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Forty-seven years ago, on September 22 1972, Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in the Philippines, imposing a brutal reign of terror and suppression that would last for more than a decade. He backdated the declaration to September 21 in keeping with his superstitious predilection for the number seven and its multiples. I publish below a brief section of my doctoral dissertation dealing with the imposition of military rule. The political parallels to the present are striking.


The Music Stops

Naákay ng gútom at gawìng manilà
nag-ulî sa gánid at nawalâ’ng awà,
handâ na ang ngípi’t kukóng bágong hasà
at pagsasabayán ang gapós ng iwá.

Francisco Balagtas, Florante at Laura

On Valentine’s Day 1972, Suharto visited Manila, where he delivered an address before the joint house of Congress and met privately with Ferdinand Marcos, who sought his advice on how best to implement military rule in the country. The conventional scholarly argument about Marcos’ declaration of martial law is that his success was predicated upon the ties which he cultivated with military leadership and the legal and political groundwork which he prepared for dictatorship. Franco, for example, writes

It was also during his first term as president that Marcos began to prepare the national transition to an authoritarian regime. He began cultivating loyal followers among high-level military officers by selectively extending the tenure of retirable generals and promoting officers from lower echelons. At the same time he took steps to centralize control over the military by combining the offices of Secretary of Justice and National Defense. Exaggerating the national security threat posed by the still weak and divided Communist movement, Marcos also substantially increased both the size and budget of the military.

While this is true, the conventional argument overlooks the history of multiple prior presidents who likewise developed an extensive network of military ties and who deployed the threat of martial law at various junctures during their terms in office. Situated historically, there was nothing particularly remarkable about Marcos’ conduct in office or his threats of dictatorship. Berlin correctly asserts that “the roots of martial law lay in the Philippines’ long colonial experience and in the first decades of independence.” He describes martial law as “a natural part of the fabric of the Philippine past.” The framework for military rule existed throughout the history of the post-colonial Philippines. It was a direct product of US colonialism and was enshrined under the powers of the executive branch in Article VII, Section 10, of the 1935 constitution, which stated that the president can “suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, or place the Philippines or any part thereof under Martial Law.” Berlin, however, argues that martial law was in many ways simply a return to the normal character of civilian-military relations established during the colonial period. In this he errs. While the seed of military rule had been planted by the office of the US Governor General, the Marcos dictatorship was not the atavistic re-emergence of a prior mode of rule. Martial law in 1972 was something qualitatively new, and was an expression of global developments.

Marcos’ signature on the declaration of martial law

The impulse to military rule existed within the ruling class since the formal granting of independence in 1946, and machinations to that end had been pursued during their terms of office by Quirino, Garcia, Macapagal and Marcos. What distinguished Marcos’ machinations from those of his predecessors was the international situation of political and economic crisis. It was neither Marcos’ cleverness nor his will to power that determined his success. By the late 1960s, global capitalism was in a crisis which marked the beginning of the precipitous decline of US economic dominance. The post-war modus vivendi, over which Washington exercised historically unprecedented global power, formally came to a close when Nixon ended the Bretton Woods agreement of fixed exchange rates and dollar gold convertibility in August 1971. The explosive class struggles which emerged around the globe from the middle of the 1960s to the middle of the 1970s were a manifestation of this economic crisis. This is why the First Quarter Storm was presaged in the streets of Paris, and followed by those of Athens. It is in this context that we see the rise of dictatorship as the preferred mode of bourgeois rule. Suharto and Marcos, Pinochet and the Shah shared a common geopolitical DNA. Washington facilitated and propped up these tin-pot rulers. Moscow and Beijing, looking to secure advantage against each other, followed suit. Moscow supported Suharto; Beijing, Pinochet.

In the face of this crisis, there was common consent from every section of the Filipino ruling class that dictatorship was necessary. Aquino declared just as forthrightly as Marcos that he would implement martial law if he gained power. The contending elites jostled with each other for Malacañang — in a game of political musical chairs — knowing that whoever was seated there would secure the spoils of dictatorship. In the drive toward martial law, Marcos outmaneuvered his opponents at every turn. By 1972, the opposition, clustered around Aquino and Osmeña, was resorting to increasingly desperate measures, including assassination plots. They were not fighting against military rule; they were fighting to secure it.

