Dear Lola

For Miguela Tablazon Cabrestante, R.I.P.


Dear Lola,

Happy birthday! I am not exactly sure how old you are right now, maybe 80 or 81, I don’t know. But I want you to know that I miss you so much. It has been so long since the last time I cried for you. And I still regret the times that I should have spent with you instead of my ex-boyfriend or studies. You know I was so busy back then being a fourth year high school student. But it’s not an excuse, right? I did not even feel ashamed that despite your difficulties in walking, you were the one going to our house to see us, to see me. You loved me so much. I was your favorite grandchild and I know it. I was the one who gave you love and company when Lolo died. You grieved so much when he left you but then you found comfort when I lived with you for a few months. You always cooked for me, and always made sure that I drank “Busog Lusog (Chocolate variant)” right after I wake up. You’d always visit me in my room, and tell me to stop reading because it exhausts the mind. You were excited to wear your dangling earrings and you showed it to me like a happy young girl. You gave me your silver watch, probably to pass on your belongings, because you knew that you’re gonna die soon. I was so selfish and too preoccupied with the worldly things in life that I somehow ignored one of the most important things in my life which was you. Now you’re gone.

I have always blamed myself for your death because you were preventing me from leaving there when I was about to go to college. You even offered paying my school tuition just to be by your side. When I firmly told you that I will be leaving for UP, your health started deteriorating. You probably thought that nobody will be there to love you anymore. And I was foolish enough to not think about what you have probably felt. The day after I left my hometown, I received the news from my father that you were already in the funeral. You don’t know how crushed I was. It's already been three years since your death but I still can’t help but cry when I look at your name on the grave. I was so used to being taken care of by you that I cannot accept that you’ve already crossed over to the spirit world. I would also like to ask for forgiveness that I did not still have enough time, shortly after your death, to wallow in sadness because it was the start of a new academic year. I was busy in college and I’m really not proud of it. However, I thank you that during my first year in college, although I’ve had my fair share of enemies and bad memories, I have achieved a lot and I changed so much for the better. I knew in my heart that it was you who helped me. I have no proof, I just knew it. I believe that you have always been there for me in spirit, even though I cannot perceive you.

Are you happy wherever you are right now? Have you reunited with Lolo there? I wish both of you are okay, because you’ve already had enough sufferings in earth that you had to rest now. I wish you can visit me even just in my dreams. I want to have an assurance that you are here, and you are happy, even if your presence would make me cry again. I personally feel more connected with my father’s side of the family – specifically you and my father. For some weird reason I feel like I came down into this earth to help my father, your middle child. I don’t think he had received enough love from you but it’s okay though, because he is blessed with two daughters that he can be proud of anyway. It is too late to even regret most of the things that you did or did not do to your son, and I to you, but I thank you anyway for giving me sweet memories of a grandmother. You will always be my pretty and jovial grandmother. And if I die, I would like to have a soul contract with you and be with you again in the next life.  We made such strong ties in a small amount of time and you’re one of the reasons why there’s sweetness in living in this earth. Even though I may not think of you all the time, you will always have a special place in my heart, even bigger than the place occupied by my mother. Please be my guardian angel or spirit guide and be with me always. Or please let me know in any way that you are with me. I love you. And happy birthday. :)

Your granddaughter,

Thea

A Streetcar Named Desire (1951 film)


(reactions on the movie starring Vivien Leigh)

Reading the book would have been more wonderful since this movie is already so excellent. Although it encompasses a lot of issues whether societal, psychological, and the like, I can’t help but notice the adherence to gender roles and the struggles that go along with it. Stella and Stanley represent a traditional couple, wherein Stanley is like a Stone Age man who goes out to hunt for food while Stella just waits for her man to bring home some meat. Despite Stanley’s brutal, primitive, and animalistic ways, Stella was so blinded by her love that she had become unaffected by his destructive flaws. Blanche, on the other hand, is another polarizing opposite of Stanley but not in the way that Stella’s femininity complements Stanley’s masculinity. Blanche’s femininity and Stanley’s masculinity are both a bit lopsided on the scales, meaning that they rely on their femininity and masculinity in a distorted way. Both are driven by fear or defensiveness. Blanche shows the shadow side of femininity which includes manipulation, delusion, lies, false charm, and deceptive seduction. Stanley on the other hand shows the shadow side of masculinity in his violence, brutality, anger (as his default emotion), and destructiveness. Perhaps both of them are a mirror of their own flaws which explains why they cannot stand each other.

You’re hearing this from a perspective of a girl – and this may seem unfair but I am utterly repulsed by Stanley Kowalski because he is like a manic dog with rabies. I think everyone, especially women, would be threatened and be afraid of this kind of person. He acts like a tyrannical king, he can break all your things whenever he wants to, and nobody can even question the way he’s behaving. He’s an animal – and Marlon Brando just did a good job in portraying how horrid the man was. 

