Monday, July 8, 2013



One of the stories about the creation of the world, which the old people of Panay, especially those living near the mountains, do not tire relating, tells that in the beginning there was no sky or earth – only a bottomless deep and a world of mist. Everything was shapeless and formless – the earth, the sky, the sea and the air were almost mixed up. In a word, there was confusion.

Then from the depth of this formless void, there appeared two gods, Tungkung Langit (“Pillar of the Sky”) and Alunsina (“The Unmarried One”). Just when these two deities came from, it was not known. However, it was related that Tungkung Langit had fallen in love with Alunsina; and after so many years of courtship, they got married and had their abode in the highest realm of ethereal space, where the water was constantly warm and the breeze was forever cool. It was in this place where order and regularity first took place.

Tungkung Langit was an industrious, loving and kind god whose chief concern was how to impose order over the whole confused set-up of things. He assumed responsibility for the regular cosmic movement. On the other hand, Alunsina was a lazy, jealous and selfish goddess whose only work was to sit by the window of their heavenly home and amuse herself with her pointless thoughts. Sometimes, she would go down the house, sit down by a pool near their doorsteps, and comb her long jet-black hair all day long.

One day, Tungkung Langit told his wife that he would be away from home for sometime to put an end to the chaotic disturbances in the flow of time and in the position of things. However, despite this purpose, Alunsina sent the breeze to spy on Tungkung Langit. This made the latter very angry upon knowing about it.

Immediately after his return from his trip, he called this act to her attention, saying it was ungodly of her to be jealous, there being no other creature living in the world except the two of them. This reproach was resented by Alunsina and a quarrel between them followed.

Tungkung Langit lost his temper. In his rage, he divested his wife of powers and drove her away. He did not know where Alunsina went; she merely disappeared.

Several days after Alunsina had left, Tungkung Langit felt very lonely. He realized what he had done. Somehow, it was too late even to be sorry about the whole matter. The whole place, once vibrant with Alunsina’s sweet voice, suddenly became cold and desolate. In the morning when he woke up, he would find himself alone; and in the afternoon when he came home, he would feel the same loneliness creeping deep in his heart because there was no one to meet him at the doorstep or soothe the aching muscles of his arms.

For months, Tungkung Langit lived in utter desolation. He could not find Alunsina, try hard as he would. And so, in desperation, he decided to do something in order to forget his sorrows. For months and months he thought. His mind seemed pointless; his heart weary and sick. But he must do something about his lonely world.

One day, while he was sailing across the regions of the clouds, a thought came to him. He would make the sea and the earth, and lo! The earth and the sea suddenly appeared. However, the somber sight of the lonely sea and the barren land irritated him. So he came down to earth and planted the ground with trees and flowers. Then he took his wife’s treasured jewels and scattered them in the sky, hoping that when Alunsina would see them she might be induced to return home. The goddess’ necklace became the stars; her comb the moon and her crown the sun. However, despite all these, Alunsina did not come back.

Up to this time, the old folk say Tungkung Langit lives alone in his palace in the skies. Sometimes, he would cry out his pent-up emotion and his tears would fall down upon the earth. The people in Panay today say that rain is Tungkung Langit’s tears. Incidentally, when it thunders hard, the old also folk say that it is Tungkung Langit sobbing, calling for his beloved Alunsina to come back, entreating her so hard that his voice reverberates across the fields and countryside.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

My Father Goes to Court
By Carlos Bulosan
November 13, 1943
When I was four, I lived with my mother and brothers and sisters in a small town on the
island of Luzon. Father’s farm had been destroyed in 1918 by one of our sudden Philippine
floods, so for several years afterward we all lived in the town, though he preffered living in the
country. We had a next-door neighbor, a very rich man, whose sons and daughters seldom came
out of the house. While we boys and girls played and sand in the sun, his children stayed inside
and kept the windows closed. His house was so tall that his children could look in the windows of
our house and watch us as we played, or slept, or ate, when there was any food in the house to
Now, this rich man’s servants were always frying and cooking something good, and the
aroma of the food was wafted down to us from the windows of the big house. We hung about
and took all the wonderful smell of the food into our beings. Sometimes, in the morning, our
whole family stood outside the windows of the rich man’s house and listened to the musical
sizzling of thick strips of bacon or ham. I can remember one afternoon when our neighbor’s
servants roasted three chickens. The chickens were young and tender and the fat that dripped
into the burning coals gave off an enchanting odor. We watched the servants turn the beautiful
birds and inhaled the heavenly spirit that drifted out to us.
Some days the rich man appeared at a window and glowered down at us. He looked at us
one by one, as though he were condemning us. We were all healthy because we went out in the
sun every day and bathed in the cool water of the river that flowed from the mountains into the
sea. Sometimes we wrestled with one another in the house before we went out to play.
We were always in the best of spirits and our laughter was contagious. Other neighbors
who passed by our house often stopped in our yard and joined us in our laughter.
Laughter was our only wealth. Father was a laughing man. He would go in to the living
room and stand in front of the tall mirror, stretching his mouth into grotesque shapes with his
fingers and making faces at himself, and then he would rush into the kitchen, roaring with
There was plenty to make us laugh. There was, for instance, the day one of my brothers
came home and brought a small bundle under his arm, pretending that he brought something to
eat, maybe a leg of lamb or something as extravagant as that to make our mouths water. He
rushed to mother and through the bundle into her lap. We all stood around, watching mother
undo the complicated strings. Suddenly a black cat leaped out of the bundle and ran wildly
around the house. Mother chased my brother and beat him with her little fists, while the rest of
us bent double, choking with laughter.
Another time one of my sisters suddenly started screaming in the middle of the night.
Mother reached her first and tried to calm her. My sister criedand groaned. When father lifted
the lamp, my sister stared at us with shame in her eyes.
“What is it?” “I’m pregnant!” she cried.
“Don’t be a fool!” Father shouted.
“You’re only a child,” Mother said.
“I’m pregnant, I tell you!” she cried.
Father knelt by my sister. He put his hand on her belly and rubbed it gently. “How do you
know you are pregnant?” he asked.
“Feel it!” she cried.
We put our hands on her belly. There was something moving inside. Father was
frightened. Mother was shocked. “Who’s the man?” she asked.
“There’s no man,” my sister said.
‘What is it then?” Father asked.
Suddenly my sister opened her blouse and a bullfrog jumped out. Mother fainted, father
dropped the lamp, the oil spilled on the floor, and my sister’s blanket caught fire. One of my
brothers laughed so hard he rolled on the floor.
When the fire was extinguished and Mother was revived, we turned to bed and tried to
sleep, but Father kept on laughing so loud we could not sleep any more. Mother got up again and
lighted the oil lamp; we rolled up the mats on the floor and began dancing about and laughing
with all our might. We made so much noise that all our neighbors except the rich family came
into the yard and joined us in loud, genuine laughter.
It was like that for years.
As time went on, the rich man’s children became thin and anemic, while we grew even
more robust and full of fire. Our faces were bright and rosy, but theirs were pale and sad. The
rich man started to cough at night; then he coughed day and night. His wife began coughing too.
Then the children started to cough one after the other. At night their coughing sounded like
barking of a herd of seals. We hung outside their windows and listened to them. We wondered
what had happened to them. We knew that they were not sick from lack of nourishing food
because they were still always frying something delicious to eat.
One day the rich man appeared at a window and stood there a long time. He looked at my
sisters, who had grown fat with laughing, then at my brothers, whose arms and legs were like
the molave, which is the sturdiest tree in the Philippines. He banged down the window and ran
through the house, shutting all the windows.
From that day on, the windows of our neighbor’s house were closed. The children did not
come outdoors anymore. We could still hear the servants cooking in the kitchen, and no matter
how tight the windows were shut, the aroma of the food came to us in the wind and drifted
gratuitously into our house.
One morning a policeman from the presidencia came to our house with a sealed paper.
The rich man had filled a complaint against us. Father took me with him when he went to the
town clerk and asked him what it was all about. He told Father the man claimed that for years
we had been stealing the spirit of his wealth and food.
When the day came for us to appear in court, Father brushed his old army uniform and
borrowed a pair of shoes from one of my brothers. We were the first to arrive. Father sat on a
chair in the center of the courtroom. Mother occupied a chair by the door. We children sat on a
long bench by the wall. Father kept jumping up his chair and stabbing the air with his arms, as
though he were defending himself before an imaginary jury.
The rich man arrived. He had grown old and feeble; his face was scarred with deep lines.
With him was his young lawyer. Spectators came in and almost filled the chairs. The judge
entered the room and sat on a high chair. We stood up in a hurry and sat down again.
After the courtroom preliminaries, the judge took at father. “Do you have a lawyer?” he
“I don’t need a lawyer judge.” He said.
“Proceed,” said the judge.
The rich man’s lawyer jumped and pointed his finger at Father, “Do you or do you not
agree that you have been stealing the spirit of the complainant’s wealth and food?”
“I do not!” Father said.
“Do you or do you not agree that while the complainant’s servants cooked and fried fat
legs of lambs and young chicken breasts, you and your family hung outside your windows and
inhaled the heavenly spirit of the food?”
“I agree,” Father said.
“How do you account for that?”
Father got up and paced around, scratching his head thoughtfully. Then he said, “I would
like to see the children of the complainant, Judge.”
“Bring the children of the complainant.”
They came shyly. The spectators covered their mouths with their hands. They were so
amazed to see the children so thin and pale. The children walked silently to a bench and sat
down without looking up. They stared at the floor and moved their hands uneasily.
Father could not say anything at first. He just stood by his chair and looked at them.
Finally he said, “I should like to cross-examine the complainant.”
“Do you claim that we stole the spirit of your wealth and became a laughing family while
yours became morose and sad?” Father asked.
“Then we are going to pay you right now,” Father said. He walked over to where we
children were sitting on the bench and took my straw hat off my lap and began filling it up with
centavo pieces that he took out his pockets. He went to Mother, who added a fistful of silver
coins. My brothers threw in their small change.
“May I walk to the room across the hall and stay there for a minutes, Judge?” Father
“As you wish.”
“Thank you,” Father said. He strode into the other room with the hat in his hands. It was
almost full of coins. The doors of both rooms were wide open.
“Are you ready?” Father called.
“Proceed.” The judge said.
The sweet tinkle of coins carried beautifully into the room. The spectators turned their
faces toward the sound with wonder. Father came back and stood before the complainant.
“Did you hear it?” he asked.
“Hear what?” the man asked.
“The spirit of the money when I shook this hat?” he asked.
“Then you are paid.” Father said.
The rich man opened his mouth to speak and fell to the floor without a sound. The lawyer
rushed to his aid. The judge pounded his gravel.
“Case dismissed,” he said.
Father strutted around the courtroom. The judge even came down to his high chair to
shake hands with him. “By the way,” he whispered, “I had an uncle who died laughing.”
“You like to hear my family laugh, judge?” Father asked.
“Why not?”
Did you hear that children?” Father said.
My sister started it. The rest of us followed them and soon the spectators were laughing
with us, holding their bellies and bending over the chairs. And the laughter of the judge was the
loudest of all.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Dead Stars
Paz Marquez Benitez
THROUGH the open window the air-steeped outdoors passed into his room, quietly enveloping him, stealing into his very thought. Esperanza, Julia, the sorry mess he had made of life, the years to come even now beginning to weigh down, to crush--they lost concreteness, diffused into formless melancholy. The tranquil murmur of conversation issued from the brick-tiled azotea where Don Julian and Carmen were busy puttering away among the rose pots.
"Papa, and when will the 'long table' be set?"

