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"Mutya"—Character or Daimon?

Why is it that we smile at babies? What is our usual reaction when we hear someone playing beautiful music, or singing with gusto? Or when we come across a story or poetry that touches us?

It is as if there is
a recognition
of a kindred spirit, or
of something we already know, as if the speaker's subject matter, or the music
or work of art or poetry is articulating something inside us that already understands, yet wants to be affirmed.

What pulls us to gaze at an artwork? Or arrests us to a spot when a particular house or edifice comes into view?

What do we feel when a speaker delivers a particularly good lecture? Or seek out a noted speaker, almost triggering an obsession in us?

Are we merely attracted to their passion or their creativity? Or are we able to feel, in each instance, the 'mutya' of innocent babies, the 'mutya' of artists, the 'mutya' of a genius. It is as if there is a recognition of a kindred spirit, or of something we already know, as if the speaker's subject matter, or the music or work of art or poetry is articulating something inside us that already understands, yet wants to be affirmed.

What then is this concept of 'mutya'? Is it the innocence of a baby? Does 'mutya' refer to the unique character of a person? Is it the soul that pushes one to excellence? Is it the daimon in every artist? Is it perhaps the spirit that is shining through one's creation, one's performance, one's very being?

Some research studies on 'mutya' affirm that this Pilipino term is present in about 30 ethno-linguistic groups in the Philippine archipelago. According to Professor Grace Odal of the University of the Philippines, thematic variations of this term exist in numerous South and South East Asian languages. Literally, 'mutya' is a pearl, amulet, or talisman. 'Mutya' is a metaphor for goddess, ancestral spirit, guardian spirit, a beautiful and virtuous person, a beloved thing, a unique thing, a one and only thing, core, center, values, virtues. A polysemic term of pre-Hispanic origin, the term 'mutya' is thus broadly linked to the idea of something precious.

In the Philippines nowadays, the most popular connotation or usage is that of a beauty queen: 'Mutya ng Pilipinas'—an annual pageant whose winner represents the country in one or another international beauty contest. In earlier times, the term called to mind the song 'Mutya ng Pasig' which invoked the pristine beauty of the Pasig River that has, in the last fifty years, been sacrificed to industrial pollution.

One connotation of the term 'mutya' is 'core of one's being'. Babies manifest pure 'mutya' just by be-ing; they don't need to accomplish anything. Emerging and accomplished athletes, scientists, artists manifest 'mutya' in their performance. And if it is indeed the core of one's being, then everyone has 'mutya'.

But why don't we respond to some persons, and hardly notice them, particularly those who seem to blend with the wall or the landscape? We come into contact with many people everyday as we commute to and from home. How many persons can we recall as striking, making their 'presence' felt, as if reaching out to our own 'mutya'? In Manila as well as in other Philippine cities (and in many Asian cities as well), there are street children who are so much a part of the daily cityscape that they are taken for granted; they become invisible. Is this not because their 'mutya' cannot yet shine thru the kutya or derision by society

In such instances, can it be that the 'mutya' of these persons is either unconscious or sleeping, crusted over or deeply buried, or consciously hiding under a bushel. Is it possible that each of these persons' unique 'mutya' is, consciously or unconsciously, refusing to heed a call to personal growth and fruition? And might this also be true of us when some days we go around like a zombie, unseeing and unfeeling.

They not only demonstrate satisfaction and contentment with their nurturing mission; they seem to "bloom where they are planted."

Another aspect of 'mutya' is its being precious—a treasure, a gem (such as a pearl), an amulet. Being a treasure carries the implication that the 'mutya' can be buried in a cave (or in a person's unconscious), or in the safekeeping of a trusted custodian, waiting to be claimed by its rightful owner. If so, then one has to become aware or awakened to its existence, its value, and the importance of bringing the 'mutya' to the surface.

If the 'mutya' is a pearl, then perhaps irritation, agitation, pain or suffering can bring about its emergence from its shell. Here, what comes to mind are those wondrous wives and mothers and domestic workers who remain smiling in spite of the daily grind of house chores, in the service of families who may not readily show their appreciation or gratitude. They not only demonstrate satisfaction and contentment with their nurturing mission; they seem to "bloom where they are planted." Or, persons diagnosed with some terminal illness, yet are able to accept their lot and are willing to cooperate with their doctors and their families. Many of them so inspire their families that when they finally say goodbye, their last days and their very death speak of a mission accomplished. Their memory lives on, perhaps through foundations set up by their families and friends. Or, artists whose creativity seems to emerge more strongly when challenged by a restrictive political milieu, or circumstances such as dire financial need, or loss of a loved one.

