Story Analysis: “The Safe House” by Sandra Nicole Roldan

          Many people had expressed their experiences or opinions about Martial Law during Ferdinand Marcos’ time. It was said that those who were actually alive during that time said that Ferdinand Marcos was a great president, while those who weren’t said that he wasn’t—probably based on what they learned in our Philippine written history.

          But the story of Roldan brought me to a new perspective. A story that happened at the time of Ferdinand Marcos, of Martial Law, in the perspective of a little child.

          The little girl lived in a four-storey building, with four units to a floor and walls high and wide. Their house was identical to any other houses in that area—within the gates of the complex. I assume that place was a subdivision or some kind, made from a housing project designed for genteel middle class living by the First Lady, as her pride and joy.

          There were people going in and out from their house, which she considered as her “relatives”. Very many relatives. Some would stay in for the night, some would be there to be fed, sometimes to get money, to treat the wounds or change their bandages. They always TALK ABOUT IMPORTANT THINGS, with capital letters. The little girl did not probably have the right or the mind to know or understand, but these important things seemed to be confidential. Classified. Top secret. You name it.

          A time during the martial law. The feeling in my gut told me that these guys must be revolutionaries, going against the government. Against President Ferdinand Marcos. Why did they need to be in that house to be treated when they can go to the hospital? Where did they get those wounds in the first place? It was no doubt. One time when the little girl wanted to watch the late afternoon cartoons, there were a lot of her relatives in front of the TV. On the screen was the president and they all suddenly “erupt in a volley of curses”. They hated Ferdinand Marcos, and they’re gathered in that house to revolt against him. The little girl was only five that time—it was 1982—still too young to witness something like that.

          These relatives came more often on those times, treating the apartment like their own house. And that was also the time she lost her mother.

          When the house was crowded, the little girl’s mother was quietly crying in the kitchen, murmuring about underground, revolution, taxes, and bills. Soon, maybe about a few days or months, the mother left, emphasizing that she will never return. A year after, her father was arrested right outside their house one August afternoon. With all the neighbors watching. Even though her mother was never mentioned right after she disappeared, I have a feeling she has something to do with the little girl’s father’s arrest. Although he wasn’t really arrested because of being part—or being the leader, in my assumption—of the revolution, but because of illegally owning firearms. It was 1984. Her mother left on 1983. I couldn’t imagine what this girl had been through.

          The little girl would sleep with her father in the cell during weekends. One time she had a dream about war: she saw a blood orange sky of where the bedroom and the living room should’ve been, which I assumed that her house was destroyed. To make her house look livable again, she painted it with different colors. She also painted a sun, a moon, and a star on their red floor so she would have light. There was no one else in the dream.

          I don’t know why it was a dream of war, but maybe because of the broken-down house.

          It was years later when she realized that those relatives weren’t actually her relatives. I’ve calculated she was already 20 years old when she did, when she saw a familiar face from fifteen years ago. Fifteen years ago was 1982. Fifteen years after is 1997. By then she realized that not even her house was safe enough, that anyone cannot be trusted. That must be the meaning of her dreams.

          The Safe House. Ironic. Though it was clever put. It gave the story a mysterious aura.

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Note for Thoughts: “Ad Populum”

          The world had gone to the point where everyone stopped caring about what’s right or wrong, as long as everyone else is doing it. It is a sad fact that people refuses to listen to those “unpopular” opinions just because it goes against their constructed norms.

          People had forgotten about the proper morals of care and respect, bombarding their opinions at anyone anytime through different ways—rallies, social media, etc. They’ve embraced the idea of clichés and stereotypes and let it spread like an epidemic. It’s a world where “bad” boys are praised, where watching porn is a norm for boys, and where having sex before marriage does not violate anything just because the law does not require it. The worst part is they think it’s okay. They forgot the saying that “quality beats quantity”. They completely lost sight of what’s right and wrong and judge anyone who doesn’t follow their ways.

          What had the world become? We’ve reached the generation where people are immoral and think that it’s normal, where they think that the unpopular opinions are garbage, just because everybody is doing it.

          It’s a fallacy.

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Story Analysis: “The Vagabond” by Austin L. Wiggins

          “The Vagabond” is a short story in which Austin L. Wiggins, the author, presents how it is possible for a religious person and an agnostic person to get along. Eleazar, the preacher who lived in his run-down church, takes in a stranger who had been discovered by travelers nearly buried in the shifting sands. Eleazar finds that the man was looking for a place in which he believed does not exist, the Oasis. It is said to be a place of unity and had an abundant supply of food and water. Eleazar tried convincing the man to stay, which the stranger politely declined.

          Wiggins wrote the story in third person to equally convey the perceptions of both characters—Eleazar, the preacher, and Jovahn, the stranger. But the author seem to show more of Eleazar’s perception than of the stranger, where the stranger did not really have too much thought of anything other than looking for Oasis. This is probably because of the author’s relationship with religion and standpoint on God and fate that influenced the portrayal of Eleazar, though it could also be assumed that Jovahn simply does not think of anything else other than looking for Oasis.

