Monday, November 30, 2009

A Nihilist in Carmen Guerrero-Nakpil's memoirs

I have found acclaimed political journalist, historian and writer, Mrs Carmen Guerrero-Nakpil's trilogy of memoirs (Myself Elsewhere;Legends and Adventures and Exeunt) interesting reading. Mrs Nakpil's memoirs could be made into a movie, that is if she would want to have her life made into a biopic. The first book deals with Mrs Nakpil's childhood and early womanhood and marriage to Toto Cruz (executed by the Japanese) in a colonial Ermita bajo de las campanas, as she would have it. The carnage of February 1945 put an end to this idyll and Carmen Guerrero emerged at war's end as a young widow with two children to care for.

The second installment deals with her career as a journalist cum writer which represented a clean break with her sheltered, religious and privileged youth. By then she had remarried to Architect Angel Nakpil and joined the picketline against her blurb's publisher.. A true blue nationalist, Mrs Nakpil earned the reputation of being the "most unAsian, Asian" condescending whites ever met. Also she in this installment, describes the 1950s and 1960s in its freewheeling elan, decades that could have propelled the Philippines to progress, but it was not to be.

True to her independent and non-flipping colours, she is unapologetic about her friendship with the Marcoses (having lived on the same San Juan street as they did) and the first pages of Exeunt deals with her being misktaken by Hong Kong immigration as a mistress of a well known Marcos crony general at the time of the 1986 EDSA revolt.

Mrs Nakpil served as director of the Technology Resource Center and UNESCO Philippines chair. In roles that seem to discomfit her, she had to tread the moral tightrope vis a vis those with ill designs on public office (which Mrs Nakpil believes is a public trust). Her comment on the failure of the Yellow Revolution should open reader's eyes when they choose the next President in 2010. What colour of ribbon should we choose? Mrs Nakpil wryly notes that the last two decades were a failure because these were "blighted by self serving motives". Mrs Nakpil believed that EDSA 1 was a revolution that miserably failed.

It is plainly obvious that the past two decades have brought us elected officials that have little concern for the people, save their own. It is in this sense that Mrs Nakpil describes the incumbent Palace tenant as a sort of nihilist. It is not of the Nietzsche kind but of the "I don't care as long as I get mine" kind!

Well we are going to elect more of these kinds of "nihilists" come 2010. Mrs Nakpil now in her late 80s and has penned her exeunt (meaning "get off the stage") is likely to see The End and the curtain call. The Filipino people have to make sure that the "fin" is indeed liberating.


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