Alex Maskara

Thoughts, Stories, Imagination of Filipino American Alex Maskara

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Four Students

Four Students



Mod Dream


The Long, Boring Monologue of Mod’s Dreams

Upon waking up in the morning, Sonny didn't see Jaime anymore. Neither did he see Rene. What caught his eyes was a small bond paper tacked on the wall, just above the study table that bore a message in bold letters:THANKS A LOT GUYS, Jim.

Sonny smiled while reading this and rolled on his side and hugged his pillow. It's great that this morning is cool. The room is much much quieter compared to last night though he sensed something else is different.

The after smell of Jaime's vomit lingers, yeah, the drawers that were disturbed last night are now fixed into proper places, but the fourth bed, which used to be empty, has on its top a trunk, a bundle of clothes and assorted items, pillows, sleeping blankets and a carton box of books holding novels of classic titles. It seems the fourth member of the room had finally arrived. Sonny felt a little excitement.

And a little desire, hoping that this last newcomer, may this newcomer be better than the other two. He thought that although the first two roommates are colorful and quite full of ill tempers and abnormal behaviors, they are disappointing as far as his expectations of ideal room mates are concerned.

He hears the hard, dragging steps of someone in the kitchen. Which reminds him of the steps of Lola Sabel.

...Lola Sabel always moves about their hut at five in the morning to 'beat' the sunrise. Her wooden clogs are worse than a morning alarm. Noisy.Sharp. A pain in the ears. And with the smoke billowing from the firewood firing the kettle, Sonny has no choice but to get up even in the most inglorious of mornings. It is her belief that people must be awake before the sun spreads her beams to catch all the morning grace of God, even when there is no sun to look forward to like during the typhoon season. The dawn is always her lightest part of the day filled with morning rituals: sweeping, cleaning and cooking. And her shrill voice - enough to arouse the whole neighborhood - joins the roosters' calls, the pigs' growls, the horses' neighs, and Sonny's grunt and noisy yawn. With Lola Sabel, the world is secured in its repetition, like sunrise and sunset, like being born and dying. It's a beautiful monotony, reassuring, mixed with the morning air that acquires the cold temperature and smell of fresh water as it passes over the fishponds.

While waiting for the rice to boil and get cooked, Lola Sabel steps out of the hut, a rake in her hands, ready to sweep and collect the remnant dirt of the previous day - mostly garbage from her sari-sari store: plastic wraps, paper bags, peeled skins of fruits and vegetables, all she gathers into a pile. Then she attacks the backyard with the energy of a twelve year old, raking fallen dried leaves from mango and guava trees, which, again, end up in the pile. The pile easily fills up like a small mountain surrounded by a yard marked by uniform lines made by the rake. The world becomes beautiful again. The backyard becomes a man who had just taken a bath after all his sins had been cleared by God. He becomes a clean and beautiful man. And his discarded sins become the pile of garbage standing at the far corner of the yard. Lola Sabel, bless her heart, becomes the Angel who burns the sins away. And then the sun peeks in between the mountains of Bataan. And birds begin to chirp. And neighbors gather around the garbage bonfire which Lola Sabel has made. Sleepy but restful. Neighbors share their story-telling before they go about their businesses. Lola Sabel by this time is opening her sari-sari store as people begin to purchase the necessities of their day...

"Good morning", greeted his new roommate whose smile extended from ear to ear. Sonny initially had difficulty seeing, his eyes blurred a bit by sleep. After a while, this roommate appears like a ghost from the kitchen with coffee in one hand. His name is Mod.

Sonny gave Mod a drowsy salute then quickly buried his head into his pillow. If Sonny is a common provincial, Mod is a more common provincial. Perhaps these are the best words to describe him - common of the Commons; simple of the Simples; ordinary of the Ordinaries. This is by no means a measure of who Mod really is. But the impression he creates is hard to stomach even for a freshman college student like Sonny. Sonny's bell-bottoms look much more sophisticated than Mod's rubber slippers, shorts obviously cut out of once long trousers, Mod uses a pomade? The very fact he came to Maliwalu City and in the State University wearing this fashion made Sonny shiver. If he himself with all his barrio fashion has a hard time going around the State U, how much more would it be for Mod?

Mod appears very relaxed, not really unsure or excited. What he carries is the calmness of a man who is just passing by, like a transient or a tourist who doesn't care whether he stays or not. He walks slowly, like he's in a dream state, which can be suspected of one who takes drugs or something. He stares around the room as if anticipating to read some long graffiti on the walls. And yet, he seems to have done the cleaning of the lodging. He is definitely a poor provincial, the one who assumes he's to clean a dirty house upon entering it. He immediately assumes he's underneath everybody.

"What are you taking in college?" Sonny inquires.

"I'm taking Literature", Mod answers.

And Sonny regretted to have asked that question.