          The story presented a setting in which the world is currently experiencing a geomagnetic surge that depleted most water sources and food. Travelers found Jovahn in his near death and left him to Eleazar to avoid the burden of more division of their supplies. Driven by his accustomed conduct, he took the stranger in without question and even wanted to learn more of him.

          When Jovahn woke up, he knew right away that Eleazar was “a preacher of some sort” (paragraph 16) when he noticed the cross on the wall of the room that gave him the conclusion that it was the reason why he had let him stay, when he asked “That’s why you let me stay here?” (paragraph 16). Eleazar did not give any response concerning that perception of thought stereotyped to preachers, but was actually impressed by his acute thinking from someone who had just woken up from unconsciousness. Other than that, Jovahn did not show any opinions concerning his religious stance, but was more focused on returning to his journey of finding Oasis.

          After a meal Eleazar shared and which Jovahn was thankful for, Jovahn proclaimed to continue his journey. Eleazar’s conviction drove him to state his belief about the non-existent Oasis and was worried about “willing him to his death” (paragraph 22). Jovahn expressed that he believed meeting Eleazar in church was not a coincidence at all, which implicitly is the same belief Eleazar have on fate, but he did not wish to intrude in Eleazar’s path and wish for Eleazar to do the same to him.

          In other circumstances, Jovahn would’ve been annoyed and attacked Eleazar’s faith for trying to stop him in his journey. He didn’t. He was quite annoyed for Eleazar’s insistence, but he didn’t direct it to his faith. He did know it was caused by Eleazar’s belief, but he understood that, asking politely to let him go. Jovahn understood Eleazar’s beliefs that had influenced his concerns and actions. It is the same way Eleazar understood Jovahn’s decision, despite the unmatched beliefs. Their interactions showed that there really are no need for arguments in terms of religion, as long as there is understanding and respect of someone else’s beliefs. Eleazar had told him what he had to tell, that “there is no such thing as Oasis” (paragraph 22). The rest will be on Jovahn’s decision.

          Although the disappointment of the result of Eleazar’s insistence, the two parted ways as strangers who only showed concern and thankfulness towards each other.


A special thanks to the author of “The Vagabond”, Austin L. Wiggins, for helping me provide information I needed for this activity. I feel like it’s not good enough, but it’s all I can analyze 🙂

The story had also affected me, also because I believe in the existence of the Almighty God and wish that those who do not believe in Him should not be so hard towards Christians. And I also hope Christians will not be so judgemental towards unbelievers. The world will be a better place with everyone respecting each other.

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“Stress”

“Stress”

by Dawn | January 21, 2017 | an excerpt from my coming novel

          Light rain was moistening the road, forming small puddles near the sidewalks. Lynn peeked from under her umbrella, looking at the grey sky and streaks of droplets hitting the ground with light tapping sounds. She was pleased with the climate befitting her heavy mood, with white noises from kids playing under the rain ringing around the still neighborhood.

          On the way to the main road, Lynn didn’t want to be in a hurry. Her face and body felt too heavy to even walk in her normal pace. The world felt heavy, as if gravity had slightly increased its force. The slow steps still reached her to her first destination, nonetheless. She got a cab, and was on the way to the city.

          Slowly, more and more people appeared on every side. Despite the day nearing to an end, a lot of them still seemed to be busy. Cars come and go from both lanes, commuters load and unload from service cabs, and some of them chose to walk a distance—whether with an umbrella or not.

          The rain was lighter in the city, and by the time she got out of the cab, it stopped. Lynn stood in front of the mall, ready to cross out every item in her grocery list.

          This was the time of the day a mall would be crowded inside, not by those who’re busy but by those who’re looking for a place to spend a friend or two with. Lynn usually preferred staying in a small room with no other living organisms other than lizards or tiny insects, but there was also something about being in a crowded place where everyone was a stranger. Where everyone can be unnoticeable by actually being there. It’s one of the powers of psychology, and one Lynn can no doubt live with.

          Every aisle, Lynn’s grocery list got crossed out by twos or threes. She still had to go through all the aisles all over again in looking for a certain item, which she never found. She left the supermarket one item short, and was both desperate and unwilling to leave. Lynn couldn’t choose between the comfort of invisibility and the comfort of home. In the end, she aimlessly found her way inside a bookstore—with no new books in store.

          Lynn dragged her feet towards the exit, with a heavier weight in addition to her grocery bag, but a good distance to mope around. She didn’t mind the slower pace, it was quite comforting from her usual speedy work of homeworks and projects driven by stress. There was nothing wrong spending the day like this before stress comes back in the next two days.

