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THE APOLLO CENTENNIAL Gregorio C.

Brillantes

cover highlighted by the sun, his lips moving around the words. Happily he tightens his grip on his younger sons shoulder, and he smiles inwardly at his ability to read both English and Tagilocan, at this rare mornings journey to the city, the sure gliding movement of the raft, the sun full and warm on the green river.

WAITING BY THE RIVER. When Arcadio Nagbuya and his two sons arrive on the riverbank, the heat has already begun, the bright humid windlessness of the July morning. It was cool going down the trail from Camanggaan through the talahib and the bamboo brakes: but here by the river the broad slope of sand lies open to the sun, and Arcadio Nagbuya can feel the warmth of the sandgrams; underfoot as they stand about waiting for the raft. By Mr. Balaoings watch it is not yet seven oclock: they should be in the city well before nine. The thin, impatient schoolteacher, wearing an orange polka-dot necktie for the occasion, alternately shades and fans himself with a magazine, and wonders aloud what is taking Lacay Ustong so long. His English affirms his calling, a certificate of distinction which all recognize: I tol hem to be hearrr earrrly, he says to no one in particular, what eiss de materr wit dot man, waving the magazine impatiently at the miniature hills and craters of gray sand, the hollows still wet from yesterdays rain, the women washing clothes in the green water beside the posts of the ruined bridge, the bus parked on the opposite bank. As he lowers the hand holding the magazine the boys edge closer for a look: reluctantly he opens it for them, the gloss of the pages with the color photographs of the old spacecraft and the astronauts glinting in the hard sun. Arcadio Nagbuya glimpses some of the larger type of the Tagilocan text before the schoolteacher resumes his irritated fanning: ANG NAUNANG TAO SA RABAW TI BUAN... SI ARMSTRONG KEN ALDRIN. If he could borrow the magazine, to show to the boys: but overcome by a certain shy courtesy he merely smiles at Mr. Balaoing, grateful for the schoolteachers brief gesture. THE BUS. The maroon Twin Sisters Bus is a converted Nakajima truck with five wooden benches behind the drivers seat. On the high rack behind the windshield rest plastic figurines of the Blessed Virgin and San Martin de Porres: on the rack itself, painted unsteadily on the peeling wood, is a Tagilocan invocation reminding these powerful advocates before the heavenly throne to protect passengers from flat tires, highway robbers, and other hazards of the road. Behind the last bench and occupying the rest of the vehicle is a storage compartment, now filled to the roof with sacks of charcoal, bundles of kakawati firewood, vegetable crates, and chicken cages. On the platform jutting out from the rear of the compartment are piled more chicken cages, a goat with hostile bloodshot eyes, and three pigs grunting passively, bound for the slaughterhouse in the city. The bus is one of the more dilapidated units of the fleet operated by the Hashimoto sisters in the western part of the province, where they own a sawmill, a chain of videoramic theaters, and other enterprises. For a time Arcadio Nagbuya worked for the sisters, in the sawmill in San Clemente: improbable twins, one huge and laughing like a humorous surno wrestler, the other a delicate beauty with nervous eyes seemingly being pushed outward by her goiter. He might have made foreman had he chosen to stay on at the mill and not returned to the farm in Carnanggaan: but the sawdust was bad for his lungs, he recalls now as the curly-haired driver clears his throat and spits out a yellow coin of phlegm and makes one last call for passengers in a mock barkers voice. Intay6n, intay6n sa buan, mga kaibigan! The bus strains up the dusty lane away from the riverbank towards the highway, the driver keeping up his teasing chant and THE RAFT. His shirt beginning to wilt moistly around his frail shoulders, Mr. Balaoingbas set off for the shade of the coconut grove facing the sandy beach, and he has almost reached the slanted trunks with their fronds shredded by the last typhoon when the boys start shouting and jumping. He hurries back to rejoin the group and nearly trips on a mound, recovers his balance, then proceeds slowly, rather formally, towards Arcadio Nagbuya and the others as Lacay Ustongs nephew Pedring poles the raft closer to the riverbank. The boys are chuckling into their hands, and Arcadio Nagbuya gives the older ones hat a scolding brush, pushing it down over the boys eyes. Being in Grade Five, Dolfo is not in Mr. Balaoings class, and his buck teeth are curved widely in soundless laughter. His uncles rheumatism is troubling him again, Pedring explains, digging the pole glumly into the river. Mr. Balaoing squats on the bamboos of the raft, the magazine tented over his head: ISANG GASUT TAON TI APOLLO 11, Arcadio Nagbuya reads the white letters superimposed on the gray cratered moon above the faces of the three astronauts. And: Imprenta ti United States Information Bureau, Southeast Asia Department, Territory of the Philippines, he reads on the black back THE VIEW FROM THE BUS. Mr. Balaoing as usual has taken the only canvas-backed seat beside the driver. Arcadio Nagbuya stares at the frayed sweat-damp collar, the thinning hair combed across the squarish top of Mr. Balaoings head: he thinks again of borrowing the USIB magazine, decides against disturbing the schoolteacher, and turns to watch the moving landscape. The fields are dark green where the young rice has been spared by the storm, yellow-brown in places where it lies broken in the flooded paddies: the trees on the horizon are bluish smudges like smoke, the Zambales mountains beyond a deeper blue, almost the same color as the sky. Far to the south, clouds like soiled rags smother the peaks: it seems Arcadio Nagbuya can smell the distant rain in the humid breeze. He remembers his Arcadio Nagbuyas young sons joining *in, Intay6n sa buan, intay6n, and then there is only the loud throbbing drone of the motor and the fi-amework of the bus squeaking and rattling when the wheels shudder over the waterlogged craters on the asphalt road.

