The Mga Bagong Rizal: Pag-asa ng Bayan awards is pioneered by the Philippine Center for Gifted Education, where they teamed with government agencies and groups to select 35 youths from over the country who excel in their individual fields and interests. I was lucky to be one of the 35 last June 2011. The search is biennial and the submission for nominees ended this June 30.
I am re-posting The Autoplagiarist here, in excerpts. Cheers, Rizalinos!
(In memory of Jose P. Rizal, the unwriter)
“The true life is not reducible to words spoken or written, not by anyone, ever. The true life takes place when we’re alone, thinking, feeling, lost in memory, dreamingly self-aware, the submicroscopic moments.
An eight-hundred-page biography is nothing more than dead conjecture.”
–Point Omega, by Don DeLillo
How compelling could the drive and power of creation be? How baffling, peculiar is the manifold ability to produce something from our bare, novel fingers. Maybe the outstanding (and outrageous) accomplishments of men are inspired by these unexplainable phenomena. I gather this from our uncanny ideas as cloning, bombs and superguns, sometimes even, the virtual life.
But the gift of hands is something uncharacteristic—something that escapes even the creator’s mindset. A painter can capture the light of the rising sun in perfect hues and strokes, but he can never put a finger on why that clean slate of a canvass which he turned into a picture is something that makes him alive, defined, and content. Our abilities are as disparate as our names, and it is subject to others’ criticism and correction.
Passion and creation brings man to surmount things bigger than his self. It is through that unexplainable device in his heart and hands that he uncovers his signature in the society, like an emblem indicating a country. Its calling is as palpable as the wind that hovers at dusk, its supremacy covetable like sunbeams.
Through hands, we find our ground. By building, we save our souls from shattering.
“No poet or novelist wishes he were the only one who ever lived, but most of them wish they were the only one alive, and quite a number fondly believe their wish has been granted.”
–The Dyer’s Hand, “Writing”, by W. H. Auden
My initiation starts with red and blue lines, interchanging but not limiting the flowing streaks of gray lines my pencil engrave on the smooth surface. My hand in my mother’s, we slowly push the weight of the thick black pencil over the lines, careful not to surpass what the outlines offer. I can feel my dainty fingers clench on the pencil in a failed attempt to recreate that “a” written on another paper by my mother as a replica: point, curve, back to point, then straight line down. I do it again and again, half wanting to please her, half wanting to finish this task so I may be allowed to play outside. It took me years to realize that those moments are the most defining minutes of my life.
It is not in the effort of pushing the pen to create the perfect symbols—codes to divulge the longings and lessons of the soul. There is something in putting down judgment and beliefs with ink that lends me unison with kindred souls. I set the letters one by one against and among each other, and wait for a sensation to spring from it—not simply an imagined scenario, but more thoughts flooding the cup of expression, until it reaches the brim of solitude and I pick up the pen again and write.
The pages do not criticize: it immediately admits what one writes, and it can be torn.
How obnoxious could it be, stuck with a million things to say, with only small words allowed.
I kept his profile tucked conveniently in the blanket of my thoughts, my convictions in trepidation. With the 35 years he had for life, I tried to count the ways of his writings. Although every Filipino has to pass with his byline, if not his works as novels, essays, or poetry, everyone conceive him simply as the man who wrote in social protest and propaganda. I learned these genres in a class who only mentioned him, but it may interest the professor to know that he is educated about that, partly because of that man he just cited.
It pains me that we have every prerogative now to do whatever he wished to do but cannot, and yet we waste this right somehow. Every word fashioned by his quill in that impeccable longhand is a scream of our liberty. His cogent detail and diction, fiery upon the pages of the book he had to painstakingly publish in diverse, wretched ways, are simple reminders now—requirements in high school and college, a tedious context to study, the overflowing, “nosebleed-able” Tagalog language translated from the original in its intense zeal.