The ruling opposition was thus mobilized for a particular reason — to have their hands upon the reins of the inevitable dictatorship. The working class and exploited masses of the Philippines were mobilized for very different reasons: price hikes, runaway inflation, and slashed wages had cut them to the bone. An intense social anger fueled the rallies of 1970, ’71, and ’72. The role of the Communist Party of the Philippines was to subordinate the latter to the former, to ensure that these social explosions safely fueled the machinations of their bourgeois allies. While the PKP provided ideological justification for Marcos and his ‘revolution from the center,’ the CPP led the masses into a political cul-de-sac. This is what made martial law possible.

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One of the pivotal moments in the history of the Philippine Communist Parties in the 1960s and early 70s, in the period leading up to the declaration of martial law by Ferdinand Marcos in 1972, was the event which became known as the Diliman Commune. Over the course of the first nine days of February 1971, students at the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman erected barricades around their campus, fought off repeated attempts by the military to tear the barricades down, and took control of the university.

Barricades at Diliman
Standoff with Metrocom over the barricades at the entrance to the Diliman campus.

In my 2017 doctoral dissertation, Crisis of Revolutionary Leadership: Martial Law and the Communist Parties of the Philippines, 1957-1974, I wrote a chapter examining the events of the commune using the written material produced by the communards themselves in conjuction with contemporary newspaper records. I reworked this portion of my dissertation as an article and in December 2018 it was published in the journal Philippine Studies under the title, “A Planned and Coordinated Anarchy: The Barricades of 1971 and the ‘Diliman Commune.’

Philippine Studies cover, December 2018
Joseph Scalice, “A Planned and Coordinated Anarchy: The Barricades of 1971 and the ‘Diliman Commune,’ Philippine Studies: Historical and Ethnographic Viewpoints 66, No. 4 (2018): 481-516

In the opening of the article I wrote

While the occupation of the Diliman campus invariably merits passing mention in the wave of memoirs, both personal and collective, produced over the past two decades, it has not been subjected to serious scholarly scrutiny. As a result, two myths, which entered circulation in the months immediately after the events themselves, spread and became the established narrative of what became known as the “Diliman Commune.” The first is that the events were limited to Diliman; they were not. Barricades went up at the University Belt in downtown Manila and at UP Los Baños simultaneously, and there were pitched and protracted battles waged at both locations. Subsequent accounts entirely ignored these concurrent barricades. The second myth is that the Commune emerged spontaneously. A headline article of Bagong Pilipina in its February 1971 issue expressed this conception: “The Diliman Commune was a spontaneous reaction to the needs of the Diliman Republic.” The story stuck.

Scalice, “A Planned and Coordinated Anarchy,” 482.

In examining and puncturing these myths, I attempted to use the Commune as a case study of the role played by the political program of Stalinism in shaping and corraling the social anger in the explosive years leading up to the imposition of military dictatorship by Ferdinand Marcos. Among the conclusions I reached was the following.

There is a culture about the Communist Party of the Philippines and its affiliated organizations that is simultaneously inflected by amnesia and nostalgia. The KM, under the leadership of Jose Ma. Sison, had endorsed Ferdinand Marcos for president in 1965, but four years later they denounced him as a fascist and entered an alliance with the bourgeois opposition. They did not account for their prior support, but buried it: “Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia.” This cultivated amnesia was combined with a nostalgia for an imagined past. The young people joining the party or its front organizations learn of the First Quarter Storm and the Diliman Commune, events that are never understood historically, but simply appreciated as the great moral lessons of the past, examples of the revolutionary heroism of their predecessors. This appreciation is not entirely baseless. The youths and workers who fought in the battles of the 1960s and early 1970s were often heroic, proving themselves capable of self-sacrifice and endless labor. The best layers of an entire generation fought courageously, and many in the end were tortured and killed by a brutal dictator. But to what end? Here the only honest means of honoring the struggles of this generation is to subject to careful study and trenchant criticism the program and machinations of their leaders. Such an historical examination, to which this article is a small contribution, reveals that the sacrifices made by these youths and workers were first demanded and then dispensed with by Stalinism, which ensured that their lives were no more than grist on the millstone of dictatorship. Much of the Stalinist parties’ political authority among the masses derived from their claim to be Marxist; I am challenging that claim.

