pinsan-ko-yan!

PreMYo Rizal 1st Prize Winner High School: Doña Victorina’s Lesson on True Colors By Marisse T. Sonido from Assumption Antipolo, Sumulong Highway, Antipolo City

Doctora Doña Victorina de los Reyes de De Espadaña.  Even her name itself has pomp and frills written all over it.  Meet Rizal’s effusive and self-proclaimed doña from Noli Me Tangerewho instantly caught my attention with her abundance of frills and comical dialogue.  As amusing as I found her, I soon realized that her character had a greater purpose than to provide a satirical image of a vain woman.  Like any character of Rizal’s, I realized that she served to teach us something about our society.  Reading from this perspective, I understood how Rizal used Victorina as a way to see our own flaws and work past them.

From the very start, it’s easy to see that Doña Victorina is all about appearances.  She is constantly described as wearing a European dress, beset with plenty of curls and painted with an abundance of cosmetics.  This show of appearances, though, is more than just proof of her shallow nature but also shows how obsessed Victorina is when it comes to achieving prestige and admiration.  It is perhaps this obsession that fuels her life-long efforts to pretend to be something she’s not:  a Spanish woman.  A Filipino by birth, Doña Victorina is a woman who easily abandons her true identity for one that will get her to a higher place in life.  A domineering person, she’s committed to do anything to gain esteem, even intimidating her husband to improve their social standing by lying about his profession.  Victorina easily turns her back on her own people, caring nothing for the fact that she now becomes one of their abusers.

It’s easy to see how someone like Doña Victorina became the type of person she is.  She did, after all, live in a time where being a native of thePhilippines, or “Indio,” made you automatically inferior to the Spanish colonizers.  She saw that she would get none of the prestige she desired unless she became one of those who were on top.  Truthfully, I believe that her way of seeing things isn’t something that she can completely be blamed for.  During that time, it was something almost everyone believed as they witnessed how the Spanish controlled every aspect of life and how they were more prosperous as a nation.  Even Rizal acknowledged that we Filipinos had much to learn from our colonizers.  Victorina, though, took this belief to a point where she rejected her heritage.  This, Rizal shows us, is what really makes Victorina corrupted:  the fact that she knowingly turned her back on her country for her selfish ambitions.

Clearly, Doña Victorina’s purpose is to show us that it’s easy for anyone to be consumed by ambition.  Victorina, the consummate “social climber,” embodies that people would do anything to get attention, or respect.  Despite the time gap between our society and Rizal’s, these people are still present today.  They are the same people who tear each other apart, trying to come out on top in terms of fame or influence or those politicians who proclaim their good deeds to earn the approval and support of the public.  Doña Victorina as a social climber contributed nothing to her society, just as the social climbers of today do nothing to help our present society as they clamber over each other to reach the highest pedestal.

I admit that at some point in my life, I worked to earn the approval of others too for self-importance.  Rizal teaches us as we read about Victorina’s shallow desires that there is a difference in appearing great and being truly great as a person, and that respect earned through petty, shallow means isn’t worth earning at all.  What really matters is esteem gained by sincerity, honesty and hard work.

Doña Victorina is also a character who never seems to find security in who she really is.  Aside from her denial of her nationality, she constantly covers herself in cosmetics and frills to improve on those appearances she values so greatly.  To her, these “improvements” help mask her Filipino identity and help her assume an appearance more like those of the Spanish:  pale-skinned, with curly hair.  For her, these physical attributes represent her integration into Spanish society.  Aren’t these physical traits, after all, the first way people differentiate between our race and theirs?  Again, people similar to Victorina in this respect are still present in our society.  Dissatisfied with their true identities, these people conform to the traits most desired by the majority, or those they believe are superior to their own.  Today, people use treatments like glutathione to whiten their skin, still believing that pale skin makes one more attractive.  Often, people also undergo treatments for their hair, to make it straighter, curlier or even a lighter color.  Like Victorina, being unsatisfied with appearances could represent a deeper source of discontent:  unhappiness with one’s heritage.

