Sunday, June 12, 2016
4:08 PM |
Was Rizal Gay?
Happy Philippine Independence Day, everyone! Here is an excerpt from an old science fiction piece I wrote titled "The Pepe Report," which is included in my collection
Heartbreak and Magic: Stories of Fantasy and Horror (Anvil Publishing, 2012). In this story inspired by Ambeth Ocampo's
Rizal Without the Overcoat and J. Neil C. Garcia's provocative essay "Was Rizal Gay?," I follow a character named Dr. Lamco in a dystopian future where a restrictive and moralistic government has commissioned him to do a cloning project to find out whether Jose Rizal was gay. What he finds instead astonishes even him.
“What’s this?” Dr. Lamco asked.
“This, Dr. Lamco, is what we need you to uncover about Jose Rizal…”
“What of him?”
“To find out, however you can, if he was a homosexual.”
Dr. Lamco shivered. It was a word long suppressed by the Maintaining Infrastructures—an identity so vile and dripping with secrets and taboo. It felt like a shock hearing it so openly acknowledged, and by the Gender Minister himself!
“By the look on your face, I see that I’ve shocked you,” the Minister said, laughing a bit.
Dr. Lamco only nodded.
“You should be. Such aberration remains a total abomination in Manly Society. That is why we need you to clone Rizal, and determine from his full genetic make-up if he has the trigger of a homosexual nature. We cannot accept such an icon. It weakens the symbolic Maleness we must foster for society to stay true in its path.”
Dr. Lamco found his voice. “But we can determine that with simple gene culture! It won’t be a complete result as you might get from a full humanoid body, of course—but it is revealing enough.”
The Minister shook his head. “We need the full procedure to determine the truth. No chance should be left to genetic metonymy.”
“All right…but why the sudden interest?”
The Minister pushed the power button of the ledger and it quickly sprang to life, the hologram dissolving into a compendium of data floating about, glowing orange and green in the air. With his right hand, the Minister brushes on a menu to his right, and a folder opens to reveal a monochrome picture of a man with a mustache. A short man, with the eternal overcoat. It was a familiar sight, yet also foreign, the pixels in the picture revealing the age of the relic.
The Minister coughed. “This is the Rizal. Photographic evidence gleaned from old records. I suppose you are familiar with this picture? It is the picture we can best approve to suit our needs. But this folder is even more important.” The Minister pointed to another menu, which opened to a holographic text.
“This is Rizal’s diary. The historian Guerrero points out an interesting erasure in the section called My Life Away from My Parents⎯My Troubles
, the second chapter.”
The Minister indicated the faint trace of handwriting, something so ancient it bore the primitive device of ink. The details of the script, appropriate to the age, was faint, and the erasure made it much more so. Only a palimpsest remained. The Minister coughed again. “To date, historians believe the erased word might be in reference to a nickname by which the boy Rizal was teased by…”
“Who would tease a hero?”
“Not quite yet
. As was the case in the Old Period of Chaos, childhood was cruel. Rizal’s boy classmates in Biñan town called him names….”
“I recall a bit of this from Historical Records.”
“Yes, yes…we had to edit out a lot of material for the bio-course, enough to be accepted by the Maintaining Infrastructures.”
“Is this why we cannot, until today, read…Noli Me Tangere
and that other book?”
“You would have been shocked by the blasphemous mentions of strange creatures and practices. The Elders thought it best to… But enough of questions for a bit, if you may. I wish to finish.”
Dr. Lamco nodded.
The Minister continued, “In 1949, the historians Alberto and Tomas Barretto, who published the Spanish edition of Memorias
, decided⎯we think erroneously⎯to put ‘Calambeño’ as the original word, which, as you can see, had been crossed out so thoroughly in the manuscript. So thoroughly
it denotes a kind of shame in Rizal’s part. And yet…” The Minister brushed another folder, and another text ran. “This is what the 21st century gender theorist J. Neil C. Garcia had written. I must warn you this is sensitive, confidential material… It cannot be shared with anybody, not even the closest associate in your research team.”
Dr. Lamco again nodded. The Minister continued, “Garcia said the word ‘Calambeño’ did not seem to be, as an epithet, ‘sufficiently opprobrious to have called for an excision.’ If you look closely, the pattern of the three tall strokes are not consistent with what you can see as definitely two tall strokes of the original word. The question we had in mind, when we first thought of this project, rose because of this historical mystery. What could be so derogatory that it needed to be savagely erased by Rizal?”
The Minister paused.
“Could this word be the Tagalog ‘binabayi
,’ which as a taunt means ‘sissy’?” he continued.
Dr. Lamco found himself taking a deep breath.
“If you notice,” the Minister looked at him, “when the very word is written down, you could very well see the two tall strokes spaced just right.” The Minister pushed the off-button, and the ledger’s parade of holo-graphics shrunk to their shell.
, my dear Dr. Lamco…” he said. “You must tell us, was Rizal gay?”
"The Pepe Report" is also published in
The Anvil Jose Rizal Reader (On the Occasion of the Sequicentennial of His Birth), edited by Ani V. Habulan (Anvil Publishing, 2011),
Philippine Speculative Fiction Anthology, Volume 1, edited by Dean Francis Alfar (Kestrel, 2005), and
Philippines Graphic Magazine, 12 March 2006
Labels: fiction, history, queer, Rizal
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