Scalice, “A Planned and Coordinated Anarchy,” 507-8.

The majority of the article is dedicated to a careful reconstruction of the events of the barricades of 1971. It is a remarkable thing that such dramatic events as those of February 1971 in the Philippines have not yet been subjected to careful scholarly scrutiny. Researching and writing this account was a compelling experience and I believe that the article is an exciting read, by academic standards at any rate.

In some ways, the myths surrounding the Diliman Commune are an indication of how the flagship state university campus, because of its prominence in popular consciousness and because of the preeminence of its graduates, has been allowed a disproportionate share of the written political history of the past century. Campus political radicalism in the university belt in downtown Manila, for example, has been given comparatively little coverage as a result of this skewed historiography.

I wrote a bit on this in my dissertation, in the chapter on the student protests of 1969.

The preponderance of higher education in the Philippines was concentrated in Manila and disseminated from privately owned, profit-driven institutions. Their facilities stood clustered along Azcarraga on the northern bank of the Pasig, and within the squat stone walls of Intramuros on its south. Most were crowded, multi-story affairs to which entrance was afforded by a single roadside gate under the watchful eye of armed security guards, who inspected the entering students’ uniforms and identification cards. There were in 1969 over half a milion college students in the Philippines, one of the highest college enrollment per capita figures in the world. The majority of these students came from working class and peasant families, and were working their way through school — they were janitors on the night shift, stringers for newspapers, secretarial assistants for the university administration, and sales clerks on Escolta.

From Azcarraga, traverse the length of Quezon Boulevard past the circumferential Highway 54 — now renamed de los Santos, but the name had yet to take — and you would arrive in Diliman on the outskirts of Quezon City. There the state university — UP — sat in seeming rural isolation, its expansive facilities still spreading outward into fields of cogon and talahib. At its southern and eastern fringes were the impoverished communities of Cruz na Ligas and Balara, pushing towards Marikina. Twenty-five centavos and a thirty minute jeepney ride would get you from Diliman to Azcarraga, but a lifetime of labor would not have gotten most students from the university belt into the state university. UP provided an education to the children of the elite and the upper middle class, but also to the most outstanding scholars throughout the nation. The valedictorian of an impoverished provincial high school could be expected to attend the state university, and on a full scholarship. For the rest of the students, they would work their way through school downtown. Finally there were the elite religious schools — Ateneo, La Salle, San Beda. These were the enclaves of the extremely wealthy, their corridors of power reserved to cassocks and caciques. They were entirely quiescent in 1969. It was the class divide between Azcarraga and Diliman that shaped the course of the protests.

Scalice, Crisis of Revolutionary Leadership, 396-7.

Over the course of the first week of February 1971, as barricades were erected in both downtown Manila and at Diliman, six students were killed protesting against Marcos and the repressive state apparatus. Five of these were in downtown Manila and one on the Diliman campus, but only the student who was killed at UP — Pastor Mesina — is now remembered.

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Using LaTeX in the Humanities

I interrupt my series of posts reviewing my recent publications on Pasyon and Revolution to briefly touch on the subject of LaTeX and its use in the humanities. 

When I embarked on the writing of my doctoral dissertation, I was confronted by the question of with what software I would write. I knew that I would be managing an immense number of citations and had no desire to write the entire work in Word or LibreOffice Write.

I have happily used LibreOffice for short articles, letters, and other minor projects, but I knew that this would require a sophisticated adaptability calibrated to the needs of scholarship. I began looking into the use of LaTeX.

