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FICTION: Temperamental brats: A cautionary tale |


FICTION: Temperamental brats: A cautionary tale

THE DOWNBEAT - DLS Pineda - The Philippine Star
FICTION: Temperamental brats: A cautionary tale
Illustration by Patrick Dale Carrillo

DISCLAIMER: While we can never hold a candle to Gina Apostol’s work, her novel Gun Dealers’ Daughter is the inspiration behind this piece. We believe that in these trying times, we should continue to entertain discomfort through fiction. Yes, this is a work of fiction and should only be taken as such. Read till the end and between the lines to see that we do not condone violence.

 “Let’s do it on a Wednesday so nobody would expect it.”

“I can’t,” I answered. “I have work the next day.”

“We all have work the next day,” Max continued. “OK, why don’t we do it on a Friday? Just like they did it on a Friday. In broad daylight, too. Wouldn’t that revenge be better?”

“But we can’t do it on a Friday,” I said. “Imagine the traffic going out to McKinley Hill. We’ll get caught before we even get to BGC.”

“Well… at least there would be no work the next day,” Max retorted.

* * *

Max and I came up with this plan as a joke. After chanting, “Hukayin!” on the streets, we made a Facebook event a month ago, named it “Sabugan sa Libingan ng mga Bayani” and scheduled the date on February 25, 2017, on EDSA’s 31st anniversary. A total of 5,328 people clicked on “Going,” 12,066 said “Maybe,” and around 4,000 declined the invitation. When the event page began to pick up an audience, Max and I thought that we should probably take it seriously and posted on its wall: To those who want to take this seriously, let’s meet.

“Pare. ‘Di kaya  maging stoners’ event ‘to?” Max asked me.

“Isn’t that what we mean by ‘sabugan’?” I replied.

“Uhm… I thought we’d bomb his grave?”

“What? Bro. That’s some NPA shit. Naisip ko lang na parang protesta siya sa Drug War at kay Macoy sabay, ‘di ba?” I said, worried about Max and how serious he sounded. Max and I have been friends for as long as I can remember. While I knew him to have had problems with authority, I didn’t think he’d do anything close to violent. It took a while for him to agree with me — that this was nothing but a joke — but he did, and I dismissed the episode as the weed kicking in.

* * *

Come Feb. 1, we were seated at a coffee shop, waiting for the people who commented on the thread. Three others came and recognizing us from our Facebook profiles, went up to us and asked, “Ito ba ‘yung Sabugan EB?” I felt silly but I said yes. People actually go to these things?  I asked myself in anticipation of more people coming over. But after an hour of waiting, we were still only five.

“So… how do we exhume him?” Rolin, the first one to arrive, whispered to us. I was surprised, dumbfounded; Max kept laughing as if to say I told you so.

“We’re not really going to do that,” I said when I recovered from my shock.

“What did I come all the way here for, then?” Rolin yelped. He was balding, a man in his late 30s with no children of his own, I would later find out. He wore a plaid button-down shirt with a green and blue pattern.

“Keep it down, Rolin,” Max said while keeping his eyes on me. He asked Rolin to come closer, and whispered something to his ear. Later on, I would discover what he said: “We’ll bomb his grave.”

At the time, I bought into the farce. I made myself believe that Rolin was an actor that Max had hired to prank me; to dupe me into thinking that he wasn’t as crazy I thought he was. I mean, how, in the first place, can these people — Max included — actually entertain the thought of bombing anything… even if it was the dictator’s grave?

Unfortunately, I was the only one who thought of the stoners convention.

* * *

I kept thinking that Max executed this prank well. Apart from Rolin, we were with Don and Rudy—an all-boys squad that was sure to alarm the world online. Don claimed to be an Ilocano who insisted that he had enough connections with the strongman’s clan, and that it would be easy for him to get permission from them for a group of supporters to take a field trip to Libingan. “A tour bus,” Don kept saying with every plan we drew. Saying that we are “a tour bus full of supporters” would get us in. Rudy, meanwhile, was quiet from start to finish. His eyebrows were slanted in such a way that made him look perpetually mad; his eyeballs never fixed on anything. Give him a knife to sharpen and he’d look like a clean-cut goon-for-hire.

I played along, even as we assigned tasks: Rolin would “research” on improvised explosives. He had a house of his own and no one would find it fishy if he was making soap from human fat a la Fight Club. Max would gather all the info he can on Libingan, its rotation schedules, escape latches, etc. Rudy would be on standby (something he agreed to do with a grunt) and Don would book the school bus. I was supposed to coordinate everything, the only one who would have the four of them as contacts on Facebook, lest the military smell our plot.

