Sunsets and F. Sionil
It’s only the start of the new year yet I find myself oddly contemplating sunsets. Maybe the balmy cold weather we are having these days has a lot to do with my lethargic state of mind. Or it might be the tragic news that come seemingly in succession beginning with Supertyphoon “Odette” when it ravaged southern provinces, claiming lives and leaving in her wake billions of pesos in damages and loss. Just when I thought the spell of bad luck already subsided, I was greeted with news that F. Sionil José passed away.
We never came close to being close save for the rare writing events I attended and those instances of clashing of opinions in social media. I was never a fan and this fact became firmly reinforced when the great writer came out of virtual reality a certified diehard Duterte supporter. For all that he has done to literature where we find our common roots, I never would come to terms with his assessment of President Duterte as one of the best presidents we’ve ever had. And when he hailed the ABS-CBN closure as a triumph against the oligarchs, the more I felt disillusioned of the man I once so held in high esteem.
He provides me the answer why those that I have thought of as highly educated and belonging to the most elite of the academe would find somehow the gullibility to fall for Duterte’s lies, defend him with reasoning you don’t expect of the people who should have earned the right to flaunt their intelligence. Deep inside Mr. Sionil remained a good man and I would even dare to infer he was fully conscious of what the true Duterte, the leader and the person, is. As some of my profoundly intelligent and highly successful friends who continue to make God of Duterte have shown to me, there seems to be in a rather perverse and bizarre way some pleasure to gain from becoming a DDS. The thrill, for one, of swimming against the current, to be the nonconformist in a world enslaved by convention. Others simply could never concede to being wrong.
Maybe F. Sionil is one of those who relish that role. Like most, he craves relevance. People can tease that I am an old fart, but if that is the case, I’ll make sure that when I do fart the whole world would altogether puke. At 97, people should be forgiven for running out of juices. We all do, maybe even sooner than the hair turns gray. Age takes everything away, from the faintest sound of music that made us dance in our youth to the lingering memory of long-lost muses the first time we found love. One day, one man’s creative energy spanned galaxies but soon his world suddenly starts to shrink. Even the bottomless well of talent, bravery, and faith can run dry. You can only go to the well so many times until you find the well one day to be completely drained and empty with absolutely nothing more to give. And all you can do is hold on to what remains of your self-worth by trying desperately to be relevant.
If you tell me I am wrong, then F. Sionil would not have stopped putting out masterpieces from what seems like ages since the Rosales saga. The Apo Hiking Society would not have lost the gift for weaving the voices of muses into beautiful music. Ricky Lee would have easily outdone himself after his conquest of Mt. Everest with “Himala.” I, personally, would have been a better writer now than the once in a blue moon columnist who had lost count of the times my works were rejected. One day, all that remains of us is that last glimmer of hope that sustains us in the struggle for relevance until our own mortality dulls that glimmer and takes away the last and only thing we have. The struggle ends here for F. Sionil but when it was time to ride into the sunset, we have to appreciate that he did it his way.
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Adel B. Abillar is a practicing lawyer and a journalist, a loving husband to Arlene, and the coolest Tatay to Ulan, Sining, Alon, and Laya. He can be reached at [email protected]
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