In writing as in life, there’s always a rich relative. While this character may know little about literature, the arts and classic architecture, it figures prominently in most writers’ works. It may be there as a symbol of an era gone by, an exhibit of social mobility or simply, a portent of things to come. But there it is, always – the prosperous one – the one that has tons of money. The one who made it to the top by sheer and dogged determinism. And lots of roughness, of course. But didn’t I say that people from this class think that literature, the arts and architecture are simply subjects in college? They think they’re in the same league as notebooks – stuffs that could be bought and just as easily?
Anyway, why am I propounding this? If you have to make a career out of writing, there’s got to be one, up close. By saying you’ve got to have one doesn’t mean that that relative who can afford to drive a car, dine at Megamall on Sunday evenings and look all pat and respectable in their clothes and offices. No, you got to have the real, serious rich. Yes, the kind that has a unit or two in Serendra, drives big, flashy cars and packs the children off to New York or Sydney or Paris, for the summer. That is the kind that you must have. Having one will not only provide you with plenty of materials for your writing, but also give you a better view of society and a better grip on things – things very important when you’re in this kind of business.
So, you suck up to them and you better begin early. In the same way that relatives on the way to the top commence early in scouting for young, nerdy, poor relatives who have the potential to write the annals of the family – the history of their ascent in society.
So, this happens to be you. You’re related to this rich relative directly, one or two degrees away. You go to their house on weekends, your parents ask you to. You knock on their door, the servant lets you in and asks you to wait in the living room. While you’re sitting on the sofa that could probably build two houses in the village, you check out the design of the beams, the texture of the carpet, the patterns and hues of the flower vase on your left. You do all these before lifting the still crispy copy of National Geographic. You wonder if the members of the family really do read the magazine. Of course they don’t, you silly. Then out comes the matriarch of the family, the one your mother used to play piko (hop-step game) with, back in the days.
She greets you like she’s really glad to see you. But you know better than to believe that. You stand up and greet her. She asks you questions about the kamag-anaks in the bukid (relatives in the local village), as though she were really keen to be updated. You do a slow recitation of the Tiyos and the Tiyas (uncles and aunts), the Lolos and the Lolas (grandpas and grandmas), the Totoys and the Inengs (small boys and small girls) and a status update on the mga alagang hayop (animals in the farm). The rich relative nods her head each time. She’s running a calculator in her mind on how much money to send you away with.
The servant comes in with a bottle of juice and a plate of Fita. The matriarch excuses herself, she goes to the kitchen to check if the adobo (famous Filipino dish) is being done just the way she wants it. You gobble some more Fitas and drink half of the juice before leafing through the National Geographic again. Your eyes look up and catch a view of the balustrade. Correction, they’re not balustrades. Balustrades are for rich people in your barrio. This rich relative’s house is in the city. They are called wrought iron. So, you look in that direction, upstairs, hoping to catch a glimpse of your snotty cousins, who, whenever they come out of their rooms, look like they’ve just gotten out of their beds. Don’t worry, your guess is usually and probably right. But there’s no sign of any of them, just the sound of your Tita’s slippers flip-flopping her way back to where you’re seated.
This time, she has her purse with her. She takes a seat before you and asks you about your schooling. You tell her about the forthcoming quizbee and how you are among the three who will represent your school. She nods her big head again. She follows it up with a question about your parents. You give another update in that direction. She counts the money, tells you how much to give certain uncles and aunties, how much for your quiz bee allowance, and how much is for the medication of Lolo and for the vitamins and nganga (betelnut) of your Lola. You count everything and secure them in the pocket your mother stitched especially for that purpose. You stammer your leave to be excused. The rich relative escorts you to the door that reminds you of that movie – the Da Vinci Code.
Remember, the walk to the door is symbolical. In some ways, that act will bind and carry the two of you through and until that moment – when each or both of you will need to call upon one another’s purpose.