Sunday, December 28, 2008

Years From Now

When they speak of the great Honolulu black-out, I can say I was there. The table lamp blinked three times; the television went off and on three times and in half a heart beat, I’d pulled the power cord off my laptop, isolating it from any electrical surge. Then the panic came: I was in trouble; I’d short-circuited the whole apartment. Oh, no! A quick look outside where only half the corridor lights were on. Oh, no, I shorted the whole building. A glance out the lanai (porch). Oh, no, I shorted out the whole city, what the hell did I do? Such is the nature of hubris.

And because I’d seen, a few weeks back, A Quantum of Solace, I was assailed with images of a land-sea-air assault on the island of Oahu because the president-elect was somewhere therein. Was that lightning I saw or an EMP bomb knocking everything out? I thought of the P-e-OTUS house ringed by kamaina Marines with fixed bayonets and fully cocked assault rifles, ready to defend everything and everyone, their ears practically sprouting antennae, eyes bulging at the sudden dark.

Were this the case, help for insignificant me would take a long time. I was stuck on the 25th floor, with no water and no way to cook food. My hyperventilating mind was already calculating how many bed sheets tied end-to-end it would take to reach the ground floor when the resident/owner of the apartment showed up, along with the resident/owner of the apartment next door. There was an emergency generator, it seemed, and one elevator was working. Thus were my hopes of doing a Die Hard escape from a high rise thwarted! Hmmp!

Actually, it has been an easy two weeks in Hawaii where I forgot my birthday and, had it not been for a Sports Authority gift card, I would’ve forgotten Christmas as well. Time just flows differently on an island; it seems to gather in shallow pools and eddy there, bringing forth random images, so that events transpire at the very instant of one’s remembering.

While lining up for kona coffee ($1.95 per 8-ounce Styrofoam cup) at the central kiosk of the food court of the Ala Moana Center, I suffered a mild fugue. Like palimpsest, the image of the food court at the Ali Mall in Quezon City, Philippines, seeped through the environs; surely, that must have been the ancestor of all food courts in the world. Then, the guy behind me said to his companion that the line was too long and they should go to Starbucks. I’d barely managed two sips of the burnt coffee at Starbucks the previous day. An outraged “haole!” nearly escaped my lips and instantly, the face of this Hawaiian guy rose in my mind, telling me that haole, used for Caucasians, actually meant salmon-bottom.

It had taken me weeks to work out why the “natives” would focus on that particular anatomical part. If you’re puzzled, link it with the missionary position that you’ll realize just what kind of past time must have occupied Captain Cook’s “marines.” Eh!

But not to cavil since I took my first half-way decent photo here in Hawaii, with my new used Nikon D-70. This one’s for my friend Agnes, who frightened me with a challenge to a photo exhibit the day I told her I got the Nikon. And since I took this one on Christmas Day, I gave it the title “Walking On Water.”


Anonymous said...

At first I thought I was looking at two people sweeping snow and icee after a heavy snowfall. I gotta get to a warmer place.....

In case, the warm, sweet, sea, breeze lulls your faculty for time into a deep slumber, I'll take this chance to greet you a happy New Year, Ms. Rosca. Happy New Year.

Catherine Traywick said...

I love reading your blog. I stumbled upon by accident, but knew your name after having read State of War and Sugar & Salt, both of which I loved. Thank you for writing.

Would you mind if I added Lily Pad to my blogroll?

Ninotchka Rosca said...

Dear Catherine:

Thank you for the kind words. Please go ahead and include this site in your blogroll. And do send us your URL.

To all: You can supersize the photo by clicking on it.


Anonymous said...

I'm a recent visitor to your blog, Ninotchka. Read State of War years ago. You shine as ever. Your blog's title is testament: Lily Pad.

Amazing title. Indeed, words can be lilies, floating, destined to fly, somewhere. Inside.

You can certainly be or head any MFA program faculty. But I think you opted not to. Just speculating.


Anonymous said...

You seem to be one of a few whose insights about the Philippines really matters. You dissect the Philippines in this blog, not in addition to but with equal passion as you do with gender issues. What I'm wondering is, perhaps another non-fiction book should be your next project, and an urgent one.

