a night in the hills

A night in the Hills is a short story written by Paz Marquez Benitez. It is a story about a man who had a dream about going to a forest, seeing something different than what he has been seeing for years. The story interested me, because it challenged me to understand what it meant, it was a hard story for me to understand because I did not know if it was a metaphor or what so I read the story a couple of times to understand what it meant. The story was like a puzzle for me, it was hard to conclude or guess how the story will end or where the story was leading to and the ending made me think what it meant, what held his hands.

When I found out that Paz Marquez Benitez was a Philwomenian the co-founder of my Alma mater, I thought about how silly I was because I did not notice it, I did think the name was familiar, but I did not think much of it. I also read her other short story, Dead Stars, and it made me proud that I was molded in the school she co found. Dead Stars is a form of an allegory, from which the main character, Alfredo, compares his love to Julia as dead stars, whose glow is still visible from the Earth for years after they are gone. While A night in the Hills is also in a form of allegory in which the forest is defined by Gerardo as heaven, where he can find things he missed and so he wished to have.

Paz Marquez-Benitez was born in 1894 in Lucena City, Quezon, Marquez – Benitez authored the first Filipino modern English-language short story, Dead Stars, published in the Philippine Herald in 1925. Born into the prominent Marquez family of Quezon province, she was among the first generation of Filipinos trained in the American education system which used English as the medium of instruction.

She graduated high school in Tayabas High School (now, Quezon National High School) and college from the University of the Philippines with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1912. She was a member of the first freshman class of the University of the Philippines, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1912. Two Years after graduation, she married Francisco Benitez whom she had four children. Marquez-Benitez later became a teacher at the University of the Philippines, who taught short-story writing and had become an nfluential figure to many Filipino writers in the English language, such as Loreto Paras-Sulit, Paz M. Latorena, Arturo Belleza Rotor, Bienvenido N. Santos and Francisco Arcellana. The annually held Paz Marquez-Benitez Lectures in thePhilippines honors her memory by focusing on the contribution of Filipino women writers to Philippine Literature in the English language. For Marquez-Benitez, writing was a life-long occupation. In 1919 she founded “Woman’s Home Journal”, the first women’s magazine in the country.

Also in the same year, she and other six women who were prominent members of Manila’s social elites, namely Clara Aragon, Concepcion Aragon, Francisca Tirona Benitez, Carolina Ocampo Palma, Mercedes Rivera, and Socorro Marquez Zaballero, founded the Philippine Women’s College (now Philippine Women’s University). “Filipino Love Stories”, reportedly the first anthology of Philippine stories in English by Filipinos, was compiled in 1928 by Marquez-Benitez from the works of her students. Paz was constantly urged to write her autobiography, but she was too busy living to write lengthily about her life.

The story complimented each other in a way that as if each paragraph was a different series from a TV show. Each paragraph showed the personality of the author, it showed his story and it gave suspense to where the direction of the story was heading to. Each paragraph is like a summary of one story, leading to another. I came across complicated words the added to the confusion of the story, like: “fastidious” which means critical or demanding “prominent” which means standing out so to be seen easily “venture”, to take risk precipitately” which means to haste “contrive” meaning to plan with ingenuity “eloquently” moving expressively “tractable”, easily managed or controlled “fortuitous”, fortunate “clambered”, to climb And “intermittently”, which means stopping or ceasing for a time. Paz used metaphor and allegory as a genre in her famous works. Though she only had one more published short story after “Dead Stars” entitled “A Night in the Hills”, she made her mark in Philippine literature because her work is considered the first modern Philippine short story.

Her short stories were written during 1920’s, the terms used, metaphors, and drama in her stories suited those years. Her stories, was somehow related to her in form of social status in life, one character would be rich and the other one would be poor, maybe a longing for how different being an elite is from being a less fortunate person. A Night in the Hills is a story about a man, Gerardo Luna, a salesman, a widower who was confused and was longing for a trip, a hike in the forest of which he dreamt of, he met Ambo a gatherer of Orchids who tells a story about this forest where he gets his orchids.

They went to the forest, and met a few good friends and he experienced what he longed for, camping in a cave, sleeping on e cold, rough ground, sleeping next to a bonfire, listening to the noises of the rain forest and looking at the big, round moon up on the heavens. He missed the good, simple thing in his life, he also realized he missed out on a lot, after all, he is a salesman with a pawnshop, he thought of himself as nothing more, his dad was a salesman, and died a salesman; maybe he had the same fate too.

It was a difficult story to read, the writing was good, but how it was constructed made it a little bit confusing, it lacks purpose and not one hint on what the story was trying to say, what did he get from going to the forest? Was he satisfied? Humbled? Did he clear his mind on things? Did he remarry? Did he sell the pawnshop for a much simpler life? It lacks details. While I was reading the story, it relaxed me because how the description of the story was detailed; it soothed me, because it put me in a vision of how a forest is since I have not been in one too.

Maybe Paz could have written it in details, with the suspense and confusion still in it but something that not only critical readers would understand. She could have also written it in a simple way, in the story she used Spanish words, I had to research the meaning of it so I could understand even better, also, the way the people communicated in the story like Gerardo and his sister, is like how elite or rich people do in England, it sounded as if it was spoken by royalty, and how Gerardo and a man from the forest communicated as if they were being sentimental. It was dramatic, that was good, but it made it complicated in a way.

If I can revise a part of the story it would be the ending, because the ending was mysterious. What did Paz mean in the line: “He felt, queerly, that something was closing above his hand, and that whoever was closing it, was rattling the keys”? The mystery hit me in the end; did the forest stand for something else? Was it the ghost of his wife? If I revised it I would have put a little more detail or words to give it a clearer idea. I would not rewrite the story since it was good except for the confusing parts, or maybe I was not reading it enough, the only thing I will change would be the ending.

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