AMOUR PROPRE OR LOSS OF FACE
by Randy Ford
Put aside commonsense. Disregard assumptions. Try to understand power of passion, power of passion. Passion and excesses committed by Moros, by Moros when pushed to desperation by amour propre or loss of face.
He was an impulsive youth, an impulsive youth, as passionate as any you man, and he went straight for her with his arms stretched out. His voice wasn’t aggressive. His voice was filled with passion. His voice was filled with love. He was in love. He was in love with her. It was a voice she knew, or she imagined she knew, and it was directed at her in a reassuring way. He was not from there, yet she knew who he was. They were friends. They were more than friends. They couldn’t have been friends. He was not from her world. They hadn’t spoken to each other.
As far as he was concerned he didn’t need to pass a test. He was in love and didn’t need to pass a test, but he knew that there was a social code that he had to follow … a social code he didn’t want to follow. His running toward a girl with his arms outstretched, while speaking to her in a voice with nothing aggressive in it, filled with passion and love was reckless. When you could attributed it to impulsiveness, she could also be blamed for not running away.
She didn’t run away, so there was enough blame to go around, but he paid a higher price. Yes, indeed a higher price. He paid a higher price indeed. For indeed there was a price to pay for a kiss, and a connection between a kiss and what happened years later, many years later.
By then the offense was forgotten, but loss of face wasn’t. It wasn’t enough to say that the young man didn’t know what he was doing or that a kiss was a kiss and nothing more. While his intentions were good, he never wanted to hurt anyone. He was in love and didn’t intend to hurt anyone. Nevertheless, he was caught in the act, caught in the act of kissing her, and nothing else mattered. It didn’t matter how she felt, how she felt about him and that she would never have told on him. And the reasons she gave for not defending her honor were inadequate. She enjoyed it, though she never admitted it.
To the impulsive young man, and someone who generally got what he wanted, a kiss was nothing more than a kiss. He was in love and nothing else mattered. He could have married her. He could have, but they were young, very young and came from different worlds. And the girl hadn’t lost her virginity, but she was anxious about it and was afraid where a kiss might lead. And the idea that he wouldn’t keep it secrete was absurd, but it didn’t matter because they were observed. So it became widely known that he kissed her, which was the same as a proposal except that was out of the question because of his place in society. He was the nephew of the Sultan and wasn’t free to marry her. They were from different worlds. Hence he was sent away.
There were those who said it was only a kiss. But how much more serious would it have been had he touched her breast? How much more serious would it have been had he seduced her? Many offenses were more serious when merely touching a woman’s wrist or forehead, if intentional, was considered as serious as rupturing a hymen. Note the importance of the word intentional, and certainly kissing was intentional. Now a kiss may be forgotten, but loss of face wouldn’t be. And it was complicated even more because it involved a Sultan’s nephew.
The young man … “Where did he go?” wondered the girl, like any girl her age would. But it wasn’t long before the whole village was talking about it. “Where did he go?” The girl continued to wonder. She was taken by him … she more so by him than he by her, or else he wouldn’t have left. Not that a kiss didn’t mean anything to him. It did to both of them. He was in love. He knew the risk, but to him it was a risk worth taking. He was in love. He was young, very young and in love. Worth it because she was beautiful and he was in love but foolish because as they both knew he couldn’t marry her. Not someone of his status. He couldn’t marry her because they came from different worlds, and they couldn’t change it. What she didn’t know was that he was sent away because of her. He was sent away because he kissed her. He was sent away because someone saw him kiss her.
The young man would live to benefit the world, while the victim … she was quickly considered a victim… could never be more than a curse to her family. He was liked. She was blamed. She was beautiful and blamed. She was blamed because she was beautiful. She was beautiful, so she enticed him. He was royalty and destined to become an influential person. The victim’s family felt insulted and thus experienced loss of face.
The headman of the barrio listened sympathetically, but he should have responded before the offender got away. The situation called for a remedy, but because of who the young man was there wasn’t much the headman could do, or would do, and somewhere else it would’ve been the end of it.
They hadn’t thought of a remedy. She was startled seeing the young man run toward her with his arms outstretched. She was started by his kiss. She knew who he was and was startled by his kiss. It happened so fast and out of the blue that it startled her. Then she told her father, but he already knew, but it didn’t make sense to him. He knew who the young man was. He knew everything. And the kiss was already becoming irrelevant, and his biggest worry then was what the Sultan would do.
The Sultan was deciding what to do when he sent for the young man, the young man his nephew, and when confronted, his nephew could only answer yes or no. Yes, yes, he kissed her. Yes, yes, sir. Face to face with the Sultan, he confessed. Yes, he did it. He was made to answer other questions … some to the point and some of them not. Then he held his shoulders upright and accepted his banishment. And this should have been it. Or so he thought.
Could she then have thought that it meant more than a kiss? She was never sure.
She carried on as best she could. But God help her! What did she do to be singled out? Could it be her fault? He kissed her. Was it her fault? Was it her fault he kissed her. And talk? And why did she and her family listen to it … listen to all the talk … talk, talk, talk? Why did they have to listen? Why did they have to talk? And why didn’t they leave her alone? Why did they wallow in gossip? And why did the whole barrio engage in it? And she kept looking for him. And they kept looking for him the whole time he was in Mindanao. You understand that the young man and the young woman never had a ghost of a chance. They came from different worlds.
