Love Has Wings
Story by Percival Campoamor Cruz
Writings 6 by Jobo Elizes: http://www.amazon.com/Writings-Tatay-Jobo-Elizes-Pub/dp/1453760083/ref=sr_1_7?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1318214496&sr=1-7#reader_1453760083
Part 1 – Not an ordinary circumstance
Tatay Dencio was very late in coming home that night. Kiko and Neneng had waited a long time. They were hungry and found no food in the house. They wished they could fall asleep and not feel the hunger and not fear that something went wrong with their father. But they could not fall asleep.
It had stopped raining. Since noon the weather had been stormy. Earlier in the day the sun was shining beautifully. Tatay Dencio and his fellow fishermen sailed out to sea, as they ordinarily used to do, in order to catch fish using nets; he did not think that the weather would turn bad.
In fact, the children missed playing outdoors on account of the heavy downpour that came with strong winds that afternoon. The night was cold and the grounds wet. It was customary for the father to arrive home before sunset. Upon arrival, he would fetch fresh water for drinking and cooking, then kindle fire in the stove and cook whatever he caught in the sea. Tatay Dencio was both father and mother to his children since their mother had already passed away.
That night was different because the kitchen was quiet and cold. Not even a shadow of their father loomed in the kitchen. Kiko decided -- Neneng, let’s go out and find father -- he said.
-- It’s so dark outside, how do you think can we find him? -- Neneng answered. They could both hear the eerie, ringing sounds coming from the sea as huge waves slammed on the rocks.
Hands held together, the siblings walked the path toward the seaside, where the boats docked. They came under the shade of an old, towering acacia tree and there they decided to wait; they were attracted to the sparkling little lights swarming around the tree – fireflies!
-- Ha, ha, ha, ha, I got you at last! -- a kapre (an ogre who lived on big trees) greeted the children, surprising them. The kapre was sitting on a large branch up in the tree smoking a cigar and did a free fall when he saw the children. He quickly locked them up inside his huge, hairy arms.
-- Ha, ha, ha, ha, you’re coming with me to the land under the tree. -- and he carried the children around his arms not minding their kicking and screaming.
It was a huge and bright place under the tree that the siblings saw. A light scent of flowers wafted through the air, sounds of laughter and merry-making came from a distance. They were met by a motherly-looking woman who had a very kind expression on her face.
-- Don’t be afraid. I know you’re worried about your father. I will help you find him. Before anything else, eat and have a cup of pineapple juice. -- the beautiful, motherly-looking woman told them in a soothing voice.
The siblings noticed that the woman’s feet were not touching the ground. She was floating in the air. At the garden farther away they could see children playing. And like the woman who greeted them, they were floating. The children were chasing each other in the air, going around in loops, and flying with their arms outstretched like birds with wings.
-- The children, who are they? -- Neneng asked the woman.
-- They are my children. They have no more mothers and fathers. Who else will take care of them? -- the woman explained.
-- Why is there a kapre on the tree? -- Kiko blurted out.
-- I do not want unwelcomed persons to come in here. The kapre appears fearsome no one will dare trespass just to be nosey or to rob. -- the woman added.
-- It’s my turn to ask a question. Neneng, how much do you love your father? -- the woman wanted to know.
-- Very, very much. I want him to be around all the time. He makes us feel happy and secure. -- assured Neneng.
-- Me too, Nana, I love him very much. I want to be with him for a long, long time so that when I am older I can take care of him like he is taking care of us now -- Kiko volunteered.
She directed the children to come closer to a basin and look into the water that was contained in it. -- Watch the picture that will appear in the water. -- she instructed them. And the siblings saw a picture of their father hanging on to a piece of wood and floating in the middle of the ocean.
The waves grew bigger and caused Dencio’s boat to capsize when the storm suddenly came that afternoon. He felt so cold and numbed hanging on to that piece of wood that he wanted to already let go. Anyway he had been living a miserable life with his wife already gone; but love for his children overcame his grief and he fought hard to survive for their sake.
-- Hold on tight, we’re going to fly -- the woman advised the siblings. And they took off and soared into the sky and rode the winds on the way to the open sea where Dencio was hanging on to dear life. He was already unconscious when they found him. She sent brain waves to a couple of dugong. These giants of the sea, one of them carried Dencio on his back while the other one followed behind, brought the fisherman back to the shore.
