I also wrote this for a CW10 class back in my freshman years. :)


“It’s so hot.”

“Do you want me to direct the electric fan to you, Lola?

“I am so thirsty. Do we have water?”

“There’s water in the fridge. Do you want me to pour a glass for you?”

“No.... They’re watching our every move.”

Lola? Who’s watching us?”

“THEY are watching us.” She pointed at three passersby on the side walk. “It’s dangerous. They want us to die of thirst.”

There was silence; then, she spoke again.

“He poured my water on the ground. He said I’m not allowed to drink.”

“I promise you, Lola, I will not let him pour your water again.”

“Are the Americans back?”

“We already won the war, don’t you remember? The Americans came and left. We’re free now. ”

“The war is over?”

“Yes, it’s over. No more Japanese. No more killings.”

“What year is it?”


“Who are you again?”

Vince stared at his grandmother who was sitting on a creaking rocking chair two feet away from him. She was wearing those sad eyes she usually wore when the conversations got messy. Her silence told him that Lola Pinang was trying to piece together a puzzle with mismatched tiles. He could read on her facial expression what she was thinking—

“How can the war be over? The Americans just left us. The Japanese just captured Bataan. We are about to cover a 50-mile distance to Pampanga. How can this boy be sure that the Japanese are gone? They’re just hiding. I know they’re just around. I must not let my guard down.”

Vince stood up and left the torn history book he was reading on the floor. In a single stride he found himself beside his Lola. He was close enough to notice the wrinkles on her forehead that told him how deep his grandmother’s thoughts were.

Lola, I’m Vince, your first and only grandson.”

“You are? But my children aren’t even adolescents yet. My firstborn, in fact, is as old as you, maybe even younger. How old are you anyway?”

“I just turned eleven last month. Don’t you remember my birthday party?”

“You’re eleven!? Oh, I remember now. You aren’t Vince. You’re Manuel! You’re my eldest son. My eyes are failing me…”

Vince gave off a here-goes-lola-again type of sigh. It wasn’t the first time Lola Pinang mentioned the name, Manuel, but it was her first time to regard him as her firstborn. Vince was confused because as far as he knew, his grandmother only had three sons—Tito Boni, Tito Ceasar and his own father, Felipe. Vince thought his father was the firstborn and not this Manuel his Lola was mentioning. He was also sure that his father was just nine years old during the Japanese occupation so he couldn’t be the one referred to as Manuel by Lola Pinang. From the first time he heard this name, Vince believed in what his father had ingrained in him—Manuel was just a figment of Lola Pinang’s imagination.

The hinges of the yakal door gave off a high-pitched creak as if annoyed in the entry of a visitor.

“Vince? Have you finished your assignment? I told you, no assignment, no outdoors.”

“I’m almost done, pa. Lola’s just telling me something.”

Mr. Asuncion shot a piercing glance at his mother. Only Vince noticed this for Lola Pinang was looking far out of the window, her back toward her son. Vince always wondered why his father looked at Lola Pinang that way. His glances could easily be mistaken for profound hatred. Vince knew it was baseless, but his instincts told him otherwise. Mr. Asuncion motioned for Vince to come closer to him. He leaned to his son’s left ear and whispered.

“What did she tell you about this time?”

Lola mentioned Manuel again, pa. This time she said he was her firstborn. Weren’t you Lola’s eldest son?”

“I am her eldest son. There’s no Manuel in our family tree.”

“But Lola’s always mentioning him. What if she’s saying the truth? What if I have another tito?”

“Don’t start it again, Vince.” There was an air of authority in his voice emphasizing his years of law practice. “I’ll tell you one last time. Your Lola’s memory is mixing the past and the present, what’s true and what’s not. This Manuel, whoever he is, is a result of her memory’s handicap.”

Vince noticed how his father broke their eye contact in the last part of his statement. Instead of throwing the words at him, he seemed to have directed them to the wooden flooring of the room.

“Why don’t you listen to her for once, pa? I think she wants to tell you many things.”

“Vince, that’s enough.”

“What’s wrong with you? Why don’t you want to talk to Lola? What has she done to you, pa?”

Mr. Asuncion displayed the reaction of an overruled lawyer. He shot another piercing look at his mother, this time a lingering one. Vince watched as the contours of his father’s face transformed to reveal how his lungs squeezed out all the air he was trying to inhale. A throbbing vein in Mr. Asuncion’s temple became visible to the child. Vince sensed the tough emotion his father was suppressing.

