INTO THE DEPTHS OF SPIRITUALITY: CRITICAL ANALYSIS ON LITERARY MYSTICISM By E.J. Caoile, C.L. Castilla, W.M. De Guzman, C.T. De Torres & G.A. Dimasin
Filipinos are known to be religious and inclined to spirituality, and it is needless to say that they believe that there is more to life than what meets the eye. They understand that things that concern spirituality exist, though they are intangible. Being a Christian nation, Filipinos possess beliefs about life and death that accords with what the Bible says—that life is temporary and when it does come to an end, a person will arrive at some destination. James 4:14 states, “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” In addition to this, Hebrews 9:27 says, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” Even Filipino literary pieces regarding this thought reveal the Filipinos’ acknowledgement of these truths. Examples of these pieces are the poems “You Can Choose Your Afterlife” by Mario Eric Gamalinda, “Is It the Kingfisher?” by Marjorie Evasco, and “Gabu” by Carlos Angeles, and the short story of Gregorio Brillantes entitled “The Distance to Andromeda.” These selections all meet at an intersection point—the understanding of life’s impermanence and its perpetuation in the “afterlife.” Firstly, these beliefs of Filipinos are being resounded in Mario Eric Gamalinda’s poem “You Can Choose Your Afterlife,” a poem which talks about death. The speaker starts to express his or her line of thoughts about death by narrating the “strange customs/ Of the T’boli.” He goes on to say that the people of this tribe conjectures that a person is judged by the kind of death he encounters, and he furthermore enumerates the kinds of death and the afterlife that corresponds to each. Obviously, the recognition of death’s existence is present in the poem. In addition, it is as if the speaker, in his storytelling, makes us feel like death is but a real and normal thing. It is because the prevalent tone is not horrifying, sad, or bitter, but rather, it is unemotional, straightforward, and matter-of-fact. Although there is a little bit of a questioning and pensive feeling added in the latter part of the poem, particularly in the lines “And you didn’t tell us/ Why you wanted/ To go”, the speaker returns to his previous tone, especially when he said, “You won’t miss us/ Everything moves in the same direction.” As we can see, this poem does not look at death as a rare occasion, but as a plain and everyday happening. This poem, however, goes beyond the concept of death; it also talks about the “afterlife.” All throughout the poem, the readers are being told that there is something else to experience after the event of death. For example, he who dies as a hero in a battle goes to some kingdom where he is hailed, he who drowns goes to the depths of the sea, and so on. The speaker tells the reader that there is always a destination or a place where a person will go to after he dies, and that things won’t end just because of death. We can also notice that there is not much punctuation marks used in the poem to end a thought or sentence. This can be interpreted as an emphasis on the point of the poem that death does not put a period or any punctuation mark on the course of a human soul, but instead, it is a door to some other world out there. These apply not only to the T’boli, because the more that a person reads this poem, the more will he see that the situations described by the poem can also apply in real life. It is indeed notable that the author cleverly manipulated this strange custom of the T’boli to give a brighter picture of death and the afterlife to the reader.
YOU CAN CHOOSE YOUR AFTERLIFE
Mario Eric Gamalinda
According to the strange customs
Of the T’boli
Who believe we are not judged
By good or evil
But by the kind of death
We meet: to...
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Shepherd, R. (2002). 1000 Symbols: What Shapes mean in Art & Myth. New York: Thames and Hudson.
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