Conclusive endings When does a writer end a story or a novel?

There is no rigid rule here. In my case, I end the story or a novel when the dilemma or problem is resolved, when the hero dies. I like my stories and novels to end conclusively with bells ringing and canons booming, as in Tchaikovsky’s 1812 overture. Otherwise, as the plot demands, as quietly as a breeze. However, it is very rare to have a story or a novel end with all that noise, i.e. Po-on and the battle of Tirad Pass.

Often, it is quiet and final like Dr. Puro in Olvidon discovering his disease and himself, or the Ifugao, Philip Latak, recovering his roots in The God Stealer.

It is important for the author to know when to stop, that his story will not be anti-climactic and will be losing its power to make the reader think and ponder the emotional and intellectual awakening.

Do you remember that beautiful movie, Anastasia, starring Ingrid Bergman and Yul Brynner? It’s about Anastasia, the daughter of the Czar of Russia, who is supposed to have survived the massacre of their family. The story is set in Paris where the Russian survivors went into exile. The Queen Mother questions Anastasia (Ingrid Bergman) and realizes, in this famous recognition scene, that she is, indeed, Anastasia. By my lights, the movie should have ended there. The rest of it was anti-climactic.

Now in real life, in history particularly ours, are so many stories and the loose strings – so-called, untied, the conclusions left hanging. For instance, if the Spaniards did not kill Rizal, would he have led the Revolution against Spain? Like Hamlet, he equivocated, contemplated so much. He didn’t seem decisive except in his writing. If Bonifacio wasn’t killed in Tejeros, would the Pact of Biak-Na-Bato have been avoided, and would his Revolution have triumphed?

I remember very well a conversation I had with historians Teddy Agoncillo and Chitang Nakpil. Aware as I was of the social divide in the Malolos Republic, the wealthy ilustrados against the poor Mabini and his supporters, I wondered if a civil war would have erupted if the Americans didn’t come. Both Chitang and Teddy said, most probably, it would have come sooner than expected.

The Huks were on the verge of capturing power in 1948-49. What would have happened if they did? Would the Communists have ruled differently? Dr. Salvador Puro in Olvidon suggests otherwise – they would have ruled just as badly because they are Filipinos, hostage to family, ethnicity and all the traditional cultural obstacles to democratic development.

Magsaysay defeated the Huks, and he proved that we are capable of forging an honest government. President Duterte is wrong; the Filipino can be very honest if he knows his leaders are honest, that they punish – I repeat – punish the corrupt and sequester their stolen properties. Why is the Singapore government clean? China often executes its high but corrupt Party leaders. But even Magsaysay began to feel the intense political pressures on his regime, the subtle beginnings of corruption. I realize now that he was on the verge of forming a new political party when he died in that plane crash.

And Marcos and Ninoy, is it true that they met in secret when Ninoy was in jail? And after EDSA I, what would have happened if Marcos went to Paoay, NOT Hawaii?

Ninoy, who helped negotiate the surrender of Taruc to the government, wanted desperately to be president. He was ruthless and single-minded in this ambition, and he sought allies, whoever they were and wherever he found them – including the Communists and the CIA. How would he have fared as president with this Communist alliance? He who rides the tiger – as the old warring goes – cannot dismount. There are no IFS in history. There are only the iron realities of men acting out their destinies, a people deserving their leaders whom they have placed on pedestals made of sand. I’ve looked at them – our presidents from Aguinaldo to Duterte; all of them were vested with so much power to do away with our most pernicious and crippling sickness – moral poverty.

All societies – pre-historic, ancient and tribal – have taboos, moral guidelines, that bond them to make them secure. This is so true even with us, as the Spaniards found out. But this moral code has been eroded through the years, resulting not just in poverty, but poverty of the spirit.

This moral poverty has grown slowly, unperceptively, fed by continuing depredations of social instability, colonization and occupation during which moral standards are discarded as people struggle to survive. Each crisis demands such behavior until that moral malaise is accepted as normal, making recovery more difficult. Democratic institutions malfunction, apathy and cynicism induce acquiescence. A society, a state, fails without its people being fully aware of what had happened. In their despair, they vote for charlatans who promise them utopia. But metastasis has set in.

Thank God, we are not in this condition. But for all the evident progress – infrastructure, and ribbons and ribbons of new roads Duterte has built, he had also polarized the country – not united it. It will take a new kind of leadership to unite us and banish the magmatic hatreds and seismic fanaticism.

We are now in this stage of trying to recover our ancient values. At no other time in our history have we been overfed with all sorts of information on the condition of our country, information including our relations with our neighbors. We know now the most intimate knowledge of our leaders, their picadillos even. But still, we don’t use this knowledge to better our lot. Indeed, knowledge is not wisdom.

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