The JRB presents an excerpt from a work in progress by Glenn Diaz.
Sleep was beginning to finally visit the insomniacs and drunkards of T— in central Manila when a commotion louder than the usual domestic squabble erupted from the room above Mang Calixto’s bakery. Footfalls on crunchy GI sheets. Objects falling on hardwood. A loud crash. A female screech. And when it was over, out came, through the side door below, the dazed, emaciated figure of the retired general. Dazed but also smiling, the remnant no doubt of a megalomania that ran unchallenged for too long. Escorted by soldiers in full battle gear, the decorated butcher of peasants and activists looked jolted from sleep, hair long and gray, a shadow of his former self.
From across the street, Yñiga’s view grew increasingly obstructed, first by an ambulance, then a parade of menacing black SUVs, and finally a van that disgorged a reporter and a yawning cameraman. She felt an urge to rubberneck, but it was quickly chased off by the usual resignation. It was done, it was done. She took a drag on her cigarette as the scene was engulfed in layers of bodies. Among the early birds: the workers from the plastic factory plucked from their post-shift meal at the lugawan (she gave them a wave), the street gangs looking oddly behaved with their Styrofoam cups from Dikoy’s wake down the road, the high school theater group fresh off a late rehearsal in the covered court. Then the dogs, the cats, the children who must have been awoken by the blare of the siren, followed by their mothers, who quickly found each other amid a volley of conjectures.
All over T—, the bright glare of fluorescent lights traced the outlines of shut windows. The glow of ten-watt bulbs peeked from behind the patchworks of plywood and concrete. A street away the psychedelic sounds of a videoke machine stopped. Above the roofs, like an alien protrusion, the lights on a far-away derrick flickered. A rooster crowed, hours ahead of schedule. The colossal balete next to the chapel and barangay hall appeared to lean closer to the site of the capture, the shivering of leaves and roots and branches registering in the air as vague applause.
Who’s that, asked a kid, trying to see from behind the forest of bodies.
His mother shushed him. Basta, she said. Masama.
Yñiga shook off the catatonia. She had stepped out, curious about the commotion, her reluctant handiwork. Maybe to catch a glimpse of the fugitive’s face and look for any satisfying hint of regret or grief or terror. To make up for the subterranean vacuum in her chest. But unable to see a thing she found herself drawn to her neighbors’ reactions instead, the gradations of nonchalance and confusion and delight. She reached to the ground to pet the furry insistence on her legs: Jestoni roused by the ruckus, by the faint alarm in the air not unlike oncoming rain. Light sleepers, she and the cat, unlike Diego, the house’s third occupant until a few days ago, until the series of events that led to his departure and this man’s capture, until things went from good to bad to beyond her control, the pattern that seemed to hold together her life.
A sneer curled at one corner of the handcuffed general’s thin lips.
From the corner of her eye Yñiga saw the usurer Love Joy step out of her bungalow, known in the neighborhood simply as the Big House (not to be mistaken for the Bahay Kastila, the Spanish House, out by the main road, whose first floor had been converted into a barbershop and a notary public). Love Joy’s was the only one that resembled the kind of proper house drawn by all school-age children the world over, with proper walls and a roof that properly tapered. She was tailed by her American lover Brad, who proceeded, as was his wont, to narrate the scene in sing song English. Next to them was old Mang Polly, the sidelined owner of the computer shop next to the bakery. Someone alighted from a pedicab and winced in pain—Mel A, in the pointy heels and bright orange vest that were part of her uniform at the motel where she worked as a receptionist. Lourdes, who collected the street’s garbage, arrived with her cart, loaded as usual with wooden planks and plastic bottles and discarded furniture, the pile twice as tall as her. She and Yñiga caught each other’s eyes and exchanged almost imperceptible nods, the barest recognition of a conspiracy.
More dogs. More cats.
People shaken from their houses, the sheer density always surprising out in the open.
Most of it would be ablaze the following week, five days later. A stubby candle, some said, that Lourdes swore she had blown out before leaving the house for her nightly round. A tiny dancing flame so at home among the towers of cardboard and newspapers and clutter. A hundred charred houses in two hours. One corpse burned beyond identification.
Ganti raw, people whispered. Retaliation.
It would explain the like-minded tardiness of the fire trucks.
