Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Feminist Manifesto


1. The tune belonged to Don McLean. The lyrics, to her: "Ilong long longgo ako..." 
"It must be nice--"
Abigail jumped off her table, twirled to face her attacker and drew her laser. "Rizal? I almost fried you!"
"But you didn't, didn't you? " He smiled and held up a brown bag. "That's because you could smell breakfast."
She put the laser back in her pocket and took the bag. "Pig? Again?" She ripped the sandwich in two and handed him his half. "Couldn't you get me tuna? Or lettuce?"
Rizal went to her floater and sat on it. "It's not 'pig,' it's 'ham.' And who eats lettuce?"
She shoved the sandwich into her mouth. "Not I said the cat."
He was still smiling. "You always say that."
"My mother's expression."
His smile disappeared. "I'm sorry."
Abigail sat on her table. "Don't be. She chose to die." She took his half of the sandwich and ripped it in two. She put both pieces in her mouth. While chewing she said, "Another one of her expressions was, 'We are the choices that we make.' She should have written greeting cards, my mother. Or stuck to graffiti."
Rizal floated towards her. He put a hand on her shoulder. "Hey, she couldn't have been that bad. I mean, she raised you well. She taught you Tagalog, for instance. And you got your voice from her."
Abigail looked at her watch. "Oh, let's forget about it! The atmosphere's bad as it is without going in to my genealogy."
He smiled again. "All right, all right. What do you want to do?"
"Get back to my job?"
"Seriously? We only have a ten minute break, you know? How about some loving?" He put his arms around her.
"Oh, oh not yet." She elbowed his ribs. "Not yet Rizal." She jumped off the table. "You better get back to your rounds, Milan is doing her rounds, you know?"
He got off the floater. "All right. But tonight, right?"
"Tonight, yes."
He kissed her on the cheek and left the office.
"Tonight," she said, and got back on the floater. Leaning back she interfaced with the U-5882. All at once billions of gigabytes assaulted her mind. Phone calls, emails, conversations. It was a flash flood, but her mind was the best surf board in the archipelago. She sorted each byte with ease, twirling, somersaulting, smiling all the while. It was the same damned thing all over again: the Army's assault on the Constabulary at Fort Prison. There was still no end to the fight, and there were speculations that Bonifacio was going to use chemical weapons. Still the same damned thing. Abigail's watch remained silent. It was not yet time.

2. When Abigail finally disconnected, her watched said six in the evening had come. She shook her head. Milan had not yet arrived. She was supposed to bring dinner, as well the ammunition. Abigail began singing again: "Ilong long longgo ako..." For eight minutes and thirty three seconds she sang. Then Milan arrived with a backpack. Abigail jumped off her table. "About time."
"No time to argue. Interface back."
"Why? I just got off."
"Fort Prisons has fallen."
Abigail interfaced with the U-5882. She saw it, billions and billions of gigabytes. She was no longer doing surveillance for the Constabulary now, no longer under the dominion of that terrorist Bonifacio. Now was the time to reveal her true colors, now her secret identity was to be revealed, now was the time to take pride in being a soldier of the Army. It was time. Milan, the ammunitions! Abigail disconnected.
The first thing she saw was the laser in Rizal's hands, then Rizal, then Milan's corpse by his feet. Before Rizal shot her she realized Milan no longer had a head.

