These books were read little by little and treated as breathers between larger works, but they are by no means inferior or less meaningful to me. Having finally read the last of the essays, these three are now among the most prized books on my shelf. And I say this with confidence: Filipinos are my favorite essayists!
Using nature as a leitmotif, Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s 𝘞𝘰𝘳𝘭𝘥 𝘰𝘧 𝘞𝘰𝘯𝘥𝘦𝘳𝘴 nudges us to keep our eyes open with childlike curiosity and to keep our hearts soft. It is amazing how she touches on racism, school shootings, climate change, and life’s difficulties without any hint of vitriol. Her writing is refreshing — not like a cool drink on a summer day. Refreshing like a good cry that unburdens the heart and reminds you of life’s wonders. Our hearts need this.
Gideon Lasco’s 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘗𝘩𝘪𝘭𝘪𝘱𝘱𝘪𝘯𝘦𝘴 𝘪𝘴 𝘕𝘰𝘵 𝘢 𝘚𝘮𝘢𝘭𝘭 𝘊𝘰𝘶𝘯𝘵𝘳𝘺 is a gift to the Filipino people that we should embrace with gratitude. He shows us the Philippines for what it really is and how deserving it is of new and hopeful eyes. What I’ve written about Pamuk and his relationship with Turkey, I can also write about Lasco and his relationship with our country: He is someone who recognizes a nation profoundly inside out, from its complicated politics to its inner conflicts and issues, its customs and traditions… and offers a viewpoint only a lasting lover can deliver who, after having seen a beloved’s glories and deepest flaws and undesirable secrets, remains and continues to love.
“When we realize that we Filipinos, far from passive victims of history, have always been active in making not just our history but that of the world, we begin to overcome the feeling of smallness that sets back our geopolitical imagination. What our past should give us is not an enmity for those who pressed us but an empathy for those who experience oppression.
What our past should give us is neither a feeling of victimization nor entitlement but a dignity of a people that has suffered much — but has overcome more.”
Even though there is so much to resonate with and quote from Carmen Guerrero Nakpil’s 𝘞𝘰𝘮𝘢𝘯 𝘌𝘯𝘰𝘶𝘨𝘩 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘖𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘌𝘴𝘴𝘢𝘺𝘴 despite being written between 1951-1961, I’m choosing to end with these relevant reminders as today we witness President Duterte’s final State of the Nation Address.
— “Politics is not all crooks and racketeers and ten percenters. It is not the loud, interminable speeches… or the handshaking in the barrios while a photographer snaps his camera or the number of dancing girls given to each delegate to the national convention. That is not politics, but only its aberrations. Among many of us, those practices have come to mean politics. But they are only the abuse of politics.”
— “This is one of the beautiful paradoxes of politics. Politics may make us, but it is for us to shape it.”
— “You should learn to look at elections, not as contests in goodness or popularity between two or more men, but as a national stock-taking, an occasion for citizens to make up their minds which course of national action to choose over another.”
— “You see how important it is for all citizens to be intelligent, well informed and judicious.”
— “The question is not whether some of us do not love our country or some of us do. The question is in what way we love it.”
— “As a parting favor, I would like to ask you all intelligent women not to take my word for this or for anything. Think about the things we have discussed here, and ponder on them yourself. Discuss them with your friends, seek the opinion of others, but make the decision yourself.”
— “In your intelligence, application, your honesty with yourself, and in your wisdom, will lie the future of the Philippines.”