I remember the day I almost lost Jun-jun. I was in eight grade and longed for Tatay’s attention. At four in the morning, I got up before Jun-jun could sound the morning wake up call. I barely slept the night before, thinking of ways to get rid of him or at least get Tatay’s attention away from him. Jun-jun could not cook rice or boil the coffee, but it was me who always got called useless around the house.
On the second Sunday that June, I planned to give Tatay a new wallet I’d bought at Novo. I’d spent all the money I saved up that summer from selling a bunch of buko to Angkol Nono, a buko juice vendor in front of Central Plaza, for ten pesos each. Since I went to Isulan National High School, Tatay always got mad at me for waking up late. He blamed my addiction to mobile games that kept me up at night and threatened to confiscate my phone. He didn’t like it that he had to boil the water for the native coffee and cook rice every morning.
Roosters started crowing from a distance. I opened our front door, lifting the three locks carefully not to make a sound. I checked outside. The dawn was already breaking and I smelled the cool and damp breeze. My nose itched and the next thing I knew, I was sneezing like crazy. I couldn’t make out where Jun-jun was until I saw his long, red curvy tail atop the lower branch of our Mango tree. He flapped his multicolored wings, shook his tiny head, and crowed his mighty battle cry that echoed through our house. Other roosters from our neighbor followed suit.
I looked for the kettle as I wiped my nose using the front of my shirt. I filled the kettle with tap water and brought it to the stove to boil and put four spoonful of native coffee from Kulaman. I put the jars of coco sugar and cream on our dining table for Nanay and Tatay. My head started to ache from the allergic rhinitis so I needed coffee myself.
I got the pako that Nanay brought from the market last night out from the refrigerator while I waited for the coffee to boil. I was about to prepare the scrambled egg with ampalaya when I heard the door from my parents’ bedroom open. Tatay still looked groggy and his bushy eyebrows were already meeting at the middle. He woke up on the wrong side of the bed, I suppose.
“Abaw. The señorito Toto is up early, ha,” he said in his hoarse voice. He went straight to the kitchen sink and drank water from the faucet using his hand. After that, he scrunched his nose. “Is that coffee?”
Continue reading The Multicolored Son
I think I now need to keep track of time. Time has been odd, has been queer, has been time has been odd, has been. There’s a loop that loops that there is a loop that goes on in my head ever since I started to attempt to understand time has been odd, has been queer, has been a loop since I tried to understand the sounds that came from this, well, I don’t even know what this is. I remember nothing from before it, but I remember now before it but I remember. I remember it came to me in a dream, a dream that came to me the night I saw it in a dream. Well, not really saw, more like felt. At least I think I felt it. That’s the thing with dreams, isn’t it? You’re never really completely sure how to word them out when you wake up. Then again, it’s not like there were any words, it was more like I felt it all around me, I think I felt it. It’s odd, it’s queer, it has been like that in a loop ever since it came to me in a dream. It spoke to me, it spoke to me in a feeling that I felt all around me, inside me, outside me, it spoke to me in a feeling. It whispered words into my ears and into my mind, in a feeling I tried to understand time has been odd, has been queer, has been a loop and it told me things I cannot comprehend. Ah well, that was 8 days ago ever since it was 7 days ago since it was 10 years ago since it came to me in a dream. I’m tired now, I think I’ll rest. I do not know why, but sleeping on this flesh is better than sleeping on the cold rock floor of this cave where I’ll rest I’m tired now.
Continue reading Nine Days To Understand Nine Days in Nine Days
The pale orange color that lit the streets of Verga Subdivision in Bunawan switched on right before the sun started to set. The doors and windows had to be shut to keep the mosquitoes out. For most kids in the neighborhood, it was time to go home. For most parents, it was time to make dinner while they listened to local news on the television. The houses I passed by had their porches lit, the owners turning their lights on for relatives on their way home. Even the shabby houses of settlers in the area were loud and bright.
Our house was not far from the highway, but I had to walk two blocks the other way around before finally going home. During the day, our house didn’t stand out. But at night, it would be lit from inside with candles. Our house—which had two storeys, a garage that could park two cars, and a closed mini shop on the front—used to be as loud and bright as other houses in the neighborhood.
I used my phone, which I’d charged to full capacity in class earlier that day, to light my way to the front door. Our doorbell was so loud it could draw the neighbors’ attention. So, I knocked until I heard footsteps that tried to be discreet in an empty house so quiet. The curtain behind the window next to the front door moved a little, a pointless move since the porch was so dark.
“It’s me, Nay,” I told my mother. The door opened and the smell of lit candles wafted to my nose.
“Nganong nagab-ihan naman sab ka?”
Continue reading Orange
“When can I weave?” Maimai asked.
She was impatient. Her mother had taught her and her elder sister but she was not permitted to touch the loom on her own. Malina, her older sister, had been weaving for two years now. Maimai was beginning to feel like her mother had changed her mind about her.
Dreamweaving was in their family’s blood. Here, in this little village beside Lake Sebu, the women in her family have been dreamweavers for centuries. Her mother, grandmother, aunts, and now her sister are dreamweavers. It is an ancient art passed down from mother to daughters. But one cannot be a weaver without the god’s blessing. No, dreamweaving was an art different from the other weavers of the province.
“There will be a sign, a dream,” her mother often said but Maimai couldn’t understand what it meant.
