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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

oF TruThS aNd DrEamS

A Paper on Dean Francis Alfar’s SALAMANCA
a requirement for Literature 21
submitted to Mr. Ian Rosales Casocot

I remember those days when I was younger, about 16. My experiences had opened my eyes to what the world has to offer me – fully optimistic that sometime soon, love will conquer all. It, too, has deceived me for many times – by wonders of star-made shadows round that outshone my heart’s relentless desires. I have loved once and loved even more. Silently, my journey has started and soon, it’ll be all over. I immersed myself in the wonder of fate and life – a magic of how some things are out of my control. One begins to realize that every day is a new wonder, a new beginning – an unstoppable change of darkness to light, of sorrow to pain, and hatred to love.

Literature, as far as I had understood it, is merely a result of one’s desire to put into writing what one’s heart has long wanted to express. It emanates from one’s passion and of how one’s experiences have, in a way, made an impact to his being. This is true to all, even Filipino, writers. We write to satisfy ourselves, to address what we really feel – our joys, anger, love and hate. Through that, we connect.

I have encountered a few Filipino writers I never thought existed – Paz Marquez Benitez, Nick Joaquin, Steven Javellana and Pete Lacaba. Most of these Filipino writers tackle almost anything – from social problems to undying love stories – hoping to teach values and priceless lessons. Some are hidden in the complexities of the construction of words and some in the simple form of sentence-making. It makes you think. It, oftentimes, is dependent on each person’s experiences and maturity. Didacticism as we call it.

I remember that Dean Francis Alfar’s Salamanca has touched a lot of the essence of this (dictaticism). And that he was successful in doing so.

It is true that Salamanca is a story of love awakened by ardor, unfortunate events caused by selfish yearnings, of family brought about by a lot of surrendering and acceptance. This, in its sense, created a character – Gaudencio Rivera – that reminded me of my dad.

Like Gaudencio, my dad was an ambitious man.

The year was 1993. It was one of the most amazing years that I can remember with him, aside from the darkest decades that I endured, being my father. He was cool. A law enforcer for a dad was a child’s, during my time, dream dad. He would always bring me to school wearing his overly cool police uniform and would, again fetch me after his work. It was great calling him my father.

Gaudencio Rivera is one restless soul, derailed by the marvels of the now and blinded by what only is perceptible. He was presented as a young man full of optimism and dreamt that he will find a place closer, if not in, at least nearer, to nirvana.

He was an aspiring writer, graduated with flying colors and with heart full of pride, decided to leave the comforts of his home to unravel the mysteries of life that made him reach the islands of Palawan. There, in the place called Tagbaoran, his life changed forever.

Jacinta Cordova, as Dean Francis Alfar described her, is “a firm believer in modesty” blest with a “heart-shaped face, eyes perhaps a little too large for her head and the most boring black hair.”

She is the kind of woman every guy in town would want to have as his wife. She possesses that ability to make “you pull your trousers down and squat when you relieve yourself” and change concrete walls to glass. This was evident on her at the eve of her twelfth birthday. Wondering of how beautiful she might have been if she were a real persona – an epitome of a real Filipina beauty.

The story had lots of turns which made you think on what would happen next. Every line was filled with wonderfully constructed words making you read nonstop. It was heartbreaking.The story has amazed me so much that tears were welling down my eyes by the time I finished reading it.

“How could one afford to leave the person you proclaimed you love?” I kept asking myself. “How could one depart the one he loves after spending sleepless nights making prose on every paper and paste it on every corner of his most beloved wall hoping that she would read it? Is love not enough to sustain those wishful dreams?”

I began to question Gaudencio’s selfish fleet on the eleventh night of his marriage to Jacinta. That, I believe was the most coward thing a man could ever do – leaving your wife for almost two decades without any words. I deemed it unfair if I were Jacinta. I loathed Gaudencio.

Reminiscing, it was the year 1999, the time when everything changed. Setting aside the complex strata of Philippine political destabilization and politically incurred rallies, my dad, like Gaudencio, underwent a sudden phenomenal and abrupt change – my father left home not to work but to find another haven. Soon, mom and dad separated.

Family had always been the strongest foundation to a man's life. It is where he begins; it is where he draws back. This is what I believed in. “It might not have been the case for Gaudencio,” so I thought.

As the Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia defines it, a family is the basic social group united through bonds of kinship or marriage, present in all societies. Ideally, the family provides its members with protection, companionship, security, and socialization. But it was not true enough for the story. Jacinta was left in mid-air.

