Baykoy and The Only Something
This is a gripping and magical tale of a little Filipino girl who goes by an endearing nickname, Baykoy.
It’s a wild-bursting battle against her beliefs in angels and the powers of heaven as she gets to confront and experience the supernatural realms that may hold the supreme truths of death and life cycles.
The story is told through the heart-convulsing letters of a woman to her niece, detailing her childhood in the Philippines.
Age: Four years old.
— indomitable ––
The Ruthless Typhoon
I’ve known for a while now that you’re terrified of rains and thunderstorms. You wail at the top of your lungs, and it’s always a formidable struggle. Then you fall asleep once the terror already wears you out.
You may have only witnessed one typhoon so far. And you will experience more as years sprinkle by.
Your mother and I endured the most horrific ones during our time. Here’s one of them:
We woke up to a grim morning. It was ghastly dim. The strong wind speed whistled into the air. And the harrowing whistle sounded deadly.
Your grandparents were in the kitchen. Your grandfather geared up to fix us breakfast. Your grandmother was doing a round check. Your mother and I were told to stay in the room. We did. I was trembling. Your mother stayed calm.
I prayed in my mind. Though I thought to myself, if I were to die today, it would be fine. So I would see Jiji again. For more giddy chuckles. For more yellow toy bells to ring. For fun that we never had the chance to share.
Creaks! Slams! Swooshes! Baams! Booms!
Trees were falling, hitting the house. Roof was thrown off. Walls were smashed down. Your grandparents ran to save us.
Your grandfather said, “The nasty wind stole our breakfast away!”
Your grandmother grabbed us at once, and we all crawled under the wooden bed. We laid on our backs, listening to the harrowing whistles and the devastating destruction hurling around. Your grandfather was out of sight. We didn’t know where he went. We called on him. No answer. We called on him some more. Nothing. We screamed out loud to grab his attention. No response.
I wanted to cry, but I couldn’t. Your mother remained calm. Your grandmother had us in her arms. Afraid to let go. I could sense her fears flaring out of her breaths.
Meanwhile, your grandfather was still gone missing. We got exhausted from calling and screaming. We stayed still in silence. As the ruthless typhoon continued to savage our home. It was grandma and grandpa’s vacant house. That once upon a time was our own.
Gallant male voices broke in. I recognized your grandfather’s voice out of the mix. Relatives came down for a rescue. We were forced to crawl out from the hiding sulk. Instantly, a male relative picked me up and held me tight. Your grandfather cradled your mother in his arms.
And off we went.
To brave the ruthless typhoon. And just as we whizzed out for an escape, the house crashed down. To pieces. Debris stormed along with the harrowing wind. While we were fighting our way through. Darting away from the falling trees. I could feel the unyielding fight of a male relative who was carrying me. Your grandparents and your mother flinched forward. The others managed to clear the way as we traversed on.
We reached your great great grandmother’s house. At last. After defying the fifty-meter walking strive.
We got there. Unscratched.
— Indomitable —
Your great great grandmother’s house served as the ultimate evacuation center. Not only for close-knit family members and church devotees, but for helpless neighbors as well. It was a spacious, elegant concrete homestead, with four bedrooms upstairs and two bedrooms downstairs, including the master’s. It had an antiquated upright piano, a mini library, a cozy living room, a dining area, a cavernous kitchen and an ample front porch plopped with cushy furniture.
It was jammed inside. We were all in clustered groups. Kids were huddled in one corner. Teenagers secured their own spot. Adult women were busy making meals. All men went on with their tasks. Elders were either taking naps or taking a good rest.
Despite the ruthless typhoon hammering itself across towns, the animated movements and the lively talks reigned over. There were also occasional laughs zinging out of the kitchen. I was sitting with your mother, along with our second cousins. We never talked much. It seemed we were waiting for something important. We just couldn’t figure out what. We were safe and sound. It was all that mattered. The calamitous event had us worried for a while. Only for a while. As another episode of solidarity made us smile.
Hot meals were served. Rice, fish, vegetable stew, fresh chocolate drink and sweets. We devoured them all. It was like a food festival or an eat-all-you-can buffet. Glimmering eyes, jolly spirits, incredible camaraderie. The joy of being alive. A celebration of being human. A validation of pure love.
Out of all the kids, your mother was different. She was the most special one. She was quiet, and minded her own business. She would always do things on her own. She loved doing things on her own. She never needed any help. She never asked for help. I don’t remember her asking for help at all. Not even once. Around this time, she was three years old. We were always beside each other. But she had her own way of accomplishing stuff. She had different interests. She was already her own master. I was still learning. I was behind. I was always in a pensive mood.
I remember watching her eat, and she worked on her spoon diligently. She would deliver the food into her mouth with a meticulous intent. Each time. She would chew as if she needed to figure out all the ingredients. She would pause in between to examine her plate. She examined it like she was thanking the angels. There was a thoughtful demeanor in all her actions. Intelligent, graceful, effortless. In an unspoken glee.
