Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The Haciendero

The old man stands gazing out a large French window into the twilight. He is wearing a short-sleeved barong[i] and light cotton trousers, which is getting to be quite the fashion with the elder members of Negrense[ii] society. Gripping his cane harder in his right hand, he heaves a long, heavy sigh pregnant with sadness and perhaps regret. Bowing his head, he shuts his eyes as if the setting sun is hurting them. He could not stop the tears from falling now. The past is much too painful to remember but he is at an age when one thinks nothing only but of the times gone by. ‘Papa…Rosario…has it been really that long ago?’ the man asks himself while tears continue to flow. Slowly, he takes a white handkerchief from his pants pocket, the embroidered initials I.V. like the roman number ‘four’ is visible. The old man wipes his tears away, willing himself to look at the sunset for a few moments before turning his back and walking towards his favorite chair. It is time for afternoon tea. A servant enters the large sala carrying a tray with a huge pot of hot chocolate and some native sweets: kuchinta and palitaw[iii], and some ripe mangoes. Don Isidro Villaruel sits on his favorite arm chair and takes a cup of fragrant hot chocolate from the servant. He nods his head indicating his thanks and waves his hands to tell the servant to leave. With a bow, the servant leaves the old man alone again. He stares at his still hot cup and stirs the drink slowly when he saw his left wrist with a slightly visible scar. He traces the scar with gnarled, trembling, spotty hands. The hands of an old man who has an amazing story to tell – that of living a dual life! He lifts the cup to take a sip but frowns when the hot liquid scalded his lips. He thinks to himself, ‘The children have all grown up now and some are about to start families of their own.’ He attempts another sip, this time rewarded by a sweet, aromatic gulp. He smiles are he muses, ‘Maybe I should tell them about my past?’ He notes that even to himself and in his mind, he is asking a question. He is still afraid that even now, even at his age and after all those many years, the past still makes him want to run away and hide.

[i] Is native Filipino shirt made of jusi or piƱa worn with a balck or white cotton inner shirt as barongs are flimsy, almost transparent with elaborate embroidered designs. This is the national dress for males in the Philippines.

[ii] Refers to the people who live in the island of Negros particularly, Negros Occidental who speak Ilonggo or Hiligaynon, one of the eight major languages in the Philippines.

[iii] Kuchinta is a steamed pudding made from lihiya water. This is eaten with grated coconut as toppings. Palitaw is a form of rice cake made from glutinuous rice and coconut milk and eaten with grated coconut, sesame seeds and brown or white sugar as toppings.

No comments: