The Lost, Independencia
by Ryle Lagonsin
From my window overlooking the mountains, I watch a line of soldiers climbing up the footpath, small as ants in the green totality of the range. They are all the same, only multiplied in the distance. Each one, a shaded head under a Baliwag hat, defying the high noon.
If I kept my vision from light, I would see my brother with the infantry, marching onward to Cavite el Viejo. I would see a figure with a hooked neck on bony, wide-set shoulders and distinguish the individual gait, his controlled impatience. From an array of featureless faces, I would recognize my brother. With my eyes shut, I can see.
In the silence, he recites again: ‘To reclaim our islands. To reclaim our country.’
My brother fled northwards with the others— barely dawn when they disappeared behind the tall weeds. They had been no more than children. Children cradled in the furnace of affliction, running towards a firestorm. Drawn by tongues thirsting for retribution that cried: ‘Blood for drained blood. Skin for stained skin.’
What separates the man from the hero? A man pays amor propio for a strip of land, for the title ‘Señor.’ A man indulges in philosophies, in cerveza with his friends by candlelight; there isn’t much for him to do these days. A man is he who remains standing while foreign hands snatch the earth from beneath his feet; who gives up principles in exchange for old age.
At night, with the wick smothered, a heart lies beating on the bedspread beside me. The forbidden hour strikes, a calloused hand holds onto mine. It warms my shriveled fingers, presses my wrinkled skin flat against the veins. In the morning, a distant attar of gunpowder stirs me awake.
The sun enters my house through the lone window; its beams, washing the grey away from the walls. Daylight reveals a different view; from where I stand, the mountains move forward under the stomping feet on the ridges, an army comprising flesh and shadows.
Of this month and year, June 1898: today, the colours of this country will finally fill the skies. The common will look up and see their flag, hanging in the air— the same way the others found my brother. Today, they will say the words I can only hope he’d said, in the end:
Sa wakas, kalayaan. At long last, freedom.
Ryle Lagonsin is a writer from Laguna, Philippines. Her writing has been published by Bolivian Express Magazine, Virtual Zine, and Back Patio Press, among others. Currently, she cannot be found on social media.
View of Mount Makiling from Tagaytay City, Cavite photographed by Patrick Roque, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.