Birthdays and Greetings (or Mediecritus) a mini-novel by

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Birthdays and

Greetings

(or Mediecritus)

A mini-novel by

Ramuel M. Raagas

Codigos


  1. Recto

  2. Juventud

  3. Mañana

  4. F

  5. K

  6. Joker Queen

  7. Mejor

  8. Kappa

  9. Agua Hole

  10. Ocho

  11. Crypto

  12. Pocofuego

  13. Red

  14. Bruja

  15. Publico

  16. Navidad

  17. Banco

The Line

"WHY must the Filipino be a squatter in his own country?" said the man. He spoke with an audible enough voice, but not the sort of which is used day by day by the vehicular dispatchers serving the commuting public. Besides, he seemed thin. He was. I mean, there are thin dispatchers, but these have wood-hard bones that possess a push-about drive unbecoming of the man now on the microphone. We had him on tape, as did his adversaries before us. For the next sequences, the man shook hands from door to door within the community of his legitimate congressional candidacy. Such a traditional politician's gesture it was, except that he seemed quite too thin to be the man doing such a regular thing.

At one point, he explained something to a group of wits-sharpened gin drinkers who had bare knees, elbows and ankles. The man wanted to be thorough. At the same time, he humbled himself as he got conscious of his own starting to avail of his little audience's third minute. His decrescendo prompted a quick refutal by one of the Volk, "No! What we need is to vote for you!" This and the supreme approval of all else around the lowly table smacked of a candour unknown in the country's central business district.

The human rights defender Henrietta Rosales spoke. At least, she now has gotten to sit in Congress. As she discussed the man's immense organizational abilities, thanks to his sound theoretical grounding, Bernie Larin smilingly rooted in front of the monitor screen."E-TA! E-Ta,E-ta e-ta!"

Of course, there came the inevitable part of the video. Even the penultimate phase of the non-fiction narrative carried out an argument well-known to all of us, even before the JOUER button had been pressed.

The parade footage was the only part of the film in which sweeping, panning shots were taken. I mean, there were packed crowds at the plaza scenes of campaign and protest, but I guess there were no big buildings in which the camera man could prop himself up into so as to stand back at a vantage point in which more than a hundred heads (not just thirty) could be framed into the display. Flags there were. Many of them larger in format than the very nations’ flags posted in front of the U.N. complex corner-set a few avenues away None of the thumbnail-size US flags on Ralph Lauren clothes worn by many high school and college students.

The demonstrators clogged Recto Avenue, but unlike floodwater, they had a definite, singular steady flow, like a brown river in slow, digital but massive motion. Besides, floodwater carries the minor possibilities of pesky sicknesses. The crowd supporting the slain congressman-to-be could have been a potion to stave off the social cancer.

Although most of those marching were unknown soldiers, there was Armando Malay. "He's an RA," said said Ferdie, Ferdinand Baron that is, not the other Ferdie, Fernando Carbuio, his friend who became editor-in-chief of The Philippine Collegian, our school organ.

Then came the sequence featuring the martyr’s fat lady of a wife, Lydie.

“She never married after the assassination,” said old fat Rhoda, Rhoda being naïve as to how Lydie would in fact marry another man a couple of years later.

Rhoda herself wasn’t that old. Nor was she the epitome of maturity. It’s just that she never changed. If she ever had been through any inner change, there wasn’t even that much material to begin with. A pauper-dark Ilongga is an unknown thing nowadays in UP Diliman, but she had been one.Codigo Juventud

How did these youths now attendant to the video, along with some dozens of other folks, get together to form Layag (Liberatory Allied Youth Action Group, rather than Benigno Aquino Youth Action Group, the name which got outvoted, not just because Ninoy's sister Tessie was the enemy, if not the murderer per se, of our idol), which did not even quite last as long as the rock band The Sex Pistols? How come they never even wrote songs, just dilute poems (i.e. John Carlo Tria's "These are the Locks I want to Lick.")

Well, one fine weekday, when cows still roved the UP Diliman campus, a young man by the name of Butch Goricetta was on a wheelchair. Unlike Hammond, another chairborne pedestrian, he wasn't quite into turning his own wheels. He was driven by Ferdinand Baron, a man of thick but kempt hair. They ran into Oliver Mabutu, a bespectacled, bald-headed rock fan who couldn't even buy his own electric guitar, and was rather too scared to smoke marijuana as a matter of habit. Heck, the last time that Oliver smoked marijuana was when a certain party at a small neighborhood just got too boring (It didn’t help, not especially when a fellow smoker insisted on keeping Phil Collins' "Against All Odds" playing on the audio component, rather than a murky plastic AC/DC cassette that Oliver had eyed ever since getting into the sala.).

"I'm tired," said Ferdie.

"We're almost there," said Butch, inadvertently completing an ingenious Hollywood dialogue segment most worthy of an American screenwright's ample talent fee.