Blanche, on the other hand, gained my sympathy since she seemed like an old maid version of Scarlett O’Hara. Even after being financially ruined and losing her family's land, Blanched still tried hard to continue living like a southern belle. Before moving into the house of Stella and Stanley, she has secretly slept with many men in her hometown. Stanley, who despises her, found out about it, and told his friends, including Harold who was in love with her. Consequently, these men started looking down on her like a piece of dirt. However, Blanche did not go from man to man to just fulfill her sexual needs – she actually needed a man to lean on and to fill in the emptiness of her soul. And yet, Harold, after learning about Blanche’s side in spite of her bad reputation in town, said, “No, I don’t think I want to marry you anymore. No. you’re not clean enough to bring in the house with my mom.” 

Blanche was already old and so she tries hard to deceive herself, as well as other people, into thinking that she’s still young, beautiful, and fresh, because there is a societal belief that what makes women powerful are youth and beauty. A woman’s beauty is fleeting, and their blooming years are during their teenage years up until their twenties, which explains why most women are so sensitive about their age. There are also double standards that men had to have sexual intercourse with women to be considered as "true" men, while women who do the same with the opposite sex are treated like dirt. Blanche was not a fresh and innocent lily anymore, so she resorted to fooling men into thinking that she is an ideal woman:

“I know I fib a good deal. After all, a woman’s charm is 50 percent illusion.”

“He [Harold] hasn’t gotten anything more than a good-night kiss. That’s all I’ve given him. I want his respect. And men don’t want anything they get too easy. On the other hand, men lose interest quickly, especially when a girl is over… over 30. When I mentioned marriage they even forgot where I lived, so… so, you see, I haven’t informed him of my real age.” 

“What I mean is, he thinks I’m sort of…prim and proper, you know. I want to deceive him…just enough to make him want me.”

However, society has been so harsh to old maids like Blanche but they do not understand how much old maids struggle deep down because women ought to snag a man and live happily ever after as wives of their husbands. Having beauty is like having luck in the genetic lottery; so if beauty becomes a female necessity to attract a mate, and women were brought up to think that their self-worth is attached to their abilities in attracting a mate, then just imagine how miserable old maids and Plain Janes must feel!

“Having great wealth sometimes makes people lonely. A cultivated woman, a woman of breeding and intelligence, can enrich a man’s life immeasurably. I have those things to offer. And time doesn’t take them away. Physical beauty is passing, a transitory possession. But beauty of the mind, richness of the spirit, tenderness of the heart…I have all those things. Aren’t taken away, but grow, increase with the years.”

“Strange that I have been called a destitute woman when I have all these treasures locked in my heart. I think of myself as a very, very rich woman. But I have been foolish, casting my pearls before…”

Near the end of the movie, Stella angrily told Stanley that people like Blanche are the result of people like Stanley. If we look at it in a feminist perspective, deceptive women (both inwardly and outwardly) are only results of what patriarchy expects them to be. Society defines the ideal woman as virginal, passive, feminine, young, and beautiful. It is also because of patriarchal societies globally that women, especially back then, feel the need to stick to a man or a husband in order to get ahead in life: “I never was hard or self-sufficient enough. Soft people… Soft people have got to court the favor of the hard ones, Stella. You’ve got to shimmer and glow. I don’t know how much longer I can turn the trick. It isn’t enough to be soft. You’ve got to be soft and attractive. And I…I’m fading now.” Women, like Blanche, were always hidden behind curtains, putting up a pleasing façade in order to please patriarchy, and were always bullied whenever they try to be as promiscuous as men and leave the feminine ideal of being like Virgin Mary.

Warriors of the Rainbow


(a commentary on the Taiwanese movie, "Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale (2011)")

Almost all colonized nations, if not all, had the tribal or primitive behavior of people from the Stone Age, wherein survival was the main reason for living. This “savage” behavior makes the “civilized” nations more certain of colonizing these lands, adding to the fact that tribal people fought with each other and still had no unity or concept of nationalism. This lack of national unity makes it easier for global superpowers to dominate these countries. This movie, “Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale,” made me have full respect for tribesmen despite their bloody ways of living because they were more connected to the earth than the civilized people who rely most of the time on technology and rational thinking. This difference is portrayed in the movie in how the Seediq people have muscly and tanned bodies while the Japanese colonizers look very slender and sallow. In today’s world, behaving like a tribal man would surely make you a laughing stock, but I was so amazed by their sense of pride and dignity in the movie that I would have loved to be one of them. They were more connected with the physicality of the third dimensional earth, and I rather think that they live life more fully because they face life with more bravery than us modern people who hide behind technology and cement houses.
                              
While I was watching the movie, I have seen the similarity in the struggles of the Seediq people and the Filipinos against colonizers. Besides being enslaved in our own land, we were also looked down upon no matter what we did. Whether we please the colonizers or fight them, the result is still the same. I remember one quote in the movie: “We don’t want to be savages; but however hard we try to dress up like the Japanese, we’ll always be seen as uncivilized people.” They’re like the Filipinos who were still seen as “indios” or “little brown brothers” no matter what they do; it doesn’t matter how high your educational attainment is – for them, you’re still inferior. Period. Going back to the Seediq people, the Japanese’s lowly opinion about them was already a big blow to their manly, tribal pride – how much more now that their hunting grounds were also stolen from them? I was seething with anger whenever a certain Japanese police officer would beat up tribesmen just because of an unintentional mistake, and fighting back does them no good but only more trouble. Despite the glory and pride in being natives, the story of our ancestors all ended up in tragedy the moment they faced a colonial power.

