ALL OVER THE WORLD
by: Vicente Rivera, Jr.
ONE evening in August 1941, I came out of a late movie to a silent, cold night. I shivered a
little as I stood for a moment in the narrow street, looking up at the distant sky, alive with stars. I
stood there, letting the night wind seep through me, and listening. The street was empty, the houses
on the street dim—with the kind of ghostly dimness that seems to embrace sleeping houses. I had
always liked empty streets in the night; I had always stopped for a while in these streets listening for
something I did not quite know what. Perhaps for low, soft cries that empty streets and sleeping
houses seem to share in the night.
I lived in an old, nearly crumbling apartment house just across the street from the
moviehouse. From the street, I could see into the open courtyard, around which rooms for the
tenants, mostly a whole family to a single room, were ranged. My room, like all the other rooms on
the groundfloor, opened on this court. Three other boys, my cousins, shared the room with me. As I
turned into the courtyard from the street, I noticed that the light over our study-table, which stood on
the corridor outside our room, was still burning. Earlier in the evening after supper, I had taken out
my books to study, but I went to a movie instead. I must have forgotten to turn off the light;
apparently, the boys had forgotten, too.
I went around the low screen that partitioned off our “study” and there was a girl reading at
the table. We looked at each other, startled. I had never seen her before. She was about eleven years
old, and she wore a faded blue dress. She had long, straight hair falling to her shoulders. She was
reading my copy of Greek Myths.
The eyes she had turned to me were wide, darkened a little by apprehension. For a long time
neither of us said anything. She was a delicately pretty girl with a fine, smooth. pale olive skin that
shone richly in the yellow light. Her nose was straight, small and finely molded. Her lips, full and
red, were fixed and tense. And there was something else about her. Something lonely?something
“I know,” I said, “I like stories, too. I read anything good I find lying around. Have you been
“Yes,” she said. not looking at me now. She got up slowly, closing the book. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t you want to read anymore? I asked her, trying to smile, trying to make her feel that
everything was all right.
“No.” she said, “thank you.”
“Oh, yes,” I said, picking up the book. “It’s late. You ought to be in bed. But, you can take
She hesitated, hanging back, then shyly she took the book, brought it to her side. She looked
down at her feet uncertain as to where to turn.
“You live here?” I asked her.
She turned her face and nodded towards the far corner, across the courtyard, to a little room
near the communal kitchen. It was the room occupied by the janitor: a small square room with no
windows except for a transom above the door.
“You live with Mang Lucio?”
“He’s my uncle.”
“How long have you been here? I haven’t seen you before, have I?”
“I’ve always been here. I’ve seen you.”
“Oh. Well, good night—your name?”
“Good night, Maria.”
She turned quickly, ran across the courtyard, straight to her room, and closed the door
without looking back.
I undressed, turned off the light and lay in bed dreaming of far-away things. I was twenty-
one and had a job for the first time. The salary was not much and I lived in a house that was slowly
coming apart, but life seemed good. And in the evening when the noise of living had died down and
you lay safe in bed, you could dream of better times, look back and ahead, and find that life could be
gentle—even with the hardness. And afterwards, when the night had grown colder, and suddenly
you felt alone in the world, adrift, caught in a current of mystery that came in the hour between sleep
and waking, the vaguely frightening loneliness only brought you closer to everything, to the walls
and the shadows on the walls, to the other sleeping people in the room, to everything within and
beyond this house, this street, this city, everywhere.
I met Maria again one early evening, a week later, as I was coming home from the office. I
saw her walking ahead of me, slowly, as if she could not be too careful, and with a kind of grownup
poise that was somehow touching. But I did not know it was Maria until she stopped and I overtook
She was wearing a white dress that had been old many months ago. She wore a pair of brown
sneakers that had been white once. She had stopped to look at the posters of pictures advertised as
“Coming” to our neighborhood theater.
“Hello,” I said, trying to sound casual.
She smiled at me and looked away quickly. She did not say anything nor did she step away. I
felt her shyness, but there was no self-consciousness, none of the tenseness and restraint of the night
we first met. I stood beside her, looked at the pictures tacked to a tilted board, and tried whistling a
She turned to go, hesitated, and looked at me full in the eyes. There was again that wide-eyed
—and sad? —stare. I smiled, feeling a remote desire to comfort her, as if it would do any good, as if
it was comfort she needed.
“I’ll return your book now,” she said.
“You’ve finished it?”
We walked down the shadowed street. Magallanes Street in Intramuros, like all the other
streets there, was not wide enough, hemmed in by old, mostly unpainted houses, clumsy and
unlovely, even in the darkening light of the fading day.
We went into the apartment house and I followed her across the court. I stood outside the
door which she closed carefully after her. She came out almost immediately and put in my hands the
book of Greek myths. She did not look at me as she stood straight and remote.
“My name is Felix,” I said.
She smiled suddenly. It was a little smile, almost an unfinished smile. But, somehow, it felt
special, something given from way deep inside in sincere friendship.
I walked away whistling. At the door of my room, I stopped and looked back. Maria was not
in sight. Her door was firmly closed.
August, 1941, was a warm month. The hangover of summer still permeated the air, specially
in Intramuros. But, like some of the days of late summer, there were afternoons when the weather
was soft and clear, the sky a watery green, with a shell-like quality to it that almost made you see
through and beyond, so that, watching it made you lightheaded.
I walked out of the office one day into just such an afternoon. The day had been full of
grinding work—like all the other days past. I was tired. I walked slowly, towards the far side of the
old city, where traffic was not heavy. On the street there were old trees, as old as the walls that
enclosed the city. Half-way towards school, I changed my mind and headed for the gate that led out
to Bonifacio Drive. I needed stiffer winds, wider skies. I needed all of the afternoon to myself.
Maria was sitting on the first bench, as you went up the sloping drive that curved away from
the western gate. She saw me before I saw her. When I looked her way, she was already smiling that
half-smile of hers, which even so told you all the truth she knew, without your asking.
“Hello,” I said. “It’s a small world.”
“I said it’s nice running into you. Do you always come here?”
“As often as I can. I go to many places.”
“Doesn’t your uncle disapprove?”
“No. He’s never around. Besides, he doesn’t mind anything.”
“Where do you go?”
“Oh, up on the walls. In the gardens up there, near Victoria gate. D’you know?”
“I think so. What do you do up there?”
“Sit down and—”
“Nothing. Just sit down.”
She fell silent. Something seemed to come between us. She was suddenly far-away. It was
like the first night again. I decided to change the subject.
“Look,” I said, carefully, “where are your folks?”
“You mean, my mother and father?”
“Yes. And your brothers and sisters, if any.”
“My mother and father are dead. My elder sister is married. She’s in the province. There isn’t
“Did you grow up with your uncle?”
“I think so.”
We were silent again. Maria had answered my questions without embarrassment. almost
without emotion, in a cool light voice that had no tone.
“Are you in school, Maria?”
“How d’you like it?”
“Oh, I like it.”
“I know you like reading.”
She had no comment. The afternoon had waned. The breeze from the sea had died down. The
last lingering warmth of the sun was now edged with cold. The trees and buildings in the distance
seemed to flounder in a red-gold mist. It was a time of day that never failed to carry an enchantment
for me. Maria and I sat still together, caught in some spell that made the silence between us right,
that made our being together on a bench in the boulevard, man and girl, stranger and stranger, a
thing not to be wondered at, as natural and inevitable as the lengthening shadows before the setting
Other days came, and soon it was the season of the rain. The city grew dim and gray at the
first onslaught of the monsoon. There were no more walks in the sun. I caught a cold.
Maria and I had become friends now, though we saw each other infrequently. I became
engrossed in my studies. You could not do anything else in a city caught in the rains. September
came and went.
In November, the sun broke through the now ever present clouds, and for three or four days
we had bright clear weather. Then, my mind once again began flitting from my desk, to the walls
outside the office, to the gardens on the walls and the benches under the trees in the boulevards.
Once, while working on a particularly bad copy on the news desk, my mind scattered, the way it
sometimes does and, coming together again, went back to that first meeting with Maria. And the
remembrance came clear, coming into sharper focus—the electric light, the shadows around us, the
stillness. And Maria, with her wide-eyed stare, the lost look in her eyes…
In December, I had a little fever. On sick leave, I went home to the province. I stayed three
days. I felt restless, as if I had strayed and lost contact with myself. I suppose you got that way from
A pouring rain followed our train all the way back to Manila. Outside my window, the
landscape was a series of dissolved hills and fields. What is it in the click of the wheels of a train
that makes you feel gray inside? What is it in being sick, in lying abed that makes you feel you are
awake in a dream, and that you are just an occurrence in the crying grief of streets and houses and
In December, we had our first air-raid practice.
I came home one night through darkened streets, peopled by shadows. There was a ragged
look to everything, as if no one and nothing cared any more for appearances.
I reached my room just as the siren shrilled. I undressed and got into my old clothes. It was
dark, darker than the moment after moon-set. I went out on the corridor and sat in a chair. All
around me were movements and voices. anonymous and hushed, even when they laughed.
I sat still, afraid and cold.
“Is that you. Felix?”
She was standing beside my chair, close to the wall. Her voice was small and disembodied in
the darkness. A chill went through me, She said nothing more for a long time.
“I don’t like the darkness,” she said.
“Oh, come now. When you sleep, you turn the lights off, don’t you?”
“It’s not like this darkness,” she said, softly. “It’s all over the world.”
We did not speak again until the lights went on. Then she was gone.
The war happened not long after.
At first, everything was unreal. It was like living on a motion picture screen, with yourself as
actor and audience. But the sounds of bombs exploding were real enough, thudding dully against the
In Intramuros, the people left their homes the first night of the war. Many of them slept in the
niches of the old walls the first time they heard the sirens scream in earnest. That evening, I returned
home to find the apartment house empty. The janitor was there. My cousin who worked in the army
was there. But the rest of the tenants were gone.
I asked Mang Lucio, “Maria?”
“She’s gone with your aunt to the walls.” he told me. “They will sleep there tonight.”
My cousin told me that in the morning we would transfer to Singalong. There was a house
available. The only reason he was staying, he said, was because they were unable to move our
things. Tomorrow that would be taken care of immediately.
“And you, Mang Lucio?”
“I don’t know where I could go.”
We ate canned pork and beans and bread. We slept on the floor, with the lights swathed in
black cloth. The house creaked in the night and sent off hollow echoes. We slept uneasily.
I woke up early. It was disquieting to wake up to stillness in that house which rang with
children’s voices and laughter the whole day everyday. In the kitchen, there were sounds and smells
“Hello,” I said.
It was Maria, frying rice. She turned from the stove and looked at me for a long time. Then,
without a word, she turned back to her cooking.
“Are you and your uncle going away?” I asked.
“I don’t know.”
“Did he not tell you?”
“We’re moving to Singalong.”
“Yes, I know.”
“Well, anyway, I’ll come back tonight. Maybe this afternoon. We’ll not have to say goodbye
She did not say anything. I finished washing and went back to my room. I dressed and went
At noon, I went to Singalong to eat. All our things were there already, and the folks were
busy putting the house in order. As soon as I finished lunch, I went back to the office. There were
few vehicles about. Air-raid alerts were frequent. The brightness of the day seemed glaring. The
faces of people were all pale and drawn.
In the evening, I went back down the familiar street. I was stopped many times by air-raid
volunteers. The house was dark. I walked back to the street. I stood for a long time before the house.
Something did not want me to go away just yet. A light burst in my face. It was a volunteer.
“Do you live here?”
“I used to. Up to yesterday. I’m looking for the janitor.”
“Why, did you leave something behind?”
“Yes, I did. But I think I’ve lost it now.”
“Well, you better get along, son. This place, the whole area.has been ordered evacuated.
Nobody lives here anymore.”
“Yes, I know,” I said. “Nobody.”
AT WAR’S END: AN ELEGY
by: Rony V. Diaz
1. THE DINNER PARTY
The evening before he killed himself, Virgilio Serrano gave a dinner party. He invited five
guests—friends and classmates in university— myself included. Since we lived on campus in
barracks built by the U.S. Army, he sent his Packard to fetch us.
Virgilio lived alone in a pre-war chalet that belonged to his family. Four servants and a
driver waited on him hand and foot. The chalet, partly damaged, was one of the few buildings in
Ermita that survived the bombardment and street fighting to liberate Manila.
It had been skillfully restored; the broken lattices, fretwork, shell windows and wrought iron
fence had been repaired or replaced at considerable expense. A hedge of bandera española had been
planted and the scorched frangipani and hibiscus shrubs had been pruned carefully. Thus, Virgilio’s
house was an ironic presence in the violated neighborhood.
He was on the porch when the car came to a crunching halt on the graveled driveway. He
shook our hands solemnly, then ushered us into the living room. In the half-light, everything in the
room glowed, shimmered or shone. The old ferruginous narra floor glowed. The pier glass
coruscated. The bentwood furniture from the house in Jaen looked as if they had been burnished. In
a corner, surrounded by bookcases, a black Steinway piano sparkled like glass.
Virgilio was immaculate in white de hilo pants and cotton shirt. I felt ill at ease in my surplus
khakis and combat boots.
We were all in our second year. Soon we will be on different academic paths—Victor in
philosophy; Zacarias in physics and chemistry; Enrique in electrical engineering; and Apolonio, law.
Virgilio and I have both decided to make a career in English literature. Virgilio was also enrolled in
the Conservatory and in courses in the philosophy of science.
We were all in awe of Virgilio. He seemed to know everything. He also did everything
without any effort. He had not been seen studying or cramming for an exam in any subject, be it
history, anthropology or calculus. Yet the grades that he won were only a shade off perfection.
He and I were from the same province where our families owned rice farms except that ours
was tiny, a hundred hectares, compared to the Serrano’s, a well-watered hacienda that covered 2,000
hectares of land as flat as a table.
The hacienda had been parceled out to eleven inquilinos who together controlled about a
thousand tenants. The Serranos had a large stone house with a tile roof that dated back to the 17th
century that they used during the summer months. The inquilinos dealt with Don Pepe’s spinster
sister, the formidable Clara, who knew their share of the harvest to the last chupa. She was
furthermore in residence all days of the year.
Virgilio was the only child. His mother was killed in a motor accident when he was nine.
Don Pepe never remarried. He became more and more dependent on Clara as he devoted himself to
books, music and conversation. His house in Cabildo was a salon during the years of the
Commonwealth. At night, spirited debates on art, religion language, politics and world affairs would
last until the first light of dawn. The guests who lived in the suburbs were served breakfasts before
they drove off in their runabouts to Sta. Cruz, Ermita or San Miguel. The others stumbled on
cobblestones on their way back to their own mansions within the cincture of Intramuros.
In October, Quezon himself came for merienda. He had just appointed General MacArthur
field marshal of the Philippine Army because of disturbing news from Nanking and Chosun. Quezon
cursed the Americans for not taking him in their confidence. But like most gifted politicians, he had
a preternatural sense of danger.
“The Japanese will go to war against the Americans before this year is out, Pepe,” Quezon
rasped, looking him straight in the eye.
This was the reason the Serranos prepared to move out of Manila. As discreetly as possible,
Don Pepe had all his personal things packed and sent by train to Jaen. He stopped inviting his
friends. But when the Steinway was crated and loaded on a large truck that blocked the street
completely, the neighbors became curious. Don Pepe dissembled, saying that he had decided to live
in the province for reasons of health, “at least until after Christmas.”
Two weeks later, he suffered a massive stroke and died. The whole town went into
mourning. His remains were interred, along with his forebears, in the south wall of the parish
church. A month later, before the period of mourning had ended, Japanese planes bombed and
strafed Clark Field.
Except for about three months in their hunting lodge in the forests of Bongabong (to escape
the rumored rapine that was expected to be visited on the country by the yellow horde. Virgilio and
Clara spent the war years in peace and comfort in their ancestral house in Jaen.
Clara hired the best teachers for Virgilio. When food became scare in the big towns and
cities, Clara put up their families in the granaries and bodegas of the hacienda so that they would go
on tutoring Virgilio in science, history, literature, mathematics, philosophy and English. After his
lessons, he read and practiced on the piano. He even learned to box and to fence although he was
always nauseated by the ammoniac smell of the gloves and mask. Despite Clara’s best effort, she
could not find new boxing gloves and fencing equipment. Until she met Honesto Garcia.
Honesto Garcia was a petty trader in rice who had mastered the intricate mechanics of the
black market. He dealt in anything that could be moved but he became rich by buying and selling
commodities such as soap, matches, cloth and quinine pills.
Garcia maintained a network of informers to help him align supply and demand—and at the
same time collect intelligence for both the Japanese Army and the Hukbalahap.
One of his informers told him about Clara Serrano’s need for a pair of new boxing gloves
and protective gear for escrima. He found these items. He personally drove in his amazing old car to
Jaen to present them to Clara, throwing in a French epée that was still in its original case for good
measure. He refused payment but asked to be allowed to visit.
Honesto Garcia was the son of a kasama of the Villavicencios of Cabanatuan. By hard work
and numerous acts of fealty, his father became an inquilino. Honesto, the second of six children,
however made up his mind very early that he would break loose from farming. He reached the
seventh grade and although his father at that time had enough money to send him to high school, he
decided to apprentice himself to a Chinese rice trader in Gapan. His wage was a few centavos a day,
hardly enough for his meals, but after two years, he knew enough about the business to ask his father
for a loan of P60 to set himself up as a rice dealer. And then the war broke out.
Honesto was handsome in a rough-hewn way. He tended to fat but because he was tall he
was an imposing figure. He was unschooled in the social graces; he preferred to eat, squatting before
a dulang, with his fingers. Despite these deficiencies, he exuded an aura of arrogance and self-
It was this trait that attracted Clara to him. Clara had never known strong-willed men, having
grown up with effete persons like Don Pepe and compliant men like the inquilinos who were always
silent in her presence.
When Clara told Virgilio that Honesto had proposed and that she was inclined to accept,
Virgilio was not surprised. He also had grown to like Honesto who always came with unusual gifts.
Once, Honesto gave him a mynah that Virgilio was able to teach within a few days to say “Good
morning. How are you today?”
The wedding took place in June of the second year of the war. It was a grand affair. The
church and the house were decked in flowers. The inquilinos fell over each other to, supply the
wedding feast. Carts and sleds laden with squealing pigs, earthen water jars filled with squirming
river fish, pullets bound at the shank like posies, fragrant rice that had been husked in wooden
mortars with pestles, the freshest eggs and demijohns of carabao milk for leche flan and slews of
vegetables and fruit that had been picked at exactly the right time descended on the big house. The
wives and daughters of the tenants cooked the food in huge vats while their menfolk roasted the
suckling pigs on spluttering coals. The quests were served on bamboo tables spread with banana
leaves. The war was forgotten, a rondalla played the whole day, the children fought each other for
the bladders of the pigs which they blew up into balloons and for the ears and tails of the lechon as
they were lifted on their spits from the fire.
The bride wore the traje de boda of Virgilio’s mother, a masterpiece confected in Madrid of
Belgian lace and seed pearls. The prettiest daughters of the inquilinos, dressed in organza and
ribbons, held the long, embroidered train of the wedding gown.
Honesto’s family were awe-struck by this display of wealth and power. They cringed and
cowered in the sala of the big house and all of them were too frightened to go to the comedor for the
Not very long after the wedding, Honesto was running the hacienda. The inquilinos found
him more congenial and understanding. At this time, the Huks were already making demands on
them for food and other necessities. The fall in the Serrano share would have been impossible to
explain to Clara. In fact, the Huks had established themselves on Carlos Valdefuerza’s parcel
because his male children had joined the guerilla group.
Honesto learned for the first time that the Huks were primarily a political and not a resistance
organization. They were spreading a foreign idea called scientific socialism that predicted the
takeover of all lands by the workers. Ricardo Valdefuerza, who had taken instruction from Luis
Taruc, was holding classes for the children of the other tenants.
Honesto was alarmed enough to take it up with Clara who merely shrugged him off. “How
can illiterate farmers understand a complex idea like scientific socialism?” she asked.
“But they seem to understand it,” Honesto expostulated “because it promises to give them
the land that they farm.”
