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The periodicals refused to run his missives, so he collected and self-published them in the b o o k All the News the Papers Are Afraid to Print. Let us hope, my friends, and let us pray, that the rains will aid the brave firefighters in their heroic task. No ano de lançaram o primeiro CD em vinil e venderam seis mil cópias, fazendo com que Cirurgia Moral fosse o grupo. The next month, however, my grandparents arrived suddenly. We shared the daily papers religiously. Changco even made money. He swims toward it. Encontre produtos de diversas. The Washington Post Company. Salvador bounded up the steps onto the stage, shook hands, posed for a picture with PALS deputy vice president Furio Almondo, and stepped to the podium. Mengalahkan Amalek - Ev.

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By Mr. Yet during his two-decadeslong zenith, his work came to exemplify a national literature even as it unceasingly tried to shudder off the yoke of representation. He set Philippine letters alight and carried its luminescence to the rest of the world. His vital works will prove timeless.

His work borrowed liberally from and embellished each of those lives: his upbringing as the son of a sugar plantation owner, the sentimental education in Europe, Mediterranean evenings spent womanizing with Porfirio Rubirosa or drinking zivania with Lawrence Durrell, the meteoric fame from his scoops as a cub reporter, training with communist guerrillas in the jungles of Luzon, the argument with the Marcoses during dinner at Malacañang Palace.

The group of influential artists Salvador co-founded, the Cinco Bravos, dominated the Philippine arts scene for years.

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In , Salvador declared his international literary ambitions with the publication of his first novel, Lupang Pula Red Earth. To his own surprise, the attention thrust him into the consciousness of Philippine pop culture. Radio talk shows nationwide carried his voice, its studied enunciations characteristically losing form and rising in pitch when excited; television screens bore the images of his lanky frame seated insouciantly with a leg tucked beneath him, black pomaded hair parted severely, finger wagging at the other members of the panel discussion—a grab bag of effeminate academic men and thick-waisted female activists.

He energetically debated with feminists on the television and radio, delivering froths of invectives that at times required intervention by the host. Salvador left Manila in , a day before Marcos declared martial law. He hoped to make a name for himself in New York City, but success there was more coy than he would have liked, or was used to.

At night he wrote short stories, some of them finding print in small magazines like Strike, Brother! He started work on a new manuscript. A book attempting to provide a vivisection of loneliness, it was to be based on the unwitnessed drowning of a close friend and the effect the death had on the Salvador family.

In May of , Salvador fell into a tempestuous relationship with Anita Ilyich, a Belarusian ballerina, disco queen, and early advocate of the swinging lifestyle. Among his stuff were the translucent pulpy pages of his nearly completed novel.

Soon after, he broke his vow to teetotal the comforts of the softer sex, but it would be two full years before he returned to literature. Ultimately, both poverty and his restless spirit brought him back to writing in the summer of ; he took freelance assignments for The Manila Times and The International Herald Tribune and began work on what would become his popular Europa Quartet Jour, Night, Vida, and Amore.

It was a hit with housewives in three countries. Buttressed by new success, Salvador returned periodically to the Philippines to undertake research, appear on panel discussions, stump for election campaigns, and work with other artists. It situates the tropical country in the context of the rest of the world, retrieving it from the isolation and exoticization it is oftentimes suffered to endure.

He published widely and often. The book spent two weeks at the bottom of the New York Times bestseller list; it was reprinted three times and translated into twelve languages. Salvador, like other prolific writers of extraordinary breadth and reach, was well acquainted with such disappointments, as exemplified by the various publications that made the literati doubt his abilities.

Critics consistently judged the less successful works to be longwinded, messianic, or derivative. Attempts to justify the latter in by transforming it into All Around the World , a disco opera, resulted in bankrupting failure. And so began whispers about an epic book that had been in the works since the early s: The Bridges Ablaze.

Following the adventures and coming of age of Dulcé, the tomboyish leader of a group of young boys in martial law—era Quezon City, the trilogy became his most enduring work, remembered and loved by a new generation of readers. That period of his life, full of prolificacy but lacking in gravitas, plunged Salvador into a deep depression that made him lash out indiscriminately, though his behavior during both defeat and success had long elicited eager mockery.

