Before the first semester of the school year ended, I made sure to borrow Khalleen’s copy of Baul: A Collection of Philippine Literature for College Readers by Leoncio P. Deriada and Isidoro M. Cruz. I had heard of it through other students, it being used as a medium of instruction in literature, but I’ve never had the chance to be formally introduced. When I heard that my fiancée had a copy, I immediately pounced on the idea of studying the whole thing.
Baul has a collection of culturally distinct literature in different forms — short story, poetry, drama and essay. Most pieces I’ve heard of, few I’ve read and studied wholeheartedly and all very Filipino.
The first category was the short story and the first piece featured was Jose Garcia Villa’s Footnote to Youth.
Footnote to Youth revolves around the prospect of teenage marriage. Dodong, the 17 year old main character, wants to marry the younger Teang. He gets his wish but soon finds out that there’s a lot more to marriage than simply obsessing over someone of the opposite sex. As you will be able to tell, the critique that can do as much justice to the story as possible is the Psychoanalytic Theory.
The short story is divided into four parts.
The first part was all about Dodong’s troubles with his yearning to marry, with telling his parents about the earlier wedding proposal to Teang and that she accepted. His entire day was also presented, his parents were introduced and Dodong’s character was exposed to the reader. Teang was briefly acknowledged but more effort was focused on Dodong’s infatuation for her. The dialogue between him and his father supported the fact that Dodong’s really juvenile, unable to support his baseless want and instead proclaiming force to back his words up. Dodong seems to like losing himself in his dreams and fantasies instead of facing reality, a playful tribute to naive youth.
The second part demonstrates how unprepared Dodong really was through Teang’s childbirth. Instead of staying with his wife to comfort her, he fled the scene and retreated to the yard where he contradicted himself on his maturity. He felt confused and awkward and afraid. He didn’t know what to do and if it weren’t for his parents, Teang might’ve gone through the ordeal on her lonesome. Before proceeding to the third part of the story, Villa pushed Dodong to garner sympathy through appreciating the beauty of new life.
The third part, through shorter than the rest, proved to be more human. It contained the philosophical debacle, after all. After the first born, came more children that either parent didn’t want. Teang had to contend with a lot more than she could handle and she began to question if her marriage was a wise decision. Dodong, through Villa’s used of personification on ideals, sought answers but failed to receive any for his newly matured rationality. If Dodong was on the brink of regretting his folly on the second part, he was already exhibiting it on this one.
The fourth, and last, part was focused on irony. To be more precise, Dodong’s first born, Blas, at age 18, now wanted to marry. The tables have turned on him. He is now in his father’s shoes and his son in his when he was still 17. Though Dodong clearly didn’t want Blas to marry at such a young age, his answer remained ambiguous.
Jose Garcia Villa’s message was revealed in the last part. Though the piece, as the authors wrote, could lessen teenage marriages if students read it, the choice would still be up to the individuals involved. The story displayed the negative side of teenage marriage, the tragic ending of an impulsive approach to life. It implies that for everything, a corresponding time and place steers it from being either right or wrong.
As Dodong believed, “Youth must triumph… now. Love must triumph… now. Afterwards… it will be Life.”
Sympathy is wasted on instincts.