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,


People Who Don't Like You

They say I'm nasty...

When some people don’t like you, even if they’re just little ants compared to the rest of the world, it bothers you. It bothers us. Well, at least for me, it bothers me a lot. It makes me wonder what I have done wrong, or if there’s nothing, then it makes me wonder what’s wrong with me. When we have a problem like this, people tell us to ignore those bitches. But we just can’t, right? We can ignore them physically but they totally occupy our minds especially if we have to meet them every day. Some people purposely talk to the person beside me and ignore me. Some people put all of their power into destroying my reputation. Yes, yes, they are only powerful behind my back – but they’re powerful nonetheless. They’re powerful because they have access to my emotions. These kinds of cattiness definitely can make my whole day feel glum. And what’s crazier is that even if they aren’t aware of what they are doing, your own mind thinks that every little thing they do is a proof of their dislike of you. This is going a bit overboard, but, as the Buddha says, our mind is our biggest enemy.

Yet sometimes I wonder, is it really the mind which is our biggest enemy? Or our emotions? No matter what I tell my brain, I keep feeling the same thing when I am around these people. I keep feeling unsafe, anxious, and inferior. It’s as if they’re all out to get and destroy me. Those dark days in my life were definitely over, but the scars and wounds that they have left still have to heal. There’s no way that I’d hang out with those people again. But me disliking them is not really about something wrong with them, although sometimes that is the case, but it’s mostly about protecting myself from being hurt again by them. Nothing hurts worse than having your “friends” turn their back on you just because of a simple mistake that’s even unintentional. Sometimes I even regret spending lots of time with them because those times are definitely wasted now that their phoniness is exposed. But again, the BIGGEST reason why I avoid people is to protect my annoyingly vulnerable self from being hurt again.

When I try to think about why I hate or dislike certain people, the reasons are they judge me, they point out my mistakes, they’re too perfect, they look down on me, they compete with me, they observe my every little move, they have hurt me, they backstab me, they destroy my reputation to people especially my suitors, or they don’t like me too. But since the perspective you’re reading about is mine, I really believe that I have done nothing wrong to those who dislike me. Some people just don’t like you for no reason. Or for no logical reason. But if you’re a girl, you’d definitely say that it is because of envy and envy alone. If you’re happy, they envy becomes bigger and bigger until you feel some kind of hostility out of nowhere. When I was feeling envy for certain people a few years back, I tend to really avoid them because they hurt my self-esteem. I avoid looking at their Facebook timelines because they seem too happy and perfect to even exist on earth. What’s worse is when I get compared with these people – I’m like, fuck you!!! Envy is a poisonous feeling that just engulfs us every time our object of envy is nearby. I remember that there was one person who just hurt the hell out of me so I became colder. But every time her beauty pleases my eye, and every time people compliment her, I get burnt. I just do. But love diffuses hate as they say, so it went away when things worked well between us. I cannot know the reason why some people dislike me but one surefire way to be happy and have revenge (if ever you still feel the need to do that) is just be happy and be yourself – because your enemies hate it when you’re happy. Or just be beautiful, if you're a girl, because it makes people crazy both in a positive and negative way - it's a win-win situation. :) 

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 lots 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 and Stella just waits for her man to bring in 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 negative way. Both are driven by fear or defensiveness. Blanche shows the shadow side of femininity which is manipulation, delusion, lies, false charm, seduction, and deceptive beauty. Stanley on the other hand shows the shadow side of masculinity in his violence, brutality, anger (as his default emotion), and destructiveness. Perhaps they’re both a mirror of their own flaws that’s why they cannot stand each other.

You’re hearing this from a perspective of a girl – and this may be unfair but I am utterly repulsed by Stanley Kowalski because he seems to be a psychopathic 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, and he can break all your things whenever he wants to with you even unable to react to question the way he’s behaving. He’s an animal – and Marlon Brando just did a good job in portraying how hateful the man was. Blanche, on the other hand, gained my sympathy since she just seems like an old maid version of Scarlett O’Hara. I love her coquettish ways, but not so much her prostitute life, since this is very dangerous for a girl. Not that I’m oppressing her by stating that she’s weak to stomach such a promiscuous kind of life, but women are more driven by emotions than men who are more driven by their lust. Men (I’m generalizing here) can have sex with a whole province and still be nonchalant about it. But I don’t think women are the same way. Blanche did not go from man to man to just fulfill her sexual needs – she actually needed a man to lean on and fill in the emptiness of her soul. And yet, after learning about Blanche’s side in spite of her bad reputation in town, Harold 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 youth and beauty is what makes women powerful. A woman’s beauty is fleeting, and their most glorious years are during their teenage years up until their twenties – that’s 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 a true man, while women who do the same are treated as 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 had been so harsh to old maids like Blanche but they do not understand how much they struggle inside 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, 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, or maybe in the middle, I remember Stella telling 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. 

