THE POWER OF WORDS

Kong ang matuod ug buotang higala maila ta sa mga higayong mapait uyamut, ang matuod nga anak sa lungsod, maila ta usab sa higayon nga ang iyang Yutang Natawhan magaantus sa daghang mga kaguol ug kasakit….  Sa tanang mga gugma, ang mga gugma sa Yutang Natawhan maoy labing balaanon, mainiton ug mabaskogon.  Tungud kaniya ginasakit lakip ang kinabuhi ug, kong ang labing balaanon ug mabaskugon imong hingkalimtan, unsa kahay dangatan sa gugma nga imong ginahalad kanako?

If the true and abiding friend is known in very bitter times, the true son of the country is also known in times when the days we are now going through are just a test.  Of all loves, the love for the native land is the most sacred, the dearest and the strongest.  Because of her everything is put to the test, including life itself, and if you can forget what is most sacred and strongest, what indeed will happen to the love you offer me?

VICENTE SOTTO Gugma sa Yutang Natawhan (Love for the Native Land) (1901)

FORMALISTIC INTERPRETATION:

The short story revolves around a woman named Aurora, the daughter of a wealthy man named Kapitan Anoy. Just like most of the selections, this is a love story. What makes this story different from other love stories was Aurora’s choice.

It was 9 in the evening, and Aurora was reading the newspaper while waiting for her fiancé to come. Without her meaning to, the first thing that Aurora read was a news item about her fiancé, Octavio, who had just been appointed as Justice of Peace in their town.

Normally, a girlfriend would rejoice after hearing such kind of news. However, Aurora was troubled. Remember that this took place during the American occupation and aurora, an educated woman who knows something about politics, viewed the news as problematic. Her fiancé being the Justice of Peace was contrary to her beliefs which she somehow picked up from her father who was nationalistic. Even though Kapitan Anoy did not join the revolution, he held views sympathetic to the insurrection, independent beliefs which would not be swayed even under threat of death.

Aurora’s behaviour when her fiancé and his sisters arrived was not then surprising. Though she greeted them in her usual cordial way, when her fiancé Octavio shared the news of his appointment as justice of peace, Aurora listened to him with great coldness and less concern.

Hours after her fiancé and his sisters left, aurora could not sleep and was deeply engrossed in thought. She thought about how Octavio would soon be justice of the peace of that town; she thought also of the state of the native land.

At last, she decided to break off their engagement by through. She could not love a man who does not stand true to his words. before the Americans came, octavio took up arms and expressed, both in writing and in speech, his love for his native land. Now, just so that he can become Justice of Peace, Octavio renounced his ideals.

In short, Aurora cancelled off her wedding plans with Octavio because of his treacherous act. He was disloyal to his ideals and to his love for his native land. In the end, octavio was abducted and killed because of treason while Aurora was married to a prominent land owner.

Now, how did this piece touch me? How does this relate with my life, you ask?

Well, first and foremost, I also have nationalistic tendencies or ideologies. Today, I wanted to share about my love for our country, particularly my deep appreciation for OPM and VISPOP and contrast it with my KPOP fascination. But then I thought, though not all know that I love OPM and VISPOP, everybody knows I love KPOP. Alkansi ang first speakers. They shared so much about themselves. So I had to dig deeper.

A person purposively pushes some memories to the unconscious because these are unpleasant. However, these memories would always return, like a boomerang. I wanted to bury those memories again but well, I have to let it out. Not because of grades, but because I never really have acknowledged those memories ever since.

As John Green once said, “Maybe there’s something you’re afraid to say, or someone you’re afraid to love, or somewhere you’re afraid to go. It’s gonna hurt. It’s gonna hurt because it matters.”

I was never really a woman of a few words before. Expressing myself was not really a problem. I was as talkative as Ceska, as jolly as Mary Joy and Mae Lynn and as bright as sunlight. However, something happened when I was in first year high school. No it wasn’t really traumatic for a normal person. I don’t really know why it affected me so much.

Words. Words are very powerful. These can uplift people. Or these can break them.

And I was struck. I did not understand how I allowed myself to be broken by abstract things such as words. Words which were so plain. Words which literally came from my own mouth. I was the class secretary and we were planning for our Christmas party.  The class was rowdy, uncontrollable. It was already getting dark, so I shouted, “Unsa man jud? Di mo ganahag BYOP? Sige, nagsabot na ta ganina, ang dili mubayad walay apil sa Christmas party.”

Rewind. ANG DILI MUBAYAD WALAY APIL SA CHRISTMAS PARTY.

You have no idea how I wanted to forget this incident. Maybe what hurt me most was the fact that those words were so simple yet it made so great an impact. First, my classmates who didn’t want to contribute complained to our homeroom teacher. Then, our homeroom teacher, I don’t know if she was annoyed or frustrated with the disobedient class, took my words literally. She did not attend the Christmas party even after we pursued her and said sorry several times.

I completely lived like a hermit for three months. My room was my home. Sleep was my activity. Silence was my companion.. I could remember my mom silently peeking through my door. I could presuppose her question: What happened? Why are you like this?

