I experienced a truly surreal moment over Saturday dinner at my in-law's place last weekend. My relatives were talking politics in the Philippines, dishing out their two cents here and there, sharing what facts (interspersed with even more interesting rumors) that they all picked up over the week.
Dinner was composed of unhealthy doses of pizza and fast-food fried chicken downed with soda. We don't normally eat this way during my wife's family's get-togethers. The meals that're served are usually of Chinese or Filipino influence (with occasional Italian or Japanese dishes thrown in). I don't know why we were eating greasy chicken and pizza; I arrived late after everyone had already started. I suppose someone didn't want to cook that night, not that I was complaining, because I believe in that hypothesis that the more unhealthy a type of fast-food is, the better it tastes. That my body punished me for it the next day (not to mention all that gunk that I added to my blood, which will stay there for months) is another story altogether.
So there we were seated at my in-law's large lauriat table inappropriately covered with pizza and fried chicken, talking Philippine politics, when someone mentioned that Gloria Arroyo, the current Philippine president, should beware the "ides of March
We don't usually talk books, reading, or literature among my in-laws. We don't usually talk books, reading, or literature among my own family members, even. Some of them read, true, but to discuss? Doesn't happen. I'm pretty much alone in my interest, and I learned early that it's a pleasure I should enjoy by my lonesome because I won't draw any interest from anyone in my family if I should dare bring it up, barring a very few, some of whom don't read but are nice enough to indulge my strangeness. So to hear one of them utter one of the many terms and phrases that have come down to us from the bard
did more than raise my eyebrows; I ended up choking on my bite of pizza and dropping my slice on my plate.
"Ano ba yung 'ides of March?'" someone else asked.
"Parang March 18 ata," another person said. "Or 19?"
"Ano bang ibig sabihin ng 'ides'?"
"Bakit ka umuubo, Kenneth?"
"I think it means March 15," I gasped after a drink. "Though one of my teachers insisted that it was the 31st, but it's the 15th for most folks."
"Where did that come from?"
, by William Shakespeare," I said. "The ides of March was the day Brutus and his fellow Senators stabbed Caesar dead."
"Is that historically accurate?"
"I don't know, but the play has made that date famous."
"So why should Gloria fear March 15?"
"Baka papatayin siya ng mga Senator sa March 15. Mukhang Brutus
, yung kalaban ni Popeye
, si Senator __________."
After the laughter died down, I was asked to explain what the term meant, and said that the "ides of March" has come to mean a sign of impending doom. An evil omen, if you will.
One of my wife's brothers-in-law, who does not read, said, "No matter what happens, we will still have a lot of problems. We saw that everytime an administration changes. The effects of what they did continue, and regular people like us suffer. The evil that men do lives after them
For the second time that night, I was surprised. It was a good thing that I didn't have anything in my mouth that time.
All of a sudden, we left politics and started talking Shakespeare. Someone mentioned the witches and the quote "Double, double, toil and trouble
" but couldn't name the play.
"Alam ko 'yan. 'Yan yung may, 'Out, damned spot!
"Sounds like a commercial for detergent."
"Well, Kyu?" my wife asked.
," I said.
"'yun! 'yun! 'di ko nakuha yung play na 'yan nung nabasa ko nung high school. Ang labo."
"Saan galing yung `Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears
"Julius Caesar din."
"Mga kaibigan, mga tiga-Roma, mga kababayan, pahiram naman ng inyong mga tenga?" another brother-in-law translated into Tagalog.
"Si Congressman ____________, yung dating Speaker, marami siyang tengang mapapahiram."
"Who knows 'To be or not to be
I remember memorizing that whole soliloquoy once, but I can't recite it anymore; for some reason, I've forgotten it. I also recall another teacher saying that that scene was the most overdone in history, like a song you've heard once too often. To be frank, I have more cheerful memories from the movie
of the same title.
My wife shared then our experience of having watched "Romeo and Juliet
" at the Shangri-la Mall when we were dating years ago. All we remember was that it wasn't a very good experience. The actors were young, and there were many poor cues.
"Sayang," my sister-in-law said, the one that reads, the one I can talk books about. "Bad Shakespeare is really horrid."
"But there was that time when we were in the U.S.," I reminded my wife. "We saw two teenagers in a museum rehearsing a scene from the play. They were good. We, and a whole lot of others, watched them for a while, remember?" She did.
Bit-by-bit the discussion on Shakespeare ended and our talk moved to other things. It was a strange shift for me while it lasted though, because I never thought that the plays of good old Bill would ever become a topic of conversation among us. Shows his influence, I believe. Think of all the quotes from his works that have become a part of our lexicon: "doth protest too much"; "All the world's a stage"; "Parting is such sweet sorrow"; "The winter of our discontent"; "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet"; "a method in the madness"; and so many others.
So many, in fact, as to enter the conversation of a group of people who don't normally read, over a dinner of pizza and fried chicken. Such stuff as dreams are made on.