grandfather telling him of the time long ago when the Black Cloud rose to cover most of the sky, and the rains that came after were warm and gray with an ash which made so many vomit blood and waste away in pain. Now the sky is clear but for the remote clouds, and a couple of helidiscs humming in a wide arc over the fields. For a moment the fighter-bombers hang gleaming in silhouette against the mountains, their two-man crews visible in the bubble canopies, before rising vertically, abruptly, cut off from view by the roof of the bus. Something like the premonition of a terrible and swiftly approaching disaster alights on Arcadio Nagbuyas heart: but Andres, he assures himself, knows what he is doing, he will be safe in the interior of the forest. Children playing around the rusted remains of the armored car near Malacampa pause to wave at the bus.

pay him no heed and sing on and pound the floor with their boots: Arcadio Nagbuya notices Mr. Balaoing, the stem disciplinarian of the classroom, nodding smilingly in rhythm. The Cathedral is ringing the half hour as the Twin Sisters Bus slows down in the tricycle and calesa traffic around the rotonda with the headless statue of the Last President. Five oclock, the driver is reminding his passengers, all those who wish to make the last trip back with him should be in front of Qui Sings hardware store at five oclock sharp as he is not going to wait for anyone, not even if he is the bastard son of Don Fernando the millionaire. The shameless who must sing and pound on the floor, he adds, will please, maawa cayo ti tao, take another bus. The young men respond to this last injunction with a chorus of merry obscenities insulting the drivers mother and the size of his genitals.

FROM SANTA IGNACIA TO TIBAG. The older boy is asking for a popsicle. Vendors crowd below the windows of the bus making a stopover in front of the municipal building in Santa Ignacia to take on a few more passengers: three young men and a girl with a guitar, an old couple, a man in a shark-skin suit, two priests, some more chickens, and a turkey in a wire cage which the wall-eyed conductor pushes up to the top of the bus and secures with rope. Arcadio Nagbuya buys peanut brittle for the boys, which costs less than popsicles, and promises them ice cream in Tarlac City: appeased, Dolfo and Doming sit chewing solemnly as the bus resumes the trip on the road that is cemented now, wider and smoother between the stretches of broken concrete. All of them get off at the outpost in Tibag: the soldiers with the skull-and-crossbones patch of the 17th Paratroop Brigade, and uniformly tall and lean, it seems to Arcadio Nagbuya, are polite and efficient, examining each alumiglass necktag quickly and asking no more than the customary questions, except with the three young men from Santa Ignacia. The lieutenant in command, sullen mouth and dark glasses beneath visored cap, steps down from the porch of the guardhouse and directs a soldier to search the trio and look closely at their index fingers, for the tell-tale grooves formed by the triggers of Nasakom pistols. Satisfied, unsmiling, the lieutenant signals to the driver to be on his way, and returns to his rocking chair on the porch, beneath a large poster of the Centennial. For a second as the bus lurches past the porch, the officer seems part of the poster, a masked brown astronaut printed beside the white vertical rocket. Robberrrss and fascistsss, Mr. Balaoing cranes his neck to peer spitefully at the receding outpost, and then meeting Arcadio Nagbuyas neutral gaze, shakes his head and slumps back in his seat.

THE DOME. The plastilium dome like a giant silver egg half-buried in the earth occupies almost half of the plaza and is twice as tall as the soaring memorial to the Heroes of 2045 on the other side of the square. Assembled at the end of June by engineers from the McDonnell Unisat Station in Mabalacat, it is one of similar domes, Arcadio Nagbuya recalls having heard on the radio, set up for the Apollo Centennial in the major cities. In the kiosko tiny and archaic beside the gigantic structure, the band has just finished playing Painulinawen and is blaring out the first jubilant bars of Deep in the Heart of Texas as Arcadio Nagbuya and his two sons hurry past the softdrink and halo-halo stands and merge with the crowd that has collected before the entrance to the dome, beneath a red, white, and blue banner with Apollo 111969-2069 emblazoned on it. The grass has been trampled into a soggy mat of straw and they shuffle inside tracking mud on the floorboards, watched by a round tall American with a cigar and arms akimbo, leaning and smiling by the door.

INSIDE THE DOME. They stand uncertainly in the clear white air-conditioned light, gazing up at the replica of the old three-stage Saturn 5 launch vehicle in the center of the circular hall, its pointed escape tower appearing to thrust through the apex of the concave roof. A mestiza in the blue uniform of the Centennial comes to Arcadlo Nagbuva with a sprightly greeting, a Tagilocan pamphlet on Apollo 11, and a simeographed floor plan of the exhibits. He knits his brows over the sketch, as if to memorize it for a test: the hall is divided into several compartments built around the replica of the rocket. Bracing himself as for a dive, a swimmer breathing deeply of the coolness of plastilium, he leads the boys to the right, to the first section with the blue-neon legend, THE MEN OF APOLLO 11.

ARRIVAL IN THE CITY. Malapit na ti buan, the driver sings out, and Malapiten, malapiten ti Apollo, the boys chime in, and the girl on the rear bench strums a rich staccato chord in accompaniment. The young men laugh and yell, and stomping on the floor, begin to sing the Apollo Hymn: Prom the launch pad at Kennedy, Nell Armstrong bentured porth por hu-man-ity... Tama na dayta! shouts the driver. Hindi rocket dayto! But the three youths THE EXHIBITS. The life-size dummies of the three astronauts are strapped in their quaint suits to command module contour seats. Minus helmets, the dermawax facsimiles rigid as idols grin unceasingly at the visitors, who are kept the proper distance by a contemptuous