Rizal describes Doña Victorina as an example of how one can forget the value of nationalism.  Of course, every nation has its flaws and it’s only realistic to acknowledge them.  Currently, though, many of us Filipinos are growing more dissatisfied with the situation in our country.  Tragedies like typhoon Ondoy and the Maguindanao Massacre have scarred many, along with rampant corruption, poverty and violence.  This dissatisfaction tears away at the love and pride we have for thePhilippines, prompting us to look for better horizons elsewhere until we have completely turned our backs on our homeland.

Sometimes, it isn’t for the same selfish reasons as Doña Victorina’s.  11% of Filipinos, for example, leave the country as overseas Filipino workers in hopes of finding a secure future for themselves and their families.  It’s not out of hatred for thePhilippines, but because our country’s many flaws make some people feel that they have to leave it behind in order to move forward.  Frequently, though, it also originates from colonial mentality.  It’s something most of us have in common with the Filipinos of Rizal’s time, who were made to believe that they were inferior to those who ruled over them.  Today, we are no longer colonized but we have terms like “first world countries” and “third world countries” that emphasize the big difference between economically progressive nations and developing nations like ours.  These imply and influence us to think that no matter what we do, these powerful countries will always be better in every aspect.  Whether it’s the quality of products they produce, the sturdiness of their infrastructure, or the distinctiveness of their culture, we Filipinos automatically assume that these more prosperous countries are better than thePhilippines.  In attaching a sense of inferiority to the word “Filipino,” we kill our own opportunities for growth by assuming that we can never become greater as a nation.

In his time, Rizal saw this notion of inferiority as the same thing that hindered the potential we had as a nation.  Through Victorina, he wanted to show the Filipinos in his society that the only way they could rise above oppression was to embrace their national identity.  In the same way, Rizal shows us that we will remain enslaved by our country’s present problems and our colonial mentality if we can’t find enough pride and love to make thePhilippinesthe better place we desire.  Through Victorina, Rizal asks us all a crucial question:  if even we can’t stay in our own country and work for its growth, who else will bother to make the difference?

In the form of Doña Victorina’s greed and superficiality, I learned the harm that yearning for undeserved respect can bring to me and everyone around me.  I realized I should concentrate on doing what I can for my community instead of what I can gain.  Most importantly, through Doña Victorina’s colonial mentality, I learned what nationalism really means.  It means to embrace your country’s flaws to be able to work towards progress and growth; to see that there is something better out there, and using that knowledge, to help your country instead of giving up on it.  Rizal showed me that I too can help make thePhilippinesgreater, even if it’s just by studying well and equipping myself with knowledge I can use to help my country in the future.

Looking back at Noli Me Tangere, I can say I’m glad Doña Victorina caught my interest so strongly.  In telling me a story of a Filipina who held no love for her country, Rizal renewed my sense of nationalism and armed me with knowledge and insight Doña Victorina will never gain.  He inspired me with his novel to be proud of the heritage Victorina denied and to make myself a better person by becoming a better Filipina.  A timeless teacher, Rizal’s lessons for us Filipinos are something we will always need.  Just as he did the people of his time, he will always serve to open our minds and to push us to become the change thePhilippines truly needs.

MY PRINCE-SS CHARMING

Chapter 18

“Aren’t you gonna follow him?” Sef asked her nang magwalkout si Elmo.

“Hayaan mo siya.” she said.

“Halika nga muna.” sabi ni Sef sabay tayo at hatak sa kanya palayo. “Frencheska!” he called Maqui na nakaupo pa rin.

“What?” Maqui asked.

“Gora ka ditey!” sigaw ni Sef. Maqui followed them and they all walked away from Toffer and Zig.

“Sef, ano bang problema?” she asked her bestfriend sabay hatak sa kamay niya.

“You’re asking me, Julie? You’re asking me?!” mataray na sagot ni Sef.

“Yes! Bakit ba parang galit na galit ka diyan bakla ha?” she asked. Napatingin siya kay Maqui na tahimik lang na nakasandal sa puno. “Come on guys. Ano ba?”