Tatay Dencio woke up, pulled himself up and headed for home. In their nipa hut, he saw Kiko and Neneng fast asleep on the grass mat laid out on the floor. He noticed that there was a cup lying on the table and it contained left-over pineapple juice.
The following morning, the siblings happily greeted Tatay Dencio. They had no recollection of what happened the previous night. -- Father, why did you come home so late? -- Neneng was inquisitive.
The father explained that he knew a storm was coming in so he and his friends took cover in a cove and waited until the storm came and left. He said he was sorry his tardiness caused them to worry.
Tatay Dencio made certain he went to his wife’s resting place that morning to bring her some fresh flowers. He was convinced that his wife had made true a promise that she had made at her deathbed -- Dencio, never forsake the children; I’ll ask the Lord to let me be around every time you are in danger. I may be in a distant place but you will feel my presence, love has wings. --
Part 2 – Paradise lost
Since Kiko and Neneng were at school all day, Dencio found the chance to be alone and do household chores. He picked up the cup and washed off the pineapple juice. Then he thought of seeing Nana Koring.
Nanang Koring lived alone next door. She knew about caring for the sick. When she was younger, she worked as a nurse at the hospital in the city. She became some kind of a village doctor. She looked after the children of Dencio knowing that they needed a surrogate mother.
-- How are you, Nana Koring? -- greeted Dencio.
-- God have mercy, son. My joints were sore yesterday because the weather was cold. I ran out of medicine so I asked God to ease the pain and now I’m well -- Nana Koring declared.
-- I came to thank you for looking after my children. You brought food and drinks to them while I was out at sea. -- said Dencio.
-- Yes, I was thinking of checking on them but I did not have the chance to do so. I was not well enough to go out. -- Dencio found strange what she had just said. He came to return a cup but realized that she did not see his children and so the cup was not hers. He walked back to his house, still holding the cup, and wondered . . . -- Who could be the owner of this cup? -- he asked himself.
As Dencio was leaving Nana Koring’s house, Indang Maring, another village person, walked in. She brought fresh bread for Nana Koring, as well as, the freshest news around the village.
-- Do you know, Nana Koring, that Rosing has a new suitor? Poor Dencio . . . he just lost a wife; now he is going to lose a girlfriend as well. -- greeted Indang Maring eyeing Dencio intently and making sure he was far enough not to hear what she was saying.
-- You know that Father Mario likes to gamble? -- the “village news” continued.
-- Oh my gosh, Maring, there you go again. How do you get all that information? -- Nana Koring cut her short. -- I don’t want to know. --
-- Before I forget, Nana Koring, can I have some ginger? I need to make ginger tea to soothe my sore throat. -- If it came from Indang Maring the “news” was taken as gossip although it had traces of truth in it. It was true that Dencio and Rosing were intimate friends; however, they had not reached the point in their relationship that they desired to live together. Dencio was careful not to advance the new relationship to a higher level as he was aware that he was still grieving over his wife’s death. Rosing had felt love for Dencio but would not rush him to a decision, either; she understood what her closest friend was going through.
Dencio’s village was a small island southeast of a vast ocean. A small village with just a few inhabitants, it was nevertheless large enough to have a school, a church, and a town hall. On certain days, the villagers could see some ships far out in the ocean that came closer to shore and lurked around and sometimes stopped to drop off some men. There was a controversy among the big nations concerning the ownership of Dencio’s island and a chain of other islands scattered around the same area of the globe. The villagers knew those ships came to spy on them.
It was true that a man with squinty eyes just came to the village. He was the young man who, according to Indang Maring, was courting Rosing. The other villagers had also seen him having conversations and taking walks on the street with Rosing. Dencio was the only person who did not know about the ongoing affair.
Back at his house, Dencio sat down and put the cup that had pineapple juice on top of the table. -- Who gave the drink to my children? Who owns this cup? -- he was mystified. He gazed at the cup, put it in his hands and rolled it around on his palm. The cup was ashen and had a rough surface. He stroked the cup then rubbed his thumb on the surface. He noticed that the ashen color was rubbing off and a yellowish color was coming out. In a minute, Dencio knew the cup was made of gold.
He buried the cup in the ground at the back of his house and decided he would retrieve it when the true owner showed up to claim it. There was no doubt that the owner would turn up, introduce himself and get the fortune of no small measure back.
