Drowned

5:03 PM

 In celebration of College Week at the University of the Philippines Baguio, the College of Arts and Communication and the Dulaang UP Baguio (DUPB) presented “Ang Pinakamakisig sa mga Nalunod sa Buong Daigdig”, a play adapted by Teresa Lorena Jopson. The story is based on Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World”, which was originally written in Spanish. It follows the life of a village in a quiet, secluded island. One night, a corpse floated ashore. The villagers were stunned at his appearance for they have never seen anyone like him. He was the handsomest drowned man in the world.


It was only through the play that I’ve learned that there was a Filipino adaptation. Contrary to the original, Jopson breathed life into the individuality of the villagers. Reactions did not only come from the oldest (Ang Lola) and the youngest (Ang Haliparot), but also from a hypocrite (Ang Ipokrita) and A-Pregnant-Woman-Who-Doesn’t-Have-A-Husband (Ang Buntis). Captivated by his beauty, they fantasized him in their own ways. They were tired of their men in their village, so the drowned man breathed new life into them.


Before watching the play, I already had a feeling that I had read the English translation in the past. I was right – the story was discussed in a class back when I was in my second year in college. I still had the readings with me – highlighted text and everything. At the end of the story, I wrote:
“Could this story reflect the behavior of Filipinos in welcoming a foreigner with “captivating beauty”? [That] because of its “captivating beauty”, we get influenced by it? [Well,] ever since the foreigner arrived, they built wider doors, higher ceilings and stronger floors.”
“Ang Pinakamakisig sa mga Nalunod sa Buong Daigdig” wasn’t really about a drowned man washed ashore. It was about the welcoming attitude of Filipinos towards something foreign. We are recognized by our hospitality. We prepare our finest linens, our most beautiful utensils, and the most sumptuous meal to visitors, most especially to foreigners.


However, we can also be TOO welcoming. Like the four women of the island, we create fantasies in our heads – emulating something or someone foreign as if they are gods. Sometimes, we are no different from the four women. They immediately praised him based on the drowned man’s good looks. Clouded with “what is foreign is better”, we lose our judgment and continuously accept and accept.


The culture of acceptance is present in both the original and the Filipino adaptation. What is unique about the Filipino adaptation is its focus on the women. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t because Teresa Lorena Jopson was a woman, but I think it’s because women are the perfect representations of culture. If the men discovered the dead man earlier, they wouldn’t even bother preparing a proper burial for him. The women, however, baffled over the dead man, cleaned him up, and offered him their most valuable possessions.


Ang Haliparot, Ang Buntis, Ang Ipokrita at Ang Lola – they all have names, but they were remembered as such. And this is the same to many other women. But rather than looking into their reputation, these four characters represent the hidden hopes and desires of women.


The Haliparot is both beautiful and cunning. She had an affair with every man in the village, including the Kapitan, the husband of the Ipokrita. Yet in spite of her whirlwind romances, she still can’t find love. She wanted to leave the island in search of her soulmate. But when she saw the handsomest drowned man, she finds hope that there must be someone in the island who is her soulmate to whom she can commit and love loyally.


Whispers and gossip surround the Buntis. “A pregnant woman but without a husband? What a shame.” She had a husband indeed but he hasn’t come back from his fishing trip. Day and night she waited but still, no sign of his return. At the sight of the drowned man, she realized that her waiting must come to an end. Her husband will never come back, and the child will grow up fatherless. But she could still give her child a happy and complete life. She will act as both a mother and a father.


The Ipokrita lives in the illusion of self-righteousness. She is religious by day, but scornful at night. She wasn’t a hypocrite for no reason. She wants to hide her imperfect relationship with her husband. For him, she was worthless. Although having committed adultery in her heart, she decided to turn over a new leaf and stop her hypocrisy, especially against the Haliparot and the Buntis.


All of Lola’s friends had died before her. She had witnessed many stories of love and of life unfold. She was blessed to see the handsome drown man. And as she counts down her days until her death, she wished to see the village anew with the spirit of Steve, the handsome drowned man.


The Haliparot embodies every woman’s longingness for true love and adventure. In contrast, the Buntis represents a woman’s loyalty and patience for her lover’s return. However, she has reached her limit and decided to carry full responsibility over her child alone. There is an Ipokrita in all of us. She comes out as a defense against our flaws and our weaknesses. She lives a sad married life – her reason to commit adultery. And the Lola is our fear of old age and loneliness.


As women, we all have drowned. We have wallowed in deep waters of quiet fear, unfulfilled hopes, and hidden desires. No matter how hard we tried, we just couldn’t reach the surface. But as soon as the waters have calmed, we reach out for one last time to breath. We get out and will try to not go back to those deep waters again. We had enough of drowning.

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