Randy Ford Author- POSTE RESTANTE MANILA Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Seventeen
On a back page of today’s paper I saw the following:

EXECUTIONS

SANTIAGO, Oct. 6 (Reuter)- Sixteen more leftwing extremists were executed by firing squad after being sentenced by courts martial in three Chilian cities, the ruling military junta announced Friday night.

And whether the report was intended as a warning in the Philippines or not it served as one.

V
As a young man I traveled from Spain to the New World, then to these islands. In the fateful year of 1595 I fought Venegas’ men in the Cathedral, where I fled with my men. I don’t recall whether Venegas actually fought or not. I don’t recall, but it wasn’t long before he found out his fate, or whether he considered fighting worth fighting over a mortar and a pestle. Venegas was one of the ruthless men who took advantage of the hapless … the hapless and the helpless. We took over this kingdom in the sixteenth century and a bit more, and a little later the world was divided between Portugal and us. I now live a stone’s throw from the Cathedral (it’s not clear whether he was talking about the Malate Church or not). Once inside the Cathedral we found allies …people who were abused, cheated and there also were those whose relatives were killed by Venegas. All Venegas’ men were slain, and as for Venegas, before the end of the day he was placed under arrest. Then in 1898 I was near Moralya (near the present-day Philippine Naval Patrol Headquarters on Roxas Blvd.) when Americans first raised their flag and sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.” In Malolos, the next year, I was there when President Aguinaldo stood up, took a paper out of his pocket, and told people of the newly formed republic to they could forget three centuries of oppression. And I was there when the U.S. destroyed the Malolos Republic.

I still ask why President William McKinley forcibly annexed the Philippines. I know that American military officers who served in the Philippines and personally knew Filipinos spoke in favor of giving them their independence. And at first America never intended to keep the Philippines. In the beginning they never intended to. Then in the early part of June 1898 I read in English papers about how the British had become alarmed over the prospect of a republic being set up in the Orient. The British! Come on! They were afraid that it would set a bad example for their subjects in Borneo, Hong Kong, Singapore, and East India. In November 1898, a narrow gauge train that was taking me to Malolos passed through the lines of Filipino insurgency and I knew that it wouldn’t be long. I got down; and I recall that there were half dozen or more Filipinos soldiers on patrol. They were strutting up and down the platform. They were on guard and were looking at me suspiciously. It reminded me of when I first arrived in the Philippines, after having braved the New World and perils of a long voyage. I landed in the middle of a conspiracy against us. That was in 1588.

I was amazed by how popular General Aguinaldo was. He was fighting the United States, into whose hands the islands fell. When I came up to his house, a sentry stopped me and asked me for my pass. He seemed to take his time as he looked at it. Incredulous but happy, and as I stood there waiting, I thought of all the men who were willing to take a stand and, if need be, die for a cause. Once again, I was part of a struggle. That night I slept well knowing that people were willing to die for a cause.

But years later it was disquieting that the struggle hadn’t ended. I’m certain it will continue like it has over the centuries, but in the first chapters, and even when the Japanese were here, the trenches were more clearly defined than they are today. Today I perceive something different. That’s because the country is clearly divided. I think everyone sees a need for a change yet can’t agree on what needs to be done. I believe, however, that we’re all sickened by Failure! Defeat! Poverty! Nostalgia! We’re all sick.

The story I’ve been a part of may seem disconnected because it spans so much time. First we have the conspiracy of the Maharllikas when I first arrived in 1588. Noblemen or datus of Manila who swore to revolt by anointing their necks with split eggs plotted then against the government and lost. It was only one of several revolts. None of them amounted to much. None of them lasted long because the majority of the native population sided with the government, but that would change over time.

In the second chapter (or was it the third or the fourth?), an exile, who dappled in many things, became famous after he wrote a couple of novels. These novels were inflammatory and have inspired people every since. Later, in his last goodbye, he spoke of “our Eden lost,” and that with gladness he gave his life. These words belonged to a man named Rizal. That man became a national hero. That man inspired a revolution. If there hadn’t been a breakdown there wouldn’t have been a martyred Rizal, just as if there hadn’t been a breakdown in 1970 there wouldn’t have been the martyrs on Mendiola Bridge.

