A Personal Narrative on the Life and Loves of Lucila Sinson y Carrillo:
A Portrait of Lucila
A full-body portrait of Lucila is projected on the screen (“Baby, It’s You” plays in background). Lucila enters and walks across the stage before pausing in the middle to strike the same pose as that in the portrait, freezes for five seconds (music stops), and sings a slow acapella rendition of “All My Lovin’,” a pink love letter and a pen in her hand (projected image vanishes as she sings).
LISING: (sings) Close your eyes and I’ll kiss you. Tomorrow, I’ll miss you. Remember I’ll always be true. And then while I’m away, I’ll write home every day (scribbles something on the letter)—signed with love, Lucila—And I’ll send all my lovin’ to you (folds the letter, kisses it, and tucks it beneath her belt). There! This ought to hide it. No one else must be able to read this letter before it reaches the sight of his dark, brown eyes, and the touch of his perfumed hands. Oh, the glory of youthful love! (sighs)
Have you a lover? Someone who writes you every single chance that he gets, tells you how he feels in silly, little poems and sweet, extensive prose that just put Shakespeare to shame? (whispers to audience) Well, I do. And believe me, this feeling that I get whenever I read those grand words of ardor and passion is unlike any other feeling in the entire world—it’s like God’s finger is on your shoulder. Oh, but hush! What do I speak of, even including the Divine Providence in such nonsense? I shouldn’t be saying such things. I’ll be damned if I get caught swooning over a man, wondering how it’s like to be swept up into his arms before closing the gap between our faces for that much, much desired first kiss—mercy me! I ought to be ashamed of myself! All these emotions are best kept to myself, oh yes. Pay must never hear of this. Pay is our term of endearment for Father, because a cabeza de barangay visited our family way, way back before I was born, and criticized Filipinos for calling their parents Mamá and Papá. “Who do these indios think they are, fancying themselves Español?” I can almost hear the arrogant Spanish say. And so, we have since settled for May and Pay if only to avoid trouble with those who fancy themselves “the high and the mighty.” Now, where was I? Oh yes, Pay must never hear of my yearning for men for I shall receive a mighty load of spanking. I cannot even merely pass by any of my suitors’ houses! Oh, no, no, no! That would be appalling! If I must go to the market or to church on Sundays, I must take the looooooong way around those houses—on foot, mind you! Well, you know the neighbors. Anything peculiar and the whole barrio knows it. My Mother, the towering and regal Aniana Jasmin Escobal Carrillo y Lacao, always reminds me, “Lucila, as young girls, it is our duty to maintain our delicadeza.” What is wrong with being Maria Claras anyway? These days, other girls assume that just because women can already vote, it’s okay for them to go out and dance and drink with random men—and mercy!—even go out in shorts and those awful, long pants! Why, was it not just yesterday that only the men wore them?
Oh, but love!—how it ensnares. Plato himself did say that “at the touch of love, everyone becomes a poet.” And so, all these letters are all that I have that are nearest to his very touch. That particular touch belongs to a certain gentleman by the name of Jesus Letada, son of the former Vice Governor of Masbate. I call him Jesse. (Sighs) He may not be my first beau but he has definitely sent my heart a-flying to the moon, whose mere presence in the night sky remains my only comfort as I know that the same moon will always be shining on us both no matter where we are. Always. They say that missing someone gets easier every day because even though it is one day further from the last time you saw each other, it is, after all, one day closer to the next time you will. Missing Jesse is like holding my breath for a whole three months or so! You see, he’s taking up Criminology in a place far away, so we’ll have to make do with dispensing all our caged affections in ink on paper. And yet, the nicest part about missing someone is that it could actually turn from pain to pleasure, if you just knew that he was missing you, too. And Jesse never failed to make me feel that. One particular love mail that I shall never forget is a long message written on scented floral stationery carefully tucked in two, stitched-up, heart-shaped velvet pillows—oh, I swear I kept on rereading it for about a thousand times! “Within you, I lose myself. Without you, I find myself…wanting to be lost again”—or so one of those hackneyed sayings goes. All those as lovesick as I, say aye! (giggles) Fiddle dee dee! Well, pardon me, scoffing sirs and ma’ams, but that’s all I am: hopelessly, mindlessly, ridiculously in love! There is love, of course. And then, there's life, its enemy. (air raids in background)
My life has not at all been as rosy as I would like to make it seem—and I am quite sure that all other Filipinos’ lives have never been the same, either. December 8, 1941, 17 days from Christmas and ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the first Japanese troops landed on Philippine shores. I was only nine. What did I know about war? Quite simple, actually. War meant running away, being chased after by Japanese spies because Pay, Aquilino Carrillo y Estabaya, has been heading troops in the Philippine Constabulary Command, which means we had to isolate ourselves in the most farflung of barrios, Pay and May, and me, which means I had to grow up alone most of the time—no siblings to play with, to cry to whenever other children insulted me, to share sentiments with on war, love, life, and the hope that never dies in the heart of every Filipino. I supposedly had seven siblings, only that two girls died when they were both toddlers because of poor health. They were both named Araceli because May thought that she’d somehow redeem the first one by giving the same name to the second one, only to find out that our family had lost enough Aracelis. A brother also died right before he could actually see the world and its many wonders because his head was too soft for the birthing process, and we never got around to naming him. Manay Asuncion or Ason, the eldest girl among us, married a wealthy Chinese businessman, which saved her from being seized as a comfort woman even if she raised her own family away from us. My closest sister, (photos of Betty projected on screen) Beatrice or Manay Betty as I’d fondly call her, also happens to be the most beautiful among us girls. She has won two crowns and was hailed Queen of Sorsogon and Queen of Masbate. She has porcelain-white skin and the prettiest feet I have ever seen! (Carrillo family portrait projected on screen) And I, Lising, born on the 10th of April, 1932, the youngest in the brood, would pale in comparison to Manay Betty, as a child. Other people would joke around, “O, uni na palan su mutsatsa ni Betty!” (giggles as image vanishes) Perhaps that made me upset before, but now that I am in my 20s, I find it funny that they have been telling me that I’m beginning to look a lot more like Beatrice herself. In 1942, though, came my very first heartbreak caused by men: (photo of Ampoy and Milio appears on screen) my two only brothers, Serapio and Emilio, were two of the ten thousand prisoners-of-war who died in the Bataan Death March. Manoy Ampoy was 25 and Manoy Milio was barely 21. Their bodies were never found. And their heroic deeds swirled into oblivion. Apart from the Star Spangled Banner on their caskets and the Bataan Veterans Pension in dollars, I have not heard of any genuine sort of commemoration that would honor many of these forgotten heroes. Ampoy and Milio could have had wives and many children who would continue a long line of Carrillos. I was only in Grade Six when I turned 15 since the war caused irregularities on children’s schooling. It was then that May died of depression, always looking for her only sons and our only brothers. “Ampoy, Milio, hain kamo?” “May, nasa Bataan.” (photo vanishes) Pay suffered greatly after her demise, along with the rest of us. The war did not only take from us three lives, it also deprived us of the many more blissful moments with May, Manoy Ampoy, and Manoy Milio, had they lived to see the country free from the chains, the bayonets, the wrath of the Japanese. But they only formed part of the lost generation that the Liberation would soon uncover. Just how high the death toll was in those three oppressive years? A million, they say. But just how many hearts were broken? Probably enough to love and mourn forever.
Meanwhile, Pay might not be able to love another person as dearly as he loved his dear Aniana. But he was able to remarry many years later, and Mama Agatona, our stepmother, has never been like Cinderella’s. She has since treated us like her own children. In 1952, just last year, I began my college schooling as Dentistry student in the College of Oral and Dental Surgery in Oroquieta, Manila. This I was able to pull off, thanks to the veteran pensions of my heroic brothers. At present, my picture is about to be taken by—take note—a professional photographer, having recently won first runner-up in the Ms. Dentistry beauty pageant. One of my professors has graciously lent me her clothes because I actually have nothing pretty enough to wear for this pictorial (giggles), but oh, am I thrilled to smile for the camera! I may send Jesse a copy of it so that he may always see me somehow and perhaps, even keep me in his breast pocket right over his heart—oh, I shall faint by the mere thought of it! (sighs)
It is a small wonder how I can be so young and restless and naïve after the war, isn’t it? Looking back, though, despite the great losses that I had to endure in my earlier days of youth, I would never trade my childhood for anything. It was a happy one. Being the youngest meant plenty of privileges. Like I said, I was the only one who had the opportunity to run along with Pay and May and feel protected in our hiding places during the war. Even then, I was a normal kind of child. They called me Bungkay after the endearing moniker for the female genital—(giggles)—because May always reminded me that when I was born, I would wail and bawl so hard that everyone, including the neighbors, thought I was a boy—until they saw what it was between my legs, and the midwife could not help but let out a loud “Ay, bungkay pala!” (laughs) As a dalaga, however, I shall be mortified if I am still to be called with such a nickname! And so, this has been the reason they “rechristened” me Lising, further shortening my original name, Lucila Carrillo y Lacao.
Hmm…I wonder when I shall get to be Mrs. Jesse Letada. Lucila Letada y Carrillo! Oh, boy, oh, boy, it is indeed music to my ears! Never mind that he has not been writing as much as before. Never mind that not long after, he will stop writing, and I will start pining. Never mind that we shall never see each other again until he shows up to tell me that he might have impregnated another girl in the province. “Napikot ako,” he will say, leaving me to wonder just how “accidental” making love may actually be. Never mind that I shall keep his letters to remind me of the loves and losses of those who are brave enough to love and lose. For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these: “It might have been.” (wedding photo appears) And never mind that I shall never get to be Mrs. Jesus Letada but Mrs. Jose Sinson, instead—never mind that the latter would not be my boyfriend in the first place but some war veteran whom I married only because he asked for my parents’ hand, and not mine. (Sinson family portrait projected on screen) I shall bear him four beautiful daughters: Josefina, Carolina, Glenda, and Ma. Magnolia, a child I shall be having way into my forties. (photo vanishes) And I shall eventually learn that even if love is indeed blind, matrimony does restore sight, and that the nicest thing about marriage, it seems to me, is that when you fall out of love with him or he falls out of love with you, it keeps you together until maybe you fall in again—but oh, ladies and gentlemen, that is another love story that I shall live to tell. Whatever it is that awaits me in the future, Scarlett O’Hara could not have said it better in Gone with the Wind: “After all, tomorrow is another day!” In the meantime, I stand here innocently in front of a professional photographer about to take a portrait of me, in all the glory of my borrowed clothes, and just a genuine smile to bare and mine to own. (photos of Lising as young woman projected on screen as she strikes the same beginning pose as in the portrait while “Baby, It’s You” plays in background)