Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Overshadowing Lavinia

“I don’t like her!” This was my 10-year old’s pronouncement thirty minutes into “Master Class”, a play based on the series of master classes given by legendary opera singer Maria Callas at the Julliard School of Music in New York City in 1971 and 1972.

I must say that I agree with my daughter’s observation. Arrogant, insulting, dismissive, condescending, haughty, difficult, impatient ... are but a few of the words that I could think of to describe this diva. She spoke her mind at will and with a wave of her aristocratic hand, trampled on people’s emotions as if they were dirt under her feet. Yes, she wasn’t likeable at all.

But likeable or not, Maria Callas must have been an awesome human being. And this very quality, this essence that was Maria Callas, was brought to us by Ms. Cherie Gil with such clarity and intensity that left us reeling. That was some emotional roller coaster ride Ms. Gil made us go through.

Ms. Cherie Gil was Cherie Gil when we first met her during the press conference. But the person who came to the stage was Maria Callas, a formidable woman who, with the slightest tilt of her chin, made it clear to us that we mere mortals being graced with the presence of a goddess. From that point on, we were not seeing Ms. Gil. We had Maria Callas before us.

At the beginning, we hated her with as much fervor as her “victims”, as she called them, must have hated La Divina herself. We laughed at her wicked humor and we sat in awe as we witnessed her live her art and delve into the passion of the characters she played in the opera.

But something unexpected happened towards the end. We stopped hating Maria Callas. And this was where Ms. Gil’s acting genius came to full force. She revealed to us a Maria Callas who was just as human as we all are ... she was lonely and she wanted to love and be loved just like any one of us. We cried for her as she gave up her unborn child for the love of a man who treated her with as much disdain as she treated those around her. And we held our breath as, letting go of every bit of pride she ever possessed, she begged and pleaded for him to marry her. She did not want to be alone. But it was all in vain. The love of her life chose another woman over her. We felt her pain. We felt her despair. Ms. Gil made us feel all that.

Ms. Gil as a consummate actress came to be as Maria Callas. The bratty Lavinia who hissed, “You’re nothing but a second-rate, trying hard, copy cat!!!” to a hapless Sharon Cuneta a long time ago is a far cry from the commanding figure we saw on stage, an aristocratic woman who could cower an entire auditorium into silence with a single look.

Admittedly, that line has achieved an almost-legendary status and continues to tickle our fancy through the years. Young children, including my 10-year old daughter, can deliver it with as much venom as Ms. Cherie Gil did in the movie Bituing Walang Ningning. This is a richly-deserved honor for Ms. Gil. But it’s time to move on.

Ms. Gil shouldn’t be known as Lavinia alone for she shone even brighter as Maria Callas. Her strength as an actress has never before been laid out to an audience with as much intensity as it was in Master Class.

Forget that copy cat line. Ms. Cherie Gil has outgrown Lavinia. She is now Maria Callas, a woman, who without any shred of doubt in her being, could dismissively declare to the world: “How can I have rivals when no one can do what I can do?”

And those very same words could very well apply to Ms. Gil herself. For who, indeed, can do what Cherie Gil can do? Kudos to our favorite villainess. Keep the passion.

Sunday, August 08, 2010


A friend and I recently spotted a familiar face with a sweet young thing in tow. This was naturally very disturbing as we haven’t heard of his wife having passed on to the hereafter recently. Mind you, we were not just two nosy ladies putting one and one together and coming up with eleven. That sweet young thing with her nubile body kept resting her head on his shoulders. Now tell me, what were we supposed to think about that? Of course, they could be father and daughter bonding together. But at past 11pm in the company of drinking buddies? Right!

It was none of our business of course. But I am making mention of that incident because it led up to this topic and my admission that what I saw is forcing me to confront my own insecurities as a wife and has left me obsessing on thoughts of marriage and infidelity.

These “demons” – as I call them – are never far away from me. They are always present in the fringes of my mind. But I had always been able to keep them at a safe distance until this forced confrontation brought about by what I saw.

