Sunday, December 5, 2010


LOVE, UNDER THE BIABAS TREE. Luis, his three "lady friends" and his boys. Ca. 1920s.

Once in a while, I get to find postcards not just with interesting subjects but also amusing stories written at the back of the photo—some chatty, some rambling—and in the case of this particular photo, very revealing of the character of the subject and sender, who goes by the name, Luis.

Luis wrote mostly in English—with a smattering of Kapampangan and Spanish words, suggesting that he had picked up a lot of the Americanisms. Perhaps, in his college days, he was one of the many ‘sajonistas’ who avidly took to the styles popularized by their new colonial master—wearing Western clothes, writing and speaking in English, slang and all.

This photo, sent from Manila on 13 June 1912, was taken from an unknown place in Pampanga. Luis, a good-looking Kapampangan himself, stands to the right, with a black mourning band on his left arm. For sure, there was a death in the family—but whose family? The older woman in the picture looks like she is in mourning too, as she is wearing a long black dress.

Luis, however, appeared to be in a happy mood when he jotted down a few lines to his Uncle, even becoming effusive about his special ‘ two ladies’, while soliciting comments about the photo.

The ladies have strong Spanish mestiza features—they could be even be sisters. The previously mentioned older woman on the left could very well be their mother. Two boys in straw hats stand before them, and Luis has one hand on one of their shoulder, suggesting close familiarity with the family. Did Luis have designs on one of the ladies? The lady nearest him seems to be lovestruck, her longing gaze fixed on his face. We will never know the exact relationship Luis had with this family but maybe one can discern some clues from his missive:

Dear Uncle:
I want to let you know my new Ladies, two Boys and, one Old—women friends. They have been here last Fiesta and perhaps, you have seen them.
This photo has been taken in the same day of the Fiesta, outside of my house, under the Biabas tree, near the Camalig. What do you say about this picture, Uncle? It is fine? Perhaps, all right? This is all and this Postcard will be in remembrance de Nuestra Nueva Amistad. Your new friends Pacita Godinez, and Purita Casado and, Luis. Perhaps you know me, Uncle? Do you?

On that cryptic note, lucky Luis, our dashing Kapampangan palikero who had every thing a man could ask for-- a house, a camalig, a biabas tree, two boys and lovely lady friends--ended his letter.

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