Friday, August 17, 2007


Charcoal drawing on kraft paper
11" x 17", 2002

Her name is Marta.

As far as I can remember, she'd only come three times a year with a greeting for both my uncle and mother. She'd flash her toothless grin and say "Meri Krismas po Aling Linda", or whatever the holiday may be - the other two being New Year's Eve and Easter. And as has been customarily done by my two elders, they'd each put food on her palms and money in her pocket. "Salamat po Aling Linda. Biyayaan po kayo ng Poon." (Thank you. May the Lord bless you.)

With her bundle clasped tightly to her chest, she'd scuttle out into the streets with her back hunched and accompanied by the taunts of street urchins shouting, "Martang Peklat! Martang Peklat!"(Marta with the Scar)


When my uncle died, Marta sat on the floor at the farthest end of the funeral parlor. She stayed at the back oblivious to the march of our relatives, friends and family. Rocking back and forth, she would utter words comprehensible only to her. I spied her once muttering over and over again, "Salamat po Dok Simporoso." (Thank you Doc Sinforoso)

My uncle was buried a week after. We all mourned his passing and accompanied his hearse to the cemetery. In one jeepney, I saw Marta sitting on the floor of the vehicle and two men were already restraining her. I couldn't tell then why but it seems she was ready to jump and fly on wings from the moving vehicle.

"Dok Simporoso!! Bakit naman iwan mo ako??!!"(Why are you leaving me??!!) Marta wailed so loudly as my uncle was being lowered into the ground. I remember her running away when some of the men were about to restrain her for the second time.

Giving our last respects to my dead uncle, my family prepared to leave the cemetery and head back to the car.

We passed Marta near the cemetery's gate. Sitting by the roadside, she was picking the scabs from a healing wound on her wrist. For the first time, I noticed that she had wounds all over her arms and face. Some healing, some still fresh with blood.

"Marta, umuwi ka na. Sumabay ka na sa dyip pabalik ng Sampaloc" (Marta, go home. Go with them in the jeep back to Sampaloc), my mother gently beckoned her.

She looked at my mother and uttered, "Iniwan na po niya ako." (He already left me.)

That was the last time I saw Marta.


Marta (her last name I cannot recall) was a former patient at the then National Mental Hospital where my uncle served as an administrator until the day of his retirement. She was raped by a relative at age 16, became pregnant and lost her child to a miscarriage.
She lost her mind.
During her stay in the institution for mental care, she was again raped by her co-patients. It was after this incident that my uncle and his wife personally took care of her, and when she gave birth, she killed the child a few days later while it slept in its crib. She never again regained her full sanity.


Kiks said...

Silent. Calm. Almost but not quite straightforward.

I read in intent. I read quietly. I almost gasped but not quite.

Jeruen said...

Hello Daniel,

Yes, blogging is fun. But the main reason why I do it is because I don't want to email my friends and family every now and then and update them on what is happening on my person. So I'd just tell them where my blog is and they'd read it at their own leisure.

And yes, Pinoy ako. Natawa naman ako noong sinabi mo na akala mo Bostonian white guy ako. Saan mo naman nakuha iyon? Hehe, curious lang, gusto ko lang malaman kung ano ang mayroon na nagpapasabi sa iyo na Bostonian white guy ako.


Anonymous said...

It's when I read tragedies without even a benefit of a happy ending that I'm reminded of the cruelty of life, it can be so unforgiving.

And that makes me question the logic of "God's Will"...

palma tayona said...

life IS unforgiving and relentless for those who cannot have a choice. however, many of us should be thankful for having choices given to us. it's just up to us to make the right one for ourselves.

i haven't seen marta and she remains a memory. wherever she is - if she is still alive or not - a prayer of peace i offer her.

tipping my hat to you mr. singlguy.

palma tayona said...

@ linguist-in-waiting

"Hehe, curious lang, gusto ko lang malaman kung ano ang mayroon na nagpapasabi sa iyo na Bostonian white guy ako."

last june i hosted my cousin who's been residing in boston for the past 8 years. he's part-german/american and ilonggo (his mom and mine are sisters). as per my assessment of him, he's a conservative white male bostonian. he also grew up never knowing a single word of tagalog.

what makes a white bostonian as such? quoting my cousin, "bostonians are quite a proper people, snooty at some point, but owing to a sense of socio-political history and wealth, they tend to be quite conservative, exacting and
have a tick-tock attitude towards time. we (and he sees himself as part of it) regard the good life and time with a precarious balance."

as i read through some of the posts in your blog, it didn't occur to me that you are a scientist and pinoy. (i only found out when i took the time to read your profile AND the comments of some bloggers. i hardly read them for i prefer to surprise myself.) instead, i sensed a refined demeanour, elan and exactness with your words that is more characteristic of the leisurely but well-defined bostonian. your writing is how my cousin (and his boyfriend - who's a blue-eyed, never-been-out-of-the-borders-of-north-america caucasian) would put in his words when he writes to me.

when i read that you are filipino, your blog entries became much more interesting. i was, in a way, pleasantly "duped" - particularly when you end your posts with your south american floral series.

oh and another thing, is it true, as per what an american art dealer friend of mine told me years ago, that Buffalo is the best city in the U.S. to raise a family? meaning, it is safe, no racial tensions and cultural diversity is encouraged?

cheers! i am fairly new to blogging and i enjoy having hopped into yours.

SeƱor Enrique said...

Tragic story, but thank God for people like your uncle, Daniel.

vic said...

The story of Marta is repeated everywhere. We are glad that in our country somehow they are never forgotten for in our Charter they are our Equals and somehow given that extra attention as provided in the constitution...

and thanks for dropping by... I am an Ilongo, and a proud Canadian for the last 32 years...

Ebb Tide said...

Like your charcoal drawing of this very sad and unfortunate woman.You captured her mysterious and insane face. I had the chance to read through your whole blog and enjoyed reading many of your stories. I love your colorful paintings although they are mostly fat women. If you live here in Southern California, especially Los Angeles, you'll have many subjects to paint. There are so many obese Hispanic and American women here who will be good models for you. No kidding! Your blog is the "kind" that I would like to link to my blog. How about becoming blog-art-mates? I'll link you to my blog and you link my blog to yours.

kevin said...

How i wish i could draw like you.

Kev in NZ

cb said...

I absolutely LOVE your art! (especially the beach scene on your blog- with the two people frolicking)

Marcus: Bading Down Under said...

wow. as always, an amazing entry.

Ebb Tide said...

I am still waiting for your reply. Pls. let me know if you want us to link?

slim whale said...

painful. too painful.

mikel said...

sad. and beautiful.

Mari said...

I was bloghopping and found your site. Good posts, esp. that of Marta...sad story, though. Great paintings.

Art and Soul

Marcus: Bading Down Under said...

Beautiful beautiful entry... very haunting.

Anonymous said...

Hey! I envy you. Ang bago-bago mo nagbo-blog ang dami mo nang comments. Congrats!

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