Yñiga’s thoughts were drowned out by the crowd-parting blare of the ambulance, which must have carried the general, and the baleful beeps of the SUVs; in the backseat of one the baker Mang Calixto and his wife sat, handcuffed hands covered in all-purpose flour. The vehicles sped off in the direction of the main road, the van in their trail. In the fresh silence: the slow, disappointed slapping of rubber slippers on pavement, the murmured summary of what had just taken place, the first notes of a videoke machine being restarted.
She watched the crowd recede. Poor bakery, just that morning the site of furious, wholesome communal activity, for decades the source of warm pan de sal for everyone within a five-hundred-meter radius. Now condemned and boarded up, cordoned off by sagging tape, dirty roll-up door set to adorn the front pages of tomorrow’s papers.
She gave Jestoni, asleep on her feet, a wake-up scratch behind the ears. Let’s go in? she whispered, not moving. Half an hour later she felt a party of mosquitoes feasting on her bare legs; she had been staring into space again. Her chronic inattention, one day she would pay for it, she thought. She noticed that her cat, ever the sovereign, had gone ahead without her. Back in the house she reclaimed her spot in front of the computer.
The cushioned seat, warm with the untold number of hours she had spent sitting on it, writing papers and reports and theses for lazy American undergraduates.
Poetry in between. Hurried, sequestered verses.
The swivel chair came from Lourdes, who had found it during one of her rounds, on a sidewalk along the main road, near the row of computer shops. Looked serviceable, except for a giant water stain on the backrest, some loose screws in the base, a busted castor wheel or two. How many times did she rotate on it, drained and yearning for the bed, thinking of the English word for suya or pungas or nangangapa, wondering why a thought so clear in her head was so difficult to phrase in the alien but lucrative language.
She tried to get back to work but her mind refused to settle down. Darwinian even in enervation, it habitually returned to moments when things could have been salvaged. The brink of disaster, the breath before the jump. Making that phone call yesterday, for instance. Or saying yes to the man who said he was writing the biography of her late father. Quitting that teaching job at university. Then further afield. To the river in M— where Ramona died, to Elvie’s, the dive bar in Cubao where she and Diego met, to that night months ago when she stepped out of the house for a smoke and saw it. A garbage collector jumping off the back of a truck and handing the baker and general-coddler a package wrapped in taut orange plastic. She should have ignored it. Should have charged it to the universe’s appetite for curiosities. But accursed by the need to know, to put two and two together, she didn’t.
Or, Jestoni’s purr interjected from his favorite spot next to the mattress, could it have been your insatiable need to feel special?
Or just feel, Yñiga told the empty house. She turned to the cat, who had gone to sleep.
Haven’t we had this conversation before?
Her cell phone rang; the call was expected, but she was still surprised. A long exhale, then she picked up.
The mangy lavender towel where Jestoni liked to sleep was among the few things she instinctively grabbed when the first shouts of Fire! Fire! rang in the air. That and a pack of cigarettes and a notebook. She saw the cat make a run for it and knew that he would be safe, that they’d find each other, but she figured he would be too rattled to sleep on anything else. The pack she took because it was only halfway finished. The notebook because a blank page always soothed her. A last look at the house, the books, the computer, the mattress, her cocoon. And then she ran like the wind.
The basketball-court-turned-evacuation-center eventually quieted down. The tense, fatigued silence post pandemonium. From an unseen radio somewhere a voice counselled a lovesick caller, and every now and then a baby yelled in anguish, the periodic purge that the hundreds of supine bodies needed, lest the silence drive them nuts.
After a while they turned off the big lights, as if a movie was about to begin.
On one of the bleachers Yñiga was on her side, head resting on her spindly forearms, legs bent towards her core. She faced the cobwebbed underside of the steel seats, away from the cavernous court, the beehive of parents and children on mats and folding beds, families divided by piles of clothes, useless electric fans, half-full rice dispensers. Paper fans bearing the mayor’s face, part of the relief package, recycled the muggy air, the persistent waft of something burning, its reminder.
Jestoni, made needy by the fire, lay curled by her feet, head just grazing her heel. Every now and then he purred, favorite towel snug under his body.
Yñiga couldn’t sleep; this wasn’t her schedule for sleeping. She needed to pee but had overheard reports about the unspeakable quality of the few toilets, and better urinary tract infection than indignity. Besides, she didn’t know the people around her, mostly middle-aged men exhausted from lifting washing machines and refrigerators and flatscreens and forcibly grabbing firehoses from annoyed firefighters so they could save their houses. The few neighbors she knew were nowhere to be found; Mel went back to the motel where she worked. Love Joy, Brad in tow, had followed suit. Lourdes had been taken to the police station for questioning.
