would borrow Paula Wood's definition of invisibility in her review of Frank Cancian's anthopological account of the housecleaners of Orange County, "Orange County Housecleaners": 'There but not there; invisible.'

There but not there; invisible.

Really so now. I was here for more than three years, in this 'there' that is 'here' but is going to be a 'there' when I shall have moved to some place else.

I was here but I was not here as well because nobody knew, nobody ever noticed except the anonimity of it all as if I was just a clown sent in to engage the crowd so they would not see the sorrow and despair and desolation that goes with being an exile.

Three years of invisibility is all what I can offer.

You are not seen and thus, you do not matter.

In this Los Angeles world where seeing matters, where to be seen is the only way by which your existence is affirmed like that Hollywood crap of what a good image constitutes, like a flick sold because of the dubious definition of what moving images should be, these three years of invisibility were years of learning and unlearning.

I call it my fieldwork, my long ethnographic journey, the method and methodology conscious and yet participatory, the subject position a fusion of the objective and the subjective and sometimes a confused world of both.

Well, clarity does not always come to the ethnographer. It is enough that he is conscious of the opacity of experience when the deeep dark of the night comes to play its ghostly tricks on him and say, Hey, hey, dude, go home, go home, and plant camote!

But you have collected fieldnotes, the number of notebooks containing all the 'was-here' running to thirtly now, all accounts of what you have gone through to make your life long and your art long in defiance of the Romans' plagiarism of the Greeks: vita longa, ars longa--life is long, art is long.

In a few weeks, I will call it quits with California, at least temporarily, to take a real life somewhere else in an island country much like my island country, the one county I have got back home.

I will call Honolulu my home for a time as I try to embark on another project to committing to paper a dubious sequel of "America is in the Heart" which I promised my teacher Bien Lumbera in a rather tongue-in-cheek way.

More on this, more on this...babalik....

A. S. Agcaoili
Torrance, CA
June 14, 2006

The Vagarious World of Art

The Romans had said it: Vita brevi, ars longa.

Life is so brief, so short, so soon, but art is so long, one of perpetuity, one of endlessness.

The Romans, of course, plagiarized the Greeks.

They stole the gods of Olympus and gave them Roman names.

They never returned these gods; they owned them in the end. Walang saulihan.

And they all made them into their mythology, into their art by making them permanent residents of their literary and mythic world.

Writers are copycats, cheats, borrowers, plagiarists, imitators. Like the Romans.

Like the claim of the philosopher of language, writers do not have a claim on the first sentence.

For writers, in fact, their sentences must have come from other sources however fuzzy and opaque this claim is.

What does this whole thing suggest vis-a-vis our attempt to understand the fate of a struggling writer?

Damn, and damn it. The aphorism says a lot.

Like this, this vagariousness of art.

This vagariousness of its world.

This vagariousness of life itself.

This vagariousness of the same life that art imitates, pictures, portrays in terms of human words, finite and temporal, terrorizing and surprising, empty and full--in effect, in a different and differing light that only words as language offer.

Part of the vagariousness of art is to be tough when times are tough.

Toughened by the hard times, art survives.

Toughened by the difficult times, the artist survives.

I see this in the geography of the difficult and hard and tough times that I have gone through as an exile.

So, the Romans are wrong, even in their plagiarism.

The aphorism ought to read as: Vita longa, ars longa.

A. S. Agcaoili
Torrance, CA
June 14/15, 2006

A. S. Agcaoili
Torrance, CA
June 14, 2006

What Migrancy Does to Memory

There are erasures in life that even if we try to take them back you can only have some faint traces of what had been there in the beginning.

Like an absence that cannot be called back, named again, we can only move on to do the patch-up work of living through the joys of each day in the present.

What migrancy does to memory?

It makes it a palimpsest of fear and trembling, of hope renewed and made to last for a lifetime, of terrors and surprises.

For parents, for instance, parenting can never be in absentia.

There is no way you can ever proxy your creative rage as you tell your child his or her mistake and remind the child to grow up.

Or the reverse--some kind of 'childing', with the child taking on the role of parenting and telling you, Hey, hey, dude, take your coffee, take your vitamins, take your lunch box so you will not spend time looking for a school canteen so you can have your abhorrent school meal.

You can only recall now, these reversals, these switching of roles in your household, with your first daughter always on the guard whether you will take that Philip Morris, in its mentholated yosi-kadiri promise so you think you can think thoughts about writing, but just thinking about writing without ever writing anything at all.

The memory of a migrant is a palimpsest of what was, one of absense being made present in some form of a presencing that can never be as present as when you are there, in medias res.

