Los­ing our mem­o­ries

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - OPINION - SYLVIA L. MAYUGA

It fi­nally hap­pened. This com­men­tary came to me whole—in a dream. You know what Shake­speare said? That “Life is a dream”? Well, it’s true. My­dream just proved it. It hap­pened this way. I’d been mulling over the pub­lic re­sponse to the last Na­tional Artist Awards, won­der­ing why the Palace was so out-of-step with na­tional sen­ti­ment on Nora Aunor, and what peo­ple in power re­ally know about how peo­ple feel. Then I re­al­ized the key was­mem­ory—what peo­ple re­mem­ber about our his­tory.

That was the dis­con­nect. Peo­ple in power who re­mem­ber our his­tory dif­fer­ently from us are try­ing to take us to where we refuse to go. We, in turn, still re­mem­ber what our na­tion has al­ready been through and want to go else­where.

That’s when my dream came. It went like this: I walked into a huge gar­den party thrown by Baron some­thing, whose man­sion was ablaze with lights some­where in old Pasay City. The guests were all dressed in silk and satin, their faces cov­ered with masks.

What it was, I found, was re­ally an art auc­tion with mag­nif­i­cent can­vases and sculp­ture by Filipinos from dif­fer­ent pe­ri­ods of our his­tory. And, oh my God, the painters and sculp­tors, liv­ing and dead, were min­gling with the guests.

I re­mem­ber Juan Luna among them, ca­su­ally say­ing, “Sa tina­gal-ta­gal nam­ing sinasabi sa in­y­ong ito ang nangya­yari sa Pilip­inas, bakit ngayon lang kayo? (We’ve been telling you for so long what’s hap­pen­ing to the Philip­pines. Why have you come only now?)”

“At pera lang ang ipa­palit niyo sa pasakit namin para sa bayan? (And you’re ex­chang­ing only money for our sac­ri­fices for our na­tion?),” some­one stand­ing be­hind Juan Luna added. Oh my God! It was Ka Me­mong, my dis­tant un­cle Guillermo To­lentino, the first Filipino sculptor af­ter generations of pre-Con­quest cre­ators of likha, the faces of our an­cient gods.

There was an un­easy flurry among the guests when the host stood up in his tuxedo and de­clared the auc­tion open. Peo­ple took their seats, the baron stood on a podium with his gavel. Eight men car­ried the huge can­vas of Luna’s “Spo­liar­ium” and propped it up against two old trees.

“Tayo ’yan. Tayo pa rin ’yan ngayon (That’s us. That’s still us now),” Juan Luna said gruffly.

The bid­ding started. The first bid was $100 mil­lion. In the trees hov­ered white Chi­nese ghosts. We were los­ing even our mem­ory to money.

———— Sylvia L. Mayuga is an es­say­ist, some­time colum­nist, poet, doc­u­men­tary film­maker and en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist. She has three Na­tional Book Awards to her name.

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