“Kinakarir mo talaga ‘tong prank na ‘to, Max, ah?” I asked him while driving home.

He didn’t answer.

I just laughed and changed the topic to going to Art Fair. He didn’t seem interested. He gazed at the sky outside his window, his right hand’s fingers on its edges, and said, “Pare. Excited na ‘ko.”

* * *

Later, I added Rolin, Don, and Rudy on Facebook the moment I got home and checked if they had connections with Max. I had no mutual friends with any of them. I began to wonder if their profiles were even real or if Max had them make fake ones for his prank. I checked their pictures and saw that the three of them were real people. Rudy  surprisingly had the most number of friends on his list. Rolin posted thrice a day, most of them were rants against this government while some were inspirational quotations laid out on a background of blue skies and white clouds. Don was into networking. If this wasn’t a prank, I found comfort in knowing that pulling this plot off was close to impossible with these dweebs on our team. I didn’t want any bombs to explode.

I found myself stalking their profiles on the morning of Saturday, same week. The three of them spent their Friday nights differently. Rolin ranted about the traffic and blamed it on the government; Rudy went on a date—his fourth anniversary with his girlfriend and the caption said “she said yes”; Don went partying in a club in Taguig where he saw the dictator’s grandson and took a picture with him, he captioned it as “Lost my phone last night! But what a party! Agyamanac unay!” I knew it was over whether or not it was a prank.

* * *

We didn’t meet on Wednesday but somehow three of them chatted with me Saturday, 18th of February. They asked me if it was a go, saying they’ve all done their part. It was then that I quit the chat box, and Rolin blocked me from viewing his profile. I couldn’t sleep soundly that night, thinking they were going to do the unthinkable.

Piece by piece though, our little group’s plans began to unravel. Don’s tour bus, the one that was supposed to smuggle “supporters” into Libingan, got involved in a deadly crash during a field trip. Rudy went MIA, his engagement satiating his youthful desire for revolution. And on Wednesday, I went to Max’s office to check if he went to work. He did. I got to talk to him and asked about our plan. He told me, frowning, not taking his eyes off his laptop’s screen, that yes, it was cancelled. I smiled and sneaked out of his cubicle.

But I didn’t think Max was serious he’d do it on a Friday. I didn’t know he had a relative buried in Libingan and a clearance to visit. He visited the cemetery on his own with Rolin’s IED tucked under his shirt. As he approached the dictator’s grave, he was given a warning by the soldiers standing guard. When he continued to march, they fired at him. The bomb didn’t go off as Max fell by the curb, shot literally between his eyes. At least that’s how the blogs reported on it. Of course, blood samples were taken and they labelled him a member of the NPA and a drug addict.

The day after, on the 25th of February, a new Martial Law was declared with Max’s case being cited as the most significant indication that “even with the PNP’s rigorous efforts, crime has not been deterred” and that “Martial Law is now our final recourse.” Unknowingly, our group became accomplices to the administration’s efforts to duplicate an authoritarian regime. Here in my prison cell, I can hear the generals, the old cronies and their children, the political dynasties, and the dictators’ carcass itself, laughing in unison.

* * *

Author’s note: I referenced Gina Apostol’s Gun Dealers’ Daughter. The novel presents an acutely aware perspective of a young activist, Soledad Soliman, who’s wrestling with her own contradictions as a Filipino who’s against the dictator, but also as a Filipino whose lineage is enabling the system. Together with her friends, they devise a plan to assassinate one of the dictator’s strongmen. It is a timely work of fiction now that we are stepping outside simplified black and white and into nuanced introspection. Anvil Publishing Inc. sells the book locally but it can also be bought via Google Books, published by W.W. Norton in 2013. For me, Gun Dealers’ Daughter best answers the question “Where do we take this struggle now that Marcos is buried?” I wrote this piece to gain some catharsis, to remind myself that we can’t finish this revolution on our own and that there are no easy ways out.

As we continue to hope that Marcos’ remains be exhumed from heroes’ ground—knowing fully well that this administration will do it—we should begin to discuss even the unthinkable and uncomforting, so we can uncover possibilities and perhaps even find closure. Happy People Power Anniversary, dear readers.

* * *

Tweet the author @sarhentosilly.


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