Chapter 9

“Redemption” tackles the life of five daughters and a mother. Two of the daughters are in the United States; the three are left in the home country trying as much as they could to live life in earnest and in the raw. All the five daughters carry with them the wounds that precede redemption: the wounds of life, the wounds of memory, the wounds of family, the wounds of relationships, the wound of discovering the rugged path to self-discovery and healing.

“Redemption” is an allegory of the Filipino condition, with the mother going nuts and out of her senses, losing sight of the time, losing sight of the healing power of forgiveness, and leaving the daughters to trek through life’s rough roads without her, without her blessing, without her word that ought to have soothed and salved them. The daughters, after forgiving each other, discover their common pains. They learn to forgive themselves and all the people who have wronged them. In the end, they conquer their own private purgatories.

December 30, 2000

Baguio City

Dear Manang Lagrimas,

I am not too sure if this is the right time for you to know. It is the end of the year and we are about to shake off the bad and evil thoughts in order to welcome the New Year.

We are far from Manila yet here, here in the upland city, we are affected by the political turmoil created by the boisterous crowds demanding that the bang-bang actor acting like President of the Land resign, leave the presidency, and enroll in a course conducted by Alcoholic Anonymous or by Kleptocrats Incorporated.

The stories rile you so.

The President of Land conducts his midnight Cabinet meetings by gulping flasks and flasks of some kind of a blue label the cost of which is sixty thousand pesos or so, enough to feed a poor family for two years.

Of course, the President of land, that same President who promised that a new dawn awaits the Filipino people and that his relatives and spouses and queridas and illegitimate children will never take money from the government coffers, always has his hangover each morning that he misses his appointments with visiting dignitaries and investors. Just watch him droop during courtesy calls and you see the spirit of the drunken night still on the collar of his crisp barong.

Then there is this story of the carpet with the President of the Land’s name stitched underneath, His Excellency embroidered with a shining red of a thread.

The President of the Land, of course, denied that the carpet was his.

Did he deny that the house with the fine sands of Boracay and the imported waves from Waikiki are ever his?

I bring Nanang to the faith healer in the Miracle Hill where the foreigners congregate to ask for healing from the lowland bombastic healer from Pangasinan, he with his booming voice and his approval of the President of the Land holding on to his post for the sake of his promise of redemption for our people.

The faith healer said so when I brought Nanang to his house.

The President of the Land is the best choice we have, he said, this faith healer who was dirty, his smile the one of a sleek lion, his body smell that of a rotten earth and a rotten cow dung.
He knows the heart of the people, he said.

He knows how to promise, he said. He put his outstretched arms on the head of Nanang who was now as calm as the sea but who was as unruly as the storm winds a while back.

He does not know how to steal from us, he said. He is already rich, he added.

But on my mind is an evil thought that assumed the form of goodness.

I had covered this up from you for a long time. But this sad truth has its way of getting into my chest and it becomes so heavy I cannot breathe.

For a year, I thought that I could find a way for Nanang’s cure.

For a year, I went from one faith healer to another.

For a year, I went from one doctor to another.

It has been an agony, Manang.

I have to tell you now the sad and ugly truth. Nanang has received her punishment and now she cannot see the light.

She can only see the shadows in the same way she saw only the shadows when she left us one more time to go with the free winds and the free spirits and the force and power of a love that knew no bound.

For she was a carefree spirit, Nanang.

For she was wind, fire, water, earth.

For she was all the elements that make up the imagination roaming freely in the hills and valleys and seas of the mind.

Now she tells me, Ditas, Ditas, you are my eyes to the would I have never known. I am afraid, I am afraid. Give me back my eyes. Why, why did you ever get my eyes?

Silence, Manang. Shhhhhhs, I say soothingly to remind her that she did not have to be hysterical when it came to her eyes.

I saw in those eyes the meaning of fear without knowing fear itself.

Her eyes where those of almonds. And they shone as well, suggesting to me the possibilities of survival in a new land.

I have thousands and thousands of pesos, she said.

That again, I told her to warn her that the numbing drugs that I gave her seemed not work for her.
They stole everything from me, she said. Thousands and thousand of pesos and they stole them from me.

Nanang, quiet now. The night is still.

How can I be quiet if they stole y money?

Calm down, calm down.

Thousands and thousand of pesos and they stole from me!

I looked at her hands and they are jittery. There was panic in those hands, there was anguish and torment.

I looked at her face and I see the trace of pain on her sunburned face. Her hair curled to a wave that spoke both freedom and faith in that which is freeing.

I looked at that face and I see you, Manang, you and Manong Ili.

You must be mistaken, I said.

You cannot doubt me. I do not allow it. Give me my medicine, muchacha.

There is no monkeying around with looks in this place.

Even if they stole my thousands and thousands of pesos and used them for something else instead of buying real jewelry?

No one stole from you anything.

Where are my lands, then? Where are my horses?

Where are the roosters? Where am I?

Who am I?

You did not own anything, not even your soul. You sold your soul a long time ago.

You shut up, daughter of a whore.

You are the daughter of whore! I trembled, my knees becoming wobbly I could not move. I was a volcano raging and I wanted to hit her, hit her with all my might, hit her to tell her that I have long suffered because of her, that my future had been compromised because she duped me into marrying the good-for-nothing husband I have learned to detest and love, love and detest.
He is some artista, she said. She probably meant Eddie Rodriguez, her favorite.

Come on, Nanang, I protested.

Like your father. The swagger, the bearing, the way he carries himself. Oh, I like him for you. You will be a beautiful couple.


Shut up you whore! As if you are not a woman already. What do you mean? That you did not need any man in your life?

I closed my eyes. Her words stabbed me at the back. I felt I was betrayed by Nanang.
I went to close to her and told her, I stole your thousands and thousands of pesos and your hacienda and your hills and your valleys and your sorrows and your joys. Come quick, I stole again your hopes for me.

And I am not happy.

I am not happy because there will be another revolution by the people.

They are marching now at the Senate where the senadora seemed to be the prima donna of wit and wisdom and intelligence.

I am not happy because Nanang said she lost her thousands and thousands of pesos.
I am not happy because somebody might have gotten from her the mind that she deserves.
I have prayed for her healing. Many times I prayed for her healing. But things are getting worse each day.

Nanang seems to be marching to the beating of the drums to her own poetic death.

All the love now, I will write again.


First published, Inquirer, Los Angeles, Special Issue 2006

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