The First of August, the Death of Cory Aquino, and an Appointment with Ilokano Writers and Amianan Culture Warriors
It was the first of August.
In the early hours of the pre-dawn light when my journey had led me to the snaking roads of Santa Fe, the text message came as a jolt: Cory Aquino, at 3:18 AM, was dead.
I had time to think: the road was closed to traffic, what with a freight truck carrying empty Pepsi Cola bottles skidding while on an uphill climb and filling the two-lane road with bottle fragments.
The country’s weather station had predicted a storm coming along the path I would take to go to Bayombong in Nueva Vizcaya where I was to lecture on the issue of “becoming-nation” as this bears upon the issues of mother language education, cultural democracy, and linguistic justice—abstracts all that have demanded of me so much of my vacation time.
Dr Boni Ramos, research director of St. Mary’s University, had been able to put everything in order before taking a quick trip to Manila to welcome his returning son from Texas who had gone on there for a couple of years to work as a nurse.
No, I did not go to the home country for the R & R, understood by those who have the dollars to squander.
I did my own R & R: resistance and radicalism, if this struggle to bring back our languages into the classroom could be taxonomized this way.
My R & R of two months, thus, was work, work, and work.
And this work took on various twists and turns, with two books to finalize (Kallautang and Sukimat) and with a war to be staged and to be won (Mother Language Education nationwide campaign) that included a lecture series that brought me from the Amianan provinces up to the Zamboanga-land.
The last of the series of lectures—two of them—I had to cancel for lack of material time.
The soul has to rest—and the body too even if the mind is all too willing to put on some more nights on the road, with no decent sleep at all.
Or else, burn out is not something that we like to go through.
The SMU lecture was mind-boggling, with an audience that was collectively ready to take part in the MLE campaign to resist this homogenization of Philippine education and to radicalize our view of cultural pluralism and linguistic rights.
After the obligatory Q and A, we headed to one restaurant Bayombong takes as its pride, with the dish definitely evoking memory of home cooking.
There was a heavy downpour before and after, a good sign, a good luck.
Next, we went to see one Ilokano writer, one of the best women writers who taught students how to write well: Professor Ruperta V. Asuncion.
Manang Perting is what we call her.
Loving and kind and generous with her compliments, she is the epitome of a long-lost aunt who means so well with her words.
She is sick with cancer.
But she is strong, bubbly, happy to be home in Bayombong although she says she misses her own home in Los Banos, she misses her garden, she misses her solitude.
For she lived alone, and yet she lived in full communion with herself as she was always on the ready to offer her talents and gifts to others.
At about past 1:00 PM, we went to see her so we all could sing and dance, dance and sing, and reminisce those things we want kept in the heart forever.
I am so happy you came, she said.
We are so happy we came to see you, we said, in a choir-like way, when finally, at about 7:00 PM, we gathered the courage to say goodbye.
We stayed put for many hours: we stayed put to enjoy each other’s company: Rheo Domingo, Romeo Gervacio, Andy Toquero, Rogie Baysa, Peter La. Julian, and myself.
Dr Boni, her brother, was there, of course.
At the lunch hour, we were more: Ched Arzadon, Gloria Baguingan, Henry Navarro, Roy Aragon, and Jane Aragon.
But now, we had to say goodbye: Dr. Baguingan’s pinakbet and getta-a-daludal were waiting for us.
When writers get together, expect the togetherness to get around.
We went home with that thought, the darkness enveloping the memory that will come to light our way, pristine and primeval, as we face the terrors and surprises of each day.
I tell Manang Perting: Do not go anywhere. I will see you in December. We will do a video documentary of your life.
I am not going anywhere, she says.
Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya