I came to the Silent March with an empty heart.
The news of another Filipino American dead from stabbing boggles me. The mind can grow tired and numb. Or even dumb with news like this one. It escapes me that in this time and age when life in this land is a bit better–many times better than the one we have got in the homeland–domestic violence can have that power to snuff out a life.
On the road to the Silent March, I had all these in mind, remembering and remembering for always my mother, my wife, my two daughters and all the mothers and the wives and daughters everywhere.
I wrote that poem in English (I wrote others in two Philippines languages) to wrestle with my thought in that late night that I received an e-mail announcing that another Filipino nurse was dead. I sent it to Charlene, and pretty soon, the poem got into the hands of other people who are in the know about the atrocities of domestic violence. The poem was written to honor a life lived shortly but lived with kindness and care for others—as is the life of a nurse is all about.
I arrived at the Capitol early enough to realize that I did not have to put in more quarters in those metered slots on Punchbowl, on the east side of the venue for the Silent March. One lady who was going home, bag in tow, told me, with a sing-song voice, that the ‘meter people’ are already gone for the day and that I did not have to put in money in those slots since they–these meter people–were no longer coming back to check and to issue traffic tickets, in case the slots flash, “Expired! Expired! Expired!”
It is the force of serendipity–this “Expire! Expire! Expire!” business of the metered slots. I came to the Capitol precisely for that reason: to honor one mother, one wife, one parent, one nurse, one immigrant in Hawai’i who succumbed to stab wounds from the very person who should have loved her forever, took care of her, cooed her to sleep, fed her, and provided for her.
“Expire! Expire! Expire!” says the metered slot and here I was, at dusk in these parts, going to that Silent March that was to honor Erlinda Adviento who ‘expired,’ the Erlinda who as a nurse, gave so much of her life to save others but ironically she could not save her own. Her death is her oblation now–her offering to all of us, believing that in this tragic end of her mortal life, we all could learn. We are assuming, of course, that we are listening to the many silences of her death.
As soon as I got to the Capitol, I saw several people, some DV advocates and educators, I was to learn later on, and a camera crew from a TV station, and reporter, Lisa.
Anna of the Hawai`i State Coalition Against Domestic Violence met me in the front step of the Capitol facing Beretania and from there exchanged pleasantries until she brought me to the TV people who were to interview before asking me to recite my poem.
Lisa asked about many things that had something to do with the poem that I wrote and what moved me to write that poem in particular.
I told her the truth, including the story behind that poem.
Anna asked us to come together and told us about the importance of the Silent March, what was it for, and some housekeeping rules on how the SM was to be done. We were to go around the Capitol one block afterwhich we were to return where we came from and finish the march.
Which we did, placards on hand, hoisting them as far as the weighed down arms could go. It was late in the afternoon and many of those who came to the Silent March came straight from their offices and work, the reason why only a few could hoist the placard above their heads for every passerby to see. My placard spoke of the prayer and hopes I kept deep in my heart: “Good men do not hurt.”
I thought of all the good men I knew in my life—in the many phases of this life lent to me on a stewardship. The good men I knew did not hurt—they only demonstrated more goodness and lived in goodness.
Now my heart has begun to speak of words that hurt. But words heal at the same time, and this Silent March, in the fullness of language beyond rhetoric and word, was a testimony to that adage.
A Solver Agcaoili
State Capitol, Honolulu, HI
Nov 20, 2007