Field Notes Number 10
June 23, 2013, BSL (a site code), Las Islas Filipinas
So this is part of my ethnographic work on a dreamed-of book on the ethnography of human suffering among squatters, the homeless, the wretched, and the slum-dwellers in three big cities in the Philippines.
It is the start of a long journey.
It will be a long journey.
Sometimes, a writer has to run away, just run away.
In my quest for a quiet place, I ended up in a place of disquiet.
Today, I heard the story of what happened last night: of a 22 year old man engaged in charcoal-making, and beheading a man in his 40s.
I lived close by, just some distance away, and during the dark hours, this sordid thing happened.
It is all over the media now, at least in these parts.
This a slums area in this big city, and houses of all kinds have been erected, from the most fanciful (because of remittance money) to the most primitive (patches of wood and GI sheets and lots of prayer so the winds would not come).
It rained hard last night. Hard.
Days before, I heard of several men robbing others of their fighting cocks, of a young man getting into the house of another and helping himself with a laptop owned by a relative who lives in another part of the city.
I have heard of struggles of the poor in these parts—and the night would find me thinking, thinking, thinking.
Most of the time, I am unable to sleep.
Most of the time pray for daybreak, for the first light of day.
Oh, to live in these parts, and to live in resistance, to live the very couldron of what redeems and what brings you to the lowest depths of depravity.
The story goes: the older man announced to the public that the younger man is a robber. That was for all others to hear.
The younger man goes to his home, gets a long machete shaped like a happy quarter moon, the one used for felling hardwood for charcoal, accosts the older man, and hacks him straight. Just that—a whacking.
He gets the severed head, puts in plastic, and puts the machete and the severed head in the sack.
He takes a jeepney that plies to the police station. Just the regular jeepney. When he reaches the station, he pays his fare, and surrenders.
I killed a man, he says. And he opens the sack with the machete and the severed head.