Unfortunately such anomalies seem to be reoccurring, and since I’ve lived through so many of them let me help you discover the truth. Here we are living through the latest chapter. Like alleged I was part of the commotion on the bridge in front of Mendiola gate, just as I was also there back then when the Maharllikas anointed their necks with cracked eggs. I conspired against the government then and I’m conspiring against the government now. One reads how students marched from the Congress building, after demonstrating there, and as they approached J. P. Laurel Street, they heard what sounded like firecrackers going off. It sounded like firecrackers. I can testify that this wasn’t false, and what was significant was that students weren’t deterred. They continued their march. Then when the crowd got to Malacanang, all hell broke loose.

It was dark by then, and lights on the gates weren’t turned on. There were shouts of “Sindihan ang ilaw! Sindihan ang ilaw!” Then lights were turned on, and then everyone started throwing stones and sticks, and one by one lights were knocked out. This act of defiance, though warlike, had to have seemed insignificant, and was insignificant compared to an earlier demonstration in front of the congress building. That all changed when a commandeered fire truck breached the Mendiola gate and more daring demonstrators surged through the breach. They surged into the yard of Philippine White House itself. A dark element then stoked my curiosity. It stoked my curiosity as I followed the battle closely. As rebels lobbed molotovs and pillboxes inside the grounds and a battle raged through the night. Japanese they were not. Nor were they Americans. Instead they were Filipino students. It was noteworthy that they went down a path in the latter half of the twentieth century of Aguinaldo, and earlier struggles, and though they didn’t settle anything (immortalized and yet not settle anything), they were willing to die for a cause. As for the cost, four dead and almost 300 demonstrators and bystanders were arrested; most of them were detained at Camp Crame since the dungeons of Fort Santiago had been sanitized and opened for tourist.

When dawn came and smoke cleared, there was no longer any doubt that it was only the beginning of another chapter. To insurrectionary elements, he gave warning: “Any attempt at the forcible overthrow of the government will be put down immediately. I will not tolerate nor will I allow Communists to take over.” By then the entire Armed Forces of the Philippines had been placed on alert.

It was not strange that weapons had changed and that people could’ve been confused about which century they lived in. I’d lived through it all, and the audience must’ve been surprised to see an old conquistador like me on a modern stage when I should’ve been dead like Aguinaldo, Rizal, and all the rest of them. Maybe eventually, like all men, my time will come.

Postscript (1987)- On January 22, 1987, 17000 peasants, workers and students marched across Mendiola Bridge when police opened fire on them. It led to the deaths of thirteen marchers and the wounding of 100 of them. The event speaks of how the struggle continues and how it doesn’t seem to matter who is in power. The day after the massacre, President Corazon Aquino created the Citizens’s Mendiola Commission to investigate the event. Since then no one has been charged with a crime and families of the victims haven’t received compensation.

As soon as smoke cleared and the fire truck was removed and gates fixed the birds returned to Malacanang, while Marcos still sat on his throne. It was a pleasant place then. At the turn of the century the palace had a throne room and has one today though it might be called a library. It’s a library filled with codices and books dating back to the days of Don Luis Rocha, a darling then of the cosmopolitan crowd. His stone mansion enclosed by high stone walls was a gathering place. It was a gathering place and a place for aristocrats just as it is today. It is in a small area surrounded by water in the heart of Manila. A small place in a huge city, and it is only significant because it’s where the palace and the seat of the Philippine government are located. Otherwise it has its share of garbage, filthy streets, clogged drainage, and noise. The area also has a name (San Miguel). It has a hospice, a church, and an orphanage, and those looking for the hospice will find it on an island.

Today Malacanang is prone to flooding. A century earlier, nearby, on the shores of the Pasig, at Tanduay, near the San Miguel boundary, there were native sugar refineries, buildings of which are still there and stand out because of a tall chimney. So there were better places to live than San Miguel, such as Malate, Malate which in early 1900’s was considered a prize residential district with first class apartments and hotels, parks, and the Rizal Memorial Stadium which was built in 1934. Rizal Memorial Stadium was a handsome stadium where stars such as Babe Ruth, Lefty Gomez, and Jimmy Fox once played and was used by the United States and Philippine Armies as an arsenal and a storehouse. The Japanese army converted it into its headquarters where sentries were placed at every gate and where passers-bys who failed to bow, salute or doff their hats were severely punished.