I personally hate to witness this evil transitional period that third world nations had to go through in order to get civilized. However, look at where we still are right now. We have adopted the ways of the Spaniards and Americans, we dress up like Europeans, we patronize Hollywood stars – but did that elevate our position globally? Although at the surface it looks like we have risen from where we were before, we are still at the mercy of these global superpowers who still usurp our natural resources while we still struggle economically and for our national identity which was lost through time because of the colonial impositions of their own culture to the colonized people who already had their own cultures and traditions beforehand. It is a sad fact that now we have little to be proud of and call our own, because the descendants of our struggling ancestors now are a little confused of their own identity. 

What Astrology Did to Me


When I was a kid, I was torn between being “religiously upright” and studying or doing things that I love. I was raised by Catholic parents, specifically my mother (because my father is actually not as devout as my mother is), so there were lots of restrictions in my being. I was a naturally shy and solitary child, but I felt like my talents, skills, and knowledge were not as showcased as the other kids’ – and because of the many criticisms I received as a little girl, I grew up to be inhibited and mysterious. I wanted perfection for myself not just because I care a lot about what other people say, but because the kingdom of heaven became my goal back then. I knew that God would only permit people who perfected themselves as Jesus to become worthy of his untainted Holy City. It was only in college that I realized how fucked up that is, and how it is a perfect tool for suppressing freedom of expression in people. So it was only now in college that I brought back my childhood fascination of the astrology and the occult. I just knew that there were certain arrangements in the planets that can influence us, and most of the things that I studied about astrology gave me joy as I really like understanding myself and other people. The occult, “magic,” the laws of the universe, spirits and extraterrestrials, universal dimensions – all of that gave me such inner peace and joy that no other scholastic subject can, except for visual arts and creative writing.

Basically, astrology became a tool for me to understand myself better. Growing up, I thought that something’s wrong with who I am because people seem to perceive me that way. Maybe it only stopped when I turned eighteen because that was the time that I stopped caring whether they think I’m a weirdo or not, as long as I am happy and beautiful. I really love making myself beautiful. When I learned that I was a Libra, and when I studied the sign deeper, I understood why I am making such a big fuss about beauty. It’s like the theme of my life. Lack of beauty is what I blamed for not receiving enough love as a child, and being beautiful is what I thought of as the reason why I get love now. I also have this flaw of caring a lot about other people that I am already hurting myself in the process. I can’t say no easily. And when I do, I feel a lot of guilt because I hate conflict so much. Eventually, I have learned that we are not our sun signs alone. We are the combination of all the signs, planets, and houses of our natal chart. When I first saw my natal chart, everything made sense to me. I am the perfect combination of a Virgo rising, Libra sun, Libra mercury, Scorpio venus and mars, third house stellium, intense pluto influence, Gemini midheaven, and so on. I am the child of Mercury, Venus, and Pluto combined. And I am very thankful for those placements because they’re so beautiful. Of course I am far from being astrologically crafted into perfection, but if only you knew how much self-deprecation I had for several years prior to my eighteenth birthday, you can somehow say that astrology helped me understand and appreciate myself.

Also, this knowledge of astrology led me to a better understanding of the universe at large – but also with the help of modern spiritual teachers like Teal Swan and others. Celestial events like lunar eclipses, mercury retrogrades, etc. helped me adjust myself better to not-so-good situations and understand that these planetary influences that fuck up our lives are not happening because the universe hates us, but because we can use them to our advantage to evolve spiritually into a higher consciousness. The study of astrology eventually led me to spiritual communities on the internet, like islands of misfit toys where I can share my weirdness and feel a sense of belonging that I cannot feel in the rational world. It led me to comfort others through my astrological and spiritual perspective that what they experience is okay, that who they are is not wrong, that their bodies are not suicidal, that they create their own reality, and that we are living in a very loving universe. Astrology is something that I can learn forever, and something that I’ll be very glad to casually teach to others who are willing to listen. Astrology is only one part of the whole; and I learn this as well as other spiritual teachings so I can integrate them in my life and find more joy in living. 

Insiang (1976)


(feminist reactions about the movie)

This is a very, very, very good movie; and I mean it with all my heart. We know for a fact that Filipino movies are a bit lagging behind western or Hollywood movies since they have more technological knowledge and gadgets, but this movie “Insiang”, which was set in the slums of Manila was so realistic, true-to-life, it has no pretenses meaning there was not too much exaggerations – just right, and a very empowering tool for women despite having shown many things that are proofs of men’s perceived superiority over women. I have felt a dense and saddening energy about the first parts of the movie projecting the slums and people being idle on a bridge. Maybe this heavy feeling was only a result of the collective sufferings of the people living in that area. Nevertheless, it’s still good because we get a fuller picture of what’s really happening our own country.