“How is that possible? Quezon and the Americans will not allow it. They don’t have the
Torrens Title,” Clara said with finality.
“Carding Valdefuerza has been saying that all value comes from work. What we get as our
share is surplus that we do not deserve because we did nothing to it. It rightly belongs to the
workers, according to him. I myself don’t understand this idea too clearly but that is how it is being
explained to the tenants.”
“They are idle now. After the war, all this talk will vanish,” Clara said.
When American troops landed in Leyte, Clara was four months with child.
The table had been cleared. Little glasses of a pale sweetish wine were passed around. Victor
pushed back his chair to slouch.
“The war has given us the opportunity to change this country. The feudal order is being
challenged all over the world. Mao Tse Tung has triumphed in China. Soon the revolution will be
here. We have to help prepare the people for it.” Victor declared.
“Why change?” Virgilio asked. “The pre-war order had brought prosperity and democracy.
What you call feudalism is necessary to rebuild the country. Who will lead? The Huks? The young
turks of the Liberal Party? All they have are ideas; they have no capital, no power.”
The university was alive with talk of imminent revolutionary change. Young men and
women, most of them from the upper classes, spoke earnestly of redistributing wealth.
“Nothing will come of it” Virgilio said, sipping his wine.
“Of all of us, you have the most to lose in a revolution,” Apolonio said. “What we should
aim for is orderly lawful change. You might lose your hacienda but you must be paid for it. So in the
end, you will still have the capital to live on in style.”
“You don’t understand,” Virgilio said. “It is not only a question of capital or compensation. I
am talking of a way of life, of emotional bonds, of relationships that are immutable. In any case, we
can do nothing one way or the other so let us change the subject.”
“Don’t be too sure,” I said. “We can influence these events one way or another.”
“You talk as it you have joined the Communist Party,” Virgilio said. “Have you?”
But before I could answer, he was off on another tack.
“You know I have just been reading about black holes,” Virgilio said addressing himself to
Zacarias. “Oppenheimer and Snyder solved Einstein’s equations on what happens when a sun or star
had used up its supply of nuclear energy. The star collapses gravitationally, disappears from view
and remains in a state of permanent free fall, collapsing endlessly inward into a gravitational pit
“What a marvelous idea! Such ideas are art in the highest sense but at the same time, the
decisive proof of relativity,” Virgilio enthused.
“Do you know that Einstein is embarrassed by these black holes? He considers them a
diversion from his search for a unified theory,” Zacarias said.
“Ah! The impulse towards simplicity, towards reduction.The need to explain all knowledge
with a few, elegant equations. Don’t you think that his reductionism is the ultimate arrogance? Even
if it is Einstein’s. In any case, he is not succeeding,” Virgilio said.
“But isn’t reductionism the human tendency? This is what Communism is all about, the
reduction of human relationships to a set of unproven economic theorems,” I interjected.
“But the reductionist approach can also lead to astounding results. Take the Schröedinger
and Dirac equations that reduced previous mysterious atomic physics to elegant order,” Enrique
“What is missing in all this is the effect on men of reductionism. It can very well lead to
totalitarian control in the name of progress and social order,” Apolonio ventured.
“Let me resolve our debate by playing for you a piece that builds intuitively on three
seemingly separate movements. This is Beethoven’s Sonata, Opus 27, No. 2.” Virgilio rose and
walked gravely to the piano while we distributed ourselves on the bentwood furniture in the living
He played the opening Adagio with sensitive authority, escalating note to note until it
resolved into the fragile D-flat major which in turn disappeared in the powerful rush of the
concluding Presto, the movement that crystallized the disparate emotional resonances of the first two
movements into an assured and balanced relationship.
When the last note had faded, we broke into cheers. But at that moment, I felt a deep sadness
for Virgilio. As the Presto flooded the Allegretto, I knew that he was not of this world.
Outside, through the shell windows, moonlight softened the jagged ruins of battle.
2. THE INVESTIGATION
ON July 14, 1950, in the evening, Virgilio killed himself in his bedroom by slitting his wrists
with a straight razor and thrusting them into a pail of warm water.
His body was not found until the next morning.
He did not appear for breakfast at eight. At eight-thirty, Josefa, the housemaid, knocked on
the door of Virgilio’s bedroom. Getting no response, she asked Arturo, the driver, to climb up the
window to look inside.
The three maids panicked. Arturo drove off at once in the Packard to get me. After leaving a
note for the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, we stopped at the police station near General Luna
to report the suicide.
Two police officers were immediately assigned to investigate. They came with us in the car
to the house in Ermita.
They started interrogating me in the car.
“Who are you?” Police Officer No. 1 asked.
“Why are you involved?”, Police Officer No. 2 demanded.
I was somewhat nervous but as calmly as I could be, I answered.
“My name is Nestor Gallego. I am a second-year student at University of the Philippines.
Virgilio Serrano, the deceased, and I come from the same town, Jaen, in Nueva Ecija. I have known
Virgilio since 1942 and I think he considers me his closest friend in university. That is the reason the
driver came to me.”
The policemen brought together the household staff. “Did you touch, move or remove
anything in the bedroom? Did any of you go out of the house after the driver left for the university?”
To both questions, the maids answered, No, whereupon they were told to stay within the
premises for separate interviews later in the morning.
Police Officer No. 1 went out to the yard presumably to look for clues. Police Officer No. 2
made a sketch of the scene and then searched the bedroom systematically. He opened the drawers of
the tallboy carefully, he felt around the linen and underwear. The wardrobe and the aparador were
also examined. But it was on the contents of the rolltop desk that No. 1 concentrated. The notebooks,
a diary, and address book were all neatly arranged around a Remington typewriter.
He was looking for a letter, a note even, to give him a clue or lead to the motive for the
On the first page of one of the notebooks were the “Down There” and then “To my friend
and confidant, Nestor Gallego, with affection.” Although unsigned, it was in Virgilio’s spidery hand.
“You know anything about this?” No. 1 said in a low, threatening voice. He handed it to me.
I leafed through the pages. It looked like a long poem that had been broken down into
“No,” I said. “I have not seen this before.”
“But it is for you. What does it say?”
“I don’t know, I have to read it first,” cuttingly.
My sarcasm rolled off him like water on a duck. “Well then—read,” he ordered, motioning
me to the wooden swivel chair.
A frisson ran up my spine. My hands trembled as I opened the notebook and scanned the
poem. There were recognizable names, places and events. There were references to his professors in
university and his tutors in Jaen. The names of some of his inquilinos appeared again and again. But
the longest sections were about Honesto and Clara Garcia and Ricardo Valdefuerza.
From the tone and the words, it was a satire patterned closely after Dante’s Inferno. Virgilio,
like Dante, had assigned or consigned people to different circles “down there.” It ended with a line
from Valery, “A l’extrême de toute pensée est un soupir.”
“I cannot say truthfully that I understand it. I know some of the people and places referred to
but not why they appear in this poem.”
“I will have to bring this back for analysis,” No. 1 said, giving it to No. 2 who put it
carelessly in a plastic carryall.
“When you are done with it, can I have it back? I have a right to it since it was dedicated to
me.” I wanted desperately to read it because I felt that it concealed the reason for Virgilio’s suicide.
They spent another hour talking to the household help and scribbling in grimy notebooks.
Before they left past one o’clock, No. 1 said: “It is clearly a suicide. There was no struggle.
In fact, it was a very neat suicide.” He made it sound as if it was a remarkable piece of
craftsmanship. I hated him.
I went with Arturo to the post office to send a telegram to Jaen. “Virgilio dead stop please
come at once.”
The undertaker took charge thereafter, informing us that by six o’clock, the remains would
be ready for viewing. He asked me to select the clothes for the dead. I chose the white de hilo pants
and the white cotton shirt that Virgilio wore the other day.
“It is wrinkled,” the undertaker said. “Don’t you want to choose something else.”
“No,” I shouted at him. “Put him in these.”
3. THE FUNERAL
FATHER Sean O’Donovan, S.J., refused to say Mass or to bless the corpse. “Those who die
by their own hand are beyond the pale of the Church,” he said firmly.
“Let us take him home,” Clara said. She asked me to make all the arrangements and not to
mind the cost.
The rent for the hearse was clearly exorbitant. I bargained feebly and then agreed. Victor,
Zacarias, Enrique, Apolonio and myself were to travel in the Packard. Honesto and Clara had driven
to Manila in a new Buick.
The hearse moved at a stately 30 kilometers per hour while a scratchy dirge poured out of it
at full volume. The Garcias followed in their Buick and we brought up the rear.
The rains of July had transformed the brown, dusty fields of Bulacan and Nueva Ecija into
muddy fields. We passed small, nut-brown men, following a beast and a stick that scored the wet
earth; dithering birds swooped down to pluck the crickets and worms that were turned up by the
The beat of sprung pebbles against the fender of the car marked our passage.
The yard of the big house was already full of people. In the sala, a bier had been prepared.
The wives of inquilinos were all in black. Large yellow tapers gave off a warm, oily smell that
commingled with the attar of the flowers, producing an odor that the barrio folk called the smell of
Then the local worthies arrived, led by the congressman of the district, the governor of the
province, the mayor of Jaen, the commander of the Scout Rangers who was leading a campaign
against the Huks, with their wives and retainers. They were all on intimate teams with Honesto and
Clara. Except for the colonel who was in full combat uniform, they were dressed in sharkskin and
two-toned shoes. They wore their hair tightly sculpted with pomade against their skulls and on their
wrists and fingers gold watches and jeweled rings glistened.
They all knew that Honesto had political ambition. It was not clear yet which position he had
his sights on.
With the death of Virgilio, the immense wealth of the Serranos devolved on Clara and on
Honesto and on their 5-year old son, Jose Jr. Both the Nacionalista and Liberal Parties have been
dangling all manner of bait before Honesto. Now, there will be a scramble.
Honesto shook hands with everyone, murmuring acknowledgments of their expressions of
grief but secretly assessing their separate motives. Clara was surrounded by the simpering wives of
the politicians; like birds they postured to show their jewels to best advantage.