I would suppose that this is also the case with every woman of every status, age, color or creed the world over. Any woman reading this would probably understand when I say that no matter how happy and secure our marriages or relationships are, no matter how loving and caring our husbands or partners may be, and this is very important ... no matter how young and beautiful, or sexy and desirable, or intelligent and accomplished we may be ... those demons still come from time to time to tease and taunt us, to cast a dark shadow over our lives and upset that delicate balance we call marital happiness and contentment.

These taunting could come in different forms. It could be in the news about movie stars breaking up because of “third parties” or it could be what’s happening to people close to us – friends, relatives, or simply people we know from a distance. But in whatever form the taunting may come, it always gives us pause and makes us contemplate our own marriage or relationship ... because whether we are watching as a wife, a girlfriend, or a partner, and no matter how vehemently we may deny it to ourselves, deep inside, we cower in fear at the thought that what is happening to other women could also happen to us.

I am particularly vulnerable to these demons because my husband is a seaman. Not that he has given me reason to doubt his fidelity, but we are dealing with realities here, not the ideals, and it is a fact that seamen can commit countless acts of infidelity with impunity simply because they are too far away. The normal controls do not apply to them. The risk of getting “caught” is minimal to nil.

Of course, not all men do it. I am certain that we can still find men who take their marital vows to heart. And seamen’s wives, as probably ALL wives do, cling to that hope ... that our husbands are among those few men. Kind of naive, that’s true, but what else is there?

As I mentioned earlier, this prickly subject has been gnawing at my equilibrium lately. It is not only that encounter with that sweet young thing that triggered this. Somebody I know is going through the very same thing that we all fear. She is, like me, a seaman’s wife and she just recently discovered her husband’s infidelities and her life is falling apart right now. My heart goes out to her as I am painfully aware that, sharing parallel lives as we do, it can easily be me in her place right now.

In fairness to the male species though, I have to mention here that it is not only the men who can be unfaithful. We women are just as capable of cheating as men are on their wives. There is no question about that. It is simply a matter of letting go with our conventions and making the decision to do it.

But do all of us do it? Of course not! My personal opinion is that there are more faithful wives than there are husbands. We take our vows more seriously than men do. But then again, this is only my opinion.

So how am I coping now? First of all, I do not go into denial. I am perfectly aware that my husband, by the mere fact that he is a man whether seaman or not, is as capable of cheating on his wife as the man next to him. Again, this bears repeating: we are talking of realities and generalities here.

Has he been doing it? I have no idea and I hope and pray that he never has and never will.

But what if he has been doing it all these years? Let me share something with you. When the question as to whether or not he had been unfaithful to me and continues to be so came up in one of our discussions, I asked him to do three things for me: please do not ever let me know, please do not bring me any form of disease, and please do not ever fall in love.

Come to think of it, don’t we all women want the same things when it comes to our marriage? We dream of a perfect husband and a perfect marriage. But if we can’t have perfection in the area of fidelity, we might as well settle for the next best thing: we ask for ignorance ... for isn’t ignorance bliss?

Do I trust my husband? My heart does. My man is a good and decent person and a wonderful husband and father and I love him and I thank God for him every day. And most of all, my heart trusts him because I completely trust his love for me.

But my mind sometimes disagrees with my heart. Why? Maybe because it sees too much of what is actually happening in many marriages around us? That’s me. I am too realistic for my own good. So realistic in fact, that I can’t give my husband my unquestioning faith because I can’t ignore what I know about men and human nature and what happens in the real world. This is the reason why I am sometimes vulnerable to my demons – as they are always present, chipping ceaselessly at that wall of trust that I carefully built and is continuing to build around my marriage.

I wonder. Is it just me or is this something that I share with every woman out there? Is there a constant battle being waged within you too? Are you also lost in the midst of this silent war that is raging between our hearts and our minds? Have you also been told to just trust? And like me, did you answer: “Yes, I’d like that ... to trust fully ... if only I could stop thinking!” I would really like that. If only it were that simple.

I wonder. Is there any woman out there who can truly and honestly say that she completely trusts her husband without any shred of doubt whatsoever? I envy her. I wish I could be that kind of wife.

So going back to that question I asked earlier: how do I cope? I hold on tightly to that trust and I pray and pray and pray ...