There are people who seem to have waited for one simple question all their lives that they accumulated, through all those years of waiting, a very very long response. With one simple question, Mod burst into a long long long monologue, as if delivering a lecture in a symposium. Sonny has no choice but to stare at the ceiling, out of politeness, and listen. While listening he imagines animals suddenly bursting after getting startled. They are all creeping and walking on the ceiling: a snake, a tiger, a lion. You don't startle animals like that. They can get dangerous, just like men that go into long talk once asked a simple question. Like Mod, his new strange room mate.

Like a man in a trance, Mod begins talking about his thoughts; thoughts that he gathered like pebbles along the brooks; thoughts imagined while on top of the water buffalo; thoughts that were picked up together with the edible snails and locusts in the rice fields. Thoughts that found their way from the muddy grounds of his barangay highschool to the great walls of the State U. Mod believed in the brightness of his future. He believed in the tales of his land: stories of people moving in poverty and wealth; the prose of those in hunger and abundance.

It was too late for Sonny to change the topic.

"I'll write about our country", Mod talks unmindful of everything, "I'll compose the story that truly comes from the heart of the Filipino. Our literature today sucks."

Indeed, Sonny thought as his jaw dropped while listening to his new room mate.

Mod continues, "It deals with romanticism that borders on the most unreal situations. Our fiction is too illusory. When our nation is suffering from a thirty billion dollar debt, our literature deals with men and women who spend lavishly in Europe and America. I find it an ironic insult to me. I find it so contrarian to my Filipino nature. I have thought about our literature all my life. Literature for me is a reflection of one's time. It is the mirror of generations. Time will produce different conditions. I can not write about the condition of the generations before me or the generations after me. But I would like to fix my condition today in writing. I come to Maliwalu to learn how to write good literature."

Ow? Sonny's eyes are now wide-open.

"My literary goal is to fix time - here, today, this hour, this minute. For tomorrow, everything that happened today is forgotten."

Sure.Sonny's jaw keeps dropping.

"In the process of fixing it I will not sacrifice truth and realism the way they do in our present day literature. Look at our literature today,like it is occurring in another place; like it is acted on by another people."


"I'm tired of the same usual plots. Literature of usual suspects: sentimental love stories, historical sagas that can not be felt by the common people, anti- American novels, anti-social plays, poetry that can not be understood. All of which have sacrificed relevance and art. Where are the simple folk, the ordinary people in ordinary situations in our literature ? Forgotten and buried in the annals of oblivion. The stories worthy of fixing in our literature are overlooked. There is nothing wrong with the literature we have today but anything that is over-discussed, over-contemplated, over-written will just bore a reader to hell. Especially when it involves only the elite.

"Just look at our movies to see what I mean. It's all plastic. The actors and actresses don't know how to act, notice how many of them did not study acting and drama and filming. In this country, if you happen to look a little foreign with Caucasian features, you're a star! If you happen to be the son of a "star" you're a star. A star of what? Of the screen that represents fantasies. The screen that tells you the star is foreign. The screen that teaches you how to become a passive spectator. Screen-writers create images from farcical imaginations, producing cheap interpretations. The very idea of pretending we're savvy without sufficient resources proves our incompetence in the art of writing and filming."

Now he talks about movies? What happened to Literature? Sonny is totally puzzled.

"And when the local audience gets tired of the same stuff our Artists produce, these Artists shout Foul! Foul for what? Foul for losing to the competition with foreign movies and literature? They say their works are rendered invisible by the proliferation of foreign works. Oh, blame! Blame anything and anybody except themselves. Poor Maliwalans. First, we are introduced to poor works resulting in our poor tastes; then, if we come face to face with the greatness of foreign works that dwarf ours, these Artists scream, unable to accept the fact that they couldn't show their works as better. The problem is not poverty of taste or sloppy work alone, it is lack of relevance. It is a lack of variation to the monotonous plots and stories these Artists churn out every day of our lives. In the name of conformity and profit, our artists are too careful, too neat, too proper, too prim to even venture into something out of the standard. Who cares about language, grammar, diction, form, style, plots ? I don't mind writing about the intestinal organs of Rizal if there is something colorful in them. And no matter how the others would condemn me for doing it, I would still write something about the sex life of Tandang Sora if there is a lesson or two to learn from it. I don't care if Cardinal Sin would excommunicate me for writing about the boy found making love with a buffalo, or about the grasshopper who turned into Francis of Assissi."

Ok. Where are we now? Movies or Literature?

"My work would be so simple that you won't look for a Thesaurus or Mr. Webster to understand it. Have you noticed our Literature? It is too painful to read. As if the utilization of high words means depth of work. Never! Why don't we start writing stories that could easily be understood, something that we could sit back and understand and just smile at while reading? That is the trouble with our present day writers. They can be difficult to read at times.

"Have you ever wondered why we prefer foreign authors? It is because they're down to earth and simpler. Here we are, writers directed by our own inferiorities, driven to American universities to learn how to write. Our authors are more proud of their degrees from so and so universities and this and that award instead of seeking to be read by as many of our people as can be.

"If I would write, my work would deviate from the usual stuff like the cheap love affair between a rich girl and a poor boy or the struggles of the urban poor or the battles of tribes or the anguish of the NPAs. Of such, our literature is so fond. Instead, I will take note of the ordinary dreams of ordinary people. I will contemplate on the aspirations of the youth. I will tell the next generation about today's movements, today's drama in today's language.