There was an initial, rather steep learning curve to LaTeX for me, but the results have more than compensated for this effort. I have been able to seamlessly manage a thousand separate sources which were incorporated into an neatly formatted 950 page final document. LaTeX made writing a distraction free affair, in which I could focus on producing content and set aside formatting for a separate stage in the process.

Here is a snippet from the opening of my main tex file which pulls together and compiles the document class I created, JPSDissertation.cls, the bibliography, JPSDissertation.bib., and all of the seventy-eight chapters, five appendices, and three indices, including numerous images, maps, and tables.

\documentclass[a4paper]{JPSDissertation}

\title{Crisis of Revolutionary Leadership: The Communist Parties of the Philippines, 1959-1974}
  \author{Joseph Scalice}
  \degreeyear{2017}
  \degreesemester{Summer}
  \degree{Doctor of Philosophy}
  \chair{Associate Professor Jeffrey Hadler}
  \othermembers{Professor Peter Zinoman \\ Professor Andrew Barshay} 
  \field{South and Southeast Asian Studies}

\bibliography{./Data/JPSDissertation}

\begin{document}
  \maketitle
  \include{./Chapters/abstract}

The end result was not only in compliance with the requirements of UC Berkeley for doctoral dissertations, but also, I believe, elegant.

I have made the code of both my master’s thesis and my doctoral dissertation available on Bitbucket.

I wrote my entire dissertation in Vim. My sources are maintained in a bibtex file.

@Book{Sison1972,
  Title                    = {{Struggle for National Democracy}},
  Author                   = {Sison, Jose Ma.},
  Publisher                = {Amado V. Hernandez Memorial Foundation},
  Year                     = {1972},
  Address                  = {Manila}
}

@Book{Guerrero1971a,
  Title                    = {{Philippine Society and Revolution}},
  Author                   = {Sison, Jose Ma.},
  Publisher                = {Ta Kung Pao},
  Year                     = {1971},
  Address                  = {Hong Kong},
  Nameaddon                = {Amado Guerrero, \bibstring{pseudonym}},
  Shorthand                = {PSR},
  userc                    = {sison:guerrero}
}

@Article{Sison1971c,
  Title                    = {{A Brief Comment to my Detractors}},
  Author                   = {Sison, Jose Ma.},
  Journal                  = {\shorthandcite{AsiaPhilippinesLeader}},
  Year                     = {1971},
  Month                    = {06},
  Pages                    = {4, 56},
  Day                      = {11},
  Entrysubtype             = {magazine}
}

I found using git to be extremely useful for version control and keeping tabs on my progress. I used git branches to make major revisions to my dissertation. Thus I could on one branch maintain a stable copy of my work in progress that I could distribute if needed, while on a separate branch I could make major modifications and only merge the branches when the modifications had reached a presentable stage.

For those interested in working with LaTeX on a longer academic work in the humanities, I would encourage you to review the code. I will occasionally on this site go over certain points in the code that I created that I believe will be particularly helpful for other scholars.

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Pamitinan

I propose over the course of several posts to review what I regard as the critical points of my two recent articles on Reynaldo Ileto’s Pasyon and Revolution (PAR).

The first article, “Reynaldo Ileto’s Pasyon and Revolution Revisited, a Critique,” was published in SOJOURN: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia in March 2018. 

After a lengthy summary of the book’s argument, I turned to three basic criticisms: Ileto’s class categories were problematic; he approached his sources using an elite textual hermeneutic and failed to attend to the significance of performance; and he founded his entire work upon what in the end was a deeply flawed idealist conception.  I will turn to the second and third criticism in future posts.

In my last post I mentioned the sense of disquiet that I felt upon re-reading PAR as an undergraduate. The initial source of this sense of unease rested in what I felt was Ileto’s loose and unscientific class terminology. 

This was not a secondary question. The explicit thrust of the argument of PAR was that there was a continuity of class consciousness that ran throughout the varied revolutionary struggles and upheavals stretching from 1840 to 1910. This consciousness, he argued, was structured around the pasyon idiom. Before examining the credibility of this idiom and its relation to political upheaval, it was necessary to understand precisely what class possessed this consciousness.

