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Friday, July 2, 2010

Patricia of the Green Hills by Maximo D. Ramos


LITERARY SKILL
• Pointing out How Imagery Creates a Vivid Impression on the Reader

An IMAGE is basically what you see in a literary work. When you look out a window, at a drawing or photograph, a reflection in a mirror, a scene on a television or movie screen- all these are images. Literary writers use words to create images. Because we “see” word images only in our minds, our own imaginations must become actively involved when we read literary works which are rich in imagery.




Which can be more attractive to a member of the minority group, to assimilate the lowland culture or to stay with his or her people in the hills or the mountains? Read the story and justify the choice made by the main character.
Patricia of the Green Hills
Maximo D. Ramos

When my friend Jose Lactaotao lost his Muslim wife and his two sons in the malaria epidemic that devastated the Maguindanao delta years ago, he left his teaching job and returned to Luzon, at the same time passing on to my wife a Tirurai orphan girl whom his father-in-law had presented him with on his wedding day.
My wife, with a rare stroke of genius called the girl Patricia, a name that suited her well. The unimaginative Lactaotao had named her Marcosa, though when she was baptized in the Protestant chapel, the American missionary had given her the name Mary Cruz. Much fairer than the average daughter of our town, Patricia was slender, graceful, and sensitive of face- traits which characterized the Indonesian stock from which she came. A bright sparkle was in her eyes and a striking sprightliness was in her gait.
She was fourteen then, and it had been five years since she left her native green hills far to the east of our town. Her ancestors had been tillers of a small clearing at the edge of the jungle, and having been plain pagans with one of the Muslim’s aversion to pork, they had, for centuries, hunted the wild boar as well as the deer.
It was in the clearing that Patricia’s parents had been murdered by bandits one evening. Patricia herself escaped only because her father had shoved her through a hole in the floor during the attack and she had quietly slipped into the underbrush. Thus, only nine, the girl had been left alone in the world, and Jose Lactaotao’s father-in-law, something of a deputy governor in those remote regions, had brought the little orphan to town.
Lactaotao’s wife had taught Patricia practically nothing about cooking especially cooking dishes in which pork was used. For although Mrs. Lactaotao had been Christianized, she had never lived down her bias against pork. Now that Patricia was with us, however, she was taught home economics in the house as well as at school. And she learned so fast that before school was out that year, she was concocting exotic-smelling dishes my wife prided herself on; though since I was what my wife calls a barbarian with jungle tastes, I still preferred the simple dried meat Patricia knew so well how to broil over wood coals, the fat dripping into the embers and curling up in sweet- smelling smoke.
Every two weeks or so during the year, except perhaps at planting time, it was the practice of a Tirurai youth to come into town peddling salted wild boar meat and venison. A typical Indonesian, he was tall and hairy of limb and chest. He was sunburned to a dark-brown, and he had muscles that wriggled like snakes caged inside his skin as he walked peddling the meat in baskets he had woven out of rattan and bamboo strips. For all his good looks, however, he wore a sour expression on his face, and he never became intimate with anyone in our town. He would arrive early in the morning, and the following afternoon. Having done his trading with the lowlanders, he would follow the winding paths back to his distant hills. It was the meat peddled by this Tirurai youth which, broiled by Patricia as I said, I found exceedingly good.
In the meantime, Patricia also learned how to operate the sewing machine my wife enthusiastically bought for her. She took instructions from a neighbor who was by way of being a modiste, for my wife does not know the difference between a baste and a hem; and before long, Patricia was making shirts and underwear. I have little doubt that if there had been children in the house, she would have learned to be good at caring for them, too.
She graduated from the elementary school second in a class of fifteen while other natives of the region were spending as many as ten years in the first four grades. In June, Patricia was going to high school. Her new dresses were made, we borrowed Elena’s old First Year books, and the three of us were ready to make the long trip by river launch to the provincial capital, where the high school was located.
But on the morning, we were to start, Patricia burst out wailing. “I am through with schooling”, she sobbed when I finally succeeded in calming her down. “I hate books.”
“But why, Patricia?” my wife wished to know. “And with everything ready!”
“I am through with school”, she repeated.
This development did not come as quite a surprise to me. For Patricia had a peculiar habit she could not break—that of occasionally playing truant with some of the Muslim girls. On certain unexpected afternoons, directly after school was out, she would slip away and climb the hill paths with three or four of the native girls to the villages beyond the line of trees outer hills. Patricia would spend the night in the house of one of her companions. Shamefacedly she would return early the next day with the girls, when her companions were gone, my wife would give her a scolding. She would weep in contrition and write out a promise not to do the like again. The new promissory slip would be laid away with the previous ones. For a month or two, nothing would happen, and we would sigh gratefully saying that Patricia had learned the impropriety of running away to the hills. And the, next thing we knew, she had fled to the hills again.