Here I'm talking about a book on the imagination of the Philippines at this point in its history, and what it can become in the future. In one of your earlier blogs, around 2007, there's talk about the disappearing Philippines. It's scary just to think about it. But one can argue the Philippines has always been in a state of disappearance or in a state of verging to disappear. The country's foundations are as fragmented as its geography. Sure, we can go on and on about the metaphors of geography here. But I think there's more. And you seem to have some other knowledge that's just dying to explode, not in blogs, or another novel but rather a concentrated, prolonged dissection of that island country today through an essay or theoretical piece. In many ways, you did this in State of War but as novel. What about a proposal, a theory for the future of the Philippines? The flow of Koreans and other nationals entering the Philippines, especially as investors, will soon change the country into something else. Isn't this the state of the Philippines all along, a stopover, an exotic rest area, always in-between?

My proposal is loose. But I think you get the point.

You don't need to publish this. I just want to highlight this as an urgent suggestion.

Ninotchka Rosca said...

Dear 2nd Anonymous:

Your comments make me wonder: who are you????

Thanks for the kind words.

The writing of books has been a difficult enterprise for me. Each book has brought greater controversy, greater katsang-katsang, as we Filipinos say. The last was the worse, with harassment from surprising quarters. The intensifying mantra conveyed to me, over time, has been this: the books are fine, the writing is great; we're pleased the books were written and published but thoroughly displeased that you were the one who wrote them. It is by way of a comment I received a long, long time ago when I was introduced to someone who said: "for such a small person, you're carrying a big name." My reply then was the name is only big because of what the small person did.

But I've come to realize that there's a stereotype out there of what an intelligent person should be -- and first and foremost, she can't be a woman.

This kind of stuff has taken from me a lot of the pleasure of writing. But I try, practicing ratha yoga to ensure detachment and an iron commitment to the integrity of the story.

Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Ninotchka, my proposal is dissection of psyche, the Philippine imagination. In a way, it's a dissection of you as Filipino living in today's world. But it won't be an autobiography, although it could be mistaken as that.

Sure, it's bound to be political, and you can't avoid to be political because your personality exists for the political. But I think your admirers in this blog are dying for something concentrated and prolonged. You've, I think, said something in this blog about having a theoretical foundation in activism, a suggestion that you have some desire for theoretical discussions.

Vicente Rafael, a west-coast professor, has written some enlightening things about the Philippines, especially in one of his books, White Love. There's a book coming in Univ of Calif Press in Feb 2009 that approximately looks into the current imagination of the Philippines. And we know E. San Juan has been churning out books about the Philippines. My point is that the book I'm proposing isn't unique. But what will make it unique is that you participate in the actual exercise of activism, has been imprisoned, you've formed an organization, just to name a few. These things provide a certain knowledge about discussing the imagination of the Philippines, and a rich one. And you have a passion for everything Philippines.

Perhaps Carlos Bulosan's book America is in the Heart is an example, but a very rough example.

I'm not an academic, or publisher. Just another blog reader who wants to highlight something urgent.

Anonymous #2

Anonymous said...

Hi Ninotchka,

I'm an avid reader of your commentaries. I hope you still keep posting them (hint-hint ;-)

By the way, I heard on Democracy Now that there was a huge protest in Manila about the invasion in Gaza. I just wanted to share that to you. I'm an activist myself and part of the Filipino diasporic community in the US, and I feel that it can be so easy to be cynical about the Philippines.

Ninotchka Rosca said...

Dear Latest Anonymous:

I'm not cynical about the Filipino people, especially the women whose most noble impulses -- the sense of obligation to their families and relatives -- have been used to turn them into commodity for the international sex and labor markets. But it is easy to be cynical about the country's political leadership and authority, and the kind of hypocrisy sometimes embedded even in the most high-rising rhetoric. It just seems to easy for leadership there to violate even the constitution of the organizations to which it is affiliated. I think we actually don't have a profound understanding of power and continue to define it as feudal and authoritarian. There may be exceptions -- who knows? Then again I may be looking for too high a standard, because I believe we're capable of upholding such.

Ninotchka Rosca said...

Ooops, correction: "It just seems too easy..."

catherine a. traywick said...


I couldn't figure out how to email you...but the url for my blog is, though i also write for

I added you to my blogroll!