Nuns deplored this and particularly atrocities and destruction that followed as trapped Japaneses frantically fought for their lives. “Once nuns were dead to the world, but now it was different,” as they experienced horrors of liberation like everyone else did. This was when some of the most inhuman acts against civilians (guilty or not-women, children, and religious) were committed, and their church was burned to the ground. It was very difficult, very astonishing, for risks even for nuns were real. (Desecration we should fear, when the long medieval habit, starched wimple and stiff headdress covering shaven heads weren’t respected. You should never touch a nun!) The Japanese intrusion pained them. The Japanese intrusion pained them as much as anything. It pained them more than it embarrassed them. Then nuns were cloistered. It was like they could remain isolated when the death knell was sounded. One night, the Canillas family of Leveriza was tortured, and all of them killed at Harrison Park. The lawyer’s five daughters were raped and then killed by Japanese soldiers. The discovery reached nuns in their convent and that was when they could anticipate their own fate.

There were those who sought refuge when there was no escape. There was no escaped, and afterwards there was no way to forget. Nuns, in similar fashion, wanted to forget in order to be rid of resentment. For a while they tried to forget by adhering to a strict regimen that governed their whole day. They tried to forget by continuing their rituals. Tempered by diligence and by a strict routine from morning to night, but could they ever forget? Could they really remove rancor from their hearts? Yes, they tried. And they tried. And they rebuilt their convent, as their church was rebuilt, and as they tried, they once again retreated from the world. They also tried by erecting walls of silence and through prayer (and covered themselves with black shrouds). And they didn’t foresee the day when things would change. But most of all they wanted to remain faithful to Jesus Christ and not make a mockery of their vows.

As far as they were concerned, Jesus was the path that would save them from themselves. So they spoke only at certain times; their letters were censored; they weren’t allowed to read newspapers or magazines, watch television or go to movies; they were put on rations and ate only when it was time to eat. And at no time could they complain. They couldn’t complain because they weren’t allowed to have opinions of their own. This was what life was like in these communities, every facet of life regimented.

Like all those who took the same vows, before the Vatican Council II changed everything, they were all supposed to be the same, when of course they were individuals. Thus when reform came as early as 1964, the most obvious change began with a change of dress. First, the skirt was shortened. It was first shortened to mid-calf, then to just below the knees … although now it is much shorter because of current fashion. After that the headdress was modified to reveal the ears, then the neck, and now part of the hair is shown. Then heavens forbid, they could choose what clothes to wear, and many of them chose to wear everyday dresses, or “lay clothes.” “But we’re not changing for the sake of change,” Sister Romona Mendiola stressed. Instead they wanted to be human. Before then there were so many restrictions that they were ignorant of the realities outside convent walls.

But for some nuns it was too big a leap. For some it was too big a leap to make. For them change seemed drastic, and they approached it at first with disdain and then fear. It was said that Jesus was very accepting since a prostitute was one of his most devoted and important disciples, but it seemed like some of nuns in Sister Mendiola’s convent forgot this. When it finally came down to it, it was hard for them to accept that they were human and it was hard for them to act human as long as they were cloistered. Still most of them chose to wear pastel dresses, flesh-colored nylon stockings and mod shoes … and at night set their almost shoulder-length hair, which showed that they were indeed human. I would even go as far to say that no two of them were alike and that it didn’t matter to Jesus because the vilest sinner was precious to him. It didn’t matter to him because one sinner’s soul (He affirmed) was worth more than all Pharisees put together. Time does not alter Jesus’ teachings; they will be the same an eternity for now. And these changes were revolutionary, though not universal. And it seemed to have come directly from the Pope. Even then they were getting ready for the Pope’s visit to Manila. Little did they know what his visit would bring.

The old conquistador felt embarrassed for them. He had lived a very long time. He lived a long time and had seen many changes in his lifetime. Years later, when the Pope did come to Manila, the poor garbage pickers of Tondo remembered how 90, 000 people, nearly half of them Catholic, filled Dan Pan Street near the Port of Manila to receive his blessing, and most of them tried to forget that he was almost assassinated. The Pope was almost assassinated “This could never happen in Manila.” “Oh, yes it could,” said the old conquistador. He would say anything to incite a crowd and say it again to keep them going. “And if all fires that I have started were to ignite at once they would engulf the earth, and we’d have a hell right here.” Then he cried out, because flames had already begun to engulf the republic.