3. She regained consciousness she didn't know how long after. She felt the arm cuffs binding her. Her jacket clung to her skin. She could not perform an interface.
She didn't open her eyes. She had to know her status as prisoner. Fort Prisons was one of the last pieces supposed to fall in the Army's endgame, but it was not the last. She needed Milan's backpack. Oh, Isis be proud! Milan! Milan!
"Open your eyes."
"Open them, or I will shoot you and harvest your brain."
Abigail opened her eyes. She was on the floater, still at her workstation. Rizal still had the laser. Milan still didn't have a head. Abigail bit her lips.
"Not my fault, she fought."
"We are warriors, you don't have to apologize."
Rizal put the laser down. "The destruction of Prisons. You must be so happy."
"I'll be even happier when we finally get rid of your Kingdom."
"My Kingdom? My Kingdom is not of the earth."
"Your Kingdom, your Kingdom. Pig!"
"You're not listening. There is no Kingdom, not anymore. They have taken MalacaƱang. Bonifacio is dead."
Abigail's arms tingled. Victory, Milan! Victory, sister! She looked straight at Rizal's forehead. "Your lies will not loosen my tongue."
"Do you have any idea how long you've been unconscious? Don't you have a nose?"
"What?" Abigail bit her lips as soon as the word came out of her mouth. She was letting Rizal goad her! Nose? What did he-- Oh, oh Isis, oh! Her eyes traveled back to Milan's corpse. Maggots were crawling out of the neck. The stench hit her like a barrage of gigabytes on the U-5882. If her arms weren't bound she would claw at her eyes. She returned her gaze to Rizal's forehead. "Needless cruelty, there’s a cauterize function on that thing, you know? Kill me. There is no point. You have lost the battle. Your rule is over."
"Again with the 'your'! I am a loyal cadre of the Constabulary, Abigail, but not all males benefit from Bonifacio's Union."
"Then let me go, I will speak in your behalf. You shall be granted amnesty."
"Your tongue might not be loose, but your mind certainly is. Amnesty? Your friend Milan would certainly speak against that! More forcefully now that she doesn't have a mouth." There was no bitterness in his voice. Just regret, cold resignation.
"If you're not going to kill me, and you don't want to surrender, what the hell are you going to do? The Army knows about this place. It'll be just a matter of hours before my sisters arrive."
"Hours. Lots can happen in the hours remaining."
"Like you starving both of us to death?"
"Like your sisters coming, triggering my booby traps and this whole mountain exploding."
"You were unconscious for almost a day. Milan wasn't much for conversation, but her backpack was full of tricks." He took the laser and set the corpse on fire. "Damn maggots. But you must be hungry, what would you like? Ham, or ham? Milan is an option, of course, but better make your mind up. She's going to be charcoal in a few minutes."
"You talk too much, for a male."
"Isn't that sexist?"
Abigail could not respond. Tears escaped from her eyes.
"You cry just enough, for an Amazon." He got off the table and walked towards the floater. With one hand on the laser, he released Abigail's arm cuffs. "You are broken. You may go."
Abigail slammed her forehead against Rizal's nose bridge. The laser fell, and she back flipped to pick it up. She landed, disintegrated his legs and pressed the laser on his left temple. "Why? You rapist, why?"
"Your question contains your answer. All males are rapists to you. Why try to reason with me?"
"We were going to make things better. For all of us!"
"The Union of the Patriarchy was my life. Bonifacio wasn't benevolent, but he brought us stability. He would have died eventually, a nobler Patriarch would have taken his place. Your Army disrupted the cycle! Your Army destroyed any chance of the Philippines being anything! Better? Better? I grew up in White Stone Island, you whore! Anything was better than that!"
"Say your prayers, rapist. Three, two--"
"Kill me and you'll never find out where Milan is."
"Stop. Your. Lies. Three--"
"Groin's not burned, fool. Check the genitals. I don't have legs, what are you afraid of?"
Abigail put the laser in her pocket. She took her jacket off and put the fire out with it. She bent down, released Milan's belt and pulled down the pants. She saw pubic hair and then, darkness.

