Thursday, December 4, 2014

Three Scary Stories in Filipino

Three Scary Stories in Filipino








REBECCA

Kuwento ni Rose Flores – Martinez
30 Piling Kuwento 2003
Editor: Danilo S.Meneses
Introduksiyon ni : Reynaldo S. Duque

Makikita pa rin ang maraming bundok sa daan papuntang Bicol. Hindi maikakaila ang masukal na mga lugar. Sa bintanang salamin ay matatanaw ang lumang simbahan, na parang makapapasong tingkad ng liwanag, dala ng sinag ng pusyawing asul na ilaw ng krus sa gilid ng bundok.

Hindi ko maitago ang pagkamangha sa ganda ng kislap ng pusyawing asul na ilaw ng krus, hindi rin makapagsisinungaling ang aking damdamin.

Maganda nga, napakaganda ng kinang ng liwanag, ngunit sayang at hindi ko man lamang nadama ang hiwaga nito. Malamig ang dampi ng hangin sa paligid, may init ang sinag ng pusyawing asul na ilaw – katulad ng magkahalong lungkot at saya na aking nararamdama. Kung hindi nga lamang dahil kay Lola Basya …

Ano iyon? Mga ibong gubat? Marami pa ring ang mga kikik na nakakubli sa hinganteng mga punong kahoy sa gilid ng kabunkukang aming dinaraanan, pumupuno sa puwang ng iilang bahay sa tabi ng parang.

Kaya nga ba maririnig and mga usap-usapang nakakatakot at mga kuwentong hindi kapani-kapaniwala. Natatandaan ko ang mga kahiwagaan sa San Jose – ang mga engkanto, ang mga lamanlupa. Natatandaan ko rin ang pagkamatay ng isang malayang kamag-anak na tinatawag kong si Lolo Dado. Isang makisig at matandang lalaki nang magkasakit ay unti-unting namayat. At sabi-sabi, kapag gabi ay may makikitang aaali-aligigd na maga aso at baboy sa silong ng kanilang dampang bahay.

“Kain ka,” sabi ng katabi ko sa upuan.

Hindi ako makatanggi sa pag-abot niya sa akin ng kanyang kinakaing mani. Nakita ko ang masarap niyang pagnguya at pagkagat sa malulutong na butil.

“Salamat.”

“Sige dagdagan mo pa.”

“Tama na sa akin ito. May sira kasi ang aking mga ngipin kaya hindi masyadong makakagat ng matitigas.”

Nagsinungaling ako. Ang totoo, sa pagkuha ko ng ilang butil ay amoy na amoy ko ang matinding pagkagisa nito sa bawang. Ayaw ko ng bawang! Bagamat sa pagdaan ng panahon ay natuto rin ako na paunti-unting tumikim nito.

“Taga-rito ka rin ba?” tanong ko.

“Hindi. Dadalaw at magbabakasyon lamang. Maganda kasi rito sa Camarisnes Sur, lalo ang mga dagat. Talagang probinsyang-probinsiya. Maganda ang lahat, ang mga Bicolana – tulad mo! Kaya lang ang paligid, kung minsan ay nakakakilabot, masukal ang mga bundok. Sabi nga, marami raw ditong ‘anlayug’?”

Hindi ako sumagot. Minadali ako ng sigaw ng konduktor sa pagtigil ng bus mismo sa tapat ng aming malaki at lumang bahay. Nakalimutan ko tuloy ang magpaalam sa aking katabi. Parang kumukulog ang aking diddib sa lakas ng pintig ng aking puso. Nasasabik akong makita si Lola. Ang pag-ihip ng mabangong hangin sa aking mukha ay tila isang halik na nakapagpapasigla. Totoong takot akong umuwi, mayroon akong pangamba, ngunit iba ang sinasabi ng aking kaloooban. 

Halos lumipad ako papunta sa pintuan.

“Tapo po…Tapooooooooo…..!”

Bumukas ang pinto at sinalubong ako ng isang matandang babae.

“Magandang tanghali po…po!” ang bati niya.

“Kayo ba ang bagong katulong?”

“Ako nga…Ako si Tessie na inirekumenda ng inyong katiwalang si Blandina.”

Tinitigan ko siya mula ulo hangaang paa. Matandang posturyosa! Napansin ko ang kanyang mapupulang labi dahil sa lipstick.

Binati ko si Tessie nang papuring may kasamang pa-insulto. “Para pala kayong artista, pinagsamang Rosanna Roces at Ai-Ai!”

Ngumiti siya, tuwang, tuwa dahil napansin ko. Nagliwanag ang dati’y nanlilisik na mga mata. Dahan-dahan, may pag-arteng hinaplos ang buhok na nagtatayuang parang alambre sa tigas.

“Ang dilim naman. Bakit sarado and bintana, ang aga-aga pa?”

“Malamig. Bawal malamigan si Lola.”

“E, and mga ilaw, bakit hindi ninyo buksan?”

Sinindihan ko ang mga ilaw, inikot ko ang bahay upang mabuksan lahat ng switch para magliwanag. Pinagpagan ko ang mga mesa at tinanggal ang alikabok at mga sapot ng gagamba na nakadikit sa mga sulok. 

Pagkatapos, hindi ako nagpaliban pa ng mga sandali para Makita si Lola Basya. Ito ang panahong aking pinakahihihtay. Marahil ito na, ang panahong aking pinakahihintay…
“Kumusta ka, Lola? Andito po ako si Rebecca, ang inyong paboritong apo,” ang aking bulong sa kanyang malalapad na tainga habang lumalapat na marahan ang aking labi sa kanyang noo, sa kulubot na pisngi, sa pagod na mukha.

Nangatal ang aking laman sa hitsura na bumungad sa akin. Payat na payat ang matanda. Maitim ang kaniyang mga kuko at labi, hirap sa paghinga at mahinang-mahina. Parang may hinihintay. Wari ay maghihintay pa…

Ang lungkot na aking nadama ay hindi ko maipaliwanag. Sa muling paghalik ko sa kanyang noon ay may tumutulong luha sa mga mata nang naramdaman ko ang isang kalabit.

“Magme…meryenda ka muna, Rebecca,” sabi ni Tessie na nagdudumaling pabalik sa kusina. Sinundan ko si Tessie ng tingin hanggang matapat sayi sa salamin at kung paano nag-iba ang anyo ng kanyang mukha ay hindi ko alam. Pumapangit ang hitsura niya, lumalaki and mga mata, humhaba ang dila at tumatayo ang mga buhok. Guni guni?”

Sa isang kisapmata, napasunod ako sa mabilis na paglakad ni Tessie, ni Manay Tessie. Nakalimutan ko ang lahat. Ang napansin ko lamang ay para siyang dala ng hangin. Maliksi ngunit walang ingay ang mga yabag. Pagkatapos, gumuhit muli sa alaala ko ang lahat sa pagkalam ng aking sikmura. Hindi ko na hinintay ang paglamig ng mga pagkain.

Nanonood si Manay Tessie sa aking pagsubo, tinitingnan ang aking pagnguya. Nakangisi. Tuwang-tuwa.

“Ma… masarap?” tanong niya.

“Oo. Sino bang nagluto ng mga pagkain dito? May mga katulong ba galing sa bukid? Si Blandina?”

“Ako na rin. Sabi kasi ni… ni Blandina ang bilin mo raw ay huwag nang kumuha ng iba pang katulong…”

“Masarap ka palang magluto. E, kumusta nama ang pagkain in Lola?”

“Mahirap ngang pakainin si Lola Basya. Ang lagi kong ibinibigay sa kanya ay ang nasa.. sa latang pagkaing gamut na inireseta ni Dr. Rosales.”

“Ganu’n ba? Ano ba ang sabi ng doctor?”

“Talaga raw ganyan. Baka naman iba ang gu-gusto ng Lola mo…”
Hindi ako nakasagot. Sa pakiramdam ko, siya ay nanunuya. Hindi ako tanga. May itinanim na palaisipan para sa akin si Tessie. Nag-init ang aking mga tainga, bahagyang sumulak ang aking dugo, namula ang aking balat sa inis. Tiningnan ko si Manay Tessie ang matalim, parang mangangaing aking titig, tagos sa mabilis na kurap ng kanyang mga mata. Napayuko siya. Napahiya. Pagkatapos ay nakita kong may isang basong tubig na ako sa mesa.

“Mamayang alas-siyete, baka pupunta uli si Dr. Rosales. Makabubuting kayo na po… pooo.. ang makipag-usap,” sabi ni Tessie.

“Linisan mo na lamang dito,” ang aking madiing utos.

Inis pa rin ako. Sa malakas na boses ay ipinakita kong ayaw ko sa kanyang pabalagbag na sagot. Ako ang amo, ako ang dapat masunod. Hindi ako dapat pangunahan.

“Simula ngayon, ako na ang mag-aalaga kay Lola Basya. At siya nga pala, huwag mong patayin ang ilaw sa kanyang silid.”

Pilit kong pinigil ang aking sarili sa pakikipag-usap sa kanya kaya nalunod ako sa katahimikan. Naisip ko ang lungsod. Kapanglawan ang tanging yumakap sa akin habang nakatitig ako sa pagkakahiga ni Lola. Malapit na… Iiwan niya ako.

Si Lola Basya. Si Lola Basya ang nag-alaga sa akin buhat nang ako ay maulila. Ginawa niya ang lahat para ako ay makapamuhay nang masagana at tahimik sa kabila nang sabi-sabing lintek na sumpa sa aming angkan. Hindi rin siya nagkulang sa pagpapa-alala sa akin tungkol sa kabutihan at tiwala sa Maykapal, kahit alam niyang ako ay may tinatagong poot at hinanakit.

Nagtatampo ako… sa simbahan. Ngunit umaasa at naniniwala. 

May lagay na napakalaking krus si Lola sa isang lugar ng aming bahay, tulad ng pusyawing krus sa simbahan. May mga angel na palamuti sa bawat sulok nito at tinakpan ng mga luma at makutim ng tela. Natabunan ng alikabok.

Tinanggal ko ang mga tela.

“Hindi kita bibiguin, Lola.”

Narinig ko ang ugong ng electric fan sa silid ni Lola Basya. Ang ingay na ito na tanging bumabasag sa katahimikan ng paligid. Umaalingawngaw ang ugong sa maluwang na kabahayan na kinukurtinang ng asul.

“Isa… dalawa.. tatlo…nararamdam ko pati ang pagpihit ng malaking orasan. Malapit na nga. Halos pahiramin ko ng pahininga si Lola at isipin kung mabuti sa kanyang pisilin ang kansyang ilong para matapos ang kanyang paghihirap? Malakas ang aking kaba. Lumalakas sa paghihintay kung ano ang sunod na mangyayari.

Gusto kong bulabugin ang langit! Gusto kong isigaw ang aking mga tanong. Lagi akong nagtatanong, laging nagtatanong sa Diyos kung bakit kami ay kanyang pinabayaan. Hindi maarok ng aking isipan ang mga kakaibang pangyayari sa mga pagsubok na ito. Pilit kong iniintindi ang kahiwaagaan, ang mga sakit sa aming buhay, na hanggang ngayon ay hindi ko maintindihan at mahanapan ng lunas.

“Re… Rebecca! Manood naman tayo ng TV. Tapos na ako sa aking mga gawain.” Naistorbo ako sa aking pag-isiip at pagkakaupo sa ulunan ng kama ni Lola.

