The story assigned to our group is ‘The Mats”. And based on our discussions and group meetings, the interpretation we all agreed to make is the “reader-based interpretation”.
The Mats, written by Francisco Arcellana, is a short story depicting a very typical Filipino value – a deep sense of close family-ties and bonding. In this particular story, a man -depicted as a very loving and thoughtful father/husband- seems to still not able to move on from the unfortunate departure of his three children. The depiction of the family is about a typical big Filipino family with family members leading out roles in a very typical Filipino traditionalist lifestyle, that is; father/husband as the breadwinner and wife/mother as housewife and loving, obedient and submissive children.
The basic plot of the story is about the most memorable homecoming of the breadwinner of the family, the father, who came home from his periodic inspections which were celebrated everytime these happened. But during this particular inspection to the South, he “met a marvellous matweaver – a real artist” according to him. He wrote a letter about this event to his family that said “I shall have a surprise for you. I asked him to weave a sleeping-mat for every one of the family. He is using many different colors and for each mat the dominant color is that of our respective birthstones. I am sure that the children will be very pleased. I know you will be. I can hardly wait to show them to you" and when the letter arrived home, his family was so giddy and excited about the event. They kept on talking about it and they read the letter again and again when they could.
“Mats” played a big role in their own “family culture”. “They had such a mat in the house, one they seldom used, a mat older than any one of them. This mat had been given to Nana Emilia, the wife/mother, by her mother when she and Mr. Angeles, the husband/father, were married, and it had been with them ever since. It had served on the wedding night, and had not since been used except on special occasions. It was a very beautiful mat, not really meant to be ordinarily used. It had green leaf borders, and a lot of gigantic red roses woven into it. Nana Emilia always kept that mat in her trunk. When any one of the family was taken ill, the mat was brought out and the patient slept on it, had it all to himself.”
For us, that particular and special mat was an emblem, a symbol of tranquillity and good health and a refuge from being sick. It was a symbol of healing and beauty and elegance because of its intricate design and embroideries. We imagined it as a really lovely and beautiful mat with the golden woven name of the husband and wife.
But because of the rarity of its usage and where it’s almost usually used, as a sleeping mat of a sick family member, it became “associated with illness in the family, even serious illness”. Taking out those mats because of those happenings made this like a ritual.
For us, although it symbolizes good health and a refuge of being sick, it also kind of depicts a symbol of suppressed sorrow and agony as some of the children who took refuge on that particular mat died and were not fortunate enough to be rejuvenated by the healing powers of the mat.
Anyway, so when the night came, the father arrived and was with his family again. Depicted in the story was that every homecoming was celebrated so we believe that during this time, there’s a huge dinner for the family. We can see them really happy for the foundation of the family has come back. We can imagine the many stories being shared at the moment, the joyous laughters shared upon the family table. The “pasalubongs” or “souvenirs” being put aside, fruits and whatnot.
Despite the momentous moment and hundreds of random offset topics being brought upon, all of them thought of the wonderful mats brought by the father, Mr. Angeles. We can really imagine, basing on their background of being super...
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