By 10 a.m., Metrocom soldiers surrounded the campus, but Jose Mariano and the students continued to fight. They all expressed solidarity. They expressed solidarity with those who died on Mendiola Bridge. And they fought the same foe and risked their lives. The old conquistador stood by as students, male and female, came forward as combatants ready to defend the university. Their strength came from within, if one was to believe reports, since they were outnumbered and the military had more firepower. (Over the years countless had martyred themselves in this fashion.) A regime that had just begun to flex its muscles had begun to arrest and persecute those who opposed it, many of them students and faculty members of the university. These students and faculty members had courage of their conviction and would remember Pastor Mesina who unfortunately died during the struggle. Initially in support of the demands of jeepney drivers for a rollback of gasoline prices and fueled to a larger extent by an invasion of the campus by the military, the standoff lasted for almost a week. They stayed at the barricades 24 hours a day sustained by food brought in by neighborhoods around them. They were ecstatic when they repelled Airforce helicopters. But morale slumped whenever a student was shot.

History remembers them because they refused to give in, but they’ll be remembered most for their courage. It is well to note that they had to improvise since they had no weapons. There was no time to build up a cache. What they did was more or less spontaneous. Soldiers entered their dorms and entered their rooms and took their wallets and watches. Similar things happened to students all over campus. This angered them. They were frustrated and angry. They weren’t about to take it, and there was no stopping them once they got started. Many of them, with other students and faculty members, converged on the Faculty Center and set up barricades. Chemistry students created flame-throwers from huge LBG tanks and these and self-igniting molotovs created by Physics professors were used for defense. They blocked the street and used rooftops as launching pads for their homemade missiles. It was a wonder that they were tolerated.

All were set against Marcos; they cursed and ridiculed not only the president (for singing “Pamulinawen” to Dovie Beams, an American starlet who he was rumored to be having an affair) and the president’s wife. Marcos was already planning to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus when the bombing of the Liberal Party proclamation rally in Plaza Miranda occurred in August of that year. Marcos may have contrived it. He may have. Who knows? Though he restored the writ of habeas corpus a year later, bombs continued to go off throughout the country, including the bombing of the United States Embassy and when pillbox explosives where hurled at the gate of Malacanang. Once again Mendiola Bridge was the scene of an assault, but Marcos would claim that his reaction to it all, which he privately called “the September 21 movement” (to mark the date he enforced Proclamation 1081), entailed much more than saving the Philippine Republic. He claimed that he needed to stamp out the social inequities and old habits that made military action necessary.

Randy Ford

 

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Playwrights Foundation New Play Institute- Playwriting Course Radical Rewriting and Reclamation

Playwrights Foundation New Play Institute- Playwriting Course Radical Rewriting and Reclamation

Radical Rewriting and Reclamation with Liz Duffy Adams

Embark on an adventure with your “drawer play” as you sort out structure, story, language, and character with Glickman Award winning playwright Liz Duffy Adams.

Cut, expand, explode, rearrange, kill your darlings and discover new landscapes, until you’ve got something you are freshly in love with – or are ready to let go for good, but with inspiration for the next play.
May 4-May 10

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Going Solo with
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A Workshop for Personal Exploration

Discover your story to tell this summer with OBIE Award winner Dael Orlandersmith as she helps you discover what makes the personal story dramatic.

“There’s your version, my version, and then there’s the truth, and neither one is wrong.”

This summer intensive will challenge you to invade your own privacy while crafting the dramatic structure of the solo play. Emphasis on imagination, chracterization, physical movement, story and plot.

June 14-June 22

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All Mystery Enewsleter May 2014- New Titles

All Mystery Enewsleter May 2014- New Titles

DEVILS ROAD TO KATHMANDU A Suspense-Adventure by Tom Vater

In 1976, four friends, Dan, Fred, Tim and Thierry, drive a bus along the hippie trail from London to Kathmandu. En Route in Pakistan, a drug deal goes badly wrong, yet the boys escape with their lives and the narcotics. Thousands of kilometers, numerous acid …

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Suspense- THEN END by Dave Lacey
1965 South East Mexico. A discovery is made near Tortuguero Nuevo, an artefact which points toward a future event. It is coming. In the present day, Jack Sumner and Nick Moretti, two detectives either side of the Atlantic, both drawn into a string of murders which are linked by …

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British Cozy- THE FILEY CONNECTION by David W. Robinson

THE FILEY CONNECTION is the first in the STAC Mystery series. It’s summertime, and the Sanford 3rd Age Club are living it up in the seaside town of Filey. But the hot days don’t pass without problems for amateur sleuth, Joe Murray. …

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Y/A Mystery-”THE SILENT DEAL: THE CARD DEAL, BOOK 1 by Levi Stack

THE SILENT DEAL: THE CARD GAME, BOOK 1 by Levi Stack on Kindle Now! In the Russian Empire, wild gypsies and daring peasants face off against an evil overlord. This explosive mystery will entertain teens and adults alike with its alternate history, adventure, and mythology. Winner of ‘OUTSTANDING FICTION’ at the Southern California Writers Conference.