Sumusulpot si Manay Tessie nang pabigla-bigla. Noon, napabulaslas naman ako ng halakhak sa bigla niyang pagharap sa akin. Napagmasdam ko ang kanyang napakaputing mukaha na parang pinadukdok sa arina.

“Sige, buksan n’yo na nga.!”

“Alam mo ba? La…..la…. lahat ng Channel ay mayroon dito sa atin. Kaya ng lamang ay malabo. Ang marami ay….ay mayroon na ring cable channels na kanilang tinatawag. Sila mayor yata ang unang nagkaroon dito.”

Namangha ako. Sa hitsura niya’y parang hindi niya alam ang cable ngunit… masyado yata akong makapag-isip. Itinuon ko na lamang ang aking atensiyon sa pinapanood na palabas. Naguguluhan ako. 

Maya maya pa, sa kagagala ng aking mata ay muli kong napagmasdan ang matandang katulong. Napansin ko ang langis sa kanyang mga payat na braso, sa kanyang mga binti. Lalong pinakikintab ng langis ang kaliskis sa balat ng kanyang mga paa. Nagpapadulas…

Pagkasuklam ang nararamdaman ko para kay Manay Tessie sa pagtuklas ng maraming bagay tungkol sa kanya. Tulad ng pagtalikod niya kapag matatapat sa malaking krus. May kakaibang amoy rin na iniiwan ang haplas niyang langis. Mabaho. Sabi niya, ito raw ay parang Omega Balm, gamot sa nananakit na mga buto at kalamnan.

“Ang mga aswang ay may ritwal na ginagawa,” kuwento ni Lola Basya. “Kailangan sila ay maghaplos sa buong katawan bago magpalit ng anyo.”


Inusisa ko ang pangalan ng panghaplos ni Manay Tessie. “Ang baho-baho! Bukas bibigyan kita ng lotion para mabango ka!” sabi ko.

“Sa i…Instsik ‘to…Hindi ko alam ang pangalan . Sa sitsiriya ko nabili noong nakaraang piyesta. Malansa ba? Bibigyan mo ako ng bagong lotion? Kung gusto mo imamasahe pa kita, Rebecca.”

Lalapit na sana siya sa akin ngunit pinigil ko. Pagkatapos may nakita ako ng mga posporo sa paligid niya na nangaghulugan habang ang isang istik ay ginamit niyang parang toothpick.

“Ang mga istik ng posporo ay ginagamit nilang pampalakas. Ito ay babala ng isang aswang,” naalala kong muli ang kuwento ni Lola.

Sa mga oras na iyon, matalim ang titig sa akin ni Manay Tessie. Ang singkitin niyang mga mata ay parang nagdiringas at tulala habang kinukutkut niya ng posporo ang kanayang ngipin. Nakita ko rin ang posporo na pula ang dulo, kasing pula ng dugo. Hindi ko lang pinansin. Pagkatapos hindi ko na napigil ang antok.

Kinaumagahan dalang-hangin na naman si Manay Tessie na papalapit sa akin. Inilalantad niya sa aking harapan ang bila-bailaong mga prutas na galing sa bukid. Inaalo ako. Bakit?

Mabilis ang tiktak ng orasan. Hindi ko iniwanan si Lola Basya hanggang sa paglubog ng araw. Hindi ko rin kinausap ang matandang katulong sa buong maghapon tulad ng dati. Nagpakitang gilas si Tessie. Sa dapithapon ng maayos na ang lahat ng kanyang trabaho ay nagpaikut-ikot naman siya sa bakuran. Nakita ko ang kalungkutan sa kanyang mukha na nakatingala sa langit. Nag-iisip parang nagmamakaawa…

Tumabi akong muli kay Lola. Inayus-ayos ang higaan niya. Tumingala din ako sa langit, sa itaas – at katulad ni Manay Tessie ay nagmakaawa…

“First Friday pala ngayon,” bulong ko sa aking sarili. Dinapuan na naman ako ng lungkot. Hinaplus-haplos ko si Lola Basya.

Madilim na. Malakas ang hangin sa labas. Maraming ibon. Tahimik ang gabi. Bilog ang buwan. Ang liwanag ay sumusungaw sa maliit na kawang ng bintanang kapis. Nakakahalina ang liwanag. Hindi ako mapakali. Maya-maya may nakita akong asong itim sa gilid ng bakuran. Mala-dambuhala, kaya isinarado kong mariin ang mga bintana.

Mabilis, may nag-udyok sa akin para lumabas ng kuwarto. Natigilan ako. Wari ay may humihila sa aking mga paa papuntang pintuan. Sinigurado kong nakakandado ang lahat ng mga pinto at itinarangka itong mabuti. Binuksan kong lahat ang mga ilaw. Ang aming bahay ang pinakamaliwanag sa buong San Jose! Parang piyesta, parang may prusisyon ng Santakruzan sa tapat!

“Nakahanda na ba ang mesa? Manay! Manay!”

Hangos ako sa paghahanap kay Manay Tessie. Takbo ako papuntang kusina. “Ayyy, naku!’andiyan ka na pala bakit hindi ka nagsasalita?”

May apoy ang mga titig niya. Nakapapaso. Nagsimulang magtayuana ng kanyang mga buhok, kumpul-kumpol. Natatandaan ko ang mukha niyang nakakatakot ng makita ko ang kanyang mukha sa salamin sa sala., noong ako ay bagong dating.

“Ano ang tumutulo sa iyong damit?”

“Regla!” Nagdudumali si Manay Tessie. Hinila ko ang kanyang kamay at kinaladkad papuntang sala, pinaharap ko sa malaking krus. Pilit siyang nagpupumiglas. Hinila ko ang kanyang buhok na nangagtatayuan. Dahan-dahan, parang nahahati ang kanyang katawan na nagpausbong sa luwang ng kanyang damit…

“Dugo ‘yan ni Lola!”

“Bakit? Di ba gusto mo rin ng dugo?”

“Walanghiya!”

Umikot ako sa hangin at tinadyakan ko si Tessie ng malakas, malakas na malakas. Paulit-ulit. Pagkatapos ay mabilis akong nagpunta sa kusina.

Pabalik, hinarap ko si Tessie…

Ilang sandali pa mahinahon na ang hangin. Nalilito ako sa susunod na gagawin. Ang natatandaan ko lamang ay ang simbahan… ang pusyawing asul na ilaw ng krus.

Sabi ni Lola, ang simbahan daw ay luklukan para makapagbagong- buhay. Ito raw ay may kapangyaringhang bendisyon sa unang iyak pa lamang ng sanggol hanggang sa huling hantungan ng kaluluwa.






Kuwento ni Rose Flores – Martinez
30 Piling Kuwento 2003
Editor: Danilo S.Meneses
Introduksiyon ni : Reynaldo S. Duque

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Sa Aking Silid

Ramdam ko ang pait at pagmamalupit ng panahon sa akin. Sa tuwing ako ay lilisan palabas ng aking silid, may kahalong lungkot at ligaya tarak sa aking puso. Tila ako ay binalutan ng tinik sa dibdib.

Simula noong ako ay bata pa sa pagpasok ng aking silid may kaba at takot na laging umaamba sa paligid, parang usok na lumalaki.

Si Ama ay isang kilalang tao sa lipunan. Mataas ang tingin ng mga taga-bayan sa kanya, maging ang kanyang mga kakompetensya sa San Gabriel. Sa araw araw na ginawa ng Diyos, masaya ang mga taong dumadalaw sa aming bahay na lagging may pagdiriwang na nagaganap. Mahal na mahal si ama mga taga- San Gabriel. Mahal din ni Ama si Ina… at ako. Maraming tao ang natulungan ni Ama. Mahirarap man o mayaman, walang pinipiling tulungan. Maraming krimen din ang nalutas. Maliban lamang sa kaso dito sa aming bahay. Iyan ang lihim.

Sa aking silid, pinid ang durungawan. Ang mga ala-ala ng aking nakaraan ay hindi maungkat. Ayaw kong maungkat muli ang mga ala-ala ng aking Ina. Maging si Ama ay ayaw ding makaalis sa mga alaala ng silid na ito.
Si Inang may mala-rosas na kutis, makintab, maitim at mahabang buhok, mapupulang labi. Hindi maiwasang ang mga kalalakihan dito sa amin ay mabihag ng kanyang kagandahan.
Isang gabi ng Disyembre, ako at si ina, ay bumili sa Quiapo. Pumili kami ng mga parol para sa pasko at pangregalo sa mga kaibigan, kamaganak at mga kasamahan. Marami kaming nabiling mga baso. Tuwang tuwa ako noon. Hindi ko makalimutan ang mga sandaling kapiling ko ang aking ina. Hawak ko ang kanyang palad na parang unan . Maligaya ako kapag magkasama kami ni Ina . Dama ko din ang seguridad na may gumagabay sa akin. Mula sa kanyang mga pangako na “hindi niya ako pababayaan” ay mga salitang nagpapalakas sa akin.

Sa pag-uwi sa aming bahay galling sa Quiapo ay mahigpit pa ang hawak kamay namin ni Ina. Kumalas ako sa napansin kong kaunting liwanag galing sa siwang n pinto na aking silid. Ngunit hindi ko pa rin ito binigyang pansin. Iniwanan ko muna si Ina sa tabi ng pintong my kawang, at hinayaan ni Inang kumalat ang liwanag mula sa ilaw ng maliit na kandila ng aking silid.

Ngunit . . . ano ito? Bigla akong nakarinig ng malakas na sigaw ni Inang, “Tulong, tunlong!” Nakita ko ang anim na kalalakihan sa paligid. Ginapos is Ina. Agad akong tumakbo patungo para magligtas. Ngunit sa aking murang edad, wala akong nagawa sa anim na kalalakihan. Umiyak at sumigaw, “Ama, Ama ... tulungan mo kami…” Walang si Ama. Walang taong sa bahay. Walang nakarinig.
Ang mga haling ang kaluluwa ay tuwang tuwa. At nakita ko isa sa kanila na humawak sa nagpupumiglas kong kamay ay si Emil. “Si Emil! Masama ka, masama ka! “
Si Emil ay kasambahay naming pinagkakatiwalaan ni ama. Si Emil na nakakaalam ng mga secreto ng aming pamilya. Si Emil na itinuring na anak ni Ama at ni Ina. “Ang aking nakatatandang kapatid at tapat na kaibigan?”
Paano ito nangyari sa aming pamilya? Ang akala naming Kuya Emil ay is palang anak ni Hudas! Sa sandali ng aking pagkatulala, may hinampas sa aking batok. Ito ang nagpagpatumba at nagpatigil sa aking hagulhol. Parang nawalan ako ng ulirat at hinang hina.
Pinilit kong tumayo sa pagkakahiga at nakagapos pa rin si Ina. At abot tanaw ko habang nilalapastangan siya – hinuhubaran, hinahalikan, winalang-hiya! Nakita ko kung paano lumaban si Ina at sumigaw at paulit ulit niya kaming tinawag. Nagdasal ako. “Magdasal, magdasal,” naalala kong pangaral niya.
Nakatulog ako sa masamang panaginip at nagising. “Si Ina!” Duguan, walang buhay. Si Ina na aking pinakamamahal, wala na siya. Nandoon din si Ama sa labis na paghihinagpis.
Niyakap kong mahigpit ang aking Ina. Niyakap ko ang malamig na katawan. Pilit ko siyang ginigising sa pagbabakasakaling may milagro at siya ay mabuhay. Hindi gumising si Ina. At marahil, sa pagkamatay ni Ina, itinulak ako ni Ama at sinabing, “Ikaw na lamang sana ang namatay, hindi siya.” Ang pagpanaw ni Ina ay kasabay ang pagpanaw ng aking buhay.

