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Writing Enchantment

I am writing my second book, after the first one called “The Last Sacristan Mayor and the Most Expensive Mass for the Dead have been bought. Tales from Ticao.” They would not be about enchantment, I almost assured friends. There is nothing wrong about enchantment, especially if one’s book on magic and enchantment has been well received. I guess my response was this desire to tell the world that I have more tricks, more tales. If I wrote about Erlina, the storyteller who went into the world of encantos, and the “Onglo,” the man who was half-horse, half-man, without being an animal, and Nanay Gurang, she who could whip to submission and to love any enchanted being guarding sacred gardens, I would this time, talk about humans. These were men and women who populated my memory. As with “Tales from Ticao,” I would rely on memory. Memory is not remembering, or drawing things from the past. Memory is a travel. Memory would bring footprints. I would be like Antonio Machado’s call: Traveler, your footprints/are the only road, nothing else. There are road in my mind. They are clear, as clear as the day when I travelled with a grandfather who was reminded not to stay late out in the “uma” or farm. Going home, we would pass by the tallest coconut tree on the island. On one of the palm fronds, a young man tried to walk up to its tip when the moon was shining bright. My other grandmother thought the sight of that young man would be too much for a young boy of four or five years of age. The stories in my next book would be about roads and paths. And, if I may repeat, they would be about real people, with real names and real birthdates. First on the list is the story of a woman who was so lovely that a young seminarian on a sabbatical refused to return to the seminary after he saw her. The woman was called “Siete Figuras,” because she had seven ways of walking, seven manners of carrying her umbrellas. On some days, she would hang the umbrella around her lithe arm; when the sun was harsh, she angled the umbrella so that the fervid admirer hiding behind the half-open window could still her faintest smile. I would write about an old man and old woman who got lost at twelve noon in the town. The first was a certain Lolo Podong. He was seen going out of his home a little half past eleven in the morning. As his home was at the corner of a street, people could see him about to cross to the other side of the street. People were not minding him as he stood there, walking a bit as if about to cross and then stepping back again to the low gate of his home. This went on for some thirty minutes until young men, one his grandson, went to him and held his hand. The old man looked up and looked across again. He stood there appraising the rich growth of “tuba” or “tuba-tuba” plants around the edge of the convento of the old church. It took him another day to tell the story: He was trying to cross the street but he could not because the rush of vehicles was endless, this on an island that had only about three or four cars and some trucks plying irregularly each day. The other old woman was lost “shopping.” Around noon again, an old woman was returning to her home. Instead of climbing up the low stairs, she was trying to enter the lower portion of the house, which was fenced in by bamboo slats. She kept on going in while her kin on the porch watched amused and laughing. One of the women came down and tugged at her. She looked at her and then looked at that part of the house she was trying to enter. There was nothog there. Breathlessly, the woman regaled everyone of a huge emporium with treasures and goodies hanging above. She merely wanted to have a look. Then there was this huge ship. One early morning, at sunrise, the townspeople woke up to find a huge merchant ship flying a Greek flag. It ran aground. The town officials and some teachers went as a group to ask what happened. Did they not know with their navigating devices that the area was shallow? The ship crew looked at the throng of people gathering below. It was when they came down and allowed some of the town officials onto the ship that the story was revealed. The ship had just left the port of Masbate when they spotted another well-lighted port. They checked their maps but could not see any indicator about the place. The sea seemed to bring them closer to the port and as they got closer, they could see a busy city, with cars of all make moving. As they have not yet reached the open sea, they decided to check the place. That was when the ship ran aground. In the morning, they saw they were on a lonely spot of a lovely deserted beach. The locals call the place “Borobarangay,” (literally, like a “barangay,” pronounced without the hard “g”). The spot where they docked was facing the old municipal cemetery. What is a collection of stories without any mention about faith and religion. There is this story of a rich man who did not believe in God. When the priest was summ0ned to give him the last sacrament, he began cursing the priest and his family. As he would not receive the host, the priest then asked him to touch the rosary. The man grabbed the rosary and, with his remaining strength, broke it and flung it out of the massive open window of his room. That was in the evening. The next day, the man’s guard dog came rushing with the rosary intact between its teeth. These are real stories and there are more. They are not about unseen devils. They are not about magic and enchantment. I have already the title: “Siete Figuras and the Forms of the Real in My Island.”

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