Dencio was born and grew up in the island-village called, Paraiso. He had been a fisherman all his life. His father was a fisherman, too, and so fishing became his destiny and the one and only preoccupation. He went to elementary and high school and that was about the best education he received. His father did not have the means to send him to the university which was in the big island. Dencio’s university was the sea, the stars, the village people. He was good at reading, not books, but people and the environment. He could tell what the clouds, the winds, the waves, the birds and the wild animals in the mountains, the changing of colors of the plants or the scents of flowers floating in the air were trying to say. He was an expert on understanding the language of Mother Nature. Once he predicted that an earthquake was ominous basing on the weird behavior of his pet dog. He also foresaw an oncoming landslide and warned his neighbors who lived at the foot of the hill to leave immediately and head toward the church. Tons of mud cascaded from the hill and buried the houses. He saved a good number of villagers from certain death.
The villagers looked up to Kapitan Kulas, Father Mario and Dencio as their elders. Dencio was well-built. He had well-developed chest and arms. He had the physical attributes of a masterfully-sculpted statue of Adonis. His face was endearing, he was dark, had curly hair and a baritone voice.
The villagers went to church every Sunday for the purpose of hearing mass and listening to Father Mario’s homily; likewise to have a town hall meeting when community matters needed to be discussed.
In the latest town hall meeting Father Mario let Dencio take the floor and talk to his village mates. He implored them: -- Fellow villagers, the conflict over our island and other islands nearby will develop into a war between nations. The mightier nation is insisting that the islands be surrendered to it; we know this is our island, this is where we were born, this is where our fathers’ fathers lived and died, our home until this very moment. Help is coming from our government but we have no idea when our army can make it here from the big island to provide security. I expect everyone to be alert and to be ready to fight for our island and our homes and the sea that nurtures us. Let Kapitan Kulas and I know immediately if you come across anything or anyone in and around our island that looks suspicious. --
Paraiso was an insignificant island, the people who lived there like Dencio were simple people; it was hard to imagine that this speck of an island in a remote part of the ocean could cause a conflagration among big, powerful nations. And considering Dencio’s private life, it was similarly insignificant and simple, but it was becoming bigger-than-life because of the puzzling events that had transpired recently: Did he really nearly drown in the deep sea? And how did he survive? Where did the cup made out of gold come from? Who was the squint-eyed stranger who was seeing his girlfriend and what was he up to in this island? How could he cope being father, at the same time, mother to his children, and being an elder to a community now beset by fear?
For a long, long time, Paraiso was a little paradise, where the natives lacked the wealth and sophistication of people living in the city; yet they were afforded a quiet and healthy life by the island. The idyllic place was just a dream to city-dwellers whose world was in constant siege from pollution, radiation, filth and a climate warming up. “Back to Mother Nature” was the city-dwellers cry; those who lived in Paraiso did not need to go back to Mother Nature; they were never separated from her.
On account of the unfolding events, it seemed that peaceful Paraiso was to become a Paradise lost.
Part 3 – Watchful eyes
Dencio went to the school to fetch his children. He brought along lunch for Rosing made up of rice and tangige (yellow tail fish). He greeted her as he offered the food. -- I hope my children did not give you a hard time today. --
-- They’re considerate and fast learners. Not to worry, Dencio, we’re getting along well – Rosing, the teacher, replied.
The children went ahead and skipped and hopped toward home.
-- Rosing, there’s a good chance that a calamity will befall our village. It’s alright to get on with your daily chores; but always be ready to leave or to defend yourself and the children when trouble erupts. In case something bad happened to me . . . do you promise to look after my children? -- Dencio’s tone sounded worried.
-- Don’t entertain bad thoughts, Dencio. -- Rosing cautioned him. Dencio hugged her friend and kissed her on the forehead. -- You are right, Rosing. The Lord and Mother Nature are on our side. --
Rosing was the village teacher. Beauty, brains, and modesty were traits bundled around in her personality. She was from the city. She was born and grew up there. She got her education there. She was a beauty queen in the university and the star swimmer of the swimming team. However, she chose to live with the common folk in the village.
Their first meeting was when Dencio came to the school to enroll his children. Mothers usually came with the children. In the case of Dencio, he was in-charge of putting Kiko and Neneng in school, since their mother was already gone. Dencio was always in the school for the kids and, thus, saw Rosing frequently; the frequent meetings afforded opportunities to know each other and give love a chance to bloom. Rosing had a special affection for Dencio’s children aware that they were looking for the care and love of a mother.