4. When she regained consciousness she opened her eyes at once. She could not feel her left arm. She could not move her left arm. She lay on the floor. She took a peak at her left arm. Charred. Charred. Her legs she could feel, they were not charred, but she couldn't move them either. Isis damn the rapists! Rizal's lies had loosened her mind. Her eyes found him sitting up against her table. "You dragged me around?"
"You were unconscious for half a day. Milan was still all cold shoulders. That is Milan, by the way."
"A trap? In her groin? That is cruel... even for a male."
"Why complain about my cruelty? Rapist, I'm a rapist."
"You let me incapacitate you, in order to incapacitate me? This is madness. I'm going to crawl over there and kill you."
"I might not have legs, but I have both arms intact. And the laser as well."
"You want me to kill you."
"No I don't. Besides, you can't kill me. Not just because you don't want to, but because you can't."
"Isis have mercy!"
"If you kill me, you'll never know where I put the bombs. When your sisters find this place, there's still going to be explosions."
"Isis forgive me!"
"I thought the Army didn't have gods?"
"Isis! Isis!"
"Shut up whore! You deserve this."
"Isis destroy the rapist!"
"'Destroy'? I thought you and your sisters preferred the word 'murder'?"
"Isis erase him from the universe's memory!"
"'Primal murder,' isn't that what you people call it? Kill an oppressor, kill two persons: the oppressor and the oppressed. Any one, not just Army members, can commit primal murder. Just one murder, towards a Social Democracy."
"'Social Democracy'? You're not much of a spy, are you? Which edition of our manifesto have you read? The third? The second?"
"You really can't resist talking to me."
"You are right, Rizal. What can I say, you have the gift of tongues."
"I give angelic cunnilingus!"
"And I give you my goodbye." She rolled. Her stomach against the floor, she began her crawl. With her right arm she dragged her left arm, both her legs and her torso.
"I'm going to fry you! Don't go away!" Rizal shouted.
Abigail remained unfried. She continued crawling.

5. She crawled up five escalators.
Rizal caught up with her with the floater. "There is no exit, you know," he said, "There was, but now no longer."
"Is this hell then? Did Beelzebub put you aside specially for me?"
He shrugged. "I'm sorry, I'm not familiar with Catholic myth. That is a Catholic reference, isn't it?"
"How about a truce?"
"A truce? Are you kidding? I have the floater, I have the laser. This is not a negotiation!"
"If you stop playing your games, I'm not going to kill myself."
"That's what I want! To break you, my last revenge on the stupid Army, stupid Amazons, stupid sisters and the stupid Revolution."
"You don't want me to die, because then you'd be here all alone."
"After you kill yourself I'm going to set the bombs off."
"You can't kill yourself."
Rizal pointed the laser at his forehead. "Want to bet?"
"Don't you see, you fool? You're a Last Man, you're one of Bonifacio's precious gems."
Rizal's trigger finger twitched, twitched, twitched. He threw the laser on the floor. "You whore! How long have you known?"
"Five, six years? I operated on you myself."
He floated three meters directly above her. He jumped.

6. When she regained consciousness she couldn't open her left eye. "Rizal?" she shouted. "Rizal?" She was back at her workstation, lying on her table. With only one operational eyeball she could not scan the whole room. "Rizal, have you figured it out yet?"
"I have." His voice came from Abigail's left.
She rolled. Her right arm against the table, she saw him on the floater.
His mouth bled. "I have."
"Very funny, yes?"
"Bonifacio was a fool, signing the Act. Give the females some liberty, or else they will all come to the Army. We were fools! Fools! I should have spoken up!"
"You are just a cog in the machine. Your voice didn't count."
"And yours does, in the Army?"
"This plan with Milan, the Army didn't plan it."
Abigail rolled onto her back. Staring at the ceiling she continued to talk. "We are nomads, soldiers attached to no unit. The Union, the Constabulary, Bonifacio, they all could not figure out an organization without hierarchies. They could not grasp the concept of spontaneous revolt."
"Spontaneous revolt, yes. Primal murder, maybe. No hierarchies? No way! Your Army won you this Revolution, with its generals and colonels. Your Army, your multitude of Amazons."
"There is an old American saying, 'The deeds of the many outweigh the deeds of the few. But that doesn't mean the few are useless.'"
"You're making things up!"
"How many hours have I been unconscious?"
"Hours? You've been unconscious a day and a half."
"In the past three days I have: lost an eye, an arm, the control of my legs, and my best friend. I'm going to die soon, so I would have to request that you forgive my excursions to delusions!"
"You're almost as talkative as I."
"I don't have much to do. I've lost mobility and half my vision!"
"You want to interface?"
"There's no new info coming in, the Army must have disabled all input capabilities. But hell, there's still billions upon billions of gigabytes here."
"You'd let me interface?"
"I'm bored. I'm going to fondle your breasts while you're plugged in."
"You can't rape me either, idiot."
"The multitude won the Revolution, but technology played a part as well."
"Bonifacio, child of whores!" He floated towards her. "How do we do this?"
First he got off the floater and fell to the floor. Then they found out the floater was too far from Abigail's right arm. So Rizal had to climb up the table and then jump back up. He failed on his first seven tries. His jaw unhinged, he got back up on his eight attempt. He floated down to almost the floor. Then he jumped off, breaking his collar bone. Abigail failed on her first try to get on the floater. Her nose broken, she got on it on her second try.
Before interfacing, she addressed Rizal: "You'll still be alive when I get back?"
He took so long to answer she thought he was finally dead. "No. I won't. It's time."
"Thank you for this."
"Consider it a teardrop apology for the ocean of crimes we have committed."
"I programmed that, you know. Your stupid attempts at poetry."
"No. My mother, she read rhymes to me as a child."
Abigail did not reply. She interfaced with the U-5882. Her body died two days later. Her mind died the day after that. A month passed before the Army found her, and Milan's headless half-burnt body, and the mad, mad Rizal, singing 'American Pie' off tune, maggots coming out of his ears.