As many viewers may notice, there were lots of instances, besides the rape of Insiang, shown in the movie that women are being disrespected by men. These acts of disrespect, although men may only perceive as katuwaan lang, can really make strong imprint in women. If ignored, these women may develop low self-esteem or a rejection of their own femaleness. Furthermore, they may also feel unsafe and insecure in this world still dominated by men. One instance is that when Dado was trying to help Insiang carry her loads in the street and she refused, another man told him, “Sino ba talagang pinupuntirya mo, yung anak o yung ina?”

There was also a scene wherein drunkards sit by a store and they catcall a random pretty lady with her mother. They also grabbed the breasts of the young lady who was in charge of the store. The maniac who did that was actually Insiang’s nephew; and when the father of the victim went to their house to punish Insiang’s nephew, she answered, “Lasing lang ho ‘yun, ‘di niya naman sinasadya.” It’s funny how guys can easily get away with their sexually harassing acts just because they were drunk. It’s not an excuse, right? The problem is with the internal belief imposed by patriarchy that women are inferior and sexual objects, and not with the drunkenness itself.

I personally hate it when I am shown evidences that men can just have sex with a girl and leave her behind afterwards, as if she was just a vagina and not a human being. Dado is surely the villain in the movie, but the character who inspires a more negative reaction from me is Bebot. Don’t you just hate it when the person or people whom you trust and depend on to love and save you from this cruel world turns their back on you in the end? And as they say, betrayal comes from those closest to you. Bebot even said “Wag kayong mag-alala pare. Pag may nangyare, kayo’ng unang makakaalam!” to his guy friends in the slums and it made me feel sorry for Insiang since she thought that love existed between the two of them when in fact Bebot only courted her because he felt lust for Insiang because she was beautiful. I also remembered that after Insiang was already raped by Dado, he justified his action by saying, “Hindi ako makapagpigil. Mahal kita eh.” It seems like he was only using love as an excuse to get sex from her, like Bebot. And I do not like it when men do that to women. They often say “Magtiwala ka kasi sakin, wala ka naming tiwala eh,” to persuade women into having sex with them or reasoning that if the woman loves them, she would have sex with them. Intimacy can be a part of love, but forcing another person to have sex with you is already some kind of a power play or a selfish act and not love.

Also, some misconceptions about masculinity that men believed for a long time were portrayed in this movie. Some men think that through violence and inspiring fear through others, they may look bigger. Bebot and Dado are big examples of that. Dado also said this to Bebot: “Nakahikaw ka nanaman eh. Kaya nabubwisit ako sayo eh! Alam mo, ang naghihikaw, hindi lalaki!” It seems to me that men prove their masculinity by steering away from things that are feminine, as if they are completely opposing poles, rather than express themselves freely. Or, it may also mean that feminine things were perceived as “lowly” that they don’t suit them as men. Rape is also one way men show their control over women, like what Dado did to Insiang. In societies wherein patriarchy unquestionably dominates like the community Insiang was in, men think of rape as an okay thing, and an opportunity to prove their masculinity. And another sad thing was that Insiang developed a bad reputation even though she was the victim only supports the fact that women are indeed perceived as inferior and promiscuous.

And the last issue shown in the movie is the way girls hate each other because of men. Of course men also get in conflict with each other when it comes to women but girls are actually harsher to each other. I was frustrated by Insiang’s friend because she ignored her now that rumors about her spread instead of asking or understanding her perspective as a friend. Her mother also hates her, not only because she reminds her of her father who left them, but also because she sees Insiang as a threat or a competitor. She even said “Nakakahiya…Ang sabihin mo nagpapaganda ka para mapansin ka ng mga lalaki,” to Insiang even though that’s not really the case. Maybe she was only projecting, or maybe that statement is a proof that she is threatened by the sexual attractiveness of her own daughter. Not all women are like this, but this is also a sad fact of life. We girls can just hang out with each other and indulge in the nurturing feminine energy and yet we think negatively of each other. I think it is a little impossible to reach women empowerment if we hate our own sex.

Now, regarding third world feminism, I actually have mixed opinions about this – and what pleases me is that my whole thoughts about this subject was fully encompassed by this amazing movie. Women were truly oppressed, subjugated, and treated as sex objects for thousands of years; and this movie has captured this fact. However, what I do not agree with in radical feminism is that they stay focused on the victimization of women. It is very important to be aware and fight for women’s rights, but I don’t think that it benefits our psyche or our well-being to be in a constant state of resistance and hatred. Insiang, as it seems to me, was devastated by what men did to her but she found empowerment within her through avenging (I am not saying this is good) herself. She did not stay in the role of a victim. Revenge does not make us feel happy, but at least she found power within herself and realized later on that it really did not do her any good. And that act of finding power within, for me, is a challenge for us women living in third-world countries since we cannot wait forever for our countries to be industrialized and comfortable to live in before we reclaim our power that has been long-suppressed by men. 