When summer came Rosing had to leave for the city to be with her parents. She was gone for two months and to Dencio it seemed like eternity. When Rosing came back to be at the reopening of school, Dencio could not hide his excitement. He arrived at the docking place too early and when Rosing showed up he was in a hurry to take her to the church. -- Is this man planning to marry me today? -- Rosing could not figure it out.
Dencio and the parish priest, Father Mario, were very good friends from way back then. He connived with the priest to surprise Rosing with a welcome party at the church courtyard to be attended by a handful of important people in the village. There was a sumptuous feast and merriment. After the feast, the guests walked off one by one until Dencio and Rosing realized everyone had left. Dencio saw a chance to pour out the feelings bottled in his heart.
-- This sacred place is my witness, -- Dencio made a revelation, in the meantime holding the hands of Rosing, -- my intentions are pure and noble. I offer you my love and my life. –
Rosing had an inkling that the proposal was forthcoming; anyway, she was ready, she herself had developed respect and liking for Dencio. She tipped her toes to reach Dencio’s lips. She planted on them a very affectionate kiss that meant - Yes, I accept your love! --
The village folk witnessed the courtship. They were glad to see two of the village’s highly respected persons falling in love with each other, the persons they looked up to for guidance. They saw the couple taking romantic walks along the beach; on occasions when Dencio did not have company and when Rosing did not have to work in the school, they saw the couple sail out to catch fish. On coming back from fishing, Rosing was fond of jumping out of the boat and diving into the water and swimming the remaining distance to the shore. Rosing was a star swimmer in the university, was she not, and the swim in the sea was a good alternative to practicing in the swimming pool, there being no pool in the village.
Rosing was a sight to behold when she pulled herself out of the water. Her wet clothes clung to her body and under the soft glow of the setting sun her brownish skin and curves became transparent; the sight could be compared to a goddess of the sea being delivered by the waves to the world to bring joy and ecstasy to its mortal inhabitants.
Time went by and the quiet, rustic and poetic existence at the island village called Paraiso went on unperturbed.
Until one day, the villagers were terrified that a whole family was found dead. There had never been a horrible incident such as this in Paraiso. Based on the account of the village peacekeepers that investigated the scene and the bodies, it was a case of poisoning. There were no traces of blood or trauma. The victims looked like they were just sleeping.
Dencio and the village’s captain, Kapitan Kulas, concurred that the crime was committed by an outsider who intended to sow fear among the townspeople. The killer was most certainly working for the powerful nation that wanted to occupy the island. Powerful nations were bent on occupying the islands scattered in the middle of the most important ocean in the world, Paraiso included. Ownership of these islands was key to maintaining peace or winning a global war, should there be one.
As a consequence of the poisoning incident, the men in the village decided to form two groups. One would use fishing boats and patrol the shores. The other one would go on foot and ride on the back of carabaos and watch the roads and byways. The goal was to catch any suspicious character lurking in the island and to report any unusual sightings.
Berto, the son of Indang Maring, was assigned to train the men in self-defense. He was an expert in arnis, an ancient form of martial arts, that involved the use of bare hands and rattan poles.
Dencio became busy catching fish for a living, as well as, performing his job in defending the island. His children had no choice but to fend for themselves while he was away from home. They went on their own picking vegetables and fruits for dinner. They cooked their food and washed their own dishes and clothes. They went out with the other children to hunt for crabs and mussels on the beach, an activity that was part work and part play.
So, the children themselves were busy and unaware of what was going on in the village. They were unsuspecting of the eyes that were watching them.
Nana Koring always looked out of her window to see what the siblings were up to and make sure they were safe.
Far out into the horizon, squint-eyed men on the ships looking through binoculars were spying on the children, too, and the island. And from the top of the giant acacia tree, from which vantage point the entire island could be seen, the kapre was watching, as well.
Indang Maring, who had no responsibility in life other than minding other people’s business, going around the village, looking and listening, catching the gossips and making sure they were circulated, of course, had her eyes and ears open to what was going on with Dencio and his children. Could a secret still be kept in the island-village of Paraiso?
Part 4 – Broken secrets
One day, Kiko felt sick after school. He was weak and dizzy when he got home. Neneng helped him walk to his bed. She felt his forehead and cheek and realized that he was running a very high fever. Dencio was not home so Neneng ran to Nana Koring for help. Nana Koring came immediately with a glass of water and medicine and sat down beside Kiko’s bed. Kiko swallowed the medicine and tried to get sleep; in the meantime Nana Koring was applying a cold towel on his forehead.
The news that Kiko was sick went around the village very quickly. Everybody got worried that his sudden and unexplainable illness could be another case of poisoning. Dencio had not come home yet. Kiko’s fever went out of control. Nana Koring was shaking her head in disbelief over Kiko’s worsening condition. The medicine she gave Kiko was not working and she was very concerned.
Neneng walked out of the house like she was in a trance, like she was being drawn to the direction of the acacia tree; her feet were moving not on her own will but according to the command of a foreign force. The gate under the tree was open so she went in and walked toward the magical place. The memory of the place came back to her. Someone called her name so she stopped walking and turned her head toward the person.
-- Neneng! -- greeted the woman in the cave.
-- Nana! It’s you! -- in awe Neneng returned the greeting.
-- Listen carefully, Neneng . . . you can help your brother get better. --
-- Here’s a wonder comb. Go back to your house quickly and use it. Comb his hair and let it touch his scalp. Nothing else will work. -- instructed the woman.
Nana Koring saw the comb as soon as Neneng came back to the house. . .
-- Neneng, let me have the comb so I can use it on Kiko -- asked Nana Koring.
After only a few seconds of combing Kiko’s hair, his face immediately brightened up, and began showing a peaceful expression. The fever miraculously disappeared and he fell into a restful sleep.
In the morning, Kiko was strong and showed not a trace of illness. His father was preparing breakfast. Neneng was waiting to be served. The comb was lying on top of the table.
-- Is the comb yours, Neneng? -- Dencio took notice of it.
-- No, father. It belongs to Nana Koring -- said the girl.
Dencio took the siblings to school when breakfast was over. When he came back to the house, Dencio picked up the comb, and stared at it. He rubbed the surface of the comb and like the cup he found in the house, early on, the comb’s color turned yellow. It was made of gold just like the cup he buried at the back of the house.
-- Something really weird is going on! -- Dencio whispered to himself.
In the meantime, Berto, the son of Indang Maring, decided on his own that it was time to confront the squint-eyed man who was seeing Rosing, the man who came from the city and whose presence on the island looked suspicious. Perhaps, he could shed light on the unsolved killing of a family that took place only recently, and so Berto thought. He wanted to know, too, if Kiko’s illness was related to the killing of the family, an intention to poison, that almost succeeded but for the timely intervention of the sister and a neighbor. The harassment had to stop.
The squint-eyed man’s name was Jonathan and he was a government employee who was sent to the island-village on a mission to study the fish habitats. Nobody knew this fact. He was an ichthyologist, an expert on the study of fishes. The government was researching on how to preserve the fish habitats and propagate the fish population. Paraiso could show the ways to improving the quality of water in the ocean near the cities, something that was worsening, due to unmitigated dumping of trash.
Rosing and Jonathan were classmates at the university. They knew each other, yes, but there was no truth to the rumor that they were in courtship. They saw each other so that they could benefit professionally. Rosing was a good resource person for Jonathan, she having lived in Paraiso longer than he had. Jonathan was a private person to a fault. Except for Rosing and a handful of individuals, Jonathan interacted with no one else. He was focused on his job; everything else did not matter including socializing with the villagers. However, Jonathan could not be considered a weakling. He had a brilliant mind and an athletic body. He was the judo-karate champion in the university during his time.
Berto saw Jonathan at the portion of the shoreline that had rocks jutting out of the ground. He was preparing his boat for his usual trip to the sea.
-- Mister whoever you are, don’t even think of escaping, we have to talk. -- Berto spoke to him in a harsh tone.
-- I am Jonathan. I’m preparing to go to work. I don’t know what you mean that I am running away. –- Jonathan said very calmly.
-- So your name is Jonathan. You are being suspected of spreading fear in this village. Berto continued his accusations. You have to come with me so we can conduct an investigation. --
-- This is such a small island that you can easily find me. Time goes slowly, too, so there is no need to rush. I will accommodate you and see you at the office of Kapitan Kulas when I come back from work, before the day is over. -- Jonathan offered. -- By the way, I don’t know who you are. I don’t know by what authority you are accosting me. --
Jonathan ignored his pursuer and began to board the boat when Berto charged forward and grabbed him. Jonathan swung himself around and flung his left fist; it landed smack on Berto’s face. Berto backed off and pulled out two rattan poles from the sides of his waist. He made circles in the air with the poles and warned Jonathan.