“Try asking that to yourself.” Sef replied. “Ano bang problema mo at ganyan ka kay Elmo. Kahapon ka pa ha! Girl, bestfriend kita oo. Pero I won’t tolerate your actions. May manliligaw ka pero nanlalandi ka ng ibang lalaki?!”

“Sef…” pigil ni Maqui.

“Wag kang magulo, Maq.” Sef warned her. “Julieta, ang sabi mo, itetest lang si Elmo. I admit, idea natin yun. Pero tangina naman! Julie aakitin mo siya hindi mo pagseselosin! Iba ang nang-aakit sa nagpapaselos. Diba usapan natin magsusuot ka lang ng daring clothes? Eh pucha nilapitan ka lang nung Toffer na yun nagbago isip mo eh!” he said.

“Sef tama na.” Maqui said. “Halika na. Balik na tayo sa villa.” dagdag pa nito.

“No. Hindi tayo babalik hangga’t di natututo ‘tong mujer na ‘to.” he said firmly. “Julieta, umamin ka. Gusto mo ba talaga si Elmo? Ha?”

“O-oo naman.” she replied.

“Eh bakit ganyan ka? You’re hurting him. Alam mo ba yun?” he asked.

“Nasaktan din naman niya ko ah.” she said defensively.

“Tanginang yan! Nasaktan ka kasi nabitin ka sa kama?! Nasaktan ka because he’s confused with his sexuality?! Can’t you feel the real Elmo? Hindi mo ba maramdaman na pinili na niyang magbago para sayo? Aaminin ko girl, okay sa akin nung una na dumikit ka kay Toffer. Okay yun kasi I can see how Elmo gets jealous. Lalo na when he saw you two talking nung first day natin dito. Pero when he started distancing himself, naawa na ako. We tried telling you this a couple of times pero you seemed to be enjoying it. Parang tuwang-tuwa ka pang nilalayo na ni Elmo ang sarili niya because of jealousy.” sabi ni Sef.

“H-hindi naman ako masaya to see him like that eh. I told you diba? I want him to claim na sa kanya ako. Pero hindi niya ginagawa. Hindi niya pinaparamdam sa akin na nagseselos siya. Na ayaw niya sa ginagawa ko. He keeps on pushing me away.” she said. Naluha na siya dahil feeling niya wala na siyang kakampi.

“Manhid ka, Julieta. Manhid ka.” Sef told her. “Sinasabi ko sayo, kapag si Elmo napagod sayo hindi ka na babalikan niyan. Baka piliin na lang niyang maging bading dahil sa ginagawa mo.”

“Enough na yung sinaktan siya ni Janine before. Please, Julie. Wag mo naman saktan ang pinsan ko. Mahal ko yan eh. Parang kapatid ko na si Elmo. And everytime I see him hurting inside, nasasaktan din ako. Julie, please? Mahal ka ng pinsan ko. Di mo ba ramdam yun?”

*****

Maagang nagising si Elmo the next day. Uuwi na sila kaya naman inayos na niya ang mga gamit niya. Di naman siya nahirapan since di naman marami yung nagamit niyang damit.

Paglabas niya sa kwarto ay naabutan niyang mag-isang nakaupo si Julie sa may kitchen. Ni hindi na niya namalayan kung anong oras na nakauwi ang mga kaibigan kagabi. Halatang bagong gising pa si Julie. Tulala itong nakaupo habang naghihintay na matapos matoast ang tinapay.

“Where are they?” he asked. Nagulat si Julie tsaka napatingin sa kanya.

“Uhm. N-nasa may hotel. Dun daw sila magbbreakfast.” she said.

“Hindi ka sumama?” he asked. Umiling naman si Julie kaya tinanguan na lang niya ito. He walked limply towards the refrigerator to get himself a glass of water.

“A-ako na.” Julie offered.

“Wag na. Di naman ako paralyzed para pagsilbihan niyo.” he said.

“Pero—”

“Maga lang ang paa ko, Julie. Hindi ako comatosed or something. You don’t have to take care of me.”

Hindi na kumibo si Julie and remained seated on the bar stool.

“Uhm… About yesterday…” narinig niyang sabi ni Julie.

