Friday, October 09, 2015
WILL a Filipino win a Nobel Prize for Literature in my lifetime? We don’t know. The best bet, according to bettors, are Sionil Jose or Frankie Joe and Virgilio Almario or Rio Alma. But we don’t know if there are Swedish translations of Frankie Joe’s novels or Rio Alma’s poetry books; because even if you have a sizable collection of works, it all depends if there were any translated in Swedish. A small group of Swedish literary academicians decide on who is the 113th Nobel Literature laureate (that’s for next year) and if you have no book in Swedish you’re gone. An online paper said that Frankie Joe had a 1:50 chance of making it. He is now 91. Once you’re dead, you’re out; unless you were chosen on the year of your death.
So Philip Roth and Haruki Murakami were this year’s frontliners. And yet again, it was someone we didn’t know who won: Svetlana Alexievich of Belorussia won the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature. My first reaction was: who the hell is this poet? Google, google. OMG She is a journalist! And one of her works is handed free in the Internet so far.
And Alexievich wasn’t a surprise, it turned out. A London betting establishment said that she is actually the third favorite, after Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Murakami. And the accolades came fast, even among my friends.
Wilfredo Pascual, one of the more famous creative nonfictionist said, “Noong mid-80s at kasisimula pa lang ilaunch ang career ni Jaclyn Jose sa mga bold movies ay nanalo siya kaagad ng Best Actress. Sa mga nabasa kong interview ay nag-iyakan daw ang mga bold star. Huhuhu, iyak nila, "Pwede rin palang maging best actress ang isang bold star." My feeling about nonfiction writer Svetlana Alexievich winning the Nobel.”
Alexievich, herself once said, “Reality has always attracted me like a magnet, tortured and hypnotized me, and I wanted to capture it on paper. So I immediately appropriated this genre of actual human voices and confessions, witness evidences and documents. This is how I hear and see the world—as a chorus of individual voices and a collage of everyday details. In this way all my mental and emotional potential is realized to the full. In this way I can be simultaneously a writer, reporter, sociologist, psychologist and preacher.”
New Yorker, champion of long-form journalism and creative nonfiction, immediately came to Alexievich’s rescue (as if she needed rescuing). They immediately revived Philip Gouveritch’s essay, “Nonfiction Deserves a Nobel” about Alexievich and why it’s high time she wins.
“Alexievich builds her narratives about Russian national traumas—the Soviet-Afghan war, for instance, or the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe—by interviewing those who lived them, and immersing herself deeply in their testimonies. But her voice is much more than the sum of their voices,” he said.
He mentioned a surreal reportage called “Zinc Coffins” by Alexievich in an old Granta quarterly and fortunately I have it. It was later turned into a book, Zincy Boys about the Russian soldiers who fought in Afghanistan and came back dead.
Her first book translated in English is “War’s Unwomanly Face.” It was described as: “Alexievich’s debut gives a voice to the thousands of Soviet women who participated in the Second World War alongside the men, from nursing the injured to killing the enemy themselves. Alexievich visited over 100 towns to record these women’s stories, and uses their heart-wrenching personal accounts to form a damning denouncement of fascism.”
The third book is “Voices from Chernobyl” which someone sent me only last Thursday.
Here is one passage which immediately struck me: “A policeman is walking alongside a woman who carries a basket of eggs. He walks with her to make sure that she buries the eggs in the ground because they are radioactive. They buried milk, they buried meat, they buried bread; it was like an endless funeral procession for inanimate objects. Thousands of soldiers sliced off the top layer of the soil, which had been contaminated, and they buried it. They took ground and they buried it in the ground. And everyone who was involved turned into a philosopher because there was nothing in the human past that enabled us to deal with this situation.”
How strange! From this alone, I think I am optimistic about the Nobel again.
Vicsyd, Chito and El
Former Abra Gov. Vicente “Vicsyd” Valera was convicted last week by Judge Roslyn Rabara-Tria of Quezon City RTC Branch 94 for the murder of Abra Rep. Luis “Chito” Bersamin on December 16, 2006. Judge Tria in her decision said that Valera together with his co-accused were part of a grand conspiracy to eliminate Bersamin.
Yet almost ten years ago during Bersamin’s burial, his was the name that cannot be mentioned. That day on December 27, 2006, about 6,000 residents of Abra joined the funeral procession of their beloved congressman who was gunned down while attending the wedding of his niece in Quezon City.
The name of the alleged mastermind was only implied in metaphors. “No to Tyranny," "Huwag magdeny. Bistado Ka," and "Aray Abra (in reference to the province's festival, Arya Abra). Ania ti Basol Ko (What is my Sin)?" were among the placards carried that sunny day.
"Abra, wake up. You know the face of Agum (greed) and Apal (envy)," said then Court of Appeals Justice Lucas Bersamin, Chito’s brother, during the necrological service at the Abra High School. "I ask you to spit on whatever he stepped on," he said in Ilocano.
