Waiting for Someone who Arrived

Some days are not sunny down here in this land of hypervaluated paradise, with tourists' dollars propping up hotel and resort rates you have no way to compete what with your meager teacher's pay.

Us lesser mortals can only gawk at those who have padded pockets and who can afford to watch the sun set from their resto's seat by the sand and surf.

Even in paradise, life is not fair as there are the moneyed and there are the trying hard to look like one. Or just plain penniless like those vagabonds in the land of plenty, those who search for lunch money from the garbage bins artfully strewn all over Waikiki.

But this is not the point of this story.

The point is that on September 10, a man from another surf-sand-sun part of the Americas--from California, flew in to sit down with us and talk about the conference we are to hold on October 27 and 28.

I almost forced him to come to Honolulu since kingdom come.

I threatened him with fire and brimstone from hell if he did not and the threat began in the Manila summer of heat and hot politics and continued right after we sent the invites to those who have signified their interest to come and take part in the largesse we call Ilokano and Amianan Literature, the kind of literature that is liberating, human, and humane--a literature that does not include in itself the lessons of fascism and dictatorship and make these lessons as virtues.

No, literatures, I would say. And cultures too.

Because this 2007 International Conference on Ilokano and Amianan Literatures and Cultures is all about inclusion, the future, and courage--not the kind of cowardice some writers and pretenders resort to to put down other people's initiatives and tell, to all those who care to listen, that Goliath they will become to stand in the way, and Goliath they will become in their destructive frenzy to ostracize those who cannot toe their line. Talk of small successes going into the head, and this is it.

But the September 10 Honolulu airport ritual is different, something close to comedy, that lighter side of life and living where annoyance and laughter are one and the same.

What happened was so funny you cannot believe that a pillar of Ilokano 60s writing can afford to make us laugh, us who know less because we do not share the history of the 60s and the make-love-not-war gospel of the Caromina boys made up of Peter Julian, Precy Bermudez, Terry Tugade, Lorenzo Tabin, Ben Chua, and Tante Domingo.

For Terry Tugade--he hates the Tito monicker for goodness' sake--was one comic you can easily forgive on that day.

No, that night, in this Honolulu of our lost innocence.

Because he arrived at the airport but moved to the departure area where he thought I would pick him up, like they do, for heaven's sake, in San Francisco. There, those who arrive go to the departure area to be picked up. Of course, I got to know this fact of life in that northern California city afterwards, in between the laughters punctuated by guffaws that can only mean celebration--the celebration of our foibles and our human errors.

(An aside: there was one Tito who was a dictator and fascist and we do not think that he, this present 'Tito' shedding off into Terry can have his way to become one, not at the TMI Amerika where he reigns supreme at the envy of them, the lesser mortals who want to rule because they cannot write--or if they can write, they need to put their head in between their legs so they can think better.)

Where are you? I say, on my cellular, its battery saying goodbye.

No answer.

I go around. Round and round.

I keep calling, Where are you, man?

No answer. I go around. Round and round.

No Terry Tugade.

I call again. Where are you, you San Francisco man?

I am here are at the departure area? His voice is paint, perhaps angry for waiting or hungry for starving between airports. The sun in the west is beginning to hide in the Kapolei Mountains past Waipahu, past the Pearl Harbor of War and Remembrance and this cycle of War and Remembrance, with or without Burns' "The War" on PBS.

I go livid and furious. What? You arrived and you are at the departure area?

I see Terry smiling some squirm, one he probably learned when he was young in Dingras and playing hide and seek with some mango tree owner whose mango tree Terry and company would rob of its green fruits, salt on hand.

I gas up, take the wrong turn, and hit right up an exit that leads me back to the east where I came from, to Waikiki, to the University.

Oh, it's a long drive, with no other possible exit except to hit Nimitz and there go hide and seek with the Honolulu Police so you can make that quick U-turn in some dark corner of a dark street with your dark thoughts.

I calm down.

I tell myself. This is something different: you arrive and you go to the departure area to be picked.

I see the novelty of the thought and my inability to see such a new perspective.

Next time I go to San Francisco, I will try that technique, I tell myself.

A Solver Agcaoili
U of Hawai`i, Sept 11, 2007

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