Baykoy and The Only Something
This is a gripping and magical tale of a little Filipino girl who goes by an endearing nickname, Baykoy.
The story is narrated through the heart-convulsing letters of a woman to her niece, detailing her extraordinary childhood experiences.
The Truth about Angels – Part Two
Age: Six years old.
— indomitable —
I looked into Angeline’s eyes, and I cringed.
They looked brownish and blueish, and… just really a haunting scare.
Her arms and legs were badly bruised up, too. And they didn’t look like she got them from playing those outdoor games at all.
A wicked feeling told me she was sick.
Like… she was about to die.
But I couldn’t accept it. I didn’t want to believe it. I prayed that what I was feeling was a lie.
It had to be a lie!
I didn’t ask any more questions. I just listened to her, as I was enthralled by her graceful movements.
She told me she only did first and second grades in this town, and that she was grandma’s favorite. She would lead reading most of the time, and she enjoyed being in school.
They moved to Manila to settle down. Her father landed a good job there. But the political turmoil scared them away. And it was cruel.
I couldn’t grasp the political turmoil part, and she didn’t elaborate on it either. Though I had a sense there was more to it than that. So I just waited patiently, like a good kid’s rule.
“I’ve got leukemia,” she said.
“What’s that?” I replied.
“It’s got something to do with blood, and hospital treatment is really expensive. My parents can’t afford it anymore, so…”
“So you’re here to get better?”
“I’m here to die,” she said.
“That’s not true!” I protested.
She responded with a smile. “They didn’t tell me your name. What’s your name?”
“Who’s they?” I frowned.
“My little sisters. They’re twins. They’re in third grade.”
I hadn’t met the twins yet. I had to do my investigation later on. “Baykoy,” I said.
She laughed. “Is that a nickname?”
“That’s what grandpa calls me,” I said, embarrassed.
“So I should call you baykoy then?”
“If you want.”
She soothed the chocolate bar out of my grip and unwrapped it, then handed me the sweet.
I took a bite, and it was chewy. But luscious!
“We’ve got more at home,” she said. “I’ll ask the twins to bring you some. Treats from Manila.” Then… she did a personal investigation…! “So what are you doing down here alone?”
“Oh,” I groaned.
My heart told me to drop the truth. So I did.
And she spilled down a bit of tears. I didn’t realize how heartbreaking my problem was. Just as heartbreaking as having leukemia.
She rested her arm over my shoulders. “You know what my little sisters said? They look at you, and it makes them wanna sing. And it’s true.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I wondered.
“I guess it means… it makes them feel alive even more.”
“I hope they’re not sick or anything.”
“No,” she giggled.
“Can you sing?” I asked.
She stood up in front of me and cleared her throat.
Kidlat and Kuwago tilted up their heads, ready for a charming float.
She sang a nostalgic Tagalog song. Melancholic. Consoling. Bittersweet.
Her captivating singing voice cradled the cockles of my heart.
A beautiful angel whose death became her knowing clock.
My second friendship that was yet to depart.
Always appreciate a special memory like this.
The only something.
— Indomitable —
Did Jiji know when he was going to die?
I thought we should all know when we were going to die. Or angels must show us signs. Not only through sickness. But a clock of its own. The same way as birthdays.
Then I thought angels must have been doing a bad job. ‘Cause they were supposed to protect kids and people with good hearts. Perhaps, the same way as the kids in school would protect me by not allowing me to join their games.
I also thought… an angel was just a special word. Like… gravity… welcome… magic… But no. There had to be some beautiful truth in it, too. Like the rest of the special words I had come to know.
But why did Jiji have to die? Why did Angeline get sick?
Why did good kids that I loved have to go to heaven all of a sudden?
Angeline and I admired the waterfalls. She said the last time she was here was the day before they left for Manila. She cried for hours ‘cause she thought she wouldn’t be back anymore.
And it was only a few years ago.
She was thirteen now. She would have started high school. She said she had already quit after fifth grade. Soon after the diagnosis.
“Don’t worry,” she said, “once I get to heaven, I’d tell the angels to find you a really good friend.”
“Grandpa said that’s what the angels have been doing lately,” I replied.
We looked at each other, and the truth tricked its way into my heart.
She smiled and held my hand. “Do you want another chocolate bar?”
