The hero the Philippines has forgotten

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MAURO GIA SAMONTE

OR what could be written otherwise as Foreword to a needed retelling of the biography of Dr. Jose P. Laurel, Nation Above Self. This is the book that I have been busy with since last year and has finally made ready for printing this week. If the schedule does not miscarry, final print will come out in November, for launching in conjunction with the death anniversary of Dr. Laurel on November 6.

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There is already a long line of titles on the life of one who I had written about in a past column as “the greatest President the Philippines never had”. But it is precisely this failure by the country to have Dr. Laurel as its greatest President which has made me see the need to write one more account on his life, with a focus on the true degree of his service to the Filipino nation.

Here is how I had delineated my Foreword (by literary orthodoxy, Preface) to the book:

After reading a rich array of literature on Dr. Jose P. Laurel, I cannot escape the feeling that I have made just one reading instead of the many I have actually done. This is because while the accounts on the life of Dr. Laurel are many, they generally speak of the same things.

To begin with, there is already this book Days of Courage by Dr. Laurel’s daughter, Rose Laurel-Avanceña, who co-authored the work with Ileana Maramag. Published in 1980, the book should stand as the bible of Dr. Laurel’s life. There has been no other in the same league in terms of scope of coverage, richness in details and intimate access to information on the life of the Laurel family, otherwise unknowable by any outsider. Any attempt to duplicate the feat of that work will be futile.

There is, however, this aspect that sets my brand of writing apart from others. I am not a product of the academe. I have not ingrained the standard methods learned in formal training in writing. I go by my own methods.

My long years of experience in writing have crystallized in me a uniqueness of the creative process in the writing craft. You really don’t have to spend so much time thinking of what to write about or how to write it. In all cases, once I set my mind on a theme, I begin writing. I don’t even have to think how to begin or what to begin with. Just begin and your mind will instantly command your fingers to type what needs to be written.

The reason for this is simple. Nobody can write about anything which is not his life. And what is one’s life but his past experiences all stored as knowledge in his brain? Those experiences include mental inputs generated from a variety of sources through the senses. Only those things that are within one’s storage of knowledge can one write about; those outside that storage, he just won’t be able to write about.

Now, this means that on the subject matter of Dr. Laurel’s biography, nothing that you don’t already know about him will you be able to write about. So, once I set my mind to starting on the undertaking, my fingers typed what my mind was commanding them:

“Manila was a softly glistening jewel even as it fell in deep slumber that night of December 7, 1941. Much of the city lights had been turned off, but with traditional yuletide lanterns having begun adorning houses in neighborhoods, colors added to the city’s illumination all around.”

That was 1941, when Dr. Laurel was already Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, a long way off from his boyhood, much less his infancy. For a biography, this seems to be an odd beginning. But that was how my writing began. That’s how, in fact, all my writing begins: with whatever my mind commands my fingers to type.

That is a peculiarity I have long realized in my kind of writing. It is that kind which recognizes that you only need to have a fixed mindset on a subject matter for you to be able to start writing. And once you start, your writing takes on an exclusive, intrinsic dynamic which decides such aspects as where your writing will go, what your writing will contain, how each aspect of the content of your writing –in whatever stage in your writing that content is—will relate to each other, and whatever else there is to consider.

I don’t prepare—because I don’t believe in—a synopsis, as most writers do before embarking on the full-scale manuscript. How can you possibly prepare a summation of something that is not yet fully done?

(To be continued tomorrow)

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