At ngayon, sa tuwing ako ay mapapagawi sa aming bahay, sa aking silid, lahat ng ala-ala ng kahapon ay pilit na nagbabalik. Ang kahapong umiikot sa buhay ko. Ang kahapong maramot sa aking matikman ang ligaya ng kasalukuayan at pagasa ng bukas. Ang kahapong ako ay pinagmalupitan at ginapos. Ang kahapong buhay ang aking Ina!

Parati ko na lang dinatnang mainit ang ulo ni Ama. Walang puwang ang kasiyahan sa akin , at nawala na rin ng puwang ko sa puso ni Ama kasabay ng pagpanaw ni Ina. Pinagbubuntungan niya ako ng galit. Marahil marami siyang problema mula sa pulitika. Marahil hanggang ngayon ay isa pa rin siyang bilanggo ng kahapong hindi marunong magpatawad. “Ako ang kanyang sinisisi sa pagkawala ni Ina!”

Si Emil, na anak ni Hudas ay masayang nakakagala ngayon at tila walang kasalanan. Hindi na siya nagpakita pa sa mga pulis. Ngunit, alam kong siya ay ma-impluensya.

Ang maraming tagapaglingkod naming sa bahay ay pinaalis din ni Ama. Kaya lahat ng gawaing bahay ay ako ang gumagawa. Ako na rin ang pilit na pumupuno sa mga pangangailangan ni Ama. Ako at ako lang. At sa tingin ko ay hindi pa rin sapat ang lahat ng aking pagsisikap. Hindi ko siya masisisi.

Hindi nabigyan ng hustisya ang kaso ni Ina gayong si Ama ay isang kilala at sa lipunan. Bakit kaya?

Mula nang matalo ang kaso ni Ina, sinabi niyang siya ang pinakawalang-kwentang tao sa buong mundo. Pati ang mga mamamayang madalas niyang tulungan kagaya ni Mang Ambit at ni Aling Aurora ay binabale-wala na niya kahit pinagsilbihan kami ng mga matatanda ng buo nilang buhay at katapatan. Hindi nagtagal, nawala siya din siay sa pulitika. Hindi niya ininda. Wala siyang pakialam kung ano ang mga mangyari, mawala man ang lahat. . . mawala man ako.

At ngayon, wala na si Amang pinagkakaabalahan kundi ang alak at sugal. Masaya niyang kanakausap lamang ang litrato ni Ina, na kahit anong milagro, ay hindi hindi babangon.
Wala pinipiling pagkakataon ang init ng ulo ng aking Ama. Kahit maraming tao sa bahay at mga kaibigan sa sugal ay wala sa kanyang pahiyain ako. Pilit niya akong pinapapasok sa silid sabay sabing “Ayaw kitang makita!!!” At pilit niyang iginigiit ang mga katagang ako na lang sana ang nawala at hindi si Ina. Ako naman ay agad-agad na papasok at nanginginig ang mga binti at buong katawan kasabay ng matinding takot. At madalas, kapag ako ay nasa silid na, hindi maiwasan ang pagsunod ni Ama. Ang mga mata niya ay nag-aapoy sa galit. At doon, sa aking silid - ako ay kanyang sinasaktan. At sa silid, pilit bumabalik ang mapait na kahapon. Pilit akong sumisigaw sa sakit habang hinahampas ako ng latigo. Marahil, ang tingin niya sa akin ay ako ang mga kriminal na pumaslang kay Ina. Wala siyang pinipiling tamaan. Buong parte ng aking katawan ay walang kawala sa hagupit ng kanyang latigo. Ako’y nagmamakaawa at isinisigaw ang “Ama, Ama tama na po.” Sana mamatay na nga ako. Madugo ang paligid. Maswerte lamang ako at nakakayanan ko ang mga malulupit na palo. Marahil ito ay dahil sa patnubay ni Ina sa akin kahit anong mangyari ay hindi niya ako pinababayaan.
Salamat sa Diyos at hanggang ngayon ay buhay ang pangako ni Ina. Sa sumunod pang mga araw, patuloy ang pananakit si Ama sa akin. Nakalimutan niya marahil na ako ay kanyang anak, at siya ay aking ama. Puno ang puso niya ng poot na isainasabuhay niya sa kalupitan at lubusang pagkalimot ng pagmamahal sa akin.

Magiisang taon na din ang kamatayan ni Ina mula sa kanyang mapait na sinapit. Patuloy an gaming kalbaryo ni Ama. Totoong hindi niya mapatawad ang kanyang sarili dahil hindi niya nabigyang hustisya ang among kaso.

Isang araw, habang ako ay patuloy na sinasaktan ni Ama, biglang nasanggi ng kanyang latigo ang larawan ni Ina. Bumalik bigla sa aking alaala ang mga pangyayaring naganap kay Ina. At kung saan galling sinabayan ang iyak at paghihinagpis ko ng sigaw at iyak ng ni Ina. Naisip ko ang pagkakataong dapat kong ipagtanggol ang aking naaaping ina. At sa di sinasadyang pangyayari ay naitulak ko si Ama gamit ang aking natitira pang lakas. Tumama ang kanyang ulo sa kanto ng aking kama. Duguan si Ama! Natulala ako… Bigla yatang nabaliktad ang mundo. Nakita ko si Ama. Duguan. Tila gripong bumulwak ang dugo sa kanyang ulo. Nagmakaawa si Ama at humingi ng aking tulong at patawad. Subalit bakit ganon? Tila hindi ko siya ama? Nakita ko ang mukha ni Emil. At kahit konting awa ay wala akong nadama.
Sa pagkakataon ding iyon ang aking pagmamahal kay Ama ay hindi ko naalala o naramdaman man lang. Kinuha ko ang latigo at inisip ko na makaganti. Nagmakaawa si Ama, sigaw sa daing, abot langit ang pagsisisi. Naririnig ko ang hiyaw ng paghihinagpis niya kasabay ng paulit-ulit kong hampas ng latigo. Pili ko lang ang mga parteng aking hampas. Ang kanyang mukha, at ang kanyang dibdib. Iyon lamang. Binigyan ko ng maraming latay si Ama. Madugo ang silid. Kalat ang mga talsik ng dugo sa aking labi, sa aking katawan, sa mga dingding at sulok. Bakit ganoon? Mahal ko si Ama ngunit hindi ko na maramdaman na mahal ko siya? At alam ko, mahal din ako ni Ama ngunit hindi ko din maramdaman na mahal niya ako. Kaya naman, pabilis ng pabilis ang paghagupit ko sa kanya sa paniniwalang maaari ko siyang baguhin sa ganoong paraan. Ilang sandali lamang ay wala nang hinagpis at ungol. Si Ama! Ano ang nangyari kay Ama? Wala na akong narinig na hininga mula kay ama. “Hindi!” Napatay ko siya.
Nabalot ang buong silid ng katahimikan. Ang pawang narinig ko na lamang ay ang mabilis na tibok ng aking dibdib. Patay na si Ama. Wala kahit isang patak na luha ang gusting tumulo. Marahil ay nagalak ako ngayon, sa anibersayo ng pagkamatay ni Ina na, ay araw din ng paglaya namin ni Ama mula sa masamang bangungot na dulot ng tadhana.
Kinuha ko ang larawan ng aking pumanaw na ina at pinagmasdan ko. Bumalik sa mga alaala ko ang mga salitang binitawan ni ina niya noon “Anak, hinding hindi kita pababayaan…” Patnubay ko nga siya.
At ngayon na kanyang anibersaryo ng kamatayan, ramdam ko na inilipat na ni Ina ang mga pangakong iyon kay Ama. Si Ama ay hindi ako pababayaan hanggang kamatayan. Mamahalin ako ni Ama. Simula noon, kami lagi ni Ama ang nasa bahay na iyon. Kaming dalawa sa silid. Nililinisan ko si Ama. Titiyakin kong walang ni isang bahid ng dugo ang dudumi sa katawan niya. Binihisan ko siya ng maayos na pantulog. Inihihiga ko siya sa aking kama para kami ay magkatabi.

Pagkalipas ng isang taon, kasama ko pa rin si Ama, sa aking kama, sa aking silid. At sa mga panahong nagdaan, doon ko naramdaman ang pagmamahal niya sa akin. Hindi na niya ako sinasaktan. Mahal pala ako ni Ama at mahal na mahal ko din siya.





Ma. Riza Flores Martinez, copyright 2009
Edited by Rose Flores - Martinez

***********************************************************************


Bolpen

Masarap mangarap, masarap mabuhay lalo na kung ang lahat ng iyong gusto sa buhay ay natutupad. Karangyaan, kayamanan, kasikatan yan ang pangarap ng lahat… at isa doon si Rosa. Si Rosa ay simpleng manunulat, may 2 anak at 6 na taon sa trabahong ito ngunit wala pa ding nangyayari sa buhay niya. Mahirap pa rin siya…at pawing lalong humihirap.

“Pesteng buhay ‘to! Kelan ba ko aangat sa estado kong ito?” ani ni Rosa. “Lagi na lang ganito, walang gustong tumanggap ng mga isinusulat ko? E napakagaling ko naman!”

“Ano ka ba Rosa? Maging matiyaga ka lang, may awa ang Diyos. Baka di pa dumadating ang tamang oras mo,” sagot ng kaibigan niyang si Leslie. “ Nga pala may opening sa darating na Biyernes sa may Ortigas, naghahanap sila ng mga writers para sa bago nilang ilalabas na libro, pwede ka doon. Bakit di mo subukan? Eto ang numero tawagan mo..”

“O sige, mapuntahan nga yan baka yan na yung matagal ko ng hinihintay na break!,” sagot ni Rosa.

“Oo nga, sige good luck sayo kaya mo yan. Balitaan mo na lang ako.” Sabi ni Leslie.

Purisigidong pursigido si Rosa, naghanda ng mga write-ups, iniwan muna ang mga ibang gawain para makapaghanda para sa job opening na ito. Nangutang pa ng perang pang-parlor at pamasahe. Talagang handing handa na siya.

Dumating ang Biyernes, handa na ang lahat, mula ulo hanggang paa ay ayos na ayos siya. Pagpasok sa building ay kapansin pansin siya: buhok ang nakaplantsa, damit ay mukhang nakahanger pa din at pedicure na kulay ginto.