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Mystery series-EXECUTIVE LUNCH by Maria E Schneider

EXECUTIVE LUNCH by Maria E Schneider Sedona is given the opportunity of a lifetime: play an up-and-coming executive with all the trappings of wealth with someone else footing the bill. The catch: find out who is stealing company funds before the criminals find out that their program is being debugged. Sedona runs into danger, the corporate …

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Stinger
NEW Mystery-STINGER by Mike Bove

Stinger Maguire by Mike Bove on Kindle Taryn Maguire was good at hitting the shot called a stinger, good enough to get on the PGA Tour. Taryn was called “Stinger.” He was a top golfer and known as a humanitarian. But then he is brutally murdered after returning to his hometown, Willowtree, Arizona, for a charity event. Bruce DelReno, …

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GURL-POSSE KIDNAP by Peter Prasad

GURL-POSSE KIDNAP A post-modern thriller with a few vicious twists. A drug deal unravels into murder, kidnap and redemption as Sonoma PI Jake Knight helps his client see the light. 5-Stars: I’m blown away! I enjoyed it so much. This book is like one of those multi-layered cream and berry torte’s that …

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Mystery- LIMONCELLO YELLOW by Traci Andrighetti

“Franki” Amato is a tough-talking rookie cop in Austin, Texas—until an unfortunate 911 call involving her boyfriend, Vince, and a German female wrestler convinces her once and for all that she just isn’t cut out for a life on the police force. So Franki makes the snap decision to …

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Odyssey Storytelling -Presents! Neighbors: Stories from the ‘Hood

Odyssey Storytelling -Presents! Neighbors: Stories from the ‘Hood

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Who is your neighbor? Those people next door, their loud dog, music, children. Neighborhood watch, gossip and organizing food for new babies, illnesses, grief. Borders, lines in the sand, fences. Love your neighbor?

Writer, Patricia Fagan; comedian, Phil Gordon; writer, Richy Feinberg; digital story crafter, Jen Clark; “jac”-of-all trades, Jacqueline Larriva; and engineer Michael G. Miller

For storyteller bios, visit our website.

This show is curated by Adam Hostetter & Shannon Snapp

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Show @ 7pm, Doors open at 6:30
Fluxx Studios: 416 E. 9th St., Tucson, AZ
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To submit your story for consideration, send us a one-paragraph synopsis of your story and a brief bio about you.

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Randy Ford Author- POSTE RESTANTE MANILA

Chapter Sixteen
III
Those who saw devastation of Malate know how it rose from embers of war. When I walked along Dakota estero, which usually flooded after a heavy rain, I was reminded that the area used to be a swamp. Yes, it used to be a swamp. It’s hard to believe now that it was once a swamp. Of course, I rely on accounts of others and what I read to learn about how my neighborhood was rebuilt many times after earthquakes, fires, floods, and wars. Malate’s people as a whole have always been God-fearing … a trait that helped them remain hopeful and courageous and rebuild after each catastrophe. At first I thought it had something to do with a devout faith in their saint, Nuestra Senora de los Romedios of Our Lady of the Healing Powers; then I saw that there was more to it than that. You can never remove the human factor. It takes more than ceremony. It takes more than persistence. Attesting to this was how hard people worked. Or how much they sacrificed.
Take the pain mothers suffered for their sick children. How much pain they suffered when they walked on their knees from the front of Malate church to the altar while reciting the rosary. Suddenly, expecting a miracle, they felt better. They always felt better. This was a miracle in itself. And often their children got better. Regardless whether they experienced a miracle or not, so great was the relief which overwhelmed them (and so great was their worry) that I suppose they had every reason to believe that God cared. The swamp dried out. Sreets were laid out, later avenues and boulevards appeared, Herran to the north, Taft to the east, Vito Cruz to the south and Roxas to the west.

