Just sharing the notes of one of the editors I’ve had the pleasure of working with, Ms. Lanox. This was written after she had read the final version of Of Heads and Hearts in the Metro. Thanks so much, Lanox!
Foremost, Of Heads and Hearts is a pleasure to read because it’s about home—it brings you to Manila, Cebu, Bohol, Boracay, and many other places in the country. Whether you’ve been to these places or are yet planning to, the book paints you pictures of how an archipelago with islands of varying personalities seemingly becomes part of its own inhabitants’ distinct characters.
Like Laine, for instance. The Boholana with a fear of heights is a surprise when she reveals her expertise in diving. Yet we easily understand that there is no disparity in her qualities as she’s lived near the ocean, that her chosen interest can even be almost predetermined.
Another thing I found noteworthy was the “fact” (at least inside the fiction) that Zara and Anne are the pair, at least in who met whom first, in their quad. Their personalities clearly clash right off the bat, yet when you go through your closest friends in mind and think about the person most opposite you and remember how somehow you still get along, you realize, yeah, friendships like that are legit.
Then when you focus on the other duo, Laine and Jaz, you right away agree why they connected. Not to promote reverse racism or anything, but it’s a natural phenomenon when probinsyanas stick together in the metro. In defense to this, indeed perhaps primitive, practice, the qualification for inclusion can be as basic as having visited any province outside the big city. Believe it or not, in these parts of the world, meeting someone whose mom grew up in one’s hometown is valid reason for a family dinner invitation. And we are fine with an hour or two just filled with questions of “Do you know the [common local family name]” or “Is the [famous hangout] still there?” or “The [local dish] isn’t as tasty as they used to make it, right?”
As the book is just the first of many—with the succeeding four focusing on each of the ladies—we are only given a glimpse of what their heads and hearts are about to experience and hurdle in the future. Nevertheless, this first installment is enough of a tease to keep us wondering on the further details of these Filipinas’ daily lives.
Such as what goes on in the home of Jazmine and her newborn son, Liam. Stories of pregnancy keeping young women out of school abound in the Philippines, these anecdotes being used (obviously ineffectively) to discourage other young girls from indulging in intimacy too early in their budding lives. Yet here we have an intelligent woman having a baby long after college and while she’s already working, and we are shown that the process has not become easier. And to rub salt in the wound, Liam’s father, Braden, has no intention of doing his part as head of his would-have-been family—yet with an honesty that we somehow appreciate. If anything, this only goes to clarify that single motherhood is not always every woman’s choice, if at all. Therefore, it is interesting that Jazmine’s situation can make us ask if we as a society have, over the years, finally changed our attitudes toward single mothers from one of criticism (of their “unwise life choices”) to support (of their difficult life decisions).
Then shifting our focus on Anne, the noisy one in the group, we are made aware how truly equalizing adulthood is. As we find out that unlike the other three, she continues to live with her parents, we are made to question if coming from a good family had instead the disadvantage of having made her comfort zone hard to leave. Add to that the pressure of being successful by default, what with the wide head start she’s supposedly already had compared to her counterparts, and we are reminded how privileges aren’t without a price, even to those born with it, at least to people of integrity. We are very much familiar with the likes of Anne, perhaps seeing the resemblance in the women close to us or even in ourselves—the “see it to believe it” type when it comes to love.
As with Zara, the numerous agreeable ingredients of her slice of life make her an easy favorite—her job allows her to both write and travel, she is independent, she has a good guy after her—yet there’s a heaviness about her that subtly tells us to keep our distance. That she keeps a tight rein on everything around her, which admittedly has things avoiding the path of chaos, rather gives us the feeling that among the four she could be the most vulnerable to failure. We are kept on our toes waiting for what sad tale she is keeping secret.
The four women in the book are readily relatable not only because they speak our same languages—in tongue, in heart, or both—but also, if not more so, because they are as stubborn and as prone to lapses in judgment as we are. They antagonize their own friends, they use self-destructive measures of coping, and they refuse to see truths in favor of perspectives that are least fearful to them. However, it should be noted as well their human qualities to self-heal and learn from mistakes, albeit sometimes the painful way. They eventually return to friends, especially when they most need both moral and physical support. They deal with hangovers from misjudgments not in enduring defeat but with the grace that comes from added wisdom. And most of all, like us, they ascertain, although probably repeatedly, how problems are never, or at the most very slowly, solved with only positions of denial.
Of Heads and Hearts is not a complicated read if one is looking for mind-bending plots, thrilling mysteries, and whatnot. The book is a straightforward story—or rather, stories about four typical working Filipinas merely trying to find their way through the daily grind. However, we do know that friendships are not without stories exchanged between the individuals in the gang. And strangely enough, even those warm stories of friendships themselves merit telling, such as what Laine, Jaz, Anne, and Zara have. Theirs is truly an extraordinary tie, one riveting enough to make us either wish for our own core squad or remember with both fondness and longing our own tribe.
Laarni Alfaro is a Filipino poet, writer, and editor. Also a youtube singer and wannabe astronomer. Learn more about her at her website hinubog.wordpress.com or Facebook page www.facebook.com/manunula.