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The Master, the Mistress and the Latigo

(Article published in the Sep 16, 2009 issue of Manila Standard Today) 

The most arresting character in the real-life telenovela that began and ended with reportage of the confrontation of still President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s Deputy National Security Adviser with his erstwhile live-in partner was neither the master nor the mistress. It was the latigo. 

The master added no color of character to his caricature.  Betraying no facial emotion, he admitted to having his prey trailed and at the precise time of his choosing, to having pounced on them, in the company and assistance of his men, to exact the vengeance of a man feeling cuckold.  Really, nothing was remarkable in that.

The mistress, too, was, despite the fresh bruises and the flowing tears, as dry and colorless.  She portrayed herself, as do all professed victims of seduction, as one who had been taken advantage of at a tender age, one whose innocence was procured by generous gifts and courteous conduct, and one who had remained to this day as pure of heart and as free of guile as Maria Clara. That, too, is old hat.

But, the latigo, unseen as it was, was the character to behold.  Speaking no word, it eloquently told us where all that action was going on. The scene we were  watching was inside a cage.  True, the enclosing steel bars were not visible, but the situs could not be elsewhere, since inside a cage is where most of us know a latigo is used and nowhere else, at least not as commonly.


The latigo further told us that the drama we were witnessing was one of dominance and subjugation. And it went in one direction only, similar to the flow of the action between the tamer and the caged animal: there was dominance oozing from the master and subjugation on the part of the absorbing mistress.  There was no possibility of back flow; the latigo in the hands of the master made that so; the caged animal too afraid to defend self, could not claw back.

This efficacious instrument, called latigo locally and in English and by the English cultured commonly called “bull whip”, has two main parts: the handle which is tough and stiff; and the thong which is the flexible part. It is the thong that, when cracked by a brisk flick of the wrist to inflicts pain on the target animal.

It is no accident that some female underwear is given the same name; when indiscreetly handled, the thong, as underwear, does inflict pain. Sometimes, surprisingly.  A CEO, now on leave, was once taken to task by his mistress, who demanded, “How did you know “N” was wearing a thong? Why were you looking down there when you should be looking up at her face? ...What is this fetish on thongs now? Have you always been into thongs? Did you notice that on me before?” And so on and so forth as only a mistress, whose thongs did not merit the same attention from the master, can go on and on.

More cruel than the physical latigo in the hands of the Presidential Deputy National Security Adviser, however, is the verbal latigo.  The tongue lashing, when harshly delivered, as in “if you don’t want me to be rude just don’t stir me up,” evokes a cry of pain, like “Why do you need to be rude and hurtful when you get stirred up?  I am the same way when I get mad but with you I have learned to control my tongue.  You have told me before that I should think of the consequences of what I do and what I say because I can’t take them back.  I am learning from you.”

That last sentence, “I am learning from you”, more than a pupil’s meek acceptance is really a demonstration of the devastating impact of the verbal latigo on the victim’s self-esteem.  The victim, all too quickly seeks protection by submission and readily assumes the blame for the bad situation.  Thus, she is to say, “…you have not done anything to me to make me doubt you or lose trust in you.  In fact, you have been truthful to me and have acted on your word so far…It is very unfair for me to doubt you on the basis of what you have done in he past to other people which you yourself have admitted to me.  My doubts have been erroneously channeled to you when it is the uncertainty that scares me.  On this basis, I apologize.”

From affirmation by the victim herself of the latigo wielder’s innocence,-- a worshipful assertion of his godlike superiority,-- his mistress already completely divested of self-respect by the pain inflicted by the verbal latigo, proceeds to exacerbate the damage on herself by taking the blame.  Thus, even in a situation where the mistress catches her master in some verbal contradiction, the mistress, ever so subservient, is wont to say, “I am not accusing you of being a liar (I am sorry if I did, it was said in impulse and without much thought)…I do not blame you for this as I know that the context where in each question was asked was totally different from the other.  You can mean both at one point depending on what you are trying to defend/achieve.”  With the master’s dominance firmly rooted, white, in the mind of the victim, can be black and vice versa depending on the situation as the master sees fit.

But, just as the latigo can inflict pain, it can also, with gentle manipulation, comfort and titillate. In the same manner that a paper ball made out of some crumpled newspaper and then tied to the end of the string, when raised up and down in front of a kitten, fully excites the playful feline.

Thus, the same CEO, after a nasty exchange of filing remarks with his mistress, cools the situation by making fine distinctions, as follows: “…let me clear one thing, I never said you were a whore.  I said your husband treats you like a whore and then again, why do you let him treat you like a whore.  Big difference. My venom was against your husband, not you…”  And then, ending with the pièce de résistance, “…I love my baba …I am missing you and can’t wait to get back.”

It is thus most laudable that the Hon. Liza Masa and Gabriela strongly now urge still President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to go beyond asking her Deputy National Security Adviser to go on leave (which he had defiantly refused to do) and, in addition, subject her ally to the appropriate administrative latigo.  Not that the good Congresswoman and her fellow crusaders would be listened too.  The still President is herself scared still.  But at least, the sound of a desparate snarl from the caged animal just might cause the tamer to fear and render the latigo limp and useless.