In Manila stands Fort Santiago. In there, in dungeons above and under the ground, the Spanish and the Japanese held prisoners. They came from all backgrounds, native and foreign, and today…first cleaned up under the direction of Emelda Marcos…it has become a national shrine because the national hero Jose Rizal was imprisoned there right before he faced a firing squad. It is a ruin, restored and given life by one man, DeRoy Valencia, the Drew Pearson of the Philippines. For he built a theater there within a few weeks…like magic it appear in a country where being tardy is respectable.
The theater may no longer be there, with its thrust stage and stages that surrounded the audience. The idea for the design came from Paul Baker, of the Dallas Theater Center, but the productions with live animals on stage…horses and chickens…were absolutely Filipino. For here was a key for me (I worked there for two years), for here was something borrowed but made unique…like my writing, for which I’ve borrowed from Faulkner, Hawthorne, Joyce and the like. The authors to which I make reference are among my favorites and are among those that I have focused on in my reading. I keep books by these authors nearby and refer to them for ideas, particularly ideas about form and structure. A struggle for me, over time and at different intensities; nagging sometimes, other times devastating, worrisome, guilt laden, I sometimes question whether I can write anything without this “crutch”. It is easy for me to be hard on myself, and yet is it a valid concern? Everyone is unique. I really believe that. I can write, I know that, but I don’t know if I can write better than anyone else. I live with self-doubt. As a writer, often I’m not sure where I fit in. This doubt is understandable. I grew up in an illiterate home. In high school I didn’t have a strong English teacher like my wife did. I know I can’t write as well as some of my friends. I’m no Faulkner, Hawthorne or Joyce. To be who I am, Randy Ford, from Irving Texas, all of that, and that’s a lot, has never been easy for me. But aren’t I as unique as Fort Santiago? Sometimes I get it. Sometimes I have that freedom.
Good night, Randy Ford