With the advent of e-mail, to which he took early with extreme enthusiasm, he began sending long tirades to newspapers —intent on skirting the judgment of the editors of his column a t The Manila Times—placing in his crosshairs such targets as our cultural crab mentality, or the hope that expatriate Filipinos will help rather than abandon their country, or the bad service at the Aristocrat restaurant and how in such an old institution it represented the passing of a more genteel society.

The periodicals refused to run his missives, so he collected and self-published them in the b o o k All the News the Papers Are Afraid to Print. The event had been wrapped in secrecy, and excited literary watchers expected The Bridges Ablaze. The 2,page volume, perhaps the most ambitious and certainly the most personal of his books, won him angry responses.

Salvador was suddenly a true exile. To be an honest writer, you have to be away from home, and totally alone in life.

He dropped his newspaper column. He gave up writing. That he became well known as a teacher attests to his oh-so- very-Filipino resilience. Shortly after clipping the last review panning Autoplagiarist and pasting it into an album, Salvador went out by the Hudson River and burned the scrapbook, along with his diaries, in a public trash receptacle.

It was in the wee hours of a summer night. Two policemen happened upon him while he was relieving himself into the conflagration.

Salvador was taken downtown and charged with misdemeanors for drunkenness and public urination. The event was somehow reported in the Manila papers and elicited the habitual snickers from those who remembered him. But it was in that fire, Salvador later told me, that he rediscovered what it is like to be intoxicated by your own anger, to find the solace of destruction.

The following morning saw him returned to his desk with frightening intensity. He had retrieved, from a locked drawer, the three black cardboard boxes containing the unfinished manuscript of The Bridges Ablaze. The purpose of the visit, his first in years, was for him to accept the Dingdong Changco, Sr. The afternoon he arrived in Manila, Salvador ate a late lunch at the Aristocrat restaurant before going to their comfort room to change clothes.

In front of the mirror, he adjusted the collar of his formal barong and practiced his speech. Outside it was raining heavily, and he took a taxi to the Cultural Center of the Philippines. They leaned back in their plastic monobloc chairs, smirking magnanimously, faces serene and satisfied, as if at a much-awaited funeral.

Salvador bounded up the steps onto the stage, shook hands, posed for a picture with PALS deputy vice president Furio Almondo, and stepped to the podium. He looked admiringly at his gold medal—an ornately filigreed circle made of sterling silver. He poured himself a glass of water and drank it. Finally, he spoke. It is a moral decision. A perilous exercise in constant failure. Literature should have grievances, because there are so many grievances in the world.

Your grievances with me are because you say I have failed. Though I only failed because I extended myself further than what any of you have ever attempted. Next year, I will publish my long-awaited book. Then you will see the truth of our shared guilt. The author walked through the audience and out of the CCP building. When there was nobody to see him, he began to run, splashing headlong into the torrential rain. He caught a flight out that evening—just missing the unseasonable supertyphoon that would flood vast swaths of the city—and returned to New York via Narita, Detroit, and Newark.

He was seated in his study, bedraggled but radiant, banging away at his typewriter. It sounded like machine-gun fire. He had not even bothered to change out of his ruined barong. And what had got him all fired up. Crispin smiled at me brightly. I apparently have nothing more to lose.

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Then silence too soon for one whose most pernicious enemy was silence. The facts, shattered, are gathered, for your deliberation, like a broken mirror whose final piece has been forced into place. London: Faber and Faber, Scholarly Plunder Manila: Ars Poetika, Manila: Adarna House, — Inside: A recent diary orange suede cover, hand-burnished a smooth caramel [inside: translations, riddles, jokes, poems, notes, other].

The door cracked open, only his nose and eye visible. The dead bolt slid in with a finality I did not at the time recognize. I left and had a bacon cheeseburger without him, irritated by his uncharacteristic rudeness.

What could I have said to him? Should I have forced open the door? Slapped him twice across the face and demanded he tell me what was wrong? Days, weeks later, all the fragments still would not click together. The events seemed unreal, confusing. Both suicide and murder seemed like two sides of the same prime-time seduction. In retrospect, this was healthy for me to feel. Still, I could not understand why the world chose to take the easy way out: to write him off simply, then go home to watch TV shows with complicated plots.

