25 June 2016


Locus Focus: Take One Hundred Thirty-Two!

. . . And of course today's setting turns out to be a better blend of Conspiratorial Corners and Marcos Pa Rin than the previous one. No demographic engaged in more underground conspiracy during the Marcos era than the Marxists. Secretive regimes deserve secretive subversives.

Someone else having fun with the first theme is Brandon of Siris, who writes a Locus Focus post for the second year in a row with a setting from Umberto Eco's Name of the Rose. If you'd like to join in, check the Locus Focus page for more details. Remember that in June and July, linking up to Locus Focus gets you extra points in the Philippine Literature Giveaway. (Rafflecopter below!)

The HQ
Killing Time in a Warm Place
by Jose Y. Dalisay, Jr.

. . . I had been shocked to find Mrs. Bernos in our living room seated on the one piece of furniture we had there, which was the sofa I slept on until Jong took over the ground floor. She was drinking our coffee from a cup that Jong had set out for her, and she was staring at the posters that Jong had culled from his songbooks and had taped on the wall: Led Zeppelin, Credence Clearwater Revival, the Carpenters. I had objected to these at first, given the nature of our political mission, but Benny had relented on Jong's behalf, reasoning that they made the apartment look a little less like an HQ through a kind of camouflage.

Indeed we soon stripped the ground floor of anything suggestively political. Revolutionary literature, decor, bulletins, props--we carted these all upstairs and behind the back door, out of sight, and in their stead we brought in artefacts from another life: back issues of
TIME, Good Housekeeping, Liwayway, Darna Komiks and The Philippines Herald; a Scrabble set with a W missing; a warped Dunlop Fort Maxply; a calendar with a picture of the Black Nazarene on a carriage bobbing in a sea of supplicants . . .

The friendly landlady Mrs. Bernos doesn't seem like the type who'd get mixed up in politics and police work . . . but you can never be too careful. Especially when you're engaged in subversive activities that you know you could get raided for at any time. An "authentic" look is a luxury that few can afford. Indeed, many people who are no danger of getting arrested like a bit of "camouflage" in the rooms where they receive their own guests. We don't always let it all hang out.

But what I find most endearing about the HQ is that it screams "Student Housing". That its three occupants passionately want to overthrow the government is peripheral: they're no different from any students living away from home for the first time, hacking their way through housekeeping and trying to create a new world from pieces bought, borrowed or salvaged from others. They wouldn't be the only teenage renters who dealt with a roach problem by putting all their food in an old biscuit tin and using their kitchen cupboards to store hardware supplies instead.

It takes me back to my own first flat in New Zealand. The landlady set the heaters at a certain temperature we couldn't raise no matter how cold it got in the winter, so we hung around in the kitchen and boiled water a lot. I mentioned this once to another Kiwi lady whose own uni days were long behind her, and she nodded wryly, saying only, "Student flats." And we had thought we were the first ones to come up with it--not to mention the only ones cold enough to resort to it!

Jose Y. Dalisay is fantastic at creating a sense of place, whether his characters are in Manila or Michigan. Even his satires are spot on, as when his narrator imagines how a high-ranking Philippine Constabulary officer under Marcos might live . . . and perfectly describes the home my high-ranking Philippine Constabulary officer grandfather built for our family. Now that's all I'm going to say about that, so if you're really curious about what my first house was like, you have to enter the giveaway!

Question of the Week: Do you worry about the impression that your home makes on guests?

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Image Source: Killing Time in a Warm Place by Jose Y. Dalisay, Jr.

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