La Tercera A novel

Gina Apostol

Book - 2023

"Rosario Delgado, a Filipina novelist in New York City, learns of her mother's death in the Philippines. Instead of rushing home, she puts off her return by embarking on an investigation into her family's history and her mother's supposed inheritance, a place called La Tercera, which may or may not exist. Rosario catalogs generations of family bequests and detritus: maps of uncertain purpose, rusted chicken coops, a secret journal, the words to songs sung at the family home during visits from Imelda Marcos. Each life Rosario explores opens onto a multitude of other lives and raises a multitude of questions. But as the search for La Tercera becomes increasingly labyrinthine, Rosario's mother and the entire Delgado fa...mily emerge in all their dizzying complexity: traitors and heroes, reactionaries and revolutionaries. Meanwhile, another narrative takes shape-of the country's erased history of exploitation and slaughter at the hands of American occupying forces. La Tercera is Gina Apostol's most ambitious, personal, and encompassing novel-a story about the impossibility of capturing the truth of the past, and the terrible cost to a family, or a country, that fails to try"--

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Historical fiction
New York, NY : Soho 2023.
Main Author
Gina Apostol (author)
Item Description
Subtitle from cover.
Physical Description
464 pages; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references.
Contents unavailable.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Apostol (Insurrecto) returns with a powerful multigenerational epic of the Philippines. In present-day New York City, Filipina American novelist Rosario Delgado reflects on the life of her late mother, Adina, an aspiring multimedia artist who resembled former Philippines first lady Imelda Marcos. In the 1970s, Adina left her abusive husband in Los Angeles and returned with their children, Rosario and her younger brother, Adino, to her childhood village on the island of Leyte. There, as a seven-year-old who'd been raised in the U.S., Rosario has difficulty adjusting. She plays in her grandparents' rambling old house and discovers journals written by her great-great-uncle Paco during the Philippine-American War of 1899--1902, revealing how he and Rosario's great-grandfather Jote fought for independence from the U.S. In later years, Rosario returns from New York and learns that her mother, who is dying, may have been cheated out of a significant inheritance. In addition to the colonial history, Apostol adds scenes of Filipinos marching for democracy during the People Power Revolution in 1986 and making desperate calls to friends and relatives following Supertyphoon Yolanda in 2013. Snippets of Waray, Cebano, and Tagalog enrich a narrative that is by turns gossipy, harrowing, and serene. This is worthy of the modern classics of postcolonial literature. Agent: Kirby Kim, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (May)