"I don't know yet. Alfredo is not very specific, but I understand Esperanza wants it to be next month."

Carmen sighed impatiently. "Why is he not a bit more decided, I wonder. He is over thirty, is he not? And still a bachelor! Esperanza must be tired waiting."

"She does not seem to be in much of a hurry either," Don Julian nasally commented, while his rose scissors busily snipped away.

"How can a woman be in a hurry when the man does not hurry her?" Carmen returned, pinching off a worm with a careful, somewhat absent air. "Papa, do you remember how much in love he was?"

"In love? With whom?"

"With Esperanza, of course. He has not had another love affair that I know of," she said with good-natured contempt. "What I mean is that at the beginning he was enthusiastic--flowers, serenades, notes, and things like that--"

Alfredo remembered that period with a wonder not unmixed with shame. That was less than four years ago. He could not understand those months of a great hunger that was not of the body nor yet of the mind, a craving that had seized on him one quiet night when the moon was abroad and under the dappled shadow of the trees in the plaza, man wooed maid. Was he being cheated by life? Love--he seemed to have missed it. Or was the love that others told about a mere fabrication of perfervid imagination, an exaggeration of the commonplace, a glorification of insipid monotonies such as made up his love life? Was love a combination of circumstances, or sheer native capacity of soul? In those days love was, for him, still the eternal puzzle; for love, as he knew it, was a stranger to love as he divined it might be.

Sitting quietly in his room now, he could almost revive the restlessness of those days, the feeling of tumultuous haste, such as he knew so well in his boyhood when something beautiful was going on somewhere and he was trying to get there in time to see. "Hurry, hurry, or you will miss it," someone had seemed to urge in his ears. So he had avidly seized on the shadow of Love and deluded himself for a long while in the way of humanity from time immemorial. In the meantime, he became very much engaged to Esperanza.

Why would men so mismanage their lives? Greed, he thought, was what ruined so many. Greed--the desire to crowd into a moment all the enjoyment it will hold, to squeeze from the hour all the emotion it will yield. Men commit themselves when but half-meaning to do so, sacrificing possible future fullness of ecstasy to the craving for immediate excitement. Greed--mortgaging the future--forcing the hand of Time, or of Fate.

"What do you think happened?" asked Carmen, pursuing her thought.

"I supposed long-engaged people are like that; warm now, cool tomorrow. I think they are oftener cool than warm. The very fact that an engagement has been allowed to prolong itself argues a certain placidity of temperament--or of affection--on the part of either, or both." Don Julian loved to philosophize. He was talking now with an evident relish in words, his resonant, very nasal voice toned down to monologue pitch. "That phase you were speaking of is natural enough for a beginning. Besides, that, as I see it, was Alfredo's last race with escaping youth--"

Carmen laughed aloud at the thought of her brother's perfect physical repose--almost indolence--disturbed in the role suggested by her father's figurative language.

"A last spurt of hot blood," finished the old man.

Few certainly would credit Alfredo Salazar with hot blood. Even his friends had amusedly diagnosed his blood as cool and thin, citing incontrovertible evidence. Tall and slender, he moved with an indolent ease that verged on grace. Under straight recalcitrant hair, a thin face with a satisfying breadth of forehead, slow, dreamer's eyes, and astonishing freshness of lips--indeed Alfredo Salazar's appearance betokened little of exuberant masculinity; rather a poet with wayward humor, a fastidious artist with keen, clear brain.

He rose and quietly went out of the house. He lingered a moment on the stone steps; then went down the path shaded by immature acacias, through the little tarred gate which he left swinging back and forth, now opening, now closing, on the gravel road bordered along the farther side by madre cacao hedge in tardy lavender bloom.

The gravel road narrowed as it slanted up to the house on the hill, whose wide, open porches he could glimpse through the heat-shrivelled tamarinds in the Martinez yard.

Six weeks ago that house meant nothing to him save that it was the Martinez house, rented and occupied by Judge del Valle and his family. Six weeks ago Julia Salas meant nothing to him; he did not even know her name; but now--

One evening he had gone "neighboring" with Don Julian; a rare enough occurrence, since he made it a point to avoid all appearance of currying favor with the Judge. This particular evening however, he had allowed himself to be persuaded. "A little mental relaxation now and then is beneficial," the old man had said. "Besides, a judge's good will, you know;" the rest of the thought--"is worth a rising young lawyer's trouble"--Don Julian conveyed through a shrug and a smile that derided his own worldly wisdom.

A young woman had met them at the door. It was evident from the excitement of the Judge's children that she was a recent and very welcome arrival. In the characteristic Filipino way formal introductions had been omitted--the judge limiting himself to a casual "Ah, ya se conocen?"--with the consequence that Alfredo called her Miss del Valle throughout the evening.

He was puzzled that she should smile with evident delight every time he addressed her thus. Later Don Julian informed him that she was not the Judge's sister, as he had supposed, but his sister-in-law, and that her name was Julia Salas. A very dignified rather austere name, he thought. Still, the young lady should have corrected him. As it was, he was greatly embarrassed, and felt that he should explain.

To his apology, she replied, "That is nothing, Each time I was about to correct you, but I remembered a similar experience I had once before."

"Oh," he drawled out, vastly relieved.

"A man named Manalang--I kept calling him Manalo. After the tenth time or so, the young man rose from his seat and said suddenly, 'Pardon me, but my name is Manalang, Manalang.' You know, I never forgave him!"

He laughed with her.

"The best thing to do under the circumstances, I have found out," she pursued, "is to pretend not to hear, and to let the other person find out his mistake without help."

"As you did this time. Still, you looked amused every time I--"

"I was thinking of Mr. Manalang."

Don Julian and his uncommunicative friend, the Judge, were absorbed in a game of chess. The young man had tired of playing appreciative spectator and desultory conversationalist, so he and Julia Salas had gone off to chat in the vine-covered porch. The lone piano in the neighborhood alternately tinkled and banged away as the player's moods altered. He listened, and wondered irrelevantly if Miss Salas could sing; she had such a charming speaking voice.

He was mildly surprised to note from her appearance that she was unmistakably a sister of the Judge's wife, although Doña Adela was of a different type altogether. She was small and plump, with wide brown eyes, clearly defined eyebrows, and delicately modeled hips--a pretty woman with the complexion of a baby and the expression of a likable cow. Julia was taller, not so obviously pretty. She had the same eyebrows and lips, but she was much darker, of a smooth rich brown with underlying tones of crimson which heightened the impression she gave of abounding vitality.