"Need help there?" said Oliver, having learnt the useful expression from his adolescent days spent back in San Francisco, California, USA.

"No, it's OK, we can handle this," said Ferdie, putting in the first Philippine elements into the conversation.

Oliver walked on a bit, before pausing to stare at a Northwest Airlines stewardess then disguised as the UP student that she had been. "Wow!" he said. Bernie looked back at him.

The girl noticed Oliver staring at her. The cellular phone did not yet enter into the Philippine market back then, so she could not pretend to be busy texting. Fortunately for her, a Katipunan-IKOT jeepney was just passing so she got right aboard it. Oliver was going to follow her, but Bernie yelled, "Huy!"

Now, Oliver did the looking back. The jeepney slipped away when Oliver threw another glance at it, so he crossed the street A. Roxas again to again engage with Bernie and Butch.

"You, ha!" said Ferdie, on the look-out.

“I know her," said Oliver.

The two other guys looked at him, as if he were some hot, new interesting thing running on TV.

"By the way, I'm Ferdie," said he of thick, kempt hair, although his name was an object that Oliver did not at all crave for as he did that of the babe who just slipped away.

"I'm Butch," said the other.

"Where are you off to?," said the taller of the two. Yes, even if Butch got up on his feet, Ferdie would still be the taller. Oliver was the tallest of the three, however.

This taller one said, by way of reply, "I'm just going off to eat."

"Well, that makes you better off," said Ferds, "At least you have money to buy some food for yourself."

"Actually, I'm going to eat at my aunt's place."

"Take us along," said Ferds, just by means of jest, which Oliver took well, having thought to himself, "It was her that I had just wanted to take along."

On the more earnest side, Bernie said, "By the way, maybe you'd like to join this informal organization we're forming."

"I already have orgs," said Olive.

"Any frats? We ourselves are barbarians."

"No."

"What orgs?"


"LFS..." (League of Filipino Students, that was, although Olive failed to indicate he himself had left that group by then.)

"I came from there, too."

"How come we didn't meet up there?

"I left last year, because of Koko...

"Acosta?

"Yes."


"Oh..."

"If you like LFS, you'll like our org even better," said Butch.

"What's it called?"

"That's one of our surprises for you... YOU can even help us decide the name."

"Let's meet later at Narra Dorm this 6:30 p.m."

"Sounds good," said Olive.

Butch looked up from his wheelchair, tilting his head, then smiling.

Ferdie couldn't explain it, but he knew this new guy would come along. Heck, he and Butch weren't going around campus recruiting people. They had enough people already, but something on Olive's face triggered Ferdie to open up the invitation.

"Look at that! We were just going to see John [Carlo Tria, that was] back at the dorm, and we already scored a new recruit," Ferdie told Butch, fresh and proud.

"We're fishers of men!" said Butch.


Oliver came sharp at 6 p.m., with a stuffed stomach even. Ferdie saw him a few minutes later, himself still not having eaten, although he did not bring this up anymore to the new guy.

"You smell great," said Ferdie, warmly.

"Oh, it's not my fragrance. I actually found it on my Uncle Javy's dresser, (I should have pocketed the bottle.) but he's now in the States--- Sanfo."

“Sanfo?" asked Ferdie, mistaking the name for that of the fragrance. He knew there were such fragrances as Calvin Klein Eternity and Ralph Lauren Polo Classic, ads for the likes of those had scrawled upon his petty eyes which would ever so frequently leaf over pages of English language Filipino broadsheets for news--- not that he ever got to try so much as a sampler for such fragrances. Of course, if the print ads he had seen were on all glossy-paged magazines rather than on local newspapers, there would have at least been a fold-in sample for him to get an inkling of such fashionable sensations.

"San Francisco," said Olive, "My uncle's now teaching there in a community college."

"Sorry, the Sanfo we know is Frisco in Del Monte, Quezon City," said Ferdie, laughing at the joke of his own short-worldedness. "I'll just go fetch Butch from his room. Don't leave. By the way, this is Ferds, my namesake. He's the current editor of the Philippine Collegian." Ferds number 1 left.

"Hi, I'm Fernando Carubio," said Ferds number 2.

"Oh, another Ferdie," said Oliver.

"Actually in the province, I'm Nando, but here in UP, they call me Ferdie, too," explained the guy. "You. What are you doing here?" said this Fernardo Carubio.

"The other Ferdie, Ferdinand Baron, invited me to come over here."

"So it happens," said this whiter Ferdie, "that you were merely dragged along into this thing. Most of us people here have been through something else."

Oliver didn't count on that something being of too much import, certainly nothing the likes of the First Quarter Storm and its Diliman Commune. Layag was a new organization. Everyone helping in its starting out should be taken on an equal footing.

