Portrait of the Artist as Filipino Scene I
So far, A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino has been a story about the lives of the Marasigan sisters, Candida and Paula, and their father Don Lorenzo, a well known painter. The story is centered around Don Lorenzo’s latest creation, a rather disturbing painting of Aeneas carrying Anchises on his back as they flee from the sacked and burning city of Troy. The painting is a self portrait of Don Lorenzo’s younger self carrying his present self, and seems to leave everyone who has gazed upon it a touch unsettled, including the two sisters, who blame the painting for their misfortunes and for their impoverished state.
In spite of the fact that the sisters are in need of money for the up keep of themselves and the house, they refuse to sell it for two thousand dollars and dont seem to want to get rid of it for any price at all or even to have it placed on a gallery for display. They have thus far in the story refused to be parted from it, even though they look to it with contempt. The fact that they do not wish to sell it under their current situation perplexes me.
Why not just get rid of it for the substantial amount of money offered by Tony’s employer who is willing to pay two thousand dollars for it? If they really are indeed so desperately poor, that they waste their time looking through news paper articles for jobs, taking in strange men to live with them for fifteen pesos a month, and coming up with strange ideas. They could have gotten the money, kicked that Tony character out and lived in a state of dignity once again for a little while before they all died in Intramuros.
In the first scene Candida even says something like “What’s the use in having a talent when you cant make any money out of it? ” Well, there you go, Don Lorenzo produced something worth two grand, why not make money out of that? Pair of crazy dames indeed. The fact that the painting brings out different reactions in people is very interesting. Others would be ready to throw it in the trash, and for the rest, it’s worth a fortune. Some are afraid of it, and it takes people back to their past. Most of the reactions seem to be on a negative side, which is interesting.
What is it about the double self portrait of Don Lorenzo that seems to unsettle everyone so much, and why is it called A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino? There’s apparently nothing Filipino about it, except for Don Lorenzo, who in the painting is portraying himself as characters from Greek and Roman epics. I can’t help but guess at the meaning of his terrible creation, and think that the painting is about a great burden, the burden being Don Lorenzo himself. He paints those eyes with such mastery that everyone in the room, and even beyond it feels the weight of its silent glare.