On Sunday mornings after mass, father and son would go crunching up the gravel road to the house on the hill. The Judge's wife invariably offered them beer, which Don Julian enjoyed and Alfredo did not. After a half hour or so, the chessboard would be brought out; then Alfredo and Julia Salas would go out to the porch to chat. She sat in the low hammock and he in a rocking chair and the hours--warm, quiet March hours--sped by. He enjoyed talking with her and it was evident that she liked his company; yet what feeling there was between them was so undisturbed that it seemed a matter of course. Only when Esperanza chanced to ask him indirectly about those visits did some uneasiness creep into his thoughts of the girl next door.

Esperanza had wanted to know if he went straight home after mass. Alfredo suddenly realized that for several Sundays now he had not waited for Esperanza to come out of the church as he had been wont to do. He had been eager to go "neighboring."

He answered that he went home to work. And, because he was not habitually untruthful, added, "Sometimes I go with Papa to Judge del Valle's."

She dropped the topic. Esperanza was not prone to indulge in unprovoked jealousies. She was a believer in the regenerative virtue of institutions, in their power to regulate feeling as well as conduct. If a man were married, why, of course, he loved his wife; if he were engaged, he could not possibly love another woman.

That half-lie told him what he had not admitted openly to himself, that he was giving Julia Salas something which he was not free to give. He realized that; yet something that would not be denied beckoned imperiously, and he followed on.

It was so easy to forget up there, away from the prying eyes of the world, so easy and so poignantly sweet. The beloved woman, he standing close to her, the shadows around, enfolding.

"Up here I find--something--"

He and Julia Salas stood looking out into the she quiet night. Sensing unwanted intensity, laughed, woman-like, asking, "Amusement?"

"No; youth--its spirit--"

"Are you so old?"

"And heart's desire."

Was he becoming a poet, or is there a poet lurking in the heart of every man?

"Down there," he had continued, his voice somewhat indistinct, "the road is too broad, too trodden by feet, too barren of mystery."

"Down there" beyond the ancient tamarinds lay the road, upturned to the stars. In the darkness the fireflies glimmered, while an errant breeze strayed in from somewhere, bringing elusive, faraway sounds as of voices in a dream.

"Mystery--" she answered lightly, "that is so brief--"

"Not in some," quickly. "Not in you."

"You have known me a few weeks; so the mystery."

"I could study you all my life and still not find it."

"So long?"

"I should like to."

Those six weeks were now so swift--seeming in the memory, yet had they been so deep in the living, so charged with compelling power and sweetness. Because neither the past nor the future had relevance or meaning, he lived only the present, day by day, lived it intensely, with such a willful shutting out of fact as astounded him in his calmer moments.

Just before Holy Week, Don Julian invited the judge and his family to spend Sunday afternoon at Tanda where he had a coconut plantation and a house on the beach. Carmen also came with her four energetic children. She and Doña Adela spent most of the time indoors directing the preparation of the merienda and discussing the likeable absurdities of their husbands--how Carmen's Vicente was so absorbed in his farms that he would not even take time off to accompany her on this visit to her father; how Doña Adela's Dionisio was the most absentminded of men, sometimes going out without his collar, or with unmatched socks.

After the merienda, Don Julian sauntered off with the judge to show him what a thriving young coconut looked like--"plenty of leaves, close set, rich green"--while the children, convoyed by Julia Salas, found unending entertainment in the rippling sand left by the ebbing tide. They were far down, walking at the edge of the water, indistinctly outlined against the gray of the out-curving beach.

Alfredo left his perch on the bamboo ladder of the house and followed. Here were her footsteps, narrow, arched. He laughed at himself for his black canvas footwear which he removed forthwith and tossed high up on dry sand.

When he came up, she flushed, then smiled with frank pleasure.

"I hope you are enjoying this," he said with a questioning inflection.

"Very much. It looks like home to me, except that we do not have such a lovely beach."

There was a breeze from the water. It blew the hair away from her forehead, and whipped the tucked-up skirt around her straight, slender figure. In the picture was something of eager freedom as of wings poised in flight. The girl had grace, distinction. Her face was not notably pretty; yet she had a tantalizing charm, all the more compelling because it was an inner quality, an achievement of the spirit. The lure was there, of naturalness, of an alert vitality of mind and body, of a thoughtful, sunny temper, and of a piquant perverseness which is sauce to charm.

"The afternoon has seemed very short, hasn't it?" Then, "This, I think, is the last time--we can visit."

"The last? Why?"

"Oh, you will be too busy perhaps."

He noted an evasive quality in the answer.

"Do I seem especially industrious to you?"

"If you are, you never look it."

"Not perspiring or breathless, as a busy man ought to be."


"Always unhurried, too unhurried, and calm." She smiled to herself.

"I wish that were true," he said after a meditative pause.

She waited.

"A man is happier if he is, as you say, calm and placid."

"Like a carabao in a mud pool," she retorted perversely

"Who? I?"

"Oh, no!"

"You said I am calm and placid."

"That is what I think."

"I used to think so too. Shows how little we know ourselves."

It was strange to him that he could be wooing thus: with tone and look and covert phrase.

"I should like to see your home town."

"There is nothing to see--little crooked streets, bunut roofs with ferns growing on them, and sometimes squashes."

That was the background. It made her seem less detached, less unrelated, yet withal more distant, as if that background claimed her and excluded him.

"Nothing? There is you."

"Oh, me? But I am here."

"I will not go, of course, until you are there."

"Will you come? You will find it dull. There isn't even one American there!"

"Well--Americans are rather essential to my entertainment."

She laughed.

"We live on Calle Luz, a little street with trees."

"Could I find that?"

"If you don't ask for Miss del Valle," she smiled teasingly.

"I'll inquire about--"


"The house of the prettiest girl in the town."

"There is where you will lose your way." Then she turned serious. "Now, that is not quite sincere."

"It is," he averred slowly, but emphatically.

"I thought you, at least, would not say such things."

"Pretty--pretty--a foolish word! But there is none other more handy I did not mean that quite--"

"Are you withdrawing the compliment?"

"Re-enforcing it, maybe. Something is pretty when it pleases the eye--it is more than that when--"

"If it saddens?" she interrupted hastily.


"It must be ugly."


Toward the west, the sunlight lay on the dimming waters in a broad, glinting streamer of crimsoned gold.

"No, of course you are right."

"Why did you say this is the last time?" he asked quietly as they turned back.

"I am going home."

The end of an impossible dream!

"When?" after a long silence.

"Tomorrow. I received a letter from Father and Mother yesterday. They want me to spend Holy Week at home."

She seemed to be waiting for him to speak. "That is why I said this is the last time."

"Can't I come to say good-bye?"

"Oh, you don't need to!"

"No, but I want to."

"There is no time."

The golden streamer was withdrawing, shortening, until it looked no more than a pool far away at the rim of the world. Stillness, a vibrant quiet that affects the senses as does solemn harmony; a peace that is not contentment but a cessation of tumult when all violence of feeling tones down to the wistful serenity of regret. She turned and looked into his face, in her dark eyes a ghost of sunset sadness.

"Home seems so far from here. This is almost like another life."

"I know. This is Elsewhere, and yet strange enough, I cannot get rid of the old things."

"Old things?"

"Oh, old things, mistakes, encumbrances, old baggage." He said it lightly, unwilling to mar the hour. He walked close, his hand sometimes touching hers for one whirling second.

Don Julian's nasal summons came to them on the wind.

Alfredo gripped the soft hand so near his own. At his touch, the girl turned her face away, but he heard her voice say very low, "Good-bye."


ALFREDO Salazar turned to the right where, farther on, the road broadened and entered the heart of the town--heart of Chinese stores sheltered under low-hung roofs, of indolent drug stores and tailor shops, of dingy shoe-repairing establishments, and a cluttered goldsmith's cubbyhole where a consumptive bent over a magnifying lens; heart of old brick-roofed houses with quaint hand-and-ball knockers on the door; heart of grass-grown plaza reposeful with trees, of ancient church and convento, now circled by swallows gliding in flight as smooth and soft as the afternoon itself. Into the quickly deepening twilight, the voice of the biggest of the church bells kept ringing its insistent summons. Flocking came the devout with their long wax candles, young women in vivid apparel (for this was Holy Thursday and the Lord was still alive), older women in sober black skirts. Came too the young men in droves, elbowing each other under the talisay tree near the church door. The gaily decked rice-paper lanterns were again on display while from the windows of the older houses hung colored glass globes, heirlooms from a day when grasspith wicks floating in coconut oil were the chief lighting device.

Soon a double row of lights emerged from the church and uncoiled down the length of the street like a huge jewelled band studded with glittering clusters where the saints' platforms were. Above the measured music rose the untutored voices of the choir, steeped in incense and the acrid fumes of burning wax.

