OPINION: A Filipino crime of passion, Paris 1892

Buddy Gomez — Cyberbuddy

Posted at Jan 23 2020 09:59 PM

‘Une Affaire de Coeur’ gone bloody bad!
 
It was a Parisienne romantic scandal recalled and retold. Not quite French but for the setting. It was real-life drama that consumed the lives of an expatriate Filipino family, whose prominence spilled into what would become essential sidelights in completing one’s understanding and an historic overview of the home country’s struggle for freedom and self-governance. Some gossipy saucy spice thrown in, indeed, for emotional color.

The scene of the crime was the family residence in Rue Pergolese, Paris, in an ‘arrondissement’ (an administrative district or a city subdivision) quite close to the promenades of the Arc de Triomphe vicinity. It was then a choice spot for folks dabbling in or adept at the arts. A sculptor, playwright, composer, painter and similarly inclined dilletantes. One of our protagonists was such a one, in fact, a multi-awarded painter. The other, a pharmacist turned militarist, a celebrated general. They were brothers, scions of an Ilocano ‘Ilustrado’ family of means, but from old Binondo in old Manila.

Suspicion of his wife’s extra-marital dalliance led blind jealousy into a killing rage, instantaneous and perhaps temporary insanity and followed by sudden repentance and surrender to the police. All in the presence of the accused’s pre-teen son and the boy’s French nanny.

A brother-in-law shot in the chest, living to testify. The wife and mother-in-law, both killed behind the bathroom door while cowering in fear.

Paris news media could not have missed covering the season’s sensation. The trial proper was even preceded by an opinion writer, who may have been engaged for purposes of conditioning society’s verdict. After all, it was “Crime passionnel!” The accused “calmly shot dead his mother-in-law and his wife….with a revolver that he had bought barely a week before the shooting,” declared the prosecutor.

Did elements of racism come into play in the ensuing courtroom drama? Did the prosecutor by some legal exuberance, perhaps inadvertently aid in the eventual acquittal of the accused?
The defendant is an ‘Indio’ and therefore should be judged according to his native genetic and cultural traits…that as a Filipino, in the Philippines, the crime of passion caused by adultery is commonly grounds for acquittal,” the lawyer for the defense invoked.

“This man possesses a level of rage that is like a hurricane….a lunatic and a danger to society….a time bomb ready to explode,” an utterance by the prosecutor that somewhat bolstered the claim of temporary insanity.

‘Malay Madness’ was directly referenced by the prosecution. A condition by which to describe “Malays who kill because of a sudden rage….similar to being high on opium where a person would kill for no reason.” “A crime of passion is due to temporary insanity,” the prosecutor concluding it was the same cause that drove the defendant to commit murder,…..like a true Malay, possessed the tendency and extreme nature to become violent, and thus to commit murder.”

The foregoing snippets are not an account of archival crime reportage from a far-off past at all. They come from a contemporary partly fictional work on a seminal era in Philippine history. Thus, this week I am engaging in a mini-book review of that literary output, which is about antiquarian Philippines, featuring familiar events and persons, both while abroad and at home. This is a commentary intended to tease a human bent for curiosity, likewise an attempt at enticing ‘revival gossip’ as an intellectual exercise among those with chatty aptitudes and time on their hands.

The book is “The Brothers Luna — Madmen or Geniuses.” Who else then but Juan Luna, the celebrated painter and his younger brother, Antonio Luna, the assassinated general. The literature is an imaginative “novel that is based on historical facts intertwined with a compelling story of romance, passion, friendship, intrigue, murder, espionage, war and the arts.” The author is Jules Delgallego who engages in a storytelling style that adheres somewhat to the James Michener genre.

(N.B. - In the morning of September 22, 1892, in Paris, the celebrated Filipino artist Juan Luna shot to death his wife Maria Paz and his mother-in-law Dona Juliana Gorricho Vda. de Pardo de Tavera.)

Privately published in the US (2014), “The Brothers Luna” came out a year ahead of the Philippines’ first box-office success historical bio-pic, “Heneral Luna.” Filipino movie-goers and history buffs will certainly remember the stir that this local filmdom’s blockbuster generated. What a pity that the two events could not have seen a fruitful collaborative coincidence! Be that as it may, however, as an afterthought, late 19th century life in Madrid, Paris and Rome as depicted for and of the ‘Brothers Luna’ by Jules Delgallego could make for an even a more colorful screen play for another hopeful blockbuster!

Among scenarios portrayed, author Jules Delgallego reveals the lifestyle of well-to-do Filipino young men sent to Europe by their parents for further educational attainments, to soak up and imbibe libertarian ideals that began to filter into the national consciousness back home. And as now we know, these endeavors and ambitions contributed to the long and protracted awakening of a desire for freedom, self-governance and democracy.

I am not aware of the extent of the book’s success, its circulation and readership except that I came upon it through Facebook. I acquired my own copy. I found it of good allure, a joy to read, worthy of ownership and a teasing invitation for a guessing game, reasons enough to share my impressions.

The guessing game I speak of involves one’s ability to divine and wean factual history from duly earned praise for the elements of imaginative fiction with which the author laces his storytelling. Where there were gaps in history, this author did take license to invent, as novelists ought to, but always adhering as closely as possible to the known facts. I have an appreciation for the amount of research that went into the book’s preparation. Besides, I take pride in that the author, Jules Delgallego, is a San Beda College alumnus, a Mendiola Red Lion Sambedista like myself, but of a more recent vintage. He now resides in San Diego, California.

Author Delgallego’s figments of fiction attract a rekindling of interest in and a better appreciation of real history. That is my personal takeaway. So that if one relishes and is welcoming of an invitation, to delve some more and discover what classroom and textbook failed to unravel, then reading “The Brothers Luna” delivers. And entertains.

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Tomas 'Buddy' Gomez III began his professional media career in ABS-CBN's (previously Chronicle Broadcasting Network) DZQL-Radio Reloj in 1957, after which he spent 25 years with the Ayala Group.

In 1986, then Pres. Cory Aquino appointed him Consul General to Hawaii and later served as her Press Secretary.

During the Ramos administration, he was chairman and president of state-owned IBC-13 Network.

After government service, he became an ‘OFW’ in the U.S., working as front-desk clerk and then assistant general manager of a hotel. He also worked as a furniture and antique restoration specialist.

He is now retired and lives in San Antonio, Texas.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.