Sa table, habang pumippirma at nagpapasa ng mga requirements si Rosa… “Aba, hindi ka naman masyadong handa? So ikaw pala si Rosa,” ani ng kanyang katabi. “Oo ako nga, bakit? E sino ka ba?,” sagot ni Rosa sa katabi. “Haha… totoo pala na may pagkamayabang ka…,” sagot kay Rosa ng kausap. “Hindi naman masyado, may ipagmamayabang naman e… dahil magaling ako at alam kong matatanggap ako dito,” sagot ulit ni Rosa. Humalakhak na lang ang kanyang kausap at umalis ng hindi nagpapakilala…

Pagkatapos ng ilang oras ay pinatawag na isa isa ang mga nag-apply.. Si Rosa na… Pag pasok sa kwarto ay nakaupo doon ang kausap niya kanina. Hawak ang kanyang resume at manuscript. “O, Rosa kamusta naman?! Maupo ka muna,” sabi ng lalaki. “Salamat po,, kung gayun kayo pala si Mr. Hernando Baltazar…,” sabi ni Rosa sa boses na nahihiya. “Ako nga, so, nabasa ko na ang iyong resume, at manuscript… napakawalang kwenta… ano to basura?,” sabi Mr. Baltazar. “Excuse me po… anong walang kwenta? Graduate ako sa kilalang unibersidad, may masteral pa ako, at isa pa… yang manuscript ko ay napakaganda,” pasigaw na sagot ni Rosa. “Sinong nagsabing maganda? Ikaw? Bobo ka ba?!” Basura to… Pwede ba wag ka ngang magsulat dahil wala ka ding maaabot… Pinipilit mo lang ang mga bagay na di mo kaya… Magtinda ka na lang ng kendi dyan sa tapat at baka sakaling yumaman ka pa…Hahaha!,” sagot sa kanya ni Mr. Hernando. Mabilis na dinampot ni Rosa ang kanyang gamit…at binantaan si Mr. Hernando… “Titingalain mo din ako baling araw, at sisiguraduhin kong ikaw ang magmamakaawa sa kin,” pasigaw na sinabi ni Rosa sabay binalibag ang pinto ng malakas.

Malungkot na malungkot si Rosa parang buong mundo ay bumagsak sa kanya. Wala siyang nakuhang trabaho. May utang pa siya… “Ano gagawin ko?, Bakit wala bang gustong magbasa ng mga isinusulat ko!” sabi ni Rosa habang lumuluha.

Naabutan na si Rosa ng ulan at gutom na gutom na siya. Bad trip na bad trip na siya. “Psst…!” Tila may tumatawag sa kanya ngunit wala naming tao… “Pssst!”… may simitsit ulit… “Hala sino bay un?!,” ani ni Rosa. Dahil sa sobrang galit lahat ng madadaanan ay pinagbubuntunan ng galit. Pati ang nakakalat na bolpen ay sinipa na lang… kawawang bolpen… “Aray!,” napasigaw si Rosa… “sino ba yung namamato?”… Tinamaan siya nung bolpeng sinipa nya…”Pssst!...Pssst!...Pssst!”… “Sino ka ba… at sitsit ka ng sitsit namamato ka pa?,” Pabalang na sabi ni Rosa… “Ako to ang bolpen!,” sagot ng bolpen sa maliit na boses. “Pulutin mo ko… matutulungan kita!”… biglang natauhan si Rosa. Namutla dahil nagsalita ang bolpen! “Di ba gusto mong yumaman… kailangan mo ko..” ani ng bolpen… “Talaga yayaman ako? Sisiskat?...Pano?,” tanong ni Rosa. “Basta kunin mo ko at tutulungan kita…” sabi ng bolpen. Dinala ni Rosa ang bolpen, nilagay sa bag at umuwi na sa kanyang bahay.

Pagdating sa kanyang bahay ay pinatong ni Rosa ang kanyang bag dumiretso sa kusina at nagluto ng hapunan para sa kanyang mga anak. Pagkatapos maghapunan..ay kitang kita ang kapaguran kay Rosa. Pahiga na si Rosa ng biglang… “Pssst…! Rosa….!” Nagising bigla si Rosa pumunta sa kanyang table at nakita ang bolpen… “Ano bang magagawa mo e bolpen ka lang? Napakapangit… luma…at mukaha pang mumurahin!,” pasigaw na sabi ni Rosa. “Hindi mo alam ang pwede kong magawa. Pwede kitang pasikatin…payamanin…kahit anong gusto mo, mga pangarap mo ay maaabot mo, mga kaaway mo ay magagantihan, mga taong gusto mo ay mapapalapit sayo! Kaya ko yung lahat!..,” sabi ng bolpen sa kanya. “Talaga lang ha…e bolpen ka lang pano mo naman matutulungan si Rosa na isang magaling na manunulat?” pagmamayabang ni Rosa. “Hello? Ikaw magaling? E bobo ka nga e…wala kang katalent talent kaya walang gustong bumasa ng mga sinusulat mo kasi para silang nagbabasa ng basura! Basta tutulungan kita… Pero sa isang kondisyon…” sabi ng bolpen. “Ano naman yun?,” sagot ni Rosa. “Ibibigay ko ang utak ko kapalit ng kaluluwa mo…Hahahaa!,” tuwang tuwang sagot ng bolpen kay Rosa… “Ang kaluluwa ko? Ayoko nga!, ” sagot ni Rosa sabay biglang tinapon ni Rosa ang bolpen… at pumunta na sa kanyang kama at natulog…

Sa kalagitnaan ng gabi biglang nagising si Rosa… Hindi siya makatulog kaya naisipan nyang magsulat na lang. Dinampot niya ang kanyang bolpen at kumuha ng malinis na papel. ”Kaiinis bakit naman walang mga tinta tong mga bolpen dito?,” pasigaw na sabi ni Rosa. Lahat ng bolpen na makuha nita ay walang tinta hanggang may isang pluma na nadampot nya…”Eto buti naman at may sumulat din dito sa mga bolpen dito,” ani ni Rosa. Nakatapos si Rosa ng isang writeup…ng mapansin nya na ang bolpen na hawak nya…”Hahaha… sabi ko na sayo… ako lang ang makakatulong sayo! Hahaha..” ani ng bolpen. “Hala… “Ba’t nandito ka? Tinapon na kita ha?!,” Namumutlang sagot ni Rosa. “Sabi ko naman sayo ako lang ang makakatulong sayo e… tingnan mo nakusaulat ka ngayon. Bukas ipasa mo agad yan at tiyak ko nay an ang magiging umpisa ng kasikatan mo…Hahaha!,” sabi ng bolpen.

Napaiyak si Rosa dahil alam niya ang magiging kapalit ng paggamit niya sa bolpen ay ang kanyang kaluluwa. Di niya alam kung anong gagawin niya. Kahit pilit niyang itapon ang bolpen ay bumabalik pa din sa kanya…

Kinabukasan ay napagisipan na ni Rosa na ipasa ang kanyang nagawa nanginginig na isinilid ni Rosa ang papel sa envelope…At dali dali ng umalis… Naipasa na ni Rosa ang kanyang ginawa… Walang sinabi sa kanya. Ang sabi ay tatawagan na lang daw siya. Pagdating sa bahay biglang ring ng telepono… “Kring…….!” “Hello, Magandang hapon!,”sagot ni Rosa. “Hello, Magandang Hapon po.. nandyan po ba si Rosa?” sabi ng nasa linya ng telepono. “Eto na nga po!,” sagot ni Rosa. “ Eto po si Mr. Erwin Lee, from Maxx Publications, nabasa namin yung mga writeups ninyo at napakaganda. Pwede ba naming ilagay sa libro naming?.. At saka gusto naming na magsubmit ka pa ng marami! Napakagaling mo kasi talaga,” sabi ni Mr. Lee. “Talaga po?.. Sige po bukas na bukas dadalhan ko pa kayo ng maraming writeups at manuscripts!,” Tuwang tuwang sagot ni Rosa. “Sige, pumunta ka dito sa opisina ko bukas ng umaga at gusto din kitang makausap,” sagot ni Mr. Lee. Pagkababa ng telepono ay nagtatalon sa tuwa si Rosa. Nung gabi ay nagsulat pa siya ng marami gamit ang bolpen na napulot niya. Nakalimutan muna ni Rosa ang kapalit na hinihingi ng bolpen… ginamit niya ito ng ginamit hanging sa sumikat na siya.

Sikat na sikat na si Rosa. Lahat ng tao ay iginagalang siya at tinitingala… Napakayaman niya na din… “Salamat sa’yo bolpen… tama ka…ikaw lang nga ang makakatulong s’akin. Kung wala ka siguro…walang wala pa din ako…,” bulong ni Rosa sa bolpen. “ Hindi ako tumatanggap ng salamat. Gaya nga ng sabi ko sayo kaluluwa mo ay akin na,” sagot ng bolpen. Namutla si Rosa. Naalala niyang ang lahat ng kanyang naabot ay may kapalit: ang kanyang kaluluwa… “Pwede ba iba na lang?! Wag lang ang aking kaluluwa…,” nagmamakaawang sagot ni Rosa. “Utak ko para sayo, Kaluluwa mo para sakin… yun ang usapan!,” sagot ng bolpen.

Ilang araw naging balisa si Rosa pilit niyang nilalayo ang bolpen para hindi niya magamit ngunit kahit anong gawin niya ay kusang lumalapit pa din to…Pilit niyang sinisira ngunit di pa din masira… “Hahaha… di mo ko kayang sirain…Hahaha!” sabi ng bolpen. Pilit pa din ni Rosa na sinisira yung bolpen ngunit tila lumalaban ito na parang tao…”Sige kung di kita masisira… di mo din makukuha ang kaluluwa ko!.” Sagot ni Rosa. Sabay biglang itinusok ang bolpen sa kanyang lalamunan. Bumagsak si Rosa sa mesa… Naging pula ang papel sa natahimik na buong paligid… “Matitigil na din ang kasamaan mo… ako na ang huli mong biktima!” sabi ni Rosa hanggang unti unting nawalan na ng hininga…

“Pssst… hahahaha… Walang makakasira sa akin....Hindi ninyo ako kaya… Hahaha!”

–Bolpen
Wenzi Jeanne Flores Martinez, copyright 2009
Edited Rose Flores Martinez, 2009Labels: fiction, iwrote fiction, three scary stories in Filipino, wenzi jeanne f. martinez