With a bing, three new messages appeared. Help that breeds arousal victories. How to last longer making love and have more feelings. I was informed by our lawyer, Clupea Rubra, that my daddy, who at the time was government whistleblower and head of family fortune, called him, Clupea Rubra, and conducted him round his flat and show to him three black cardboard boxes.

Along the line, my daddy died mysteriously, and Government has been after us, molesting, policing, and freezing our bank accounts. More information TBA. The next morning, I bought my plane ticket. It is a trip he hates, both the voyage and arrival. Thinks of his lost friend and mentor, seated at the typewriter, working away in a slow accrual of letters, words, sentences, puzzling together pieces shed like bread crumbs on the path behind him.

The boy will return, heartbroken, lonely, dejected. His three brothers and two sisters are all abroad, free from home—atop a hill in San Francisco, washed under the big Vancouver sky, hidden amid the joyful noise of New York City.

His parents, whom he cannot remember, are in graves he cannot bring himself to visit because he knows their bodies are not there. The grandparents, who raised him as best they could, are in Manila, though he no longer has contact with them because of the emotional violence of their last departure. He knows well what empty houses are and the mischief memories can play when cast among unfamiliar echoes.

In the long hours spent in the airplane, he tries not to think about how his parents died, and therefore that is all he can think of. He flips through the Philippine newspapers, obsessively. He studies his files of notes, clippings, drafts. Tries to write the prologue for Eight Lives Lived, the biography he wants to write about his mentor. He fidgets. Observes his fellow passengers. Judges everyone, in the traditional Filipino sport of justifying both personal and shared insecurities.

He reads some more, searching for a point of reference in a world that has never felt entirely his. He writes some more, trying to explain things to himself. He scribbles an asterisk. Present were his eight-year-old sister, Magdalena nicknamed Lena , his six-year-old brother, Narciso the Third shortened to Narcisito , and their yaya, Ursie no record of her real name.

The newest Salvador came into the third generation of family wealth, acquired through a blend of enterprise, sugar, politics, and celebrated stinginess. The four years before the Japanese invaded would prove formative: throughout his life the familial roots in the Visayan region represented something promising and pure. According to a spokesperson for the Lupas Land Corporation, there were no fatalities. No group has claimed responsibility for the.

But not change. You see, I toiled, but saw so little improving around me. What were we sowing? I grew impatient with the social politics that literature could address and alter but had until that time been insufficient in so doing.

I decided to actively solicit participation—you know, incite readers to action through my work. I think of the poetry of Eman Lacaba, who traded his pen for a gun and lived and died in the jungles with the communists in the seventies. The epigraph of that piece was wonderful.

Ho Chi Minh. CS: Pride and fear of death. You smile but I kid you not. Did you. When you reach farther and farther, sometimes you come full circle. The task then becomes all the more difficult, false steps more likely—though the eventual outcome may become more pertinent.

This of course opens you up to accusations of being quixotic or, worse—or perhaps better —messianic. Mind you, pretension and ambition are different words for the same thing.

At Manila. Remember when air travel was fun? Toy pilot wings and smiling stewardesses showing you the massive cockpit? Now they separate us from our valuables and herd us through security gates, shoeless and anxious; they scare us with tales of deep-vein thrombosis; they pack us in like animals, then run Keanu Reeves on screens on the seat backs to lull us into a squirming stupor. Soon after we fall asleep, they wake us. I bet anyone who is still a Marxist has never had an economy-class middle seat on a packed long-haul flight like this one.

Around me, in this tin can, my fellow travelers: we, the acquiescent, unaware insurrectionists; we who have left and returned so constantly throughout history our language has given us a name—balikbayan. These are my people. Likely a construction worker, one of the millions-strong diaspora indentured by the persuasiveness of dreams. To my other side, two older ladies, sisters by the look of them, fidget and flip through the inflight magazine for the sixteenth time.

One has a rosary wrapped around one hand. With the other, she turns the pages to the photographs. Across the aisle, a petite Filipina with towering shoes rests her blond head on the shoulder of a Texas-big American, his glasses low on his wedgelike nose, reading Dale Carnegie in a pool of light.