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Effects Of the visible works left behind by Francisco "Paco" Delgado y Blumfeld and Jorge "Jote" Delgado y Blumfeld, what persists does not console. The long-dead brothers possessed the following effects: 1. a weird-looking guitar; 2. the rusted remains of chicken coops along the river Himanglos in Salogó; 3. a seawall, a.k.a. AWOL; 4. a digest of operatic libretti (in which a parasite has erased an etching of Lucia di Lammermoor and the ghost shape of a moth enshrouds the buried bride); 5. the name of a dog, Moret; 6. three volumes bound in leather, with a title in gold lettering, William McKinley's World , resting in a domed sepulcher; 7. a wooden box, 9 x 18 x 3, inlaid with capiz, and on its lid the initials F.B.; 8. the journals of a boy already at war but not yet in his teens, 1899-1901; 9. maps of the area called San Jose in Tacloban and of a gleam of land, now called Greenhills, in metropolitan Manila. They were hidden in plain view around the Delgado family home, a forsaken place in the wilds of Leyte, and the question of which brother owned what was moot. We called them both Lolo --their identities interchangeable because it seemed they had none: their world was incomprehensible. For a long time, I mixed the brothers up. No one in the house touched their effects except the worms. The Delgados are a fretful clan, prone to delusions of pathos rather than grandeur. We linger on the abstract, such as despair and pride. I speak of the Delgados I know--my mother's family--madmen and collaborators, so I'm told. By the time I had come across my mother's inheritance, the banality of objects in the material world inhabited by her grandfathers had lost, for my mother, even the sense of the ridiculous--she had ceased to see them. Instead, the memory of La Tercera, a place she had never known, drove her mad. I grew up under the shadow of La Tercera. It was a legacy not quite tangible but not improbable. And this ambiguity has led members of my family, through generations, to acts that have ended in a sense of loss that burdens too many in the place I am from. Top of the World The voicemail was from my uncle, Tio Nemorino, the honorable mayor as they called him years after his regime. I'd been calling my mother the entire month. She had no use for Messenger. Skype was dead to her. She owned no computers. She was the last woman in that selfie-happy archipelago to have only a rotary phone. All I had was her voice. During the years I've lived in New York, I admit I never called her much. I hate the phone. I mislay it, I pretend I'm not home, I hate the need to call people. The rest of the family knows. They know they will expect no birthday greetings, they will hear nothing from me when my books come out, they will learn about my readings on Facebook, where all the Filipinos are. I'm on Facebook for my books. I have a phone for my mom. Her voice was girlish, high-pitched, the voice of one, I thought, who believed too easily in illusion. My mom lived in the future, and the present was a dislocation. She had the trick of making you think it was your existence that gave her joy--partly because of her childish voice, her intakes of breath as she spoke to you, as if her diaphragm and lungs were not formed enough for her thrill. "Inday!" she said when it was first detected, "I'm so healthy. I just had my tests!" She always called me inday, sounding like she had so many children she had forgotten my name, though I'm her only daughter. "But Mom, Tio Nemor said--" "My heart is good, my cholesterol is great, my lungs are perrrrfect! All I have is cancer! Without cancer I'm on top of the world!" And she began to hum that song from my childhood. I could see her doing the cha-cha with the cord of the rotary phone, shaking her hips, dressed in satin and silk, lithe and unconquerable in her feline way, like the stray cats that perched on the unfinished cement wall in Mana Marga's dirty-kitchen, purring in the security of having so many lives. When she was first told she should have surgery to take out her cancerous breast, she refused. "How can you dance the tango if you have only one breast!" I imagined her, Adina an guapa, pearled and perfumed, dancing the cha-cha to Karen Carpenter, in her high heels. I keep seeing her in her seventies bouffant--though in her last pictures, uploaded on Facebook by Putt-putt who never tags me but still I follow him, her hair has thinned. Her reflexive mode of existence was to go ballroom dancing. She wore high heels to water her orchids in the garden, and when I was a kid watching her use a brown eyebrow pencil to line her lips, she laughed as I stared--"Inday!" she said, humming as she did the weirdest things to her face, her deft fingers etching herself into shape--"does it look good, inday?" she asked. "Yes," I'd say, and it was true. I grew up with the daring invention of my mom's daily routines. My mom wore her beauty in a way that was not a drag to others: we were just proud witnesses. Nothing marred her grace. People in Tacloban called her Adina an guapa, that was her nickname. Adina the beautiful. She emerged from her rituals looking somehow like Gina Lollobrigida, who was famous in Tacloban because she once posed by our fantastical bridge. Adina an guapa was a silk-and-organza spectacle from the time of that first