This is the day when my mother and father disappeared nearly forty (40) years ago in our barrio in the remote town of Lope de Vega. I vividly remember that one cold evening when Nanay, a petite woman at 30 planted a loud kiss on my forehead to greet me “Happy Birthday” then playfully blew the fainting flame of the lamparilla (kerosene lamp) to compel me and my brother Bernie to get inside the yellowish cotton mosquito net. I was exactly 10 years and 10 days old. My Nanay and Tatay didn’t manage to come home on my birthday because of the surging flow of water on the river brought by Typhoon Yoling. We didn’t call it flashflood then. When the water in the river was murky and countless logs of hardwood suddenly floated on the water when the heavy rains stopped as if the trees were uprooted from the riverbed.
” It’s a miracle”, said my uncle, who with the help of my 8 year old brother Bernie towed the logs one by one ashore. It was like a feast. Men and boys came to collect logs and lodge them in sleds pulled by carabaos. My uncle Angel, a tall muscular man with shaven head was a distant cousin of my father. He willingly accepted to take care of us temporarily while my mother and father were away working in the farm. I never knew where our farm was and can only recall that my parents would be away for days and nights for work.
The typhoon had stripped the back part of our leaking nipa roof, the part of the house which was facing the river. “Thank God for the logs” sighed Uncle Angel as he looked up the gaping hole of the nipa roof. God tore our old leaking roof and gave us hardwood. We can make a sturdier house with big windows on all the four sides. The walls and the roof will still be using nipa shingles made by my grand aunt from the other barrio. My mother knew how to make them only that she was busy in the farm. My parents always dreamed of building a bigger house for us just like the ones we see in the poblacion during “tabu” (market days).
My mother is a petite frail woman, dark and shiny skinned, with long black wavy hair that was always tied in a bun. Mother is always sure of what she says according to my father. She used to be fair-skinned . That was before she married my father and brought her to live on this part of town near the river. I can’t remember her white. She was always dark skinned and would always refer to her skin everytime she nags me to study hard and get a college degree so that I can live in the city and marry an engineer. She said the same to me before she kissed my forehead happy birthday and blew the flame of the lamparilla.
Bernie and I have barely entered the yellowish mosquito net when we heard gun shots from the front of the house. Upon hearing the first shot, my father and mother instinctively leaped out of the window below the nipa roof that was ripped open by the typhoon and jumped into the river. I tightly hugged my trembling brother to cover his ears with my lean upper arms to shield him from the raging bullets and the deafening noise of several minutes of gunfire as we instantly ducked under the green ticog mat.
We didn’t know what happened next. I only learned ten years later that the bullet riddled body of Uncle Angel was wrapped in the soft green ticog mat which he brought as a gift to my parents on their wedding day. The green ticog mat which was patiently woven by her mother in Basey, Samar and embroidered by her sister with the name: Bernardo and Carmela Balintoy.
That was forty years ago in the nipa house near the river in Lope de Vega. The last time I saw Nanay and Tatay.
Paulina Lawsin Nayra July 22, 2011 Nipa Hut at Sasa Pension House Catarman, No. Samar