She felt the pack of cigarettes in her pocket. The precious bulge.
The baby screamed. That’s for me, Yñiga thought, closing her eyes, hoping for more. Shut that baby up, someone called out. Jestoni snuggled firmer onto her feet. Sleep. Tomorrow will be better. Yñiga shook her head. What makes you think you deserve love? the raspy voice on the radio chastised his caller, we arrive on this earth with nothing, and we leave with nothing.
The first existential lesson that Yñiga learned had to do with the name of her sister Ramona. Their mother Yusing, a bosomy schoolteacher who on weekends also manned their stall at the market in M—, liked explaining her firstborn’s magnetic charm as purely the result of nomenclature.
Pregnant with her at the height of the presidential campaign in fifty-four, Yusing unilaterally decided to name the baby after whoever won the elections. Their father Itos, who looked after the two hectares their landlord had grudgingly parceled out to farmers post-land reform, only shrugged. It wasn’t important who won as long as they took care of the bands of communist Huks roaming unchecked around the mountains of Central Luzon.
Very funny in hindsight, Yusing would quip, not laughing.
And so, when the midwife asked for the plump newborn’s name that muggy December night, an exhausted Yusing decreed so. (A Sagittarius, Yñiga would note years later, mesmeric without trying.) Maria Ramona—after Ramon Magsaysay, the first president from the great province of Zambales and the first, as Yusing would add to the ever-evolving story in the future, to open the gilded gates of Malacañan Palace to the common folk. Magsaysay, the charismatic former defense secretary, had defeated the Liberal Party’s Elpidio Quirino by a wide margin.
Good thing he won, Yusing said, chuckling, imagine being named Elpidia! She, Itos, and the three kids were eating breakfast. She turned wistful: The Americans were ready to come in if they ever tried to cheat Magsaysay. That huge ship was docked in Manila Bay, remember? (Itos shook his head.) And who can trust Quirino with all those extra pounds? He’s also Ilocano, but what a weakling, my god. That heart attack didn’t surprise anyone. Pass the duhat?
What? she asked when she saw Itos glaring at her. I’m fat, but I’m strong, yes?
The kids laughed. Yusing grabbed the jar half-filled with black plums freshly picked from the tree outside. A fistful of rock salt to counter the sour. Then she twisted the lid closed and gave it a wild shake.
And now we have another Ilocano in Malacañang, Yusing said. A thin smile. Over the years the family sans Ramona would listen in horror to news of the president’s increasingly despotic ways: his Metrocom routinely beating up and even shooting at student protesters, his soldiers massacring the Muslim operatives of a botched secret plan to invade Sabah, an ally up north ordering the burning of two villages for going against him in the last elections.
Seditious, retaliatory flames.
Et cetera. So on and so forth.
Itos looked at her daughters, all in school uniform for the first time, and smiled.
Five-year-old Yñiga looked at the duhat. Her mouth watered from the anticipation of the sourness. She pushed away her plate of fried rice and half-eaten dried fish. She caught her father’s eyes. Without saying a word, Itos discretely took the plate and scooped everything on it into his. Even then a broad disinterest in food, its demands. Even then a secret bond between father and bunso.
What I’m saying is, Yusing looked at Ramona, you’re the oldest. Won’t be able to be with you at all times so I expect you to look after your sisters. She paused. Especially Yñiga.
Lampa kasi! Hilaria teased. Clumsy, frail.
Ramona, basking from the vicarious adult authority, gave her a withering look.
Where did my name come from? Hilaria asked.
Your Lolo Hilario, Yusing said, without missing a beat. Also a finicky eater. Always acted as if he were rich. He’d berate mother whenever he found fish and talbos on his plate. Why are you serving me prison food, he’d ask.
Hilaria pointedly scooped some of the dark green leaves from the big bowl. Ma, she said, can you pass the salt? Ramona and Yñiga looked at each other, mortified. Their sister went on: And are we going to the market later to buy notebooks? Last year I used up mine. Took copious notes.
Yñiga stared mesmerized by Hilaria’s performance, briefly distracted from the plums. Her sister was mimicking the gregarious lilt in her mother’s voice. That schoolteacher tone, untroubled by doubt or hesitation, which echoed around the house, the market, their lives. Which somehow made bearable the repeated telling of the same three or four stories: the relentless teasing she got as a child for being half-Chinese, the broken promises from a Japanese suitor during the war, her brief stint as assistant principal, during which she toured the province and so could now recite from memory all the towns in Zambales from north to south.