They only fell silent when Father Francisco Santander, the parish priest, came to say the
prayer for the dead and to lead the procession to the Church where Virgilio’s mortal remains would
be displayed on a catafalque before the altar before interment in the south wall side by side with Don
I left the sala to join the crowd in the yard. My parents were there with the Serranos’ and our
There was a palpable tension in the air. A number of the kasamashad been seized by the
Scout Rangers, detained and tortured, so that they may reveal the whereabouts of Carding. They
were frightened. From what I heard from my parents, most of the tenants distrusted Honesto who
they felt was using the campaign against the Huks to remove those he did not like.
The inquilinos were helpless because Clara was now completely under the sway of Honesto.
I walked home. When I got there, Restituto, our caretaker, very agitated, took me aside and
whispered. “Carding is in the house. He has been waiting for you since early morning. I kept him
from view in your bedroom.” He looked at me, uncertain and obviously frightened. “What shall we
“Leave it to me. But do not tell anyone—not even my parents. He shall be gone by the time
they return.” I put my arm around Restituto’s shoulder to reassure him.
Carding wheeled when I walked in, pistol at the ready. He was dressed in army fatigues and
combat boots. A pair of Ray-Ban glasses dangled on his shirt. He put the pistol back in its holster.
“You shouldn’t be here. There are soldiers all around.”
“They will not come here. They are too busy in the hacienda,” Carding said.
The shy, spindly boy that I knew during the war had grown into a broad muscular man. His
eyes were hooded and cunning.
“I have to talk to you. Did Virgilio leave a last will and testament?”
“Not that I know of. He left a notebook of poems.”
“What is that?” Carding demanded, startled.
“A notebook of verses with the title ‘Down There.’ You are mentioned in the poem. But the
police has it,” I answered.
“Did it say anything about the disposition of the hacienda in case of his death?”
“I did not have a chance to read it closely but I doubt it. Aren’t such things always done up in
legal language? There certainly is nothing like that in the notebook. What are you leading up to?”
Carding sighed. “In 1943; Virgilio came to see me. He had heard from Honesto that I have
been talking to the tenants about their rights. Virgilio wanted to know himself the bases of my
claims. We had a long talk. I told him about the inevitability of the triumph of the peasant class.
Despite his wide reading, he had not heard of Marx, Lenin, or Mao Tse Tung. He was visibly
shaken. But when I told him of the coming calamity that will bring down his class, he asked ‘What
can I do?’ and I said: ‘Give up. Give up your land, your privilege and your power. That is the only
way to avoid the coming calamity’.
“He apparently did not have any grasp of social forces. He kept talking of individual persons
—tenants that he had known since he was a child, inquilinos who had been faithful to his father until
their old age, and all that nonsense. ‘The individual does not matter,’ I yelled at him. ‘Only the class
called the proletariat.’
“But even without understanding, he said that he will leave the hacienda to the tenants
because it was probably the right thing to do. But Clara should not be completely deprived of her
means of support. It was exasperating, talking to him, but he did promise that in his will the tenants
would get all.
“Obviously, he changed his mind.” Carding said in a low voice. “That is too bad because
now we have to take his land by force.”
I was speechless. In university, talk of revolution was all the rage but this was my first
encounter with a man who could or would try to make it happen.
“When I get back the notebook, I will study it to see if there is any statement that will legally
transfer the Serrano hacienda to you and the other tenants,” I said weakly.
“I will be in touch,” Carding said. He walked out the door.
The day of the funeral was clear and hot. Dust devils rose from the road. In the shadow of the
acacia trees in the churchyard, hundreds of people of all ages crowded to get away from the sun.
Inside the church, even the aisles were packed.
“Introibo ad altare Dei” Father Santander intoned.
“Ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam,” I answered.
The mass for the dead began.
My heart was racing because I knew the reason for Virgilio’s suicide. But nobody would
care, save me.
By: Guillermo Castillo
bottled in a glass prism
meaningless in itself
black and mute without a language
silent but strongly urged
chance impressed on white inarticulate
unintelligible chaotic welcome on the bareness
of white but still foreign excommunicate
on blank white paper
interprets intensifies classifies
I AM LIKE A ROSE
By: D.H Lawrence
I am myself at last; now I achieve
My very self, I, with the wonder mellow,
Full of fine warmth, I issue forth in clear
And single me, perfected from my fellow.
Here I am all myself. No rose-bush heaving
Its limpid sap to culmination has brought
Itself more sheer and naked out of the
In stark-clear roses, than I to myself am brought.
Region I: Ilocos Norte
Ilocos Norte is located on the northernmost edge of western Luzon. Its boundaries are
formed by the Babuyan Channel on the north and its sister province, Ilocos Norte, on the south. To
the west are the tribulent waters of the South China Sea, while the eastern borders are formed by part
of the Cagayan Valley, Abra and the Mountain Province. A well-paved coastal highway connects
the province with the rest of the country.
Ilocos Norte has a total land area of 3,400 square kilometers. It is composed of 22
municipalities with 477 barangays. The province's population was 514,000 by the census of 2000,
and since 1999 its governor is Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. It was made a separate province in 1818.
The province is noted for being the birthplace of former Philippine President Ferdinand E. Marcos,
who led an authoritarian rule over the country during the later half of his incumbency. Ilocos Norte
has always been Marcos territory and the family enjoy a moderate amount of popularity in the
province. Even before one reaches the capital, traces of the "great Ilocano" are unmistakable.
Long before the Spanish galleons came to the Philippines, the coastal plane of Ilocos Norte
was already flourishing with business carried out by the Chinese and Japanese traders. The first
Spaniards to reach the region were Juan de Salcedo and his men, who were tasked to explore the
coast of Luzon north of Manila in 1572. The largest concentration of people that Salcedo found was
in Laoag along the Padian River, and Salcedo gained their friendship after initial skirmishes.
Although the presence of the Spanish soldiers may have seemed fleeting to the Ilocanos, Salcedo's
exploration marked the beginning of Spanish colonization of the region.
Agriculture is the main source of livelihood in the province, all lands for cultivation can be
planted with rice, corn, garlic, onion, sugarcane, tobacco, and cotton. Ilocos Norte is also noted for
its various cottage industries, among which are cloth weaving, pottery-making, blacksmithing,
woodcarving and furniture making. Its ethnic population is overwhelmingly Ilocano. Unlike the rest
of the region, however, the Roman Catholic Church does not predominate. The Aglipayan Church,
Iglesia ni Cristo, and other Protestant groups have strong followings, as well as, animism and non-
religiosity. The climate is characterized by two extremes: very dry from December to April and very
wet for the rest of the year. The average temperature in Ilocos Norte is 81 deg F. May is the warmest
month, with an average temperature of 83 deg F, and December is the coldest.
TI AYATI MAYSANGA UBING
Ti ayat ti maysa nga ubing,
Nasamsam-it ngem hasmin
Kasla sabong nga apag-ukrad
Iti bulan ti Abril
Ti ayat ti maysa a lakay,
Aglalo no agkabaw,
Napait, napait, napait a makasubkar.
Anansa a tao lelong,
Agsapulka tay balo
A kapadpad ta ubanmo
Ken dayta tuppolmo
Ta bay-am a panunuten
Ti ayat ti maysa nga ubing
Aglalo, aglalo no addan makin-aywanen
Ti ayat ti maysa nga ubing,
Nasamsam-it ngem hasmin
Kasla sabong nga apag-ukrad
Iti bulan ti Abril.
Ti ayat ti maysa a lakay,
Aglalo no agkabaw,
Napait, napait, napait a makasubkar.
Anansa a tao lelong,
Agsapulka tay balo
A kapadpad ta ubanmo
Ken dayta tuppolmo
Ta bay-am a panunuten
Ti ayat ti maysa nga ubing
Aglalo, aglalo no addan makin-aywanen
Aglalo, aglalo no addan makin-aywanen
NO SIAK TI AGAYAT
No siakto ti agayat
Kadagita nga pintasmo
No nalamiis ti tiempo.
Tay-akto nga payatam,
Butaka nga pagtugawam,
Paniolito ni Lirio.
No koma no mabalin
Agbalinak nga singsing,
Nga umay umapiring
Ta ramaymo no mabalin.
No koma no piniaka
Burasenka nga naata,
Kanenka nga naganus,
Paluomennaka toy pusok.
No makitak Ading
Napintas a pingpingmo,
Rosas nga eberlasting
panangkita toy matak.
ket uray no matayak
Duapulo't uppat oras,
No makitak isemmo,
Dagus met nga agbiagak.
No sika la koma,
Maysa a kendi lemon,
Iparabawka toy dilak
Saanka a kagaten,
Saanka met alimonen,
Ket ditoy rabaw dilak
No siakto t'agayat
Ading ta imnasmo,
Saanka a palubosan
No dakes ti tiempo.
Tay banglo pagtugawam,
Ken daytay pagiddaam,
(Region II: Cagayan Valley)
by: Consorcio Borje
"You can use this," said Inciang, smiling brightly and trying to keep her tears back. "It is
still quite strong, and you will not outgrow if for a year yet."
Itong watched his sister fold his old khaki shirt carefully and pack it into the
rattan tampipi, which already bulged with his clothes. He stood helplessly by, shifting his weight
from one bare foot to the other, looking down at his big sister, who had always done everything
"There, that's done," said Inciang, pressing down the lid. "Give me that rope. I'll truss it
up for you. And be careful with it, Itong? Your Tia Orin has been very kind to lend it to us for
your trip to Vigan."
Itong assented and obediently handed his sister the rope. His eyes followed her deft
movements with visible impatience; his friends were waiting outside to play with him. He was
twelve years old, and growing fast.
Sometimes when Inciang toiling in the kitchen, sweeping the house, or washing clothes
by the well in the front yard held a long session with herself, she admitted she did not want Itong
to grow. She wanted to keep him the boy that he was, always. Inciang had raised Itong from the
whimpering, little, red lump of flesh that he was when their mother died soon after giving birth
to him. She had been as a mother to him as long as she could remember.
"May I go out now and play, Manang?"
And Inciang heard herself saying, "It will be a year before you will see your friends
again… Go now."
She listened to the sound of his footsteps down the bamboo ladder, across the bare
earthen front yard. Then she heard him whistle. There were answering whistles, running feet.