A snake-and-dagger tattoo slithers up his forearm. Behind sits a spry, elderly Caucasian, his white hair, warmup jacket, and khakis rumpled in the fashion of intrepid Jesuits or vacationing pedophiles. To his side, a duet of tirelessly gossiping domestic helpers continue their ninehour run. Their heads, wrapped in eyeshades that hold back their hair, peck at morsels of hyperbole, like pigeons at rice dropped on the pavement of park promenades every Sunday, day off to the maids who flock by the thousands in the big cities of the world.

The jokes had always seemed forced, and I laughed because I yearned for a connection. By some accounts, they failed even in that. And suddenly they have six more. Maybe the Filipino sounds in our English phrases, or the different ways we each looked like my father, reminded my grandparents too much of the life they had before the institution of martial law that drove Grapes from politics at the height of his career, that deprived Granma of her mahjong parties and battalion of maids, that turned them both into just another couple of doddering slant-eyed fools moving too slowly in the soup-cereal-baking aisle of Safeway.

I had just turned five when we six arrived.

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My grandparents tried their best, gave up the small home they had built, moved into an ugly McMansion, hired a nanny to help with us. As we all came to discover the limitations of assimilation, we grew closer as a family. I remember one time, after school, Granma and I stopped at St.

A man sat up suddenly in a pew and started shouting at us. I also remember, years later, us six kids with our grandparents in front of the TV. Dinner on the table had long gone cold as we watched images of Edsa Boulevard thronged with people in yellow T-shirts, praying and singing, nuns linking arms to stop armored personnel carriers, a young girl placing a flower in the rifle barrel of a soldier who was struggling not to smile. Around me on the plane, I hear what she meant: the singsong of Ilonggo from the aisle seat nearby, the molasses accent reminding me of the way my grandmother said things.

From farther down comes the clunking consonance of Ilocano by the lavatories, Bicolano by the bulkhead. Maybe these people are coming home to make a difference. Maybe I can be like them. My seatmates glance at me as if I were a foreigner.

I save my Tagalog words for the proper time, to surprise them with what we share. We are more real than that philosophical conceit of humanity as the milieu of light: we are the milieu of sweat.

Our industriousness, our inexpensiveness, two sides of our great national image. That image the tangible form of our communal desire for a better life. Someone kicks the back of my seat as a reminder to quit being so profound. When I tell the stewardess my meal choice, I feel my neighbor observing me from the corner of his eye. He chooses differently, oppositely. When our food is passed down and unwrapped, I immediately regret my beef and covet his chicken. I slather my hands with alcohol disinfectant gel.

My neighbor looks at me and smiles. I pass him my little bottle and he cleans his hands as well. Then he nonchalantly puts the bottle in his breast pocket. We eat our rectangles of food as if our elbows are fused to our sides. I pretend to be deep in thought and stare into the darkened screen of the TV in front me. Interview his sister and aunt.

Investigate those names found in his notes: Changco. Reverend Martin. Sift through the ashes of the bridges that he burned. Reassemble his many lives. I know they will all jump, the plane still taxiing, to claim possessions from overhead compartments. I know a voice will reprimand them over the public address system and peeved stewardesses will swat at their upraised hands and shut the compartment doors.

Always the same. Drinks on international flights, you see, are free. Thrilled like a child at having his own screen on the seat back in front of him, he forces himself to stay awake to catch up on the latest Keanu Reeves movie.

Again and again he pilgrimages to the rear galley, to avail himself of free ice cream bars and tiny bags of snacks. He turns on his overhead light, tentatively, worried it will glare and awaken his neighbors. He reads the in-flight magazine. In an article about Bali, the photographs of Eurasian girls in day-glow bikinis lounging on white sand and triangular silk pillows excite him visibly, and he squirms beneath his seat belt and holds the magazine strategically, feeling as if he were thirteen and not twenty-six.

He looks around. He cranes his head to see her now. He thinks, Something about cabin pressure makes me horny. He blames the long-haul boredom. What if—he thinks—she feels the same as me?

What if I just took her hand and brought her to the lavatory?