This passage from my article contains the heart of the criticism.

Relationships among social classes changed dramatically in the nineteenth-century Philippines. … The introduction of foreign, largely British, capital, between the first and the second half of the nineteenth century overthrew pre-capitalist relations of production. What class relations had prevailed in 1841 Tayabas during the Hermano Pule uprising would have borne little resemblance to those of the Katipunan’s Tondo fifty years later.

By the 1880s and 1890s, Philippine society was awash in class contradictions. Small landholders, tenant farmers, share-croppers, landless agricultural wage workers, an urban proletariat, clerks and professional wage workers comprised various sections of the oppressed classes in society. All of these were grouped together under indefinite rubrics in Ileto’s account. Pasyon and Revolution lumped these classes together as “the masses” (p. 5), those “from below” (p. 8), “unlettered peasants” (p. 114) , the “illiterate tao” or folk (p. 26), They collectively shared the “popular mind” (pp. 14, 131) and the “folk mind” (pp. 25, 135). They occasionally appeared in the book as indios who shared “the Filipino mind” (p. 16); they are, quite often, simply “pobres y ignorantes,” the poor and ignorant (pp. 23, 144, 197, 205, 316).

These categories are troubling. Pasyon and Revolution introduced the phrase pobres y ignorantes as “the common ilustrado term for the masses” (ibid., p. 18), and yet never questioned the validity of this ilustrado characterization of the classes that are in fact the book’s focus. The “masses” in Pasyon and Revolution were a superstitious, illiterate lot. Ileto sought to learn about the categories of perception of these pobres y ignorantes; he did not, however, question the idea that they had been and were backward.

J. Scalice, “Reynaldo Ileto’s Pasyon and Revolution Revisited, a Critique,” SOJOURN: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia 33, no. 1 (2018): 37-38.

I concluded on this point

Without a clear sociological definition of the class or classes to which it referred, Pasyon and Revolution began with the ilustrado notion of pobres y ignorantes and then asked what consciousness this “group” possessed.

Clearly this would not do. The task of reconstructing the consciousness of the lower-classes in the late nineteenth century Philippines could not proceed on such a static and stereotyped basis. 

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Tapuzi / Tapusi.

As an undergraduate student at UC Berkeley in the early aughts, I was, like most scholars of Philippine history, deeply inspired by Reynaldo Ileto’s classic 1979 work, Pasyon and Revolution: Popular Movements in the Philippines, 1840-1910. In my first semester as a freshman, I wrote a research paper on the life of Macario Sakay, drawing heavily from Ileto’s ideas and material.

Pasyon and Revolution
Reynaldo Ileto, Pasyon and Revolution (1979)

Pasyon and Revolution was a work to which I returned repeatedly, but each re-reading left me with a growing sense of unease. Something did not gel. Ileto’s question — how did the masses’ perceive the Philippine revolution against Spain and their place within it? — resonated profoundly with me. And yet, my lingering awareness that something  about his answer was not right expanded.

In late 2004, I first wrote down some stray notes expressing this unease —

This work left me feeling unsettled and critical.

A sentence in Ileto’s concluding paragraph [to an article of Ileto’s, “Rizal and the Underside of Philippine History”] clarified for me the unease that I had felt throughout the article: “These leaders [Lantayug, et. al.] have, until recently at least, always belonged to the ‘dark underside’ of the struggle for independence dominated by such ilustrado notables as Quezon, Roxas and Osmena.” It seems clear to me that the division between an ilustrado led resistance and a ‘dark underside’ is a false dichotomy.

There are a multitude of underside resistances, many of them with a very different self-concept from the one put forward by Ileto. It would appear that in a attempting to ‘retrieve’ history from below, Ileto has manufactured a monolith: a Filipino ‘underclass’ that conceives of power and loób in terms that sound remarkably like those used by Benedict Anderson in his “Idea of Power in Javanese Culture.”

