Smoke and Mirrors: Illusions of the Past (Thoughts on Floy Quintos’ FAKE)

In my Philosophy I class, during my first year in college, my professor espoused the concept of healthy skepticism—the kind which makes you wear a questioning mind whenever and wherever, the kind which makes you put on vigilance like it were a smile, the kind which makes you treat gullibility as the greatest enemy.

When I watched Floy Quintos’ FAKE, however, I found myself reeling at the thought of cynicism. Cynicism, a synonym of skepticism yet more negatively-charged than it if you asked me, makes healthy skepticism appear tame. Especially in the context of FAKE.

I am not the biggest fan of History. Yes, the one with a capital H; the one that is stereotyped to be taught by bore-you-out-of-your-skull teachers; the one that gives information and narcolepsy side by side to students (and yeah, I just stereotyped it myself). But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t interest me. Moving on from my necessary digression, FAKE happens to be fiction intertwined with historical basis. I’ve encountered a couple of books in the past that are like that (The Rossetti Letter by Christi Philips, for example), but FAKE has home court advantage: it is about the infamous Code of Kalantiao, the Tasadays, and “La Loba Negra” which was then claimed to be by Padre Burgos—all of which have long become inculcated to Philippine history, however fake they are.

Unfortunately, I have no prior knowledge regarding these matters. According to the souvenir program of the play, the Code of Kalantiao is a mere fabrication by Jose E. Marco, who plays a key role in the play but is still fictional, for he is only molded to suit the message intended by the playwright, Floy Quintos.

But to press on that, what message did I get?

In the play, Miguel, the fictional protagonist, is portrayed as someone whose sole conviction is that there is nothing to believe in, that everything is false, that all are just lies. He is cynicism at its purest form—believing in nothing and questioning everything. He makes healthy skepticism appear absurd, for one should be skeptic at all times, not just in selected instances.

He even quotes the saying, “Cynicism makes you harder.” And it did. It did make him as hard and as unyielding as a diamond. (In Mohs Scale of Hardness, diamond is the hardest.)

Yet, a diamond isn’t always a diamond. At some point in its life, it is coal. In the same manner, Miguel was not always a cynic. He was once a believer—a believer of Jose E. Marco. He idolized Marco and his passion for his work. He did not know what was coming.

And yes, I watched his faith crumble right before my very eyes like glass shattering from the impact of bullets. Bullets of truth. I watched as the boy that was Miguel, so full of conviction and promise, morphed into the cynical man that he now is.

I am not against cynicism, because in this kind of world we’re in now we definitely need it, but it really made me sad to witness the reason of Miguel’s hardness. It really made me sad, because the Jose E. Marco there wanted to give his country—my country—a past to cling on to, even if it were something that never happened. He wanted to give the Filipinos a sense of achievement with the belief that there have already been accomplishments even before the colonizers came.

In Miguel’s childhood, 1961 is a cited year—the year that William Henry Scott came to Pontevedra to seek answers regarding all the fabrications and lies that Marco perpetrated. (Scott’s visit is fictional, by the way.) Perhaps during that time, many Filipinos were not yet aware of the fact that there were indeed accomplishments in our pre-Hispanic history, just not the kind of accomplishments that Marco claimed he has discovered. Filipinos then were already interacting with the Chinese and the Japanese (this is from Readings in History II: Asia and the World, our main reference in my History II class in UP Manila) as cited from Morga’s Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas by Dr. Jose Rizal himself.

If I lived then, I would’ve been looking for something, too. I would’ve been looking for something that is solely Filipino, something that is neither tainted by the Spaniards nor by the Americans.  Something that is ours.

Despite Marco’s portrayed good intentions, the truth should always prevail. And, as much as it broke my heart to see one’s beliefs collapse, it is wrong to make something up for a cause that would affect a whole country, however noble the cause is. It is wrong to make people live their lives a lie, even if they don’t know it. Not telling them would only make it harder once they are enlightened about it.

I’m not sure if I should consider Jose Marco’s fabrications as white lies. It was kind of him, yes, but it was also destructive of him to do so. What if the Filipinos learned about it? Wouldn’t they feel all the more worthless, after learning that they really had no accomplishments before the Spaniards came? Wouldn’t that make them go back not to zero but to whatever is below zero?

During my Philippine history in high school, I was not able to encounter any Code of Kalantiao, or even just the Filipino ruler Kalantiaw, except the Kalantiaw in Quezon City (which must have been kept amidst the revelation of Kalantiaw being a hoax for the sake of its familiarity). Then again, that was around 2006, and by then, both were declared hoaxes for a long time already.

Emmanuel Feliciano’s thoughts upon FAKE:

It is another mirror where we can all look to see who we are as a people. It is an outcry against the gullible nature we have, and the cynical future where we might end up if we do not become vigilant and critical.

In the face of such interaction between fact and fiction, we cannot fully suppress the hopeful that lives within us. A child like Miguel lives in me, one who is so eager to believe in the untarnished goodness of everything, but alongside this child is a healthy skeptic, one who can’t help but question things. I try to find the balance, but it’s like walking on a thin wire, there are always times when I fall, because one wins over the other.

But I just keep on climbing back up and walking. Walking on a fine wire; traversing the thin line between beliefs and doubts.

It’s a FAKE ticket, but it got me in nonetheless.

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