The worst she could do is say no. He looks over but cannot see her. He marvels at its rabbitlike beauty. Madison had manly feet. The way Madison held him when they made love often seemed his main purpose for sex.

It was like hands slowly being washed in warm water—needful, complete, and it cleansed him of that one thing he kept secret from her. He rubs his stubbly chin, a silent-film villain deep in thought, and his watch reflects a locus of light that flies onto the walls, the seat backs, the faces of his slumbering seatmates.

He examines it in the light. His grandfather had given it to him on his twenty-first birthday. This was years after the whole family had returned to the Philippines, years after things had begun to curdle, years after his grandfather had returned to his politics and his women.

Stainless steel, pearlescent white face, Oyster Perpetual DateJust. His grandfather has one exactly like it. A dedication to his grandson was later engraved on the back, and because of that the boy has treasured it. That and the savory memory of lost family dinners when the two would unclasp watches and trade and compare and marvel.

The boy for so long now has passed his off as genuine that even he has forgotten and has allowed himself, along with everyone else, to be fooled. Reach for the stars! The window open, its panel swinging tauntingly. He crosses the room like a hungry tiger suddenly uncaged at lunchtime. He is swimming across the flooded street to a stranded flatbed truck.

Dominador fights desperately against the raging current, debris hitting him at nearly every armstroke. Antonio hears shouts of men from behind him, the clatter of their shoes running up the stairs, down the hall. The police! Antonio leaps out the window and into the flood. When he surfaces, he sees Dominador on the back of the truck, cutting the ropes of a tarp with his footlong switchblade knife.

Above Antonio, police crowd the window, aim their pistols at him. He dips below, swimming like a shark. In the murky water, their bullets cruise past him like torpedoes.

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He surfaces in time to see Dominador pushing a yellow-and-red Jet Ski off the truck. Its engine roars like a grizzly and Dominador speeds away, weaving through the stranded cars and jeepneys. Antonio spots a second Jet Ski on the truck. He swims toward it. Bullets zip by. They make popping sounds into the water.

Antonio pulls himself onto the truck. In a single motion he pushes the Jet Ski off and starts it. He speeds over the flood-water, the wind fresh on his face. Through foggy shop windows, panicked people watch the commotion. As Antonio blurs past, he gives them his most winning smile.

It kills me how these days everyone has clinical justification for their strangeness. My lolo was recently diagnosed with Freudian narcissism.

He then had his secretary do research on the Net. Instead of finding all the bad in it, of course he saw only the good. So rather than baixar all the books about how the disorder can be overcome, and how they hurt the people around them, he bought The Victorious Narcissist—a book about the triumphant qualities of Nero, Napoleon, Hitler, Saddam, etc. Hell, Grapes even bought a copy to give to President Estregan as a Christmas gift. To be angry implies you care.

I just feel sorry for him. A self-fulfilling prophecy: try as he did, he was damned forever to be the tiny narcissus. I never knew how to reply, so I smiled the smile of a shy child basking in attention.

I was afraid to. He smelled of Old Spice and pipe tobacco, which, I realize now, are more of those comforting clichés. It became his pet name for me. We all had them, his private names that made us each his unique grandchild. I was afraid not to. Every night, under the covers, her foot would be pressed against mine. The biggest sin a Pinoy can commit is arrogance. He should have ripped off from someone else.

There is a time and place for everything, my dear old Crisp. Some posts from the message boards below: —Wat a twatface that Salvador is! Lets c wat his so-called The Bridges Ablaze has 2 say. More power to you, Marcel! Lop the head off that commie. But in fairness, do any of us have answers? Check out the yellow armpit stains in his barong! My bf has stains like that. Should work gr8. Ur wlcm! See: en. His head is nodding, slumping away from me. My little bottle of alcogel peeks from his breast pocket.

My hand hovers to fish it out. I decide against it. Instead, I try to sleep. I try not to think of Madison.

In the month before Crispin died, it got to a point that being with Madison was like walking naked around a cactus with your eyes closed. She liked to alternate her homoerotic suspicions with accusations of literary mercenariness. As if real-life people were too nebulous, too private and unreal for us to understand. We liked to believe there is an alternate world, a better world, populated entirely by characters created by the yearnings of humanity—governing and inspiring themselves with all the lucidity with which we rendered them.