The only stories, rehearsed into numbness, that would survive the onslaught of dementia decades later.
Oh, you’re done with your food, Yusing told Yñiga. Good girl. Here. She handed her the jar of plums. Be careful or you’ll stain your uniform again. See how white it is? I almost break my back making sure my children have the whitest uniform in that school. Otherwise, the other teachers will talk. Oh, you know people.
—San Felipe-San Narciso-San Marcelino-San Antonio-Castillejos—
Yñiga took her first piece.
Itos checked his watch and announced that he needed to go ahead, some errands to run in Iba. Yñiga, can you get my clutch bag from our room?
—Subic and Olongapo, or at least until the Americans arrived.
Yñiga raced upstairs—Slow down! Yusing shouted. If you fall and crack your head open, who do you think will clean up the mess? The child returned moments later to find the dining room bereft of her father. Where? she squeaked, bag in tiny hands, on the verge of tears. Her sisters laughed. Outside, Yusing said, shaking her head.
Itos led her by the hand across the gravelly yard. Along the way they both touched the row of tree trunks, as if saying good morning to each one. Duhat, kaimito, rambutan, papaya. Near the gate he took the bag, put on a hat. (Those hat-wearing days.) Are you scared of school? he asked. Yñiga nodded. He smiled. Don’t you want to learn? And you’ll have new friends! Well, Yñiga said, if they’re all like Ramona— Her father laughed. Your sister is a strong person and we can both learn something from her. Yñiga thought about it. I don’t think I want that, she said, which made Itos laugh anew.
Yñiga’s forehead creased. How could Itos learn something from his daughter, whom he had brought into this world? She watched his face contort with delight, then with visible effort to control the wanton display.
He was a person after all. Not just their father. Realizing this, she suddenly imagined him as a stranger, adrift in a sea of people at the market, and she felt a melancholy comfort that she’d remember years later upon hearing that he’d left.
Where did my name come from? Yñiga asked. Well, your mother is Eugenia and I’m Garlitos, and we combined the two because we decided you’ll be our last. Yñiga blinked. We want you to carry us with you wherever you go. And there’s nothing more difficult to shake off than one’s name, right?
Yñiga’s eyes blinked in the dark evacuation center.
The rickety Victory Liner bus that plied the Zambales-Pangasinan route soon appeared by the curb. Itos raised his hand and gave his daughter a kiss on the forehead. Her hands, when she looked, were stained purple from the plums. No, no, no. She said a split-second prayer. No, please, no. But to her horror she found the same purple stains dappling the side of her pristine blouse. The usual unwelcome sting behind the eyes.
Eyes shut for what felt like hours and still unable to sleep, Yñiga tried to gently dislodge sleeping Jestoni’s head from her feet. She tried to gracefully turn around, but her forearms and lower back hurt, and she ended up almost falling off the bleachers to the waiting arms of a half-naked man.
The evacuation center was quiet and still like death. Even the rebellious infant had been appeased. The radio was probably out of battery.
It was still humid, but her throat craved the warmth of carcinogenic smoke, the idle, protective gesture of smoking. After giving Jestoni a quick stay-here pat, she negotiated the crisscross of bodies splayed in all directions on the cement floor en route to the gates. Head ringing from fatigue and legs wobbly, she nevertheless felt better once outside.
Lourdes looked different, dainty out of the plastic raincoat and gloves and face mask ensemble, without the heft of the cart that she always pushed around. Hit by a mix of relief and fatigue and surprising tenderness, Yñiga held up her arms. A hug, why not, a tiny thing in light of all that had happened. They had been through a lot. Lourdes appeared to hesitate but eventually let her body gingerly float towards her neighbor’s.
But during the embrace, Yñiga’s hair, which smelled of coconut oil, must have reminded Lourdes of something, and when she opened her eyes, she caught a glimpse of the faintest ribbons of smoke rising above their razed neighborhood.
She lost it.
Like a child pointing heavenward, mourning a runaway balloon.
Yñiga shut her eyes and stopped herself from turning around, to the direction of what she imagined was the still-smoldering maw that lay just beyond the chapel and the balete. Maybe her house survived after all; more outrageous things had happened. As long as she didn’t know, that possibility still existed. Unskilled in trafficking sympathy, she gave Lourdes a squeeze in the shoulder. OK, OK, she said, just cry it out. There you go. Then she did what she herself would have appreciated—kept mum.
