Lit13 Final Killing Time

July 24, 2017 | Author: Mykee Cruz | Category: Guilt (Emotion), Narration
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Michael Christopher C. Cruz R55

14 October 2009

“I’m so sorry, so sorry, but it’s done.” -Noel The novel Killing Time in a Warm Place is a story of a man reflecting on how he has lived his life. Being as much a commentary on being Filipino as it is a work of historical fiction, the novel centered on the life of Noel Ilustre Bulaong, a man now based in the United States, who lived through Martial law and faced it in different ways. He was a young provincial kid from Kangleong, a middle class student of UP, a believer of Maoist socialism, political detainee at Camp Sunflower, aide to a government deputy minister, before leaving the country. He is the main character and narrator, and we learn about his life from his point of view. The title “Killing Time in a Warm Place” can be interpreted as a commentary of Noel’s actions during this period. “Killing Time” is defined as the act of doing something (anything) to make time pass more quickly. In the novel, this implies all the actions that Noel has done, how he “killed the time” of his life. At the beginning, he reveals his nationality to an American seated next to him on the plane, before thinking about his childhood in the Philippines and painting a verbal picture of Kangleong. For this, he may be referring to the Philippines itself, as the warm place. When he was 17, he joined bands of students forming the Diliman commune, a protest against Marcos. The line “our bones were cold, but our breaths are warm” symbolized the fire within these rebel students, and the passion they all felt. He killed time here, growing up, maturing, and embracing his warm passion. But these same students were mostly from the upper or middle classes, merely advocating ideas they personally didn’t grow up with or experience first-hand (i.e. the worker’s struggle).

What he (and most of them) knows is what he reads about, in manifestos, pamphlets, and books, or what the speeches of friends or professors say. They saw themselves as the “People’s army”, fighting a war against the US Puppets / Marcos legions, in a rebellion against (corrupt) authority. In the end, all of his actions were his ways to kill time, to go on and live another day in such a world. Noel eventually became disenchanted with his ideas, making him feel the times of bold actions and subversive ideas were but days when he passed the time and live his life. On a historical note, the middle class adopted a “wait and see” attitude during martial law, seen in the way Noel’s family lived. He is the everyday man, someone dragged into events, but unlike the fictional stereotype that “steps up and becomes a hero”, he turned his back. This choice can be interpreted as either betrayal, or just the manifestation of the human instinct to survive and find peace. The reader cannot just point a finger at him for betrayal, but remember the time when he suffered for his beliefs as well, in his time at Camp Sunflower. By reading the novel, the reader is made to have an opinion on Noel’s actions. It should again be noted that it is Noel who is narrating all the events, giving Noel the chance to say his side: “I could be, would be, someone else; but live.”. By abandoning Laurie and Benny’s cause, and exhibiting his refusal to join them again. Even as he struggled to make sense of the peaceful life and career he chose, all he could do was feel remorse and guilt at his actions, and move on. His resignation from the ministry after Benny’s death and his conversation with a still-active Jong is a manifestation of that guilt. The last lines are telling: “I have yet to find religion, unless it’s in the telling of the sin”. Religion is a set of beliefs and while Noel has believed in some things in his life, he chose to escape it all, but remember the sins committed on the way. Like the line, that was his sin.

The novel is ultimately kind to Noel, giving him the chance to explain himself, to express his feelings of remorse and self-loathing, and making the reader identify and even sympathize with him. Instead of the readers merely looking upon him with judgmental eyes, the novel actually makes readers ask: Are we like him too? Ultimately, all people have regrets, many imagine what their life would have been had they taken the risk at some point and gambled their lives for something they believed in. Noel was stopped by the realization that he was nobody, and that his participation in the “carnage” wouldn’t make much of a difference. To him, others had better reasons to fight and die and were better equipped, mind and heart. He lost the will to fight. He knows he can live with whatever guilt quitting causes, but as he says it, “I chose the safe and well-trodden path of forgetfulness and minor griefs... to be spat upon, to be, oneself, no matter.”

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