Philippines Free Press
May 17, 2008

Monday, May 12, 2008

The End of Pornography


1. "What's that one?"
"That used to be Rizal's grave. Now it's a sinkhole."
Neo-Unionists bombed the Quiapo Abortion Center a week before Jessie Mae's thirteenth birthday. Her mother, a doctor, was one of the 37 killed. Her father, a doctor, took Jessie Mae and moved to his native Aklan. On her sixteenth birthday, she moved back to Manila. She visited Quiapo right after she got off the Elevator. Three years and it hadn't recovered.
After the Revolution Quiapo was a model of prosperity and peace, with abortionists and Catholics working side by side. Now:
"And that one?"
"That used to be the Quiapo Church. Now it's a swamp."
Now Jessie Mae was twenty seven years old. Her father had just died, and the Neo-Unionists added hundreds to their numbers every day. So far, the Feminist Party remained in power. But the Elevator Act was abolished, restricting the use of elevators to travel around the Philippines, and a referendum had been called, calling for the abolition of the Pornography Act.
Jessie Mae was a pornographer. She had wanted to be a pornographer ever since she was ten, when she first read Anais Nin's Delta of Venus. Neo-Unionist lobbyists claim the pornography encourages prostitution.
Jessie Mae worked for Speck, a weekly videomag. Her job was to root out slavers, child pornographers and prostitution companies, in order to keep pornography as art disassociated from the garbage that keep popping up in Filipino inboxes.
"How about that one?"
"That used to be the headquarters of the Office of Piracy and Information Dissemination."
"What's it now?"
"Nobody knows."
That's why she was in Quiapo again. Quiapo, the blight, the only place in the Philippines were videophones didn't work. Quiapo, where no one could access the Internetional. The only place inaccessible by bullet train. Ilocos was the only place where drugs, alcohol and cigarettes were legal, Quiapo was the black market’s portal.
Jessie Mae had come to Quiapo to meet her contact, who had information regarding the headquarters of the Romancers, a band of pimps that worked for different prostitution companies. They were reportedly under the pay of the Neo-Unionists.
Vicky was a Justicar of the Office of Execution. They had worked only once before. Jessie Mae had found the younger woman quite irritating.
"How about that one?"
"That is Pascual's. It's a restaurant. That is the place we are going."
"You don't like me, yes?"
"You're nineteen. You're a Justicar. You kill people for a living." Jessie Mae re-activated manual controls and prepared to land. "I have no choice but to like you."
Vicky pouted. "Well, you don't like liking me, yes?"
They got off Jessie Mae's car at the same time. Vicky had wanted to bring her mobile, fool of a woman. Jessie Mae looked around. Everything was bright at Pascual's parking lot. There were only a few cars about, and absolutely no other human being. Vicky dealt with the robot attendant. Jessie Mae felt her laser under her coat. The Laser Act had made it legal to carry digital firearms once more, and she was glad. She hated it that Vicky insisted on bringing only a pistol. She was going to get murdered in Quiapo, just like her mother, because of an airhead Justicar.
It was all lights in the restaurant too. Pascual's was semi-private, but all the booth tubes had their blinds drawn.
"Welcome to Pascual's!" The maitre de was a robot as well.
"Llanes, party of three."
"Feminist Party?" The robot's eyes shone brighter.
Vicky laughed out loud. "That's hilarious! You're a Y2K model, yes?"
"Indeed ma'am, programmed with over 2,000 jokes!" The robot turned to Jessie Mae. "Is there something wrong? You're not a Neo-Unionist, are you?"
Vicky laughed once more. Jessie Mae smiled. "Just hungry, a thousand pardons. Feminist Party. Our third, a man, will be coming soon."
The maitre de gestured, and a robot waiter floated towards them. This one led her and Vicky to a corner booth tube. Vicky pulled up a chair for Jessie Mae.
"Here are your menus," the robot said. "Would that be blinds or no blinds?"
"Blinds please, thank you."
The robot gestured and the rest of Pascual's disappeared from sight. "Just push the red button when you're ready to order. My name is Angelo and I am delighted to be of service to you tonight."
"Thank you, Angelo," Vicky said, reading the menu. The robot floated away. Vicky, eyes still on the menu, said, "Why are you so nervous?"
"Only the paranoid survive."
"The Union isn't that powerful, JM."
"So you say. But the people are voting for their Acts." She scanned the menu. "Sometimes I think we should dismantle the Internetional. The people are getting too much information, they can't assimilate it properly."
"You sound like a Unionist."
"Yeah well, maybe. You ready to order?"
Vicky nodded. She got a salad. Jessie Mae had apple pie. Their dinner was quick and efficient.
"He's thirty minutes late."
Vicky put her flossing machine on the table. "He'll be here. Trust me."
"Trust you? He's my contact."
"You're too tense. He'll get here, eat, give us the information, leave. Then we'll eat again and leave. That's the plan. You planned it. Nothing's going to go wrong."
The blinds came off and Jessie Mae saw the other booth tubes, all unblinded as well. About twenty men, all in fatigue, were searching through the tables. They were all carrying high powered lasers. Except for one, who was wearing a red gown, and was being dragged around by what looked like a robot gardener. Jessie Mae was seated twenty meters from the man, but she saw that his nose was broken and some of his teeth were knocked out.
He was her contact.
Jessie Mae took out her laser. "How good are you with that pistol?"
Vicky shot the robot gardener's head off. All around Pascual's costumers brought their videophones out.
Jessie Mae jumped off her chair and ran towards her contact.