Finally, bowed and weeping, she came to my wife one night. “Please give me back the promises I have made,” she said. “I cannot keep them.”
After that, we just hoped that she went to the hills with only the more trustworthy girls. And whenever we ourselves found time to take a walk beyond the limits of the town, we would take her along. She would have a great time then, chasing butterflies and picking wild fruits and flowers. She would climb to the top branch of a tree as far as the limbs could bear her weight, and she would yodel in complete abandon till my wife, outraged, would say, “Patricia! You are a young lady now!”
The walks helped a great deal, however, and my wife and I often wished that we had more time of our own to take Patricia out, for with the passing of the months she grew more restive. In the evenings, after thumbing through the magazines in her room or perhaps doing a little of the sewing she took in for a modest fee, she would turn off the light and look out of the window. Or she would walk out to the steps on the back porch and gaze at the hills far to the east of our delta.
She was on the back porch one evening when I spoke to her. “Patricia,” I said.
“What seems to be troubling you?” I said. “This, you know, is your home.”
Patricia turned to me, sighed, and looked away at the rim of the hills.
Under the moon, the leaves waved in the breeze from the uplands. “That’s true,” she said. This is like home to me. But in the hills far out there, you see them, don’t you? There, where the moon rose not long ago tonight and where deep woods and wide grasslands are, there lie dark and little known jungles. “There”, she went on, warming up to the subject that I knew had been on her thoughts, “the nights are not silent. There, the voice of the jungle is a thing one cannot forget. Many birds and wild things live there, wild things that speak music endlessly.”
“But you must know it’s not safe to live in those hills, Patricia,” said my wife, joining us perhaps too abruptly. “It is wild there, with so many bandits roaming around these days. You lost your parents there. You will find no streets there, and no books. And at night no town lights.”
“That’s the most important thing of all”, Patricia replied, still gazing at the hills far away. “No town lights there to drive away the jungle moon. And the paths winding up the hills are narrow and little walked upon. They are lined on both sides with tall grass that rub against your arms pleasantly when you walk past them. And the nighthawks and birds whose calls one never hears in the town are not afraid to call there, and you should hear the frogs in the water calling.”
Our home was not far from the river. On the river’s farther bank lay beds of reed so thick you could not have known that rails and snipes skulked in them till our ears heard their dreamy pipings at dawn. Patricia would lie down on the graveled bank and feel the wind from the hills brush her face. Or she would poke about in the reeds and flush the wading birds.
The meat the Tirurai hunter peddled was so good that I asked Patricia to watch for him and buy several kilos of it when he should come into town again. She usually got the best portion of the man’s wares, and at slightly reduced price, too. And no wonder, my wife told me, for of course Patricia could talk to him in their native Tirurai, and that naturally made a big difference.
Then something happened. One day when we came home for lunch, the maid followed us into our room in a nervous flurry. That morning, having done her washing earlier than usual, she had returned from the river and found “the wild man” so she told us, standing in the front yard for no apparent reason. Looking up, however, she had seen Patricia half concealed behind the screen of vines on the porch, and the two were talking so earnestly with each other that neither of them saw her. In fear, that he would catch her spying on them “and tear me to pieces and make dried meat of me,” she cleared her throat. The man turned his sour face to her and Patricia withdrew into the house. Then, scowling savagely but saying not a word, the man had left.
After supper, my wife called Patricia aside and tried to reason with her. Was her friendship with the hunter a serious manner? If she returned to those barbaric hills, what would become of her talent, her looks? What was the use of her having finished her education in the town school and having been brought up in civilization if she would only return to her hills after all?
Patricia kept her eyes to the floor and sat weeping silently. Her eyes were still swollen when she came out of her room next morning.
The man did not return to the town for some months after that, perhaps, my wife hoped, because he had realized his error in trying to win so fine a girl as Patricia; perhaps, I feared, because it was the rainy time of the year again and the seed had to be sown in his clearing.
When the August rain were over the new crop we knew was well along, the Tirurai hunter came back. He had grown more bronzed and muscular. He clearly had been working harder than ever. His clothes appeared somewhat neater, too, though as usual, they were innocent of starch and iron. He made two trips to town that week.
We woke up later the following Saturday morning, after a week full of the paper work that is the death of us teachers, to find Patricia gone. We waited for her all the next day. We waited for her all the next week.
But the green hills were far away.

Source: Patricia of the Green Hills and Other Stories and poems. (Quezon City: Phoenix, 1991).

-Faith Fidel :P

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