I got hurt so much, and I plunged into a sob. I resisted, but it was more powerful than how I understood strength and courage. I should have been warned.
“Oy!” she teased me. “Oy! Baykoy! What’s the matter? Why are you crying? Oy! Oy! Stop that! Don’t cry! You can’t cry around me! Oy! Oy!”
“If you’d only die,” I cried, “then I would really hate the angels.”
“Then you’d hate me, too,” she said. “‘Cause I’d like to be one of them.”
I yammered my grief out. Already.
She panicked. Kidlat and Kuwago hopped around, barking away.
“Baykoy!” she said in a hushed voice. “Stop it… Stop it…”
She hugged me so tight, and I clung around her. Just like how I clung around grandma and grandpa.
I clung around her like she had already owned my heart since I was born.
Angels can trick your heart. It’s okay to be sad once it’s torn.
The only something.
— Indomitable —
Angeline walked me home. I invited her in, but she said she wanted to see grandma first.
Despite my ‘sickness case’, I braved up to accompany her to school. Along with Kidlat, Kuwago and Angel.
The moment we appeared at grandma’s classroom door, all eyes shifted to us.
“Angeline!” grandma yelped, exhilarated. As she tiptoed towards us, her face sank into a sullen whim. She held Angeline’s hands, then sifted her spirit through the bruises. Her tears fizzled down.
“Mom said they’d told you upon the twins’ enrollment,” Angeline said.
“And I didn’t believe it!” grandma cried, hugging her.
They broke away from the clasp, and grandma touched my nose.
“We found each other by the waterfalls,” Angeline said.
“We knew it was gonna be her mission for the day,” grandma replied, then studied Angeline’s eyes. The brownish, blueish… eyes! The hunting scare of… grief looming in. “If you need anything, let us know. I mean it… I mean it… Please… let us know.”
“Thank you, ma’am,” Angeline said, smiling. “But I think I’ll be okay.”
“No,” grandma insisted. “Please… I mean it!”
“All right,” Angeline moaned.
“I’m taking Angeline home with me,” I said.
“Don’t tire her out,” grandma warned.
Angeline spent time with me at home. We sat on the front porch, as Kidlat and Kuwago played in the front yard.
She told me about their life in Manila, and how the locals would make fun of her accent. If only she could, she would rather speak our dialect than Tagalog. And it was what motivated her to learn English more.
She only had one friend. The best one. Her name was Emily. They loved each other so much. They shared a lot of fun times together, a lot of laughs, and a lot of cries, too. Upon her diagnosis, Emily would write her letters everyday. And a couple of weeks before they had to leave, Emily couldn’t bear seeing her anymore.
She said it was the most painful thing that had ever happened to her. More painful than fighting for her life.
The whole time, I was sitting beside her, listening, with Angel pressed against my chest.
In the middle of our earnest talk, she suddenly cracked into a good laugh. And I was thrown for a loop.
“My little sisters never listen to me when I talk,” she said.
“Ooh really?” I replied.
“I’ll remember this by the time I go.”
Gone. Loss. Dying. Death. Grief.
I was only six years old. And I already knew too much.
“I’ll remember you all the time,” I said.
And I still do.
I remember every word. Sad, demure and courageous.
I remember the smile. Sweet, beguiling and teary-eyed.
I remember the first day. When a good friend found me.
I remember her always, always. I’ll remember.
Until the day I die.
The word, the smile, the first day. The last. And everything else in between.
Remember it all. Remember it all over again.
The only something.
— Indomitable —
There were times when I wished I never understood something important in life. Like meeting someone, with an instant knowing of a good friend. Anticipating death. Believing in angels. Believing in magic. Believing in truths that were growing in a beautiful heart.
There were times when I wished I were just like any of the other kids who could just play. Without a special wish to whisper on. Without a mind full of concerns. Without sensibilities to bother.
There were times when I wished I had never met Reynan. Especially Angeline. Neither being in a room full of kids. As they only made me feel more alone, angry and heartbroken.
There were times when I wished I should only be content and happy being with grandma and grandpa. With books and chores to delight in. With the baykoy song to cheer me up. With Kidlat, Kuwago and Angel as playmates.
There were times when I wished I were just a six-year-old kid. Without a heart to give. Without a heart that would constantly cry. Without a heart altogether.