Conviction and devotion of penitents brought home to me that people had been worshipping at the Malate Catholic Church since1591. Manuel Estacio De Venagas and Governor General Diego Fajardo sat in those pews. And here we were in 1970 and people still asked help from the statue of the Virgen de los Remedios, which was brought from Spain by Fr. Juan de Guevara, OSA, in 1624. The statue survived the Chinese invasion of 1662, British occupation of the church in 1762, the Great Earthquake of 1863 and the destruction of the church in February 1945. Then let’s leap forward to1948. The war was over, and people were picking up pieces of their lives. I tried to imagine what it was like. I tried to imagine what it was like and why they were rebuilding the church and not the old walled city. It didn’t seem that long ago. Rebuilt as strong as ever the church had been the scene of many historical events, including occupation by British in September 1762. It had also been under the successive administrations of the Augustinians, the Secular clergy the Redemptories and the Columbans. I recalled praying in the church myself during a deadly storm, though I’m not a God-fearing person. I knew then that I was onto something. Until then I attributed other people’s devotion to God to superstition and fear, and I thought that I operated in a different universe than they did. I thought though we lived on the same planet, in the same country and even in the same neighborhood, we looked at the world differently. I felt sure that there wasn’t anything in the church for me. I felt that way while I watched with interest people pray to a very beautiful, small (two foot) statue of a virgin that people relied on when times got tough. I didn’t knock it, really. Still until I went to the church for safety she (the stature) hadn’t made much of an impression on me. I had only gone into the church one time before then, as a tourist, and though I lived just around the corner from it going inside it again never crossed my mind until the storm. I was a newcomer, a foreigner, and an outsider. I was an outsider without really a memory of the place and was far away from home. Not from there, I also didn’t know the language (and since everyone spoke English I didn’t think I needed to learn it). What history of Manila and the Philippines I knew came from what I picked up on my excursions and from reading historical plaques.

“May lakan diyan,” they would say among themselves and from this remark the Rocha house with its magnificent baths and garden got its name. Over time Rocha was forced to sell the place for $1,100. For the next 22 years, Malacanang was neglected and forgotten until it was sold to the government on January 2, 1825 for $5, 100. Still it remained abandoned until a royal order on August 27, 1847 made it the official residence of the Governor General. General Aguinaldo, though he was installed as President of the Republic, never got to live there and by 1940 had long been ignored and was a bitter old man. The Marcos family moved into the palace in 1965 and still lives there.

The bridge can easily be missed, but it will always be remembered. The bridge is on Mendiola Street, and I crossed it when I went to see the presidential palace. It was right in front of Malacanang, and I went to pay my respects to students who died there. I wasn’t the only one there. I had to stand on the bridge that separated the palace from the heart of downtown and where a battle between police and students and other demonstrators raged on through the night. It was bloody. I missed it because I was too timid to go and because I didn’t think it was my fight. If had been Filipino I would’ve been there.

As I stood there in the rain, memory hadn’t quite faded. Beneath the gray clouds, traffic over the bridge had returned to normal, but memory of the battle hadn’t quite faded. It seemed like heavy traffic was in itself symbolic of blood that flowed through the veins of students. Traffic never stopped just as blood was sadly spilled. So regardless who was in power life-blood of the city continued to flow, like torrents of rain that ran through gutters and mixed with tears that ran down my face … tears that ran down my face. Mendiola, I cried, Mendiola!

Then with sadness and admiration, as if I was discovering something that I shared with those students, I stammered the name of the bridge again: “Mendiola, Mendiola.” Yet I never bothered to learn names of the young men who died there.

Nick Joaquin, in a famous play, has a character say, “Oh, I can almost see them.” In dusty bookstores and run-down tenements “they gathered … Aside from this sort of nostalgia they had very little in common. These men were literate and illiterate and were of gentry and serfs. But all these men constituted a certain physical type and spoke, or used to speak, the same language. They were confused in the same way, and proof was in how they told the same stories.”

I could almost see what happened on the bridge. I would almost see the battle. I asked a tourist what he knew about the battle, but the exercise meant nothing to him. I repeated my question. He gave me the same puzzled look. All I can say is that it might as well have happened, instead of 1970, during the time of Wesley Merritt, the first American governor-general of the islands.

