THE HOUSE ON ZAPOTE STREET
THE HOUSE ON ZAPOTE STREET
Quijano de Manila
About the Author
Quijano de Manila is the pen name of Nick Joaquin. He started writing before the war and his first story, "Three Generations" has been hailed as a masterpiece. He has been recipient of almost all the prestigious awards in literature and the arts, including the National Artist Award for Literature in 1976. He was also conferred, among other recognitions, the Republic Cultural Heritage Award for Literature in 1961, the Journalist of the Year Award in the early 1960s, the Book of the Year Award in 1979 for his Almanac for Manileños, the national Book award for several of his works, the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature, Creative Communication Arts (the Asian counterpart of Nobel Prize) in 1996, and the Tanglaw ng Lahi Award in 1997.
Dr. Leonardo Quitangon, a soft-spoken, mild-mannered, cool-tempered Caviteno, was still fancy-free at 35 when he returned to Manila, after six years abroad. Then, at the University of Santo Tomas, where he went to reach, he met Lydia Cabading, a medical intern. He liked her quiet ways and began to date her steadily. They went to the movies and to baketball games and he took her a number of times to his house in Sta. Mesa, to meet his family.
Lydia was then only 23 and looked like a sweet unspoiled girl, but there was a slight air of mystery about her. Leonardo and his brothers noticed that she almost never spoke of her home life or her childhood; she seemed to have no gay early memories to share with her lover, as sweethearts usually crave to do. And whenever it looked as if she might have to stay out late, she would say: "I'll have to tell my father first". And off she would go, wherever she was, to tell her father, though it meant going all the way to Makati, Rizal, where she lived with her parents in a new house on Zapote Street.
The Quitangons understood that she was an only child and that her parents were, therefore, over-zealous in looking after her. Her father usually took her to school and fetched her after classes, and had been known to threaten to arrest young men who stared at her on the streets or pressed too close against her on jeepneys. This high-handedness seemed natural enough, for Pablo Cabading, Lydia's father was a member of the Manila Police Depatment.
After Lydia finished her internship, Leopardo Quitangon became a regular visitor at the house on Zapote Street: he was helping her prepare for the board exams. Her family seemed to like him. The mother Anunciacion, struck him as a mousy woman unable to speak save at her husband's bidding. There was a foster son, a little boy the Cabadings had adopted. As for Pablo Cabading, he was a fine strapping man, an Ilocano, who gave the impression of being taller than he was and looked every inch an agent of the law: full of brawn and guts and force, and smoldering with vitality. He was a natty dresser, liked youthful colors and styles, decorated his house with pictures of himself and, at 50, looked younger than his inarticulate wife, who was actually two years younger than he.
When Leonardo started frequenting the house on Zapote Street, Cabading told him: ill be frank with you. None of Lydia's boy friends ever lasted ten minutes in this house. I didn't like them and I told them so and made them get out." Then he added laying a hand on the young doctor's shoulder:" But I like you. You are a good man."
The rest of the household were two very young maids who spoke almost no Tagalog, and two very fierce dogs, chained to the front door in the day time, unchained in the front yard at night.
The house of Zapote Street is in the current architectural cliché: the hoity-toity Philippine split-level suburban style-a half-story perched above the living area, to which it is bound by the slope of the roof and which it overlooks from a balcony, so that a person standing in the sala can see the doors of the bedrooms and bathroom just above his head. The house is painted, as is also the current fashion, in various pastel shades, a different color to every three or four planks. The inevitable piazza curves around two sides of the house, which has a strip of lawn and a low wall all around it. The Cabadings did not keep a car, but the house provides for an eventual garage and driveway. This, and the furniture, the shell lamps and the fancy bric-a-brac that clutters the narrow house indicate that the Cabadings had