Athaliah: The Homicidal Queen



(reaction to the play "Athaliah" by Racine)

This play of Racine written in the 18th century was very reflective of the radical views of religion especially during the times of the Old Testament. As it seems to me, “spiritual” people back then see things as black and white, or good and evil – if you break a law of “God” then you would be turned into an outcast and people would lose respect for you. Although this is clearly very wrong, especially in the eyes of us 21st century readers, the people at that time could have been radical in their spiritual beliefs because it threatens their survival socially, and their fate in the afterlife. The belief about heaven and hell was so popular that the concept of hell terrified the hell out of people and the concept of heaven inspired them to be “good” in the Biblical standards so they may attain that heavenly dimension wherein they are exempted from the complicated ups and downs of life.

As I have mentioned earlier, spiritual people back then only saw other people as either completely good or completely evil – and in the case of Athaliah, she was seen as the “black” one in the scale like her murdered mother, Jezebel. I rather thought of the following lines about Athaliah to be very unfair, since we all have reasons for doing something. No one is suicidal enough to do bad things for the sake of being hated and killed.

“I watched her yesterday, and watched her eye
Flash on this holy place a furious glance,
As if the depths of this vast edifice
Concealed God’s ‘venger, armed to punish her.
Believe me, more I think of it and less
I doubt that ‘tis on you her wrath’s to burst;
And that the cruel Athaliah will
Assail our God, e’en in His sanctuary. (Abner)

“In one of the church courts, reserved for men,
This haughty woman enters, with profound mien,
And even prepares to overpass the bounds
Of the enclosure sacred, which alone
Is open to the Levites. Terrified
The people fled in every way. My father –
Ah! What resentment kindled in his eye!” (Zachariah)

“Wherefore comes, this enemy of God, to taint the air we inhale?” (Joad to Mathan)

Yet, we can see her reasons for killing those babies and for attempting to kill again the baby who escaped because it was perhaps her last resort for easing her seething anger against the race of David who brutally killed her mother and because the saved baby (Joas) appeared in her dream and stabbed her.

“Her shadow seemed to bend itself, and I
Held out my arms in order to embrace it;
But only found confusion horrible
Of mangled bones and flesh dragged in the mud,
And tatters soaked in gore, of hideous limbs,
That dogs, devouring, fought for with each other.”

“His sweetness, noble air, and modesty
I was admiring, all at once I felt
A homicidal steel, plunged by the traitor
Deep through my breast.” (Athaliah)

Probably, the reason why this play was entitled “Athaliah” and has Athaliah as the protagonist despite her “evil” ways was because we could actually feel sympathy for Athaliah not only because religious people think that she’s going down the “wrong” path but because she was ostracized in the place she lives in even though her crime was understandable but then she gets killed too in the end, following the footsteps of her poor mother. And contrary to what the other characters in the play think, I actually think that Athaliah was a spiritual person since she gets prophetic dreams (prophetic in a sense that it foretells the future, not necessarily religious). Most people who are not interested in things that cannot be seen do not even pay attention to their dreams, so Athaliah could have been, in fact, more in touch with the spiritual life than other people.

On the other hand, Joas, was very much glorified and his good qualities were exaggerated and romanticized – which was the opposite of what they did to Athaliah. Because of the environment that that child grew up in, and the beliefs that were ingrained in him, he has become the stereotypically “good” person in the Biblical standards. But, if I’m going to be really judgmental, I rather think that he had a “messiah complex.” But it’s not entirely his fault, of course, since the people around him also think of him as a savior.

“All that revere
The race of David, Athaliah hate!
Joas will affect them with his modesty,
Through which appears to glow his royal blood.” (Joad)

“So, in a secret vale upon the banks
Of a pellucid stream,
Beneath the shadow of an oak,
A tender lily bloometh, nature’s love.
Far from the world arising, ‘tis adorned
With all heaven’s blessings from its birth;
And the contagious company of the bad
Doth alter not its innocence.” (Choir)

And lastly, I would like to point out that sometimes people can project themselves unto God’s personality, or who they think he is:

“That love is what the Lord desires; that He
Sooner or later will avenge His name,
His holy name blasphemed; that He protects
The timid orphan, that He breaks the proud,
And punishes the murderer.”

“Mine must be feared, for he alone is God,
And yours is nothing, Madam.” (Joas)

“O let them weep, my God, and groan for fear,
The miserable, who will not see
The eternal splendor of Thy Holy City.
But we must chant, to whom Thou dost reveal
Thy everlasting light;
Of all Thy gifts and grandeur we must sing.”

People have contradictory views of who God is. Some people say that He is loving, while some people say that He is vengeful and full of hatred, like what Joas above seem to portray him. This is very, very contradictory. I rather think that religion was mostly used for political purposes, like what they did in this play, because it easily inspires fear in people. It’s funny how “spiritual” people see themselves as good when they hate the people who do not share their beliefs. And that fact is clearly reflected in “Athaliah”. 

Heneral Luna (2015)


(reflections about the movie)

Gen. Antonio Luna as portrayed in this movie was hilariously hot-tempered, pigheaded, aggressive, and brave. And as most people have already noticed, it is very remarkable how he was portrayed as a human, having faults despite being a hero because that makes him relatable and it also makes us sympathize with him more. It makes us realize that we do not have to be saintly to be a hero – we just have to be aware and principled enough to act out of love for our motherland. I also find it interesting when flawed characters become the protagonists because I think we’ve already had enough of having always the “good” people be the bida in everything. I remembered my favorite fictional character, Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind. She’s very selfish and hot-tempered, pretty much like General Luna – but even though she was so imperfect, we can still sympathize with her because she is a human after all. I like them both because they stayed true to themselves even though they had enemies, and did not feel the need to put on a façade of being “virtuous” just to make people like them.

The most memorable scene for me was the train scene, wherein the train was needed by the Filipino soldiers during the Filipino-American war but the officials who were abusive of their power encouraged their relatives to take the train and stroll around the country. Their faces were so relaxed, and I personally think that they look mangmang, because of my own bias and irritation as I understood how Luna felt at that time. The Filipino soldiers, or at least General Luna himself, were in a state of desperation because the American forces were already possessing the country bit by bit. And yet those Filipinos still had time to stare into space while sitting in the train. The movie really made me realize that the problem was with the Filipinos and not with the colonizers. Because they were, in fact, just doing their job in getting their own colonies. We could have fought for our independence if we wanted to – but most Filipinos were blind and there were not enough truly patriotic leaders that could have led their countrymen to act against the colonizers. And even though I pity Aguinaldo for his long life and long list of haters especially in our generation, I can now understand why he was such an asshole. As it was portrayed in the movie, his quiet demeanor just added to his annoying qualities. The Philippines was actually well-equipped with remarkable heroes, and things could have been different if it were not for historical antagonists like him.

Of course, Aguinaldo wasn’t the only infuriating character there. Luna, because of his fiery personality, gained many enemies who were either offended by or envious of him. What really made my blood boil was the fact that the generals were arguing with each other and plotting stuff against each other in the midst of the war. The country at that time was at risk of being colonized by yet another global superpower. And yet they were wasting valuable time being in conflict with each other! That is when I realized that the problem really is within our own country. I think being utak talangka, or having crab mentality, is already culturally ingrained within us. Any reasonable person would say that national issues, especially when our own country is threatened by another country, are more important than personal issues. General Luna, near the time of his assassination, was at the peak of his glorious years. He was so good that his enemies had to see his downfall, even at the expense of betraying our own motherland. When this kind of reality was exposed to me by the movie, I cannot help but get outraged in spite of its funny parts. Our history really has something to say about the present-day Filipinos, and where we are right now globally. 

Romeo and Juliet

(opinions on the play "Romeo and Juliet" by William Shakespeare)

From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life;
Whose misadventur’d piteous overthrows
Doth with their death bury their parents’ strife.


Reading this play, instead of watching the 1968 movie starring Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting, is what made me feel kilig – the same feeling that I have when I watch AlDub (Alden Richards and Maine Mendoza) on Eat Bulaga. The way they conversed with each other was very delightful. They make me remember those early times when I first experienced puppy love and I was as mad as Juliet. I will not go into details, but the guy and I were also pinaglayo by the elders around us but it was because we were too young back then. Way too young. (We had the right love at the wrong time…) When I got my heart broken I resorted to sad love songs and lots of chocolates and I eventually became fat and unsightly. I was also disgusted with myself. I also cannot agree more with what Friar Lawrence said:

These violent delights have violent ends,
And in their triumph die; like fire and powder,
Which, as they kiss, consume: the sweetest honey
Is loathsome in his own deliciousness,
And in the taste confounds the appetite:
Therefore love moderately: long love doth so;
Too swift arrives as tardy as too slow.

Young and impulsive love is surely foolish, but we all know that it is also the most memorable. It is when we love the most and give our all. I, for instance, when I experienced love for the first time, was very idealistic and I was like a dog in my love and loyalty to the boy. All I knew about love was what the 90’s love songs say. Romeo and Juliet were very young too, and I guess that’s just the nature of young love. If not properly supervised, it may result to teenage pregnancy and regrets – but Juliet’s age is already the age of motherhood during her time so I guess it would not be a big problem as it is now.

As I was reading the whole play, I have noticed that men, especially Romeo, talk of beauty as if it is the only thing that gives value to a girl. I have also wondered that if Juliet was not beautiful, would she still be as prized as she was portrayed in the play? Would the people around her still treat her like a very precious thing? These are some passages in the play (all of which are Romeo’s) that idealize beauty in women:


O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!
It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiop’s ear;
Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear!
So shows a snowy dove trooping with crows
As yonder lady o’er her fellow shows.
The measure done, I’ll watch her place of stand
And, touching hers, make blessed my rude hand.
Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight!
For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night.

The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars,
As daylight doth a lamp; her eyes in heaven
Would through the airy region stream so bright
That bird would sing and think it were not night. –
See how she leans her cheek upon her hand!
O that I were a glove upon that hand,
That I might touch that cheek!