I could not understand why I couldn’t express myself anymore. I really wanted to tell her what happened. She’s my mom after all. But words, those lovely creations which I loved and effortlessly used before, suddenly would not come out. They would never dare to come out. I felt the words claw against my throat but I stop them. Basin unsa napuy mahitabo because of my words. Basin mausab na pud – my own words would turn against me, like a boomerang. No, I would not let that happen again.

I abandoned my hermit life to ease the worry lines off my parents’ foreheads. A new Dane came out – tight-lipped, pessimistic. Matud pas akong mga amigo, weird na daw ko. Hilomon na daw ko. Mu-smile ra daw kog kalit bisag ako ra usa. Magduko daw ko maglakaw. I just awkwardly smiled it off. But often times i thought, basin wa ko nagchange. Maybe this is the real me. Or basin autistic ko sa?

During those times, I tried to appreciate the joy of being alone. Pero matud pa nila, no man is an island. Soon enough, I was longing for someone to talk to. No scratch that. Someone who is willing to talk to me without me even talking.

I tried to hangout with my group of friends since nursery but somehow, even if my best girl friend was there, I felt out of place. Sometimes, I’d even get jealous of some of my friends because my best girl friend preferred to tell them her secrets first before telling those secrets to me. I couldn’t blame her. How could she tell me a bubbly thing such as the crush she’s having on my seatmate kung akong aura dark kaayo? In short, sayo kayo ko nag midlife crisis. The cause of that crisis was so plain, murag third world problem.

Then someone came to my life. Aside from God, who I was always happy to be with during that time. It was a guy whom I used to bully during my optimistic days. The outcast. Kay lagi he acts different. I don’t know how it started pero we just clicked. Remember how I yearned for someone who’s willing to talk to me without even me talking? God answered my prayer.

I could still remember the day when he became my best friend. I don’t know why it was already dark but we were already walking homewards from school. And for the first time after the absurd life-changing incident, sincere words, though a few, flowed out of me.

“Naunsa na bitaw ko? Wa na ko kasabot.”

Then I choked, cried and shook. And he did what I wished he would do: he didn’t give any comment, he remained silent, looked at me for a while, and continued to walk beside me towards home. Our friendship started there, and evolved to short talks and exchanging letters where we openly express ourselves and promised that we will be best friends forever. Childish sa?

After opening up to him, I was starting to be jolly again but not as jolly as before. I would talk with my friends, laugh animatedly, tell jokes, visit my friends’ house and even play games. How happy my parents were at that time.. matud pa nila, “di na ko anti-social.” I was so comfortable with my group that I forgot about new found BFF.

Until a day came when my group of friends came across my new bff and bullied him. They would always bully him. That day, I happened to be with them.

Ang mga adlaw, nga karon atong ginalatas, maoy usa lamang ka pagsulay.  Karon gibiyaan mo ang imong mga mithi; karon gitalikdan mo ang imong Yutang Natawhan aron lamang ikaw mahimong maghuhukom sa kadaitan (katungdanan nga, sa pagkatinuod, wala mo kinahanglana). 

Now, you have forsaken your ideals, you have deserted your native land, just so you can become justice of peace (a position which, truth to tell, you don‘t really need). 

What did you expect that I do? Reprimand my friends because they were harming one of my best friends? That was what I wanted to do. Pero matod pang St. Paul

I do not understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do the very things I hate.  (Rm 7:15)

I did not stop my friends. I did not help my new bff either. But I smiled whenever my friends made fun of him. And I knew that hurt him. Just as Octavio had forsaken his nationalistic ideas and his love for his native land just to become Justice of Peace, I renounced my words of being his best friend just to save my face from being known as a friend of a loser. Stupid, just plain stupid. Pero matud pa sa short story by Vicente Sotto, I didn’t have to do that. I should have acknowledged him as my best friend. However, that sense of belongingness thing made me deny someone who listened to me. I deeply regret what I did. But I kept doing nothing anyway whenever I’m with my friends and they bully him. And I kept on regretting.

So, did I end up dead like Octavio because of treachery? I almost did.

But as I said,

Words are very powerful. These can uplift people. These can break them. These can also mend them.

It was really hard for me to say sorry. I felt like I didn’t have the right to do that. And I didn’t know how to put it into words. I was afraid of putting my regrets and apologies into words. But I have to. And you know what, kung buang ko kay I was shattered because of simple words, mas buang siya because he accepted my apology. I literally only said sorry and broke to tears afterwards. Buang buang ming duha.

Vicente Sotto’s Love for the Native Land, aside for depicting a woman’s great love for her ideals and her country, it basically is about being true to your words, through gladness and misery. After my new bff accepted my sorry, I tried really hard not to be ashamed of our friendship. Yes, there were times na sungogon jud ko, at first – “Ngano nakigmigo man kag loser?” I just shrugged and smiled it off. Eventually, he was accepted by the group. After all, we “weirdos and losers”, though weak in expressing ourselves, are great listeners. In the end, the bully did not have to be ashamed of her friend whom she used to bully.

Finally, I end this talk with a light heart. I have unearthed my burden. I have rediscovered that I have a wonderful family. And a great herd of friends, particularly those who I’ve been with since kindergarten, She whom I talked crushes with, and he whom I used to bully. Words still cut my throat. But I have to get them through. All I need to do is a simple thing. I just have to talk.


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