When Lourdes calmed down moments later, Yñiga told her, in a near-whisper, You know, I didn’t realize how sexy you were underneath that kapote. Lourdes lost it again, but this time a reluctant smile was trying to break through the sobs. She took a deep breath. Look at me, she sighed, this is stupid. A series of weak slaps on the cheeks.
Have you gone back? Yñiga asked.
Lourdes shook her head. They said nothing’s left. (Yñiga closed her eyes again, let out a lungful.) From Mang Calixto’s bakery all the way to the Katindigs. It’s a good thing the balete was there or it would’ve reached the chapel and the barangay hall. Poor Dikoy, unable to rest even in death—
Yñiga turned to the tent outside the court where Dikoy’s wake had been transferred. Around his coffin his friends slept on cardboard laid out on the ground. Look at that, Yñiga said, and they say meth addicts have trouble sleeping. She chuckled and absently put a cigarette in her mouth, which Lourdes quickly snatched away. Are you crazy? she asked. Yñiga raised her hand in mock surrender. Sorry, she said, returning the stick to the disheveled pack. You’re right, it’s a bad idea. I really need to shit and the cigarette’s gonna—
Why does this happen to us? Lourdes asked. As if we’re not hard up as it is. Last time it was at Panganiban near the river. Sometimes you question God’s motives—
Yñiga’s lips thinned into a smile. You really think it was an accident?
Lourdes’s eyes widened. So you believe it. That I burned my own goddamned house for whatever reason.
Yñiga shook her head.
That’s what they told me at the police station.
Yeah, yeah. So much for neighbors. You saw the way they looked at me last night. I was relieved the police got to me first. Or those people—our friends, some of them!—would have beaten me to death. She looked at Yñiga with urgent disdain. I should have told them about what you did. Would have taken their minds off me.
Yñiga lowered her voice. We had a deal.
Lourdes appeared on the verge of saying something.
And I didn’t say you burned your house. But I know it was arson. They are trying to get rid of us. Little by little. It won’t be the last—
It’s you! Lourdes said, eyes dilated, trying to steady her voice. You told us someone was hiding out above Mang Calixto’s bakery (Yñiga tried to shush her) and they caught that general and then this happened. How did you even know that?
Lourdes, Yñiga said. You need to calm down. She tried to hold on to her neighbor’s shoulders, which had started to quiver in anger.
Lourdes broke free from her hands, face misshapen with rage. And what do you even do? How come you never had problems with money? Unlike us? When you first arrived here you said you used to be a teacher and you write? Really? But you don’t leave the house and I’d always see you smoking outside in the wee hours of the morning. There’s always KFC or Jollibee in your trash, or some fancy food packaging. You go to the grocery once a week and the pedicab driver can barely pedal because of how heavy the bags are. How do you afford that? There’s no way Diego’s income could have supported the both of you. There’s no way.
The pain part grief, part working-class rage.
Yñiga sighed. I know, I know. It’s a tough time—
No, Lourdes said. We thought you were one of us, but you aren’t. Serves us right for looking after you.
Yñiga blinked. What?
If I ever see your face here again, I will tell everyone what you did.
Then she left, vanishing into the crowd that began to form outside the evacuation center as dawn approached.
An elf truck bearing the mayor’s face had pulled over nearby. People from city hall, in their bright orange shirts (official color of the mayor’s party), emerged from the back with huge pots of arroz caldo. See, one said, even if that theater troupe of yours tried to pull that stunt against the mayor, he’s still helping you. The rest chuckled their assent, positioning the pots in one corner of the court. A crowd was quick to assemble around them. Shouted requests to wait and form a single line were unheeded until some people from the barangay blew a whistle. Sandali po, a voice asked over the PA system. Someone began to distribute pamphlets bearing the mayor’s face, a list of his supposed accomplishments. People continued to push and shove, but eventually a line emerged. The screaming baby from last night had woken up, joined by more screaming infants.
Yñiga thought of following Lourdes, to explain and appease, but she heard a purr and knew that a more urgent task lay at hand. Jestoni had to be fed; it couldn’t wait.
That was when it came to her, a way out. Perhaps the only one. She could go back to M —. Just a computer and an internet connection and she could resume her little life (sans Diego). Her childhood room was probably intact. The same smell of moth balls and foliage, laundry soap and mold. The beach, where she and her two sisters used to play before it became a dumping ground for the town market’s wastes, was a ten-minute stroll away.
Time to admit defeat.
