Tuesday, September 08, 2015

49. NVM Gonzalez

Pete Lacaba recalled how in one writer's forum,  NVM Gonzalez retold the tale of the sick king and his three sons  who were sent to catch the Ibong Adarna. The king would only heal if he hears the enchanting songs of the bird. The first two brothers were set off on a hunt. But they failed, because as soon as they found the bird perched on a tree and the Ibong Adarna would sing, they would fall asleep, and the Ibong Adarna's droppings would hit them and turn them into stones. Thus, it was the third and youngest prince's turn to find the cure for his ailing father. But in a chance encounter with an old man, the youngest prince because of his kind heart, was warned by the old man about the spell. The old man gave him lime and told him that as soon as the bird sings, he should cut himself and distill the juice of the citrus fruit on his wound to keep himself awake. The Ibong Adarna would sing seven songs, so he had to cut himself and press the lime seven times as well. The bird would then poop and he had to make sure that he avoided its droppings so he won't turn into stone like his brothers. And then it would fall asleep, at which time, he could catch it.  The young prince did as he was told, he was able to resist the lure of sleep, avoid the Ibong Adarna's droppings, and capture it alive to heal his ailing dad. 

NVM  warned the writers in that forum that they have to be the young prince who should struggle to keep awake as the lure of the Ibong Adarna's voice tempts them to sleep. Their role in society is to stay for the night. They should press the pain of the lime on an open wound, so they won't fall asleep, avoid the droppings, and capture the mythical bird. 

I don't know why that vocation of capturing the bird should be exclusive to writers. I think the tale is meant for all, and NVM wouldn't mind if I say that it is a tale for lawyers, teachers, fathers, mothers, and children too. The lure of the Ibong Adarna's enchanting songs could be anything: entertainment, computer games, money, gossip, power, sex, all these mundane pleasures that may be beautiful but with potentials of turning all who encounter them into stones, or zombies -- to keep the myth up to date with my kid's language. And like the young prince, we should cut ourselves and press the lime on our wounds to keep ourselves awake. Cutting our wounds is like making sacrifices. In this generation, pain has earned such a bad reputation, but we should remember that pain keeps us awake. Like fasting, exercising, or instilling discipline on ourselves against these pleasures, whatever that could give us enough to keep us mindful, because it's the only way for us to stay the night so we can capture our mythical birds and bring the cure to all our ails. And the old man, thanks to him for the tip. NVM Gonzalez, whose 100th birthday is celebrated today, is the old man in the myth. 

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