Prints and Traces

There’s no better way to excavate the long-buried cry of the Earth’s brown child than on this day of his reflection—or celebration? —of his mortality. He is aware of this as often as he settles himself in bed at night to sleep, but comfortable in unperturbed confidence that he has even in his most slumbering forgetfulness a likeness who does not perish, his immortal other-self, what he calls his soul.

His realization of the inevitability of death does not scare him, nay, he is constantly consoled by the firm belief of his continuing existence in a life hereafter. But does it ever occur to him that his soul could just be as immortal as his own subjectivity?

Of what constitutes his inner self —his lofty thoughts and ideals, his perduring dreams and aspirations, his noble feelings and emotions—which, admittedly, can outlast him and can survive and thrive against changing seasons, even the vagaries of social arrangements through time?

Yes. But this phenomenon of one’s soul’s immortality can manifest only insofar as its constituent elements are remembered and embraced by some future human creatures to serve as guiding posts for their own life’s journey. Otherwise one’s soul hardly imprints a posthumous reward of memory. Or, in Rizal’s exhortment, one’s life is as worthless as a pebble in the field for not becoming part of an edifice.

Who would sing six stanzas of Andres Bonifacio’s “Pag-ibig sa Tinubuang Lupa”, written more than a century ago, if they did not remind us to use them as weapons in today’s continuation of his unfinished revolution? Who would hearken to the echo of Dagohoy’s bodyong sounded across 80 years of his continuous rebellion—a revolutionary government no doubt— against the Spaniards if it did not remind us to be resolute in our revolutionary base-building and resistance against the present-day tyrants? Who would swear to the sharp blades of Heneral Antonio Luna’s punyeta if we did not find it imperative to determinedly drive away the American troops brought in by EDCA and the VFA to our sacred shores at this time of postmodern Philippines?

One’s soul—especially the Filipino’s spirit of resistance and struggle against the enemies of the brown race—must derive its sustenance from the wellsprings that are our heroes’ ideals and living souls. And so, the celebratory impulses of the Filipino people’s story of resistance and struggle must manifest in surges of artistic outburst in the following verse narrative –

 

Hymn: Child of the Brown Land

I.
The fingers of the morning sun

keep pricking on my breast

as I trek on the entire expanse

of the brown land.

 

And my heart grimaces

at the sight of misery– the fangs

of poverty gnawing at the flesh

and soul of my people.

 

No more shall the racing hours overtake the dreams

of the brown man. He is awake and has risen

and dared to face the challenging sunblades in the east,

albeit he still crawls. clutching at the scorched and

hardened earth, licking the bitter of his tears, his sweat

and blood streaming down his chest and armpits,

down to his navel and loins and genitals, and down

to his ankles and soles, until they soak the dust

and sand on the ground, fertilizing the land,

converting into sugar the salt on his skin.

 

No more shall he drink the bile of death, but the green

of hope; no longer shall he dwell on the cracks of the earth,

no longer the shadow of regrets and anger his forbidding shelter,

nor the whiplashing winds and rains, bladed sheets that

enwrap his toila and his nakedness. He is awake and has since

risen and raced against the sun in historic vigorous trek.

 

Since the beginning of time, he has been the child

of the soil, and the hymn of his strifes and struggles

has rendered sustained growth to the harsh justice of the blest

among the blessed—they to whose fierce eyes he has bended

his knees, they whose voice commands the quality of his own

children’s food and clothes and shelter, the shapes and sizes of

their bodies and the limits of their thought and the music of their

words—they whose foreheads bear the mark of nobility and

lordship. . . are they not the demigods to whom he has consigned

his birthright and the license to tinker his kitchen and his hearth?

who has sipped the rich juices from his coco-shell goblet, sacred

fountain of his breath? in the most wretched groveling obeisance

to the legal scriptures, shackles of enslavement?

 

And his own offsprings— branchlets of the dreams that sprout

from the warmth of his loins and groins. . .they have grown up

beautiful, perfumed by the scent of grasses and wild blossoms.

 

Can they rub with their fingers the gold and gemstones

unearthed from the bowels of the towering mountains? Wear

rings and bracelets and pendants and anklets of pearls fished

from the depths of seas? Will their days be blest and will they

own the fruits of the songs and hymns he versifies from day to

day in endless honest toils by his scrawny knotted hands? Will

they be provided tomorrow’s share of laughter and glee? Or

shall they but inherit the soil that clings as dirt in his hands?

 

Oh no. No, they will not cry. Nay on their faces

shall be etched the outlines of defiant hope, fire for ever

burning on their breast fueled by a distant vision in their eyes

and an unquenchable thirst for justice on their tongue.

 

[Part Two of this verse narrative shall be posted in the next issue.]

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