“Let’s forget about it.” sabi niya.

“I’m just really sorry for yelling at you, Elmo.”

“Julie, I said let’s forget about it. Hindi naman ako galit eh.”

“Hindi? Pero bakit ang cold mo saken. Bakit ka lumalayo sa akin?” she asked.

“Sometimes we have to distance ourselves from others para malaman natin kung gaano ba talaga kaimportante ang isa’t isa.” sabi niya tsaka na naglakad paalis ng kitchen.

*****

“Anetch na? Waley na naforget sa loob?” Sef asked as he double checked the luggages in his truck.

“Wala na bakla.” Maqui replied.

“Uhm. Maq?” she heard Elmo said.

“Yes, Moe?”

“P-pwede ba kung sa harap na lang ako uupo? Ikaw na lang dito sa likod.” sabi niya. Napayuko naman si Julie.

“Are you sure?” Maqui asked and even looked at her na nakatingin sa kanilang magpinsan.

“Yeah. Sure ako. Uhm ano kasi eh. Uhh… M-mainit dito sa likod.” he reasoned out.

“Alright.” pagpayag ni Maqui. They exchanged seats at saka na pinaandar ni Sef ang sasakyan.

“Hay. Balik stress nanaman.” reklamo ni Sef habang paalis na sa resort.

“Yeah.” Elmo said. “But atleast magiging busy na uli.” dagdag niya.

“Di ko na nga bet maging busy eh.” reklamo nito.

“Hahaha. Nawili ka dun ha. Ako kasi, madaming trabahong naiwan. I still have 3 designs to complete and also, may conference ako tomorrow.” he said.

“Workaholic masyado friend! Ayoko yan! Toxic!” natatawang sabi ni Sef.

“Haha. I have to make myself busy. Para di ko naiisip yung mga bagay na hindi maganda.”

Julie can hear the sadness in his voice at alam niyang siya ang tinutukoy nito na hindi dapat isipin. Did she really hurt him that bad na kailangan pa siyang layuan at wag na isipin ni Elmo?

“Duhruhmuhzzz!!” narinig niyang sabi ni Sef kay Elmo. “Alam mo, friend? Itulog mo yan. Baka napasukan ng konting venom ng sea urchin yang utak mo. Hahaha.” he kid.

“Tss. Adik ka talaga.” naiiling na sabi ni Elmo.

Tumingin na si Elmo sa labas ng bintana niya while Julie took her time to stare at him. Nalulungkot siya and nagsisisi sa ginawa niya. Why she made him jealous, why she didn’t listen to Maqui and Sef and why she let him get hurt.

“Hay.” she heard him sigh for the nth time. Every 10 seconds ata ay nagpapakawala ito ng malalim na buntung-hininga.

She pretended to sleep nang marinig na magsalita si Sef.

“Heavy-duty problema ah. Haha. Nalugi?”

“Ha? H-hindi. Haha.”

“You don’t have to hide it from me, Moe. I know you’re jealous of Toffer and Julie. Halata sayo eh.” she heard her bestfriend said.

“Wala yun. Kasalanan ko din naman.” Elmo said. “Kung hindi ko siguro hinayaan na mawala sa paningin ko si Julie baka hindi ganito situation namin ngayon. If only I gave her what she wanted, siguro hindi ganito yung nangyayari sa amin.” he said. “Siguro ngayon, akin lang siya and walang iba.”

“Things happen, Elmo. Maybe this is a way to test kung gaano ba kayo kaseryoso sa isa’t isa.” Sef told him.

“Ewan ko, Sef. Naguguluhan ako.”

“Magulo talaga kayo! Jusmiyo.”

“Haha. Ano sa tingin mo mangyayari if I became possessive to Julie? Sa tingin mo magugustuhan niya ba?” biglang tanong ni Elmo after a long silence.

“Tingin ko? Oo. Sus. May inner landi yang bestfriend ko. Gusto niyang inaangkin siya. Especially if she really likes that person.” Sef answered. “Bakit?”

