The Mats, an old short story written by esteemed Filipino writer Francisco Arcellana, contains existing representations of the Filipino family today. It tells the story of a big and well-to-do family who, at first glance, appears happy and content, but behind this facade is a burden that the members seem to want to forget or to not think about at all.
The father came home from a business trip one day, bringing with him intricately designed mats for his wife and for every child. There were three more mats that could not be given in person because those children died already, and this is the burden of the family. No reasons were given for their death, but I can surmise that they either died at childbirth or at war or during a serious illness in their childhood. The father appealed to his family not to forget them in their daily happy existence, and to accept that they died so they can truly move on.
For me, the writer’s use of a mat to symbolize the personality of the character in the story is not odd at all. In my country, before foam beds became the norm, we use handwoven mats or banig as our bedding, like what futon is to the Japanese. We take pride in our weaving skill and craftsmanship with the use of buri or palm leaves. The product comes in many colors and designs, and we choose the mat that suits us, that reflects ourselves.
The Mats is my first Arcellana story. Francisco Arcellana (1916-2002) is Philippine’s National Artist for Literature in 1990. He is a writer, poet, essayist, critic, journalist and teacher. He is also considered as one of the forefathers of the modern Filipino short story in English.
Banig [Manila Shopping: 20 Filipino Goods To Bring Home]. (n.d.). Retrieved December 30, 2018, from https://www.gpsmycity.com/img/art_item/dd4c0c08aeb-banig.jpg
(This is an entry for the 9th Annual Deal Me In Short Story Reading Challenge by Bibliophilopolis.)