attendant: Arcadio Nagbuya has seen the man before, a clerk behind a grilled counter at the provincial capitol. Displayed on the walls are photographs of the astronauts training for the Apollo mission, relaxing at home, posing with their families, laughing, brave, and handsome a hundred years ago: A happy Nell Armstrong shown above with wife Janet and sons Eric and Mark. He was born in the small town of Wapakoneta, Ohio, on August 5, 1930... Edwin Aldrin, his wife Joan, and their children, Michael, Andrew, and Janice, on a picnic before the historic blastoff on July 16, 1969... Michael Collins and his wife Patricia with their children, Kathleen, Michael, and Arm. Michael Jr. was to take after his father and became commander of the Centaur 9 flight to Mars in 2018... Arcadio Nagbuya comes upon his uncle Faustino from Capas in the section devoted to the moon landing located halfway around the hall. The old man, Jovial and garrulous as always, reads aloud for the benefit of the boys the placard for the scale model of the lunar module and Nell Armstrong descending from it to the moons surface: Et was Monde, July 21, 1969. As da whole worl wats, Armstrong steyp down prom da ladder an da pers man on da moan made da dramatec announce-meynt: Dats one smol steyp por man, one djayan leyp por mankind. Marunong pala nga magbasa ti lacay, a voice taunts behind Arcadio Nagbuya: it is one of the young men from Santa Ignacia. Undaunted, the old man bends short-sightedly to read the inscription on the box which holds a plaster copy of mans first footprint on the moon: Armstrong unbeiled a pla-que attats to won op da mow-dulcs leygs. Here man prom da planeyt Eart perst set poot upon da moan July 21, 1969 A.D. We came en pays for owl mankind. Arcadio Nagbuya exhales in relief when the old man says he must go, he has to look for his companions. The next compartment is a projection room: here the crowd is about ten deep around the cinecube, and Arcadio Nagbuya hoists the younger boy on his shoulders. Inside the cinecube Earth, a blue-green globe streaked with cloud, hangs in a black sky above the two astronauts moving in their white bulky suits with the slow tentative deliberation of children learning to walk, while the nasal soundtrack continues its brisk narration: The lunar landscape is like pale gray sand, littered with rocks. The mountains and craters are not visible. The curvature of the moon is so sharp that the horizon is only two and a half kilometers away. . . Armstrong and Aldrin plant an American flag with a spring device to hold it upright. They deploy the equipment... Armstrong and Aldrin rest for six hours before beginning preparations for the return to lunar orbit. They have to link up with the command module piloted by Collins... It is a fifteenminute show, and Arcadio Nagbuya sets Doming down at the part where they came in: but the boys are insistent, and they stay on to repeat the rest of the film. From the projection room going counter-clockwise, they wander vaguely through the remaining displays: more replicas, diagrams of the Apollo flight, a cybergraph of the Eagle lunar module left on the moon being examined by latter-day astronauts in their bodyfit space suits, a framed statement by President Nixon: For one priceless moment in the whole history of man, all the people on Earth are one... The last section they visit contains a mock-up of the command cabin of a Columbus cruiser with a simulated view of star clouds and clusters. On one wall painted to look like a rocketships bulkhead are blown-up cybergraphs of the Magellan Space Station and its family

of shuttle tugs, the American-Russian installations on the moon, the Venus skylabs, and the international crew of the Uranus mission due to return in 2071. Mr. Balaoing is contemplating a mural on the opposite wall depicting American space projects for the rest of the century, including the first starship mission beyond the solar system, a joint expedition with Britain and Germany to Alpha Centauri: It is believed that a planet of this star nearest to Earth is the source of the first message from extraterrestrial intelligence ever received by the human race. This particular revelation is illustrated with a mathematical formula: Look hearr, says Mr. Balaoing to the boys, pointing rapturously at the center of the massed algebraic figures, et eisss de equation por de circurnferrence op a cirrcle! But Dolfo and Doming are now listless and hungry, and care little for mathematics or messages from other worlds. They leave the schoolteacher in rapt conversation with a short bald American in rimless glasses, the smallest American Arcadio, Nagbuya has ever seen, shorter even than Mr. Balaoing. At the exit girls in blue uniforms hand them USIB pamphlets on the Centennial, medallions bearing the images of the Apollo 11 astronauts, ham sandwiches, and ice-cold Cokes. The afternoon in the plaza is gray with rain, and they wait for the downpour to slacken, munching on the sandwiches.

THE RESTAURANT. It is still raining, and they are in the New Washington Caf on Nevada Street. The younger boy wants another asado mami, but Arcadio Nagbuya has just enough money left over for the trip back to the river crossing, having bought, earlier in the afternoon, a bolo, a bottle of liniment, a T-shirt each for the boys with Apollo Centennial prints, and a couple of ice cream cones. He may have to wait till after the harvest, he reflects, before he can afford another visit to the city. The High Commissioner is delivering a speech on the videoramic wallscreen between the counter and the kitchen: he is speaking of the first man on the moon and the frontiers of the universe, and the hoarse oratory and the crash of applause like static blend with the receding thunder and the steady boiling hiss of the rain. Arcadio Nagbuya tires of watching the flushed solemn American face on the wallscreen, and he glances about, as if searching for the reason for their being here, he and his two sons in this restaurant in this city called Tarlac, more than an hour away by bus from the river in Camanggaan. Posters from last years elections remain pasted and fading by the door. One of the ceiling fans wobbles on its stem, above a table of beer drinkers. At the next table the sad tired waitress in a tight Centennial T-shirt is setting down two steaming bowls of pancit for a large family, father, mother, five boys, three girls, and grandmother or grandaunt. The restaurant opens out on the street, and bunches of flies dot the floor on the same level as the wet sidewalk: a beggar comes in scattering the flies, and a waitress shoos him away. The long vertical rain breaks with fierce little bursts on the black asphalt of the street. The boys stray off to squat before the wallscreen, which now resounds with horse-hooves and ancient gunfire, and Arcadio Nagbuya wets his thumb to turn the pages of the USIB magazine.

