a modern-day myth in one sentence
And she was the one who listened on the wind even when Lola Remi said, that is nonsense, how can you hear voices when the wind blows in the mango trees and the ocean crashes upon the shore at Bagasbas, she says, do not go outside at noontime dahil that is the time when the spirits are most active, all of them, diwata aswang multo anino and those who have recently passed, so if you must step into the mango groves say “tabi po tabi po” to ask them permission, to honor them before you intrude; but even so, said Lola Remi, it is not safe to go near the balete tree, it might take you in; but the black-eyed girl knew that the balete tree was exactly where she would go – it was calling her name after all – her name was Mary Lou, but being 8, she thought that was boring and always heard something tugging at her left ear, Lupa and in her dreams this is what she called herself; so Lupa one day tiptoed outside at noon and and Lola Remi was not looking as she was scaling the bangus in the kitchen; Lupa listened carefully on the wind and heard her name in her own voice: Lupa! Lupa! and so she followed and followed over roots and branches and she followed and followed muttering tabi po tabi po all along the way and she thought she felt bones underfoot and the angled finger joints of the dead ones tugging under her collar, this way and that, like she had read the forest did to Snow White when she ran through it; the anino had many messages and many stories if she would only stop; and Lupa, who was 8 years old but also 800 in spirit years, knew that there would be time for this, later, or next lifetime, and so she smoothed her slim brown hands over the knuckled bones that were seen by only her, and told them to wait and be patient; she hopped and stumbled, careful not to crush the butiki underfoot which tickled her to stay and listen to its stories and the red and the green and the brown dragonflies which bumbled and swerved in front of her face to sprinkle story-dust on her nose and the little blue damselflies which landed on her shoulders, but she said wait, there will be time for this, just wait, and so Lupa finally arrived at the clearing; before her sprawled a majestic, massive-trunked, many-armed, monstrous balete tree that was so dignified and so grotesque all at once with its veins and sinews knotted and creeping this way and that; Lupa stood with her mouth agape and felt the balete pulling her in by her waist as though there were an invisible cord there, wrapped around her, and so she closed her gleaming black eyes and allowed herself to be pulled in and in until she Forgot herself and the voices became louder and she Forgot herself; and Lupa was never found since; but some say they hear her voice on the wind or see her eyes in the many-eyed dragonfly; some say they feel her thick eyelashes on their shoulders when the damselfly passes by; and they know that Lupa has become the quick-moving butiki tickling over and under the soles of their feet as they tread the barren mango grove, muttering, tabi po, tabi po.
Important correction on page 163:
“…they tread the mango grove, muttering, tabi po, tabi po.”
[ Important Note ]
If you purchased the Kuwento Anthology without the free KL bookmark, please email kuwentoforlostthings [at] gmail [dot] com to receive your complimentary bookmark that retains the ending to Aimee Suzara’s beautiful and visceral poem, “Lupa.”
We will mail you a complimentary bookmark!