"Tell him, Inciang," her father had said. That was about three months ago. Inciang was
washing clothes by the well with Tia Orin.
"Yes, you tell him, Inciang," said Tia Orin. It was always Inciang who had dealt with
Itong if anything of importance happened.
Inciang rose to her feet. She had been squatting long over her washtub and pains shot up
"Hoy, Itong," called Inciang. Itong was out in the street playing with Nena, Lacay Illo's
daughter. "Hoy, Itong," called Inciang. "Come here. I have something to tell you."
Itong gave a playful push at Nena before he came running. He smiled as he stepped over
the low bamboo barrier at the gate which kept the neighbors' pigs out. How bright his face was!
Inciang's heart skipped a beat.
"You have something to tell me, Manang?"
Inciang brushed her sudsy hands against her soiled skirt. "Yes. It is about your going to
Itong sat down suddenly on the barrier.
"Your are going to high school, after all, Itong," Inciang said. She said it defiantly, as if
afraid that Itong would like going away. She looked up at her father, as if to ask him to confirm
her words. Father sat leaning out of the low front window, smoking his pipe.
Itong looked at her foolishly. Inciang's heart felt heavy within her, but she said, with a
little reproach, "Why, Itong, aren't you glad? We thought you wanted to go to high school."
Itong began to cry. He sat there in front of his father and his sister and his aunt Orin, and
tears crept down his cheeks.
"The supervising principal teacher, Mr. Cablana," went on Inciang in a rush, "came this
afternoon and told us you may go to high school without paying the fees, because you are
"Now, don't cry," said his aunt Orin. "You are no longer a baby."
"Yes," added the father. "And Mr. Cablana also promised to give his laundry to Inciang,
so you'll have money for your books. Mr. Cablana is also sure to get the Castila's laundry for
Inciang, and that will do for your food, besides the rice that we shall be sending you. Stop
"Your Tata Cilin's house is in Nagpartian, very near the high school. You will stay with
him. And," Inciang said, "I don't have to accompany you to Vigan, Itong. You'll ride in the
passenger bus where your cousin Pedro is the conductor. Your cousin Pedro will show you
where your Tata Cilin lives. Your cousin Merto, son of your uncle Cilin, will help you register in
school. He is studying in the same school. Will you stop crying?"
Itong looked at Inciang, and the tears continued creeping down his cheeks. Itong was so
young. Inciang began to scold him. "Is that the way you should act? Why, you're old now!"
Then Itong ran into the house and remained inside. His father laughed heartily as he
pulled at his pipe. Inciang started to laugh also, but her tears began to fall fast also, and she bent
her head over her washtub and she began scrubbing industriously, while she laughed and
laughed. Outside the gate, standing with her face pressed against the fence, was Nena, watching
the tableau with a great wonder in her eyes.
Inciang had watched Itong grow up from a new-born baby. She was six years old when
she carried him around, straddled over her hip. She kept house, did the family wash, encouraged
Itong to go through primary, then intermediate school, when he showed rebellion against school
authority. When he was in the second grade and could speak more English words than Inciang,
her father began to laugh at her; also her Tia Orin and her brood had laughed at her.
"Schooling would never do me any good," Inciang had said lightly.
She watched Itong go through school, ministering to his needs lovingly, doing more
perhaps for him than was good for him. Once she helped him fight a gang of rowdies from the
other end of the town. Or better, she fought the gang for him using the big rice ladle she was
using in the kitchen at the time.
And her father had never married again, being always faithful to the memory of Inciang's
mother. The farm which he tilled produced enough rice and vegetables for the family's use, and
such few centavos as Lacay Iban would now and then need for the cockpit he got out of Inciang's
occasional sales of vegetables in the public market or of a few bundles of rice in thecamarin. Few
were the times when they were hard pressed for money. One was the time when Inciang's mother
died. Another was now that Itong was going to Vigan.
Inciang was working to send him away, when all she wanted was to keep him always at
her side! She spent sleepless nights thinking of how Itong would fare in a strange town amidst
strange people, even though theirparientes would be near him. It would not be the same. She
cried again and again, it would not be the same.
When she finished tying up the tampipi, she pushed it to one side of the main room of the
house and went to the window. Itong was with a bunch of his friends under the acacia tree across
the dirt road. They were sitting on the buttress roots of the tree, chin in hand, toes making figures
in the dust. And, of course, Itong's closest friend, Nena, was there with them. Strange, Inciang
thought, how Itong, even though already twelve years old, still played around with a girl.
And then, that afternoon, the departure.The passenger truck pausing at the
gate.The tampipi of Itong being tossed up to the roof of the truck.The bag of rice.The crate of
chickens.The young coconuts for Tata Cilin's children. Then Itong himself, in the pair of rubber
shoes which he had worn at the graduation exercises and which since then had been kept in the
family trunk. Itong being handed into the truck.
Lacay Iban, Tia Orin, and Inciang were all there shouting instructions. All the children in
the neighborhood were there. Nena was there. It was quite a crowd come to watch Itong go away
for a year! A year seemed forever to Inciang. Itong sat in the dim interior of the bus, timid and
teary-eyed. Inciang glanced again and again at him, her heart heavy within her, and then as the
bus was about to leave, there was such a pleading look in his eyes that Inciang had to go close to
him, and he put his hand on hers.
"I'm afraid, Manang."
"Why should you be?" said Inciang loudly, trying to drown out her own fears. "This boy.
Why, you're going to Vigan, where there are many things to see. I haven't been to Vigan, myself.
You're a lucky boy."
"I don't want to leave you."
"I'll come to see you in Vigan." She had considered the idea and knew that she could not
afford the trip.
"Manang," said Itong, "I have a bag of lipay seeds and marbles tied to the rafter over the
shelf for the plates. See that no one takes it away, will you?"
"And, Manang, next time you make linubbian, don't forget to send Nena some, ah?"
Inciang nodded. "You like Nena very much?"
"Yes," coloring a little.
Itong had never concealed anything from her. He had been secretive with his father, with
his aunt Orin, but never with her.
From Vigan, Itong wrote his sister only once a month so as to save on stamps and writing
paper. His letters were full of expressions of warm endearment, and Inciang read them over and
over again aloud to her father and to Tia Orin and her brood who came to listen, and when her
eyes were dim with reading, Inciang stood on a chair and put the letters away in the space
between a bamboo rafter and the cogon roof.
"My dear sister," Itong would write in moro-moro Ilocano, "and you, my father, and Tia
Orin, I can never hope to repay my great debt to all of you." And then a narration of day-to-day
events as they had happened to him.
And so a year passed. Inciang discussed Itong with her father every day. She wanted him
to become a doctor, because doctors earned even one hundred pesos a month, and besides her
father was complaining about pain in the small of his back. Lacay Iban, on the other hand,
wanted Itong to become a lawyer, because lawyers were big shots and made big names and big
money for themselves if they could have the courts acquit murderers, embezzlers, and other
criminals despite all damning evidence of guilt, and people elected them to the National
Itong's last letter said that classes were about to close. And then, one morning, when
Inciang was washing the clothes of the supervising principal teacher, with a piece of cotton cloth
thrown over her head and shoulders to shelter her from the hot sun, a passenger truck came to a
stop beside the gate and a boy came out. He was wearing white short pants, a shirt, and a pair of
leather slippers. It was Itong. But this stranger was taller by the width of a palm, and much
narrower. Itong had grown so very fast, he had no time to fill in.
"Itong, are you here already?"
"It is vacation, Manang. Are you not glad to see me?"
They ran into each other's arms.
Father came in from the rice field later in the afternoon. "How is my lawyer?" he asked,
and then he noticed Itong wore a handkerchief around his throat.
"I have a cold, Father," said Itong huskily.
"How long have you had it?"
"For several weeks now."
"Jesus, Maria, y Jose, Inciang, boil some ginger with a little sugar for your poor brother.
This is bad. Are you sure your cold will not become tuberculosis?"
Itong drank the concoction, and it eased his sore throat a little. It seemed he would never
get tired talking, though, telling Inciang and Lacay Iban about Vigan, about school, about the
boys he met there, about his uncle Cilin and his cousin Merto and the other people at the house in
He went out with his old cronies, but he had neglected his marbles. The marbles hung
from the rafter over the shelf for the plates, gathering soot and dust and cobwebs. It was a
reminder of Itong's earlier boyhood. And he did not go out with Nena any more. "Have you
forgotten your friend, Nena, already?" Inciang asked him and he reddened. "Have you been
giving her linubbian, Manang?" he asked. And when she said "Yes," he looked glad.
On those nights when he did not go out to play, he occupied himself with writing letters
in the red light of the kerosene lamp. He used the wooden trunk for a table. Inciang accustomed
to go to sleep soon after the chickens had gone to roost under the house, would lie on the bed-
mat on the floor, looking up at Itong's back bent studiously over the wooden trunk.
Once she asked, "What are you writing about, Itong?"
And Itong had replied, "Nothing, Manang."
One day she found a letter in one of the pockets of his shirt in the laundry pile. She did
not mean to read it, but she saw enough to know that the letter came from Nena. She could guess
what Itong then had been writing. He had been writing to Nena. Itong had changed. He had
begun keeping secrets from Inciang. Inciang noted the development with a slight tightening of
Yes, Itong had grown up. His old clothes appeared two sizes too small for him now.
Inciang had to sew him new clothes. And when Itong saw the peso bills and the silver coins that
Inciang kept under her clothes in the trunk toward the purchase of a silk kerchief which she had
long desired, especially since the constabulary corporal had been casting eyes at her when she
went to market, he snuggled up to Inciang and begged her to buy him a drill suit.
"A drill terno! You are sure a drill terno is what you want?"
Itong patted his throat, as if to clear it. "Please Manang?"
"Oh, you little beggar, you're always asking for things." She tried to be severe. She was
actually sorry to part with the money. She had been in love with that silk kerchief for years now.
"Promise me, then to take care of your throat. Your cold is a bad one."
Another summertime, when Itong came home from school, he was a young man. He had
put on his white drill suit and a pink shirt and a pink tie to match, and Inciang could hardly
believe her eyes. She was even quite abashed to go meet him at the gate.