RETURN TRIP. The bus is half-empty when they board it in front of Qui Sings hardware store. Mr. Balaoing has taken another earlier trip, and so, apparently, have the boisterous young men and the girl with the guitar: now the bus in the late rainwashed light seems a different vehicle, altered somehow, bigger and emptier, with a different subdued driver, although it is the same curly-haired man at the wheel. In the falling dark Doming snuggles against his father and is soon asleep. Arcadio Nagbuya is drowsy himself and for a while drifts in a shallow uneasy sleep, his mind never quite removed from the vibrating racket of the engine and the forward jerking motion of the bus. It is evening by the time they reach Santa Ignacia, where five men come aboard, and Arcadio Nagbuya and his two sons and the faceless strangers sit in silence in the roaring, swaying dark of the unlighted bus. He dozes again and in the dark of his closed eyes his dead wife appears suddenly and then his father, a farmer too, born at the turn of the century and a soldier dying in the Second Asian War: he wakens to the coolness of wind on his face, and then he sees, as he has seen it at this hour for unnumbered evenings, the Magellan Space Station rising in the west, a bright solitary star among the night clouds.

cousin says, his tone hopeful and confident. Mako na cami, atin miting potang begi. O sigue, Cadio, and there is the rustle of feet departing across the sand. Si Tio daytay tao, Tatang? asks Doming. Arcadio Nagbuya stares into the dark, in the direction where his cousin has gone, his heart warm and beating rapidly. Dolfo repeats his brothers question, but their father remains silent, and they start off for the trail in the coconut grove beyond the sandy slope of the riverbank. The Magellan Space Station has cleared the tops of the trees, and a smaller, fainter star is moving away from it: another nuclear spaceship going to Mars or perhaps only to the moon, now a sharp-pointed sickle in the eastern sky.

THE RIVER AT NIGHT. Pedring does not take everyone across all at once but makes two trips: the river has risen a few feet and the raft is too small to carry all of them gathered on the riverbank. The women and the old folks go first: a baby cries on and on, bleating like a lamb in the small orange glow of the lamp suspended in the middle of the raft, in the night astir with the croaking of frogs and the black whispering flow of the river. Then it is their turn, and Arcadio Nagbuya and his two sons squat close to the lamp, clutching their paper-wrapped bundles, the water slapping at the raft, sucking and gurgling under the glistening platform of bamboo poles. The men with them do not answer when Pedring asks where they are from: one of them, Arcadio Nagbuya notices in the lamplight, is cradling a laser rifle wrapped loosely in a raincoat. A MEETING ON THE RIVERBANK. The man with the rifle hails a group huddled around a flashlight on the riverbank. The figure with the flashlight calls to Arcadio Nagbuya: at once he knows it is his cousin from Concepcion, and the dim oppressive fear surrounds his heart as he remembers the helidiscs hunting over the morning fields. His cousin clicks off the flashlight and speaks to him, not in Tagilocan, but in the old language: Minta ca Tarlac, Cadio? and Wa, Cong Andres, he replies, minta canu para keng Centennial, and the tender fluid accents of their fathers tongue, unheard for so long yet never quite lost nor forgotten, bring a swift rush of pride and love that pushes back the enclosing dread. Cadio, his cousin says, reaching for his hand in the dark, Cadio, mangailangan caming tau... He can hear his cousins breathing, smell the odors of the sun and the rain of the long day on his cousins clothes, as they stand with their hands clasped in the quiet dark. They were young boys together once: how quickly the years pass Asahan da cayung makiabe kekarne, his