I am on a ferry boat, slicing sunny waters, crossing
a gulf of ghosts, those of galleons and vintas, from
centuries ago, sailing on obsession to give their flags
dimensions of acquisition to fly on, domesticating
Eden, exoticizing civility. At the bow, I see Mount
Malindang stretch, vast, immense: God as spectacle
of geography, more resplendent now than almost a
life-time ago, when I first saw this with conscious
eyes, my grandmother beside me. I must've been six
or seven then, years of year-round summers, centers
of nostalgia, for my future life as transplanted citizen,
in that desert of neons, beneath the anorexic Hollywood
sign, directing pornographies of gloss, glamour, and
dreamscapes. On that boat, I imagine my grandmother,
sitting beside me; we are both eating roasted peanuts.
She is animated with another passenger, immersing the
sea in their voices, sailing on happy words, oblivious
of pauses to dock on. I am here to retire, for good, in
the town that laid her to rest many years ago. I return,
still heavy with Los Angeles, including that recent
divorce, my parents now buried in California, and that
cool detachment with my children, not strained, but
a cautious hipness, convenient, unsentimental. The
boat slices salty-air, doubts about my nostalgic return,
especially memories of fast lanes, those accelerated
desperations, globalizing impossibilities of slowing down.
Inside Subic Bay
I can still see the ships, in those palm trees.
They were like islands themselves, carrying
their own world, habits, constitutions, and histories,
like most of this country’s islands.
We did it all here, back then, in this humid place.
We were sweating of its sea of women, the language and mind
we could barely understand, especially its history that’s
thicker than their brotherhood in resistance against us.
The salty, slippery skins of those nights gave me a son,
mixed-blooded, just like this nation's blood. But I don’t intend to
find him, although I’ll be here for a while, maybe longer
than ever, until my last sun; because these islands
exploded in me a long time ago, into archipelagoes,
shrapnels that have melted in my blood, now exploding again,
deeper than what nostalgia craves, than what these
islands doesn’t want from me.
Michael Caylo-Baradi's articles have appeared in numerous publications including The Los Angeles Daily News.
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