Day 4: Nanowrimo (Behind the scenes)

It’s Day 4 of Nanowrimo and I’m a day ahead on the 1,600-word daily target. I’m hoping to have three days of leeway just in case I get too busy during the FPA conference in Hobart and, of course, if I could, I would rather go hiking while I’m there as it’s my first time in Tas.

About nanowrimo and the process of writing, I’m not sure if I’ve been looking for signs or the signs are coming to me. There are sources of inspiration everywhere. I laughed when I passed by Lorraine Pattiserie near The Ivy, having found out that my French ancestors originated from Lorraine and my first generation character is a son of a pattiserie owner. What a coinkidink!

Then I had this part in my story where the antagonist and the protagonist are sailing on two separate ships, both of them bound for the Philippines. I googled whether there were any scientific exhibitions around the same time (that matches the timeline of my novel) and, lo and behold, the Malaspina Expidition left Cadiz, Spain en route to a few places including the Philippines around the time I wanted my characters to leave Europe!

And here’s the sweet coincidence, Malaspina had two identical ships: Atrevida (Bold) and Descubierta (Discover). Both had the mission of studying the flora and fauna of the various Spanish colonies (d.c.) but, of course, with the covert mission to act as spies for the Spanish throne. I am truly enjoying every minute of weaving some historical facts into my fiction.

This morning, I woke up at 6am to meet my word count target today. But I didn’t know how to keep pushing the novel now that I’m in Chapter 3/4. I know I needed a real motivation why a French scientist from northern France decides to leave the life he had in France to stay in the Philippines. An easy route would be to say “he fell in love with a local” and that’s that. Wife and kids can be a pretty compelling reason to stay. But that would be too easy. I also needed some drama around how he finds this particular flora and this particular butterfly species in Northern Luzon. This led me to googling ‘Cordillera’ and this was what I found:

In 1565, reports of huge gold mines in the Cordillera reached the Viceroy of Mexico, which led to the first official Spanish expedition to the Cordillera in 1576. King Philip III, waging the Thirty Year War which needed funding, sent orders for large expeditions to the Philippines.

Some 80% of the total Philippine gold production comes from the Cordillera.

Whoah! Stop right there. 80% of gold in the Philippines is concentrated in one area? I did not know that. And this as well:

In 1620, Captain Garcia de Aldana Cabrera offered the resisting Igorot tribal leaders clemency if they were willing to accept Catholic religion, obey the Spanish government and pay a fifth of all their mined gold to the Spanish King.

They refused.

Double whoah! The Igorots are kick-ass Filipinos! Can you imagine saying no to the all-powerful Spanish government at that time. With their artillery, army and experience in waging wars?

Think about it for a moment. The Igorots are ‘people of the mountain’ who don’t believe that tribal land can be given or sold to anybody. Just like the Aborigines, the Igorots did not believe in cold-blooded commerce for the sake of wealth and for the sake of individuals. This was just diametrically opposed to everything that the Spanish government stood for at the time.

Mental note: the Spaniards over 300 years did play the role of benefactor and oppressor, another interesting dynamic to explore in this novel.

So now I’ve got something real to write about. The struggle between the Igorots and the Spanish conquistadores. A character that gets caught in the crossfire. I think when you witness greed and social injustice, where there’s gold at stake, where there’s life at stake, the experience is enough to change you. And that’s what I am going to write about in Chapters 3 and 4.

More background reading (Source: Wikipedia):

The Cordillera Central is a massive mountain range situated in the northern central part of the island of Luzon, in the Philippines. The mountain range encompasses all provinces of the Cordillera Administrative Region (Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga and Mountain Province), as well as portions of eastern Ilocos Norte, eastern Ilocos Sur, eastern La Union, northeastern Pangasinan, western Nueva Vizcaya, and western Cagayan.

A portion of the range in Benguet surrounding Baguio

To the north, the mountain range terminates at the northern shores of Luzon along the Babuyan Channel in Ilocos Norte and Cagayan provinces.[1] At its southeastern part, the Central Cordillera is linked to the Sierra Madre Mountains, the longest mountain range in the country, through the Caraballo Mountains in Nueva Vizcaya province. During Spanish colonial period, the whole range was called Nueva Provincia, (New Province).[2]

The Cordillera Central is one of the Philippines’ richest regions in terms of natural resources. It contains 11% of the total area is agricultural rice fields, orchards, pig farms and pasture lands. 60% of the country’s temperate vegetables are produced in the area. It is the country’s premier mining district. There are eight big mining companies operating which are mostly foreign controlled. Some 80% of the total Philippine gold production comes from the Cordillera.

The range is also home to the headwaters of the major rivers in Northern Luzon, with several dams which include the Ambuklao and Binga in Benguet.


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