Where in this underside would Ileto fit the Union Obrera Democratica, the first Filipino labor movement, which was forming at this time, was composed entirely of working class Filipinos and whose perceptions were sharply different from that of Ileto’s underclass? Where to put Isabelo de los Reyes’ and Gregorio Aglipay’s Iglesia Filipina Independiente? Do Macario Sakay and the Republika ng Katagalugan really fit Ileto’s description?

It would involve an extensive investigation of sources, but it seems likely that Ileto’s ‘underside to Philippine history’ was actually a minority of lower class resistance movements.

This brings me to a second objection: underside? Lower class? Ileto’s article really has no definition of class. What groups constitute the subject of his investigation? It would seem that Ileto has merely taken the ilustrado concept of ‘pobres y ignorantes‘ as his starting point and has attempted to listen to this ilustrado defined group and to recover their voice. It seems doubtful that the Philippine peasantry and incipient working class defined themselves in these terms.

An investigation that started by examining the historical relations of production and exploitation might have given much needed definition to Ileto’s concept of ‘underside.’

I also posed the question —

Both Ileto and Vicente Rafael have explored the way that Latin and Spanish words like ego sum, Verbo, potencia, Espiritu, and Personas can become reified and take on bizarre, unintended meanings through colonial pretensions of untranslatability and ‘underside’ reappropriation. Is it not odd then that Ileto should do something similar with loób, kapangyarihan, and liwanag? Does this not open the door for bizarre and unintended meanings through academic pretensions of untranslatability and scholastic reappropriation?

I did not turn my attention to these questions until I began work on my Master’s thesis at Berkeley in late 2007. I determined that I would undertake a careful re-examination of Ileto’s work and attempt to conduct my proposed “extensive investigation of sources.” I went back over my old notes and posted them, in November 2007, on an older blog that I maintained at the time, under the title Notes on Ileto’s “Rizal and the Underside of Philippine History.” While the site no longer exists, the Waybackmachine maintains a copy from December 2007.

In 2008, Ileto responded to my post and, while the website containing the response is now lost to the sands of time, Von Totanes in a chapter published in 2011 documented the exchange.

 Totanes V.R. (2011) Filipino Blogs as Evidence of Reading and Reception. In: Crone R., Towheed S. (eds) The History of Reading, Volume 3. Palgrave Macmillan, London

In December 2009, I completed my masters thesis, “Pasyon, Awit, Legend: Reynaldo Ileto’s Pasyon and Revolution Revisited, a critique.”

The work attempted to do two things: to document what I considered the marked limitations of Ileto’s answer to his critical question, and to formulate an alternative methodology to answer it adequately.

I presented my findings on June 18, 2010 before a conference hosted by the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore, Engaging the Classics in Malay and Southeast Asian Studies Conference. Over the course of the conference, Bomen Guillermo and I spoke extensively, and discovered that we were addressing ourselves to similar issues in regard to translation in Ileto’s work. Guillermo’s ideas were published in Philippine Studies in 2014.  He wrote

Guillermo, Ramon. “Translation as Argument: The Nontranslation of Loob in Ileto’s Pasyon and Revolution.” Philippine Studies: Historical and Ethnographic Viewpoints 62, no. 1 (2014): 3–28.

Guillermo carried out a sustained and careful examination of Ileto’s nontranslation of loób in his work and the implications of this for the plausibility of Ileto’s argument.  In a footnote to Guillermo noted, “Indeed, although Scalice has devoted much more time developing a critical Marxist perspective on Ileto’s work, I have been surprised by our convergence of views independently arrived at while using quite different tools.” I can only express a similar feeling of pleasant surprise at this marked convergence.

My attention, however, turned to my doctoral dissertation on the Communist Parties of the Philippines in the 1960s and early 1970s. My thesis on Ileto gathered dust for several years.

In 2017, having completed my dissertation, I revisited the old project, rewriting my thesis into two articles, effectively reworking and separating its two aspects — criticism and alternative methodology. These parts were published in 2018 as “Reynaldo Ileto’s Pasyon and Revolution Revisited, a Critique,” SOJOURN: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia 33, no. 1 (2018): 29–58, and “Pamitinan and Tapusi: Using the Carpio Legend to Reconstruct Lower-Class Consciousness in the Late Spanish Philippines,” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 2, no. June (2018): 250–76.