Friday, October 31, 2014

Maikling Kuwento: Economy Class

June 24, 2014

Economy Class


“Kita tau?” nabasa ko sa iskrin ng aking selfon.  Napangiti ako. Itiniggil kong muli ang paghuhugas ng mga pinggan para makapag-text.
Kelan?
“Maya sa baba ng LRT.  Kain sa labas tapos, bahala na.Sige.  Tex kta maya kung tuloy.Miz na kita.”
Dalawang buwan na kaming magkakilala ni Alex.  Seatmate ko siya sa tren.
Dapat “first class with beds”ang  trennamin kaya lang  nagkaaberya.  Sabing train supervisor ay  mamili na lang daw kung gusto ang sunod na sleeper pero walang aircon o ang third class na paalis na.  Humingi ang supervisor ng patawad para sa PNR. 
“Ano pa nga ba ang magagawa ng mga pasahero,”  pakutya kong sabi para marinig ng marami.
Naghintay ang mga pasaherong gusto ng makaalis.
Ang third class ay walang aircon, walang sleeping beds, walang malambot na upuan. Ang mga ilaw ay parang kutitap ng gamogamu.Di tulad sa first class malamig at maluwang.  Sira ang carriage ng first class kaya ang mga pasaherong gustong makaluwas kaagad ay sumakay na rin.
“Bahala na, kung bukas pa ako luluwas ay hindi ako makakahabol sa meeting.”
Agawan kami sa pagpila sa ticket booth para ma-irefund ang pera.   Lahat nagbakasakali.  Pati ang apat na postoryosang senior citizens ay sumakay na rin.  Waring lahat kami sa first class ay may hinahabol.
Mabilis tumabi sa akin ang isang matandang lalaki. Grabe kung makatitig. Para akong kakainin.  Umalis ako sa tabi niya at nagawi ako sa pinto katabi ng isang babae at isang lalaki.  Nagusap kami ng katabi ko.Mayla ang pangalan ng babae.Natuwa ako dahil may kasama na ako.  Sa ilang sandali, lumipat si Mayla sa harapan dahil natakot sa katabi niyang lalaking mataba na siksik nang siksik sa kanya.  Sumenyas si Mayla sa akin.
Paalis na ang tren at tabi na nga kami ng lalaki at isang tineyger na may dalang lata ng biskuwit.
Ngumiti sa akin ang lalaki.  Ngumiti din ako.
“Bakit ka lumipat ?”  tanong ng lalaki.
Ayoko dun  sa dati.
Parang nahalata niya na natakot ako sa matandang lalaki.  “Takot ka dun sa mama?  Hindi ka aanuhin niyon.Matanda na si Tatay.”
Ayokong makipagsapalaran .Bastos siyang tumingin.Parang nanggigitgit pa ng katawan.
“Ako si Alex.”
Peechy.
Inilabas niya ang isang ID na nagpapatunay ng kanyang pagkatao.Isa siyang  agrikultyurist.
Ilang sandali pa umandar na ang tren. 
“Dapat hindi tayo dito nakasakay ngayon.  Sana nainform nila kaagad na may problema para napalitan agad ng ibang tren sa ibang araw.”
“Oo nga!Malaki and diperensya nitong PNR.  Dapat bigyang pansin ito ng gobyerno kasi inaasahan ang trenng  publiko.”
Ang trenay tatalon talon.Di gaanong mabilis.Ang mga katawan ng pasahero parang nakasakay ng kabayo.
“Diyos ko nakakatakot naman ang mga pintong dito, parang may giyera. Ang aluminom door  ay bukas- sarang humahampas.  Parang may labanan.
Natawa si Alexsa sinabi ko.
“May asawa ka na?”
Meron.
“Bakit hindi mo kasama?”
Nasa abroad.  Sa Dubai.
“Ako hiwalay.Kaya binata ako uli.  Ang ganda mo”   Misteryoso ang kanyang ngiti ngunit alam ko mabait siyang tao.
Pinagmasdan ko si Alex. Matikas.Mataas.  Moreno.  Ang mga bisig niya, maskulado at matatapang ang mga ugat.
Naging sagabal ang pinto ng tren sa akin,  sa diwa, pati na sa  pag-uusap namin.  Halos mapayuko ako sa takot na gustong magtago sa ilalim ng upuan.  Yun bang parang may kalaban ka na hindi mo nakikita.  Hindi ka man lamang makaganti.
Grabe naman ang pinto nila parang may sasalakay na mga terrorista .
Natatakot ka nanaman?  Huwag kang matakot, isipin mo ako ay sundalo.  Sanay ako sa bundok.  Tumawa siya.
Tumawa rin ako.
Pero kahit anong lakas at tapang niya grabe ang takot na bumalot sa akin nung gabing iyon.  Parang may dudukot ng likod ko sa bintana.  Parang may babaril sa bukas at sarang pintuan.  Parang may magtatapon ng Granada sa madilim na loob ng tren.
Marami sa amin ang waring hindi sanay sa third class na iyon dahil sa first class dapat kami nakasakay. Ang matandang babae sa harapan ko ang nagpalakas ng loob ko; ang akap niya ay ang kangyang higanteng kahon.  Waring sanay siya sa third class.  Nakihati ako sa nakita kong katapangan.
Ngunit sa paghampas na naman ng pinto ay nagulat akong muli.  “Diyos ko!”  Maluha-luha ako sa takot at hindi nagatubili si Alex.  Niyakap niya ako.  Mabilis at mahigpit niyakap ko rin siya.
Mayamaya tumigil mulisa isang estasyon ang tren.Bumitaw ang aming mga bisig.
Kalmadong muli ang mga pasahero. Tahimik ang lahat; maingat sa gabi.
“Iwan ko sa ‘yo ang gamit ko.  Punta lang ako sa comfort room.Ikaw?”
“Hindi, ayokong gumamit ng  toilet.”
Ngumiti sa akin si Alex. 
Naglakad siyang marahan, maingat para hindi madapa sa tren.  Malakas ang kanyang mga hita, matatas ang kanyang likod.
Ang bag niyang itim ay iniwan ngasa akin.  Parang gusto kong buksan upang malaman ko kung anong kulay ang bituka niya.
Maya maya pa bumalik  na si Alex.
Malinis ba ang toilet?tanong ko.
“Hehe, okay naman.CR ka na...”
Hindi.
“Ayaw mo lang yata,” parang nanunuya siya.
Ayaw ko talaga.  Isa isang lagok langng tubig ang iniinom ko.
“Hindi ka nagugutom?”
Hindi.
Andar ng andar and tren at marami pa kaming pinag-usapan.  Nawawala ng panandalian ang takot ko.  Pero bumabalik kapag biglang kumakalabog ang mga pinto.
Sa tuwing nahahalata niya ang sidhi ng takot sa ‘kin ay hinahawakan niya ang kamay ko.  Hinawakan ko rin siya.  Ramdam ko may  kapangyarihan ang kanyang mga kamay.
“Tulog ka na. Babantayan kita,” ang sabi ni Alex.
Okay lang ako. Ikaw na ang matulog at ako ang magbabantay.
Sa gabing iyong parang nakakita ako ng kasama sa biyahe. Malaking bulong ng aking puso ‘ Salamat po’. Marahil kung wala si Alex grabe na ang sakit ng utak at katawan ko sa takot.  Mabait ang Langit.
Payapang muli ang tren.Pawang lahat ng mga pasahero ay nakapikit.  Ang iba naman may headphones at nakikinig.
Ang ilaw sa loob ng tren ay kutitap ng isang wat lamang.Ano ba naman ang PNR?Sa isip ko kahit third class dapat may lock ang mga pinto, may wastong ilaw at malinis na toilet.  Dapat may gard din at kliner dahil 21st century na tayo. 
Ensure passengers’ safety! Ginising ko si Alex.  Di ba Alex?
Tumawa siya at iminulat ang mga mata.
Hindi ako makatulog sa lalim ng gabi.  Si Alex paunti-unti and pikit.Ang mga tao tulog-gising.Ang ibang mga pasaheronakataas ang mga paa.  Kapag sathird class ka nakasakay, halos walang ayus.  Walang namber and upuan.  Pero kahit ganoon kagulo marami pa rin ang may mababait na kaluluwa at handang tumulong lalo na kapag may bata.  Mailap ang bawat isa, ngunit pawang buo ang bawat loob.
Alas-dos na ng gabi.  Tumigil muli ang tren.Nagbaba ng ilang mga pasahero.
Alex bakit hindi pa umaandar?  Ang tagal ng hinto?
“Huwag kang magalala, aalis na tayo.  Ilang sandali na lang.”
Maya-maya may mga taong papalapit.  Nagsisigawan.Isang grupo.  Ang mga tao sa loob naalarma. 
“Sa pinto, sa pinto, bantayan ang mga pinto!”sigaw ng kalalakihan.  Hindi ko alam kung bakit.  Matindi ang takot ko.  Mabilis bago makalapit ang grupo umandar na ang tren.Ang ibang mga babae, nagsigawan sa takot.  Nagkwentuhan ang mga pasaherong mailap.Nagdamayan.Nagsiinom ng tubig.Nagbigayan ng mga baon.
“Malamig ang mga kamay mo. Halika dito.”Niyakap niya ako ng mahipit.  “Matulog ka sa akin.”  Pinasandal ako ni Alex sa dibdib niya.  Sumandal ako.  Yumapos at inilapit ang buo kong katawan dahil sa takot.  Para akong bata na naghahanap ng kumot.  Ipinikit ko ang aking mga mata. 
“Matulog ka na.”  Hindi ako makapagsalita.  Ramdam ko hinalikan niya ang aking noo.  Pinabayaan ko siya.  Pagkatapos hinalikan niya ang aking pisngi, ang aking mga mata, ilong, labi.  Masarap siyang humalik pero hindi ako makaganti sa takot.

“Nandito lang ako.Magpahinga ka muna.”

Lagi kong hinihintay ang text ni Alex.  Simula ng maghiwalay kami sa tren sa celfon na lang ang usapan namin.  Hindi pa kami muling nagkita pero parang matagal na kaming magkakilala.  Alam niya ang buhay ko. 
“Tuloy tau mamaya sa Makati na lang.”
San?
“Sa Walter Mart.May ibibigay ako sau.”
“Sige.  Anong ibibigay mosa ‘kin? Tiket sa tren?  Pabiro kong tanong.
Sagot ng text ni Alex, “Singsing!”


/Rosalinda flores martinez. Katinigwriters 2014

Friday, September 12, 2014

The GOD Stealer by F. Sionil Jose

The God Stealer by F. Sionil Jose

The Ifugao rice terraces in Mountain Province, built by primitive natives through the centuries, are considered by many Filipinos as the Eight Wonder of the world.
-Philippine tourist folder

They were the best of friends and that was possible because they worked in the same office and both were young and imbued with a freshness in outlook. Sam Christie was twenty-eight and his Filipino assistant, Philip Latak, was twenty-six and was- just as Sam was in the Agency before he assumed his post-intelligent and industrious.
“That is to be expected,”the official whom Sam replaced explained, “because Philip is Ifugao and you don’t know patience until you have seen the rice terraces his ancestors built.”
“You will find”’ sam Christie was also told,”That the Igorot, like the Ilocanos, no matter how urbanized they are, entertain a sense of inferiority. Not Philip.He is proud of his being Ifugao. He tells all about it first chance he gets.”
Now, on this December dawn, Sam Christie was on his way to Ifugao with his native assistant. It was his last month in the Philippines and in a matter of days he would return to Boston for that leave which he had not had in years.
The bus station was actually a narrow side street which sloped down to a deserted plaza, one of the many in the summer capital. Sam could make out the shapes of the stone building huddled,it seemed. In the cold, their narrow windows shuttered and the frames advertising Coca-cola above their doorways indistinct in the dark.
Philip Latak seemed listless.They had been in the station for over half an hour and still there was no bus.”That boy in the hotel gave us bum dope,”he grumbled and zipped his old suede jacket up to his neck.It had been four years that he had lived in Manila and during all these years he had never gone home.Now the cold of the pine-clad mountains seemed to bother him.He turned to Sam and with a hint of urgency-“One favor, Sam. Let me take a swig.”
Sam Christie said, “Sure, you are welcome to it. Just make sure we have some left when we got to Ifugao.”He stopped, brought out a bottle of wine Label-one of four- from the bag which also contained bars of candy and cartons of cigarettes and matches for the natives.He removed the tinfoil and handed the bottle to his companion.
Phil raised it to his lips and made happy gurgling sounds.”Rice wine-I hope there’s still a jar around when we get to my grandfather’s. He couldn’t be a seriously sick as my brother wrote. As long as he has wine he will live.Hell, it’s not as potent as this but it can knock out a man too.”
Sam Christie kidded his companion about the weather. They had arrived in the summer capital the previous day and the bracing air and the scent of pine had invigorated him. “It’s like New England in the spring, ”he said.”In winter, when it really gets cold, I can still go around quite naked by your standards. I sent home a clipping this week, something in the Manila Papers about it being chilly. And it was only 68! My old man will get a kick out of that.”
“But it’s really cold!”Philip Latak said ruefully. He handed the bottle back to Sam Christie, who took a swig too.”You don’t know how good it is to have that along. Do you know how much it costs nowadays? Twenty-four bucks?”
“It’s cheaper at the commissary,” Sam Christie said simply. He threw his chest out, flexed his lean arms and inhaled. He wore a white, Dacron shirt with the sleeves rolled up.
 