The sight of Esperanza and her mother sedately pacing behind Our Lady of Sorrows suddenly destroyed the illusion of continuity and broke up those lines of light into component individuals. Esperanza stiffened self-consciously, tried to look unaware, and could not.

The line moved on.

Suddenly, Alfredo's slow blood began to beat violently, irregularly. A girl was coming down the line--a girl that was striking, and vividly alive, the woman that could cause violent commotion in his heart, yet had no place in the completed ordering of his life.

Her glance of abstracted devotion fell on him and came to a brief stop.

The line kept moving on, wending its circuitous route away from the church and then back again, where, according to the old proverb, all processions end.

At last Our Lady of Sorrows entered the church, and with her the priest and the choir, whose voices now echoed from the arched ceiling. The bells rang the close of the procession.

A round orange moon, "huge as a winnowing basket," rose lazily into a clear sky, whitening the iron roofs and dimming the lanterns at the windows. Along the still densely shadowed streets the young women with their rear guard of males loitered and, maybe, took the longest way home.

Toward the end of the row of Chinese stores, he caught up with Julia Salas. The crowd had dispersed into the side streets, leaving Calle Real to those who lived farther out. It was past eight, and Esperanza would be expecting him in a little while: yet the thought did not hurry him as he said "Good evening" and fell into step with the girl.

"I had been thinking all this time that you had gone," he said in a voice that was both excited and troubled.

"No, my sister asked me to stay until they are ready to go."

"Oh, is the Judge going?"


The provincial docket had been cleared, and Judge del Valle had been assigned elsewhere. As lawyer--and as lover--Alfredo had found that out long before.

"Mr. Salazar," she broke into his silence, "I wish to congratulate you."

Her tone told him that she had learned, at last. That was inevitable.

"For what?"

"For your approaching wedding."

Some explanation was due her, surely. Yet what could he say that would not offend?

"I should have offered congratulations long before, but you know mere visitors are slow about getting the news," she continued.

He listened not so much to what she said as to the nuances in her voice. He heard nothing to enlighten him, except that she had reverted to the formal tones of early acquaintance. No revelation there; simply the old voice--cool, almost detached from personality, flexible and vibrant, suggesting potentialities of song.

"Are weddings interesting to you?" he finally brought out quietly

"When they are of friends, yes."

"Would you come if I asked you?"

"When is it going to be?"

"May," he replied briefly, after a long pause.

"May is the month of happiness they say," she said, with what seemed to him a shade of irony.

"They say," slowly, indifferently. "Would you come?"

"Why not?"

"No reason. I am just asking. Then you will?"

"If you will ask me," she said with disdain.

"Then I ask you."

"Then I will be there."

The gravel road lay before them; at the road's end the lighted windows of the house on the hill. There swept over the spirit of Alfredo Salazar a longing so keen that it was pain, a wish that, that house were his, that all the bewilderments of the present were not, and that this woman by his side were his long wedded wife, returning with him to the peace of home.

"Julita," he said in his slow, thoughtful manner, "did you ever have to choose between something you wanted to do and something you had to do?"


"I thought maybe you had had that experience; then you could understand a man who was in such a situation."

"You are fortunate," he pursued when she did not answer.

"Is--is this man sure of what he should do?"

"I don't know, Julita. Perhaps not. But there is a point where a thing escapes us and rushes downward of its own weight, dragging us along. Then it is foolish to ask whether one will or will not, because it no longer depends on him."

"But then why--why--" her muffled voice came. "Oh, what do I know? That is his problem after all."

"Doesn't it--interest you?"

"Why must it? I--I have to say good-bye, Mr. Salazar; we are at the house."

Without lifting her eyes she quickly turned and walked away.

Had the final word been said? He wondered. It had. Yet a feeble flutter of hope trembled in his mind though set against that hope were three years of engagement, a very near wedding, perfect understanding between the parents, his own conscience, and Esperanza herself--Esperanza waiting, Esperanza no longer young, Esperanza the efficient, the literal-minded, the intensely acquisitive.

He looked attentively at her where she sat on the sofa, appraisingly, and with a kind of aversion which he tried to control.

She was one of those fortunate women who have the gift of uniformly acceptable appearance. She never surprised one with unexpected homeliness nor with startling reserves of beauty. At home, in church, on the street, she was always herself, a woman past first bloom, light and clear of complexion, spare of arms and of breast, with a slight convexity to thin throat; a woman dressed with self-conscious care, even elegance; a woman distinctly not average.

She was pursuing an indignant relation about something or other, something about Calixta, their note-carrier, Alfredo perceived, so he merely half-listened, understanding imperfectly. At a pause he drawled out to fill in the gap: "Well, what of it?" The remark sounded ruder than he had intended.

"She is not married to him," Esperanza insisted in her thin, nervously pitched voice. "Besides, she should have thought of us. Nanay practically brought her up. We never thought she would turn out bad."

What had Calixta done? Homely, middle-aged Calixta?

"You are very positive about her badness," he commented dryly. Esperanza was always positive.

"But do you approve?"

"Of what?"

"What she did."

"No," indifferently.


He was suddenly impelled by a desire to disturb the unvexed orthodoxy of her mind. "All I say is that it is not necessarily wicked."

"Why shouldn't it be? You talked like an--immoral man. I did not know that your ideas were like that."

"My ideas?" he retorted, goaded by a deep, accumulated exasperation. "The only test I wish to apply to conduct is the test of fairness. Am I injuring anybody? No? Then I am justified in my conscience. I am right. Living with a man to whom she is not married--is that it? It may be wrong, and again it may not."

"She has injured us. She was ungrateful." Her voice was tight with resentment.

"The trouble with you, Esperanza, is that you are--" he stopped, appalled by the passion in his voice.

"Why do you get angry? I do not understand you at all! I think I know why you have been indifferent to me lately. I am not blind, or deaf; I see and hear what perhaps some are trying to keep from me." The blood surged into his very eyes and his hearing sharpened to points of acute pain. What would she say next?

"Why don't you speak out frankly before it is too late? You need not think of me and of what people will say." Her voice trembled.

Alfredo was suffering as he could not remember ever having suffered before. What people will say--what will they not say? What don't they say when long engagements are broken almost on the eve of the wedding?

"Yes," he said hesitatingly, diffidently, as if merely thinking aloud, "one tries to be fair--according to his lights--but it is hard. One would like to be fair to one's self first. But that is too easy, one does not dare--"

"What do you mean?" she asked with repressed violence. "Whatever my shortcomings, and no doubt they are many in your eyes, I have never gone out of my way, of my place, to find a man."

Did she mean by this irrelevant remark that he it was who had sought her; or was that a covert attack on Julia Salas?

"Esperanza--" a desperate plea lay in his stumbling words. "If you--suppose I--" Yet how could a mere man word such a plea?

"If you mean you want to take back your word, if you are tired of--why don't you tell me you are tired of me?" she burst out in a storm of weeping that left him completely shamed and unnerved.

The last word had been said.


AS Alfredo Salazar leaned against the boat rail to watch the evening settling over the lake, he wondered if Esperanza would attribute any significance to this trip of his. He was supposed to be in Sta. Cruz whither the case of the People of the Philippine Islands vs. Belina et al had kept him, and there he would have been if Brigida Samuy had not been so important to the defense. He had to find that elusive old woman. That the search was leading him to that particular lake town which was Julia Salas' home should not disturb him unduly Yet he was disturbed to a degree utterly out of proportion to the prosaicalness of his errand. That inner tumult was no surprise to him; in the last eight years he had become used to such occasional storms. He had long realized that he could not forget Julia Salas. Still, he had tried to be content and not to remember too much. The climber of mountains who has known the back-break, the lonesomeness, and the chill, finds a certain restfulness in level paths made easy to his feet. He looks up sometimes from the valley where settles the dusk of evening, but he knows he must not heed the radiant beckoning. Maybe, in time, he would cease even to look up.

He was not unhappy in his marriage. He felt no rebellion: only the calm of capitulation to what he recognized as irresistible forces of circumstance and of character. His life had simply ordered itself; no more struggles, no more stirring up of emotions that got a man nowhere. From his capacity of complete detachment he derived a strange solace. The essential himself, the himself that had its being in the core of his thought, would, he reflected, always be free and alone. When claims encroached too insistently, as sometimes they did, he retreated into the inner fastness, and from that vantage he saw things and people around him as remote and alien, as incidents that did not matter. At such times did Esperanza feel baffled and helpless; he was gentle, even tender, but immeasurably far away, beyond her reach.

Lights were springing into life on the shore. That was the town, a little up-tilted town nestling in the dark greenness of the groves. A snubcrested belfry stood beside the ancient church. On the outskirts the evening smudges glowed red through the sinuous mists of smoke that rose and lost themselves in the purple shadows of the hills. There was a young moon which grew slowly luminous as the coral tints in the sky yielded to the darker blues of evening.

