Sunday, January 25, 2015

Love-Death Metaphor and Symbols in my new Story

I just completed my 30-page story, “Sa Pusod ng Tokyo,” which literally means “At Tokyo’s Navel.” But if ever I will come up with a translation, the title will be “In the Heart of Tokyo.”


Geographically, it points to the Meiji Shrine at Shibuya, in the heart of Tokyo, where traditional Shinto wedding ceremonies are often held. Metaphorically, it is Hades (in Greek myth, a place for the dead), where Karen, the protagonist was held captive by her lost dream, that of marrying her musician-lover and living with him in Tokyo for the rest of their lives. She was good as dead because she was living in the past.

A cancer patient, Karen compared the anguish of chemotherapy to that of imagined alienation in Hades. Yet in the pain and loneliness of cancer treatment, God used the opportunity to cleanse and purify Karen from her hubris with the symbolic blood of the Savior, the way chemo drugs destroyed toxic, cancer cells.

Karen’s sins were lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, and pride of life. She was proud of her intellectual superiority and independent thinking. She was the rebel in the family. She was a materialist, thrilled by the sight of bags of money as a young girl and as a woman, by expensive gifts. She buried her guilt over marital infidelity. She admired Aung San Suu Kyi, opposition leader of Burma (Myanmar) who was placed under house arrest for many years.

While on pleasure visit in Tokyo, Karen mistakenly wore her kimono the way a dead person wears it, with the right fold over the left. Years later, when she felt she was about to die from cancer, she wanted the expensive kimono given by her lover to be her burial clothes. In the denouement when she realized the gravity of her transgression, she asked God to take off her “burial clothing” that she realized she had been actually “wearing” all these years; and to take her out of Hades.

The umbilical cord or navel used to connect the fetus to his or her source of sustenance, is cut at birth, thus disconnecting the infant from the original life source, because now the child will have a new source of sustenance. Thus it is a life-death dichotomy.

In order to live an authentic, full life, one must first die to her old self, give up the old life source; take off her burial clothes, to be able to change into her born-again dress.


The torii, traditional gate found in Shinto shrines, composed of two vertical posts, one on each of both sides and another two horizontal posts above, to mark what is sacred or forbidden, and what is not--
serves as symbol for the protagonist’s internal conflict. In her subconscious, she also had a torii. Throughout the story, she was torn between sensuality and spirituality.

When Karen anxiously crossed the famous pedestrian scramble in Tokyo, the Shibuya Crossing, with her lover, she was symbolically crossing her path to freedom, five years from that moment on. When she was a little girl, she was scared when the bus that she and her father were riding on, would cross a steep bridge because of the “falling-into-the precipice” sensation. Her father alleviated her fear by getting off the bus just before the bridge, so that they had to walk over it, and then take a bus ride again. Years later the father expressed about wanting to pay his daughter’s moral debt if only he could. Being a father is like being God, desiring that all his children be saved and spared from pain.

I used the Tamagushi, a branch from Sakaki tree decorated with paper and inserted with a prayer, offered in Shinto shrines during weddings and funerals— as an icon to mark the three major parts of my 30-page story. It was a purification icon.

It took me a whole week to write and revise this story and I stopped at the 6th and “final” version. I felt I cannot go on revising anymore. The concept was born in 2002. I actually wrote “Tokyo sa Aking Gunita”(“My Tokyo Memoir”) but I destroyed it, I could not live with the graphic eroticism. Then I came up with the more subtle “Shibuya-ku sa Aking Alaala” (“Remembering Shibuya-ku”) but it was wanting in flesh and blood. I prayed to be able to write a very good story for Likhaan Journal 9 of the University of the Philippines, due this summer. I prayed for discernment and I received the grace. God empowered me to write “Sa Pusod ng Tokyo” after 12 years and I am so grateful. I emailed it to Likhaan a few days ago. I also submitted it for the ANWW 13 (13th Ateneo National Writers’ Workshop) to be held in May. To God be the glory.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Cymbeline Villamin is feature story writer since 1979 until now. She wrote articles for magazines such as Focus Philippines (1979), HomeLife (1980-2006), InfoScience (circa 1996), Philippine Panorama (2010-Present), and Health & Lifestyle (2012-Present), on topics that include feminist issues, family life, practical lessons from the Scriptures, humanities, health and wellness.

In the recent past, she has self-published the ebooks Healing in Linac and Woman at the Well. She has also books offered at, including her spiritual-medical memoir, Precious in His Eyes, about breast cancer healing.

She studied AB English at Far Eastern University (FEU) and took master's subjects in Literature at Ateneo de Manila University ADMU), where her essay "Writing as an Adventure" was published in the ADMU journal, Philippine Studies, and was widely indexed by online university libraries.

To view samples of her work, click on the navigation headers above.