O sweet Juliet,
Thy beauty hath made me effeminate
And in my temper soften’d valour’s steel.
:
O my love! My wife!
Death, that hath suck’d the honey of thy breath,
Hath had no power yet upon thy beauty:
Thou art not conquer’d; beauty’s ensign yet
Is crimson in thy lips and in thy cheeks,
And death’s pale flag is not advanced there.

Even fairytale princesses were portrayed as very beautiful. I grew up thinking that women had to be beautiful in order to be treated like princesses. But (physical) beauty is not present in everyone! Perhaps one reason why women hate beautiful women (whether they admit it or not) is because beauties have somehow won in the genetic lottery and it’s not that hard for them to attract romance in their lives. Men, on the other hand, can just work hard and be wealthy and they can already assure themselves that they’ll have wives. The sad reality in life is that physical appearances really do matter. Especially for women – and that’s where they get their power, since they lack the strength and aggressive nature of men.

Aside from beauty, I also cannot help but see some instances of gender oppression. Despite Juliet being beautiful, called as a “sweet flower” several times, and treated as a precious jewel, she may have secretly detested being born as a woman. She was forced to be married to a man she didn’t love for social and economic reasons because she was already ripe for marriage, as if she was cattle that’s ready to be sold and butchered:


But saying o’er what I have said before:
My child is yet a stranger in the world,
She hath not seen the change of fourteen years;
Let two more summers wither in their pride
Ere we may think her ripe to be a bride. (Capulet)

Well, think of marriage now: younger than you,
Here in Verona, ladies of esteem,
Are already made mothers: by my count
I was your mother much upon these years
That you are not a maid. Thus, then, in brief –
The valiant Paris seeks you for his love. (Lady Capulet)

When she refused to get married to Paris, words like wretch and harlotry came out – even if she wasn’t really behaving like a whore. This is an insult to women, since one act of disobedience could already gain them these labels during Shakespeare’s time. They were not treated like human beings, but as flowers – pretty but useless:


(Capulet)
Hang thee, young baggage! Disobedient wretch!
I tell thee what, - get thee to church o’ Thursday,
Or never after look me in the face:
Speak not, reply not, do not answer me;
My fingers itch. – Wife, we scarce thought us bles’d
That God had lent us but this only child;
But now I see this one is one too much,
And that we have a curse in having her:
Out on her, hilding!

Well, be may chance to do some good on her:
A peevish self-will’d harlotry it is.

Thus, women’s fate during Romeo and Juliet’s time can be summarized in what Friar Lawrence said:

The earth, that’s nature’s mother, is her tomb;
What is her burying grave, that is her womb.

Now I think what made the play really tragic is that Romeo and Juliet did not really experience being happy together. The ending was just so disappointing, annoying, irritating, because those two young lovers killed themselves. I was really frustrated when Romeo drank the potion. He could have waited and bawled for a few more days before committing suicide. Personally, I think that the ending has some kind of a connotation regarding our “first loves.” After losing the first person whom we thought was the one, somehow some part of us dies and we become not so innocent and idealistic anymore. However, that lost part of us can also be the reason why we do not feel as happy and as in love compared to when we still had our first loves. 

Literature 183

Taking Time, Living Alone, and Thesis


Today, I have a 7am class for history but it’s 9:34am now and I just woke up. I feel a bit guilty for missing the lecture and quiz today – but I guess it’s okay, as long as the right thing for me now is to skip that very early class because I was tired because of an attempted research and watching a historical film yesterday. And I just couldn’t move earlier for it rained and it was too cold. I had to stay in my bed. Yet I feel really guilty. Today is also the deadline for my thesis analysis, but I won’t pass it today. I guess I’ll pass it tomorrow. One spiritual teacher says that the key to loving yourself is to care about how you feel, and not live life according to should’s. When my alarm clock rang earlier, that teaching was immediately brought to my mind. Should I stress myself out? Or should I permit my body to have enough sleep? I chose the latter. And now I feel really guilty – which still doesn’t do good for me. Somehow I feel like I get into trouble because I don’t know how to manage my time well, but the defensive part of me says that happy times are not wasted times. And I was happy spending my time with my best friend yesterday.

I also feel like I am already living in my own little bubble. But who doesn’t? Of course, it’s the people who always look outwardly instead of inwardly. It’s the people who care about society’s expectations and other people’s approval. It’s the people who have a tribal mindset. I, however, am already tired of it. Sure, it’s fun to be in groups – but in the long run, you’d care more about how the group or other people perceive you than finding empowerment within yourself. Of course I am saying this out of experience too. For the past two years, I lived in a boarding house wherein living there is a bit communal. Each of us had very little privacy. Isolating yourself from the group means risking yourself to being backstabbed. And when you are the enemy of one person there, most probably most of them will hate you also. I’ve tried it and it’s a bad thing. In a communal living like that, some people would also try to assert their dominance and be the queen bee and ramble narcissistically about themselves. It’s very draining to have lots of psychic vampires access your world. Therefore, I believe that removing myself from that house was very healthy for me. At least I have become less dependent of others and their approval. It’s safer because right now, only my true friends occasionally try to go near me.

