Desire (1928) by Paz Latorena: Her body’s a wonderland

Re-reading the 50 Best Philippine Short Stories of the Twentieth Century – Story #2:

desire 1928It’s written by another woman who’s a student of Benitez, but this time she writes about a woman who’s issue is also the issue of every other woman: her body. But while most women are concerned with their bodies’ lack of perfection, this woman is plagued by the perfection of her, which, by society’s standard, also equates to her value, and it’s measured through the male gaze.

This is a feminist piece, addressing the core of the woman heart: the desire to be loved. Factors that play into this desire beauty of the face, beauty of the body, and beauty from within. In the Filipino slang, she ‘s woman described as a shrimp: beautiful body – ugly face. Men want her for her body. She is yet to experience men who would desire her beyond her physical perfection. And like most women who were wronged by men and society, she hides herself, hides her body, her punishment for the world who glorified her body but leaves her accursed.

Latorena’s prose is straightforward. Though it doesn’t have the lyrical and extended musings of Benitez, hers is linear and leaves nothing to suggestion. She has the habit of repeating words — probably her attempt to remind her reader of her protagonist’s thoughts, but to me it’s redundant.

How ironic that even after eighty-nine years, this story is still happening, more now than the 1920s. The white man still sees the Filipina as exotic. Most women are still equate their value through the eyes of a man. And men are still enslaved to their carnal desires, fighting to see beyond the physical.

I enjoy this less than Dead Stars, but it’s not less important. And it’s the first short story to enter the gender conversation.


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