The vessel approached the landing quietly, trailing a wake of long golden ripples on the dark water. Peculiar hill inflections came to his ears from the crowd assembled to meet the boat--slow, singing cadences, characteristic of the Laguna lake-shore speech. From where he stood he could not distinguish faces, so he had no way of knowing whether the presidente was there to meet him or not. Just then a voice shouted.

"Is the abogado there? Abogado!"

"What abogado?" someone irately asked.

That must be the presidente, he thought, and went down to the landing.

It was a policeman, a tall pock-marked individual. The presidente had left with Brigida Samuy--Tandang "Binday"--that noon for Santa Cruz. Señor Salazar's second letter had arrived late, but the wife had read it and said, "Go and meet the abogado and invite him to our house."

Alfredo Salazar courteously declined the invitation. He would sleep on board since the boat would leave at four the next morning anyway. So the presidente had received his first letter? Alfredo did not know because that official had not sent an answer. "Yes," the policeman replied, "but he could not write because we heard that Tandang Binday was in San Antonio so we went there to find her."

San Antonio was up in the hills! Good man, the presidente! He, Alfredo, must do something for him. It was not every day that one met with such willingness to help.

Eight o'clock, lugubriously tolled from the bell tower, found the boat settled into a somnolent quiet. A cot had been brought out and spread for him, but it was too bare to be inviting at that hour. It was too early to sleep: he would walk around the town. His heart beat faster as he picked his way to shore over the rafts made fast to sundry piles driven into the water.

How peaceful the town was! Here and there a little tienda was still open, its dim light issuing forlornly through the single window which served as counter. An occasional couple sauntered by, the women's chinelas making scraping sounds. From a distance came the shrill voices of children playing games on the street--tubigan perhaps, or "hawk-and-chicken." The thought of Julia Salas in that quiet place filled him with a pitying sadness.

How would life seem now if he had married Julia Salas? Had he meant anything to her? That unforgettable red-and-gold afternoon in early April haunted him with a sense of incompleteness as restless as other unlaid ghosts. She had not married--why? Faithfulness, he reflected, was not a conscious effort at regretful memory. It was something unvolitional, maybe a recurrent awareness of irreplaceability. Irrelevant trifles--a cool wind on his forehead, far-away sounds as of voices in a dream--at times moved him to an oddly irresistible impulse to listen as to an insistent, unfinished prayer.

A few inquiries led him to a certain little tree-ceilinged street where the young moon wove indistinct filigrees of fight and shadow. In the gardens the cotton tree threw its angular shadow athwart the low stone wall; and in the cool, stilly midnight the cock's first call rose in tall, soaring jets of sound. Calle Luz.

Somehow or other, he had known that he would find her house because she would surely be sitting at the window. Where else, before bedtime on a moonlit night? The house was low and the light in the sala behind her threw her head into unmistakable relief. He sensed rather than saw her start of vivid surprise.

"Good evening," he said, raising his hat.

"Good evening. Oh! Are you in town?"

"On some little business," he answered with a feeling of painful constraint.

"Won't you come up?"

He considered. His vague plans had not included this. But Julia Salas had left the window, calling to her mother as she did so. After a while, someone came downstairs with a lighted candle to open the door. At last--he was shaking her hand.

She had not changed much--a little less slender, not so eagerly alive, yet something had gone. He missed it, sitting opposite her, looking thoughtfully into her fine dark eyes. She asked him about the home town, about this and that, in a sober, somewhat meditative tone. He conversed with increasing ease, though with a growing wonder that he should be there at all. He could not take his eyes from her face. What had she lost? Or was the loss his? He felt an impersonal curiosity creeping into his gaze. The girl must have noticed, for her cheek darkened in a blush.

Gently--was it experimentally?--he pressed her hand at parting; but his own felt undisturbed and emotionless. Did she still care? The answer to the question hardly interested him.

The young moon had set, and from the uninviting cot he could see one half of a star-studded sky.

So that was all over.

Why had he obstinately clung to that dream?

So all these years--since when?--he had been seeing the light of dead stars, long extinguished, yet seemingly still in their appointed places in the heavens.

An immense sadness as of loss invaded his spirit, a vast homesickness for some immutable refuge of the heart far away where faded gardens bloom again, and where live on in unchanging freshness, the dear, dead loves of vanished youth.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

How My Brother Leon Brought Home A Wife
(American Colonial Literature)
By Manuel E. Arguilla
She stepped down from the carretela of Ca Celin with a quick, delicate grace. She was lovely. SHe was tall. She looked up to my brother with a smile, and her forehead was on a level with his mouth.

"You are Baldo," she said and placed her hand lightly on my shoulder. Her nails were long, but they were not painted. She was fragrant like a morning when papayas are in bloom. And a small dimple appeared momently high on her right cheek. "And this is Labang of whom I have heard so much." She held the wrist of one hand with the other and looked at Labang, and Labang never stopped chewing his cud. He swallowed and brought up to his mouth more cud and the sound of his insides was like a drum.

I laid a hand on Labang's massive neck and said to her: "You may scratch his forehead now."

She hesitated and I saw that her eyes were on the long, curving horns. But she came and touched Labang's forehead with her long fingers, and Labang never stopped chewing his cud except that his big eyes half closed. And by and by she was scratching his forehead very daintily.

My brother Leon put down the two trunks on the grassy side of the road. He paid Ca Celin twice the usual fare from the station to the edge of Nagrebcan. Then he was standing beside us, and she turned to him eagerly. I watched Ca Celin, where he stood in front of his horse, and he ran his fingers through its forelock and could not keep his eyes away from her.
"Maria---" my brother Leon said.

He did not say Maring. He did not say Mayang. I knew then that he had always called her Maria and that to us all she would be Maria; and in my mind I said 'Maria' and it was a beautiful name.

"Yes, Noel."

Now where did she get that name? I pondered the matter quietly to myself, thinking Father might not like it. But it was only the name of my brother Leon said backward and it sounded much better that way.

"There is Nagrebcan, Maria," my brother Leon said, gesturing widely toward the west.

She moved close to him and slipped her arm through his. And after a while she said quietly.

"You love Nagrebcan, don't you, Noel?"

Ca Celin drove away hi-yi-ing to his horse loudly. At the bend of the camino real where the big duhat tree grew, he rattled the handle of his braided rattan whip against the spokes of the wheel.

We stood alone on the roadside.

The sun was in our eyes, for it was dipping into the bright sea. The sky was wide and deep and very blue above us: but along the saw-tooth rim of the Katayaghan hills to the southwest flamed huge masses of clouds. Before us the fields swam in a golden haze through which floated big purple and red and yellow bubbles when I looked at the sinking sun. Labang's white coat, which I had wshed and brushed that morning with coconut husk, glistened like beaten cotton under the lamplight and his horns appeared tipped with fire.

He faced the sun and from his mouth came a call so loud and vibrant that the earth seemed to tremble underfoot. And far away in the middle of the field a cow lowed softly in answer.

"Hitch him to the cart, Baldo," my brother Leon said, laughing, and she laughed with him a big uncertainly, and I saw that he had put his arm around her shoulders.

"Why does he make that sound?" she asked. "I have never heard the like of it."

"There is not another like it," my brother Leon said. "I have yet to hear another bull call like Labang. In all the world there is no other bull like him."

She was smiling at him, and I stopped in the act of tying the sinta across Labang's neck to the opposite end of the yoke, because her teeth were very white, her eyes were so full of laughter, and there was the small dimple high up on her right cheek.

"If you continue to talk about him like that, either I shall fall in love with him or become greatly jealous."

My brother Leon laughed and she laughed and they looked at each other and it seemed to me there was a world of laughter between them and in them.

I climbed into the cart over the wheel and Labang would have bolted, for he was always like that, but I kept a firm hold on his rope. He was restless and would not stand still, so that my brother Leon had to say "Labang" several times. When he was quiet again, my brother Leon lifted the trunks into the cart, placing the smaller on top.

She looked down once at her high-heeled shoes, then she gave her left hand to my brother Leon, placed a foot on the hub of the wheel, and in one breath she had swung up into the cart. Oh, the fragrance of her. But Labang was fairly dancing with impatience and it was all I could do to keep him from running away.

"Give me the rope, Baldo," my brother Leon said. "Maria, sit down on the hay and hold on to anything." Then he put a foot on the left shaft and that instand labang leaped forward. My brother Leon laughed as he drew himself up to the top of the side of the cart and made the slack of the rope hiss above the back of labang. The wind whistled against my cheeks and the rattling of the wheels on the pebbly road echoed in my ears.

She sat up straight on the bottom of the cart, legs bent togther to one side, her skirts spread over them so that only the toes and heels of her shoes were visible. her eyes were on my brother Leon's back; I saw the wind on her hair. When Labang slowed down, my brother Leon handed to me the rope. I knelt on the straw inside the cart and pulled on the rope until Labang was merely shuffling along, then I made him turn around.

"What is it you have forgotten now, Baldo?" my brother Leon said.