2. The lights were still bright at the place she came to. But whereas Pascual's air smelled of wine, the hospital smelled like alcohol. Ethyl alcohol.
A robot nurse was standing beside her bed. "Welcome back, Jessie Mae Llanes. Please wait a moment, your human companion just went to the comfort room. She has all the information you need to know. Or do you want to request a doctor? Human or robot?"
"Thank you, my companion will serve the purpose." She added in a whisper, "Isis, make her be Vicky."
It was Vicky. She had a cut above her left eyebrow and carried a book under her armpits. "A moment of privacy, please."
"Very well. If you have any requests, feel free to push the red--"
"The red button, yes, I know." The robot left and Vicky sat at Jessie Mae's feet. "How you feeling?"
"He's dead?"
"Burned to the ground."
"Was it the Romancers?"
"Them and several other bands of pimps. The Neo-Unionists have declared the government illegitimate. It's Civil War. The flag of the Constabulary has been raised."
"Isis have mercy!" Jessie Mae looked straight at Vicky. "What a minute!" Vicky's hair--it was gray.
"How long have I been out?"
Vicky looked straight at her. "Twenty six years."
"No! Isis no!" Jessie Mae tried to sit up and found that she couldn't. Twenty six years on a bed! She brought her arms to her face. Old, sagging. "I had a will! Why wasn't I given euthanasia?"
"Euthanasia Act's been abolished. We need all the warriors we can get."
"You were a gardener for Speck for nine years. You can pilot assault bikes, and you know Quiapo." Vicky took the book out of her armpits and put her hand of Jessie Mae's. "We've been waiting for you. We shall wait no more. You have two days to recover, after which I will take you to the retraining center."
"Isis have mercy!"
"Isis is dead, JM. We have to destroy the Constabulary if you want her resurrected."

