Transients, Pilgrims, Seekers (16)

Field Notes N16

Some foreigners are loud, very loud, this I learned in Dipolog City, by the eastern stretch of that three-kilometers of cemented road and levee that assures the city people that the calm waters of the sea would never get to the streets any time of night or day.

Mornings and evenings I would find myself drawn to that stretch, more for doing participant observation and its twin, observant participation, than for walking, or sometimes running, this last two a pretext to taking part in the early hours of city life away from the palengke and right smack into the waters, and to taking part in the lively evening hours where people wine and dine the Dipolog way.

But one early morning, there was drizzle, and all scampered to safety except one loudmouthed Norte Americano downing his San Mig.

I see several bottles, emptied promptly, on the makeship table of a makeshift eatery that, like the others, comes to life more during the evening hours.

He does not have wings, this Norte Americano.

He does not have a sword too, and his outfit is that of a mere moral in these islands: dusty khaki, and a collared shirt all buttons open baring his Norte Americano chest of pure empty rhetoric.

But his wrath about the Philippines and its impossibilities uttered in street English and listened to by an acolyte of a Dipologueño who probably was bringing him around and acting as his bodyguard was—is—more than a sword.

It is Democles’s.

He talks about his father who was with the army and who made it big in the United States mainland and in Canada, and talked about himself making so much money too for which reason he can now afford to retire at an early age.

He talks about this Norte Americano gospel of making moolah, lots of it.

And he has made so much of that root of all evil, he claims, for which reason he can now afford to down bottles of San Mig at the early morning hours when everyone in this city-on-false-steroids is trying to shake sleep off away from their body and mind and consciousness.

He is there, this bigoted puraw of capitalism and patriarchy, his blonde hair cropped, but his head defied any insinuation of color other than his pale countenance, almost colorless the way the Hawaiians of old would have described him.

He is true and true puraw, as in white.

He comes up with the litany of evils of this country, a litany outsiders are wont to see when they come to the Philippines.

Which is good, because I got to hear them from a boisterous, almost gangster-like braggart.

Of course, the knowledgeable peoples of the Philippines are aware of these things. The people who are in the know know even the shenanigans of those in power, such as the perversion of their mindsets, actions, personal life, and family life.

Such as their perverted desire to perpetuate themselves in power that some would try to end their life when they lose in elections.   

But they do not brag about their knowing about these things, these people of the Philippines who are in the know.

Instead, they do their part of the bargain of being a signatory to the social contract, Philippine-style.

The contract is simple: live in the Philippines, do your part. You come here to rant, leave.

He hollers, this Norte Americano, and his bombast makes you realize that there are Norte Americanos like this plump man who drinks beer at 6:00 AM on that eastern stretch of Sunset Boulevard even at that hour that the sun is not yet up.

You have seen other Norte Americanos and other fair-skinned people from other places, and they do not act like this Norte Americano who downs bottles of San Mig before the sun rises.

He talks about how other governments—like his own—are so efficient you can catch the crooks right away.

He talks about how people have a stake in running the government, how their rights are respected, how they can make it as middle class if only they tried.

He talks about how social services are dispensed with, and how the poor are being taken care of.

He talks about education, and the access of even the poor people to the best of the educational establishments of the country.

He talks about the professional soldiers, and professional police, and everything professional.

He talks about money, efficiency, dollars, money, and dollars.

Ad infinitum, this listing of the best of his country, and the worst of this country. 

He must be in his 40s, and his disciple of a Dipologueños in his late 30s.

Like every Norte Americano who does not know any better, he uses a lot of his hands, and his vocal cords do not have a chance to get some respite.

He talks in monologue, not the interior kind, but the exterior one so that all other Dipologueños could here his speech.

Maybe the poor Dipologueño does not know English well?

I do not see him utter any word at all.

But he shows his white teeth the way a puppy shows its white teeth to its master.

Or, maybe he did not know the kind of English they demand of call center agents in Iloilo, Davao, Cebu, Baguio, or Manila, with the learned (say fake) accent of the agent mimicking a Texan drawl, or an Alabama southern speech.

The poor man, slightly taller than the plump white Norte Americano, just looks at that boastful male who downs San Mig at 6:00 AM on Sunset Boulevard.

There are wrought iron benches on boulevard and I surreptitiously listened to his nasty bickering of island life by doing some stretching on that bench.

I linger longer, longer.

And I hear more, and more.

I thought, Why are you here, you bastard?

I should have told him too, Scram, you Inglisero!

Ah, but that is classic Norte Americano, the one who speaks only one and only one language, and that is American English.

He is like the Tagalog who speaks one and only one language, Tagalog, while all the rest of the people of the country speak at least two.

In my fieldwork, some can easily switch from one language to another, maybe four on the average.

So much for monolingualism and monoculturalism.

This is what we get for imposing our will on other people, I reminded myself.

The mindful, caring, and critically aware Norte Americano might speak another language, or at least tried to study one.

But that is not all there is in her or in him: She or he is aware of the multinational nature of North America.

She (or he) takes heed of the ‘E pluribus unum’—the declaration that the American peoples are many, but in that manyness, they are one.

It is declaration much unlike Quezon’s project of a ‘national’ language, and Marcos’ dictat of ‘isang bansa, isang diwa, isang wika’, a dictat parroted to the letter by the Commission on the National Language, which should have been Commission on the National Languages in the first place.

So much for the dictation of one’s will upon a people, in English or in Tagalog, in Dipolog or in Manila.

And so much for downing San Mig early in the morning hours. 

--Dipolog, Las Islas Filipinas, June 9, 2013

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