Amidst all the turmoil, I was still able to catch a little bit of magic.
Sparkling out of your mother’s presence. The animated movements. The lively talks. The laughs. The hot meals.
The only something.
— Indomitable —
A consecrated atmosphere transpired.
It was worship time. Female elders led the devotional. A young uncle was poised at the upright piano. Gospel songs were sung. Bible verses were read. Biblical discussions were tossed in. Prayers were expressed. All in a sanctified fashion. Being born in a devoted Seventh-Day Adventist home required this much dedication. I followed along. Your mother was just as obedient. We were kids. We knew it was important. We knew it was an important family affair. Our religion was important. It was the spoken law.
Worship was done. All of us kids were ordered to go into the first room upstairs. We quietly obeyed. Your great great grandmother was waiting for us. She was sitting in her rocking chair, dressed in her traditional church outfit. Her long grey hair was tied up. She was really old. Fragile-looking. With the kindest face you would ever see. I don’t remember exactly what she did. But she was well-respected and one of the most accomplished women in town. She was beloved. Saintly in her dealings. She had a warm voice. She moved gently. She was like the epitome of an angel.
We all sat on the floor, facing her. She was holding an old book. She smiled. Great anticipation gasped by.
She opened the book and delivered an opening speech. The story was about Baby Moses. We eagerly listened. She read it like we were listening to a radio drama. Her engaging performance swept us away into a total enchantment.
I could see the actions reeling through my mind. So vividly. So delightfully. I felt as though I was living in it as well. Like I had been transported. In one magical snap. The characters were around me. The rush. The emotions. The climactic incidents. Captured. By my playful imagination. Through her powerful commands.
As immersed as we were, we held our breaths. All entrancing eyes were on her. No one moved a bone. It was a child’s dreamland. All children’s dreamland. A biblical story, which we thought was a land full of magic. We learned of God. We learned of angels. We learned of biblical figures. What we were learning now was the intertwined human connection. The spiritual fate. Achieved through a godly course. That being caught in a looming danger, you would be saved. Because there was always a good heart around. All you had to do was believe.
And it was how we understood magic.
After the story was told, we cheered and gave her hugs and kisses. I looked into her eyes, and I caught some happy tears. She gripped my hand, then smiled at me. She also caressed my hair for a bit. She granted me a blessing. I knew it was a good omen. I knew it was a gesture of an angel. That life was going to be okay. No matter what.
Your great great grandmother who made us experience magic for the first time.
Life was going to be okay.
The only something.
— Indomitable —
The sun shone again. Nature went kind. A new day began.
The ruthless typhoon caused so much havoc across towns. Destroyed homes. Fallen trees everywhere. Trampled rice fields. A lot of cleanups to do for the adults. A lot of new beginnings to consider. A lot of economic problems to face.
We visited our smashed house. We inspected some debris. We took some items that were still usable.
Where was home now? I had no clue.
Your great grandparents lived in a very remote town. They were running a Primary School there. As they were the only teachers around. They taught First, Second, Third and Fourth Grade Classes respectively. They were in charge of everything. And I meant, everything! Boy, they must be exhausted.
I knew your grandparents must make a culminating decision now. I was curious about the city. I had only been there a few times. It was when Jiji was hospitalized. But I was never inclined to live there at all. I thought it was too rowdy for me. And too scary.
Your grandfather was from the city. All his family lived there. I found out later on that your grandfather’s father used to be rich, and carried a distinctive prestige to his name. He was not only a Chief of the Police. He was a World War II veteran, and a part of the United States Army Forces in the Far East.
At four years old, I only met them once or twice. They lived in a slum area. Though they had a decent house. But it was still squashed in a crowded neighborhood. Unimaginably crowded. People were lounging around outside. Dishevelled kids would play all over the street. Women, young and old, were indulged in chitchats. Though there was one astounding thing I remembered most. And it stuck in my head for a while. As I mentally investigated the phenomena behind it.
I would still see happy faces.
Except for your grandfather’s parents’ faces. As theirs were sulky and hostile. It made me cringe the first time. And I refused to believe that they were my grandparents. I just couldn’t accept it for the life of me. Not at all. Never. How could I possibly have grandparents who never got tired of scowling? As a child, I always thought of grandparents as the kindest hearts. And it was how your grandmother’s parents made me and your mother feel. It was how your grandmother’s elders made us all kids feel. It was how the countryside elders would make everyone feel.
What happened to them?
I didn’t want to know. And I never knew.
A decision had been made, however.
And what happened to me next was an adventure of a lifetime. An adventure that I never appreciated until now. An adventure that I thought was something ordinary for a child like me.
An adventure that changed how I saw the world, and how it should be.
The only something.
— Indomitable —