She took a deep breath and began the short walk to their cleaned-out street.
This wasn’t home anyway. Home was an openness, a welcome, and here it was clear that she had overstayed hers.
What struck her the most about the horizon of razed houses was the surprising vastness of the space where so much was once cramped. The rare, rude negative space.
Like a forest cleared for farming.
A developer’s dream.
The city’s eight-lane highways tapered off in smallness. In T—, the main road could fit two jeepneys and a pedicab or a Yakult cart, but every now and then yawned an opening to a looban, where lurked colonies of houses precariously growing out of each other.
The ruin of what used to be Yñiga’s looked bigger than how she remembered it. The thick, sturdy beams that marked its shape had withstood the flames. The narra wardrobe, the only thing she took from her room in M—, also remained standing, charred in parts, like a tentative shadow. Elsewhere the outlines of the fridge and rice dispenser and TV looked smudged, as if inside an impressionist canvas. The computer, the home’s nerve center, also didn’t budge; the grayed plastic edges of the keyboard and monitor had contorted submissively to the fire. Her eyes traced the cord that connected the CPU to the phone line, her connection to everything. All singed. In one corner stood the proud toilet bowl, surrounded by walls of tiles marred by burn marks. Puddles of water everywhere. The smell of rain mixed with the tenacious aroma of something burning.
Her books weren’t so lucky, probably the quickest to surrender, a feast for the fire. In what used to be the kitchen she made out the sooty electric fan cover that less than twelve hours ago hung from the ceiling. The contraption kept the house’s prized stash away from the reliable army of ants (Jestoni took care of the rats, the roaches). There they were indeed—the bread and packs of instant noodles and bag of rice all burnt black, the morsels like insects incinerated mid trawl. But a can of sardines appeared unscathed; only the paper wrapper had been singed. She dug through a rubble of GI sheets nearby to find a can opener.
Another metal object caught her eye. She kicked it under a jutting plank of plywood.
See? What did I say about tomorrow?
Around her more and more of the neighbors returned, some already stocking beams and roofing material that could be salvaged. She saw unfamiliar faces, people from two, three streets away carrying saws and hammers and toolboxes. Reinforcement. Boys decided on a quick round of two-against-two at the basketball court (the makeshift hoop also survived). The taho vendor announced his wares and was duly mobbed. The sound of hammering: first one, then a far-off response, then a cacophony.
The eternal building and rebuilding, the hovels and shacks raring to rise anew, many to be propped up by the same wooden beams still warm from their close call with fire. From down the street someone whose voice was still raspy from sleep had begun with Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered on the videoke.
In the distance she saw several men in identical orange shirts, walking around and seemingly sightseeing like bored tourists. City Hall people maybe. Surveying the damage.
Born in sixty-three, while Fidel Castro was visiting the Soviet Union and the Laotian Civil War had reached its apex, Yñiga was supposed to be named after the winner between Carlos P. Garcia and Diosdado Macapagal in the elections the year before. But when Ramona was three, the Douglas C-47 plane named after Zambales’s great volcano Pinatubo crashed on the slopes of Mount Manunggal in Cebu. On it, with several government and military officials and journalists, was Ramon Magsaysay, source of pride, then name, then heartbreak. Like the rest of the archipelago, Yusing and Itos woke up to the news that the presidential plane was missing, adjusting the dial of the radio to make sure that they weren’t hearing things. The Sunday service at the parish was morose (the priests had preached in favor of Magsaysay from their pulpit); people openly cried. Young Ramona, seized from bed, was kneeling bleary-eyed between mother and father when they decided enough of that. They frantically prayed for their firstborn not to follow in the footsteps of her namesake. But Ramona did.
The wreckage was found later that morning, still aflame.
The day after Ramona’s death, years later, six-year-old Yñiga, wanting to vanish, sneaked into the school library and found out that both Garcia and Macapagal, unwitting contenders to her name, aside from being politicians, were also poets. Like her father, before he himself would disappear.
She had no name yet for how she felt, but many years later she would appoint that day as her first experience of terror. Preordained, impossible to escape.
- Glenn Diaz’s first book The Quiet Ones (Ateneo Press) won the 2017 Palanca Grand Prize and the Philippine National Book Award. His second novel Yñiga was shortlisted for the 2020 Novel Prize. He is a recipient of fellowships and residencies in Bangalore, New York, and Jakarta, among others. Born and raised in Manila, he is currently pursuing doctoral studies at the University of Adelaide in South Australia.