At that same moment, Lola Pinang turned her head toward her son. Her eyes, swelling in tears, met his, burning with repugnance. Vince saw all these. His silence gave him the chance to absorb the intensity of the situation. He had never seen his father’s eyes display such anger. He knew that if only they could talk, those sharp stares would spill out an indescribable rage only Mr. Asuncion would hear and understand—

“It’s you! You killed him! You sacrificed him! You did not do anything to save him. You are a worthless mother!!!”

The silence was broken by Lola Pinang’s desperate voice. She spoke as if answering Mr. Asuncion’s furious thoughts.

“Tasio, please don’t give them Manuel. Think it over. He’s your son for God’s sake. Don’t sell them your son.”

Vince looked at his father’s face. There was no bewilderment in his reaction, but he saw his father’s eyes still speaking. They were shouting words he could not hear, but those blazing eyes made him sure they were stabbing his grandmother’s soul to the core—

You’re lying! Don’t blame father for what you did! He died mourning over our loss while you didn’t even show a single affection for my brother! You killed him because you’re selfish!!!”

Mr. Asuncion turned around and walked out of the room as if he heard nothing from his mother. The creaks of the hinges were silenced by the loud bang the door made. In Vince’s mind, he was racing to comprehend the significance of his father’s stares and his grandmother’s words. He was transfixed. He knew his father was hiding something.

“Manuel, come closer.” Lola Pinang’s words were uttered in between heavy sobs.

Vince knew he was the “Manuel” her grandmother was calling. He moved toward her. His feet wobbled as he walked. He was still disturbed by his father’s silent outpour of anger and her grandmother’s sudden outburst of tears. He reached his grandmother who now resembled a child crying over a candy which fell on the ground. Vince stood at the exact spot he had been standing on before his father interrupted their conversation.

“I tried stopping your father, Manuel, but he said selling you is the only way for me to survive. I pleaded him, begged, but Tasio would not listen. I said I could bear what they’re doing to me, but he still sold you. He sold you to the Japanese. He sold you to those wretched men who knew nothing but to kill and to bring pleasure to their flesh. He killed you the moment he sold you. I am so sorry…. I hadn’t saved you… I’m sorry…”

She opened her mouth to speak more but her sobs choked her. She was keening now, her cries echoing in the long corridors of their ancestral house. Vince unconsciously found himself embracing his grandmother, trying to calm her down. He caressed her white hair like a mother comforting her crying son. She wept on his shoulders. They lost track of time; then, her shaking subsided. She stopped crying and became silent again. Vince let go of Lola Pinang who reclined back on her rocking chair. Her face no longer bore distress, but her eyes were still sad.

“Tasio…” Lola Pinang was speaking to her nonexistent husband. “I told Felipe we sold Manuel to the Japanese because I needed money for my medicine. I know I should have told him the truth but he would not understand. I didn’t want to burden his young mind.”

“What do you mean, Lola?” Vince uttered, his voice full of anxiety. Vince’s mind was flooded with questions, but he felt that the answers were within reach.

Lola Pinang glanced toward her grandson. Her eyes were watery, her brows furrowed.

“Manuel, your father decided to sell you in exchange of my freedom. He couldn’t bear the thought that the Japanese soldiers were using me every night, one after the other to satisfy themselves. I told him I could take it for as long as our family’s spared from death. But he said, no. Tasio said he would sell you to the Japanese to become their errand boy. He couldn’t do it himself because of his paralyzed limbs so he only had you to rely on. When the Japanese had you, they let me go, but they treated you as their slave… They killed you of hard labor… They killed you...”

Lola, tell papa the truth. After all you’ve been through, I couldn’t bear him treating you like that.” His voice was resolute.

“Manuel… I want to cry but I can’t. I must be strong. I don’t want Felipe to see me weak. I need to show him an example… But every night I cry alone. I mourn for you.”

Lola, please tell papa what you’ve just told me. Tell him please…” His voice now sounded desperate.

Lola Pinang stared at her grandson’s face. She was still, only her breathing could be heard. It was calm.

“There’s no need to tell him… Vince. He doesn’t deserve the pain.”

She fixed her eyes on Vince’s. The child noticed that they were alive, no longer watery and no longer sad.

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