          Her gaze was on the ground, and she saw a pair of feet stopped in front of her. She walked around it without looking whom it belonged to, but she wasn’t able to pass through. A hand caught her arm, and she has no choice but to look. Her invisibility was penetrated by someone’s blue gaze she knew so well. He was the first stranger she had looked in the eye. Only, he wasn’t a stranger.

          “Jayce?”

          “It’s in the middle of a Saturday and you still looked stressed,” he said, with his tone ending into a statement, not a question. His lack of questions made his declarations more truthful, and technically undeniable.

          “I’m just tired,” Lynn told him, slipping her arm from Jayce’s firm but gentle grip.

          “You always say that.”

          Point made. Lynn had always said that, which was true most of the time, but was always used as an excuse. She always used it around everyone, but this guy just couldn’t easily be fooled. He knew she was tired. He also knew it wasn’t as shallow as that.

          Lynn only nodded, avoiding his gaze before he’d see something else. Her eyes landed on a small plastic bag in his hand. From a pharmacy.

          “You wanna eat something?” he asked before she could. And before she could respond, he motioned her to follow him.

          They entered a food court, and Jayce led to her to a stand of Flavored Fries. He didn’t say a word, didn’t even ask what kind of food she wanted, and ordered right away. Lynn didn’t have to. She liked flavored fries, and he seemed to be ordering the right flavor—sour cream.

          Lynn cocked a brow at him. At everything he was doing.

          “Aiden said you like fries,” he said, as if reading her mind. He tilted his head to her. “And sour cream.”

          She let out a breathy chuckle, amazed at Aiden’s mouth giving out a lot of small insignificant details.

          “He said it makes you feel better, too.”

          Lynn held herself back. She wanted to insist she was only tired, but knowing Jayce it wouldn’t make a difference. Though she was grateful of his concern, and for the effort of actually trying to make her feel better, even if those distant eyes of his were holding something else he should be more concerned of. She glanced at the bag in his hand again. His mother was blessed to have a son like him.

          “Thanks.”

Posted on Wattpad | “Quick Streaks”

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“Just another Rainy Day”

“Just another Rainy Day”

by Dawn | January 19, 2017 | a narrative

          I’ve never seen a day with the rain so active. This was probably the fourth or fifth time it rained today, with short stops in between, and it’s still two hours after noon.

          The city was experiencing a very wet day under a local thunderstorm, a low pressure area that passed directly through the province. Today was its fourth day, and by the looks of it this thunderstorm will probably stop tomorrow.

          It was Thursday. School was suspended not because of the thunderstorm. The constant rain couldn’t be considered harmful in any way—it was lesser than moderate. But it had been raining since Monday, and the river a few distance from the suburbs were getting higher and higher. Three feet, white. Five feet, blue. Now the water almost overflowed at red level. Houses in the riverbanks were underwater, and its surface almost reached the base of the bridge.

          The last flood incident happened about four years ago, when our house was still one storey short and the gates were made with wood that was simply penetrated down the soil to stand. Hours before evening, my family and I stopped by the river near the unfinished bridge to inspect the water flow. The current was strong, and soon it overflowed. It was our cue to get back home, expecting that the water wouldn’t overflow too much to reach the neighborhood.

          But, unfortunately, we were wrong.

          The water hit ankle level by around 6 or 7 PM in the evening. My father and some neighbors thought the canals were clogged, though fifty-fifty they knew the water was from the overflowing water of the river. They tried unclogging the waterways, as others played safe and evacuated. My teachers who lived in the same neighborhood went to us, thinking maybe we were going to evacuate. The moment they confirmed it was flood, our van couldn’t get through the water level. It was a good thing a rescue truck came before the water was high enough to prevent vehicles from entering. We sent our teachers to the rescuers. My whole family stayed.

          We couldn’t leave. Not without saving some of our properties inside the house. My mom had packed the meals she had just cooked, and I saved all my artworks and notebooks by putting them at a higher shelf—forgetting to save my textbooks from school. The moment my father prepared a ladder to the roof, the water was already knee level.

          We went up with a couple of blankets, food and clothes. The rain had died hours ago, and the sky was clear with the moon illuminating the flooded neighborhood. The rising water stopped just under our house’s window—chest level of my father’s height. All of us were in the roof, including our dog and an unknown neighbor. Five PM in the morning, the water completely dried up.

          That flood was caused by a typhoon. I guessed people were afraid it’ll happen again, taking a close watch of the river and letting the neighborhood evacuate. Today’s thunderstorm was only a thunderstorm, a low pressure area passing by. The river water only flooded the houses near it, but it didn’t overflow. The riverbanks were constructed with flood control projects, and it helped a lot. The unfinished bridge four years ago was now being crowded by people who wanted to take photos of the violent river.

          I never stepped on the road today, and it felt like the world had stopped. The commotion near the bridge didn’t reach here, and despite that, it was very peaceful.

          I know by heart that we will be fine.

 

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