“I’m glad you didn’t fall for those carvings in Manila,”Phil said after a while.
“A Grecian urn, a Japanese sword, a Siamese mask- and now an Ifugao god.The Siamese mask,”Sam spoke in a monotone, “it was really a bargain. A student was going to Boston. He needed the dollars,so I told him he could get the money from my father. Forty dollars- and the mask was worth more than that.”
Now, the Gray Building around emerged from the dark with white shapes. The east was starting to glow and more people had arrived with crates and battered rattan suitcases. In the chill most of them were quiet. A coffee shop opened along the street with a great deal of clatter and in its warm, golden light Sam Christie could see the heavy faces, their happy anticipation as the steaming cups were pushed before them.
The bus finally came and Sam Christie, because he was a foreinger, was given the seat of honor, next to the driver. It was an old bus, with woven rattan seats and side entrances that admitted not only people but cargo, fowl and pigs. They did not wait long for the bus filled up quickly with government clerks going to their posts and hefty Igorots, in their bare feet or with canvas shoes, who sat in the rear, talking and smelling of earth and strong tobacco.
After the bus has started, for the first time during their stay in Baguio, sam Christie feltsleepy. He dozed, his head knocking intermittently against the hard edge of his seat and in that limbo between wakefulness and sleep he hurtled briefly to his home in Boston, to the basement study his father had tidied up, in it the mementoes of his years with the Agency. Sam had not actually intended to serve in the Agency but had always wanted to travel and, after college, a career with the agency offered him the best chance of seeing the world.
Soon it was light. The bus hugged the thin line of a road that was carved on the mountainside. Pine trees studded both sides of the road and beyond their green, across the ravines and the gray rocks, was the shimmery sky and endless ranges also draped with this mist that swirled, pervasive and alive, to their very faces. And Sam Christie, in the midst of all this whiteness and life, was quiet.
Domeone in the bus recognized Philip and he called out in native tongue, “Ip-pig!”The name did not jell at once and the man shouted again. Philip turned to the man and acknowledge the greeting and to Sam explained:”That’s my name up here-and that’s why I was baptized Philip.”
Sam Christie realized there were many things he did not know about Phil.”Tell me more about your grandfather,” he said.
“There isn’t much worth knowing about him,” Philip said.
“How old is he?”
“Eighty or more.”
 
“He must be a character,” Sam Christie said.
“And the village doctor,” Philip said.”Mumbo-jumbo stuff, you know .I was taken ill when I was young-something I ate, perhaps I had to go to the Mission hospital- and that evening he came and right there in the ward he danced to drive away the evil spirit that had gotten hold of me.”
“And the doctor?”
“He was broadminded,” Philip said still laughing.”They withstood it, the gongs and the stomping.”
“It must have been quite a night.”
“Hell, I was never embarrassed in my life,”Philip Latak said, shaking his head.”Much later thinking of it,” his voice become soft and a smile lingered in his thick-lidded eyes,”I realized that the old man never did that thing again for anyone, not even when his own son-my father-lay dying”.
Now they were in the heart of the highlands. The pine trees were bigger, loftier than those in Baguio, and most were wreathed with hoary moss. Sunflowers burst on the slopes, bright yellow against the grass. The sun rode over the mountains and the rocks shone – and every everything the mist as fine as powder, danced.
The bus swung around the curves and it paused, twice or thrice to allow them to take coffee. It was past noon when they reached the feral fringes of Ifugao country. The trip had not been exhausting ,for there was much to see. Sam Christie, gazing down at the ravines. At the geometric patterns of the sweet-potato patches there are the crystal waters that cascaded down the mountainsides and the streams below remembered the Alpine roads of Europe and his own New England-and about these he talked effusively.” See how vegetation changes, The people too. The mountains,”Sam Christie said,”breed independence.Mountain people are always self-reliant.”
Then, at the turn of a hill, they came, without warning, upon the water-filled rice terraces stretched out in the sun and laid out tier upon shining tier to the very summit of the mountains. And in the face of that achievement Sam Christie did not speak.
After a while he nudged Philip.”Yeah, the terraces are colossal.”And he wished he had expressed his admiration better, for he had sounded so empty and trite.
The first view of rice terraces left in Sam’s mind a kind of stupefaction which, when it had cleared, was replaced by a sense of wastefulness. He mused on whether or not these terraces were necessary, since he knew that beyond these hand- terraces carved genealogical monuments were plains that could be had for the asking.”And you say that these terraces do not produce food enough for the people?”
Philip Latak turned quizzically to him.”Hell, if I can live here, would I go to Manila?”
Their destination was no more than a cluster of houses beyond the gleaming tiers. A creek ran through the town, white with forth around the rocks, across the creek, beyond the town, was a hill, on top of which stood the Mission- four red-roofed buildings, the chapel, the school, the hospital and the residence.
“That’s were I first lerned about Jesus Christ and scotch,”Philip Latak said.”They marked me for success. Another peal of laughter.
The bus shuddered into the first gear as it dipped down the gravel road and in a while they were in the town, along its main street lined with wooden frame houses. It conformed with the usual small town arrangement and was properly palisaded with stores, whose fronts were plastered with impieties of soft-drink and patent-medicine signs. And in the stores were crowds of people, heavy-jowled Ifugaos in G-string and tattered Western coats that must have reached them in relief packages from the United States. The women wore the gay native blouses and skirts.
The two travelers got down the bus and walked to one of the bigger houses, a shapeless wooden building with a rusting tin roof and cheap printed curtains. It was a boarding house and a small curio store was in the ground floor, together with the usual merchandise of country shops: canned sardines and squid,milk, soap, matches, kerosene, a few bolts of cotton and twine.
The landlady, an acquaintance of Philip Latak, assigned them a bare room, which overlooked the creek and the mountain terraced to the very summit.
“We could stay in my brother’s place,”Philip Latak reiterated apologetically as they brought their things up,” but there is no plumbing there.
Past noon, after a plenteous lunch of fried highland rice and venison, they headed forth that broke from street and disappeared behind a turn of hillside. The walk to Philip Latak’s village itself was not far from the town and wherever they turned the terraces were sheets of mirror that dogged them.
The village was no more than ten houses in a valley, which were different from the other Ifugao homes. They stood on stilts and all their four posts were crowded with circular rat guards.A lone house roofed with tin stood at one end of the village.”My brother’s”Philip said.
“Shall I bring the candies out now?”Sam asked.He had, at Phil’s suggestion, brought them along,together with matches and cheap cigarettes, for his “private assistance program”.
Sadek, Philip’s brother was home.”You have decided to visit us after all,”he greeted Philip in English and with tinge of sarcasm. He was older and he spoke with authority. “I thought the city had won you so completely that you have forgotten this humble people.”
Then, turning to Sam, Sadek said,” I must apologize, sir, for my brother ,his bringing you to this poor house. His deed embarrasses us…”
“We work in the same office,” Sam said simply, feeling uneasy at hearing the speech.
“I know,sir,” Sadek said.
Philip Latak held his brother by the shoulder.”You see, Sam,”he said, “my brother dislikes me. Like my grandfather, he feels that I shouldn’t leave this place, that I should rot here. Here, everyone knows the terraces are good for the eye,but they can’t produce enough for the stomach.”
“That’s not a nice thing to say,”Sam said warily, not wanting to be drawn into a family quarrel.
“ But it’s true,”Philip Latak said with a nervous laugh.”My brother dislikes me. All of them here dislikes me. They think that by living in Manila for a few years I have forgotten what it is to be an Ifugao. I can’t help it, Sam.I like it down there. Hell, they will never understand. My grandfather- do you know that on the day I left he followed me to the town, to the bus, pleading with me at the same time scolding me? He said I’d get all his terraces.But I like it down there, Sam,” he threw his chest out the yawned.
Unmindful of his younger brother’s ribbing Sadek dragged in some battered chairs from within the house and set them in the living room. He was a farmer and the weariness of working the terraces showed in his massive arms, in his sunburned and stolid face. His wife, who was an Ifugao like him, with high cheekbones and firm dumpty legs, came out and served them Coca-cola which was not cold.sam Christie accepted the drink, washed it down his throat politely, excruciatingly, for it was the first time that he took warm Coke and it curled his tongue.
Sadek said,” Grandfather had a high fever and we all thought the end was near.I didn’t want to bother you, but the old man said you should come.He is no longer angry with you for leaving, Ip-pig. He has forgiven you…”
“There’s nothing to forgive, my brother,”Philip Latak said, “but if he wants to he can show his forgiveness by opening his wine jar.Is he drinking still?”
“He has abandoned the jar for some time now ,” Sadek said,” but now that you are here he will drink again.”
Then the children started stealing in, five of them with grime on their faces, their feet caked with mud, their bottoms bare, their bellies shiny and disproportionately rounded and big. They stood, wide-eyed, near the sagging wall. The tallest and the oldest a boy of thirteen or twelve, Sadek pointed out as Philip’s namesake.
Philip bent down and thrust fistful at his nephews and nieces. They did not move. They hedged closer to one another, their brows, their simple faces empty of recognition, of that simple spark that would tell him, Ip-pig, that he belonged here. He spoke in the native tongue, but that did not help either. The children held their scrawny hands behind them and stepped back until their backs were pressed to the wall.
“Hell, you are all my relatives, aren’t you? He asked. Turning to Sam, “Give it to them. Maybe they like you better”.
His open palm brimming with the tinsel-wrapped sweets, Sam strode to the oldest, to Philip’s namesake, and tousled the youngster’s black, matted hair. He knelt, pinced the dirty child next to the oldest and placed a candy in his small hand. In another moment it was all noise, the children scrambling over the young American and about the floor,where the candy spilled.
Philip Latak watched them, and above the happy sounds, the squeal of children, Sadek said, “ You see now that even your relatives do not know you, IP-pig.You speak our tongue, you have our blood-but you are a stranger nevertheless.”
“See what I mean, Sam?”Philip said.”My brother does not like me”.He strode to the door.Beyond the betel-nut palms in the yard, up a sharp incline, was his grandfather’s house. It stood on four stilts like all the rest and below its roof where the bleached skulls of goats, dogs, pigs and carabaos which the old man had butchered in past feasts. He had the most number of skulls in the village to show that he had social position. Now the new skull would be added to this collection.
“Well, he will recognize me and I won’t be a stranger to him.Come,” Philip Latak turned to his friend,” let us see the old man.”
They went down, toiled up the hill, which was greasy although steps had been gouged out on it for easier climbing. Before going up the slender rungs of the old house Philip Latak called his grandfather twice. Sam Christie waited under the grass marquee that extended above the doorway. He could not see what transpired inside and there was no invitation for him to come up. However, Sam could hear Philip speaking in his native tongue and there was also a cracked, old voice, high-pitched with excitement and pleasure. And listening to the pleasant sounds of homecoming, he smiled and called to mind the homecomings he, too, had known and he thought of how the next vacation would be, his father and his mother at the Black Bay station, the luggage in the backseat, and on his lap this wooden idol he now sought. But after a while, the visitors he conjured were dispelled. The effusion within the hut had subsided into some sort of spirited talking and Philip was saying, ”Americano-Americano”. Sam heard the old man raised his voice, this time in anger and not in pleasure. The silence, a rustling within the house, the door stirring and Philip easing himself down the ladder, on his face a numbed, crestfallen look. And, without another word, he hurried down the hill, the American toiling behind him.
Philip Latak explained later on the way back to the town:”I had asked him where we could get a god and he said he didn’t know. And when I told him it was for an American friend he got mad. He never liked strangers, Sam.He said they took everything away from him-tranquility; me. Hell, you can’t do anything to an old man, Sam.We shouldn’t have bothered with him at all. , Now tell me, have I spoiled your first day here?
Sam objected vehemently.
“The old man wants a feast tomorrow night-my bienvenida of course.”
“You’ll be a damned fool if you don’t go,”Sam said.
“I’m thinking about you. You shouldn’t come, Philip said.It will be a bore and ghastly night.
But Sam Christie’s interest had been piqued and even when he realized that Philip Latak really did not want him to come he decided that this was one party he would not miss.
They visited the Mission the following day after having hiked to the villages.As Philip Latak had warned, their search was fruitless. They struggled up terraces and were met by howling dogs and bare-bottomed children and old Ifugaos, who offered them sweet potatoes and rice wine. To all of them Sam Christie is impeccably polite and charitable with his matches and his candies.And after the initial amenity that Philip would start talking and always sullen silence would answer him, and he would turn to Sam, a foolish, optimistic grin on his face.
Reverend Doone, who managed the Mission, invited them for lunch. He was quiet pleased to have a fellow American as guest. He was a San Franciscan and for him one consolation of this assignment was its meager similarity to San Francisco.
“In the afternoons,”he said with a wisp of nostalgia,” when the mist drifts in and starts to wrap the terraces and the hills, I’m reminded of the ocean fog which steals over the white hills of San Francisco-and then I feel like I’m home.”
They had finished lunch and we’re on the living room of the Mission, sipping coffee, while Philip latak was in the kitchen, where he had gone to joke with old friends. Sam’s knowledge to san Francisco is limited to the drizzly afternoon at the airport, an iron cold rain and a nasty wind that crept under the top coat, clammy and gripping, and he kept quiet while Reverend Doone reminisced. The missionary was a short man with a bulbous nose and heavy brows and homesickness written all over his pallid face.
Then it was Sam’s turn and he rambled upon the places he had seen-Greece and the marble ruins glinting in the sun, the urn;Japan, the small green country, and the samurai sword. And now, an Ifugao god.
Reverend Doone, reiterated what Philip had said.”You must understand their religion,”he said,”and if you understand it, then you’ll know why its difficult to get this god.Then you’ll know why the Ifugaos are so attached to it.It’s a religion based on fear, retribution. Every calamity or every luck which happens to them is based on this belief.A good harvest means the gods are pleased.A bad one means they are angered.”
“It’s not different from Christian then,”Sam said.”Christianity is based on fear too-fear of hell and the Final Judgement.”
Reverend Doone drew back,laid his cup of coffee on the well-worn table and spoke sternly.Christianity is based on love.That’sthe difference.You are in the Agency and you should know the significance of this distinction.”Reverend Doone bcame thoughtful again. “beside,”he said,”Christianity is based on the belief that man has a soul and that this soul is eternal.
“What happens when a man loses his soul? Sam asked.
“I wish I could answer that,”Reverend Doone said humbly.”All I can say is that man without a soul is nothing. A pig in the sty that lives only for food.Without a soul…”
“Does the Ifugao believe in a soul?”
Reverend Doone smiled gravely. “His gods- he believes in them”.
“Can a man lose his soul?” Sam insisted.
“You have seen examples,” Reverend Doone smiled wanly.”In the city –people corrupted by easy living, the pleasures of the senses and the flesh,the mass corruption that is seeping into government and everything.A generation of soulless men is growing up and dictating the future…”
“How can one who loses his soul regain it?” Sam came back with sudden life.
“It takes a catalycsm, something tragic to knock a man back to his wits,to make him realize his loss…”
“And the Ifugaos, they never lose their souls?”
“They are all human beings. But look what is in the mountain locked country. It is poor- let there be no doubt about it. They don’t make enough to eat, but there is less greed and pettiness here. There are no land-grabbers, no scandals.”
Going down the hill, Sam decided to bare his mind to Philip who was below him, teetering on the slippery trail. He said with finality, “Phil, I must not leave Ifugao without that god. It’s more than just a souvenir. It will remind me of you, of this place. The samurai sword-you should have seen the place where I got it and the people I had to deal with get it. It’s not just some souvenir, mind you. It belonged to a soldier who had fought in the South Pacific and had managed somehow to save the thing when he was made prisoner. But his daughter –it’s a sad story – she had to go to college, she was majoring in English and she didn’t have tuition money.”
In the comfort of their little room back in the town, Sam brought out his liquor. “Well”, he said as he poured a glass for Philip.”At least the hike did me good. All that walking and all those people-how nice they were, how they offered us wine and potatoes.”
“You get a lot better in cocktail parties, ”Philip Latak said.”How many people in Manila would feel honored to attend the parties you go to?”
“They are a bore,” Sam said.”And I have to be there “.
Phil was silent. He emptied the glass and raised his muddy shoes to wooden sheet on his cot. Toying with his empty glass, he asked the question Sam loathed most:”Why are you with the Agency, Sam?”
 
