Nick Joaquin gives us another look at marriage in our second short story for February: The Summer Solstice.
I wasn't actually going to introduce this as a story about marriage--although, after May Day Eve, of course that is what it looks like. What I wanted to do was mention Joaquin's fascination with the way pagan and Christian traditions have fused together in Philippine culture, to the point that they are as impossible to tear asunder . . . kind of like a husband and wife. =P
Obviously, the text itself bears out the marriage imagery, with Lupeng and Paeng's union becoming a kind of microcosmic expression of the tension between the cult of the Tadtarin and the devotees of St. John the Baptist.
In the May Day Eve discussion, Emily described the story as "another depiction of an unhappy marriage"--which rather surprised me. I've always seen Lupeng and Paeng as an ordinary couple: no longer ecstatically in love, perhaps, but not likely to separate, either. She's very restless in this story, and maybe she has been restless for a long time but just doesn't know it until she sees their driver uncharacteristically afraid of the wife he usually beats on a whim. It awakens something subversive in her--and then the attentions of the shallow Guido, who claims to find the old and overweight Tadtarin beautiful, make it worse.
Meanwhile, in space of three days, the celebration of St. John's Day, which is the "masculine" festival of the story, is swallowed up by the celebration of the Tadtarin, which Joaquin seems to say is the former's feminine counterpart. They are in a marriage in which there are only two options: the female submitting to the male's whip . . . or the male crawling on the floor to kiss the female's feet.
Not that it's much to worry about. I'm sure that by the next day, all the "possessed" couples are back to "normal."
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