Fernando continued to speak in a raspy, unsingable MIT-er's voice, not that he came from the great school, although he did become summa cum laude of BS Sociology in UP Diliman. This second Ferdie knew some little things that Oliver did, too, so the two got to keep talking to each other for a few minutes. Then came just what Fernando Carubio had been waiting for, better than a brilliant idea or insight on either of their behalves--- the presence of Charong... homely but familiar.

Ferdie C. gave his last two words to Oliver then went over to the newly-come old timer.
Night it was, and a Friday, and the moon was almost full, waxing early was it Philippine schools’ second semester. Herminio Sotero Gatella, coming from his fraternity brother’s boarding house, was walking the streets of the Saltbed District. He had heard something of this place from the airline tourism magazine Cheers, All!, copies of which he had leafed through in his uncle’s gasoline station. According to Ranielle Dorado, whose Cheers, All! column (“Vista Dulce”) Min could easily spot from issue to issue, Saltbed was a warm and modest venue for uncrowded entertainment. Saltbed was Camasalada during the Spanish regime in the Philippines. Pocketfuls of Iberian peninsula stock, tailed by local island-born mestizos, would drink cups of either hot chocolate or beer in an ambience of scented candles set on lavish brass holder sticks. None of the Camasalada establishments lasted deep into the American Regime. Camasalada was revived by Julieta Polo Nalko around 1969. It was an overdone revival. Whereas Julieta Nalko deprived Camasalada of its erstwhile fresh sea breeze, which she grossly alienated via her land reclamation project (decades later followed by a co-godmother to her in a number of alta moneda weddings, Emma Austria Torres, current President of the Philippine Republic), the First Lady Julieta brought in with her Crème-gowned matrons such flowing infusions of parfums francaises as they daintily sipped on expensive glasses of wine, whose bottles they would abandon only half-or-so-emptied. Whereas Filipinos the nation over would first toast cum verbis a newly uncapped bottle of workers' gin to the Earth-sucking Beelzebub, Julieta’s chosen pack would not so much as bid farewell to their wasted remainders, which noone dared touch afterwards. Yes, it was Mrs. Nalko who brought back Camasalada, before Mr. Nalko undid it, just like the North American G.I.'s bombs dropped a decade into the century. With Nalko's presidential decree of curfew, even established Camasalada patrons could not enjoy themselves. Heck, anyway, for the fascist's intent, even Camasalada had been infiltrated by communists, such as Menandro Zaldivar Benito, who was so good a customer in Guevara Grill, he even bought beers for fraternity brothers, just to keep him company. He only stopped doing so, when he shifted his investments to the young lady he courted and eventually married, Maria Cristina Pisonco, who took it upon herself to become a founding mother of the Delta Kappa sorority affiliated with the Kappa Doble fraternity. DK stood for dalagang kumikilos (maidens mobilized), wheread Kappa doble was for kabataang kumikilos (youths in action).

Orange Honey was a cafe established only by the late 1980’s. Walking on the street. Friday. A full moon, Min guessed. Settings oh so typified of latter-day man.

Min looked across the street. The men were gay. They wore body-fitting shirts, shirts well-inspected each sewn together from wherever part of the world" Egypt, Mauritius, even Marikina. An actress from showbiz vodka-drunk rested her unerect body on the hood of her Japanese car. All the while, nobody noticed Min noticing them. Well, he didn't step into the cafe, which hardly had anybody that deep Friday night, except eight bodies so full and satisfied of themselves. A meek bodied waiter stood by the entrance door. He didn't notice Min either, not that

Min was still a man feeling his way through this City of Man. He knew, however, this city was an easy one in which to score a jeepney ride. He saw a sizeable outlet of Donut Robot, but what should he a young, handsome man be doing at a donut shop late at Friday night? He knew he had to go through this experience, having to go out at night, being a college student in the city of which he was not a native to.

Of course, Min had asked his UP Manila chapter fraternity brother Wesley to accompany him just going about, but Wesley said he would just stay home reading his Mortimer Chemistry cheap reprint textbook.

"You can stay here, as much as you want to, brod," Wesley had told Min several times that night."

Min decided to go back to Wesley's boarding house, the Pope John Paul II Youth Palace down Jorge Bocobo Road. The palace had been instituted in 1985 to take in out-of-school youths. By 1993, it had been privatized however, and catered instead to FEU, University Belt and a couple of UP Manila students.

The security guard recognized Min from hours back that night, so he did not ask for an ID or visitor's purpose, but this...

"Hey, man! Let's go have a shot..." the guard reached out to Min a little serving of Saint Michael's gin.

Min accepted, wanting to be a good shot to this little chief of security. Min stuck around in the security guard's post, not himself being in a rush to go back to Wesley's room, not expecting the room-owner to be still awake, anyway.

The guard introduced himself as Joel. Min read from his nameplate that he was Joel Balabag.



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