He did not hesitate.” Because I have to be somewhere ,just as you have to be somewhere. It’s that simple.”
“I’m glad you are in the Agency, Sam .We need people like you.”
Sam emptied his glass, too, and sank into his cot. Dusk had gathered outside. Fireflies ignited the grove of pine on the ledge below the house and farther, across the creek, above the brooding terraces ,the stars shone.
After a while Philip Latak spoke again:”We will be luckier tomorrow, I know. You’ll have your god, Sam. There’s a way. I can steal one for you.”
Sam stood up and waved his lean hands.”You can’t do that,” she said with pain, same with the owner. But he can always make another. It’s not so difficult to carve a new one. I tried it when I was young, before I went to the Mission.”
“You cannot steal a god, not even for me,” Sam said.
Philip laughed.”Let not be bullheaded about this. It’s the least I can do for you. You made this vacation possible-and that raise. Do you know that I have been in the agency for four years and I never got a raise until you came?”
“You had it coming. I’ts that simple.”
“You’ll have your god,” Philip Latak said gravely.
They did not have supper at the boarding house because in a while sadek arrived to fetch them. He wore an old straw hat, a faded flannel coat and old denim pants. He was barefoot. “The butchers are ready and the guest are waiting and grandfather has opened his wine jar.”
It was useless for Philip to argue with Sam who had stood up with his bag of candies and matches.
The hike in the village was not as difficult as it had been the previous day. Sam had become an expert in scaling the dikes, in balancing himself on the strips of slippery earth that formed the terrace embankment, in jumping across the conduits of spring water that continuously gushed from springs higher up in the mountain to the terraces. When they reached they reached the village many people had already gathered and on the crest of the h8ill, on which the old man’s house stood, a huge fire bloomed and the flames crackled and threw quivering shadows upon the betel palms.In the orange light Sam could discern the unsmiling faces of men carrying walking spears, the women and the children and beyond the scattered groups, near the slope, inside a bamboo corral, were about a dozen squealing pigs, dogs and goats, all ready for the sacrificial knife.
Philip Latak acknowledge the greetings, then breaking away from the tenuous groups, he went to his grandfather’s hut. Waiting outside, sam heard the same words of endearment. A pause,then the wooden door opened and Philip peeped out.”It’s okey, Sam. Come up.
And Sam, pleased with the prospect of being inside an Ifugao house for the first time, dashed up the ladder.
The old man really looked ancient and, in the light of the stove fire that lived and died again in one end of the one-room house, Sam could see the careworm face, stoic and unsmiling. Sam took in everything: the hollow cheeks, the white, scraggly hair, the horned hands and the big-boned knees. The patriarch was half-naked, like the other Ifugaos, but his loin cloth had a belt with circular home embellishments and around his neck dangled a necklace of bronze. To and Sam took it and lifted Sam the old man extended a bowl of rice wine it to his lips, savored the gentle tang and acridness of it.
He then sat down on the mud-splattered floor. Beyond the open door, in the blaze of the bonfire, the pigs were already being butchered and someone had started beating the gongs and their deep, sonorous whang rang sharp and clear above the grunts of the dying animals.
The light in the hut became alive again and showed the few artifacts within: an old gray pillow, dirty with use, a few rusty-tipped spears, fish traps and a small wooden trunk. The whole house smelled of filth, of chicken droppings and dark earth, but Sam Christie ignored these smells and attended only to the old man, who had now risen, his bony frame shaking, and from a compartment in the roof, brought out his black and ghastly –looking god not taller than two feet and set it before the fire in front of his grandson.
Someone called at the door and thrust to them a wooden bowl of blood. Philip Latak picked it up and gave it to the old man, who was kneeling. Slowly, piously, the old man poured the living frothy, blood on the idol’s head and the blood washed down the ugly head to its arms and legs, to its very feet, and as he poured the blood, in his cracked voice, recited a prayer.
Philip turned to his American friend and, with usual levity, said “My grandfather is thanking his god that I’m here. He says he can die now because he has seen me again.”
Outside, the rhythm of the gongs quickened and fierce chanting started, filled the air, the hut, crept under the skin and into the subconscious. The old man picked up the idol again and, standing, he returned it to its niche.
“Let’s go down, ”Philip said. They trod their way to the iron cauldrons, where rice was cooking, and to the butcher’s table, where big chunks of pork and dog meat were being distributed to the guests. For some time, Sam Christie watched the dancers and the singers, but the steps and the tune did not have any variation and soon he was bored-completely .the hiking that had preoccupied them during the day began to weigh on his spirits and he told Philip Latak, who was with the old man before the newly opened rice jar, that he would like to return to the boarding house. No, he did not need any guide. He knew the way, having gone through the routine thrice. But Sadek would not let him go alone and, after more senseless palaver, Sam finally broke away from the party and headed for the town with Sadek behind him.
That evening was cool, as all nights in the Ifugao country are, and that evening, as he lay on his cot, he mused. In his ears the din of the gongs still rang, in his min’ds eye loomed the shrunken, unsmiling face of the old Ifugao. He saw again the dancers, their brown, sweating bodies whirling before the fire, guttural voices rising as one, and finally, the wooden god, dirty and black and drenched with blood. And, recalling all this in vivid sharpness, he thought , he smelled, too, that peculiar odor of blood and the dirt of many years that had gathered in the old man’s house.sam Christie went to sleep with the wind soughing in the pines, the cicadas whirring in the grass.
He had no idea what time it was, but it must have been past midnight. The clatter woke him up and, without rising, he groped for the flashlight under his pillow. He lifted the mosquito net and beamed the light at the dark from which he had paused at the door.It was Philip Latak, swaying and holding on to a black, bloody mass. Sam let the ray play on Phil’s face, at the splotch on his breast- the sacrificial blood-and, finally , on the thing.
“I told you I’d get it,”Philip Latak said with drunken triumph. “I told you I’d steal a god,” and, staggering forward, he shoved his grandfather’s idol at his friend.
Sam bolted up and held him by the shoulder.” You’ll be waking everyone up. Go to bed now and we will talk in the morning.”
Philip Latak sank back into his cot. The air around him was heavy with the smell of sweat, rice wine and earth.” he will be surprised,” he repeated.”He will be surprised- and when he does he will perhaps get drunk and make a new one. Then there will be another feast to celebrate the new god- and another god to steal…”
“You are lucky to have someone love you so much. And you did him wrong,” Sam said sullenly. He sat on the edge of his cot and looked down at the dirty thing that lay at his feet.
“He did himself wrong”, Philip said, “He was wrong in being so attached to me who no longer believes in these idols. Sadek- you have seen his house. It’s different. And not because he has the money to build a different house. It’s because he doesn’t believe in the old thing anymore. He cannot say that aloud.”Phil whacked his stomach. “No while he lives with a hundred ignorant natives.”
“It’s a miserable thing to do,”Sam said.” Take it back tomorrow.”
“Take it back?” Phil turned to him with a mocking leer. “Now, that’s good of you.Hell, after all my trouble…”
“Yes, Sam said.”Take it back.” But there was no conviction in him, because in the back of his mind he was grateful that Philip Latak had brought him this dirty god, because it was real, because it has significance and meaning and was no cheap tourist bait, such as those that were displayed in the hotel lobbies in Manila.
 