"Here, here I am with my strong arms, brisk legs, alert and coherent mind; a few years from now these strong components of my body would become weak and troublesome - my eyes would lose their clarity, my ankles would turn wobbly, my gait would become slow, my hands would no longer write because of arthritis, my mind would no longer have the capacity to imagine - When these changes occur in me, I want to retire and rest feeling satisfied in having used them to their maximum in my heyday."

Now, this is getting a little bit too much. Sonny did not ask for this long self-introduction. Sonny wishes Mod to just shut up.

"When I grow old, I shall not be overwhelmed by regrets and guilts because of doing nothing in my good years. Everyday, I'm confronted by this question: Did I do something good today? Did I write something right? Did I give my best? Did I make good use of my body and my soul?

"There is always an invisible force in my heart that longs to do that good thing. I really don't know. One thing that is sure is that a good thing remains waiting to be fulfilled for I haven't seen or done it yet. Do you think the desire of doing good and seeing good is a natural phenomenon among humans? Or is it just me who is aspiring for it?

"Being able to do that single good thing is a treasure to me. It is like a raw diamond waiting for me to shape it, through heat, fire and stress until it turns into a precious and coveted jewel. Perhaps that desire for doing good occurs in me because everything I see around me is bad. Bah, all you need to do is to read today's newspapers. Every media banners crimes, poverty, and social inequality, adding of course the other problems of prostitution, urban housing, land reform, military bases etc. Is there anything good left for us to see? Is our time just made up of bad things bah? Is there no good left? Or are we simply covering our eyes and fail to see them?

"There is something good in our time! If no one could see it, I'll write about it! My dream is to write something good about simple folk; how the people move in this city; how we talk, quarrel, act; how the city streets look like; the university; the church, even the vehicle. These are all beautiful. And my dream is to make them known to the next generation that will follow us.

"There are so many good dreams to dream about. There are many lovely lovely things today contrary to what our media portray. The things that are happening now in this country are much better than what they actually say. Yes, the country is poor. Yes, the people have lost so much... but listen to Dostoevsky or Dickens or de Balzac, do you find in their works their countries in extreme abundance? Well, you should listen to the wailing of Petersburgh or London or Paris in the eighteenth century. Listen to Maliwalu today. There is not much difference.

"Maliwalu is indeed luckier. There is hope here. There are enough lessons throughout the world born out of painful experimentations that could guide Maliwalu. Don't you see the significance of all our troubles today? God is giving them to us to test our endurance, our patience, our perseverance and strength. So that, like a golden sword constantly immersed in the furnace, we would emerge sharp and durable. Why should we deprive ourselves of the joy of being poor. Why can't we shout for joy in times of suffering because, you see, only in suffering can we learn great lessons. And do you see? Do you see the many lessons we are gaining today? Do you see how creative and entrepreneurial we become when we experience extreme want? Why can't we look at the sky and thank God for teaching us all these things? Why do we keep on telling ourselves that we don't have good lives, that our people keep on migrating to earn dollars in foreign lands as slaves.

"And here we are turning bitter and hopeless. Our minds are constantly contemplating about relativity, comparison, contrast, and regrets. Our radio commentators have nothing to say but "twenty years ago, we were only second to Japan, today, we are totally below the heap; that we are incomparable to our Southeast Asian neighbors in poverty; that our exports are way way below the rest of Asia; that we must work towards more industrialization by the twentieth century." Why can't we look into our innermost selves and find if we are really losers. Chances are, we would discover that we are a lot better off in other ways. We have so much in this world that we fail to consider and appreciate. That is the good thing I want to write about".

Sonny couldnt bear it anymore, he just covered his ears and screamed, "SHUUUUUUT THE FUCK UUUUUUP!"

Mod turned very quiet, he turned around to leave the room.

Sonny said "I just wanted to know what you major in college. Wow!” he sighed deeply.
2024-07-01 11:59:19


Mod Dream


Sunday Thoughts and Book Review

Lazaro Sembrano

Manila in the Dark

Boy Luneta

A Night at the Luneta Grandstand

Migratory Bird (circa 2005)

Manila Travel 2022

On Bad Blood (Part 1)

Understanding my unique Self on my way to Retirement

Intramuros 1

Pasig River


A Visit to Quiapo with El Fili2

Visiting Quiapo with El Fili

The Very Thought of You


Visions of St Lazarus 1

Popong 9

Diary of A Masquerade


Brother, My Brother (Ben Santos)

Popong 8

F Sionil Jose

Four Students - 2

Popong 7 - Meditation

Popong 6 - Meditation

Friday Night Thoughts

Current Interests

Bulosan Syndrome

Maid of Cotton

Popong 5

Popong 4

Current Readings 2

Popong 3

Reading: Name of the Rose

Current Readings

Popong 2

Web Projects

Getting Back in the Game – Technology

Four Students


Last of the Balugas

Introduction To Popong