Prof. Sarah Raymundo
for Concepcion Empeño*
The work of death in an island of cheap matters like raw resources and warm wageless bodies does not require gas chambers and crematory ovens of Holocaust proportions. They are needless and so out of fashion in the current book of human rights, the liberal humanist edition. It will tell you that things are better because we have acquired a more elegant way with words.The linguistic turn transforms the human condition. The climate of impunity is made up of such extravagant claims.
Meanwhile, we have grown accustomed to practices of waiting and expecting, the kind that is akin to the uncanny act of burning both sides of the candle. In almost all relations, homecoming means “to be yours.” I distinctly remember the very first time I met the school principal. It was in an office room that housed me for many years, the same room I can never come home to. But she was there, a stranger to me and to the situation that History got her into. I took a mental picture of the mother who was looking for her daughter in my eyes. “Do not blink,” whispered the Angel of History. And so I didn’t. And so I won’t.
Yet she who administers the everyday affairs of teachers and children also gets busy marking her school calendar with regular appointments that seem like therapy sessions, only that they mostly occur in the streets. She takes pride in these engagements as though they were some source of prestige, security and survival.
Yesterday, while walking along the street of Padre Faura, I had an unusual encounter with her in my head: We are in a mass demonstration. I am, as usual, looking for an escape valve for a big matter such as this system just because the people’s History is mine, too. She is making a list in a manner that would make any atheist think that she’s been taken over by some religious ritual that turns her into an infantile fixated neurotic. “May I see your wish list?” I demand. “I don’t have one,” she answers. “I am listing the names of everyone who’s here. So they won’t disappear.”
*Nanay Connie is the mother of Karen Empeño. The latter is an activist and student of Sociology from the University of the Philippines-Diliman. Karen together with another activist Sherlyn Cadapan were abducted by military elements in Bulacan in June 26, 2006. They have been disappeared since then. There would be big rallies in which I expect to see Nanay Connie as I also wait for her daughter’s return.