Nick Joaquin’s “Summer Solstice” is one of the many intoxicating stories he’s made. It could have been attributed to the author’s state of mind while writing his stories. He shares this kind of style with Edgar Allan Poe and Ernest Hemingway. They love to drink and write. I love to drink and drink… milk. I wish I am still a child to enjoy it for free where only my cry is my ticket to getting it. This maybe the reason why I still have this magnetic attraction to breasts. I must admit, I’m not in the position to carry out a criticism of a master’s work. Who am I anyway? A master’s work is a master’s work. But as human beings, it is in our nature to criticize. We even criticize the looks of our fellow humans whom God masterfully created. I am not excused from such nature, so, coupled with the obligation from the teacher, I will declare that I don’t like the story. It simply lacks the eroticism of a Harold Robbins. The only short story I love that is devoid of any eroticism is Rappaccinni’s Daughter by Hawthorne. It is romantic. Summer solstice is the time of the year in the Northern Hemisphere when the noon Sun appears to be farthest North. It is a sacred occasion for the druids of England. It was even insisted by scientists to have caused the erection of the famous prehistoric monument in Salisbury, England, the Stonehenge.
Nick Joaquin’s short story version of the natural phenomenon does not instigate any erection of some sort. It is disappointing. I suspect that he could have made some erections, given the way he used and hinted in describing the femaleness or maleness of his subjects. However, he didn’t. For what? For delicadesa? I was confused until it dawned on me that he could have done that deliberately. He did that to defraud his audience into reading further by hanging their expectations in suspended imaginations. He successfully outraged the worldly emotions of human fervor but resisted from satisfying them. He could have done what I needed to read, but he didn’t. It is “bitin”. And that’s the secret. To hold your audience by their natural instincts for your own advantage is Freudian. A trickery or magic that can only be juggled and pulled off, if you are a master of the trade. No wonder, the Palanca juries succumbed the same way into giving out their token. Now, to evaluate the story, the plot was engineered to be like a movie plot during his time. It can be observed that he employed capitalized words to suggest transitions.
As a great fan of classical movies, some of which dates to the time of Master Joaquin, there is a striking resemblance to the way the movies were made during that time to his “Summer Solstice”. Movies during the post war era do show the audience the name of each scene before proceeding. Such method of breaking the proceedings helps the unaware few, and the slow ones like me to dissect his point of view or what the story is all about in installment basis. It somewhat helps the curious or the obliged reader like our class for this matter to rewind the contents of the story encapsulated within the transition and read it further just to have some meager grasp of what is happening. There are six scenes or transitions I have observed upon reading. The first, after the title, established the era or time when the story happened. Introduction of props like horse-drawn carriages certainly does not depict the present but leads the reader to the past. The main character Doña Lupeng was introduced as a conservative mother of three boys and living a posh lifestyle with servants.
This suggests statutory pride that you would not expect her or, with her husband Don Paeng to mingle with the people outside their social realm. Don Paeng and Entoy, the driver were not as boisterously introduced by the author than the Doña or Amada. Another important ingredient was the nearing occasion of St. John’s festival. This accentuates the story with familiarity from the local readers. The second scene commenced by the capitalized entry of “BUT HOW CAN THEY…” established the predicament of Dona Lupeng of her outstanding curiosity of how the norm is being disturbed by the nearing festival of St. John. A male patron saint should be venerated, but the opposite is happening where women are empowered to have messianic endeavors of generating natural phenomenon for the planting season. Guido was introduced in this particular scene. A motley character, he added substance to how women are empowered and further suggested such impression to Doña Lupeng with his quixotic impression of women. I am reminded by the Cartoon Network’s Johnny Bravo. In contrast to the first scene where the author slightly advocated femininity more than its popular counterpart. This scene established a whiff of a more male atmosphere.
The author employed erotic descriptions of his performers. Surgical in detail thus arousing, but not enough. This scene also introduced Dona Lupeng’s revolting aura when she resisted the instruction of her husband’s order to sit down. The third scene inaugurated at the grandfather’s place. There was a social gathering attended mostly by family members. This scene evidenced the purpose of why the character of Guido was conceived. He was inoculated in the story to supply the dilemma in Dona Lupeng. It happened in their rambling moments in this scene. Women according to this European educated Don Juan are meant to be adored and handled with care like some china wares, to be placed on a pedestal and to be worshipped. This strengthened the political views of Lupeng with regard to gender issues. Femininity is likewise as powerful as masculinity. The infusion of the feminist idea that one is not born but rather becomes a woman attitude was slowly being hungrily digested. Guido was abnormal relative to the times and stead of his existence when patriarchy was the popular movement in society. Don Paeng noticed this abnormality.
The fourth scene marks the consummation Lupeng’s virginity of the boggling gender-political issues that she has been wondering all along. This is a presumption. The mood observed by her husband is somewhat translating a declaration of newfound insights which I suspect could have been brought about by the early conversation with Guido. She is now seeing a bright light beyond the limbo of uncertainty. Guido’s far out thought of women supplemented the heating curiosity of Dona Lupeng of the Tatarin to go beyond boiling point. The Doña’s curiosity and persistence to attend the Tatarin inadvertently performed to mask her feminine/nist power. Despite the Don’s resistance, she was able to make him grant her desire to go to the festival. “THE CULT OF THE TATARIN” phrase commence the fifth scene. It briefly described Tatarin as a three day festival with the commencement of the feast of St. John followed by the two-day celebration of womanhood in a man’s feast. The scene tries to exude a more festive mood than the feast for the patron itself. It is like the awaited cockfight of Jaro Fiesta where it is a much more awaited event than the mass to celebrate the feast of The Blessed Mother of Candles itself; or the Ati-atihan in the feast of the Santo Niño.
This is also happening in this scene, where the final ritual of metamorphosing women is the most important rite in the Tatarin. This is women’s day with St. John as their mascot. The ritual is somewhat chaotic, as if the women were like sharks in feeding-frenzy. Don Paeng became their victim when he acted his protest over his wife’s self-determined demeanor to join in the dancing crowd. In a pool of estrogen and progesterone, a testosterone is nothing. The sixth scene of the short-story took place in the couple’s home; Don and Doña Paeng’s home. The final contention of the sexes. The 12th round of gender boxing. On the blue corner, the adam of the species, Don Paeng; and on the red, the eve of the species, Doña Lupeng. Venus vs. Apollo. The bell rang to signify the fight. Doña Lupeng threw a jab “What are you going to do Rafael?”. Don Paeng countered with a hook, “I am going to give you a whipping”
This exchange of verbal punches and uppercuts continued until Doña Lupeng was declared victor by a whooping K.O. Don Paeng eventually surrendered his highly-priced male pride to crawl like a lizard and kiss the feet of Doña Lupeng. FEMININITY WON!!! This is the end of one of the most intoxicating short-stories I have ever read. What can I expect from a Nick Joaquin anyway? Intoxicating elixirs as inputs, intellectual intoxications as outputs. For a lowly minded being like me, it is hard to understand the story unless I indulge myself into intoxicating activities he patronizes. This is my passport in becoming indulged in similar vantage point as the author. To reach him is to meet him in the lands of the high spirited. The place of St. Michael. The portrayal of St. John in this story is to divert our attention from his saint… Saint Michael. Nick Joaquin died a couple of years ago. As a tribute, I wish I have made him happy at least by reading one of his stories. I hope that he is at peace to whatever place he is now, a place where wine, whisky, and beer is overflowing and free. I hope there is milk there when my turn come.
Courtney from Study Moose
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