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 while coping with grief and loss.
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 Classroom Heroes
Perky voices pierced through the windows. Of jubilant kids. Lots of them. I had never heard lots of kids throwing merry at each other before.
Grandma and grandpa’s house had also been destroyed by the ruthless typhoon. So we occupied the vacant classroom for now. We had everything that we needed in here. We had comfortable beds, tables and chairs, good clothes, etc. Grandpa built a kitchen in the outback. And of course, an outhouse.
It was a bright morning. I just woke up. I realized it must be the first day of school. I flicked the windows open, and whoa. A throng of kids messing around with each other on the ground. Upbeat and flaming with excitement. They were dressed in colorful clothes. Only a few of them wore shoes. The rest wore slippers. But they looked clean and smart.
I didn’t know where grandma and grandpa were. I was alone in the room. Perhaps, they were busy getting ready.
As I observed the frolic, some girls took notice of me. They came over, and they spoke to me through the window. They stared at me with gleaming curiosity. They looked friendly and kind. Then more kids appeared beside them. More snoopy faces hopped forward. And they all stood there, gawking, wondering. I felt a bit mortified. I wanted to shut the window, but that would be an impolite thing to do. So I just let them scrutinize me for as long as they wanted to.
Then one girl asked me if I was the teachers’ granddaughter. I said yes. And there was a ray of sunshine in their faces. Welcoming me into their town. They all spoke at once. In their flying high voices. As I caught some more questions being fired at me. I found it amusing, and it made me feel happy. I also felt a bit special. They must like grandma and grandpa that much then. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be this exultant at all.
The bell rang. Time to break away! They disappeared before my eyes. The ground was empty all of a sudden. That fast! Like magic.
There were three classrooms. Grandma’s (– for First and Second Grades –), grandpa’s (– for Third and Fourth Grades –), and the one where we were crashing in at the moment. There was also a large one, designed for special activities, like graduation ceremonies. And it was called a Marcos-Type Building.
Where did they go? Class time already?
My grandmother barged in to serve me breakfast. Hot bulgur porridge, bread and hot chocolate. Then she advised me to wash up, put on a dress, and join them.
“Are you having your class yet?” I asked.
“Not yet,” she replied. “They’re still having breakfast.”
Huh? They were still having breakfast? Well, didn’t they eat at home?
It baffled me. Then I began to think that all schools were feeding their students for free. And that it was the law. So it must be why those kids in the city slum neighborhood were as happy as they should be.
Happy school kids.
The only something.
— Indomitable —
Excitement set me off outside to take a peek into the classrooms. Disobeying grandma’s order.
True enough, there they were. Ravishing their breakfast. Like it was the best thing in the world. There wasn’t much talk and messing around anymore. It was them relishing a moment.
The moment of having hot bulgur porridge, bread and hot chocolate. The moment of togetherness. The moment of knowing that somebody really cared.
I was peeking into grandma’s classroom. She was seated at her desk, reviewing some paperworks. She would eye her students in between the tasks. She looked a bit serious. She didn’t look tired. She just looked serious. Though I knew it was in her nature. I also knew how much she loved me. Her and grandpa loved me very much. And their love would teach me more about life than the rest of my years without them.
I was glad I was here. Though I missed your mother and your grandparents. But I would rather be here than bask in the city slum and see your grandfather’s folks’ sulky and hostile faces.
Grandma caught me. Uh-oh.
She marched out of the classroom and led me back inside. She wasn’t mad at all. Though there was a tinge of disappointment in her tone, that was it. I was just being a confident, sparkling little girl who was proud to be here.
She got me a dress that I had never seen before. She was an exceptional seamstress, and I knew that she made it for me. She never said it, but I could tell it was only meant for the first granddaughter who lived under their care.
She fled her way back into her classroom. As I did what I had to do. I washed up, put on the nice dress, and combed my hair.
I got hesitant and embarrassed all of a sudden. So I sat at the table to wait for something to happen. I heard clanking and movements. Breakfast was done. They were putting their dirty dishes away. Voices stirred through the walls. Nothing alarming. I figured they were cleaning up and getting ready for class.
Grandma resurfaced. “You’re sitting in my class right after the flag ceremony. Get ready.”
I got nervous and excited at the same time. As I couldn’t wait to start school. I never started school before this. But I had heard of a kindergarten before. I knew I had to be in kindergarten by now. Grandma was teaching First and Second Grades. Where was kindergarten?
Perhaps, sitting in grandma’s class would already count as my kindergarten education. So I should be fine.
But no. Then it would be hard. It must be why my nerves were already whirling around.
