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.)
And in war the serpents that cry would rise, the serpents in soldiers' uniforms, the serpents that have turned to white. And in war the spirit of Ina Wayawaya would return. She would possess the soul of each generation, and would conquer the poisoned mind of the white dawn and white afternoon and alien wind, and would own once again the thoughts and breath and dream of the sons and daughters of the homeland and country. And in war too the Bannuar, many of them, would return, all of them would go through this Ilokano act of renaming, all of them would redeem their loves from the pawnshop of the future so that redeemed, all these loves would be sown in the chest and loin and in those acts of gasping-for-breath-gasping-with-the-beloved and in those ultimate experience of desires-coming-into-peaking in noontime and in midnight, in the midst of hunger and fullness so that the bloodletting of the young sun and full moon would happen once again. Young blood would drip on primeval fields of dreams of freedom and all those who are awakened, those who have risen from their slumber, they would all sharpen their weapons, test them against the alien wind. The sharpened weapons would replace all the prayers of the people to the mossy gods of justice. And in war would the butterfly come back, the one that would own the memory of the people, the one butterfly that would own the early evening and the wee hours of the night. The butterfly would accost these moments so that victory would be born, so that the dream would be fulfilled, so that again and again we would hear the lullabies and incantations that announce our freedom, that tell of the fulfillment of the good news at the edge of a bloodied weapon.
Trans. A S Agcaoili/Oct 21/08