Book review: Jullie Yap Daza’s “Mistresses Play . . . Men Stray . . . The Wives Stay”

Alright guys, since I’ve had NO internet connection for about two days now — THANKS PLDT — this post will be coming to you from the patchy internet connection of my prepaid internet USB thingie.

Way before Candace Bushnell began writing about the highs and lows of having a relationship in the Big Apple with “Sex and the City”, journalist Jullie Yap Daza was already chronicling the affairs – pun intended – of the Filipino heart.

First published in 1992, “Etiquette for Mistresses and What Wives Can Learn From Them” became a runaway bestseller, going into several editions and now – a decade later – spawning a sequel.

Titled “Mistresses Play…Men Stray…The Wives Stay”, the new book tells even more tales of philandering husbands and the women who suffer them. But with several years having passed since the last installment, do Jullie Yap Daza’s tales of the unfaithful city still hold as much sway as they used to?

As it turns out, they still do. Featuring stories taken straight from the headlines as well as ones you only get to hear if you’re part of the upper up, “Mistresses Play” is still as entertaining, scandalous, and titillating as its predecessor.

Take, for instance, the easily recognizable tale of “Crystal” and “Ram”. A mistress with her own boytoy on the side, Crystal soon discovers that it’s always dangerous to play with fire in your own house, especially if your lover is as powerful an individual as Ram.

While not as recognizable to those who don’t follow the comings and goings of “society” people, the stories of Remedios, Irene, and Chloe – mistresses fighting with the children of their lovers – are familiar to anyone who’s seen either “The Sound of Music” or “Madrasta”. The antics that the adult children get up to are as juvenile as they come, and there’s a certain thrill to be had knowing that even the alta can get as down and dirty as the masa.

And then there’s the absolutely intriguing story of Tom, Ricky, Gandi, and Gerry. Lifelong friends and longtime neighbors, the quartet undergo an amorous merry-go-round that results in an unconventional and yet practical menage a trois.

Reading all about these foibles and follies is half the fun of “Mistresses Play”. It’s comforting to know that no matter how many townhouses you own or bank accounts you maintain, love – or lust – can still make a fool out of you.

But what about those readers who don’t exactly care to read about other people’s dirty laundry? What attraction could “Mistresses Play” have for them? That would be Jullie Yap Daza’s writing, that other half of the equation that makes the book such an engrossing read.

As salacious as some of the details can be, Jullie Yap Daza writes it all down with the studied detachment of a veteran journalist – or anthropologist, which would be just as fitting in this case – lending the proceedings the sheen it needs to stop from descending into just plain – if well-written – rumor-mongering.

More than just the keeper of secrets and the dispenser of delicious details, Jullie Yap Daza acts as a worldly Mother Goose, her narration peppered with wry observations that ought to serve as guideposts to all these weary travelers making their way through this fairy tale kingdom of love and lust.

In fact, Jullie Yap Daza channels other famous female scribes throughout the book. One can see Edith Wharton and Jane Austen in the pointed observations that Ms. Daza makes of the country’s high and mighty, and there is certainly a touch of fin-de-siecle French author Colette in the practicality with which she advises mistresses, wives, and husbands alike.

While the book’s subjects may not always be the most relatable – there is a lot of ostentatious spending in the book, which is troubling since a lot of these real people are either government officials or military men – the cutting observations made about men, women, and the games they play with each other certainly ring true.

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