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"Dead Stars" is actually a short story written by Paz Marquez Benitez in 1925, which ushered in an era of Philippine writing in English.

The story is mainly about three people: Esperanza, Alfredo Salazar, and Julia Salas. Esperanza and Alfredo are engaged to be married, and during this period, Alfredo met Julia who he grew very fond of to the point where he almost "unwished" his inevitable marriage to Esperanza. It didn't quite end like most Filipino readers would expect today, though, which I'm glad because it not only cut through the mundane predictability of modern day local tellings that bore me to tears but it also gave the story a great sense of believability. It's never bad to have something like that every once in a while.

I saw myself in the shoes of the said female characters; the story, a section of an old romantic life—the untold and the denied. I was once an Esperanza and a Julia at certain "phases" in that relationship, maybe even an Alfredo upon realizing and seeing only dead stars. Perhaps I was him first.

I can go on and on about what's niggling in my head right now, but I don't want to bother you with that closed chapter of my life.

So going back—

One might find this short story a bit difficult to read and comprehend due to the number of highfaluting words in them. I found it annoying that I had to stop reading to look up the meaning of a word almost every 15 seconds only to find out that the word has a more simple synonym that the author could have used but didn't. Such were the "writings of old", I guess.

Anyway, I'm giving this three stars because I like the story. And, yes, I think I just gave my grey matter its much needed nourishment by knowing new words.

Excerpt: "The golden streamer was withdrawing, shortening, until it looked no more than a pool far away at the rim of the world. Stillness, a vibrant quiet that affects the senses as does solemn harmony; a peace that is not contentment but a cessation of tumult when all violence of feeling tones down to the wistful serenity of regret. She turned and looked into his face, in her dark eyes a ghost of sunset sadness."
For the love month, my favorite book club picked this short story as book of the month. Published in 1925, Dead Stars is considered as the “short story that gave birth to modern Philippine writing in English.” The author, Paz Marquez Benitez, “was among the first generation of Filipinos trained in the American education system which used English as the medium of instruction.”

This particular fact can actually be gleaned in the first few pages of the story. Filled with deep, big, at times unnecessary, English words, I cannot help but feel that too much effort has been put in making use of every English word that the author has learned. Still, putting into context that this story was written at a time when Filipinos have started to learn the American language, the adeptness of the author in applying what she has learned is at least worthy of appreciation. Of course, literary styles have evolved since then and the verbose style in Dead Stars might not be that attractive anymore to contemporary readers.

The story evolves around Alfredo, Esperanza, and Julia, and the complications of love and feelings, old and new, that surround them. Alfredo is soon to wed his longtime fiancee, Esperanza. He meets Julia and immediately believes he has fallen in love with her. But conventions require him to restrain such unwelcome emotions and so he proceeded to marry Esperanza. For eight years, Alfredo yearned for Julia and his longlost love for her. Told in the point of view of Alfredo, Dead Stars is not a difficult read. It is straightforward and honest, and though I do not entirely agree with what Alfredo did (and did not do), I am quite familiar with the confusions surrounding love and relationships. After all, who can fully understand one’s feelings?

(view spoiler)

"Mystery" she answered lightly, "that is so brief"

"Not in some," quickly. "Not in you."

"You have known me a few weeks; so the mystery."

"I could study you all my life and still not find it."

"So long?"

"I should like to."


I find it somewhat ironic that I should read this short story promptly after reading The Looking Glass because they are almost in direct opposition to each other, yet they hold similar meanings in my eyes. Of course, the writing, the storyline, the characters, and their dilemmas are vastly different, but what stood out to me once again is this theme of choices and risks and the uncertainty of outcomes involved in such.

Whereas The Looking Glass offers a dismal and pessimistic view of taking risks and how that can play out negatively in the future, Dead Stars seems to beg the question, What if? while portraying the haunting regret of not taking any chances and daringly going out on a limb. The main character, Alfredo, life becomes steeped in his remorse and curiosity, wondering if his life would have been better if only he made a different decision and followed where his heart was leading him. Eventually, it propels him to seek out and pursue those long overdue answers but he discovers that he's been holding on to illusions of What could have been? that have long faded, leaving only remnants of its expired mirage, the light of dead stars.

*deep breath*

I didn't like Dead Stars.

The fancy words, the flowery expressions, they infuriated me. I cannot believe that a fellow Filipino wrote Dead Stars. Not because I did not think we are that talented (because we are), but because this short story was claimed to have given birth to modern Philippine writing and yet, it did nothing, nothing to make itself accessible to Filipinos that can barely read/speak the English language. Why? The rhetorical words composing such elaborate sentences strucked me as a forceful effort to unconciously make itself known that the writer can speak/write in English!

Why not use simple terms and austere writing so Filipinos still learning the foreign language will be able to appreciate it? Crap, I'm not into vocabulary lately but I got a mouthful of it from Dead Stars.

and don't even get me started on the wretched story. I just learned that "Dead Stars" was the first feminist text in the Philippines.
As the readers would notice, it broke the notion of patriarchal system as the society sees men as rational type or in line with logic while women are the emotional kind.

The protagonist Alfredo was very vulnerable in love. He was trapped in deciding what his heart desires. But in the end, he found himself merely infatuated (view spoiler)