Language, Life and the Final Rest of Vicenta Flores
Disappointment is a difficult emotion that few can endure and feel they were prepared, that they’d done enough to cope. Yesterday I read the autopsy report on Vicenta Flores, the Filipino domestic helper who disappeared and died last month in Discovery Bay, Hong Kong. Vicky’s sister Irene graciously allowed me to see it, but as I read I realised that it said no more than we already knew. That Vicky Flores was dead – a blank finding, plain words, no obscure clues, no real chance of an inquest.
Death by drowning
For a moment when I spoke to Irene she seemed to hope that I might say something no-one else had said. But every word was a disappointment, a frustration, an absence of hope. No-one is any closer to knowing why her sister fled what seemed to be a settled life, how she drowned. The suspicion is that the police, as they too often do in Hong Kong, will mark this case a suicide. In that you can read a defiance of logic if you like, an insinuation that ‘girls’ like Vicky – exposed every moment of the day to arbitrary strictures, toughened by the tribulations of the migrant worker’s life – are somehow weak, in some way irrational.
Deduction is easy if you look cross-wise at circumstance, if you push away substance for insinuation. I reported earlier that one local newspaper has carried dubious allegations of Vicky’s involvement in “cult-like” activities; another, the Filipino Globe, joined the frail chorus earlier this month. Both cited a mysterious document in Latin, and unusual text messages in Tagalog.
Of course, all messages in Tagalog are unusual to the Cantonese-speaking Hong Kong police, who seem increasingly likely to have fed the stories to the media.
So back to disappointment. In these modern days we say we’re disappointed when we’re frustrated, when something doesn’t meet our expectations. That suggests we might have been expecting too much. But the original term that slid from Latin, to French and into English meant to reverse an appointment or to deprive of a possession.
To disappoint is to deprive someone of dignity, their most sacred possession in life as in death.
Vicky Flores was buried in Lobo, Batangas today. At rest now, home at last in the Philippines.