I did not say anything but tickled with my fingers the rump of Labang; and away we went---back to where I had unhitched and waited for them. The sun had sunk and down from the wooded sides of the Katayaghan hills shadows were stealing into the fields. High up overhead the sky burned with many slow fires.

When I sent Labang down the deep cut that would take us to the dry bed of the Waig which could be used as a path to our place during the dry season, my brother Leon laid a hand on my shoulder and said sternly:

"Who told you to drive through the fields tonight?"

His hand was heavy on my shoulder, but I did not look at him or utter a word until we were on the rocky bottom of the Waig.

"Baldo, you fool, answer me before I lay the rope of Labang on you. Why do you follow the Wait instead of the camino real?"

His fingers bit into my shoulder.

"Father, he told me to follow the Waig tonight, Manong."

Swiftly, his hand fell away from my shoulder and he reached for the rope of Labang. Then my brother Leon laughed, and he sat back, and laughing still, he said:

"And I suppose Father also told you to hitch Labang to the cart and meet us with him instead of with Castano and the calesa."

Without waiting for me to answer, he turned to her and said, "Maria, why do you think Father should do that, now?" He laughed and added, "Have you ever seen so many stars before?"

I looked back and they were sitting side by side, leaning against the trunks, hands clasped across knees. Seemingly, but a man's height above the tops of the steep banks of the Wait, hung the stars. But in the deep gorge the shadows had fallen heavily, and even the white of Labang's coat was merely a dim, grayish blur. Crickets chirped from their homes in the cracks in the banks. The thick, unpleasant smell of dangla bushes and cooling sun-heated earth mingled with the clean, sharp scent of arrais roots exposed to the night air and of the hay inside the cart.

"Look, Noel, yonder is our star!" Deep surprise and gladness were in her voice. Very low in the west, almost touching the ragged edge of the bank, was the star, the biggest and brightest in the sky.

"I have been looking at it," my brother Leon said. "Do you remember how I would tell you that when you want to see stars you must come to Nagrebcan?"

"Yes, Noel," she said. "Look at it," she murmured, half to herself. "It is so many times bigger and brighter than it was at Ermita beach."

"The air here is clean, free of dust and smoke."

"So it is, Noel," she said, drawing a long breath.

"Making fun of me, Maria?"

She laughed then and they laughed together and she took my brother Leon's hand and put it against her face.

I stopped Labang, climbed down, and lighted the lantern that hung from the cart between the wheels.

"Good boy, Baldo," my brother Leon said as I climbed back into the cart, and my heart sant.

Now the shadows took fright and did not crowd so near. Clumps of andadasi and arrais flashed into view and quickly disappeared as we passed by. Ahead, the elongated shadow of Labang bobbled up and down and swayed drunkenly from side to side, for the lantern rocked jerkily with the cart.

"Have we far to go yet, Noel?" she asked.

"Ask Baldo," my brother Leon said, "we have been neglecting him."

"I am asking you, Baldo," she said.

Without looking back, I answered, picking my words slowly:

"Soon we will get out of the Wait and pass into the fields. After the fields is home---Manong."

"So near already."

I did not say anything more because I did not know what to make of the tone of her voice as she said her last words. All the laughter seemed to have gone out of her. I waited for my brother Leon to say something, but he was not saying anything. Suddenly he broke out into song and the song was 'Sky Sown with Stars'---the same that he and Father sang when we cut hay in the fields at night before he went away to study. He must have taught her the song because she joined him, and her voice flowed into his like a gentle stream meeting a stronger one. And each time the wheels encountered a big rock, her voice would catch in her throat, but my brother Leon would sing on, until, laughing softly, she would join him again.

Then we were climbing out into the fields, and through the spokes of the wheels the light of the lantern mocked the shadows. Labang quickened his steps. The jolting became more frequent and painful as we crossed the low dikes.

"But it is so very wide here," she said. The light of the stars broke and scattered the darkness so that one could see far on every side, though indistinctly.

"You miss the houses, and the cars, and the people and the noise, don't you?" My brother Leon stopped singing.

"Yes, but in a different way. I am glad they are not here."

With difficulty I turned Labang to the left, for he wanted to go straight on. He was breathing hard, but I knew he was more thirsty than tired. In a little while we drope up the grassy side onto the camino real.

"---you see," my brother Leon was explaining, "the camino real curves around the foot of the Katayaghan hills and passes by our house. We drove through the fields because---but I'll be asking Father as soon as we get home."

"Noel," she said.

"Yes, Maria."

"I am afraid. He may not like me."

"Does that worry you still, Maria?" my brother Leon said. "From the way you talk, he might be an ogre, for all the world. Except when his leg that was wounded in the Revolution is troubling him, Father is the mildest-tempered, gentlest man I know."

We came to the house of Lacay Julian and I spoke to Labang loudly, but Moning did not come to the window, so I surmised she must be eating with the rest of her family. And I thought of the food being made ready at home and my mouth watered. We met the twins, Urong and Celin, and I said "Hoy!" calling them by name. And they shouted back and asked if my brother Leon and his wife were with me. And my brother Leon shouted to them and then told me to make Labang run; their answers were lost in the noise of the wheels.

I stopped labang on the road before our house and would have gotten down but my brother Leon took the rope and told me to stay in the cart. He turned Labang into the open gate and we dashed into our yard. I thought we would crash into the camachile tree, but my brother Leon reined in Labang in time. There was light downstairs in the kitchen, and Mother stood in the doorway, and I could see her smiling shyly. My brother Leon was helping Maria over the wheel. The first words that fell from his lips after he had kissed Mother's hand were:

"Father... where is he?"

"He is in his room upstairs," Mother said, her face becoming serious. "His leg is bothering him again."

I did not hear anything more because I had to go back to the cart to unhitch Labang. But I hardly tied him under the barn when I heard Father calling me. I met my brother Leon going to bring up the trunks. As I passed through the kitchen, there were Mother and my sister Aurelia and Maria and it seemed to me they were crying, all of them.

There was no light in Father's room. There was no movement. He sat in the big armchair by the western window, and a star shone directly through it. He was smoking, but he removed the roll of tobacco from his mouth when he saw me. He laid it carefully on the windowsill before speaking.

"Did you meet anybody on the way?" he asked.

"No, Father," I said. "Nobody passes through the Waig at night."

He reached for his roll of tobacco and hithced himself up in the chair.

"She is very beautiful, Father."

"Was she afraid of Labang?" My father had not raised his voice, but the room seemed to resound with it. And again I saw her eyes on the long curving horns and the arm of my brother Leon around her shoulders.

"No, Father, she was not afraid."

"On the way---"

"She looked at the stars, Father. And Manong Leon sang."

"What did he sing?"

"---Sky Sown with Stars... She sang with him."

He was silent again. I could hear the low voices of Mother and my sister Aurelia downstairs. There was also the voice of my brother Leon, and I thought that Father's voice must have been like it when Father was young. He had laid the roll of tobacco on the windowsill once more. I watched the smoke waver faintly upward from the lighted end and vanish slowly into the night outside.

The door opened and my brother Leon and Maria came in.

"Have you watered Labang?" Father spoke to me.

I told him that Labang was resting yet under the barn.

"It is time you watered him, my son," my father said.

I looked at Maria and she was lovely. She was tall. Beside my brother Leon, she was tall and very still. Then I went out, and in the darkened hall the fragrance of her was like a morning when papayas are in bloom.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Liwayway Arceo-Bautista
Translated by Buenaventura S. Medina Jr.

Many nights I slept beside her. Like a child I gathered warmth from her breast and listened to the pulse of her heart. But I continued wondering about her deep sighs, her pained stare at everything, her suppressed sobs...


I had not gone to the library many days. I had not seen for many days now the image so dear to me: round face, wide forehead, hair parted on the left, slanted eyes, nose not so high, lips that cradled a smile of profound joy... His were my forehead and my eyes. My lean face, my nose like a parrot’s beak, and thin lips, were Mother’s.


Mother spoke rarely: she was a woman of few words. She never gave me orders to follow. She rarely scolded me and if ever, her words were brief: Stay aside... And she should not see me anymore. I should not see anymore the anger that would flash in her eyes. I should not see anymore the biting of her lips. I should not see anymore the trembling of her hands. These would also mean the strong don’t when she would not want me to do anything.
Mother’s smile was rain in summer: my child’s heart was arid land...


Even once I never heard my Father argue with her although I could never believe that a couple would never quarrel. It must be because that each had a broad sense of understanding: mutuality was not forgiven.


Evenings I would seek the joy imparted by a father who would tell tales of giants and gnomes and of beautiful nymphs and princesses. By a mother observing and smiling, by a group of beautiful and happy listening children.

But instead, I would see Father when he wrote: when he typed, when he read. I would see how he would knit his brows: how he would throw smoke from his cigar, how he would look at me as though seeking for something: how he would close his eyes: how he would go on writing...

Mother was a pretty picture when she would be darning clothes: when she would fix the buttons of Father’s shirts. When she embroidered my chemise and handkerchiefs-in the movements of her fingers-I would read an exciting story. But this excitement would vanish.

