24 June 2012


Locus Focus: Take Seventy-Seven!

For the past three years, my June Giveaway has climaxed very deliberately with Nick Joaquin, who has been my favourite Filipino author since I was a child. I was startled this month when F. Sionil Jose threatened Joaquin's place in my heart with his epic Ermita (which is Option 14), but I managed to resist that assault, and will cling stubbornly to my first love for at least one more year.

I've spent the past few days with his short stories, rereading old friends and meeting new ones for the first time. It was hard to pick just one setting for this Locus Focus. (But not as hard as it will be to write the review for all five in this particular anthology!)

Remember that you can grab the badge and write your own Locus Focus post for points . . . or for fun!. Leave the link in the combox and I'll add it to the end of this post and the beginning of next week's post. =)

The Bedroom
Guardia de Honor
by Nick Joaquin

No, this wasn't the past, and it wasn't a dream, either: it was simply, actually "today." Everything here was real, was solid--this awful pair of canopy beds; these funny rocking chairs; those preposterous pedestals bearing lamps and flower pots; the quaint harp posed beneath a framed lithograph of St. Cecilia . . .

. . . this is the real today, said Josie--wandering through the dusky room, fingering the room's surfaces--but that other today was only a dream . . .

. . . But when she looked in the mirror she saw . . . her own streamlined room: modishly bare, coyly hygienic, and aglare with morning sunshine.

I really have been reading Nick Joaquin since the 1980s, but it wasn't until this month that I finally got to his short story Guardia de Honor and realised that he had written a Time Travel fantasy to satisfy even my fastidious standards. (Where When have I been . . . ?)

Natalia and Josie are two young women who share the same bedroom. One just happens to be in the nineteenth century and the other in the twentieth. Their paths cross on the most significant 7 October in each girl's life: when Natalia's father gives her the family emeralds to wear during her first time as a Guardia de Honor in Manila's greatest Marian feast--and when Josie's mother entrusts to her the same emeralds, for the same purpose, about a hundred years in the future. But what Josie muses while suspended in Natalia's century is that there is no "past" or "future": there is only ever today.

And when Natalia, wearing the earrings, cries to Josie, wearing the ring, "I feel as if you were wringing me out of those jewels, Josie!" . . . she is correct. Josie wants her own life to be as "modishly bare" and "coyly hygienic" as the design she has imposed on Natalia's formerly cluttered bedroom. And she knows that the first thing to do is to pretend that the past never existed . . . that she belongs only to her own "today" and not to the future of her ancestors . . . nor in the past of descendants yet to come. This is, if I read both Joaquin and Jose correctly, the very treason committed by the post-War generation of Filipinos.

We should never have decluttered the old bedrooms--or let ourselves feel like ghosts inside them.

You can find out what happens (What has happened? What will happen?) to both Josie and Natalia in Guardia de Honor, which has been anthologised in "May Day Eve" and Other Stories by Nick Joaquin, the last book to make the June Giveaway pool this year.

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Image Source: "May Day Eve" and Other Stories by Nick Joaquin


Jenny said...

I need to give short stories more of my time. I've never been a huge fan but I'm trying to work on that. I know there's some great ones out there.

Jess @ The Secret DMS Files of Fairday Morrow said...

My absolute favorite short story is The Long Walk by Stephen King- every step I take after reading it, I have to think about : ) ~ Jess

Enbrethiliel said...


Jenny -- My only issue with great short stories is that they end so soon! =P Which is kind of like wishing sonnets went on forever, I know! LOL!

Jess -- Thanks for the recommendation! I respect King and will definitely try The Long Walk this coming October, when I do my "scary" reading. ;-)