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Tragical Elopement: The House on Zapote Street

Literary Analysis of the story written by Quijano de Manila (Nick Joaquin) based from true events


If a tree falls in a forest, would it make a sound? The House on Zapote Street narrates the tragic marriage of Leonardo Quitangon and Lydia Cabading, as well as the ultimate demise of Pablo Cabading. It was interesting to see the family dynamics between the four main characters. Moreover, the power struggle between the Quitangons and the Cabadings was horrifying to witness.

The House on Zapote Street tells the chilling story of four main characters. Pablo Cabading was a policeman who believed himself to be the center of the universe. He was conscious of the way he treated Leonardo. It is seen in the way Pablo would tear Lydia away from him. However, he didn’t fully understand why he was doing it. He unconsciously controlled his world around him. His need for dominance paired with everybody’s submission to his will might have made him think nothing was wrong and is absolutely possible. Pablo’s overprotection, though, might have come from a twisted sense of love. He loved Lydia, perhaps to the point of obsession. Moreover, he wanted to own her, and he wanted no one to get in the way. Thus, he killed Leonardo, and accidentally shot Lydia. Killing himself was a desperate act of redemption. Anunciacion Cabading was under the control of Pablo, and she was not allowed to speak so much a word without his permission. She was unwillingly consenting to Pablo’s violent ways. She stayed in the house not just out of fear, but also out of love and protection for Lydia. She would not have stayed for so long if she did not care for Pablo. It is, of course, possible that the love was born out of fear and submission. The one force motivating her actions was the terror she felt. This is definitely an issue that many women still face, mainly because of the internalized misogyny and patriarchal views that men possess. Anunciacion is not a victim nor a perpetrator, but a woman who suffered from intense fear and anxiety after years of living with Pablo. All Lydia Cabading’s ever known is her father’s “protective love”, from childhood until marriage. After more than twenty years of being conditioned to think one way, it wasn’t easy for Lydia to adjust her views of not only the world, but also of her own father. She refused to run away at first because of fear. She let Leonardo leave without her so that no harm would come to him. She had unconsciously built walls around herself because of Pablo, and no one could get close — except for Leonardo. She loved Leonardo, and up until her very last breath, held onto her love for him. This is why, eventually, she joined her husband in eloping. He had torn down her walls and showed her the life she was missing out on by staying in that house. Lastly, Leonardo Quitangon was the man who ultimately led the Cabadings’ inevitable fall, taking himself down with them. At first, his only motivation was his love for Lydia. After closer examination of the house, he realized its horrors and tried to take Lydia away from it. He foolishly believed that a rosary would be enough to keep Pablo away. He has seen death firsthand as a doctor, he believed that his faith would protect him from it. His descent to madness inside the house was slow and steady, but the psychological manipulation Pablo played onto his mind eventually caught up to Leonardo. He never stopped trying to get Lydia out of that house, even at the cost of his life.

The fall of the Cabadings resounded across 1961 Manila; a reminder of the love gone wrong between families. The House on Zapote Street is a powerful, psychological masterpiece revealing the haunting trail that would eventually lead to the death of three people that fateful night. If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound?

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