Arturo Rotoro (1907 to 1988) was a very well known medical doctor, highly respected music critic, world class authority on orchids who wrote beautiful stories about a Philippines society just a fading memory to an ever smaller number of people. The disease "Rotor Syndrome" which he isolated and first correctly described is named after him. He also played a vital role during WWII in the government in exile. He and his wife both taught at The University of the Philippines. He continued seeing patients throughout his career.
"A Convict's Twilight" is a very powerful haunting work set in a convict labor camp nesr Davao, a seaport town on Mindanao Island, located in the southern Philippines. I am not clear if it should be considered an essay based on medical field work of the author or a short story and I could find little information on the publication history of the text. (1932 is my guess for approximate publication date, if you have data on this please leave a comment.)
As the text begins, a group of convict laborers are returning to camp after a day of very hard work clearing the rain forest to make way for farms. It is hard for those in the great urban mega city of Manila to grasp existentially that in the time of their great grand parents much of the country was a rain forest. Rotor does a magnificent job making us feel the power of the forest, enemy and intimate friend. He poigantly meditates on the relative oppressiveness of being a prisoner in Manila behind bars with at least the bustle of the city near you versus isolation in the convict camp in Davao. The convicts have at most two hours of their own time. The narrator recognizes a woman he treated in his medical practice back in Manila. Her husband is at the convict camp and she moved to Davao to be near him. She is nearly overwhelmed with emotion when she recalls the kindness of Dr. Rotor. Her emotions are deepened by the cruel hand fate has dwealt her. There is little kindness in her world now.
There is a very moving powerfully rendered scene at the close of "A Convict's Twilighf" which may well bring tears to many eyes.
Historically this work and others by authors of this period are a precious world class cultural treasure helping keep awake the past, of a country before social media, fast foods, and mega malls took over.
You can read the work HERE
I am dedicating this post to the memory of my Father in Law who was there in 1986.