My aloneness wearied me and I longed for a companion at home: a child in his mischievous age or a lovely baby, with a smile of innocence, with sweet breath, with little feet and hands so tempting to pinch, with cheeks and lips unstained with sin and nice to kiss, or a sister only a year or two younger in whom I could confide...


If Mother and Father never quarrelled, or if they did they never let me know, I missed the affectionate exchange of deep stares, of smiles, of teases.

Enough was a cold I’m going when Father would leave. Enough was the collector had come for the light or for the water or for the phone to last the evening meal. Enough was the furtive look to show that he had heard.

I could count with the fingers of my two hands the times when he went out together: Father, Mother, and I. Often I was taken along by Mother: In never saw the two of them alone.


Even if sometimes Father would come home when it was almost daybreak, I never saw any change in Mother. She would go to bed when it was time to retire, but I never was certain whether she was able to sleep or not.

Perhaps this is truly what is felt by the spouse of man being possessed by a public.

But there was no bitterness in her voice.


A few years had gone since our washerwoman returned a small book. She said she found it in a pocket of Father’s coat. I gave it to Mother. It was Father’s diary.

The next morning, tears had scarred Mother’s eyes. Ever since, she had even become more quiet. To me she looked even more sad.

What was it in a diary?

Father was inebriated. Father would usually come home drunk, but his intoxication was different tonight. Mother washed his face with warm tea, but this did not comfort him.

Mother was silent as usual: in her eyes was protest unexpressed.

Because I wanted to write... because I would die of this grief... because... because... because...


Now Father complained of his chest and head: he said he could not breathe well.

Perhaps you have a cold, Mother said. You are feverish.

I wound a cold compress around Father’s head. He did not object to what I did: his eyes followed my every moment.

His arms, from elbow to palms, and his legs, from knee to foot, I bathed many times in tepid water which I thought he could bear-water in which were boiled leaves of Alagaw. I covered him with thick blankets after he had drunk the hot calamansi juice I gave him.

Father smiled: My young woman is now a doctor.

I laughed demurely in answer to his smile: Father had never teased me before.

Wish I were Mother then: I would then consider my joy even more precious...


My expectations were wrong: Father was ill for days. Mother never left his side: dark lines had encircled her eyes. The doctor said he would do his best. But he would not tell me what ailed Father.


Father asked his desk to be fixed. I cleaned his typewriter. I pasted the clippings of his recently published stories. I put together the sheets of paper inside the drawers. The lowest left-hand drawer of his desk gave me a great puzzle: a box of pink felt and a stack of letters. Minute and rounded letters in blue ink spelled Father’s name and his office address on the envelopes.


The photograph in the box of felt was not that of the lean face, with an aquiline nose, fragile lips. At the back of it were minute rounded letters in blue ink: Because I cannot forget... the picture was unsigned but at once I began to hate her and learned to nurture a resentment against Father.


Why did we meet only now? I could have been more peaceful had you not come into my life, although I could not perhaps bear but barter complacency with love. How true it is that one’s station in life often becomes the barrier to his happiness.


We are past the age of rashness: we can no longer be deceived by our feelings. But drawn between us in the gaping truth that arrests happiness; what we cannot realize, let us now only relive in the mind. Let us now only retain in the memory the sweetness of a dream; and wish that we never awaken to reality.


I saw her in my dreams last night; she was reproaching me. But, I did not intend to ruin a home. I could not covet her happiness; I could not let her weep because of me. I also love whom you feel part of your life; I cannot allow anyone I love to weep.


This love is a play in which I enact the principal role; because I opened it, I should bring it to end. Think of me as a dream fading upon waking. Allow me to banish this grief that strangles me...


But why is it hard to forget?


I felt Mother’s hand on my right shoulder: it was only then that I realized somebody had come into the library. She saw able to read the letters that were scattered on Father’s desk.

Mother came and left without saying a word. But on her way out her hand once more felt my shoulder and I could still feel the caress of her fingers-their warmth, the weight of their touch...


The silence that sprang between Mother and me had not vanished yet. I was now evading her eyes: I could not stand the sadness I saw in them.


Father asked for his pen and notebook. But after I had convinced him that rising would not be good for him, he said: Now it would be my daughter who would write about me... And said that skilful hands would inscribe them in black marble. But, I could not render the protestations that I almost smothered.

The cold earth is my glory!

I would never claim that my hands had etched those few words.


Do not be deceived by ardour of emotion; the first pulse of heart is not always... I was almost your age when your Mother and I were wed... How very young were eighteen years... Never give yourself the sadness that will torment you all your life...

Once more I felt the tight bond that joined Father’s feelings with mine.


I feared Father’s frequent loss of consciousness.

Mother went on not speaking any word to me: went on with only morsel for meals, went on with sleeplessness: went on with private grief...


Mother touched Father’s forehead with her right hand and frustrated a trapped feeling from fleeing from the meeting of incisors and lips.

She sat on the edge of Father’s bed and held his right hand in her palms.

I’m well now, my love... I’m well now... when you come again tell me where we can go together... I’ll tear down these walls that imprison me... in whatever way... in whatever...

The warm beads that bordered Mother’s eyes broke and some pelted Father’s arms. Father strove to open his heavy lids and in meeting Mother’s eyes, a smile filled with hope graced his dying lips. Again the windows of his soul were drawn together and he did not see the eyes welled with tears: reflections of the hurt unspoken.

Father’s right hand was still in Mother’s palms: Tell me, my love, that I may claim now my joy...

Mother bit deep her lips and when she spoke I could not believe the voice was hers: You may, my love!

The warmth of Mother’s lips came with peace that descended on Father’s lips and even if in her eyes was the gleam of having failed to wield life, no tears flowed: she was certain now of the contentment of the departed soul...

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Footnote to Youth

Footnote to Youth by Jose Garcia Villa
The sun was salmon and hazy in the west. Dodong thought to himself he would tell his father about Teang when he got home, after he had unhitched the carabao from the plow, and let it to its shed and fed it. He was hesitant about saying it, but he wanted his father to know. What he had to say was of serious import as it would mark a climacteric in his life. Dodong finally decided to tell it, at a thought came to him his father might refuse to consider it. His father was silent hard-working farmer who chewed areca nut, which he had learned to do from his mother, Dodong's grandmother.

I will tell it to him. I will tell it to him.

The ground was broken up into many fresh wounds and fragrant with a sweetish earthy smell. Many slender soft worms emerged from the furrows and then burrowed again deeper into the soil. A short colorless worm marched blindly to Dodong's foot and crawled calmly over it. Dodong go tickled and jerked his foot, flinging the worm into the air. Dodong did not bother to look where it fell, but thought of his age, seventeen, and he said to himself he was not young any more.

Dodong unhitched the carabao leisurely and gave it a healthy tap on the hip. The beast turned its head to look at him with dumb faithful eyes. Dodong gave it a slight push and the animal walked alongside him to its shed. He placed bundles of grass before it land the carabao began to eat. Dodong looked at it without interests.

Dodong started homeward, thinking how he would break his news to his father. He wanted to marry, Dodong did. He was seventeen, he had pimples on his face, the down on his upper lip already was dark--these meant he was no longer a boy. He was growing into a man--he was a man. Dodong felt insolent and big at the thought of it although he was by nature low in statue. Thinking himself a man grown, Dodong felt he could do anything.

He walked faster, prodded by the thought of his virility. A small angled stone bled his foot, but he dismissed it cursorily. He lifted his leg and looked at the hurt toe and then went on walking. In the cool sundown he thought wild you dreams of himself and Teang. Teang, his girl. She had a small brown face and small black eyes and straight glossy hair. How desirable she was to him. She made him dream even during the day.

Dodong tensed with desire and looked at the muscles of his arms. Dirty. This field
work was healthy, invigorating but it begrimed you, smudged you terribly. He turned back the way he had come, then he marched obliquely to a creek.

Dodong stripped himself and laid his clothes, a gray undershirt and red kundiman shorts, on the grass. The he went into the water, wet his body over, and rubbed at it vigorously. He was not long in bathing, then he marched homeward again. The bath made him feel cool.

It was dusk when he reached home. The petroleum lamp on the ceiling already was lighted and the low unvarnished square table was set for supper. His parents and he sat down on the floor around the table to eat. They had fried fresh-water fish, rice, bananas, and caked sugar.

Dodong ate fish and rice, but did not partake of the fruit. The bananas were overripe and when one held them they felt more fluid than solid. Dodong broke off a piece of the cakes sugar, dipped it in his glass of water and ate it. He got another piece and wanted some more, but he thought of leaving the remainder for his parents.

Dodong's mother removed the dishes when they were through and went out to the batalan to wash them. She walked with slow careful steps and Dodong wanted to help her carry the dishes out, but he was tired and now felt lazy. He wished as he looked at her that he had a sister who could help his mother in the housework. He pitied her, doing all the housework alone.