We posited such a world to be an afterlife for the monumentally great and flawed men and women of history, because Julius Caesar is as real to us as Holden Caulfield, Pol Pot is as alive as Judas Iscariot. The debt inside ourselves, as we Filipinos say. My biography of Crispin will be an indictment of my country, of time, of our forgetful, self-centered humanity.

Romantics are really only in love with themselves. Hand-painted canvas banners had been strung up at the gate. Dozens of farmworkers lined the gravel drive, straw hats pressed solemnly against their chests as they craned their necks to glimpse the child through the windows of the silver Packard.

Some of them had undone their neckerchiefs and waved them like makeshift flags. The car pulled up to the two-story manor, and the household staff in their cream uniforms, lined up in order of importance from the mayordoma down to the stable boy, erupted in applause. Leonora stepped out from the car, reached in to take Salvador from Ursie, and proudly showed him off. Pink cheeks were touched, the bridge of his nose pinched again and again, and his already thick head of fine blond hair caressed admiringly.

They marveled at his hazel eyes. An old four-by-five in sepia: in front of the Salvador ancestral home outside Bacolod. From left to right all squinting in the sun : Ursie, short and stout; reedlike Lena in her school uniform; tousled Narcisito holding his toy glider; Crispin, almost too big for his perambulator; the punctiliously attired Mortimer J.

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Gladstone, their Bostonian tutor; in the background, walking beside the rosebushes, his face hidden in the shade of his straw hat, Yataro, the Japanese gardener. Cristobal, are you listening? He picks up his watch from the desk and looks at it. He tries to attach the chain but has a hard time. After a few moments he gets it right and slips the watch into the pocket of his waistcoat. Yciar gets up from the bed. She picks up the silk robe off the floor and pulls it around her.

Cristo watches her silhouetted against the thin, bright lines of sunlight coming through the shutters. They look like gashes on her, on everything. She walks barefoot across the room and stands on his feet. She holds him around his waist. They waltz a few steps. Then when I transfer at Hong Kong.

And of course the minute I land at Manila. Not there. She studies his face and seems guilty. She looks down. When she looks up again she is smiling. She straightens his cravat.

I know. You must rush home, to that hospital to care for your mother and sister. Promise not to forget me. Being remembered is all anyone can ask from a lost love. Her voice is so gentle he can barely hear her. I take it from the seat pocket in front of me.

He opens it and begins to leaf. Tsk-tsk, he says, shaking his head. He nudges my elbow off the armrest and points at a particular article. Two more suicide bombings, just this morning. This time down south, in Mindanao. Six dead, twelve injured by the first blast, at a Lotto outlet in front of the city hall in General Santos City. Most were municipal employees wagering just-cashed salaries.

No one has asserted responsibility. The bombings are assumed to be retaliation for the coalition-led invasion of Afghanistan, of which President Fernando Valdez Estregan has made us a part. I look at my seatmate and shake my head at the article. Then I pretend to go to sleep. A minute later, I hear him chuckling. I peek with one eye. Even I was shocked by the not-guilty verdict received by the Filipino-Chinese couple, who killed their maid by forcing her to drink Clorox Spring Flowers bleach.

The maid was minding their son when he drowned in the bathtub. She had been busy textmessaging. I hate lowbrow tabloid junk. I only clicked on the link that once, because the family involved was named Changco. I thought they might have been related to Dingdong Changco, Jr. It turned out the family in the trial was of no relation. The couple claimed he took it; the judge denied acceptance. The Changcos threatened to sue. Investigators confirmed a withdrawal of two million pesos had been made by the couple, though not a centavo surfaced in the accounts of the judge.

Blogs poked fun at how Mr. Changco returned home to find their three prizewinning Chihuahuas beheaded in the living room of their gated home. In the past couple of weeks, the loveand-retribution story has turned Lakandula into an unwitting celebrity—as soon as the media learned that he had wooed his now dead beloved by writing songs for her and playing them on his guitar, he became a national heartthrob.