In my upcoming posts, I will examine several critical issues that emerged in these articles.

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gusali | building

My cobbled-together English translation of the epigraph to the first chapter of Edgardo M. Reyes’ Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag seems an apt text for the opening of this personal and academic site. This is a deliberately rough translation, far more literal than literary — the scaffolding for a later, and more polished, work.

Sa simula, siya’y isang kalansay na nakatalalan sa hangin. Isang matayog, buhaghag na bunton ng patapong mga piraso ng tablang gato, mabukbok, mabitak, masalubsob, pilipit, kubikong, na pinagpaku-pako nang patayo, pahalang, patulibas, kabit-kabit nang walang wawa, tulad ng kahig-manok sa lupa, at dito’y sisingit ang mga tadyang na bakal at ang mga yero at mga playwud at mga lawanit upang saluhin ang buhos ng labusaw na halo ng tubig, graba, buhangin at semento, at ang malabsang sangkap ay sisiksik at titigib sa hulmahan, matutuyo, titigas, yayakap sa mga tadyang na bakal at sa mga bitukang tubo. Bawat buhos ng malabsang sangkap ay karagdagang laman ng kanyang katawan, karagdagang guhit sa tutunguhing anyo. Unti-unting mapapalis ang mga kalansay na kahoy, kasabay ng unti-unting paglapad at pagtaas ng katawang konkreto. Kikinisin siya, dadamitan ng salamin, tisa, marmol at pormika, hihilamusan ng kulay upang umalindog ang kanyang balat. At sa kanyang ganap na pagkaluwal ay bibinyagan siya, at ang pangalan niya’y iuukit sa tanso.

Sa simula, siya’y isang kalansay na nakatalalan sa hangin. Pagyayamanin siya, maglalaman at lulusog sa dilig ng pawis at dugo. At siya’y matatayo nang buong tatag, lakas at tibay, naghuhumindig at nagtutumayog sa kapangyarihan, samantalang sa kanyang paanan ay naroon at lugmok, lupaypay, sugatan, duguan, nagtingala sa kanyang kataasan, ang mga nagpala sa kanya.

Sa simula, siya’y isang kalansay na napahahabag, at nagwakas na isang makapangyarihan, palalong diyos.

There is a great deal going on in this marvelous opening passage. There are shades of Feuerbach and Marx, as the alienation of the construction workers is expressed in language of fetish and projection. Among the workers — prostrate and collapsed — is the protagonist Julio Madiaga. There is a marvelous and untranslatable ambiguity to the verb nagpala, which conveys simultaneously shoveling and blessing. Bound up in this single commonplace word are both the spiritual alienation and economic exploitation of the working class in Reyes’ novel.

In the beginning it was a skeleton struggling in the air. A towering, loose heap of thrown-off pieces of rotten wood, worm-ridden, split, splintered, twisted, cubiform, nailed standing, jutting, crossing, senselessly cobbled together, like chicken scratches in the dirt, and here will joint the steel ribs, galvanized iron, plywood and particle board to catch the turbidly flowing mixture of water, gravel, sand and cement, and the pulped material will squeeze into and overfill the mold, dry, harden, embrace the steel ribs and the pipe intestines. Every pour of pulped material is added flesh on its body,an added line to the intended figure. The skeleton of wood will slowly be swept away as the concrete body slowly widens and rises. It will be polished, dressed in glass, tile, marble and formica, facewashed with color to pretty its skin. And at its complete birth it will be christened and its name engraved in bronze.

In the beginning it was a skeleton struggling in the air. It will be enriched, fattened and given health by the watering of sweat and blood. And it will stand in perfect stability, strength and sturdiness, erect and towering in power, while at its feet are – and prostrate, collapsed, wounded, bloody, faces turned upwards to its height – the ones who shoveled it.

In the beginning it was a pathetic skeleton; in the end a powerful, arrogant god.

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