Summer Solstice by Nick Joaquin: A Controversial Masterpiece
Summer Solstice is a short story written by Filipino National Artist for Literature Nick Joaquin. It was first published in 1951 in the Philippine magazine Graphic. The story is also known as Tatarin or Tadtarin, which refers to a three-day traditional fertility ritual involving women and held during summer in the Philippines. The last day of the festival coincided with St. John's Day, a Catholic feast. The story narrates a ritual performed by women to invoke the gods to grant the blessing of fertility by dancing around a balete tree that was already a century old. Joaquin later turned this short story into a play entitled Tatarin: A Witches' Sabbath in Three Acts, on which a film adaptation has been based.
In addition to being regarded as one of Joaquin's most acclaimed literary works, the tale is considered to be controversial. Filipino literary critics had debated over the ending of the story, questioning what was victorious in the narrative. The items in conflict were paganism against Christianity, the primitive against the civilized, and the status of men against the status of women.
Summary of the Story
The narrative of Summer Solstice begins with St. John's Day, as it occurred in the 1850s in the Philippines. Entoy informed Doña Lupeng that Amada had participated in the Tatarin fertility ritual. Amada was believed to have become the Tatarin personified. The next day, while on board a carriage, Doña Lupeng started a conversation regarding how Amada could still believe in such a ritual. Don Paeng cut her short because children were listening. The carriage stopped, and they watched the St. John's Day procession. Thinking and speaking to herself, Doña Lupeng mocked the men's demonstration of arrogance during the procession. Upon arriving at the house, Doña Lupeng found out that Guido, Don Paeng's cousin, had participated in both the St. John's Day procession and the Tatarin ritual. Guido enjoyed the "fiestas". Guido kissed Doña Lupeng's feet as the latter was on her way to look for her children. Doña Lupeng told Don Paeng about the incident. Don Paeng was disgusted and reasoned that a woman needed love and respect, not adoration. Doña Lupeng and Don Paeng went to see the Tatarin ritual at the plaza. The revelers had their own St. John statue. Doña Lupeng joined the ceremony. Failing from pulling Doña Lupeng out of the ritual, Don Paeng had to ask the carriage driver, Entoy, to take Doña Lupeng back. At the house, Doña Lupeng was able to make Don Paeng tell her that he adored her. In submission, Don Paeng kissed Doña Lupeng's feet.
An analysis related to the language used in this piece of literature revealed that the speech or dialogue of the characters represented "stereotypical notions of masculinity and femininity", the difference between genders, and the hierarchy that bound the two sexes. For instance, Don Paeng used formal language and authoritative tone when he spoke to his wife, while Doña Lupeng used informal language and submissive tone when she spoke to her husband. However, this pattern changed when Doña Lupeng joined the Tatarin ritual and asserted her power over Don Paeng at the end of the story.
If you are interested in reading this short story, you can download it as a PDF file from [this link]. You can also read more about Nick Joaquin and his works from [this Wikipedia article] or [this academic paper].