If the 'mutya' is an amulet, then external events or circumstances may be needed to elicit its hidden power. Maybe some readers still recall Darna. Pilipino moviegoers up to the mid-'80s surely remember her. Darna comes alive each time the ordinary girl Narda, when faced with an enemy or difficult situation, swallows an amulet. In popular tradition, one type of amulet that can empower a person is the batong buhay (living stone). By swallowing this amulet, a person can transform herself to a more powerful being. Thus, Darna gains the power to fly to a safe location, the power to assist people who are in danger, the power to overcome the community's enemies, and other manifestations of an empowered creature.

But why is it important that a person recognizes his or her mutya? Because therein lies the seed of one's personal growth and development. This seed must be nurtured in order to fulfill one's potential. One's calling, or the direction one ought to take in life, is likely embedded in one's mutya. James Hillman's "acorn theory" proposes that each life is formed by a particular image, an image that is the essence of that life and calls it to a destiny, just as the mighty oak's destiny is written in the tiny acorn. Each person has a soul-companion called the daimon, who is the carrier of one's destiny. (The Soul's Code, 1996.)

Isn't it natural for a person to want to grow? There seems to be an urge toward pursuing one's ambition, aspirations, dreams. There's a restlessness to reach a goal, even when one is not always able to clearly identify this goal. There's a restlessness, too, when one senses a lack of fulfillment.

My own mutya is the core of my being, the essential me which I seek to develop and nurture into the person I am becoming. For I am in a continuous process of becoming while I am alive. In this context, I liken 'mutya' to 'batong buhay' (a living stone) In essence, all of the SELF is in the mutya. One doesn't fully know one's self when one is young. Self-knowledge grows with the years; it grows with awareness and realization of potential, of possibilities. Just as the batong buhay keeps growing, so does mutya, which grows in self-knowledge as it is discovered and nurtured, until my mutya becomes the quintessential me. Mutya, when fully realized, is the INTEGRATED SELF.

A person's mutya may serve as guide towards relationships that heighten awareness
and encourage one
to be fully realized. But awareness comes
at a price: maturity
and trauma.

Mutya is the innate treasure in one's loob or kalooban.
Mutya is a buried treasure that needs to be unearthed.
Mutya is my spiritual treasure—the juxtaposition of my humanity and divinity. Some say that mutya is the divine spark.

"Each individual is the custodian and subject of (her) own transfiguration." [Anam Cara]
Each one is the trusted custodian of one's own mutya. Each one has a responsibility towards self-realization, to become his own man, her own woman. Else, how to explain why:

I am uneasy when I am not myself.
I apologize for occasions when "I was not myself."
I wish, from time to time, to gather myself.
I long to be myself.
I long to return to my real self.

Understanding oneself, however, does not happen without considering one's relationships—with family members, friends, neighbors, the rest of creation, and ultimately, with one's Creator. As well, understanding oneself, even in bits and pieces, is necessary to be able to relate with others. A person's mutya may serve as guide towards relationships that heighten awareness and encourage one to be fully realized. But awareness comes at a price: maturity and trauma. One's core is never revealed in trauma or suffering unless an 'other' is involved, as in a relationship. The 'other' reveals us to ourselves, wakens our realization of the mutya—sometimes as conflict, sometimes as affirmation. Yet, only the self makes its own mutya grow, intuitively recognizing what is essential to its own growth.

In the same way that I want to develop and nurture my mutya, I also recognize the mutya of each person and wish to contribute to an environment that would assist in the development of the mutya of other people. I am particularly interested in children in need of special protection, like street children and survivors of child sexual abuse—these children are likely to develop a victim mentality. It is likely that their parents also have a victim mentality. The concept of mutya would be a very powerful antidote to such a mentality and serve as a tool for resiliency and self-transformation.

I can reflect on what are the things that I want to do but cannot do for one reason or another. Suppose I could have an amulet, a batong buhay that I could swallow. What would I become empowered to do? What changes would happen in my life? My responses to these questions would give me a good lead to what else I need to nurture my mutya.

However, a thought flashed into my mind—would I still need an amulet once I have nurtured my mutya to a certain level? Perhaps what I would really need to swallow is my ego, my self-consciousness. When I can swallow my pride, I can go beyond myself and offer my talents and gifts to others, be one with my community.

What if each person—in the family, community, nation—nurtures one's mutya and responds to the call or mission embedded therein? What if the community actively provides a supportive environment whereby the mutya of its members could grow and bear fruit? Wouldn't this scenario augur well for our beloved country, once known as the Pearl of the Orient Seas?

© Victoria Paz Cruz

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