Everything became clear for me that day. Struggle had been almost continuous; against Spaniards, against Americans, against Japanese, now against Marcos. As for the city whose infrastructure hadn’t been able to keep up with its growth, it had been some four centuries since it was founded on June 24, 1571 … four centuries by three conquistadors: Martín de Goiti, Juan de Salcedo and Miguel López. With ruins of the walls still standing, there formed in my mind, as I crisscrossed a decaying city, a kind of tapestry, or a smattering of drama that had taken place in the city since it was founded. Malacanang Palace and Mendiola Bridge were the last pieces I needed for my play. They formed stages, like Fort Santiago and Malate Church (judging that I couldn’t include every important place) that couldn’t be improved upon. Set designers erect their sets knowing that after the production their work will probably be forgotten. Absorbed in the here and now, they hardly think about building something that will last.

These things I thought about as I struggled with how to turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse. I also related to a play that I saw at the Rajah Solayman Theater in Fort Santiago and was moved by the performances of movie stars. After the show I walked through the dungeons and saw where so many prisoners died. (After it was cleaned up, tourists were allowed to stroll through it.) It shouldn’t surprise us that it’s a popular tourist destination. It‘s as if people are attracted to horror and gore. Again, I thought I was onto something.

To be outraged is commonplace; except for radical outrage it isn’t usually turned into action, and radicals aren’t usually thinking about dying when they jump into something. What is terrible and incomprehensible is for them to see their own insignificance (if it’s true). I have noted that regardless what it seems like what they’re doing is rarely a total loss, and martyrs and patriots are rarely totally forgotten. Most of the time, without them thinking about it, they’re destined for immortality, but I’m not sure if the reward ever matches the punishment. Only in hindsight does sacrifice seem reasonable, and each loss is a personal one and usually brings grief to someone.

Indoctrinated over centuries, the nation ultimately appreciates its heroes and often maintains shrines to them. (Hence we have the play LRAWAN or PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS FILIPINO in Pilipino, which I saw at Fort Santiago. It was staged for the Aguinaldo Centennial and not far away was the shrine to Jose Rizal.) We know with certainty that within a finite period that we’ll all die. Because of our past, we’ll each be judged by how we lived, by our goodness or our perversity, and to an extent how we die. However Manuel Estacio De Venegas’s death in the dungeons of Fort Santiago doesn’t seem to have cancelled out evil he did during his lifetime. Seen in this way the way in which we live matters more than the way we die. Because of his infamy Manuel De Venegas died in dungeons and had his property confiscated by the colonial Spanish government. So clearly he wasn’t a patriot. But if by odd chance you were an American soldier stationed in Manila when the Japanese occupied the city you could’ve easily ended up in the same dungeons without having done anything wrong. Let’s suppose someone composed an American Machiavellian tragedy and set its last scene in the dungeons of Fort Santiago. If we based this drama on actually events, we’d have to use actual names of men who died there, at least in the program. No one is any more immortal than these men, even though their names may have been erased from records. Then like Jesse Webb of Pocatella Idaho I never intended to spend any time in the dungeons of Fort Santiago, and I’m certainly not a hero, and I doubt that Jesse considered himself one.

It was a disquieting image seeing the discarded General … the discarded Aguinaldo of the 1940’s … that the audience became aware of when they went to see LARAWAN. In the first place, they had to have known that he was their George Washington. I have to mention here that he was the first president of the Philippines, and the youngest one (becoming president at age 29); a man who fought long and hard for independence of his country. He couldn’t help himself and died a hero but instead near the end of his life was accused of collaborating with the Japanese and briefly jailed. Neither would they have been interested in details as to why the adoration for the man faded. The play, for most of them, was a revelation and it was suffice to final give Aguinaldo his due, give him his due and the standing he deserved and give another sigh perhaps for the past. Let us not forget that there were those in the audience who also cursed the Present. There is no pleasure more satisfying than making connections and finding them for my play. For instance, connections between Manuel Estacio De Venegas, Aguinaldo, and Jesse Webb of Pocatella Idaho and an old fort, Malacanan, and a battle on a bridge called Mendiola. These connections are made quite rarely, and all patriots can’t be recognized, and I remember one whom I met: a little woman who stood up to Mrs. Marcos.

