Beside our house, inside our neighbor’s yard is a nipa hut disguised as an innocent bahay kubo that most of us who grew up singing the song will end up looking back with teary eyes the years of playing luksong tinik and patintero with grade school friends every afternoon when school was done. But there is something sinister about this hut in question. Every siesta, I noticed people congregate unceremoniously inside, followed by an unusual silence and the hut begins to be enveloped by an atmosphere of secrecy. This silence is unusual because these same people seem to have been possessed by sacred spirits. Normally, especially when together, they are boisterous, noisy, and talkative and whose subjects of conversations are other people and their steamy scandals. For a small town such as ours, the word ‘steamy’ has a different subtext: gossips about unexplained pregnancies could last for a month, illicit romantic affairs for half a year, and involvement in crimes can mean becoming legendary.
This nipa hut is filled to brim by these same people on a daily basis. I was having coffee alone one fine afternoon when a police patrol car pulled over in front of the gate of our house. Then the people inside the hut started jumping from windows and running to different places. My uncle, who is a retired army sergeant and one of the people who regularly frequent the nipa hut, faced the uniformed policemen.
“Unsa diay to, sir?” (What is it about, sir?)
“Na-a man gud miy nakuha nga report ba na na-a daw hantakan dinhi.” (We received a report that people here are betting on hantak [a Visayan version f Cara y Cruz where three coins are tossed and bettors win depending on the kinds of combination]).
“Wala dyud nay hantak dinhi ba. Gadula-dula lang mi ug tong-its dinhi arung kalingawan ba.” (We don’t lay hantak here; only poker, but only to pass time.)
“Mao ba? Nanagan man gud tong imohang kauban. Tingali ug namali lang mi.” (Is that so? We just wondered why your people ran away when we arrived. Or we might have made a mistake.)
I got stupefied by the kind of logic the policemen employed in this situation. If they responded to a report that a crime was being committed, arrived in the place, and found that it was not the crime, still it was a crime, does it mean that authorities could just leave without doing any investigation?
Funny, but things such as this happen dito po sa ‘min.
* * * * *
Is it some sort of a secret rule of life that we become the person we used to hate when we were young?
After all of us left for college except for one sister of ours who is now on her fifth grade in a nearby public elementary school, my parents started inviting young nephews and nieces to stay in the house. And every time I go back home I see different faces. For this year, we have with us two young kids: a son of a former househelp who is a third-grader but looks like a malnourished first grader and a 6 year-old son of my mother’s youngest sister who has not started schooling yet.
I perfectly understand that being kids they can be hyperactive and restless most of the times. I tried teaching my cousin to read simple English sentences but after few minutes I packed up. I told him that we would continue our class next day, with each lesson lasting only 15 minutes.
This Saturday afternoon, I didn’t know, but out of impulse, I found myself forcing these children to take their siesta. Taking a two-hour sleep every afternoon was a task I abhorred most when I was growing up. I cannot forget the ‘detestation’ I felt for these people who forced me and my siblings to take siesta when they could just let us play and enjoy our childhood.
And this afternoon, I became a person I used to hate.