Field Journal N8
The long hours of waiting for the plane to come gives you all the time in the world to read things around you.
‘To read’ here is meant the hermeneutic act of reading.
It means interpreting, and its species, misinterpreting.
For to read is at the same time to misinterpret, and misinterpret so easily when not careful and critical and cautious.
In misinterpreting, we allow meaning to come about but the meaning is not contextualized, the clues insuffient, the conclusion unwarranted.
So you go the brujo way of Don Juan.
You are now Carlos Castaneda listening to all that can be listened to in this vast airport of societal divide, with the ‘can-afford’ people of the Philippines and tourists taking that plane ride to hundreds of kilometers away from this hegemon we call Metro Manila sparing them boat-ride of days and nights, like three nights and two days to Zamboanga.
You get past those sentries of paranoid and schizophrenic people, their capacity for suspicion not at all philosophical but demanded by the need to do surveillance work against those darn terrorists whose victory is based on the fact that we have been scared to death.
There is the Big Brother, and ABS-CBN unwittingly has fanned in a subconscious way this subculture of someone looking after someone else, what with that authoritative male voice with no face, with those huge gestures with only a flimsy shadow to match them.
You are directed to a waiting area, and for five hours, you open your eyes and watch for clues, and memorize them, and put them together in the end in an effort to match actions and talk, people and stories, and rage and patience.
One says, in big disappointment: ‘Plane always late, this PAL!’
This is in an allusion to what PAL was in the past: it was simply Plane Always Late.
Welcome home, James Spradley the ethnographer of people’s lives and othered lives.
You remember well your professor, Dr Prospero Covar.
You remember his insistence on creative and critical methods in his anthropology class.
You remember him advising you on how to do the domains, the taxonomies, the categorizations, the labels.
In the beginning was the forest, and all you see was this density you call chaos, random, flux.
Now, with training and experience, you can see the trees as well, and in the act of toing-and-froing, you can get back to the forest as easily as you can identify the trees, one tree at a time, two trees, three, and then the forest comes to embrace you, gives you the solitude you needed for your research, the time to deal with your mind, the silence you need to summon all the energies you need to write.
You see a family, three generations of fair-skinned people uttering that kind of English that you recognize to be either Canadian or American, but of the East Coast variety.
They are going to the same destination as yours, and you study them without them knowing that you are studying them, these actors in this social drama staged at Waiting Area 120.
There is that ‘whiteness’ in their skin that is not the result of papaya soap, or some other deceptive lotions marketed for that whiteness the Philippines is so madly in love with.
This simply means that if they are going to Zamboanga, and they are with their first generation of ancestors (from an American way of reckoning all those 1s and 1.5s and 2s for scholarship on immigration and generations), these people must have been the remnants of peninsulares that plied those islands and dominated the lives of these people in the past.
Even in the centralized aircon of the airport, one of them sported an undershirt that showed his armpit, and this young American (or Americanized person?) had no qualms being in a public place like this one, and acting like a barbarian.
You sit on the floor to have your computer’s battery re-charged.
Some dung kind of a man made it a point to occupy the other seat next to him and close to the charging area: he put his bag there, and his bag sat still like a slab of personified stupidity.
You sat on the floor uncomfortably.
Much later on, he realized that airport seats are for people and not for bags.
Two vacant seats came up miraculously, and the lady standing infront of me took the second seat farther away from where you sat.
That was her way of saying to you: you take your seat, and I take this other one farther away from the socket.
All in silence, of course.
And then she and you began to talk.
She is from Liloy, fours hours farther away from the airport, by land.
She was coming home from Kuwait where she tried her tough luck, and tough luck she had, but she says she is going back.
To Kuwait. And sell her labor to the highest of the low bids.
She talks of working hard in a restaurant, and how other restaurants have been raided by Kuwaiti police.
Her employer’s restaurant was spared. But she did not know until when the police raid is going to be stayed.
There is nothing in Liloy, she says, nothing, except to waste our lives there.
‘So I have to take the plunge, make that sacrifice.’ There is palpalble pain in her resolve to offer something better to her family.
“I will rest until July, and for a month I will not think of Kuwait. This will free my mind from the kind of experience I have there. I need to be stronger. I will go back. It is not that I want to. I have no choice. There is no choice except this.’
You think of her, and the women of the Philippines going to Turkey as tourists, but have all the ulterior motives of the world to stay there to find work, whatever work they can find.
You think of engineers you have met in parking lots of Rome, and all they do there is to watch the cars of wealthy expats and wealthy Romans and Italians and Europeans.
You think of all the people that have come into your life when you directed a teacher training program in Los Angeles, and their stories come back to you in a flash.
Welcome home, compatriots.
Jun 3, 2013