All I knew for sure, reading had been one of the strict laws being imposed in your grandmother’s clan. In the old house smashed by the ruthless typhoon, we had a huge cabinet stuffed with old books. Your mother and I would rummage through them everyday. I vividly remembered going over a story about a little boy and a little girl scribbled across archaic pages, with illustrations. The hardcover must have been printed from many decades ago. I enjoyed examining the words. How they were formed. How they should be read, applying each letter’s pronunciation. Just as when you read the alphabet out loud.
And I already enjoyed it. A lot.
A whole lot.
The only something.
— Indomitable —
Wow. A patriotic spectacle.
I had no idea what it was for. I only knew it had something to do with the country, since there was a flag involved.
Kids lined up. Stern yet thoughtful.
Two kids were in charge of the raising of the flag. Grandma and grandpa were at the front, by the main pole, leading the ceremony.
Grandpa commanded them to stand up straight. The kids obeyed in an instant. As if grandpa’s words were a constitution.
Grandma then made a funny gesture with her hands. She was about to conduct the national anthem.
With her commanding wave, the kids placed their right hands over their chests. And! Goosebumps whisked me away.
They sang ‘Lupang Hinirang’ as their eyes revered the ascending flag.
It was exquisitely beautiful. Their palpable performance prided up the song’s meaning a lot more. I was watching from the wide open door, with my senses going emotional. It would almost make you cry. I almost cried.
Then a boy made his eager presence known at the front. Soldier-like. Kind of. He raised his right hand, and the other kids emulated him. All at once, they recited the national pledge, ‘Panatang Makabayan’. In an imposing posture, with a self-sacrificing tone to go along.
I thought it was already the end of it. I was expecting them to blitz into the classrooms by now. But nope. Not yet.
Time to exercise. A fitness exercise.
The synchronized motions, the brisk physique. I thought they were already doing it all practically everyday. The gallops and hustles on the ground this morning alone were already more than enough.
I stood there, grimacing. Running ragged. Physically drained. Already. Just by watching them. And my day hadn’t even started yet.
No, I wasn’t really a weakling. It just made me run out of breath.
Your mother and I would run around time and time again, but that was pretty much it. Nothing of this kind, really. Let alone learning how to play any traditional outdoor games.
We were mostly indoor people.
But soon it would change. As curiosity would erupt out of the child in me. By itself. Under some special circumstances.
My personal explorations would lead me to special discoveries of the world and humanity. Which only my innocence knew. Which I had never appreciated. Until I saw reality without warning.
The only something.
— Indomitable —
Grandma’s classroom was divided into two definite parts. The first part was for the second graders, and the other one was for the first graders. Each had identifying characteristics of their own. The second graders seemed to be more well-behaved and more focused on academic books. While the first graders were on a frenzy over colors, symbols, shapes, the alphabet and stories with a full load of illustrations.
Grandma would deliver a lecture to the second graders while the first graders were busy working on an exercise. Then she would leave the second graders with a quiz or a writing task as she checked on the first graders’ progress. And so on.
I was sitting at her desk in the far-end corner of the room, with a story book in hand. It was about a little girl who was celebrating her birthday, and she invited all her friends and classmates to gorge on a huge cake and soft drinks. In the end, I found out that they only showed up for the delectable experience of having cake and soft drinks for the first time, not merely to acknowledge the celebrant. She said she wasn’t after the presents at all. She just wanted them to greet her ‘happy birthday’ with sincere hugs, and if they could play afterwards. But, of course, it didn’t happen. So she got disappointed, and cried over it. Then her fear caught her in a sad realization: she would never find a good friend at all. Unless she had something sweet to offer.
The story made me really sad. And it was then I came to a conclusion that it could also happen to me. Since I had never made a friend yet. Not even in church. I was mostly surrounded by adults who were always nurturing and loving.
But then here I was now. With a gazillion of vibrant kids around me. I should make, at least, one good friend. Just one good friend. That would already be my total happiness. And I would treasure it forever.
Grandma came over and handed me another story book, then she asked a mind-blowing question, “Did you understand the story?”
“Yes,” I replied.
“Tell me,” she said.
I did. And she was thrilled.
So I had been tasked to read another one. This time, without illustrations. All words. Huge fonts, though. But no exciting drawings that would get me into it, really. I pouted, and she reprimanded me in a subtle tone.
“Read it, then tell me if you’ve understood something out of it,” she said.
It was then I realized I was on for a challenge.
The challenge that would drive me into a world that I would either love or hate. The challenge that would either define who I should be or limit my wisdom. The challenge that I knew would change the rest of my life.
The magic of the mind.
The only something.
— Indomitable —