Then again, there are dreams to be pursued and we allow the absence to take on new forms, to be present in these dreams.

Today, this sunny morning of Tuesday, you consciously prepare to go to work--to that work you do not like doing but where you are taking all things in stride, taking all the complexities of immigrant experience so you will have something to write about in the book you promised, something close to a cloned, if not plagiarized, "America is in the Heart" as you promised your teacher Bien Lumbera, your riposte to his joke on your being a prototype of an "Ilokanong lagalag", a phrase you have come to love and now you are borrowing profusely.

You watch the Los Angeles summer morning with its promise of endless sun today.

You listen to the silences of birdsongs on treetops from your dusty window and you remember that moon on the same window two nights ago, the moon in full smiles in the west, coaxing you, inpiring you to remember that for a long time you have not seen the moon in these California skies that seemed to have yoked you with the weight of the years.

You take your second cup of Colombia brew, the bean exiled from its plant like you are.

You take in all the aroma of the coffee and the morning and that hope for a bright future.

Today, you tell yourself: What I see at last is hope.

A. S. Agcaoili
Torrance, CA
June 13, 2006

Pagmemorya ng Numero ng Telepono

Apat na taong gulang na minsan ay binubulol pa ng mga kumplikadong mga tunog, mga salita, mga idea.

Isang taong gulang nang iwan upang maglagalag sa ibang bayan, milya-milya ang layo sa tahanan. Hindi kasama rito ang tila walang katapusang dagat sa aming pagitan, mga alaala ng pagliban na hindi kailan man maibabalik ng panahong nilustay ng pakikipagsapalaran.

Naiisip ko ngayon: may galak sa kalooban ng bunso na makaalam sa mga numero ng mga telepono ng mga taong nagbibigay ng kapunuan sa aking pagkukulang.

Tulad halimbawa ng kanyang tiyahin na halos gabi-gabi kung sila ay mag-usap.

Noong una ay ang tiyahin ang tumatawag sa amin, kinakausap ang bunso.

Nang maglaon, nang matuto ng kahalagahan ng mga numerong pinagkabit-kabit upang sa pagpindot ay makakalikha ng pagkiriring sa kabilang dulo ng linya ng taong tinatawagan, minemorya ng bunso ang numero ng tiyahin at siya na ang tumatawag sa kanyang tahanan.

Malimit na ito.

At di pa nagkasya. Isa na namang tiyahin ang nakuhanan ng numero, at tuwi-tuwina ay tumatawag sa mga pinsan na higit na matanda sa kanya.

Nang makabitan ng telepono ang bahay ng aking ina, ihinanda ang sarili sa panibagong pakikipaglaban.

Ilang uli na sinulat ang numero ng kanyang lola, sinulat sa kuwadernong hiningi sa akin, kuwadernong tila listahan ng mga numero ng kanyang gustong tawagan.

Ngayon ay kabisado na niya ang telepono ng lola, at walang araw na pumapalya na di kausap ang pinsang

Umuulan Din Ba sa Bahay Mo?

Isang gabi ito nangyari, gabi namin dito sa Los Angeles.

Ilang araw din akong di nakatawag sa tahanang iniwan at kapag ganito ang pangyayari, nagsisimula ang aking depresyong walang ngalan.

Isa lamang ang solusyon ng ganitong kalagayan: isang tawag lang sa Pinas, sa bayang iniwan ngunit di maiwan-iwanan.

Isang tawag sa mga anak, sa kabiyak.

Isang tawag sa bunso na nagsisimula nang magexperimento ng mga salita at ng mga taglay nilang kapangyarihan.

Tulad ng pagsasabi ng, Bilhan mo ako ng Dora, papa, yung si Dorang makulit, yung malaki.

Gaano kalaki, usisa ko.

Yung malaki, yung mabubuhat ko.

Apat na taon na siya, ang bunsong iniwan. Isang taon nang magpasya akong makipagsapalaran sa Amerika, at ngayon, tatlong taon na ang araw-araw na pagliban sa kanyang paggising at pagtulog.

Sa gabing iyon, hindi ako natulog.

Hinintay ko ang tamang oras sa Pilipinas, ang orasan sa harapan.

Ang metapora ng ulan ay laging sa

Umuulan din ba sa bahay mo, papa? ang kanyang tanong pagkatapos kunin uli ang telepono. Nagpaalam na aalis saglit, at kabilin-bilinan na saglit lamang siyang mawawala.

Ang nakatatandang ate ang kasama, kasama rin sa usapan.

Umuulan noon sa Pinas, tila malakas ang ulan.