-- You’re making a big mistake, Jonathan! -- Berto lunged at the man he was accusing. A fistfight ensued between the two. They traded blows, punches, and kicks. Jonathan was able to wrest the poles away and hurled them into the sea. Berto began losing confidence, he knew that Jonathan was a good fighter. As a last act of desperation, Berto pulled out a knife from his pocket and attacked Jonathan once again like a mad dog. It was not right to use arms in a hand-to-hand combat; among gentlemen that was a no, no.
Jonathan did not want to kill or be killed. He decided to avoid Berto and turned away from him, skipping over the rocks that were lying on the beach. He wanted to pull himself up on the tallest rock so Berto could not reach him. Jonathan made it to the top of the rock. In pursuit, Berto pulled himself up the rock but his fingers slipped off the edge, he fell, back first, and his head struck a rock. He became unconscious instantly.
A posse representing the village elders appeared at the scene and almost witnessed the incident but for a few minutes. Dencio was in the group. It did not take long for the posse to piece together the events that transpired and arrive at the conclusion that there had been a terrible accident.
Unfortunately, Berto did not regain consciousness again. The once tranquil place became the stage of yet another grim incident. Berto’s untimely demise spread like wild fire around the village. Then one more misfortune came in the form of an ugly scene that happened at the school. Indang Maring showed up at the school screaming and toting a gulok (a long blade).
-- Murderer! You are a murderer, woman! -- furious Indang Maring was referring to Rosing.
Indang Maring obviously had lost her sanity as an aftermath of son Berto’s death. Tears and sweat were all over her face that made her look very pathetic. She paced back and forth around the school yard and swayed on her unstable legs like a lost soul.
-- Show yourself up, Rosing! You’re a traitor! You’re evil! --
Father Mario and some companions were summoned to pacify and comfort Indang Maring. The priest came, hugged the desolate woman in pity, and led her away from the school.
Part 5 – In the realm of dreams?
Dencio and Rosing needed privacy so they could talk heart-to-heart. They brought the boat to a cove where the water was calm.
-- I had no idea, Dencio, that the whole village was talking about me, -- Rosing began apologizing as the boat swayed mildly on the water.
-- I was only being friendly to Jonathan and the townspeople saw that as betraying you, -- she went on sadly. -- I am sorry that I did
not tell you sooner that Jonathan was my classmate in the university. I did you no wrong. I did not betray you, Dencio . . . I did not mean to offend anyone. -- And Rosing began to cry.
-- Don’t you worry, Rosing. I believe you! -- Dencio assured her.
-- Something more worrisome than our personal lives is looming over the village and it can only get more serious in the days to come. We’re being used like pawns in a war game between the powers. I look forward to the day that the threats will be over, that the mysteries surrounding this village and my home can find closure; then we can be free again to love for love’s sake. --
Dencio was going to say something more to Rosing when he saw from the corner of his eye a motorboat that was coming toward them at a fast speed. He was dumbfounded and scared as the boat came closer and closer. He feared for their lives. He could only wait and pray that they could handle the oncoming threat.
As the motorboat stopped in front of them, the men inside it stood up and the pilot began giving directions using a megaphone.
-- Inform your fellow inhabitants of the island that they have to leave immediately. Paraiso is one of the islands that belong to our country. We want the island for a military project. You are given 48 hours to evacuate yourselves and your properties from the island before a massive invasion is launched using one thousand men and hundreds of armed boats, the purpose being, to establish our administration of the island. The people who will resist the invasion will meet a fatal end; and those who choose to stay we expect to follow orders and respect our rights. Make sure you convey this message to your people. Farewell! -- and the motorboat left in a hurry with the men with squinty eyes on board. Dencio watched the boat depart until it faded away at the horizon.
Dencio came back to the island and called a town meeting. He conveyed to the villagers the message that he received at sea. The folk of Paraiso decided to fight and defend their homes and freedom. All the men would bear arms and surround the island so that the invaders could not set foot on the shores. Dencio made Rosing responsible for taking the women and the children to a safe place. They were to remain together and hidden until the expected bloody encounter was over.
