Today my country of birth, the Philippines, celebrates Independence Day.
Google put this banner up, but being in South Africa it took me a while to work out that it was only visible when you log onto the Google Philippines search engine.
As a kid, all I remember when that day came was being on holiday. My parents never took me to wherever there might be parades or state activities. I do remember the national flag being displayed on the most prominent window of each house. I have this vague memory that it was more a national decree to do that rather than something citizens just felt like doing. You remember things differently as a kid. Sometimes memory and imagination cross borders. And sometimes children see things as they are (or should be) much clearer than adults would.
Is my country of birth truly independent when it welcomes military forces from another country to wage war? When drones fly over, identifying targets? When the leaders of the land need to consult foreign powers for the country’s own “protection”? When foreign-owned mining companies put up bogus “local owners” just to resources and displace indigenous people?
When you leave the country where your feet first touched soil, you will never return as the same person. But you also do not have to leave in order to see things a different way. It could be as simple as tilting your head or closing your eyes for a moment while you listen to what’s around you. Sometimes you are drawn to something and cannot explain why. The lines on your palms mark the way you close your hand when you sleep or are at rest. How can anyone see them as anything more?
Here is a poem from ALIEN TO ANY SKIN, the first book that my current publisher, UST Publishing House released (back in 2011). I am still very fond of that book for it made me want to get back in to publishing. I can’t wait to see my forthcoming paper child, A THOUSAND EYES.
Geometry and Fear
i knew someone once
who could read lines
it was a gift she never wanted
to use, unless you begged her
for some glimmer of a future
she said faith should be enough
and seeing the doubt in my eyes
she had to allow geometry
to lead me out of the dark
you will leave your country
stare loneliness in the eye
bury the dead among the living
and resurrect them unwillingly
because your hands are your way
of seeing in the dark
and i laughed
a bitter laughter
that i had
never heard before
October – November 2007
I have a feeling I may have posted this poem before, but no matter. There must be a reason I do not yet understand why it resurfaced into memory. It must be the thick fog that had settled overnight where I now live – and it still has not lifted though it is nearly 11 in the morning.