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THE SCREEN.


Oriental Masks

Oriental Masks
Photo by Jefferson Solayao, 2016

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Sometime in mid-afternoon a woman walked into the compound and informed the guard on duty that she was visiting a friend, a tenant named N____. She walked up and down the two tenement buildings but was unable to find her friend's unit. She then knocked on every door, annoying tenants who felt that their privacy was being invaded. They sent her away. She threw a tantrum, kicked the stair steps, and proceeded to the driveway, where she screamed, cursed, ranted, and raved for more than a quarter of an hour. Everyone came out to watch the spectacle. None of the tenants, not even the guard and the building administrator, could calm her down. When she finally got exhausted, she left the compound in a huff.

I scanned the woman from our kitchen, where I was having tea, and saw that she was on the verge of a mental breakdown. She had a very serious financial problem--I note that it is always the lack of money that pushes a person with a weak ego over the edge and drives him to envy, frustration, hopelessness, anger, and, finally, despair.

I immediately recalled the time I was a child in our ancestral house in San Fernando, Pampanga. Beyond the expanded-steel fence of the back yard of the house, there was a community of informal settlers. We had friendly relations with them. Their children would sometimes come and play with me. Our friendship was really my first exposure to people who were living lifestyles of poverty. One of the residents of that community was a psychotic woman who always muttered to herself and intermittently screamed out, "Cualta! Cualta!" I asked my aunts what was wrong with her, but they had no knowledge of her story. We simply called her "Cualta", and would hear her screams outside while we were having meals in the dining room. This was my first knowledge of psychotics. It would be why, many years later, I enrolled for an M.A. in Clinical Psychology: to finally piece together and know, albeit in terms of layered syndromes, that woman's story.

There would be less mental and nervous breakdowns in this country if there were less problems about money. I have observed, though many might disagree with me, that money problems are more psychologically harmful than love problems. To begin with, even if a person had all the love problems he could possibly have and handle, he would still need money for his security and peace of mind. It is money that buys one a house, a car, clothing, and three meals a day--and those are basic needs.

I sometimes even suspect that many of my co-writers and co-painters actually write and paint for money--not for fame, not for glory, not for posterity, and certainly not for love.