Jacinta married Gaudencio because she loved her. But not all stories go too well. It was not a fairy tale. Not for Jacinta, neither for my mom. It came to a point when people were gossiping about Jacinta’s unfortunate condition. But she remained calm hoping that one day she will be able to heal her heart.

In the course of the story, both have encountered different people. They have, in a way, contributed in the wondrous journey of both Gaudencio and Jacinta toward undying love – Apolinaria Vergara, Jacinta’s aunt, who, “deaf or blind as the moment suited her,” was taken by the storm with her house; Cesar Abalos, a friend of Gaudencio, was “handsome and swarthy, with arms corded by years of heavy labor” who tried to look for him in the pursuit of saving him amidst the raging storm; Mrs. Helen Brown, a missionary from Kensington, Pennsylvania was a “faded school teacher and a recovering Baptist”, who ran toward Jacinta and pushed her face towards her forcing her tongue inside Jacinta’s mouth; and Bau Long Huynh, the unsung hero from Vietnam who loved Jacinta more than anyone could have ever imagined.

In my lifetime, I have met different people. I’ve met men who are caring and sensitive – like Cesar Abalos - and men who are cruel and calculating. I’ve known women who are sincere and honest and women who are jealous and hateful – in the persona of Mrs. Helen Brown.

Like Gaudencio and Jacinta, I’ve seen smiles filled with lies and tears wet with truths. I’ve shared time with those who have needed me and I’ve been by myself when I was in need. I’ve been associated with people who are dreamers but not doers and with people who make promises but never keep them. I’ve found myself learning how to understand all these personalities.

Dean Francis Alfar’s characters were a mixture of different personalities with different desires and outlook in life. They, like colorful strands, have woven a wonderful mat. They presented solutions to this eleven-day-sexless-marriage, answers to an abandoned woman’s prayer, remedies for the hopeless case of tall tales, and a super-hero who “saves the innocent victims from those bad villains.”

It depicted the reality of everyday scenarios and everyday people living in the stereotypes of our old-aged tradition, as what Apolinaria may not have thought, that God and family work hand in hand.

This was all set in the “secluded town of Tagbaoran on the island province of Palawan” – a place everybody is familiar of – a collection of wooden houses and children who ran barefoot, trailing snot from their noses” - a scenario that resembled most likely to that of my childhood, the probinsya.

I believe that, if not everyone, at least mostly have experienced living with their lolos and lolas in the provinces for a vacation - a place where their moms and dads were reared. I did. These memories are still vivid in my mind.

Salamanca has opened my eyes once again to the sad reality of life. A question of why all the pain after all sufferings, of difficulty to understand and grasp all that there is right now, of why certain things needed to happen.

I loved how Jacinta endured all those lonesome years and the guts that took Gaudencio to face her once more and ask for forgiveness.

I hope someday, sooner or later, I too will have that strength and courage to face the world again with head held high and heart willing to embrace such enormous change no one would dare to.

Salamanca is a tale of a man’s journey - a pilgrimage in search of truth, love, hope, peace, friendship and love. A journey to find that happiness our hearts have long been longing for. We may have turned away from making a barrier out of the fantasies we always deem real yet we should learn to accept the world and its imperfections and ignore all our disillusionments, anxieties, infirmity and bewilderments.

We unleash our capacities to think harmoniously with the world and everything there is and have that creativity in looking towards life in a very optimistic way. Sooner or later, we begin to see clearly the way in which we can affect the world, its people and by the manner that we too are affected by it.

We begin to see that all those blurry images we see are slowly changed into clear ones, our entrapments to liberty, dissatisfaction to contentment, and our anxieties to tranquility.

That we will all soon realize that all these are a fragment of one’s imagination, a work of the magic of life – of Salamanca – and that not everything that starts with “Once upon a time” ends with “and they lived happily ever after.”


Ka Pete said...

Flattered naman akong maihanay sa mga yumaong Paz Marquez Benitez, Stevan Javellana, at Nick Joaquin.

Mico Lauron said...

@ Ka Pete: OMG!!! Pete Lacaba on my blog..

Dean said...

Thank you such a well-written and insightful paper. I am glad my work engaged you. Salamat sa pagbasa.

Mico Lauron said...

@Dean: OMG! Dean Francis Alfar! The legend. Thank you thank you so much! Such a privilege to have my blog read by Palanca awardees such as you! OMG!