dictator, the locus of my memory of my mom. "Top of the World" was her brother Nemorino's campaign song, the one the band struck when Tio Nemorino ran for mayor in the seventies. "You know that's not a good allusion, Mom," I said. "Karen Carpenter did not come to a good end." She told me not to return home. She told me what mattered was that I was an artist--how could I leave New York, she said, when I had my career, I was a hysterical novelist, as she called with pride my vocation, my work on events so forgotten neither victors nor losers give a damn. "It's your dream, inday. You stay where you are. In Green Witch. To do your art." "Greenwich Village, Mom." "It says here on the postcard. Green Witch. Stay in Green Witch." So I did. My mother's gift to me was that she believed in all of my dreams, including the stupid ones. She kept up a perfect face no matter how ordinary or significant the moment, so that neither her illness nor her love sent me home. It was Tio Nemorino's voice in my mailbox that told me she was gone. The Court Case It's no surprise that in a country that exists on the argument of conquest, laws about the possession of land are murky. On All Souls' Day, how many families, bourgeois or not, but mostly bourgeois, burn candles on the plots of the dead only to rant on and on about some long-lost, stolen piece of land? The evidence of the existence of La Tercera is tenuous but not mythical. Of my mom's lawsuit over her intestate Lolo Paco's lands, I remember the outlines like vague crisscross shades produced by the nighttime gauze of mosquito nets, that shadow-roof of my childhood--though all my life my mother kept italicizing the facts. Lolo Paco had no will, he had no child, when he died who should inherit his properties but us--the children of his blood, of his only brother, Jorge Delgado y Blumfeld, my Papá's papá: your Lolo Jote! I grew up with the incoherent details of Lolo Paco's life and times while I scraped out burnt rice at the bottom of the kaldero or slapped at bugs that got through the moskitero's gauze no matter how firmly my mom tucked me into bed. Minor acts or objects would set her off. Such as food. Once, the particular luster that day of her favorite--fresh hipon--the smelliest stuff on the table, I thought, though I was too polite and in awe of my mom's appetite to mention it--reminded her how much her Lolo Paco had loved the hipon of Leyte, which he called bagoong, and among the bundles that her father, Mister Honorable Mayor Francisco Delgado III, would take on his annual pilgrimage to her Lolo Paco at Greenhills were those jars of purple sheen, Salogó's hipon, wrapped in multiple layers of banig, so that if they spilled, the gusts of hipon would not ruin her father's clothes. Lolo Paco also loved danggit, dried squid, and all the most awful kinds of budo-bulad--basically, he had a taste for smelly things--and I see my grandfather, the Honorable Mayor, also the town's old music teacher, lugging the weight of his bounty from Salogó's dust to Tacloban's gangplanks to Manila's piers. I kept imagining, with a sense of my own humiliation, this proud man, my mom's Papá, arriving at his rich uncle the senator's doorstep--stooped, sweating, and reeking of pusit--to deliver his homage of fermented shrimp fry and salted fish, the province's bounty offered to Manila's gods. Every year, when she had to pay the school bills to the Divine Word Missionary School for my dumb education, my mom mentioned how she could have gone to high school in Manila, you know--and not just college at Far Eastern University in Sampaloc! Anyway, she never graduated from FEU because she refused to wear sneakers during PE, but that's another story. If only her Papá had allowed her to live with childless Lolo Paco and his mean wife, Lola Chedeng, when he asked to take her--he wanted to adopt her when she was just a baby! Ah, instead, who got to be the child growing up at the senator's dinner table? Oh, that cripple, that orphan--that Madam Charity Breton! That poliomyelitic! "Oh my goodness, inday, how could she call herself a Delgado--she could not even walk! Agi nga poliomyelitic! An American with no name, left behind by a GI, a ward of the orphanage, a no-name saved by the Gotas de Leche! Ay leche, that Gotas de Leche!" And at that last word, that unholy leche! , my mom started laughing. I can see my mom, lifting her head up from her usual occupations, pasting weeds on cloth canvasses or gluing baubles on homemade lampshades, her veined finger sticky with her pastes, raised to her lips. "Oh, inday, do not say that word leche , it is bad!" And then she crossed herself because she had said the word again. Listening to the way her holiness mixed with her prejudice, a troubling jumble of ethics that as a child I could not pinpoint as a portion of my malady, only that I felt it, I felt my mind skip over my unease the way I always moved the fish's eye, prominent in my mom's beloved tinola, to make it look away from me. "Ah, inday, what would my life have been, if not for that orphan who took all of Lolo Paco's lands, that greedy woman, your Auntie Charity Breton!" "Well, Ma," I said, "if you had grown up at Lolo Paco's table, I think you would still be eating too much hipon and budo-bulad!" Excerpted from La Tercera by Gina Apostol All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.