“I’m always seeking to find nuance and complexity within narratives that allow deeper roots, and reading Bautista was long overdue.
I first came across his work in high school. Thinking that I’ll take a few minutes to skim “The Archipelago” at the request
of my literature teacher, I quickly realized that I had neither the vocabulary nor the wits to digest what my teacher clearly regarded as a masterpiece. It was dense. Even then, however, the excellence of his art wasn’t lost on me, it was decidedly beautiful. Verses and words were strung together in a way I didn’t think possible.”

“When plans for the exhibit came, I was thrilled for the opportunity to revisit it, and relieved that Bautista’s obra maestra might have a more capable reader this time around.
I was floored. To witness an artist with such a profound mastery of language retell parts of the Filipino story on such an intimate, human level moved me. Bautista’s epical voice and scope set the stage for a striking, distinctly personal meditation on history. I wasn’t ready for how much it touched me.

That being said, digesting the few chapters assigned was not easy. Even now, years after I first encountered Bautista, I knew this was a mountain climb next to the casual strolls
of my past reads. Reference upon obscure historical reference, stream upon dissonant stream of consciousness, phrases I’ve never heard before woven together in ways I’ve never encountered. Despite this, I couldn’t help but be intrigued, in an almost frustrated manner. I wanted every stone turned.”

“On stanza 2620, “The Archipelago,” I’m introduced to the man under the streetlamp who is convinced he must die. The following lines were haunting, not for the first time since starting the book. I detected an intense internal struggle with the voice in the words. “Words explode into blood…,” “… salt rubbing my ribs,” “… a million eyes to catch the sun,”

His phrases were thoughtfully taken polaroids, glimpses of the soul of someone long witness to the growing pains of these islands’ history. The later passages were disorienting in a way that hooked me even deeper. I walked into the London Art Gallery,
through stanzas named after what seemed to be paintings, peeked into the thoughts of a man in constant run,
and read the remnants of what looked like a script entitled “The Needle.” It was composed of voices arguing, consolidating,
and cautioning one another. The chapter ended with the lines, “This way, please.” Knowing I was being carefully guided,
I continued.”

“Stanza 1860 of “Sunlight on Broken Stones” lodged me in the thick of even more tumultuous times in our history, as tumultuous
as the thoughts written on the page. The voice of this book is engaged in a self- warring meditation on his place in history,
as both witness and participant. Every verse was striking: “All the blood of hatred, after all, bubbling And boiling, cannot gallop across rivers And altars to teach foredoomed men epistles
on nationhood…”
To form my assigned walls in our installation, I chose the first stanzas of both chapters I read. That is testament to Bautista’s poetry, they kept my interest right from the start. Although I would argue that an excerpt gleaned from anywhere in the books was quite representative of the whole, the first parts were just as dense and beautiful as the rest. Choosing was a no-brainer. Despite the challenge the material posed, quarantine has doubtless eased me into a more quiet, introspective mindset appropriate for digesting such intimately written books like Bautista’s. This, timed with the frustrating, impactful events that unfolded within
this tense time, gave me an appetite for the human perspective on history – how it is made and how it is written.”

“That might be my pitch for all of us Filipinos who are undecided about taking a dip in Bautista’s proverbial ocean of a magnum opus. If you’re looking for some perspective, beauty, some foothold of identity in this world, I can assure them that the many, many years it will take to traverse the Trilogy will not be wasted.