When can we all fully understand the shadows that lurk in the facts and dates we read? What is really between the lines this hero wrote? If he is simply the writer—or unwriter—who exercised his power of words to convey the desires of his countrymen, and their welfare perchance, how can we give justice to the wearisome travels he took, the many men he had to convene or clash, or even the times he had to go in hunger, but not forgetting his responsibility to—again and again—write?
As I sit in a class that parleys his characters, I noted that maybe he has to write those amidst the stern times, so I may have the freedom to write now.
“We all write poems; it is simply that poets are the ones who write in words.”
–The French Lieutenant’s Woman, by John Fowles
Some things conclude for us to start anew. We only have to recognize which ones succumbed, then we find ways how to reconstruct these.
As I enunciate, follow the words of an idol in a hollow stage that had witnessed presentations and performances equally historical as this one that I am engaging in, my right hand raised parallel to my head, I felt warm tears brush my cheeks. I cannot fathom where it came from, but I comprehend that I do not deserve this—this honour of being the new version of him, the hero, the unwriter. I stood comfortably with 34 other children and youth, all rightfully here, gifted, talented, and capable.
Later, when I sat with the rest of the awardees and witness speeches and performances that acquaint us with this trudge not threaded by everyone, I came to understand that this opportunity is not to make me come to terms with my weaknesses, rather, to make me recognize that what I have and can is better and bigger than what I don’t. As I stood with the 34 others, I deem that my fear has surrendered. Everything is in place.
A passion is starting.
“How could you make an appeal to the future when not a trace of you, not even an anonymous word scribbled on a piece of paper, could physically survive?”
–1984, by George Orwell
Word by word, I confront my demons: Compromise, Doubt, and Soreness. Words become substantial to addressing such fears when you wield it not for yourself. It took me years of pen pushing, of creating fiction and recreating reality that I appreciated the actuality that I am not writing my story. The words are not mine, they are lent, lest the stories I fabricate. I have to put whatever is given to me side by side, as accomplices, in reaching the goal: freedom, inspiration, verve.
No writer is original; by creating, he meant revising the favours (and flaws) of life.
It is one of history’s biggest revelations: demise. How inconclusive could the annals of life be? The world realizes one thing with every loss. The bullet that expunges the physical will never obliterate what the soul lived for: Ninoy Aquino, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, and every bullet (and boisterous) victim in this consequence. These are people who stood and struggled; saw the penalty waiting for them by the bitter end. But the people who exterminated them did not see the exponential results of that spiteful act. One’s death can be a million’s being.
As the sultry sun shone upon that auspicious day in December, 1896, it is satisfactory that the man they had been chasing and condemning will lose his light. By annihilating the urn that keeps the people’s souls burning, they would extinguish all optimism and victory.
But with the thunderous roar of gunshots that day, no one nudged within—they were even enthused. The fall of the man that they had been counting on for sovereignty has fallen upon their very eyes, but their hearts bear in extreme gravity whatever that man left them:
Not fright, but freedom.
“[W]riting must be the conquest of our collective self divorced from those we fear are watching.”
–Illustrado, by Miguel Syjuco
So I sit in unwavering certainty, the words set upon my mouth, sweet as Novocain that renders me unmindful of what will my writings receive. For words will always supply me the best weapons I will ever need. If one man, with his allies and a select some, can change humanity with every wielding of the pen, then I’ll be more than blissful to join them. Whatever is lent to us should be celebrated and exalted to make our status rise. I am endowed with words to un-write what obstructs growth and life. If a man like him, or others like Harriet Beecher Stowe, Maya Angelou, Virginia Woolf or Ralph Ellison or any other else can write something that surpasses time to reinstate that freedom of man is the only way to make him apprehend his full potential, then I will bring it.
The words are borrowed, the time is compulsive, the story is theirs, but the hands are mine.
“Isn’t writing a form of flight, of fancy, of the imagination?”
–Atonement, by Ian McEwan