“Have you recited your prayers?”
“So what are your plans now?”
“I don’t know. Let them do what they want. But this will be their last.”
They did it again. How could they? Haven’t they had enough? Those people are surely getting into my nerves. They can’t dismiss you just like that!
“Oh, just let them. Anyway, if you look at it in a positive light, it’s still in favor of me.”
But what will happen to you now? “Of course I’ll have to suffer the consequences. But I’d rather do that than swallow something that will just make me puke!”
Abram is now gone with the authorities. I warned him. Now I’m alone again in my room. First is Richard, then Ace, and now Abram. This actually gives me the thought- Am I actually destined to be alone?
Could he been more patient with the administration, he could still be enjoying his freedom. Now, he suffers the consequence of spending solitary nights on the detention cells on top of Makiling. And now that he already tasted the sweet carols of the outsiders and now that he is already blinded by the flickering colors of lights that relentlessly swing like vines on almost every tree in the streets, the situation can be worse for him. Poor Abram. If only his parents could do anything for him. That is, if only they can manage to get themselves out of the freezing abode of darkness, provided also, that they will be able to find pieces of themselves and put them together like pieces of micro-mini jigsaw puzzles.
The air outside seemed to release its anger on us by gathering all the heat in other places and then blowing it all hard on our faces. All the trees outside are blank, and is just accepting the howls and punches of the angry wind outside. Trees- their number has been doubled, or even tripled since FPJ died. It’s ironic how the great army of trees outside do not function as they should- which is to protect the remains of our kind. Now they serve a different purpose. They still serve as guards and fences though. But now, most of them (I say most, for I believe, and I still hope, that there are at least two or three trees out there that are still able to move their roots to cling on the innermost layer of soil) are dummies. Most of the trees that you can see outside, no matter how real and fresh they may look are no less than the artificial pine trees that we display in our houses during seasons such as this.
People during Niño Mulach’s time always have this wishful thinking at the back of their minds that they wanted to experience a “White Christmas,” but it’s funny now to think that people are clamoring (of course just in the back of their minds) for a kind of Christmas that they can just see in old magazines and books found in the Library. Though the colors of the rainbow seem to dominate the street scene at night, the silent shimmer of the pale street floor provides a more powerful effect than those lights that sways in futile ways among the trees that weren’t even responding to them, therefore making them appear as if they are floating stupidly against the brutal air.
Since that incident, all I can remember is the instance when “The Vulture” (our professor) was enjoying the company of her prey (it’s actually us, her students) when she suddenly collapsed right in front of us, dumbstruck, still with a nasty smile on her face, covered in white glitters that immediately came rushing towards the tiniest hole of our body. It was only then that I truly believed in my “artistic” skills. It was during that incident that my artistic imagination was tested.
If I can still remember it right, I actually saw myself promoted into a higher level of wizard. From a grey wizard, I am promoted to be a white wizard. I then went back to middle earth to check on my fellow Hobbits- Wow! The hobbits are actually me. It’s amazing to see myself as those little Bigfoot creatures. I know that it is Frodo who will lead the fellowship. Now, all I have to do is to bring the ring to Mordor. I know what will happen next! The orcs will attack. But wait, I know they’ll attack. But where are they? Aren’t they supposed to attack now at this place? Something really bright and sharp hit the corners of my eyes. It is the Ring! The ring flares like the fires of Mt. Doom. The ring shines. It glitters. I saw Sauron.
I saw the Eye.
Next thing I knew, Caty’s eyes are glaring like big spot lights on my face. Whew! What happened? Why am I here? Where are they? All that Caty can give me is a blank, glaring stare. I scanned the place. At first I thought that I turned color blind, or that I am still living in the world of fantasy, but not until I saw the colors on the gleaming eyes of Caty, that I managed to think that we’re in a room wherein the color is actually the same as on the outside. It was like a dream. But as I tried to rummage the room with my eyes, I was actually surprised to see other eyes that actually greeted me with questioning stares. There are bodies. Bodies white as Gandalf’s beard. I looked at Caty. She too, is also covered in white glitters. Actually, the only thing that sets her apart from the others is her glowing braces.
I will never forget that day. I was eighteen then. It is the day that actually changed not just the whole of Los Baños, but also of the Philippines. Since the age of mythology, Mt. Makiling is regarded as and enchanted mountain and is known as a sign of peace, tranquility and mystery. It is an epitome of a female goddess in the earth that protects the realms of Los Baños. And never has it occurred to me that Mt. Makiling will in any way be a symbol of wrath and chaos. Her seemingly tranquil poise is actually hiding a fiery furnace inside. She seemed to me as if she’s a lady being wooed praised and used so many times, that one day she suddenly burst without warning into fury. The wrath of Mariang Makiling erupted on that day, when things down her feet all seemed to be normal. Mariang Makiling’s fiery eruption ironically turned the town not in red, but actually in white. She seemed to have only erupted Zillions of tons of ashes that actually buried the town in white glitters. Up to now, that phenomenon still puzzles scientists of various countries.
Thanks to them and their high edifice, at least some of us, including me, are saved. Since that time, we all long for color. We all long for fire. They said they will provide us fire, but still, all I can see is plain white.
Having the town and actually the city, buried under Makiling’s wrath, the Fire movement started dominating the society. The fire movement started making laws and started imposing them on the newly formed society. The fire movement is actually responsible for our rescue; therefore, most of us really look up to them as “saviors.” The fire movement, having all the resources and help they need from their chapters here and abroad, has formed a sort of community, which is anchored on their mystified beliefs and ideals. Most people have no choice but to accept the offer to them. Otherwise, they could just die outside their building like the vulture that drowned into the glittering ashes. So, to cut it short, they acquire power over the populace and dominated them with their fiery principles.
From the start, the idea of a utopian environment from the ashes seemed to be really nice, but not until Jericho took over the seat. It was just around ten years ago when he replaced Daryl at the seat. Jericho’s interest, if you will look at it more deeply, is basically for the benefit of the people, but eventually, it turned out that most of them are political in nature.
Eric is not at all evil. He is just one of those devout individuals who have embraced their faith and principles so much that they eventually drown on it- but Eric is exceptional. He does not choose to drown at all. He opted to pull himself up again, having absorbed all the necessary elements and skills that he need, and rise as a very ambitious man wanting to impose a new way of embracing the fire. He wanted us all to live according to the principles of the fire. He dreamed of having fire as the only means of creating order in the society, particularly in LB. Because of Eric’s will to unify the people under one fire, he then established his own government.
Since then, we all live like buko pies. We have enclosed ourselves in a community baked under the fire as the “baker” bake and mold us in his accord. But not all buko pies are baked perfectly. Sometimes, it is the ingredient itself that resists the baker and its fire, therefore creating an imbalance not just on the pie’s appearance, but also on its taste.
Thirty years have passed since Makiling erupted. Though I haven’t took notice of it, it was thirty years ago since I experienced wearing jackets as the season approaches. It was thirty years ago since I last ate bibingka and puto bumbong with my friends. It was actually three decades ago since I took my last picture.
The windows are all in sweat. It was a white Christmas indeed. It is Humid and warm in the atmosphere but actually cold inside. They have all gone. I warned them. Why don’t they listen? I wonder if Eric felt cold amidst the heat outside. I don’t want a white Christmas. I miss the green Los Baños.
“I’d rather do that than swallow something that will just make me puke!”
“Paul, have you recited your prayers?”
“Sorry. Not yet. I was just about to…”
“So what now?”
“I know now. I don’t want your fire. Burn me instead. Burn me to ignite my own fire. Through that I can only be free.”
Only if you burn me can I experience warmth within.