02 July 2012


Character Connection 37

My June Giveaway will come to an end very soon--and indeed, it's already July as I type this--but there is one more post I'd like to write, in honour of the final book I read last month.

This is the first time since my very first Character Connection post (Read about Renton and Spud from Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting!) that I am letting two characters share the spotlight. And unlike the earlier post, which was written that way on a whim, this one takes its cue from the author itself.

Natalia and Josie
Guardia de Honor
by Nick Joaquin

"Hello there," said Josie limply. "You must be Natalia."

The two girls stood close together; white gowns and breathless faces almost touching.

"How you startled me," said Josie. "I dropped my hand mirror."

They both glanced down at the spoilt glass on the floor, between their feet.

"It was I who dropped that," said Natalia.

"--or maybe we both dropped it . . ."

So which character is more to blame for the broken mirror and all the other tragedies of Nick Joaquin's short story Guardia de Honor? Natalia from the past or Josie from the future?

When I discussed this story two weeks ago, in Locus Focus: Take Seventy-Seven, I was pretty hard on Josie, who drops the ball--or rather, the jewels--even after traveling back through time and seeing what they have meant to her ancestors. But perhaps I shouldn't have let Natalia off the hook so easily.

She gets a message about the heirloom jewels, too: Josie tells her how something Natalia is soon to do will cause an earring to be lost. And Natalia has a chance to make a different choice from the one which ends so badly--to save not just the earring, but also a family tradition hundreds of years old. She is as much an empowered agent in her "present" as Josie is in a "present" closer to our own time. This story's loss is also on her shoulders. We hurt tradition not just by disregarding the past, but also by scorning the future.

This is what I love about Joaquin. He never gives us easy answers . . . or easy scapegoats. Before the emeralds were sold in the future by a selfish girl with no sense of the past, they were risked in the past by an equally selfish girl with no sense of the future. Josie and Natalia first see themselves when looking in a mirror, because they are essentially reflections of each other.

Now you might think that I've given away the whole plot of Guardia de Honor, as I've written about it three whole times. But I actually haven't! If you choose this book in the giveaway, even this story among the five will have some surprises for you! And that's how cool Nick Joaquin is. =)

If you have any extra entries to claim, this is your last chance to get them on the Rafflecopter . . .

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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


christopher said...

Quite the extravaganza coming to a close! Without the giveaway and without Westlife, it's going to be a big "come down" here lol

Enbrethiliel said...


I know, right?!?! =(

Even you may miss them . . . ROFLMAO! (Or at least miss laughing at me.) But I sincerely thank you for voting in all four rounds of this smackdown. =)

PS -- Someone has already asked what my next Smackdown will be. What do you think of Shakespearean comedies? (Is The Tempest a comedy? I know it pushes the genre envelope, but I'm not sure if it's usually classified as a "Problem Play".) As much as I'd love to do something like that, part of me is thinking I should save it for when I can afford to do another giveaway. LOL!

christopher said...

RE PS: I'm pretty sure the Tempest would be classified "romance" the same way Romeo and Juliet would be.

MrsDarwin said...

This story sounds so fascinating. Do you know, my library doesn't carry any Joaquin or Sionil? I'm living in a Filippino-deficient culture.

The Rafflecopter nearly done, and no time for me to move up into the Top Commenter slot...

Enbrethiliel said...


Joaquin is a rare diamond, hard to find even over here, but a deficiency of Jose is truly a scandal! Does your library let users recommend titles that it can order in the future? I'm sure his books wouldn't be hard to buy in the US.

christopher said...

No, MrsDarwin (if that is your real name), there is no time... mwahahahahaaaa!!!

Belfry Bat said...

Oh, that looks more like it!

Thanks, Christopher (did you know, I'm also a Christopher?) for sparing me the embarassment of out-doing the real competitors in a race I wasn't running!

amy said...

I'd put the Tempest as a comedy- in the end you have forgiveness, reconciliation, and marriage (instead of a stage full of dead bodies).

amy said...

And I meant to second MrsDarwin- the libraries need more Joaquin! I had had no idea that I was being deprived. Are these works written in English or are they English translations from a native or colonial tongue?

christopher said...

Good point, Amy, about the ending of Tempest.

Enbrethiliel said...


Bat -- Oh, is that why you've been unusually quiet???

Amy -- I use the ending as my touchstone, too. And I'm fond of the joke that Shakespeare's comedies tend to end with marriages, while his tragedies begin with them . . . although an English professor of mine has been adamant that that's too simplistic a way to explain Shakespeare's genres! =P

Joaquin wrote everything in English. =) In my first giveaway, the rule I set for myself was, "No translations!" And I surprised even myself when I learned how many great books the Philippines has that were originally written in English (or if the British prefer, in "Anglo-American"). In fact, another writer I always feature, F. Sionil Jose, has to be translated into the local languages--an especially funny fact if you remember that he currently holds the status of Most Translated Filipino Writer! =)

Christopher -- I totally see what you're doing . . .

Belfry Bat said...

Goodness me, no! If I have something to say, you may count on me to say it somewhere!

amy said...

When I parse into categories, I typically refer to the guidelines in Aristotle's Poetics.... but peaking at the ending can be quicker, easier, and usually right. I like how you called it a touchstone.

It is funny that Sionel Jose is "Most Translated" :)

I'm glad you made a "no translations" rule. I always feel like I am missing something significant or beautiful when I read a translation. (For example, I always feel sorry for people who read translations of Shakespeare.)

Do the British really prefer "Anglo-American"? How odd.

Belfry Bat said...

Dear Amy, I don't think the British prefer Anglo-American over Shakespearean; I think En means that they prefer to call the germanic language used in the Philipines "Anglo-American" rather than calling it "English". And some portions of the Federal Republic also prefer to call their speach simply "American". I think there's some carelessness on both sides, both behind the names, and in their respective usage. But, heck, life is too short!

Enbrethiliel said...


Amy -- I got the term from my high school English Lit teacher, who insisted that her class was better called "Anglo-American Lit". And having majored in English Lit in a New Zealand university, where the assigned texts by Americans could be counted on the fingers of one hand, because their works didn't count as British, although they were in English, I wonder whether "English" as a blanket term is as accurate as it used to be.

In other news . . . I'm reading a translation right now. Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Seas by Jules Verne, translated by William Butcher. It's a great story. But I wish I read French.

Bat -- Fortunately, the rest of the Philippines isn't as strange as I am. ;-) "Anglo-American" is my own term, but I do think there should be separate category for "Philippine English" because even the Americans who taught us the basics might be slightly appalled at what we've done with it!

Introverted Jen said...

I almost did a two-fer Character Connection this month as well. Your post makes me wonder which ancestor would stare back out of the mirror at me and whether I would like her or not. Sometimes we don't like reflections of ourselves, metaphorical or physical.

Enbrethiliel said...


That's an interesting question, Jen! I, too, have no idea which ancestor would be my "reflection" in the past . . . but then again, I'm more likely to think of myself as the ancestor staring down a descedant! =P

amy said...

Belfry Bat and En: thank you for the explanation of "Anglo-American." It makes more sense.

Regarding ancestors, there is a lot of mirroring in my family. My mother is constantly telling me that I have my father's taste and inclinations, although he died before he could teach me these things and my daughter took strongly after my mother years before they met...

Jen, you are right about reflections being unflattering. One of the hardest parts of parenting is facing my own vices and mannerisms in another. It can be a powerful impetus to change.