"Why, is it you, Itong?"
He was taller than she. He kept looking down at her. "Manang, who else could I be? You
look at me so strangely." His voice was deep and husky, and it had queer inflections. "But how
do I look?"
Inciang embraced him tears again in her eyes, as tears had been in her eyes a year ago
when Itong had come back after the first year of parting but Itong pulled away hastily, and he
looked back self-consciously at the people in the truck which was then starting away.
"You have your cold still, so I hear," said Lacay Iban, as he came out of the house to join
"Yes," said Itong, his words accented in the wrong places. "I have my cold still."
Looking at Itong, Inciang understood. And Itong, too, understood. Lacay Iban and
Inciang looked at each other, and when Inciang saw the broad grin spreading over her father's
face, she knew he understood, too. He should know!
"Inciang," said Father gravely. Inciang wrested her eyes from Nena whom she saw was
looking at Itong shyly from behind the fence of her father's front yard. "Inciang, boil some ginger
and vinegar for your poor brother. He has that bad cold still."
Inciang wept deep inside of her as she cooked rice in the kitchen a little later. She had
seen Itong stay at the door and make signs to Nena. She resented his attentions to Nena. She
resented his height, his pink shirt, his necktie.
But that night, as she lay awake on the floor, waiting for Itong to come home, she knew
despite all the ache of her heart, that she could not keep Itong forever young, forever the boy
whom she had brought up. That time would keep him growing for several years yet, and more
distant to her. And then all the bitterness in her heart flowed out in tears.
In the morning, when Nena came to borrow one of the pestles. "We are three to pound
rice, Manang Inciang; may we borrow one of your pestles?" Inciang could smile easily at Nena.
She could feel a comradely spirit toward Nena growing within her. After all, she thought, as she
gave Nena the pestle, she never had a sister, she would like to see how it was to have a sister. A
good-looking one like Nena. Inciang smiled at Nena, and Nena blushing, smiled back at her.
THE BUS DRIVER’S DAUGHTER
by: H.O. Santos
BY the time I got to Bora Bora I wasn’t shy anymore about asking strangers for favors. I
always offered something in return and almost everyone seemed to appreciate that although I
knew they mostly didn’t need what I had to offer.
Like yesterday. I spent a wonderful day on Motu Moute as the guest of a couple who
tended a small watermelon patch on that barrier island, one of the many motus that surround
Bora Bora. When I heard they were going to work on their farm, I offered to help for free. They
thought I was nuts—the dry season was over, they said, and there’d be mosquitoes and gnats on
the island. They laughed but finally said okay, undoubtedly to humor a fool as much as they
They weren’t kidding. There were lots of gnats and the mosquitoes were only waiting to
take over at night. There wasn’t much work—there wasn’t enough weeds for three people to pull
out and the plants were doing well. It was quite an enjoyable day for the island was beautiful and
pristine—very few people go there to mess it up. For lunch we ate fish caught on the way over,
broiled over charcoal from the coconut leaves I collected. I even managed to do some swimming
in the calm lagoon waters.
I was on my third day in Vaitape, the main town in Bora Bora. It had a pier which wasn’t
very busy—only little boats and small cruise ships docked there. For the third day in a row, I saw
the brown dog that seemed to have made the pier his home. He would meet every ship that came
in and look at the faces of everyone who disembarked, as if looking for a long-lost master who
had sailed away one day and never came back. I wondered if his master had left his island home
for the same reasons I left mine when I was twenty-one. I felt sorry for the dog because I had
already learned what “you can never come home again” meant.
I worried about what I was going to do the rest of the day when I saw a le truck that
looked like it might be a tour bus. I went to the driver and asked. Her name was Teróo and yes,
she was waiting to take tourists from a cruise ship on a circle island tour.
“Can I help? I speak English.”
“What do I need you for, I speak English myself. Everyone in the tour industry does.”
“I don’t want any money—I just want to help you round your passengers up after each
stop. Surely, you don’t want to lose any of them.”
She laughed loud in such an infectious manner I thought perhaps I had told a good joke.
“I haven’t lost anyone yet. This is a very small island. How can anyone get lost?”
“Oh, come on. I’m sure you can find something for me to do to make your life easier.
Besides, how can I get to see this island if you don’t let me help?”
“Where are you from, Chile or Castille?”
“Non, je suis philippin.” I wanted to impress her with my French.
“Well, well—I’ve never met a Filipino before,” she said with that beautiful laughter she
had. “You can come with me but promise to tell me about your country.”
A launch from Wind Song, the high-tech French luxury sailing ship anchored in the bay,
arrived at the pier to let passengers off for the tour. There was a dozen of them, mostly old
Americans. As soon as they got aboard, we started on our way. There were already people from
Club Med in the bus and we stopped at Bloody Mary’s to pick up another couple. Teróo was
driving a regular le truck painted light blue and red, with wooden benches and open windows. I
sat in the front with her.
We went in a clockwise direction along the road that circled the island. Our first stop was
on a relatively high point just a few miles out of Vaitape. To the left we had a good view of the
small bay, to the right were concrete bunkers and fortifications. Teróo explained the area used to
be a submarine base in World War II. None of the old buildings existed anymore—they had
either been torn down or reclaimed by the jungle.
I figured this was where James Michener was stationed during the war—the place where
he wrote many of the stories in Tales of the South Pacific as he waited for the enemy that never
came. I looked at Teróo, who appropriately looked like a cross between Bloody Mary and Liat in
the movie, and pondered the likes of Lt. Joe Cable who saw beauty in Liat but at the same time
found her unqualified to be a wife because of her color. By the time Michener’s book became a
musical, Lt. Cable had been rehabilitated into one who protested “you have to be taught” to
consider other races inferior. White America wasn’t ready then to look in the mirror and see its
None of the passengers got down. I doubt if they knew or cared who James Michener
was. Big band music and scenes of sailors and Marines in khaki uniforms scanning the horizon
for enemy ships faded from my mind as the bus started moving again and jolted me back to
The circle island tour doesn’t cover many historically important places for there is
virtually none in Bora Bora. We stopped at scenic vistas—there was a lot of them—where the
tourists got out to take pictures they can show back home. Farther along, Teróo stopped the bus
at a secluded place where there were lots of trees and announced that those who wanted to
relieve themselves can do so. “Women to the left of the road, men on the right,” she yelled. I told
Teróo we did the same thing in the Philippines and drew a laugh from her. However, nobody
wanted to go, probably too embarrassed to do even such a natural act outdoors because they had
been doing it indoors all their lives.
Somewhere past the halfway point, we stopped at a wooden shack that sold souvenirs,
snacks, and soft drinks. Teróo told everyone they were free to browse around for half an hour. As
soon as they had gone, Teróo and I went to the back of the bus to chat.
“So how is it you’re here? I have never seen a Filipino here before, honest.”
“Oh, I was let go from my job in Los Angeles because sales was down. I wanted to go on
a vacation before I start on a new job.”
“You born in the Philippines?”
“Yes, I went to America because life was hard for me in my country.”
“Isn’t the Philippines like this island?”
“Right, except there’s too many people. Even crowded Papéete seems wide open
compared to the Philippines. I don’t know, but everything here seems familiar—not just the
climate but the way the language sounds, the words, the way people go about their business. But
we’re different, too. Perhaps we’ve changed so much that what we now have isn’t real anymore.”
“We’re changing, too,” she mused, “not always good. I don’t know how we were able to
keep much of our customs. Look what happened to the Hawaiians…” She turned pensive for a
while. “Anyway, how long are you going to stay here?”
“In French Polynesia? As long as my money holds out—I want to see as much of this
area as I can. I’m beginning to think I can get a feel of what the Philippines might have been had
things been different.”
“I know I’ll never have another chance like this again. I don’t want to end up like these
tourists who wait until it’s almost too late to enjoy travel.”
“I would like to travel myself but I can’t afford to go anywhere.”
“You’re lucky, this is paradise as far as I’m concerned.”
“But it still would be nice to see different places.”
Teróo didn’t want a soda so I got just one for myself at the snack bar. It was expensive as
hell—three bucks—but that’s what they charged everybody everywhere, not just tourists at this
tourist stand. Everything was expensive in paradise.
When I returned, I asked Teróo, “So how often does anything exciting come to stir
everybody from their romantic attitudes here?”
“Not very often. You know I was in a Hollywood movie once? Mutiny on the Bounty.
Those were exciting times.”
“The one with Marlon Brando?”
She laughed hard. “You’re a bad boy. I’m not that old—the one with Mel Gibson.”
“At least I didn’t ask if it was the Charles Laughton movie,” I teased back. “Yeah, I saw
the Mel Gibson movie—lots of nude women, beautiful bodies, sexy…”
“I was one of them.” She gave me a big smile.
I didn’t say anything and smiled back. She looked pretty enough but she had gotten a bit
heavy just like most Polynesian women tend to do when they reach a certain age.
She sensed my incredulity and laughed again. “I was only eighteen… you wouldn’t
believe how beautiful and sexy I looked then.”
“I’m sure you were.”
“No, you don’t—you don’t believe me,” she said, shaking her head.
Our passengers were still milling about the store—a few had gone across the road to
check out what was there. I smiled at the idea some of them may finally be relieving themselves
after passing on the first scheduled pee stop.
“What islands have you seen?”
“Tahiti and Raiatea before this.”
“Then you should visit Huahine. That’s my island. I have a daughter who lives there in
our old house. She looks exactly like I did when I was eighteen. You can stay there for free.”
“You’re very kind but I don’t want to impose on strangers.”
“You don’t know us Polynesians. I like you and you are my friend, and I want you to
meet my daughter. You will see how I looked twenty years ago. She will be happy to meet you.
School is over and she’s there with her grandfather, my father. My husband works in Papéete,
Two days later I was at Farepiti Quay, the pier commercial ships use in Bora Bora,
waiting to get on the ferry for the overnight trip to Huahine. Teróo’s daughter, Simone, was
going to meet me in Fare when we get there in the morning. She had just finished high school in
Tahiti and was on vacation before going off to college.
We slept on the deck of the ferry which also serves as a freighter. Many people had straw
mats to lie on—I had none but used my jacket for warmth and my backpack for a pillow. It was
getting light when a loud crunch woke me up. I heard voices and I understood enough to know
we had hit something.
