Forever 81 is now forever 84. Old enough to know better, hehe. Weekly columns take one week to write and one week in advance to send. So here is a terribly late advance photo of me and Ryan Villamael, hopefully in a provocative pose.
This talented, curly-haired youth shares exhibit space with me in Silverlens Gallery (July 10-Aug. 9). Ryan has the 4×4 special cubicle where he will show his artistic road maps.
I like Ryan because he gave me a sculpture of a bright pink male aswang with a crown of gray fur for hair. The creature has a head of garlic in his palm, for which reason he is barfing a stream of bitumen that includes a baby chick, the symbol of an aswang infiltration. Maybe it’s a really cool piece because a grandson is trying hard to wheedle it out of me.
At 84, you can do anything you like and hope it will shock the panties out of some fuddy-duddy friends, but it never does.
Morbid, but I’ve always liked contemplating death. Mariel and I and our old gang of healer wannabes used to help old people prepare for their departure (as if we knew how). So, all my life, it seems, I’ve been fascinated with the idea of dying. (How nice to be met up there by my husband with a big warm hug!)
Last year I orchestrated a rehearsal for the wake I wanted when I died. You see, when my husband passed on everyone thought his wake was so tasteful and gracious (something he himself would have approved of). But it was just too proper, too conventional for me!
One day, my BFF Manny brought a CD of Marian Faithfull songs after she had lost her voice. Faithfull had reinvented herself as a gravelly voiced drunken singer. I loved it.
“You must play that in my wake,” I said.
“Your children will flay me,” Manny said, horrified.
“So why don’t we just have it now?”
“Yes,” I said, “a living wake, with all our more improper friends around.”
And so it came about. No torturous paeans to the departed. Just a happy time shared by all, with a procession of the guests in the garden, the corpse among them.
I even know where I want my ashes to go—under the hundred year-old santol tree by my gate. With the two dogs, the old cat and Rafa’s turtle? Yes. To fertilize the earth. To be of some use. Aside from signing an agreement that any organ of mine still useable may be harvested.
My practical lawyer husband had long ago apportioned our real estate to the children and given them the titles. All that I own now are a bit of savings and the artworks I have acquired throughout the years. Huge, fantastic Elmer Borlongans, great Onibs and magnificent early tableaux sculptures of Julie Lluch. All acquired when these now famous artists were young, unrecognized and still affordable. Time has made them a treasure. And some other artworks besides.
Soon I plan to part with them. But I do not like to dictate which piece goes to which child. Chances are I’ll make some error of judgment. I want each one to be able to choose what they really like.
So I decided on this method: write 1, 2, 3, 4 on separate pieces of paper to represent each child and his/her family. Whoever picks up no. 1 from the box will the first to choose what he/she likes. It is not necessarily a choice of peso-value, it can be a sentimental choice, an artistic or a practical preference (Will it go well with my house? Or do I have the space for it?). No. 1 to 4, until every object has found its owner.
But as I’ve said, I like to be part of my death. So one day I asked my two sons (oldest is dead and the daughter lives too far away) to list down every object in my house.
“Then let’s have a party,” I said, “so I can enjoy seeing who will own what when I’m gone.”
My boys are not artists. One is a banker and the other is in treasury. They set about doing the job of listing the pieces with the efficiency of actuarians. They wrote down the pieces of art in the house. They listed every piece of furniture including dining table, round tables, buffet tables, coffee tables, side tables; bespoke cabinet; bookshelf; wooden drawers for clothes; trunks; Balinese bed; decrepit sofa; decorative chairs; antique armchairs; and every blessed dining chair. My bed, refrigerator and oven were classified as “junk.”
None of them was about to take away anything, but I began to feel how it was to die. Your personality is completely erased from the earth. There is no whiff of the you who has been.
Yesterday at St. Luke’s Hospital I was told by my doctor, “If you contract that disease at a late age (mine), its spread is slow.”
Somehow, although I was more than ready to go, there was a reprieve. How long? Only God knows. Maybe you’ll still see me around in the next 10 years.
It was twilight. As if on signal, all the cicadas in all the trees of the compound began their serenade—in unison, rising to an ear-splitting crescendo. A beautiful yellow moth fluttered by. (Daddy?) The Bangkok santol fruits started bombarding the bedroom roof and the ancient santol tree rained fruits all around me.
Suddenly I remembered I was still alive, with a coming exhibit, with a few frames still to be sent, queries by buyers still to be answered, my feather pants still to be fitted, my nails manicured a fiery red. The guests would come in crazy clothes they “wouldn’t dare be caught wearing elsewhere.” And my handsome, curly-haired co-exhibitor will be waiting at the door for my wheelchair and me.