It Is Done

by Ninotchka Rosca

From a character in Orhan Pamuk’s The Black Book: “I realized I’d change nothing by proving that the life we live is someone else’s dream.”

The sentence floated through my mind as I watched the fifty-some new members of AF3IRM, all under 30 years of age, take their oath of commitment to principle, cause and organization after two days of intensive deliberation at the end of nearly two years of study. I wished then I could add a footnote to Pamuk’s book: “At least it gives one a chance to choose — not to do so, or to live a different dream or a dream built on one’s experiences.”

Some principles were debated and established during those three days, among which were a) one has the right to make history wherever one is – in accordance with the material conditions of one’s existence and the right to acknowledgement of that history; b) true social transformation encompasses transformation of gender power relations and an end to the relegation to the private sphere of obligations which should be and are social in character; c) as with other sectors, women have a right to theory-building. There were others but to me these were among the weightiest.

The last will likely be the most difficult but even ideology has to evolve.

We had good landmarks to go by. Prof. Johanna Brenner warned about an international movement to restore/maintain the hetero-patriarchy; Dr. Anna Guevarra exposed the deliberation behind the push for Filipinas to metamorphose into servants for overseas work; Charlene Sayo raised the rather bizarre Oedipal specter of second generation Filipina-Canadians having to deal with white male Canadians raised by Filipino nannies; Roma Amor, a trafficking survivor, traced her vulnerability to domestic violence in her Philippine marriage.

The strange thing for me was being able to play on the guitar, after the launch, without mistake the song “Good Night, Ladies.” This piece of music has strange resonance for me, since my nanny invariably tuned in to Ruben Tagalog’s radio program “Harana” (serenade) as she waited for me to fall asleep. The program ended, I think, with this song and to this day, I associate it with burdens laid down and preparations to voyage into the mythic realms of sleep.

As for the guitar playing, I took it up to learn to read notes. I’d picked up somewhere that learning a new language was the best way to forestall brain decrepitude. I thought music being a different language and having been an opera buff since I was 15 years old, I might as well learn how to read notes.

It’s been so difficult, what with slashes of calluses on the fingertips of my left hand (I once tried using my right hand on the frets but that inverted the guitar, silly me) that I kind of wish I’d chosen to learn Arabic instead. The brain processing is so different I find myself forgetting language and drawn to playing high math games.

The poor ewok Guapo curls up in pain whenever I practice, so terrible are the sounds. When a friend who’s a classical guitarist asked to look at my Martin guitar, I had to demand that he NOT ask me to play for fear he would suffer a stroke from laughter.

So now you understand why playing “Good Night, Ladies” without a single false note was so edifying.

I do not know to which ladies I was saying good night. Perhaps you do. But I do hope that this signifies a preparation to return to the mythic realms, from which I’d been diverted by politics.

Leave a Comment