Croaky Chorus

This is the third part of a longer piece I wrote entitled “Memories of Cebu: Three Ways.”

The storm has passed. But still I couldn’t sleep. My brother and I have long since put away the dozens of buckets we used to collect the rainwater escaping from our leaky roof. My father has nailed back the corrugated iron that was ripped apart by the angry wind. From where I was lying on the sleeping mat under the mosquito net, I noticed how the room was bathed in moonlight. My mother was softly snoring beside me. I listened to nature’s sounds outside, dominated by the chorus of frogs. They lived among the water spinach in the swamp in front of our house. A handful of the croaky critters led the melody. The tenors and bass joined in, harmonizing throatily. The amorous baritones completed the chorus. Hundreds of frogs in vocal union, sounding like an amphibian version of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. After the ecstatic crescendo, only a couple of frogs called out to each other and then – silence. I snuggled close to my mother. I put my thin, small arm around her and felt it rising and falling with her breathing. Her soft snoring finally lulled me to sleep.

 

Mango Delight

This story is the second part of a longer piece I wrote entitled “Memories of Cebu: Three Ways.”

Stealing mangoes from Senyora Nitang’s backyard was Jose’s idea. Not mine. Though I admit that the suggestion that he and I stage our heist during siesta time when the senyora would be resting indoors came from me. And yes, I might have offered two other proposals: that we enter the property from the west side so that the dog, usually tied just outside the kitchen on the other side of the house, wouldn’t notice us; and, that Jose climb the tree while I catch the mangoes with my skirt. It was a typical hot afternoon, though cool under the shade of the mango tree. I smelled the salty breeze from the ocean with an occasional whiff of drying cow manure. The increasing weight of mangoes on my bunched skirt made me giddy. Must have been a dozen in there. Then I heard the rustling of dried leaves and turned. I saw Senyora Nitang’s black mongrel dog sauntering toward us. I panicked. The dog is not leashed! I called out Jose’s name in a whisper. Let’s go, I said. The dog started to bark. I screamed: Run! We ran for our lives. Later, when we were safe, we shared the only mango left. The flesh was ripe, sweet and succulent. Jose and I smiled at each other, mango juice dribbling down our chins.

Lost and Found

This story is the first part of a longer piece I wrote entitled “Memories of Cebu: Three Ways.”

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It was the day after the fiesta of the Holy Child yet the basilica was still filled with pilgrims. A few churchgoers, most of them women, walked the aisle on their knees, their faces in intense prayer. In the pews, clusters of people were praying the rosary softly. The smell of candles filled the air. My father held my small hand tightly as we made a beeline toward the statue of the Holy Child at the side of the cathedral. There must have been hundreds of pilgrims packed in the narrow space, bodies pressed tightly to each other. Once my father and I were part of this mass of people, it was difficult to hold his hand. I lost him. I was pushed in all directions, swept away by the strong current. I wanted to cry but didn’t. My fear turned to anger. I didn’t know who or what I was angry at, but my growing anger fueled me to break away from the crowd. A small fish swimming against the current. I reached the main door and stood there. Old women danced with candles in their wrinkly hands. Balloon vendors sold their wares to children. My worried father stood beside a boy with a red balloon. Tatay, I called. Dad. Relief flooded his face when he saw me. Being eight, I was too old to be carried, but my father picked me up and embraced me tightly to comfort me. But perhaps it was mostly to comfort himself.