I was surprised nobody seemed too disturbed. People were calmly looking out over the
side. One of them explained we were in one of the channels through the barrier reefs around
Huahine. We had hit a sandbar—the captain had misjudged its depth because of the complicated
tidal pattern. Happens all the time, he said. The biggest inconvenience was that we’ll be six
hours late. We’ll have to wait until the tide gets high enough again for us to clear the sand bar.
I worried Simone might go back home when the ship didn’t arrive on time. I can call her
on the phone but my Huahine trip felt like it was starting on the wrong foot—I had already
caused her inconvenience.
We eventually got to the Fare pier by mid-afternoon. As our ship was coming in I saw the
rickety stores and hotels across the tree-shaded street. Next to the pier was a snack bar. Off to the
right was a bridge that two white kids—teenagers—on bicycles were crossing from wherever
they may have gone to. They had white shirts and black pants, and the safety helmets required in
America. I knew right away they were eighteen-year-old Mormon missionaries. They looked
exactly like the ones we had in L.A. At their age, they probably didn’t realize how lucky they
were to be able to spend a year of their lives among people of a different culture.
One young woman stood out from the rest of the people waiting at the pier. She was in a
yellow and tangerine pareu, that one-piece wonder women all over French Polynesia used for
clothing. She was sitting on that metal thing—I don’t know what it’s called—ships tie up to. She
appeared to be scanning the ship for someone she was supposed to meet. When we made eye
contact, I knew right away she was Simone. I went straight to her as soon as I got ashore.
“Bonjour, êtes vous Mademoiselle Simone?”
“Oui, vous devez être Antonio, n’est-ce pas?”
“Wow! Vous êtes jolie… Veuillez m’excuser, je ne parle pas bien le français.”
She laughed heartily—she had the same infectious laugh her mother had. “Maybe not,
just good enough to flirt, I see.”
“You have to understand I only know a few phrases in French. Luckily, the ones I knew
fit the occasion. I really meant what I said.”
“I’m glad to meet you. My mother said to take good care of you.”
“She’s a wonderful woman—as warm and friendly as anybody I’ve ever known.”
“She’s a good mom, too. That’s why I always try to do what she asks of me.”
“Where did you learn to speak excellent English?”
“In school. I chose to study English because I had been aiming for a scholarship in an
American university since I started high school. I was lucky enough to get one at U.C. Santa
“That’s only an hour’s drive from where I live.”
“Good. Maybe you can visit me when I get there.”
She was beautiful—full-bodied and full-hipped—attributes which may later work against
her but were assets at eighteen. Gentle face, large brown eyes, and long, shiny, dark hair. I saw
Teróo in her face and in her genuine warmth and charm.
She had borrowed an Italian scooter from her cousin and asked me to get in the back. She
told me to hold on to her so I can lean whichever way she did in a coordinated manner.
I couldn’t believe I had my arms around the warm body of a beautiful woman. I was
awkward around women and would normally scheme and plan just to get so far. A friend once
said I was too timid with girls I liked, afraid of getting turned down. He was right but my
carefully crafted defenses had saved me from much heartache over the years.
I fell for Simone right away but warned myself she was a different kind of girl. She was
the daughter of a woman who had befriended me. I had to be very, very careful not to do
anything that would break that trust. The thought gave me comfort—I had no pressure to get
anywhere with her and had a ready-made excuse should I fail.
She lived in Faie, on the other side of Huahine Nui, or Big Huahine. There was another
island called Huahine Iti, or Little Huahine, and the two were connected by a short bridge. She
warned me not to get Fare and Faie mixed up since they almost sounded the same.
The roads were good and the terrain was relatively flat—Huahine didn’t have the tall
mountain peaks in the middle like most of the other islands of French Polynesia. Houses were
well made, many built with concrete blocks and corrugated iron although some were made of
wood and raised from the ground. They weren’t clustered together and had lots of space around
After a little over half an hour on the road, Simone pulled into a dirt driveway that led to
a large wooden house. Trees—jackfruit and mango—shaded the house. Bird chirps punctuated
the sound of leaves rustling in the wind.
We walked to the porch where Simone introduced me to her relatives who lived nearby.
They were preparing food—peeling, cutting, and chopping vegetables and meat.
We next went to the kitchen where I met her grandfather. He was well-built and looked
strong, not old at all. He greeted me in French and I mumbled back an appropriate response.
They spoke to each other in Tahitian. Her grandfather laughed, then she came to me and put an
arm around my waist and smiled. She laughed, too.
“What’s going on here? Are they having a party tonight?”
“No—well, yes—my extended family has come to welcome you. We’re all eating
“Oh, Simone, this is embarrassing—they’re going to all this trouble for someone they
“Don’t be silly. They all want to eat and have a few drinks, too. It’s a good excuse to get
together. Besides, they know you’re my mom’s friend.”
She took my backpack and stored it in one of the rooms. When she returned, one of her
cousins handed her a plastic pail and said something in Tahitian.
“We have more than an hour before food is served—they thought it might be a good time
for me to show you something. When we come back, we’ll have time to take a quick shower and
change before we eat.”
We went out to the highway, turned right, and walked about half a kilometer towards the
bridge we had passed earlier. Next to the bridge was a house with dozens of vandas in various
colors all around the yard. She exchanged greetings with a boy who was sitting on the front
steps. The boy who was perhaps sixteen came running out to join us.
We went down the embankment and walked along the banks of the small river to where it
almost met the ocean. Simone and the boy got on their knees at the water’s edge and started
slapping on it with their hands. I saw one of the strangest sights I have ever seen. Large eels
started wriggling out from their holes along the banks and came to where the splashing was.
When there was a couple of dozen eels around, they gave them food from the plastic pail
—bread, rice, vegetables, pieces of raw meat. “They eat anything,” Simone explained.
“Do they bite?”
“They probably do, but not if you don’t do anything stupid. They know we’re here to
give them food.” Simone explained that the eels were treated by the local kids as pets, feeding
them regularly. “What do you think?”
I laughed. “All I can say is if this was in the Philippines they would all have been eaten
We were ready for dinner. We had showered and changed. Simone was in a new green
and purple pareu. She had it tied in another one of the endless number of variations, like a
strapless gown this time. A pareu is nothing more than a brightly colored piece of rectangular
cloth and I always wondered how they made them stay in place.
Her relatives had set a buffet table and I saw barbecued pork and fish along with poison
cru, their version of kilawen, broiled breadfruit, green salad, and steamed rice. Off to the side
was a barrel full of Hinano beer on ice. On another small table were several bottles of French
There must have been twenty or thirty people, all nice to me. The food was good, and the
beer and wine made conversing in a strange language less stressful for everyone. Simone’s
relatives spoke to me in French and bad English. I replied in English and terrible French. Simone
hovered close to me all the time, ever ready to rescue or translate for me, whichever seemed to
be needed at that moment. It was hard not to get attracted to her—she was extraordinarily kind.
However, not only was she the daughter of a friend, she was also embarrassingly ten years
younger than I was. It didn’t make it any easier that she was more mature than many of the other
women I knew—I was afraid she’d consider me ancient.
After everyone was full, two guys came in with log drums. They started beating out a
steady rhythm that got everyone dancing. To me, much of Tahitian dance is erotic and some
moves are outright simulations of fornication. They taught me those moves, difficult and tiring
for a novice, and made me dance. We had been dancing for over an hour when one of the
drummers apparently gave an order because everybody started leaving the dance floor one by
one until only Simone and I were left.
The drums beat out more complex patterns while Simone danced around me, brushing me
with her arms and legs, and bumping me with her hips and her body. Everyone was yelling,
encouraging her on. Simone got closer to me and started swaying her hips faster in a frenzy that
was exciting. The drums rose to a final crescendo then everything stopped. The party was over.
Each of the guests offered me another welcome to their island before leaving for the
night. Simone’s grandfather had long retired to his room.
Simone was sweating profusely from her dance. She got a couple of Hinanos from the
barrel and gave me one. We turned the lights off and went to the front steps where we sat close
to each other. There was a solid breeze—it helped make the heat bearable, even nice. The moon
was high and lit the landscape with a cold light that turned the bright colors of the trees and the
flowers to a dull gray.
We didn’t feel the need to talk. The cold beer tasted great in the sultry night—its bitter
aftertaste reminded me of tears and sweat. I wanted to thank Simone with a hug but didn’t want
to spoil anything.
After our second beer Simone said, “We better turn in now. We have a lot of places to see
She led me to the room where she had put my backpack—the same room where I
changed after I took a shower. “You’re sleeping in my room,” she said. She unrolled a palm leaf
mat on the floor and placed blankets and pillows on it.
“What about you? Where will you sleep?”
“What do you mean? This is my room, too.” She sounded like she was surprised to hear
such nonsense from me. She casually pulled out the corner of her pareu that held it in place and
let it fall on the floor—she only had a pair of bikini panties underneath. She put on a large Miami
Dolphins T-shirt and laid down on one side of the mat. I changed my wet T-shirt into a dry one
and took the other half of the mat.
“This really isn’t my room anymore—it was mine until I left to go to high school in
Papéete. We students board there during the school year. I get to use this room on my vacations.
Two of my cousins who help take care of Grandfather use it when I’m not around.”
She snuggled close to me and I felt her soft breasts touch my arms. She smelled of tiare,
the smell reminded me of the gentle fragrance of the sampaguitas of my youth. I turned around
and kissed her impulsively—it just felt like the thing to do. Our tongues touched and she was
delicious. I groped for her breasts through her T-shirt, then decided I could do better if I put my
hand directly under her shirt. Her young breasts were firm but supple—her nipples were small,
typical for one who hadn’t nursed a child yet.
I would have stopped right there, content with little victories had she not reached down
and touched my cock. We both knew what was coming next and took our clothes off. I wasn’t
clumsy anymore but confidently moved like I had been doing it with her for a long time. It felt
good when I got inside her. We kept it up for a while, not speaking, and she held me back
whenever she felt I was getting frantic. When she finally let me come, she was ready—her body
stiffened and shuddered several times before she went limp.
