Creating a New People: The ‘Yolanda’ to Come

These nomadic people, arguably from Austronesian descent, will know how to rebuild their lives from the ruins as had their ancestors during the Last Glacial Maximum 20,000 years ago when villages were drowned by melting polar glaciers.

My father’s town is now barely recognizable, his place of origin, a place that taught him how to swim. No one in the town was a stranger to the sea; they knew of sea monsters, strange creatures frolicking behind the sea crests, outlines on a bubbly, treacherous canvass of a moonlit Pacific that is home to pearls. Finding their ways on plateaus to create a people whose myths were those of pearls, tectonic treasures of molten memories buried deep beneath the roaring earth, these pearls inspired ferment, revolutions, music and poetry of resistance against all types of war machines of the great Atlantic dream. Shy of accepting defeat in a face-to-face combat against the natives, once, the Americans scorched the entire region, rendering the soil unfit for agriculture for decades to come. Faced with the wrath of either glaciers or hellish contraption, the natives nonetheless proved their resilience. They were nomadic.

Looking at the pictures of destruction wreaked by Yolanda, I wonder if my father would have a word to say—against imperial America, against the waves, against the looters of his town’s treasures feeding up the global rich who, with the help of native elites, then and now, continue to conspire against their remaining wealth, their bodies, surpluses of biopower that fuel the machines of global capital. Economists call these surpluses ‘domestic helpers’. Indeed, when economy has something to say about a person’s character by the intensity she can offer, it is when economy traces its genealogy in morals. Most of my relatives (who were at one point employed as OFWs) living in the region however choose to ignore the label. (I haven’t heard from them since after the devastation). It is something they are neither proud nor shameful. Nomadic bloods running in their veins, these people are ardent believers in the economy to come. For the time being let things run their course. All that is solid will soon melt into thin air.

I heard a story from a survivor of Bohol earthquake, weeks before Yolanda, that people were seeing ghostly strangers. It was not difficult to detect who is a neighbour or stranger in a town galvanized by a myth. But a stranger has a role to perform (the stranger as a performative principle)—to warn of the unpredictable. These apparitions were complemented by animal cries at night that they were mistaking for those of creatures whose existence they only learned from legends and myths—whatever cry they could make, these creatures have only been in existence in as far as people could divine an acoustic image.  Apparitions and acoustic image—both warn of the coming of the unspeakable, of the aneconomy, of the amoral, the epiphany of an ancient formerity. The myth as a leveling political imaginary.

But this time we have to arm this myth with the weapon of the speculative, a myth folded, redoubled. With a power to heal and forget—we will have to forge a new myth, create a new island, a new people, a new consciousness of earth and ocean, a new second creation.

As flood myths have always taught people of deserted islands, creating a new myth will have to be preceded by a leveling cataclysm, not to mention a new people’s consciousness — in the words of Deleuze, radical and absolute (Desert Islands). It is in this sense that a power to heal and forget can be lethal. Beware, defenders of moral economy!

A new literature is about to unfold.

Related post:

1. Estado ng Matinding Kalungkutan (

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