Without a heart and mind that would remember all the important memories. Life had become an illusion.
Angeline wrote me a special letter. She neatly folded it, then reminded me to keep it and only read it once she would become one of the angels.
I planted a kiss on it, then kept it under my clothing storage box.
She promised to see me everyday for as long as she was able to, and we would create our own memories together.
She said I was different from all the other kids she knew. Like she wanted to take care of me. That she already loved me the first time we met.
The angels did choose a good friend for me. Because I still needed to understand something more.
Not about life.
The angels were teaching me more about loss, death and grief.
Wasn’t Jiji enough yet?
Wasn’t being away from your mother and your grandparents not enough yet?
Wasn’t Reynan enough yet?
I loved your great grandparents, I still do, and I always will. With all of my heart and spirit. Until my last breath.
Though around this time, being a kid, I felt I was already hurting enough. All of a sudden I had been exposed to some harsh truths that I could not escape from.
It could have been the stories, the magic of the mind, human revelations, human experiences, human hearts.
Which ones were true? Which ones were lies?
I was already hurting. Too much.
I should have just stayed ignorant.
Why couldn’t I just be a kid?
I didn’t want to wish for something good anymore. I didn’t want to love anymore. I didn’t want to cry anymore.
Soon after Angeline left, I went down on my knees to pray.
It wasn’t exactly a prayer.
It was the prayer of a very angry and very bitter little girl.
And I thought they deserved to know what I was feeling about the tricks that they pulled on me.
Sensibilities. Take care of them.
The only something.
— Indomitable —
You must have known by now how good your great grandparents’ hearts were.
So good that it was causing heavy worries now. Tension tripped in.
I tripped over it after doing the supper dishes. I eavesdropped on their downbeat discussion. Though it sounded like an argument without all the yelling, but frustrations and sadness huffed out of their voices.
They were on the front porch, having black tea. I was on the floor, by the door. Kidlat and Kuwago were threatening to call me out, while Angel comforted my chest.
“It’s the wrong friend,” grandpa said. “Just wrong. She can’t see her anymore. No. That’s all I gotta say about this.”
“She’ll deal with it,” grandma replied. “She’ll get over it. She’ll be fine.”
“She won’t be fine. She’ll cry everyday, she’ll get mad, she’ll go crazy. She won’t be fine. I already see it coming. No. Just no.”
“She dealt with Jiji’s death.”
“She was four. She’s got this great mind going now. She understands more now. She’s aware. And she’s not just aware. She’s emotional. It’s dangerous. No. No. I’m not dealing with all the crying. No.”
“I’ll talk to Angeline then.”
“We can see Angeline. We can look out for her as much as we can. But they can’t hang out anymore. That’s it. And I’m not going about this again. That’s it.”
My heartache erupted! I wept out loud! Out of anger! Out of grief! Out of… betrayal!
The angels betrayed me!
Grandma and grandpa whisked their way to the yowling.
“And it’s already happening,” grandpa sighed.
“You lied about the angels!” I cried. “You lied! You lied!”
He gave me a closer look. “Baykoy…”
My raging cry rushed them into panic. Grandpa picked me up, and I went hysterical. He struggled to calm me down. “Baykoy…” he whispered.
His sad plea shushed a tiny piece of all my pains. I slowly simmered down.
“Your friend is really sick,” he said. “Do you know what that means?”
“Yes,” I moaned.
“What does it mean?” he asked.
Grandma poked him in the shoulder. “Enough.”
“No no,” grandpa said. “We have to talk about this now.” And he looked into my eyes. “What does it mean?”
“She’s gonna die,” I replied.
“That’s right,” he said. “She’s gonna die, and you’re gonna get hurt, then you’re gonna cry. You’re gonna cry everyday, and we’re all gonna stop living. We can’t be happy anymore. We can’t even sing the baykoy song anymore. Although in time, you’ll get over it, but we don’t know how long it’s gonna last for you. Grandma will get sad, I’ll get sad… ‘cause you’re deeply sad. And we’d probably even get sick, too… We don’t want you to get sick… We don’t want you to cry…”
“But I’ve already been crying ‘cause I can’t make a good friend,” I said.
“You know what?” he said. “I think the angels must have picked the best cry for you then.”
The best cry. One of the best lifelong memories. Regardless of its painful irony.
The only something.
— Indomitable —