His father remained in the room, sucking a diseased tooth. It was paining him again, Dodong knew. Dodong had told him often and again to let the town dentist pull it out, but he was afraid, his father was. He did not tell that to Dodong, but Dodong guessed it. Afterward Dodong himself thought that if he had a decayed tooth he would be afraid to go to the dentist; he would not be any bolder than his father.

Dodong said while his mother was out that he was going to marry Teang. There it was out, what he had to say, and over which he had done so much thinking. He had said it without any effort at all and without self-consciousness. Dodong felt relieved and looked at his father expectantly. A decrescent moon outside shed its feeble light into the window, graying the still black temples of his father. His father looked old now.

"I am going to marry Teang," Dodong said.

His father looked at him silently and stopped sucking the broken tooth. The silence became intense and cruel, and Dodong wished his father would suck that troublous tooth again. Dodong was uncomfortable and then became angry because his father kept looking at him without uttering anything.

"I will marry Teang," Dodong repeated. "I will marry Teang."

His father kept gazing at him in inflexible silence and Dodong fidgeted on his seat.

"I asked her last night to marry me and she said...yes. I want your permission. I... want... it...." There was impatient clamor in his voice, an exacting protest at this coldness, this indifference. Dodong looked at his father sourly. He cracked his knuckles one by one, and the little sounds it made broke dully the night stillness.

"Must you marry, Dodong?"

Dodong resented his father's questions; his father himself had married. Dodong made a quick impassioned easy in his mind about selfishness, but later he got confused.

"You are very young, Dodong."

"I'm... seventeen."

"That's very young to get married at."

"I... I want to marry...Teang's a good girl."

"Tell your mother," his father said.

"You tell her, tatay."

"Dodong, you tell your inay."

"You tell her."

"All right, Dodong."

"You will let me marry Teang?"

"Son, if that is your wish... of course..." There was a strange helpless light in his father's eyes. Dodong did not read it, so absorbed was he in himself.

Dodong was immensely glad he had asserted himself. He lost his resentment for his father. For a while he even felt sorry for him about the diseased tooth. Then he confined his mind to dreaming of Teang and himself. Sweet young dream....


Dodong stood in the sweltering noon heat, sweating profusely, so that his camiseta was damp. He was still as a tree and his thoughts were confused. His mother had told him not to leave the house, but he had left. He had wanted to get out of it without clear reason at all. He was afraid, he felt. Afraid of the house. It had seemed to cage him, to compares his thoughts with severe tyranny. Afraid also of Teang. Teang was giving birth in the house; she gave screams that chilled his blood. He did not want her to scream like that, he seemed to be rebuking him. He began to wonder madly if the process of childbirth was really painful. Some women, when they gave birth, did not cry.

In a few moments he would be a father. "Father, father," he whispered the word with awe, with strangeness. He was young, he realized now, contradicting himself of nine months comfortable... "Your son," people would soon be telling him. "Your son, Dodong."

Dodong felt tired standing. He sat down on a saw-horse with his feet close together. He looked at his callused toes. Suppose he had ten children... What made him think that? What was the matter with him? God!

He heard his mother's voice from the house:

"Come up, Dodong. It is over."

Suddenly he felt terribly embarrassed as he looked at her. Somehow he was ashamed to his mother of his youthful paternity. It made him feel guilty, as if he had taken something no properly his. He dropped his eyes and pretended to dust dirt off his kundiman shorts.

"Dodong," his mother called again. "Dodong."

He turned to look again and this time saw his father beside his mother.

"It is a boy," his father said. He beckoned Dodong to come up.

Dodong felt more embarrassed and did not move. What a moment for him. His parents' eyes seemed to pierce him through and he felt limp.

He wanted to hide from them, to run away.

"Dodong, you come up. You come up," he mother said.

Dodong did not want to come up and stayed in the sun.

"Dodong. Dodong."

"I'll... come up."

Dodong traced tremulous steps on the dry parched yard. He ascended the bamboo steps slowly. His heart pounded mercilessly in him. Within, he avoided his parents eyes. He walked ahead of them so that they should not see his face. He felt guilty and untrue. He felt like crying. His eyes smarted and his chest wanted to burst. He wanted to turn back, to go back to the yard. He wanted somebody to punish him.

His father thrust his hand in his and gripped it gently.

"Son," his father said.

And his mother: "Dodong..."

How kind were their voices. They flowed into him, making him strong.

"Teang?" Dodong said.

"She's sleeping. But you go on..."

His father led him into the small sawali room. Dodong saw Teang, his girl-wife, asleep on the papag with her black hair soft around her face. He did not want her to look that pale.

Dodong wanted to touch her, to push away that stray wisp of hair that touched her lips, but again that feeling of embarrassment came over him and before his parents he did not want to be demonstrative.

The hilot was wrapping the child, Dodong heard it cry. The thin voice pierced him queerly. He could not control the swelling of happiness in him.

“You give him to me. You give him to me," Dodong said.


Blas was not Dodong's only child. Many more children came. For six successive years a new child came along. Dodong did not want any more children, but they came. It seemed the coming of children could not be helped. Dodong got angry with himself sometimes.

Teang did not complain, but the bearing of children told on her. She was shapeless and thin now, even if she was young. There was interminable work to be done. Cooking. Laundering. The house. The children. She cried sometimes, wishing she had not married. She did not tell Dodong this, not wishing him to dislike her. Yet she wished she had not married. Not even Dodong, whom she loved. There has been another suitor, Lucio, older than Dodong by nine years, and that was why she had chosen Dodong. Young Dodong. Seventeen. Lucio had married another after her marriage to Dodong, but he was childless until now. She wondered if she had married Lucio, would she have borne him children. Maybe not, either. That was a better lot. But she loved Dodong...

Dodong whom life had made ugly.

One night, as he lay beside his wife, he rose and went out of the house. He stood in the moonlight, tired and querulous. He wanted to ask questions and somebody to answer him. He wanted to be wise about many things.

One of them was why life did not fulfill all of Youth's dreams. Why it must be so. Why one was forsaken... after Love.

Dodong would not find the answer. Maybe the question was not to be answered. It must be so to make youth Youth. Youth must be dreamfully sweet. Dreamfully sweet. Dodong returned to the house humiliated by himself. He had wanted to know a little wisdom but was denied it.

When Blas was eighteen he came home one night very flustered and happy. It was late at night and Teang and the other children were asleep. Dodong heard Blas's steps, for he could not sleep well of nights. He watched Blas undress in the dark and lie down softly. Blas was restless on his mat and could not sleep. Dodong called him name and asked why he did not sleep. Blas said he could not sleep.

"You better go to sleep. It is late," Dodong said.

Blas raised himself on his elbow and muttered something in a low fluttering voice.

Dodong did not answer and tried to sleep.

"Itay ...," Blas called softly.

Dodong stirred and asked him what it was.

"I am going to marry Tona. She accepted me tonight."

Dodong lay on the red pillow without moving.

"Itay, you think it over."

Dodong lay silent.

"I love Tona and... I want her."

Dodong rose from his mat and told Blas to follow him. They descended to the yard, where everything was still and quiet. The moonlight was cold and white.

"You want to marry Tona," Dodong said. He did not want Blas to marry yet. Blas was very young. The life that would follow marriage would be hard...


"Must you marry?"

Blas's voice stilled with resentment. "I will marry Tona."

Dodong kept silent, hurt.

"You have objections, Itay?" Blas asked acridly.

"Son... n-none..." (But truly, God, I don't want Blas to marry yet... not yet. I don't want Blas to marry yet....)

But he was helpless. He could not do anything. Youth must triumph... now. Love must triumph... now. Afterwards... it will be life.

As long ago Youth and Love did triumph for Dodong... and then Life.

Dodong looked wistfully at his young son in the moonlight. He felt extremely sad and sorry for him.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Jose Corazon de Jesus
Translated by Dr. Jose Villa Panganiban

Viewed from a distant vantage
I appear as a cross with arms outstretched;
As I stayed on my knees long enduring,
It seems that I am kissing God’s feet.

Like an organ in a church,
Praying amid extreme sorrows,
Is the candle flame of my life
Keeping vigil upon my tomb.

At my feet is a spring
That sobs all day and all night;
Upon my branches lie
The nests of love-birds.

By the sparkling of that spring
You’d think of flowing tears bubbling;
And the Moon that seems to be praying
Greets me with a pale smile.

The bells tolling the vespers
Hint to me their wailing;
Birds on my branches are covered with leaves,
The spring at my feet has tears welling,

But look at my fate,
Dried-up, dying alone comforting myself.
I became the cross of the withered love,
And a watcher of tombs in the darkness.

All is ended! Night is a mantle of mourning
That I use to cover my face!
A fallen piece of wood am I, and prostate
Neither bird nor people find any pleasure.

And to think that in the days past
A tree I was of luxuriant and leafy growth;
Now my branches are crosses o’er graves,
My leaves made into wreaths on tombs!