“I won’t,”Philip said resolutely, ”If I do, I’d look bad. That would be the death of my grandfather.”
“I’ll take it back if you won’t”, Sam said almost inaudibly.
“He will kill you.”
“Don’t frighten me.”
“Hell, I’m just stating a fact,” Phil said. Do you think he would be happy to know that his god had been fondled by a stranger?”
“It’s no time for jokes,” Sam said, lying down. “That isn’t funny at all.” And in his mind’s resolute eye there crowded again one irrefrangible darkness and in it, like light, was the old man’s wrinkled face, dirtied with the mud of the terraces, the eyes narrow and gleaming with wisdom, with hate. He wished he knew more about him, for to know him would be to discover this miserly land and the hardiness (or was it foolhardiness?) which it nourished. And it was these thoughts that were rankling in his mind when he heard Philip Latak snore, heard his slow, pleasant breathing and, reaching with his hand, Sam picked with his hand, Sam picked up the taper and quashed its flame.
AT THE TIME Sam Christie woke up it was already daylight and the sun lay pure and dazzling on the rough pine sidings of the room.It was Philip Latak who had stirred him, his voice shrill and grating. Sam blinked, then sat up and walked to the door, where Philip was talking with a boy.. “I’m sorry I woke you up,” he said, turning momentarily to him. “My nephew,” a pause. “It’s grandfather.” His voice was no longer drunken. “I have to leave you here.”
“Anything the matter?”
Philip had already packed his things and the boy held them, the canvas bag and the old suede jacket.”My is dying , Sam. He collapsed- an attack-!”
When Sam found words again, all he could ask was, “Why…how…”
Hell, that should be no riddle,” Philip said.” The feast last night. The dancing and the drinking. It must have been too much for this heart. And at his age…”
“I’m sorry…”
“I’ll be back as soon as I can but don’t wait, whatever your plans are.”
After the two had gone, Sam returned to the room and picked up the idol. In the light he saw that the blood had dried and had lost its color. The idol was heavy, so Sam quickly deduced that it must be made of good hardwood. It was crudely shaped and its proportions were almost grotesque. The arms were too long and the legs were mere stumps. The feet, on the other hand, were huge. It was not very different, Sam concluded lightly, from the creations of sculptors who call themselves modernists. And wrapping it up in an old newspaper, he pushed it under his cot near his mud-caked shoes.
The next day Sam Christie idled in the town and developed the acquaintance of the Chief of Police, a small man with a pinched anonymous face that got its character only when he smiled, for then he bared a set of buckteeth reddened with betel-nut chewing. He was extremely hospitable and had volunteered to guide him to wherever he wanted to hike. They had tried the villages farther up the mountains. It was early afternoon when they returned and the mist, white as starch in the sun, had been very helpful almost to the point of obsequiousness and Sam asked him to come up for a drink. After the Chief had savored every drop in his glass he declaimed,” Indeed I am honored to taste this most wonderful hospitality, which should be reserved only for important people…”
The party could have gone further, but it was at this moment that Sadek arrived.
Philip’s brother did not waste words. “It’s about my brother,” he said. He looked down self-consciously at his shoes- they were a trifle big and Sam saw immediately that the pair was not Sadek’s but Philip’s. He saw, too, that the jacket which Sadek wore was Philip’s old suede. And, as if Sam’s unspoken scrutiny bothered him, Sadek took the jacket off and held it behind him.
“How is he?” Sam asked. He did not wait for an answer.”Come, let’s have a drink. He held the Ifugao by the arm, but Sadek squirmed free from his grasp.
”I still have a half bottle of scotch,”Sam said brightly.
“It’s the best in the world,”Sadek said humbly, but he did not move.”Nothing but the best for Americans.”
Sam did not press.”When is Phil coming back?”he asked.
“There was nothing we could do,”Sadek said. He did not face the young American and a far-away gaze was in his eyes.”Our grandfather…”
“He is dead?”
Sadek nodded.
Sam took the news calmly. He did not find it, its finality, depressing and he was surprised even that the death of someone who was dear to a friend had not affected him at all. In the back of his mind he even found himself thinking that perhaps it was best that the old man had died, so that his passing would seal, forever, as far as Philip Latak was concerned, the family’s concern with the idol’s dubious grace.
“And Phil?” Sam asked.
“He isn’t going back to Manila,” Sadek said simply, smiling again that meaningless grin of peasants.
“And why not?”
Sadek did not speak.
Tell me more,”Sam insisted.”Does his decision have something to do with the burial customs and all that sort of thing?”
“It’s not a matter of custom, sir”.
“I must see him”.
Sadek faced the American squarely now.”Mr. Christie, you cannot do anything now. You must go back to Manila.”And wheeling round, the Ifugao walked out into the street.
Sam followed him, riled by the unexpected show of rudeness. “I cannot leave like this, Sadek. I’m sorry about what happened to your grandfather. In a time of grief I should at least be able to express my… my condolence.”
“You have done that already, sir.”
Sadek paused again. “All right then,” he said sharply.”Do come,” then softly, supplicatingly,” Please, please don’t think we are being unreasonable- and don’t make me responsible for what will happen.”
Sam Christie was now troubled. “How did the old man die?” That was the one question he wanted to ask and when he did it seemed as if the words were strangled from his throat.
Walking slowly, Sadek glanced at the stranger keeping step beside him.”It happened on the morning after the feast. He had a lot of wine.”
“Of course, of course,”Sam said.”I saw him gulp it like water.A man his age shouldn’t have indulged in drinking anymore.”
“But it wasn’t the drink that did it, sir,”Sadek said emphatically.”It was the lost of the god.It was stolen.”
“It was not the god,”Sam said aloud and the words were not for Sadek alone, but for himself,to reassure himself that he was not involved, that his hands were unsoiled. And a pang of regret, of sadness, touched him. “No”, he said. It wasn’t the god. It couldn’t be as simple as that. The liquor, the dancing, the exertion –these did it.”
Near the hill on which stood the old man’s house Sadek paused again.”We buried him there,” he pointed to a new digging on the side of the hill,” and we held another feast this morning. Two feasts in so short a time. One was a welcome to a youth gone astray, the other a farewell to him who gave us the blood in us…”
At the edge of the hilltop the open pits which had served as stoves s still smoked and the dried blood of the butchered animals stained the earth. Sadek faced Sam. My brother… he will not starve here, but he will no longer have the pleasures that he knew. Will that be good for him, Mr. Christie?”He did not wait for an answer and he droned,” As long as he works…but he is no longer a farmer and his muscles are now soft like a girl’s. Me- my family, all of us will be all right , of course. We are not learned like him and we have never been to Manila. But my brother…” and, shaking his head as if great weight had fallen on his shoulders, sadek left the young American.
Now there was nothing to do but go up the Ifugao hut, this flimsy thing of straw that had survived all of time’s ravages, this house that was also granary and altar, which had retained its shape through hungry years and was, as it stood on this patch of earth, everything that endured.
As he approached it Sam Christie found himself asking why he was here, among these primitive monuments, when he could very well be in his apartment in Manila enjoying his liquor and his books and, maybe, a meztiza thrown in too.
 
“Phil?” Sam Christie stood in the sun, crinkling his brow and wondering if he had spoken a bit too harshly or too loudly to disturb the silence within. “Phil, are you there?”
No answer.
“Phil”, he repeated, raising his voice.
“I heard you,” Philip Latak’s from within the hut was abrupt and gruff.
“I thought you would forget. Remember, tomorrow morning, we are leaving.”I’ve already packed and I was waiting. You didn’t even send a word. We will still shop. Phil. And that woven stuff and the utensils-do you know if we can get them before we leave tomorrow?”
“I’m not going back to Manila, Sam,”Phil called. ”You can do your shopping yourself. Isn’t that idol enough?”
Now from within the hut came the sound of chopping and scraping of wood.
“You can’t mean what you say.”Sam said. Come on, we still have many things to do. But if it’s against the custom – that is if you have to stay here for more weeks after the burial…”
The words exploded from the hut with a viciousness that jolted Sam: “Damn it. I’m not coming!” It was no longer Phil’s voice. It was something elemental and distressing.I’m not going back, do you hear? You can bring the whole mountain with you if care. The gid, my grandfather’s god- isn’t it enough payment for your kindness?”
The words, their keenness, their meaning, bit deeply. “Let us be reasonable, “Sam Christie said, his voice starting to quiver.”I didn’t want you to steal the idol, Phil.” “You would have gotten it anyway,” the voice quieted down, “because you are always Curious and determined. I could forgive myself for having stolen it, but the old man-he had always been wise, Sam. He knew from the very start that it was I who did it. He wanted so much to believe that it wasn’t I, but he couldn’t pretend and neither could I. I killed him, Sam. I killed him because I wanted to be free from these…these cursed terraces , because I wanted to be grateful. I killed him who loved me most…” a faltering and a stifled sob.
“Don’t blame me, Phil”. Sam choked on the words. “I didn’t wanrt you to steal it. Remember, I even wanted it to return? Besides, I could have gone searching until I found one I could buy…”
“That’s it!” the voice within the hut had become a shriek. “That’s it! You’ll always find a way because you have all the money. You can buy everything, even gods.”
His face burning with bewilderment and shame, Sam Christie moved towards the ladder. “Phil, let’s talk this over. We are friends, Phil”, he said in a low, anguished voice.
“You are not a friend,” the voice within the grass hut had become wail. “If you are you wouldn’t have come here searching for gods to buy”.
“We are friends,” Sam insisted, toiling up the ladder, and at the top rung, he pushed aside the flimsy bamboo door...
In the semi-darkness, amid the poverty and the soot of many years, Sam Christie saw Philip Latak squatting before the same earthen stove, aglow with embers. And in this glow Sam Christie saw his friend – not the Philip Latak with the suede jacket but a well-built Ifugao attired in the simple costume of the highlands, his broad flanks uncovered, and around his waist was a black-and red breech cloth with yellow tassels. From his neck dangled the bronze necklace of an Ifugao warrior.
Philip Latak did not, even once, face Sam. He seemed completely absorbed with his work and, with the sharp blade in his hands, he started scraping again, the block of wood which he held tightly between his knees.
“Leave me alone, Sam,”Philip Latak said softly, as if all grief had been squeezed from him. “I have to finish this and it will take some time.”
Sam Christie’s over-observant eyes lingered on the face. Where had he seen it before? Was it in Greece – or in Japan – or in Siam?
The recognition came swiftly, savagely; with watery legs and trembling hands, he stepped down and let the door slide quietly back into place. He knew then that Philip Latak had really had hard work to do and it would take some time before he could finish a new god to replace the old one, the stolen idol which he was bringing home to America to take its place among his souvenirs of benighted

Posted by lengwaheng Bikol at 2:15 AM 

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Mary Magdalene