And, going back to the topic of having deadlines and (unintentionally) not adhering to them, I found this very beautiful quote on the internet:

“Stop beating yourself up. You are a work in progress; which means you get there a little at a time, not all at once.” – Unknown

I get stressed out about my thesis because I do not know what the heck I am going to do with it. It’s scary because the jury that will judge my thesis are very educated and knowledgeable professors, and I fear that after all of the hard work that I have done, I will just end up failing this and have another burden later on. I want horrible things to get finished fast. Yet last night, which is the second night of my attempted analysis, I nearly finished my mock analysis and gained more insights because I was less stressed and my perspectives grew a little broader while talking to my best friend yesterday. I am very worried about the “unscholarliness” of my thesis, even though it’s a universal fact that every perspective is valid. The educational system surely limits us regarding what we should know. And that fact makes me so thankful of the internet because nobody had to tell me about researching about spiritual stuff. This innate curiosity just leads me to the awesome things that are mostly unknown to the world. I just wish I had enough curiosity about my boring thesis so I could get rid of it right away. Still, I am thankful that my thesis is close enough to my interests. I am doing a feminist deconstruction (still subject to changes) of some Cuyunon (Palawan) folk songs. I am really really really interested in women and all things that are feminine. However, I tend to steer away from radical feminism and just focus on how awesome it is to be a woman. Therefore, I think my thesis really fits me. And being thankful and realizing this just now helped me clear my mind and do my work with more enthusiasm. Ciao!

Medea, Romance, and Gender Roles

(opinions on the play "Medea" by Euripides) 


I am a woman, a proudly feminine woman – and for that fact it can be assumed that I would automatically side with Medea, instead of Jason. It is natural that I understand Medea more than Jason, but I don’t think siding with one character and bullying another character helps. I think I understand both of them, but I hate to admit that do not really support Medea in this play. Feminists would probably hate me, but we are all entitled to our own opinion. The secret that nobody wants to talk about is that we all love gender roles. But in this day and age wherein women are more empowered, it frustrates me that feminine women are seen as inferior and weak (not only be men, but women as well), and so we feel the need to harden ourselves too like men to avoid this inferiority that is associated with women.

At first, while I was still reading the first parts of the play, I thought that the play was not about feminism, or which gender was oppressed, but about infidelity. However, I changed my mind near the end of the play. The truth for me is that we cannot get away with gender or gender issues. I’ve seen how men, even thousands of years ago, have stripped power away from women. In this play I’ve noticed how Creon and Jason wanted to banish Medea because they fear her. They do not have any respect for women; they see them as possessions, accessories, child bearers, and sex objects. And it is very obvious how the image of Medea was demonized because that kind of woman is what men fear. They want to keep women subjugated because they fear their tendency of being Medea-like. And yes, I definitely think that Jason is an asshole and a coward. He wanted glory more than anything else, and he just used Medea for his selfish desires. It’s obvious that he didn’t love Medea (or didn’t love her enough) but why did he still impregnate her? Is it for the purpose of keeping a talisman by his side to aid him in his conquests?

Women have different personalities, of course, but judging from my experiences, Medea was wrong in being the initiator. I’m really generalizing here. Our grandmothers’ frequent advice is that we should marry the man who loves us more than we love him. From my experiences, it turns out that granny is right. When I was in high school, I was really Medea-like for my long-term high school crush. I was obsessed. At first he did have little feelings for me, but I was so open about liking him that he was eventually freaked out and ended up liking another classmate and not caring about me at all. It was only recently that we talked and he admitted that he was afraid of my strong personality (I didn’t think of myself that way). And as I was growing up, I learned that men can like many girls – and admitting that they like you is not an assurance that they love you and they will never leave you. Medea is just like any other girls, naïve and a hopeless romantic. I can relate to her that way because there is also an aspect of my personality that can murder for love. Playing hard to get, or being pakipot, is really essential in testing a man because most of them may only want sex from a girl. I do not really understand the male psyche fully – but from my experiences, that’s who they are. The man who is persistent and respectful probably is the one who has pure intentions.

In the 1969 Italian movie of Medea that I have watched, Jason got Medea easily because she was like throwing herself on him already. She immediately went with the man who was a complete stranger and had sex immediately. It’s not that I am against Medea, or that I hate my own sex – but if she loved herself enough, she would protect herself and test Jason first because women are always the losers when men leave and they were left with fatherless children. Yes, it was not wrong of her to get what she wants for herself, but when it comes to the relationships between males and females, it is usually healthy when men are the aggressors and women are in the receptive role. When it’s the other way around, it does not usually work out and women always end up crying. But I cannot blame Medea for being wrathful and full of hatred. She had the right to be angry. No one would feel thankful when they are betrayed by the one they love the most. But these murders that she committed for revenge, instead of being empowering as a woman, looks very degrading to me. She went through all this mess just for the love of Jason who didn’t love her back anyway. Those actions were done because of desperation. And that kind of puts Jason in the pedestal. I wish I could tell Medea to know her true worth. Maybe that could have saved her from all the pain that she went through because of a man.


Literature 183
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