“Wala. Naisip ko lang. Siguro kung naging possessive ako sa kanya, baka di kami ganito no? Kaya lang tanga ako eh. Gustung-gusto ko siyang angkinin but I can’t kasi di pa naman kami. Gusto ko ako lang yung titignan niyang lalaki. Ako lang hahawakan niya. Ako lang lalambingin niya. Ako lang lahat. Kung pwede lang sa akin na lang umikot yung mundo niya, gagawin ko. But I can’t. Kasi I know that at some point magsasawa siya. Dadating yung time na baka masakal siya and iwanan ako. Ayoko na ng ganun. Ayoko na maiwanan, Sef. My family left me already dahil hindi maintindihan ng dad ko kung ano ba talaga ako. And walang magawa ang mom at kuya ko because they’re scared of him. Si Maqui na lang ang meron ako ngayon. Kayo na lang mga kaibigan ko.” sabi niya.

Hindi na napigilan ni Julie ang mapaluha. She quickly wiped the stray tear from her eye which caused Elmo and Sef to stop talking.

“San na tayo?” she asked, acting like she just woke up from nap.

“Expressway friend. Why?” tanong ni Sef. “Tommy Hilfiger ka na?”

“Yeah. Tsaka I need to pee. Stop over muna tayo sa Petron.” sabi niya.

“Keriboomboom pa ba? 500 meters pa friend.”

“Yeah. Kaya pa naman.” she said. Napatingin siya sa gawi ni Elmo na tahimik lang na nakatingin sa labas.

*****

They stooped at a gasoline station para kumain and para na rin magcr. 3 hours na silang bumibyahe and natural lang na magutom sila.

They went inside a coffee shop para dun magmeryenda. Tahimik na nakaupo si Elmo sa couch while Maqui and Sef argue about their orders and Julie played with her straw habang naghihintay ng pagkain nila.

“Musta na paa mo?” she awkwardly asked. Nagtaas naman ng kilay si Elmo sa kanya.

“Uhm. O-okay naman. Hindi na masyadong maga.” he replied. Tumango naman si Julie.

“Moe?” tawag niya uli dito.

“Hm?”

“Paano ka ba natusok ng sea urchin?” she asked.

“Ha? Uhm… Ano kasi. I was walking along the shore tapos ayun. Pag-apak ko di ko nakita na may sea urchin pala.” he said.

“Bakit kasi di ka nagslippers. Ayan tuloy.”

“Nangyari na eh. We can’t bring back what happened before. Buti nga di na namamaga eh.” Elmo said.

“Oh. Ito na orders niyo.” Maqui said as she placed the tray on their table bago ito bumalik sa table nila ni Sef.

Tahimik na kumain ang dalawa. He watched the people outside as they sit, talk, smoke or whatever they do pero he never looked at Julie’s way. Hanggang ngayon ay masakit pa rin para sa kanya yung mga nangyari kagabi.

“Moe.” tawag sa kanya ni Julie. Tumingin siya rito at nagtaas uli ng kilay. “Galit ka pa ba sa akin?” she asked.

Hindi naman kumibo si Elmo and looked outside again.

“Moe…”

“Labas muna ako.” paalam niya sabay tayo at lakad palabas ng coffee shop.

“San gora?” Sef asked.

“Yosi lang ako.” sabi niya.

“Mmkay.” kibit-balikat na sabi ni Maqui at Sef.

He stood by Sef’s car habang humihithit ng yosi.

“Bakit nagyoyosi ka? That’s bad for you, Moe.” narinig niyang sabi ng pamilyar na boses. He looked back and saw Julie standing behind him.

“Stress-reliever lang."sagot niya sabay patay sa yosi niya.

"Please don’t smoke, H.”

“Di naman madalas, Julie.” sabi niya. “What are you doing here anyway?” he asked.

“Kausapin mo naman ako.”

“Di pa ba tayo nag-uusap sa lagay na to?” she heard him say.

“Moe s—”

“Save it Julie. I have to tell you honestly, I don’t think I can accept your apology nang ganito kabilis. Masyadong masakit dito oh.” he said as he point to his heart. “Space, Julie. Let’s give each other some space first.”