By now the whole barrio had gotten involved. This no longer had anything to do with a kiss, or directly, but rather loss of face. By now the kiss had been forgotten. The young man was a fellow who didn’t think or worry about other people, and he couldn’t believe it when his uncle sent him away. There were those who would’ve liked to see him squirm, though he didn’t think he did anything wrong. He didn’t think. He wasn’t thinking and never felt sorry. There was never indication that he felt sorry. There was never an indication that he ever thought of her again.
And never expecting anything from him, she was willing to forget it, forget him, only people wouldn’t let her forget it, forget him. They always brought it up. The barrio wasn’t about to forgive or forget. It was impossible. It was impossible for them to forgive or forget. What did they see? Not a kiss but amour propre or loss of face. You could be critical of him, but it actually fell on her and then her family. It fell on her and her family because she was beautiful and her beauty enticed him. Then just what did it mean for them? They felt ostracized. They were ostracized. They couldn’t escape it. Ostracized. But most of all loss of face. They couldn’t ignore it or ignore their neighbors. They were forced to do something about loss of face. So they kept an eye out for the Sultan’s nephew. They watched for him. And watched for him. They had to watch for him, you know.
The winds of the tropics were not constant and as such were as unfair as a winter’s gale, but don’t point fingers before you know everything. The young man shouldn’t be blamed. Neither should the young lady. Nature played a part, and we have it on the q. t. that the young man couldn’t help himself. And how wonderful it was. He let go of her shoulder after he kissed her, and she had to restrain herself. No one saw that part , but it could have been true, couldn’t it? Everyone was asleep, weren’t they? No. Evidently not. Those two fools had no notion of what they did. But weren’t they engineers of their fate?
The Sultan’s nephew should have known better than to come back. The authorities later thought the same thing. The lost of face hadn’t been forgotten. And it didn’t matter that he was the Sultan’s nephew.
Everyone knew what would happen next, or what should happen. Pressure was immense. Pressure built up. Pressure never let up. There had never been anything like it, nothing like it there before, and the young woman couldn’t go out of her home without facing ridicule. And it was in the wind, a tropical wind as harsh as an arctic blast.
The loss of face called for action. It always had, so it wasn’t a sudden impulse. AMOUR PROPRE OR LOSS OF FACE … if you understand anything about it, you understand it. It appears that when the nephew of the Sultan came back into the barrio he ran into the young lady’s father. They didn’t speak. They didn’t have to. Their positions were clear. They came from different worlds. They wouldn’t have spoken because they came from different worlds. It was dark and clear, but their positions were still clear. Too much, too, too much. And the clock couldn’t be turned back. And glances and sneers couldn’t be taken back. They couldn’t go back. And that was the bind that the old man found himself in. His family lost face, and it didn’t matter to the young man.
They looked at each other, recognized each other and nodded.
Don’t be a fool. They knew what was going on.
He looked at him and then got his spear. He couldn’t and wouldn’t. But there was no way he could get out of it; no way he could face his family, face his neighbors, without taking the young man’s life. And letting on that she didn’t care, the young woman cared a great deal. One might think then that killing the young man would’ve settled a score; but with discovery of the young man’s corpse, the barrio now had to reckon with something worse, far worse, far worse, and immediately knew it.
The old man fled the island without saying goodbye to anyone. He fled and when his neighbors looked for him, he was already gone. With sharpened krises they came looking for him. It was his daughter who stood in front of them. She blamed them for her loss, loss of her father, but it was too late. Her father was already a hunted man, and already he knew that he could never return … return home on the island And indeed he wouldn’t, but his daughter’s honor (amour propre) had been restored.
For the rest of his life her father was unable to get himself out of his difficulties. Still in trouble, he died in 1902, fighting U.S Expeditionary forces. Hunted all those years, he never knew two of his brothers were murdered for his crime. Murdered!
None of it was right or fair … when normally memory fades over time. Apparently it wasn’t the only case similar to this and like many such cases. it didn’t end with the death of participants. The kiss itself had long been forgotten. Names were also gone. And how a young lady and her family lost face and the feud started, gone. It was always an uneven match, but over the years it evened out. With luck and shrewdness, the grandson of the killer became a rich man, as rich as the Sultan. For over thirty years, until the outbreak of World War II, he owned a coconut plantation on Basilan, but bad blood between the two families continued. And continued. And their common fate … more blood was shed.
Sometime in 1935, a distant relative of the slain nephew came to Isabela to buy smoked tuna and learned that the plantation owner was a grandson of his great uncle’s killer. He had an obligation then and knew it. An obligation, yes. Throughout his whole life he was reminded of it. Throughout his whole life he was reminded how if he got a chance he would have to avenge the slaying. That was the only way that he could remove a stigma. But one would think that he knew better. For many years he did nothing about the obligation because he feared a long prison sentence. Then came the war and the chance he was waiting for.
There were coincidences, and timing was everything. To save his plantation, the owner collaborated with the Japanese. The avenger couldn’t help picturing the deceit … regrets, none no doubt … and saw a traitor. So as a guerrilla officer, he became a hero by killing a Jap spy, and he received a medal from General MacArthur for it. Even though he entered the residence of the plantation owner and massacred a whole family, he was never considered a killer. And the plantation owner died without knowing his killer, the connection, or the reason for his death.