Sunday, November 02, 2003

Araw ng Patay

Yesterday was “Araw ng Patay,” a holiday celebrating those who have crossed the veil of life. On the way to a one year birthday party, we had the opportunity to stop by at Tatak Pilipino. I always enjoy visiting Tatak and always spend much more than I can afford. This particular store is located in Union City in California. The store is barely the size of a university classroom, but its offerings are staggering.

On the wall to the left are the latest books imported from the Philippines. Twenty years ago, there was an excuse for Pin@ys to have children ignorant of their culture and heritage. Not anymore. From childrens books to outright academic books dealing with sociology, Tatak offers these tresure trove of knowledge for a small fee. I might even say that for general books, Tatak has an even better selection than most Asian bookstores.

The 20% reduced price books caught the eye of the SO and she gladly pointed them out to me. And so I find myself inundated with the following:

“Man of Earth: An Anthology of Filipino Poetry and Verse from English 1905 to the Mid-50s” Edited by Gemino H. Abad and Edna Z. Manlapaz.

“Efemerides Filipinas” by Mariano Ponce and Jaime C. de Vera, translated into Tagalog by Edgardo M. Tiamson, Terisita A. Alcantara, and Erwin L. Bautista.

“The Discovery of the Igorots” by William Henry Scott.

“The 1980’s: One Act Play,” An Anthology of Winning Works from the Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature.

“The 1980’s: Poetry,” An Anthology of Winning Works from the Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature.

In “Man of Earth,” there is an entry for my uncle Benjamin Ma. Pascual. 13 Sept 1918; Laoag, Ilocos Norte, of peasant parents. Wrote verses and stories; contributed also to the Iloko weekly Bannawag, and translated the Rubaiyat into Iloko. Took up law as a working student. A bibliophile, he was also into painting and clay molding. Was section chief in the bureau of Public Schools; later, professor of English at Philippine Normal School where he took charge of publications at its Language Study Center.


Repulsed by celibate harbors, hills, drydocks,
Frightened by drunken cities, hostile farm,
Night longs for comradeship.

Let her seduce us with her metaphors…
How know her loneliness
When our feet are imbedded in sandbars?

We must have scaffoldings to stand upon
To peer at the still faint-limned loveliness
Across the naked shoulders of the stars.

( Benjamin Ma. Pascual, 1946)

I wonder what in my karma made me feel much closer to my uncle than my father. Perhaps it is the way he loved books like I do. His reality was a wall of books. My dream is a wall of books. Perhaps, it is because all I have from my father are the photographs he took of me as a child on a red blanket. My memories of my father are those made from beer cans, cigarette ashes and chemotherapy. Whereas my memories of my uncle are the wall of books.

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