The novel is made up of 72 chapters, excluding the prologue and the epilogue. In this novel, essentially a dissertation on the history of the peoples of the Philippines for more than one hundred years beginning with the execution of the three priests Gomez, Burgos, and Zamora and ending during the first years of the Aquino regime when the staging of coup d'etats was like cottage-industry manufacturing of the fantastic in freedom, democracy, and justice, is my own interpretive articulation of the persistent social problems of the Philippines. I used Ilokano characters, generally, because they are the prototype of people whose habits I am more or less comfortable with but my reading of the 'national' situation is not confined to the Ilokano families whose lives I am dissecting in this novel.
In this novel as well is my interpretation of what is supposed to be a national language--one that speaks well of the nation-state, one in which this nation is made up of many nations, and thus many languages and cultures. If one were to look at the language engineering that I did in this novel, one would realize that, with the prologue and epilogue in plain Ilokano to the consternation of critics because I refused to translate these two parts into Tagalog, the 'national' because national language, I was leaving behind the message that there is linguistic injustice in the state of affairs of the country and this injustice must be addressed by creative writers as well.
I thought that I might as well experiment translating the whole thing into English, now that I can look at it from afar, and now that this novel, since it was finally written, is celebrating its 10th year! By no means is the translation polished, as is based largely on my (oral) interpretation practice. I know: it sounded more spoken than written. But let it be, in the meantime.)
Generation, 1996, 2002
Darkness had enveloped the land when Bannuar Agtarap, the fifth of the generation of the Agtarap, saw the familiar image. The young man wore a t-shirt, a wound ripping through it. There are the now-familiar spurts of blood that stained it so that what was written on it could hardly be read: Reelect Marcos, the pride of the North. The image of the young man with the t-shirt wears a smile, the smile of a father who is contented, his contentment from the sorrow of leaving with high hopes of returning. And soon. There is the freshness of a breeze from the fallow fields, the freshness wafting through with the north-wind in that early darkness. It is the same freshness that comes from a father's melodious singing of a lullaby to his child.
"My war is your own--my struggle is your struggle," Bannuar Agtarap tells the ghost of his father. The ghost was disappearing. This is the ghost of a life, his father's, a life that is Sinamar's offering to the revolution, to the altar of change. His father died fighting, felled by the paid murderers of the enemy one dark night like this one. "I vow and I promise, Tatang."
"Our life is for the land. This life is not only for ourselves," the ghost reminds Bannuar. The early darkness had spread in the east, blanketing the towering mountains of Sinamar. There, in the east, in that place of hope, there the bright morning light would appear again.
Bannuar now feels the chill of the north-wind. It is this chill from the cold evening breeze that always awakens in him a certain fear, the fear of death. "I do not want to die, Tatang," he would say, each time the chill gets into his bones.
To be continued...