Oy. My novel is getting away from me, only two days after its launch. Instead of meandering along with the story of a guy bleeding on the floor of a jeepney crawling through rush-hour traffic in downtown Manila, I let my brain devise an impossible task. I gave my brain a path and it duly planted a few hedges and transformed it into a labyrinth of ridiculous ambition. I’ll spare you the pain of reading a novel that requires of me hours of research and a cursory knowledge of eighteenth century Spanish, but here’s a vague outline so far:

In our first installment we watched a man stealing a pair of polka-dot boxers from a clothesline strung across a Manila alleyway. For reasons unknown, he’s being pursued through the city by unknown pursuers (this unknown quarry). For further unknown reasons, he’s broke and filthy. He jumps onto a jeepney cab, where the pursuers catch up to him, beat him up and take the boxer shorts back. I have decided to retract that last plot point, since it’s more interesting to keep up a chase scene and anyway, a man in bad straits needs a change of underwear. Who is this guy? Why is he being pursued? What’s the deal here anyway?

He calls himself CW, which is short for Cardoza-White. His first name is Frederick. He has come to Manila from the US to locate distant relatives named in his mother’s will. Or you may say that he has come to spend an enviable inheritance in a foreign country before other family members think to contest the will. He locates a far-removed cousin named Apolinair Cardoso di Ocampo, who claims to be the only living family member left in the Philippines. Apolinair talks a mile a minute, owns a house full of animals and children, and is accompanied wherever he goes by a forty year old “boy” named Ferdinand. He seems to make his living by hosting beauty pageants and organizing eco-tours for German tourists. Apolinair calls him “Mr. Fred” at some moments and “my American cousin” at others. He promises to tell CW the story of their shared family, but confusingly, he tells him two distinct stories: the one of a family of Portuguese aristocrats who died in a volcanic eruption that sank the cities of the Provincia Taal into the sea in 1754; the other of a U.S. soldier stationed in the Philippines around 1900 who fathered several legitimate children and a number of illegitimate ones. It turns out that he also participated in the Balangiga Massacre of 1901 as well, the sort of brutal killing spree that occupiers occasionally carry out against the occupied.

It gradually dawns on CW that both his father's and his mother’s family have come to the Philippines in centuries past, and that the separate branches there have eventually intertwined, just as they have in North America. Or at least, this is what Apolinair tells him. But how did the White family cross lines with the Cardosos? And what were a family of Portuguese aristocrats doing in a country so thoroughly colonized by the Spanish? Just how much of what his cousin tells him is trustworthy? Whatever the answers are, we know that CW ends up running like hell through the city streets, filthy and broke and bleeding. With stolen boxers.

You see? I need to shave this thing down a little, or at least read a few books on Filipino history. Maybe I should get back to that post-apocalyptic story about the rich Australian teenager who ends up living in an underground shelter with a bunch of military freaks and rich white guys.