Catfight 120 years ago

By: Ambeth R. Ocampo - @inquirerdotnet - Columnist/Philippine Daily Inquirer | March 18,2022 - 08:00 AM

Reading my students’ papers on what the Philippines was like on the day they were born can be quite depressing. Using the Inquirer archive, they traveled back in time 17, 18 years to discover a world that is both different and the same. While the aim of the exercise is simple research, many discovered the difference between history, memory, and nostalgia. Those who fact-checked stories they heard growing up concluded that parents can sometimes be an unreliable source of information. My research has taken me back centuries, and I realized that human nature does not change. One would think that by 2022 we should have seen the end of war, poverty, famine, and disease. Well, history records peaks of peace, goodness, and light, but what moves people, nations, and history are base motivations like selfishness, cruelty, greed, and dishonesty.

After the 1901 capture of Emilio Aguinaldo in Palanan, editors in the Manila Times filled the gap with crime, but one needs more than murder to engage readers. This odd case from 1902 caught my eye because what was simple tampuhan between two women when read 120 years later has a different angle:

“They were dear amigas once. Sad to say, the discord began at church. As they met on the steps Ambrosia forgot her customary salutations. ‘She did not salute [greet] me,’ said Eufemia, and ‘showed me a very unpleasant face.’” It sounds much better when translated to Filipino as: Hindi niya ako binati tulad noong araw … at sinimangutan pa ako!“Eufemia went home and, over a cup of chocolate, brooded upon this extraordinary conduct of her friend. She remembered that once, in halcyon days, she had her picture taken in a group with Ambrosia. The memory drew a few silent tears, and then suddenly resolved itself into a scheme of revenge. She sent her maid to Ambrosia to ask for the picture.

“Ambrosia came back herself with it. She stopped at the door and flung the photo right into the cup of chocolate in which Eufemia was seeking oblivion and consolation.

“‘Was the picture spoiled?’ asked Judge McGirr.

“‘Not very much,’ answered Eufemia sweetly. ‘There was a big spot of chocolate where Ambrosia used to be, but I considered that somewhat of an improvement.’

“Sadly Eufemia took up the chocolated work of that and tore it in two parts, giving to Ambrosia the chocolate spot beneath which her charming visage had once smiled.

“Ambrosia returned home with her half picture, trembling with indignation. Then she remembered that one Christmas Day, Eufemia had presented her with a delicately embroidered handkerchief. She took the memento from her treasure box and trotted back to Eufemia’s house. There, right under her former friend’s nose, she tore the keepsake till nothing but lamentable shreds, symbolical of their torn friendship remained.

“Then Eufemia called Ambrosia, blank, blank, blank, blank. [We leave the reader to fill in the blanks.]

“And Ambrosia called Eufemia blank, blank, blank, blank with strongly qualifying adjectives. [Again, readers are left to their imagination. Were these unprintable words curses in Spanish, Tagalog, English, or a mix of all?]

“Eufemia started in another recitation of the Tagalog dictionary.

“And then Ambrosia’s smote [struck with a firm blow].

“She smote well, did Ambrosia, if a lugubrious decoration on fair Eufemia’s right eye could be evidence of the fact. Eufemia though less hard-fisted, had dexterous nails and she used them with good effect on Ambrosia’s nose. Policeman Ambrosio, peaceably walking his beat, was suddenly called by a breathless mujer who screamed to him that murder was being done. He followed the woman into the house and found that, if murder was not being done, it was certainly not from the lack of good intention. He separated the ladies and bade them to the Santa Cruz court to meet Judge McGirr.

“The judge was highly honored and in memento of the memorable occasion he levied a little contribution of two dollars and a half from each lady. They paid their fines and walked out, their little pug noses up-tilted toward the sun which, in these climes, is very high at noon.”

The above won’t look out of place in the Raffy Tulfo show. It is not that we have not learned from history, but rather human nature remains unchanged over millennia.


Comments are welcome at [email protected]

Read Next

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of Cebudailynews. We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

TAGS: 1902, Ambrosia, amigas, catfight, Cebu‬, Cebu Daily News, cebu news, crime, Eufemia, two women

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.