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Breaking the Silence Timeline

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Matt Sicat

on 19 February 2013

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Transcript of Breaking the Silence Timeline

Breaking the Silence A memoir by Lourdes R. Montinola Timeline by Matt Sicat Journal Entries (1994) "When Nick asks me about our experiences during the war, how shall the horrors that I had pushed back to the deep recesses of my mind? How can I describe what I have never been able to talk about?" (7) Many will wonder why L.R Montinola begins the novel with her journal entries from 1994. The first 8 pages of the book are exerpts from her journal entries, which give the reader insight into her feelings and fears about having to relive her painful past. The book in itself is titled "Breaking the Silence" because these interviews was the first time L.R Montinola openly spoke about her war experiences. One can only ask though, who is this Nick character? And why did she only open up to him now? Travels with Father (Sometime before war) "Frequent travels brought me to far-flung places like the marvelous animal reserves in Nairobi, the mytical heights of Macchu Picchu, the magical gardens of Taj Mahal..." (36)

"I remember Father sitting by the light of the campfire and think of the many moments he shared intimately with us. They formed the cradle of security that influenced my attitude and values in later life. Even after Father was gone, I still viewed the world through his eyes." (37) During these vignettes, Montinola uses powerful imagery to describe the vast, luxurious vacations she'd go on with her father. In the entire chapter, she portrays her father as a huge role-model in her life, even after his murder. This is very similar to the "daddy's girl" stereotype seen often in women. Although her father "influenced her attitude and values later in life," Montinola sparingly mentions her mother in this chapter. It is evident in this chapter Montinola wanted to highlight the charismic traits of her father rather than focus on her family as a whole. Consequently, the chapter is titled "travels with father," and not "travels with the family or "travels with mother." "The age-old trees reminded me of him-- strong, noble, firmly rooted, majestically beautiful, nourishing and sheltering all those who had the good fortune of falling within the scope of his encompassing branches, that had warded off the heat, and filtered the dust and rains of life." (48) During this chapter, Montinola reminisces about how her father loved trees, and how the trees near his grave reminded her so much of him. In the above quote, Montinola uses the large trees in the garden as an extended simile of her father. She personifies the trees when she says they are "strong and noble" but also expresses her father's love for her metaphorically, describing some of his traits like a trees. She states he "warded off the heat, and filtered the dust and rains of life." It is clear that the "heat, dust and rains" all represent the problems, issues and uncertainties of life, and that her father helped shield and guide her to become the person she is today. Start of the War (1941) "There was a sense of fear, but also excitement as we prepared [for the war]... ...Not even after the first raid did the novelty of war wear off. The blackouts, the bombs, the dogfights, were thrilling." (50-51)

"My uncle was one of those who came back from the Death March. When I saw my uncle, once the handsomest brother of my mother, looking gaunt and emaciated, that I fully realized what war really meant." (55) In this vignette, Montinola describes her experiences during the earlier years of the war. Still a child then, she found the war "thrilling" and fun. However, after possibly a year of "fun," Montinola uses powerful diction to showcase the sharp contrast between her early opinions of the war compared to her later thoughts. Her uncle (who was discussed frequently in previous parts of the book) has changed from a handsome man to a now "gaunt and emaciated" figure. This description reminds me much about the 2005 movie "The Great Raid," which was set in the Philippines and showed the American and Filipino POWs in the Japanese camps in the Philippines. The description of her Uncle reminded me much of the thin, malnourished looking prisoners from the movie, and how horrifying and dreadful war was. This also makes me wonder: if her attitude towards war was so drastically changed, then why was she caught so off guard when the Japanese stormed their village? Why did her family not take even FURTHER precautions to ensure their safety? Family Massacre (Feb 9, 1944) "Father had time to say only, 'Be brave,' before Japanese soldiers, ten of them, came barging in, with gleaming bayonets and sneers on their faces. Mother protested weakly, 'we're only civilians.' After that? The mind recalls, but the pen stops. Memory must turn black, or relive the unbearable pain. (70) The scene of her family's massacre at the hands of the Japanese was a very emotionally scarring experience for the author. The scene is repeated again and again throughout the book, as it is the most pivotal moment in the story. Although mentioned countless times, Montinola never fully describes the experience, as she is emotionally unable to relive the moment her family was killed. This lack of clarity even further stresses the atrocities of the Japanese during the war, and is even more effective at shocking the reader, as the reader begins to picture the situation in many different ways. Montinola simply lists her family members who were killed and the reader sympathizes for her losses. In retrospect, Montinola rather than using language to create a feeling, does the exact opposite: the lack of language creates an even more powerful emotions. Mother (Sometime before the War) "I see Mother more clearly, therefore, through the eyes of a child, as it was she who gave me solace and comfort. When I was sick with diphtheria, Mother sponged me when no one dared come near me, and sat by my side all day long till I was over the months-long crisis." (90)

In this chapter, Montinola talks about her mother, and how much of a caring, loving and protective woman she was. She describes her mother and remembers her for the little acts of love she bestowed upon her as a child. In this sense, she describes her mother and father as a perfect match, and were the two people that shaped her the most as an adult. Just like how her mother cared for her when no one else would go near her, Lourdes Montinola states she aided her mother outside of their burning house during the massacre before being hit by a rocket. (Described in earlier pages) Although the attempt to save her was futile, it is clear that her mother's actions and lessons years before would translate into a brave and selfless woman that Montinola had become during the massacre. Writing the Story (Sometime in 1994) "[Nick] said I owed it to my father to recound how he died. Writing was preferable to answering his questions. He could not imagine the atrocities committed, and the hardships endured during the long delay before American forces got to our side. I managed only two pages of factual, clinical testimony, wrenched from my mind and my heart, nevertheless." (96) In the earlier entries of this timeline, I had inferred that Montinola would be unable to relive the pain of her past, and thus be unable to describe her dreadful experience of the massacre. I was wrong. In the above quote, a record of her experience of opening up to Nick, it is clear that after almost 50 years of silence, Lourdes Montinola would be able to write about how her father died, as she "owed it to him." The later parts of the book describe the massacre, how she survived, and how she saw her parents die. I wonder how difficult it must have been, to write about such a traumatizing experience. I conclude that her ability to discuss should be considered a massive feat of bravery, a trait she learned from one man: her father. Family Massacre, Revisited (Feb 9, 1944) "I struggled to carry Father down the stairs from the tower, his left arm on my shoulder, my right arm around his waist, as we walked countless times during the war. His lifeless body weighed heavily on me. Father and I just collapsed together and I had laid him down on the steps. Vicenta and I struggled to life him him up, but his leadened body was immovable." (97) First unable to describe the events earlier on in the book, Montinola, near the end of the story, opens up about how her father died. Now I can see why she was incapable of telling this story. Imagine having to carry the one person who made you feel safe and secure in the world through a burning house, while they slowly bled to death. As a person who usually does not feel a great deal of emotion whilst watching movies and reading books, I can certainly say that this moment weighed heavily on me and actually made me feel quite sad for the rest of the day. The diction that Montinola uses is so powerful and vivid to the point where I almost do not want to picture it, but am forced to. In retrospect, Lourdes Montinola has broken the silence she has had to deal with for half a decade, but has written her tale in such a way that she has filled the reader with emotions of sorrow and depression. I applaud Montinola not only for her ability to reciprocate the horrors of the Japanese, but also for her bravery displayed during these final moments of her father's life. Trees (Sometime after father's death)
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