Ten years ago, the name of then Abra Gov. Vicente “Vicsyd” Valera was only said in whispers. He was the political kingpin of Abra and a feared one at that. He wanted to be known as Kaballo (Horse) and was often seen in town riding a white horse. He wore his hair in a pompadour complete with sideburns. It was interesting to note that he maintained his pompadour during his conviction last week although it was obviously dyed black.
Prior to the murder of Chito Bersamin, the murder of three opposition mayors were linked to him. During that burial march, the faces of Tineg Mayor Clarence Benwaren (shot dead in November 7, 2002 inside a church in Laguna), Tubo Mayor Jose Segundo (shot dead in his town in December 27 2001) and La Paz Mayor Marc Ysrael Bernos (shot dead in his hometown in January 13, 2006). Bernos, who was 32 at that time, was the leading opposition leader against Valera when he was shot at close range while watching basketball.
The murder of Bersamin was the last straw for the otherwise patient and long-suffering Abrenos. As Vicsyd would later say in his defense, he would not conspire with anyone as the Bersamins were close relatives. He said that their mothers were close relatives and that their ancestral houses near the Bangued plaza were even connected by a wooden bridge.
The bridge was cut days after the murder to signify the rift between the two families. Even as he maintains his innocence up to now, Vicsyd went into hiding after the murder of his cousin and surfaced only when he was arrested in 2009.
So why would the unmentionable do the unmentionable? It was ironic that the suspect in the murder of Mayor Bernos, Freddie Dupo (who was his vice mayor at that time) was the one who pinned Valera for political conspiracy.
Dupo, who became state witness, said that Valera met with him in La Union to arrange the murder of Bersamin because he reneged on his alleged promise not to run for his third term so that Valera’s wife, Ma. Zita Claustro Valera would replace him. The gunman, Jerry Turqueza, remains at large.
During the 2010 elections that followed Bersamin’s murder, “Agam ken Apal” became the campaign slogan of Valera’s enemies. Eustaquio “Takit” Bersamin, a sheriff in Los Angeles, California, went home to become the governor. Lagayan Mayor Ma. Cecelia Seares-Luna, who openly fought Valera and was almost killed in an ambush during the campaign, replaced Bersamin in the Congress. She was later replaced by Jocelyn Valera-Bernos, the widow of Marc Ysrael. Charito Bersamin, Chito’s daughter, became Bangued councilor and is now Abra’s Vice Governor.
“We were saddened but justice has to prevail as a crime has to be paid even if we are relatives,” said Gov. Bersamin about the conviction.
"We are satisfied with the decision but how can we share it with our Dad. He is already dead," said Chari Bersamin, who became the head of the family after Chito’s wife, Evelyn, died months later after his death due to cancer.
A day after the conviction, Chari went home from Quezon City to Bangued and had a selfie with her family at her father’s tomb. “Justice is Served!,” she wrote on her Facebook wall. “May you rest in peace Papang ko #mailiwkamiunaykenka (we miss you so dearly)”
OCTOBERIAN is a Filipinized term meaning “graduating during the semestral break”. It meant that the student might have some units left after the regular academic term and so has to finish them off in the first semester.
That term, however, will soon be a retronym, meaning it has become obsolete because of the present shift in the academic calendar due to pressure from World Bank and the ASEAN integration. So, the usual “Octoberians” are now “Decemberians.”
There are still a few schools on a holdout over the academic calendar shift but eventually there would be no “Octoberians” left.
So should we put that term to the dustbin? Apparently, no.
If we have to still use “Octoberian”, we have to shift its meaning as well. In the Philippines, at least for this year, it means a Filipino prepping up for candidacy. The Commission on Elections in its regular en banc meeting last March said that October 12 to 16 would be the dates for the filing of certificates of candidacy for the 2016 elections. The party list groups would have until May 8 to register, however.
So there. October is the time when the usually callous and insensitive people you call your politicians would suddenly be gracious, respectful and courteous to you. At the start of the month, you might have noticed them smiling at you and reaching out their hands. If your loved one died starting this month, expect them at the wake, telling all the guests how good the dead was even if six months earlier, these politicians wouldn’t have cared less who the dead was.
Yes, the new Octoberians are these hypocritical creatures trying to win over your heart and soul. It is apt because by the end of the month, October 31, they would be in full force already. They would become your vampires, ogres, shape-shifters aka the balimbings and other monsters. Only they, like Batman said in a masquerade, would not be able to disguise themselves any longer. That’s them, alright.
October is also the time when “strange bedfellows” would join together to form a party. For the rest of the year, they hated each other and wanted the other dead. But on this month, they would be “coalescing” to form a “united” party. They are like aswangs who decided to stay still for the registration period so they could become one. And like aswangs, they unite because they want your votes. After that, they want your heart and your internal organs. Just kidding, they only want your money.
So from now on, the Octoberians would no longer be the failing graduate. It would be the failures in terms of honesty and integrity now trying to be decent and respectful. Well, puera delos buenos, who constitute a minority. The rest are Halloween creatures. Would you vote for them? It’s your call. Or better yet, call the Ghostbusters.*