It was moonless and the air was cold on that fateful night. The women and children could be seen marching in a long line and with hands held together on the path heading toward the hills. Magically, the search for a refuge was quick and easy for them; they stumbled into the mouth of a cave with a passageway that led to an underground world. They followed the passageway until they arrived at a well-lit and spacious place.
They were met by a woman who seemed to be the owner of the place; she was amidst other women and a pack of children.
-- Welcome to the world of Dalisay. May we offer you food, drinks, and a place to rest, while you are waiting? You may wander around my garden or sleep, whatever your choice; and the children may play or wander around or swim in the spring . . . whatever they choose to do. We are here to keep you company and comfort you, -- the mysterious lady made the invitation.
Instantly the women and children of Paraiso felt at ease.
-- I will leave you here, -- Rosing told Kiko and Neneng. -- I need to go back to the village to be with your father. He might need my help. --
The women advised Rosing against leaving because of the imminent danger awaiting her outside; to just let the men defend the island. But Rosing was strong-willed and left anyway.
Outside of the magical place Rosing was hearing the gunfire and the roaring of motorboats. The noise told her that a fierce battle was already going on between the invaders and the menfolk of Paraiso. She followed the path going to the shoreline where the fighting, she thought, was intense. She fearlessly walked toward danger armed with nothing but courage and faith in the Lord.
Someone spotted Rosing. From the air someone saw her walking alone. One of the young men in the village was riding on the back of a flying carabao. Rosing was hearing the flapping of the wings as they pounded on the air. When she looked up to see what was making the noise, she saw the beast of the rice field floating in the air with Nilo on its back.
-- Rosing! I’m going to get you, just give me a minute, -- Nilo yelled.
And he landed on the ground and picked up Rosing. They flew over the shore and Rosing was awed at what she saw. Scattered all over the beach were the dead bodies of the invaders. One hundred motorboats were on the sea and burning; more oncoming boats were being met by torches and were blowing up. The kapre was throwing torches at the boats as he skipped and jumped on the sandy beach, picking up sticks and pieces of wood, putting them on fire, and aiming the “burning lances” at the moving targets. The boats caught fire as the torches fell on them; the soldiers riding in the boats were being thrown off into the sea. She saw huge creatures of the sea – the dugongs and whales – flipping the boats upside down and attacking the invaders who were thrown off into the water.
In every nook and corner of the beach and at the rocky side she saw the invaders and the defenders of Paraiso battling man-to-man, hand-to-hand, pole-to-pole, and weapon-to-weapon. She saw Jonathan in combat with a soldier. She saw Father Mario, naked from the neck down to the waist, assisting the kapre in keeping the bonfire ablaze.
But where could Dencio be? Rosing was beginning to be hysterical. -- Nilo, please find Dencio, for God’s sake! -- she pleaded. Nilo ordered the carabao to fly low and hover over the bodies lying on the beach. Nilo and Rosing were looking for a familiar face and figure.
At last they saw Dencio lying unconscious and bleeding. Nilo picked up the limp body of Dencio and put him on the carabao’s back. Then he commanded -- Rosing, ride on and see to it that Dencio does not fall off. Take him to a safe place where he can be given first-aid. C’mon, Dagul, fly! --
Dagul obeyed like it had a mind of its own. It flew toward the magical cave. Dalisay and the women were already there waiting when it landed and Dencio was rushed inside and immediately given treatment. The women worked as a team in cleaning his wounds and applying medicines. Beside him was Nana Koring, the village nurse. Water from some boiled leaves and smoke from some burnt plants were being supplied by Dalisay to bring Dencio back to life. Before long, Dencio’s eyes lit up and he smiled. He could see, although hazy, the faces of the two most important women in his life. He saw the faces of Maria and Rosing. -- Is this all a dream? -- Dencio wanted to know. But he was weak and dizzy. He could not keep his eyes open and he fell into a deep and long sleep.
On the next All Saints’ Day, the whole village came out in full force to pay homage to the departed ones, including the fallen
heroes of the recent battle. One grave stood out because it was
covered by a lot of flowers and the marker on the grave read:
April 14, 1960 - July 7, 2007
“Her love is not bound by time and place.”
Dencio had visited the grave so many times in the past as a lonely grieving husband pouring out his love and gratitude to a lost beloved wife; this time, he was not alone, gathered around the grave with their hands held together were Dencio and Rosing, Kiko and Neneng, and together they prayed, thanked, and promised each other everlasting love.