Photographs of him were bought by tabloids and pop magazines at exorbitant prices. My seatmate is looking at a photo of Lakandula as a construction worker in Saudi Arabia, shirtless and muscled, leaning against a front-end loader.

His smile is bright, his hard hat askew on his thick shock of black hair. Among them are slips of paper filled with jokes, some in my handwriting. Crispin was obsessed with our oral traditions and doubly infatuated with translating Filipino humor into English. For example, capturing how the deprecation is in actuality selfdeprecation. One from the rival De La Salle University.

The three students spot a very pretty light-skinned girl. Each of the boys takes a turn at trying to woo her. Are you hungry at all? Rain streaks sideways across the glass. Suddenly the plane dips. Our stomachs squeeze into our throats. Passengers squeal, straighten, clasp armrests tightly.

Many double-check their seat belts, more than a few pull out rosaries and begin moving their fingers in time with their lips.

Its interior lights dim. Muzak standards are played from the PA system: a tinkling piano version of the theme from The Godfather. The only person unfazed is my seatmate, who pulls out my bottle of alcohol disinfectant, takes off his socks, and starts slathering his feet, holding the plastic bottle between his teeth as he gets between his toes with all the fingers of both hands.

He slurps to keep his saliva in. So much for my bottle of alcogel. The plane shakes violently again. I close my eyes.

The Godfather tune makes me picture silk-socked mobsters skating lithely on mirrored ballroom floors. Liberace at his piano on a dais, watching expectantly for the imminent crash that would break everything into a million little pieces.

Independence is bliss. It really is. I remember, though, when Madison and I decided to get our own place in Brooklyn—my first real taste of independence. I remember when I called him in Manila to let him and Granma know my decision. But part of me was relieved that I had pulled it off so easily. Madison and I moved our stuff into our shitty little wonderful new place, and returning the U-Haul truck felt like I was navigating my new yacht to one of those all-inclusive island resorts with vacationing Pilates instructors in G-strings and a pool with a bar in the middle of it.

The next month, however, my grandparents arrived suddenly. Even I began to doubt myself. I thought, perhaps, my independence had earned their respect. Then they asked to see me alone on their last night in New York; they were leaving for Tel Aviv the next day to see a man about some especially fertile chickens. Grapes stood by the table in their room at the Holiday Inn. The place made me sad, disgusted even. Ever since I was little, he liked to remind me that his wealth came from knowing how to save.

The shirt was inside out. Grapes turned around and sat down at the table. He placed his seven-day pillbox in front of him, opened it to Tuesday, and began taking out tablets and capsules and arranging them on the tabletop. They looked like candies. Granma sat in the corner, looking at her hands. Grapes sighed. It was a brutal, crushing sigh. You went to Columbia! They should make you editor in chief.

Do you want me to go with you to talk to them? I looked at the masthead. Are you editor? Brigid Hughes, managing editor. Is your name Brigid Hughes? Ben Ryder Howe, senior editor. Is your name Ben Ryder Howe? Oliver Broudy, senior editor.

Is your name Oliver Broudy? George Plimpton, editor. Is your name George Plimpton? Always the same, huh? Are you the janitor? She sat quietly in the corner of the room, looking at her fists.

My own hands started to hurt and I realized I was clenching them so tightly that my nails almost broke the skin. When I spoke up, I could feel myself shaking. I steeled my voice.

Why do you think the father figure is always you? Stories your grandmother would like and can show off to her friends. Her voice was surprisingly angry.

You are always trying to shock. You have all this horrible stuff in your work. Not very Christian things. Not very patriotic. And you say things that are not yours to say. Right, Grapes? What do you know about owning responsibility?

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We helped you play mommy-daddy with that girl in university. What happened there? But of course we helped you. Because we love you.

But how do you repay us? Listen to yourself. In what book did you read that baloney? Out of all of you six. Well here I am. One of us six. But look at where it got you. I wanted to hurt him, but not that way. Than your father did. We stewed in the silence of a stalemate neither of us expected. I looked at my grandfather for what I knew would be the last time.

He looked old. I went out into the hall. Granma followed. She started pulling wadded hundred-dollar bills from her pockets and pushing them into my hands. I kept my fists closed. For me.