Among the corollaries of my work which along with the pictures of the sets is a high-quality production poster which is part of the permanent collection from The Aguinaldo Centennial now on display in the Bulacan Museum in Malolos City. It’s an artist representation of the Filipino people’s revolutionary struggle that spans 400 years. The theme of social justice is illustrated by the choice of faces on the poster: Aguinaldo, the old Conquistador who stood his ground against Manuel Estacio De Venegas; Captain Jesse Webb of Pacatella Idaho; and the four youths who died on Mendiola bridge. Not many copies of the poster survived, so to have a copy in the Bulacan Museum is a great honor. The play itself caused quite a stir, particularly in Malacanan.

The deaths on Mendiola Bridge (or the reaction to them) also fueled a storm. Events developed quite quickly afterwards. While youths took the initiative, there wasn’t one face connected with the “First Quarter Storm” that can be immortalized. Once set in motion everything that happened became irretrievable. One thing led to another. One thing led to another until Marcos declared martial law, and (for at least the youths) a reign of terror continued. Marcos spoke truth when he said that there was “an element of coercion” involved in his action and didn’t when he said it only affected “those who clung to or those who wished to revive the privileged treatment of the privileged few of the old society.” In some ways the majority may have been better off since they were poor and were in constant danger of being exploited, or that was what the faithful of the Marcos regime would have people believe. According to Marcos there wasn’t anything that wasn’t possible in a society in which its members enjoy social equality. But there’s no perfection on this planet, and nothing is precisely what it seems. Unfortunately “an element of coercion” for some people meant that they were separated and even eliminated from society. At a time when tourists were still granted access to the dungeons of Fort Santiago, youths were taking the initiative of speaking out against (and fighting) a dictator and were being punished for it. Many of them disappeared without being given a chance to say goodbye.

Randy Ford

 

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Catherine Ann Jones Author – an inspirational two-day workshop -THE WAY OF THE STORY presented by Catherine Ann Jones

Catherine Ann Jones Author – an inspirational two-day workshop -THE WAY OF THE STORY presented by Catherine Ann Jones

Join award-wining writer Catherine Jones for an inspirational two-day workshop
-THE WAY OF THE STORY

“We’ve become lopsided living only in our heads.
Writing, in order to serve the soul, must integrate outer
craft with inner world of intuition and feeling.”
-Catherine Ann Jones, New York Times
http://www.rdmalibu.cominfo@rdmalibu.com

April 26th, 27th 2014
at Rancho del Malibu

I attended Catherine Ann Jones’ workshop on the
top of a mountain in Malibu on a glorious Indian
summer day. Ms Jones has the knack of saying
just the right words to bring out your dreams, desires,
hopes and failures through the writing process.
Oh, and the food the setting are divine!
Linda Lee Bell

http://www.rdmalibu.com info@rdmalibu.com

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2014 Arizona International Film Festival- THIS WEEK AT THE SCREENING ROOM APRIL 23-24, 2014

2014 Arizona International Film Festival- THIS WEEK AT THE SCREENING ROOM
APRIL 23-24, 2014
127 E. CONGRESS – DOWNTOWN
Wednesday, April 23 – 6:00 p.m. – $8.00
Global Shorts
Poland, Australia, Afghanistan, and the US.

THE DOCTOR OF BAGRAM
An embittered trauma surgeon flees his past onto the battlefield.
Director Neil Paik joins us to present his multi-awarded short.
ARENA
COUGH
THE LANDING
MEETING GARY
Hotel Congress TrailerThursday, April 24 – 7:00 p.m. – $8.00
Hotel Congress
NADIA LITZ AND MICHEL KANDINSKY
Canada, 2014, 75 min.
Francis and Sofia are trying very hard not to have an affair. A romantic film for the unromantic, shot down the street and featuring music by Interpol’s Paul Banks.

Join us for Q&A with filmmaker Nadia Litz, and a reception at Hotel Congress afterward.
Thursday, April 24 – 9:30p.m. – $8.00
Edgy Shorts
Six films for late night viewing.

MATERNIDAD
NIKO
ONE MORE FOR THE ROAD
START OF SOMETHING
STRANGE THING
STRANGER

Filmmakers for NIKO, START OF SOMETHING and STRANGER are confirmed to arrive!

Visit filmfestivalarizona.com for more information about the 2014 Arizona International Film Festival.

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You will get the latest updates, tips, insider info, reviews, specials, contests, discounts, and the opportunity to connect with other fest-goers.

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Arizona International Film Festival | The Screening Room | 127 East Congress | Tucson | AZ | 85701

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