The dreamweavers would receive a dream from Fu Dalu, the god of the abaca. He would send a dream that would guide the patterns of the weaver. It was an honor to be visited by the god. One cannot start touching the loom without one. Only when a dream was given can a weaver start her pattern. That was the reason her sister had not begun her latest weave. Her abaca had been stretched on the loom but she could not start yet.
Continue reading Little Dreamweaver
It was eons ago and night time was just an empty black sky. The sky and the sea were united in the dark and where people could not tell them apart. They thought that the sky could have fallen on the sea or the sea might have risen to the sky.
Fishermen fished at dawn. In order to be able to see in the midst of blinding darkness, they adorned their boats with lamps. They put them high above the deck, on their mast so that the light would reach farther than the prow. The heat from the lamps were warm enough to equal the midday sun and the people desperately wished to the deities living in the world above to dispel the sweltering winds. At predawn, the lamps flared in fiery yellow and orange illuminating the pathless voyage.
The lamps were as if paving the way for the coming of the sun, their torches mimicking its light as if its day, but instead of one, there are several little blazing suns at the middle of the sea in half-darkness.
The smooth surface of the black sea reflected the lights of the boats. The flickering show of lights was as if made for the little children who were still charmed with luminous things. The ones who just woke up came out of their houses on rafts to witness the spectacle. There in the black water, they touched the reflected glowing fire. There in the water, they changed the course and shape of the burning light when they tried to catch it with their hands. There in the water, they saw a threshold for a world that was not theirs, a mirage they would wish to dive.
That dawn, in a village beside the sea, a loud bellow of a baby was heard. Her wails were so strong it woke up the nearby houses. Seraya was the name that waited for her, a name long treasure by her mother, Agata. Her hands were clutched like a young mango fruit. And her small feet kept thrashing in the air. The deities above heard the people after all.
Continue reading Seraya of the Sky (Part 1 of 3)
The next day after painting graves, Tito and Elias took their time resting in the graveyard along with the other workers. The Barangay Captain had gone, leaving them with snacks. He supplied them with empaynada, pancit, and rice. Each had their own share and heartily consumed the food. Again, they were also given soft drinks. But, this time it was two liters of Sprite.
The older man among the three workers spoke, “There are hearsays about these people planning to excavate this cemetery.”
None of them said anything. Everyone intently looked at the man. He added, “The rich always get to do whatever they want.”
“But, the people won’t let that happen. There are… Ano? Maybe hundreds of dead people buried here,” the gaunt man said. His voice was surprisingly deep for someone whose ribs protruded over his brown skin.
Elias looked at Tito, wanting to see his reaction. He wanted to see the reaction of someone who had dug the earth and found a gold earring early in the morning. But, Tito remained calm and unaffected by what the other workers were discussing. He listened and relished his food.
Then, out of the blue, the teenager spoke, “Ah! Is that why there’s this Starex that had been passing by the cemetery lately?”
Continue reading Lego House (Part 3 of 3)
Elias said, “Is there? I only know of the Yamashita treasure. It was my grandfather who told me about it. The Japanese General. Pero, wala man gihapon.”
“We can search for the treasure ourselves,” Tito persuaded Elias.
“Nabuang naman guro ka?” Elias had no hint of emotion on his face, but his mind swirled with images of gold. He looked at the tombs and on the ground and then pictured shiny and heavy gold bars underneath the asphalt ground.
Tito said, “They did find a treasure at the wakeboard area. There must be one or two here as well!”
Elias’ eyes widened and he felt a shiver down his spine. He was speechless. But, he saw a clearer vision of gold bars beneath his feet. . . everywhere, underneath all the tombstones, trees and the small obelisk. “Treasure hunting has long been banned,” he answered back.
“The authorities had been planning to excavate the graveyard even in the past. They want the gold for themselves. Don’t you want them too?” Tito said in a low voice as if talking to himself.
“What if we’ll get caught?”
Continue reading Lego House (Part 2 of 3)
Elias Kupong crossed the pedestrian lane and paced toward the gates of Mintal Elementary School. He was on his way to One Network Bank where he left his bicycle. He carried a plastic bag filled with atchara, bulad and cooked rice. The sun shone brightly and exposed his narrow forehead, lazy brown eyes, large nose and dark thin lips. He was in his usual white long-sleeve shirt, khaki shorts and rugged slippers. He stopped by the school and scanned the field. Near the cream-colored school building were two headstones and an obelisk. Two little lads played tag close to the monument. An old memory of his flashed and he saw himself running across the vast field. School was fun and interesting, Elias thought. But, his family wasn’t fortunate enough to send him to college. Remembering those things bothered him. He had promised to never linger on the past.
There were many people outside the elementary school and he wondered why. He looked around and saw a young mother with a baby in her arms. Beside the young mother, a rather fat lady in sunglasses stood, fanning herself. Her glasses flashed for a moment, unlike her diamond earrings that shimmered steadily. She furrowed her brows and rolled her eyes.
She said, “Where is the President?” She fanned herself even more and few locks of her hair flew away repeatedly.
Elias went closer to the crowd and inquired, “Unsa diay ang naa?” However, he was ignored. The fat lady stared at him from head to toe and then continued fanning herself.
Continue reading Lego House (Part 1 of 3)