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I let her. I hugged her. Then I walked to the elevator. I pressed the call button purposefully. We stood there. Granma brought out a Kleenex packet and tried to open it. I pressed the button again.

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Granma hid her face in a tissue. Granma began to blow her nose. The elevator finally came. I was grateful that it was empty. I turned to look through the closing doors, but my grandmother was gone.

The elevator went down and down and down until it stopped. The doors opened and I was faced with a group of guys who looked like Midwesterners in town for a wrestling competition. For good. In past times, I work very hard. I remit money for a long time. I will now change everything. The money in the middle slips out of the stack and bills shower into our laps. He laughs as we pick them up. I hand over what I collected. The bills smell like sweaty hands and baking bread.

I feel unspeakably happy for him. And guilty for having resented him. Now, for the future of my children, I come home. The Ninoy Aquino International Airport is your apt introduction to my country. Your armpits drip sweat like a tap, though the sky is almost always white, the sun almost always hidden. On the street, taxis done up like carnivals will honk straight at you, their drivers accosting your bags as if intending to hold them ransom for a twenty-cent tip.

In their cabs—perfumed with three different fruit-scented air fresheners, pork cracklings, and spicy vinegar—they hospitably turn the air-con to arctic freezing and crank up the volume on their stereo just for you, so that the Bee Gees fly high-pitched and crystalline from the speakers by your ears.

Soot-caked cops do their best to direct the beast that is our traffic, their ineffectual whistles exacerbating the chaos that is our order. Let me welcome you to my first country, my Third World. At dusk, when no other humans were afoot, Lena, Narcisito, and I would creep slowly between the cages. There was the jaguar, with his immense paws. The pair of aardvarks, named for Saints Peter and Paul. The Palawan bearcat. The ring-tailed lemurs. The buff-faced gibbons. The Philippine monkey-eating eagle named Bonifacio.

And the baby giraffe, who died before he grew to his full height. On those Sundays when his family would host all the others or at least those in good grace , Tito Odyseo would sometimes release the gazelles, a fleet trio that ran without knowing the estate was a larger, inescapable cage, or ran because a dozen children gave chase, or ran for the opportunity and sheer love of running. I remember how we took after them, for those very same reasons. If only someone had taken a picture of that last picnic, with the animals in the background and the family all present.

That was the last time we were together, the last time our ancestral land was still ours, the last time the spirits were still present there in the shadows beneath the trees. When the war came, the animals were quickly stolen, one by one, by hungry farmworkers. Tito Odyseo was severely beaten one night when he fell asleep guarding the cages.

Suddenly the plane dips again, and his thoughts take on the tinge of desolation, as they do in such moments. He closes his eyes and tries not to pray. From above, the city is still beautiful. We pass over brown water off the coast, fish pens laid out in geometrical patterns, like a Mondrian viewed by someone color-blind. Over the bay, the sunset is starting, the famous sunset, like none anywhere else. Skeptics attribute its colors to pollution. Connecting them, the grid and the superavenues—Edsa, Roxas, Aurora, Taft —countless overpasses built like Band-Aids, innumerable billboards, restaurants for every nationality and budget, huge shopping malls with Bulgari, Shoe Mart, Starbucks, Nike, you name it.

You want it, you can get it in Manila, in shops and tabloids, alleyways and boardrooms. Modern Manila. She who once was the Pearl of the Orient is now a worn dowager, complete with the hump, the bunions, the memories of the Charleston stepped to the imported and flawlessly imitated melodies of King Oliver, the caked-on makeup and the lipstick smeared in thick stripes beyond the thin, pursed lips.

She, the trusting daughter of East and West, lay down and was de stroyed, her beauty carpet-bombed by her liberators, cautious of their own casualties, her ravishment making her kindred to Hiroshima, Stalingrad, Warsaw. And yet, from the air you think her peaceful and unflustered. On the ground is a place tangled with good intentions and a tyrannical will to live. Manila has changed much since.

If you know where to look, this is the most exciting city in the world. The passengers clap. Our hero slows. Eagle-eyes search for Dominador.

There he is! Antonio builds velocity, his black leather jacket flapping like a cape. He jerks his vehicle to the right, heading straight for a half-submerged car.