3. When she was released from the hospital three days later, Jessie Mae found the rest of Manila mirroring the Quiapo in her head. The once proud spires and towers were broken shards pointing at heaven. The mess of metal and glass that once glittered with the sunlight were now bent and shattered on the streets. Vicky was the one who had suggested the walk to the tenement. Jessie Mae had expected giant robots and aliens. Instead there were quagmire and swamps.
Jessie Mae's new room too was a swamp. She remembered her grandmother telling her that the Philippines used to have slums. At a corner of the room rats were feeding on a cat's carcass. Jessie Mae found herself wanting to cry. She was going to live in her grandmother's memories. "This is good," she said. "This is good." She sat on the folding bed and began counting the rats.
Vicky sat on a monoblock. "This is only temporary. Once you get reassigned, you'll be living with me at the barracks. You're probably thinking about food--"
"That book you have under your armpit, who wrote it?"
"What? This? Oh... Let me see... Do you remember Chuckberry Manansala?"
"Of course you do. He was a bestseller," Vicky scratched her chin, "back then."
"Was he the one who was a sculptor too?"
"The architect?"
"The theologian!"
"Yes. Yes."
"Of course, Manansala... What's that he said, about Jesus?" Jessie Mae pinched her lower lips. "I remember! You remember? How did Jesus walk on water?"
"He turned the water into ice." Vicky took off the book's jacket. "Of course I remember. Look at his picture. See? Not bad, yes?"
Jessie Mae leaned to look. "Not bad at all. Whatever happened to him?"
"The Constabulary captured him and tortured him to death."
Jessie Mae wanted to invoke the name of Isis, but out of fear that Vicky might get mad again decided not to. "And that book?"
"His last. A novel. The Leviticus of Princess Stephanie."
"What's it about? The Old Testament this time?"
"It's about four friends. One of them got raped in her childhood, and she told the other three. But later on, the three got mad at her, and started spreading rumors... Princess Stephanie, the girl who was raped, the three said she lied about that to them, and everybody else. About getting raped. They said Princess Stephanie only wanted attention."
"Is it a good read?"
"Its politics is solid." Vicky stood up. "Listen, about the food--"
"I'll just catch some rats." Jessie Mae stood up. "Listen, you said you couldn't tell me at the hospital, but we're at a cemetery now. What happened to Speck?"
Vicky walked over to the room's only window. "Do you really want to know?"
"Yes, yes."
"They closed it down after the Anti-Pornography Act criminalized pornography again."
"What? How could they have done that? The referendum? You! You're a Justicar! The Office of Execution--"
"The Office Act abolished all the Offices."
"Preposterous! Next you'll say the Jessie Mae Giambattista Act abolished me."
"Like I said, we needed warriors. "
"Curious, that. What use would you have of me? I’m untrained, uninformed. Infirm, weak. Invalid. Tell me the truth, why am I still alive?"
"I don't want to talk about it."
"This is ugly. All of this is ugly."
"We're at war. Twenty two years we've been at war. What do you expect?"
"I expected the Philippines to be as beautiful as I left her. I expected the Party to stay in power." Jessie Mae picked up the folding bed and threw it at the rats at the corner. They continued eating the corpse. "I expected to wake up in my own reality! I'm more than fifty years old, I should be a decade retired!"
Vicky went to her and hugged her. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I watched them all die and I couldn't do anything." Vicky started sniffing.
Jessie Mae pushed her away. "Don't you dare cry." She went over to the corner, kicked at the rats and picked up the folding bed. She set it up in front of Vicky. Jessie Mae began to undress.
"What is this?"
"Twenty six years asleep. Twenty six years they took everything away from me. I'm going to start taking my life back."

4. When she woke up she found herself alone. She found her neck wounded. She found a note from Vicky as well: "A rat bit you. Don't worry, I injected you with drugs. Be back with lunch."
Jessie Mae got off the folding bed. Her eyes found the rats still at their corner. The cat's carcass was gone. They were feeding on dog now. Her stomach grumbled.
"Isis damn you all." She folded up her bed, carried it to the corner and smashed the biggest rat's head. "Lunch, Vicky," she smashed another rat's head. "I have lunch covered."

Philippines Graphic
May 12, 2008