Emotional Respect

Just very recently, about an hour ago, I screamed so loud that I have probably startled every girl in my dorm. When I went out of the restroom, I saw in my peripheral vision a very long form of a girl with a long flowing dress up to the ankles and her hair was fashioned like Sadako of some horror movie (I don’t watch those so I don’t know). My immediate reaction of screaming probably freaked the hell out of that girl also and her roommate who was observing the situation because she really meant to scare another girl and not me. I laughed, finding the humor in my sudden shriek, and she hugged me while saying sorry. I found it awkward since we were not close friends and I was embarrassed and I did not like the way it made her feel bad. She opened the door of my room and apologized repeatedly, but I told her it was okay. Because it really was. But I still felt some kind of an awkward feeling and I don’t know where it came from.  You just never know with girls. *wink* 

I find the title of this post to be weird although I intended it to be that way; but what I really mean is the act of respecting other people’s emotions. In this day and age, “emotional suppression” is the trend. Even though you have the right to feel the way that you feel, society says that emotions should not get in the way of work or business – that you’re supposed to be a robot or something like that. This is a big issue for me because I am not really good at suppressing my emotions and feeling stable all the time. When I get angry or offended, I make it known in some way or distance myself from the perpetrators because I just cannot help myself. I know that it creates some kind of a social conflict but it’s very important that we honor our emotions because it says some truth about who we are. And they, especially anger, lets us know if someone has already crossed our boundaries. Lately I have been offended by an authority figure – and as much as I’d like to make myself feel okay, I was really wounded and I am already cautious of not crossing paths with this person again. I say this because despite being able to express or feel, I still feel guilty for being this way because not all people understand. Most people, instead of understanding why you get angry at them or letting you just have your right to be angry, shoots you back with anger and so they’ve added to your official enemy list. And that’s not a very ideal way of living in this world.

It is very important to release our emotions in any way that we can because suppressing energies is an obstacle in the way of health. If possible, laugh all you can because laughter heals. Focus and give more power to the things that make you happy. Cry when you feel sad because the grief ofyour soul needs to be released – even though it takes you weeks or months to overcome the hurt and the pain. Scream. Whether it’s happiness, fear, or anger, as long as you’re not stepping on other people, you can freely express your emotions because you are a human, not a robot. I just do not approve of the way some people release their anger on other people and do not even care if they hurt their feelings. I have an issue on a certain person who seems insensitive to other people’s feelings, probably because the person thinks that he/she is above everyone else. We do not have the right to hurt other people consciously or purposely just because we feel like it. We are interconnected, we are united, so this kind of action seems to be really worthless. Anyway, what I have just told myself is that if someone does not respect my emotions, then this person is not worth my time. Last month I got really angry with my dear girl best friend and I told her that I was angry in the most diplomatic way possible. She understood and felt guilty and thus left me alone for a little while to cool down. And so, I realized that we do not really have to suppress our emotions for the sake of others; because honoring our emotions, be it positive or negative, is the biggest way for us to love ourselves. 

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”. 

Lost Friendships

Here I am again, writing, because I have no other outlet for being so sad and hurt. A certain sweet friend suddenly became cold to me and it hurts me so much because losing friends make me unsafe in this world. I already lost lots so it kind of hurts when the ones you depend on to accept your human flaws drifts away from you bit by bit. My best friend, who seems to have thick skin, says that I shouldn’t take things so personally and that I should always think positive. Yet there are some things in this life that just hurt us easily even if they seem very superficial to a person or an alien who objectively observes the situation. I know that this fluffy friend who probably purposely ignores me just knows no other way of manipulating me into getting back with my ex-friend whom I have no plans of talking to again. I was fucking hurt and there’s no way that I would feel safe again with that kind of person. I don’t wanna be defensive again but she’s the one who made me feel unsafe in the first place by making me feel that she cannot be there for me when the whole world is against me and by letting other people treat me hostilely and thus make me feel unsafe too. Even though the whole world thinks that the right thing to do “socially” is to be friends with her again (and making it seem like pleasing them like this would make me reclaim the friends that I have lost), I personally am done with it. It’s not that I have a heart of stone. I just know deep down that friendships like these are very controlling and abusive (of course not in the physical sense) and there’s no way that I am going to risk my life with those kinds of relationships. No.

But, honestly speaking, she still haunts my dreams literally. I always dream of her. It’s amazing how she has occupied even my subconscious mind. There are times that I miss her, but it’s the old her. Things have changed. Unexpectedly, in fact. We have already expected each other to not leave each other until we graduate but I guess some things just have to happen in order to make us realize what’s wrong in our lives right now. “Sometimes it takes a wrong turn to get you to the right place (Mandy Hale).” The friendships around me back then were fake and conditional. It was based on forming alliances and study groups. But when something devastating happened, most of them immediately left my side and sided to my ex-friend as if it was a golden opportunity to express their hatred that they have been hiding for years. It’s very draining just to talk of this. I am not really blaming anyone – I am just justifying my actions because there are times when I beat myself up because of what happened. It hurts me that just because I left my friend because I needed space to heal my wounds, I suddenly became the bad person and they’re like slapping it onto my face. At least now I have an idea of what bad friends are. They are friends who don’t try to understand you and backstab you when something goes wrong.

Sometimes I even imagine talking to her again and sorting things out. What I just realized is that imagining it does not make me feel longing for her or her friendship again. Most of the time, when I imagine talking to her again, it’s for closure. It would be a very happy and romantic idea to mend our broken friendship but it’s just not possible anymore. The damage has been done and it has left an imprint on my emotional being and in my life. I somehow took a different route in life because of it. What’s missing is not the person, but the closure. But right now, given the circumstances, I don’t think it’s possible. I don’t like rumors to go around again – at the moment. When we talk, I want it to be only us and no one else. This is actually the first time that I experienced having a broken friendship that is best left broken despite the happy memories. It’s just like a breakup experience in romantic relationships. Some people are just not meant to be together. And it takes time to test whether someone is meant to be with you forever or just for a little while. This incident, although poignant and devastating, admittedly has taught me lots of lessons that I wouldn’t trade for anything. And as Ralph Smart said, it is only in the night that we see the stars. It is only through the dark times that we gain true wisdom. Now regarding the sweet friend who has become cold now, I guess we just have to let go of the relationships that no longer serve our happiness. Some things just have to happen, no matter how sad, because it’s probably for the best.

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:

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
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