Summary and Review of "The Mats," a short story by Francisco Arcellana

Summary and Review of “The Mats,” a short story by Francisco Arcellana

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I have read already the short story a few days ago but could not write my reflection about it soon. The short story moved me and made me a bit depressed.  It reminded me of my beloved Father who passed away a year ago from a lung cancer.

The story entitled  “The Mats” was written by  Francisco Arcellana, one of the meritorious literary Filipino artists.  The story depicts a typical Filipino family culture. It portrays close family relationship, respect for the elders, and remembering our loved ones who passed away.

The story opened up to the homecoming of Mr. Angeles from Mariveles. He wrote a letter to his family about how picturesque Mariveles was.  Furthermore, he jubilantly added that he met a marvelous mat weaver.  Evidently, he would bring home his family some mats from this mat weaver.

We refer sleeping mats to “banig” here in the Philippines which can be made of buri (palm), pandan or seagrass leaves. It undergoes from drying up to cutting into strips and finally be woven into mats.  My siblings and I have slept on mats since we were kids. It smells never fails in inviting us to enter the dream world. In addition to that, those mats always reminded me of my parents. They were the one who always spread it when it was already time for us to sleep. When we were kids, we really hate sleeping. All that we wanted to do was to play. However, the mats seem to possess a wonderful power bringing about an aroma when spread that will make our eyelids droop.

Upon knowing that the rest of the family members will have their own personalized sleeping mats, they could not help but be excited. It was not just  ordinary mats that they would be receiving from Mr. Angeles. In fact, these were  personalized with their names and a color depending on their birthstone. As I was imagining their faces with full of excitement waiting, I could feel that they were exuberant and loud.  The house was buzzed with excitement about the sleeping mats. It was fun and exciting receiving gifts.  Indeed, giving gifts is a demonstration of the love of Mr. Angeles to his kids and to his wife, Nana Emilia.

A mat plays an important role in the family of Nana Emilia and Mr. Angeles. Nana Emilia received a mat by her mother when she got married to Mr. Angeles. It shows in this story that Filipinos are naturally sentimental people. Most Filipinos tend to hold things with special care especially those given to us by our loved ones. The mat that was given to Nana Emilia on her wedding was only used rarely. I do understand the reason behind it. My mom just allows us to use the dishes and glasses she received on her wedding day when there is a special occasion. Those gifts are not meant to be used every day so that it will always look new.

Mr. Angeles arrived home just in time for the dinner that made everyone animated in the house. The long wait was finally over. Fruits of different varieties and endless stories filled the night. On the other hand, what seemed to be a joyous night suddenly got its own twist when Mr. Angeles already distributed the personalized mats to everyone.  Nana Emilia noticed that there were three remaining rolled mats. Mr. Angeles emotion suddenly became very serious . He told his wife to whom the remaining mats were. He unfolded the sleeping mats. Unlike the other mats, the remaining three have austere designs, no symbols or any devices. Those mats were for their three kids who passed away.

Mr. Angeles seemed to lose his sanity while remembering his dead children.  Losing the one we loved forever was something very painful to experience. It was just too difficult to bear. They left holes in our heart which we know will never be filled anymore.

The story showed to us that we should not forget our loved ones no matter how many years had passed since they left us. They became a part of our life. It is just a way to honor their life and memories. The sleeping mats became the outlet for his intention. It was used to pay tribute to his three kids who were not with them anymore.

How do you honor the memories of your loved ones who already passed away?

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3 comments

  1. I can imagine that sleeping mats are a very personal item to give as a gift back then. This is where someone will sleep the whole night, every night. I used to have a sleeping mat myself so I can identify. Arcellana can really write these dramas very well. No wonder he is our national artist.

  2. I love learning about new cultures and was really interested to read about the sleeping mats. Do you place them directly on the floor? I suppose buying the sleeping mats for a loved one who has passed is a little like setting a place at the table for them which I have seen done before. My uncle passed away this summer and I would like to do something special to honour his memory at Christmas time, but it’s hard to think what. It won’t be an easy Christmas this year without him.

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