Sunday, June 22, 2008

REMEDIOS IV

I like Gabriel Garcia Marquez so much I named my eldest son after him.

And I am so immersed into “One Hundred Years of Solitude” that the characters have gotten into me. The username for my alternate email is Aureliano Buendia after the colonel but I really would have been his brother the ex-seafarer.

They frolick in my dreams where Ursula becomes my mother and Jose Arcadio the patriarch would watch beautiful Latin American football in my TV. I played a marathon game of pool with the 17 Aurelianos before they were hunted down for the crosses on their foreheads. It was Melquiades who circumcised me along the banks of the dacquel nga carayan; while I was introduced to the joys of exploring the folds of quivering flowers by Pilar Ternera and Petra Cotes. In my deep slumber, Macondo is the enchanted and magical barrio of Almaguer.

Those dreams would stay for a while then slip away into forgotten remembrances, surfacing from time to time in brief flashes of recall before vanishing forever into the recesses of archived memories. That is except for the Remedioses who remained imprinted in my conscious mind long after waking up: the Child Wife who gave birth to a birdman and Lord Voldemort; the Beauty who was one of the only 3 known earthlings to have directly ascended to heaven only to be sent back because all the angels fell in love with her; and Silent Meme, the reluctant hermit, who actually is the great great grandmother of Madonna.

And there is Remedios IV, unknown to the world, a phantom created from the sparks of clashing fiction and reality, born with a daguerreotype from which she looks at the world with sepia eyes. In the fantasy world of dreams, she walks me on to a continuation of Col. Arcadio Buendia’s 32 wars and the characters hiding between the lines.

There are actually 3 more Aureliano Juniors in the lost chapters of the book --- Roberto Aureliano who is to revolutions as fish is to water, and speaks a strange language called Bisakol; and the older Eugenio Aureliano, a He-Man trapped in a body of a beautiful woman. They too read, write and sing poetry in between the eternal wars of their father. The third brother, Ernesto Aureliano, would have preferred to join his grandchildren Amaranta Ursula in Brussels or Jose Arcadio in Rome in pursuit of his passion for painting. But the endless war caught up with him too in Macondo. He is always seen with a rifle and purple flowers grow up in his foot tracks wherever he go.

They are joined by their cousin Josefa Arcadia, the lost daughter of Jose Arcadio who started walking the day she was born. She never stopped since then --- hiking across the mighty Andes 117 times, trekking the Pan American Highway from Barrow to Tierra del Fuego and back, and walking over the waters of the Pacific Ocean and the Amazon River just like a prophet of a long time ago did in the Sea of Galilee. She is the Wanderlust of the Buendia clan who sometimes gets tired but never stops.

The faceless, voiceless and scentless Remedios IV introduced me to these invisible characters. But all I have seen of her are the words that pop out of my email and mobile phone from time to time. She is into revolutions and its art and cultural forms like the Aurelianos, and consumed by an eternal walk like Josefa Arcadia. There are moments when I refused to sleep to block her ghost who sometimes give me nosebleeds with her intellectual analyses of things. Mostly though, I try to trap her in my dream catcher to determine if she really is an illusion or the person who was staring at me from the the next seat in the bus. But when the ghost begin to take the form of the flesh and traces of humanity become visible, it is time to wake up…


Post Script

In the middle of the first half of the 1800s, a young Spanish colonial soldier named Ramon Maria Solano of Valencia was banished from the Viceroyalty of New Granada after the influential Buendias of Macondo petitioned him out for his insistence on renaming their settlement into Almaguer. Stripped of his privileges, Ramon Maria Solano wandered up north until Acapulco where a galleon took him across the Pacific Ocean to the Ever Loyal and Noble City of Manila. There, his sins were forgotten and he was forgiven. He rejoined the colonial government where he rose to become Mariscal-de-Campo, Segundo Cabo, then acting Governor General for 6 months of the 1860s until he died of suspected poisoning. He was interred at the Chapel of San Pancratius of what is now Paco Park that was originally designed by Nicolas Ruiz as a cemetery for the Spanish colonial elite.


Built in the later years of the 1700s, Paco is perhaps the oldest cemetery in the Philippines. The GOMBURZA martyrs --- Fr. Mariano Gomez, Fr. Jacinto Zamora, and Fr. Jose Burgos --- were buried in its grounds after their execution in 1872. Twenty-four years later in 1896, the executed Dr. Jose Rizal was also secretly interred in the cemetery. His remains were later exhumed in 1912 and moved to what his now his grand monument at the Luneta. Interment in the cemetery was prohibited in 1912 and most of the remains of those who were buried there were transferred except for that of Ramon Maria Solano who after his death has a town in Nueva Vizcaya near the ancient barrio of Almaguer named after him in his honor. Paco Cemetery became a national park in 1966.

CAUTION: This is a work of fiction and nothing else.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

FQS IN A BELFRY

San Beda to me was a high-end school and Raul Dancel’s college of my CEGP days. That was until eman59, a fellow traveler in the Lagalag project, asked me if I have photos of the San Beda church. A Google search confirmed that there is indeed a church and of the colonial era. So one stormy morning, I got up in my sleeping and tattered UNCRD shirt and a mismatched green walking short, tucked an unruly mass of hair inside a baseball cap, and dared the flooding streets in a pair of moldy Beach Walk slippers. I pleaded with the church guard who would not let me in because I looked more like a santo thief than the photographer I claimed to be. My case was brought to the parish secretary who hesitantly relented. But no flashes please.

It is a beautiful church. A Swedish architect, George Asp, designed the church that was built until 1925. Fr. Peter Celestine Gusi (OSB) later added the side chapels and galleries between 1947 and 1958. The church is renowned for its murals and paintings that were done by Fr. Lesmes Lopez (OSB) and Bro. Salvador Alberich (OSB) from 1930 until 1939.

eman59 confided that as a child and a young man, he used to stare dreamily at the murals. The top of the twin bell towers was where he watched the "Battle of Mendiola" raged in January of 1970 pitting militant students against the state’s security apparatus. The police lines were breached, a fire truck was commandeered then rammed into the gates of the Malacanang Palace. The First Quarter Storm has began. Martial Law was declared on 23 September 1972 and a new chapter in Philippine history unfolded.

eman59 asked me to take lots of photos of the San Beda Abbey Chapel, “the nooks and crannies of it, the golden light, the gilded retablos, the black Lady of Montserrat… the sacristy (if I can sneak into it)… the gilded and bronzed doors”. He told me of the cemetery at the back and the Roman garden, and the main church entrance doors made by Eduardo Castrillo, “the fountains, hedges, cloisters and entryways in the courtyard” where he played and grew up. I would have happily obliged him. “Bawal pumasok sa loob ang naka-shorts lang,” said the guard. The storm raged. Wet first communers and their excited parents ranted at the weather.

I will be back. eman59 must have his photos. It is my own little way of saying thank you for the friendship and the amazing connections we shared even if we are thousands of miles apart and have never met. I find his photos powerful and provocative from which I am learning much.

In one of our email exchanges, he gave me what is the ultimate compliment I have ever received as a photographer: “There is no Filipino photographer's stream on flickr that make me more nostalgic about the things I love best about the Philippines than yours (and Maleldo's). For me your pictures are not about Catholicism or religion but, perhaps by default, the fabric of our identity. I especially admire the documentary style that you use to photograph them. You don't comment or editorialize. Very simply, here they are, pictures of your heritage, love them or hate them but never forget them”.
Just the way I wanted it. Maraming salamat, kaibigan!