I woke up just as the sun had come up. Simone was still sleeping. When I walked out of
the room, I saw that her grandfather was already awake and having a cup of coffee. I was
embarrassed when he saw me come out.
“Ia orana,” I greeted him warily.
“Bonjour! Comment allez vous? Voullez-vous du café?”
“Oui, si’l vous plait. Noir—sans sucre, sans lait.”
He came back from the kitchen and handed me a cup of coffee. It was strong and it was
good. Another legacy from the French I said to myself. We seemed to be the only two people
awake in all of Huahine.
We sipped our coffee in silence. I was apprehensive about starting a conversation.
“Simone est séduisante nest-ce pas? Is nice, yes?” he said at long last but didn’t show any
indication of what he was really trying to get to.
“Oui, she’s very pretty.” Did I give myself away? I wondered.
“Êtes-vous de Californie?”
“Simone go school Californie.”
Just then Simone came out from her room to join us. She was wearing the same T-shirt
but had put on a pair of tan cargo shorts. Her hair was disheveled but she still looked lovely. Her
large brown eyes smiled before her lips did. She put her arms around my shoulders in a gesture
as unaffected as it would have been had she been greeting her grandfather. I realized then I had
been brought up in an environment very different from hers—mine had been inhibited, hers
open. Her touch made me uneasy no more.
Simone went to the kitchen to get herself a cup of coffee. She brought the pot over to
refill our cups. She let her grandfather know about our activities for the day. I couldn’t
understand what they were saying but they laughed a lot.
LATER that morning, we were back on the road. Simone had me put extra clothes in my
backpack in case it got cold or we didn’t get back home before dark. She also made sure we had
bathing suits because there would be places where we might be tempted to swim.
It didn’t take long to get to our first stop, Marae Rauhuru. I had been to a few
other maraes before but they’re all different—this one was smaller but had larger stones. Like the
others, thismarae was on a raised rectangular platform built up with rocks, stones, and dirt. Flat,
upright slabs of coral stood along its periphery. More slabs were in what seemed to be random
places in the middle of the platform.
“These are sacred places our ancient people used for religious ceremonies—exactly what,
we’re not sure. They could have been animal or even human sacrifices.”
“Those standing stones—any astronomical features to them?”
“Again, we don’t know although nobody has yet found a connection. There’s a lot of
things we still don’t know about our old culture. That’s one reason I want to go to school in the
U.S. After my degree, I’d like to go for a doctorate at University of Hawaii and do research on
“That’s very commendable… I wish you luck.” I knew Simone was kind and responsible
but this was the first indication I got that she really had great plans about what she wanted to do
with her life.
“I hope you don’t mind, but let’s stay around this marae for a while. Feel the energy from
this place. Too many tourists rush from one place to another and never get to know anything
We walked around the marae. Some of the coral slabs were green with lichen, others
were smooth and plain.
“How old is this marae?”
“Probably twelve hundred years… Of course, it must have been destroyed by cyclones
and rebuilt a few times. Sometimes those waves can get strong even though we’re surrounded by
barrier reefs. Inter-island wars could also have destroyed it once or twice.”
“How do you know all these?”
“I’ve been reading a lot. It’s a subject that really inspires me.”
We sat on the edge of themarae, soaking the sun in and gazing at the ocean. After a few
minutes, Simone pulled me up and pointed towards a nearby thatch-roofed, oblong-shaped
structure built over-water on stilts. It had no windows. It was a replica of a building where the
ancient rulers met, she explained.
She asked me to take my shoes off before entering as a sign of respect. I was surprised to
see how bright and airy it was inside considering there were no windows. Light came through the
gap between the wall and the pitched roof—the gap wasn’t noticeable from the outside. We
squatted on a large palm leaf mat that covered the floor. The place was quiet and peaceful.
Presently, about half a dozen people came in. The men were in Hawaiian shirts and the
women in colorful muumuus. They walked around and were apparently baffled there was
nothing to see inside. I noticed Simone got a bit agitated because they hadn’t removed their
shoes. One of them came over and asked what the building was for and Simone told him. The
man said it would be a good idea to fill the room with exhibits because there was nothing there
for tourists to see. I was astonished at the self-control my young friend showed.
We set out again in the direction of Fare. A couple of kilometers away, Simone stopped
on the side of the road and pointed to the ancient rock fish traps in the inner lagoon. Nobody
knew how old they were but they had been in constant use for centuries.
“I’ve seen bamboo fish traps in the Philippines with the same pattern.”
“Our ancestors brought with them many cultural traits and traditions from the Philippines
and Indonesia. You’ll find a lot here that may have been lost there long ago. I once read an
article about your sexual customs in ancient Philippines the friars found sinful. They said the
women were too promiscuous. Funny but they didn’t say anything about the men. Doesn’t it take
two?” She laughed.
“Is that true… the promiscuity, I mean? You wouldn’t know it the way girls behave there
today—it takes a lot of work just to get one to let you hold her hand.”
“That’s the influence of the Church. When the white men first came to our islands they
said the same thing about our women. Guess what, I don’t think they know the difference
between promiscuity and not hiding your true feelings. In this regard, we probably haven’t
changed as much as you Filipinos.”
“Anything we still do you don’t do anymore?”
“Our ancestors brought dogs with them—as pets and as a source of protein. We don’t eat
She turned red and looked anxious. She looked relieved when I laughed.
“Some day I’ll read the original friar manuscripts and write a paper investigating how
Christianity changed the culture in the Philippines and how Islam did the same in Indonesia.”
I thought about my high school days when I wanted to be a writer, or maybe a
photographer. I gave up those plans because I reckoned the best way to get respect was to have a
good-paying, practical job. So I became an engineer, instead. I envied Simone who was going on
to do the things she loved.
IT was noon and very hot when we got to Fare. Simone parked the scooter under a wide-
spreading monkeypod tree across from the pier. I followed her to a small hotel that had mostly
cash-starved surfers as guests. Inside was a restaurant, a typical South Seas restaurant the way I
remember from the movies. It’s walls were bare except for an airline calendar. Two slow-
rotating fans dominated the ceiling.
The restaurant served Chinese food. We had noodles, cheap but very good, followed by
fresh, ripe mangoes for dessert. We talked about our lives, how different California was from
Huahine, and promised to see each other in Santa Barbara. We talked about what we were going
to do next.
Simone wanted to show me Bali Hai, the four-hundred-dollar-a-night resort hotel just
outside of town where they had found ancient artifacts during its construction. “It’s a beautiful
place but I had this strange feeling when it was being built we shouldn’t have been putting
anything up there.”
She had worked at the archaeological site as a volunteer digger the last two summers.
One of the archaeologists from the Bishop Museum in Honolulu was evidently impressed with
her enthusiasm and attitude and helped her get a scholarship at U.C. Santa Barbara.
When we left the restaurant, there were three men were waiting for us outside. Simone
looked annoyed when she saw them. She spoke with one and led him away from the others. They
talked in Tahitian but I could sense the anger between them. He was jabbing at her with his
finger and she was gesticulating wildly with her arms.
Unexpectedly, I felt a sharp pain that made me fall to my knees. One of the other guys
had sucker punched me on my side. It would have been worse but my backpack had blunted the
blow somewhat. The other followed with a fist to my face. More blows followed and I lost my
sense of what was up and down. I heard a loud shriek from Simone then felt her arms around me.
She shielded me from further blows with her own body.
Other people came, pulled the guys away, and made them leave. The waiter from the
restaurant came out and gave me a glass of ice water. I slowly regained my breath as Simone
cradled me in her arms. When I was able to stand up, Simone made me walk up and down the
sidewalk to make sure I had my balance back. When she was convinced I could hold on to her on
the scooter, we drove off.
She drove slowly, often driving with one hand as she used the other to make sure I was
holding on tightly to her. She drove to Bali Hai which was close by and made me wait by the
scooter while she went to the office.
After ten minutes, she came back with an armful of towels and a bucket of ice. A man
who came out with her helped me walk to wherever we were going. He must have been
appraised by Simone of what happened for he was apologetic. “I’m sorry this happened. We
Tahitians aren’t brutes…”
“Oh, no, don’t worry. I’ve met many nice Tahitians and I’m not going to let some people
spoil my visit or change what I think of your people.”
We walked to the lagoon where circular cottages were built on stilts above the clear,
turquoise waters. A quiet breeze blew onshore making the humidity less intolerable. We took a
raised walkway over the water to one of the cottages.
“My name is Sylvain, I’m the manager of this hotel. Simone asked if you could lie down
for an hour in one of the rooms until you get your wind back. I knew she was going to drive you
back to Faie so I told her you can stay as long as you need to—overnight, I insist. Don’t worry
about the charges—we’re never booked full so it’s no big loss.”
He saw my reluctance and continued, “I owe a lot to Simone—she helped us coordinate
with the archaeologists the last few years.”
He gave me a bottle of Côte du Rhone when we got in the room. “I hope you will enjoy
this.” He shook my hand again before leaving.
The room was terrific. Over-water. Breezy.Three hundred sixty degrees of view. In the
middle of the floor was a large round hole covered with thick glass through which you could see
colorful fishes in the water below. Another over-water walkway led to a platform farther out in
the lagoon from where you could swim or simply relax. Lots of space separated one cottage from
another to ensure privacy.
Simone made me lie on the bed and removed my shirt. She put ice wrapped in towel on
my side that hurt. She placed another on my cheek and told me to hold them in place.
She sat next to me and started crying. She had managed to hold everything in until she
felt it was okay to let herself go. Between sobs she said one of the guys in town was an old
boyfriend who couldn’t accept the fact it was over between them. “He is so jealous and
possessive—he thinks he owns me. He’s going to hear from my cousins.”
After she put everything away, we drank the bottle of wine until I felt sleepy enough for a
Simone was watching over me when I woke up. I looked at my watch and noted I had
slept for a good hour.
“Did you sleep at all?”
“Oh, yes. Fifteen minutes.” She wiped her tears away and smiled.
“Don’t make yourself sad for what happened. Everything’s okay.”
She wanted to say something more but I pulled her down to make her lie beside me.
When I tried to hug her to reassure her, I felt a sharp pain at my side that made me flinch.
Simone noticed and started crying again.