In these days of tawdry political revelations regarding taxpayers’ money misused or illegally appropriated, one needs to retreat into other more fulfilling events such as reading about other topics, enjoying simple autobiographies, dipping into love stories, journeys into the past for some nostalgia. There is something to be said for the simple joy of living well-paced orderly lives that in themselves express a philosophy of life that is positive, simple and complete. All these I enjoyed by reading a book of stories and essays by Aurea Carballo Gonzalez. Her book is called On Wings of Love and was lovingly published posthumously by her five children. However, many of the stories in the book were published before by Ms. Gonzalez under pen names during her years of being a housewife, raising a family, being a companion to a successful lawyer-husband.
Indeed, reading Aurea Carballo Gonzalez is an exercise in appreciation of the well-turned phrase. She writes simply, clearly, succinctly bringing on the narrative at a brisk pace during which the plot comes to its culminating point. Somehow along the way she touches on essential subjects, delineating the appropriate and very real emotions, colors and truths that make up a whole tale. Not without the descriptive environment of a river flowing nearby, a garden attached to a house, a dog that is a family member.
Ms. Gonzalez writes about neighbors, neighborhoods and the social conditions that exist in the past and present. She writes about people examining their lives, longing for fulfillment, doing their duty. They are simple tales that nevertheless touch on life matters that are important and real enough to make the characters and the readers pause to distil the wisdom and the philosophy that emanate from them.
She has stories and essays of pre-war Manila as well as from World War II followed by the postwar conditions of want and the need to rebuild. She does not see life through rose-colored lenses but with clarity, courage and simplicity. The characters from vulnerable young girls, to willful women, to ordinary wives face certain challenges to their individual selves or family stability. Ms Gonzalez handles them well. She has an author’s overview on how her characters should stand in the backdrop of the action that she puts in their way. There are strong emotions from love to vengeance to sorrow and compassion. These lives are familiar to us, so much so we take them for granted. Ms. Gonzalez makes us look closer at them, understand them more and identify with them as part of our universal humanity.
Her essays on the Santa Ana neighborhood and house where she lived for more than 50 years are especially gratifying, a long good-bye to a past that is fast receding. Her St. Theresa schooldays when she composed the St. Theresa alma mater hymn are a precious look at the serene school days of her time.
I was acquainted with Ms. Gonzales, however briefly, when her husband and mine worked in the same mining company. We would meet on social occasions where she was always the gracious friend. Never did I guess that she was a writer observing the social scene or managing life situations that she wove into stories. The last time I met her was not too long before her death. She was at the Manila Polo Club where once or twice a week with a group of other ladies, they bowled with duckpins in the then last duckpin alley in town. She enjoyed it very much, specially her fellow bowlers. They did more than bowl, she said. On Rizal Day they had a program and she recited from memory Rizal’s Patria Adorada in the original Spanish.
Yes, Ms. Gonzales was a person who merged the past with the present seamlessly, happily and with felicitous results as On Wings of Love proves. It is also a woman’s expression of the life she has experienced. This book is a worthy contribution to Philippine women’s writing that the Ateneo Women’s Writing Collection has been gathering for some time.
It is available at Powerbooks.