Baykoy and The Only Something
This is a gripping and magical story 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 Dare to Die – Part Two
Age: Six years old.
— indomitable —
I had to forget Angeline. I had to forget Reynan.
I even had to forget about your mother and your grandparents living their life in the bustling, rowdy city.
I had to forget about being in the funeral van, peeking into Jiji’s casket. I had to forget his peaceful, pale face.
I had to forget about having a good heart. I had to forget Angel.
Heaven, take me away now. Angels, I hate you. You’ve betrayed me.
The second graders were busy with their seat work. They had to read an English story, then answer the questions below.
I hated Math, and grandma was showing us how to do addition. My first grade classmates grasped it right away, and they could all invade the chalkboard to solve the problems. As I was using my fingers and toes for counting.
First-digit equations were fine. Second-digit crunches were wreaking havoc on my discriminatory academic mind.
Grandma called on me to hem out one second-digit mess.
A humiliation alert! All eyes were on me. Even the second graders jolted their heads away from their task. Just to witness a spectacular moment of how the subject plagued my tiny intellect.
“I wanna do English instead,” I stammered.
“We’re doing Math right now,” grandma replied. “And I’m asking you to solve this problem. C’mon up.”
“I wanna read books and do a lot of English work instead,” I blasted. “I’m not doing Math! I hate Math! And you can’t make me!”
Murmurs and giggles buzzed across the room.
“Shut up! Shut up!” I yelled at them. Instantaneously, a staggering silence whooped in.
Grandma stood still, blushing. Tears in her eyes. In complete disbelief.
“You’re all bad kids anyway!” I screamed, enraged. “You don’t even talk to me! You don’t wanna play with me! You don’t wanna have anything to do with me! And I’m just another kid around! I’m just another kid around! And I hate Math! I hate it! I hate it! I hate it! And I hate all of you! My brother is dead! And the only person who really liked me is dead, too! And I hope you’re all gonna get more cuts and wounds and scratches from playing your dangerous games! I hate you! I hate all of you! And if you’re bad enough, I can go bad, too! Keep that in mind! Keep that in mind!”
Traumatized faces painted the entire room.
They sat in a disheartening spirit, with a few snivels and awkward coughs stirring away.
Grandma walked up to me and held my hand. “C’mon. You can sit in the back for now, and read your book.”
“No!” And it hurt being this unruly.
“Wanna be with grandpa?”
“What do you wanna do?”
“I wanna die!”
Grandma stayed calm. “Baykoy, you’re really making me cry right now.”
“Good!” I yelped.
“Do you want me to die, too?”
My good heart couldn’t take it. I churned into an incensed cry.
Grandma picked me up and rocked me in her arms.
Her physical strength always marveled my innocence.
I created a rebellious spectacle designed to break hearts.
As the Math problem would forever remain.
A memory tool that tore a room apart.
Your sadness and sorrows must find their way out.
The only something.
— Indomitable —
Grandpa took me in. He gave his students seatwork, both grades, as we sat at his desk in the far end.
He was consoling me. But I couldn’t get myself to pay attention to a word he was saying. I told him I wanted to play with Kidlat and Kuwago, but he wouldn’t let me. I knew he was scared of something.
Something that I might do.
He knew what I had in mind. He could read right through me. He read through my deepest sadness last night. I might never know what he saw. I might never know all his fears. I didn’t even want to ask him.
But he knew my heart.
He knew what my heart was capable of, and how tortured it had been.
For a little girl who had been introduced to powerful emotions, dangers were imminent.
I didn’t know of the other kids’ lives. I just figured that if they were emotionally and mentally troubled about something, they were smart enough to deal with it. As it was shown in their happy faces. As it was capering out of their dangerous games. As it was marked by their cuts, wounds and scratches.
I envied their innocent bliss. And I hated them for not sharing it with me.
“See these kids?” grandpa said in a suppressed tone. “They’ve got an unimaginable life going on. Unimaginable. By the time they get home, they have to work really hard. They work with their parents in the rice fields, on their own farms, and even — other people’s rice fields and farms. And that’s how they survive. You think all of them spend their weekends out and about playing? No. Never. They have to work. Some of them even have to walk all the way to the town center to sell anything that they can find. Fruits, vegetables, anything. They make little money, but they’re already happy with that. They’re helping their folks. They accomplish something good. And they wanna finish school to have something to be proud of someday… So each time you see them playing around like crazy out there in the yard, it’s their only perfect time to be kids. Real kids. No work. No books. No worries. Just happy playing. That’s it.”
Guilt saltated in. “Ooh really?”
“And sometimes,” he continued, “they get sick. They get sick really bad.”
“Ooh really?” I gasped.
“Really,” he said. “So don’t feel bad if they’re scared to play with you, all right? They just think… you’re a little princess that they need to protect, that’s all. No hard feelings. Trust me.”
“But I don’t want them to see me like that ‘cause it’s a lie,” I sobbed.
“I know,” he replied. “But… that’s just the way it is.”
Now I hated fairy-tale books a lot more. Princesses. Princes. Rich. Poor. Good. Evil. Magic. Violence. Life. Death.
Lies! Lies! Lies!
Your personal experience is the only truth.
Cherish it. Stand up for it.
It’s your pledge to the world.
The only something.
— Indomitable —
Grandpa’s revealing words about the kids echoed into my good heart, but!
Rage prevailed. Grief growled on. Revenge raved up. Sadness sailed on.
I was still another kid around. What they thought of me was a lie. Whatever it was, whether grandpa was wrong about his assumptions or not, it was all a lie.
Kidlat and Kuwago were desperate for my attention. I deliberately ignored them as I was on an important mission.
Grandma got me biscuits and a cup of hot chocolate. I smashed them all down, then jumped into a game.
One group of elastic female first-graders playing ‘Chinese Garter’.
The garter was about to go high above my height. Whoa.
The girls were either seven or eight years old, which made them a bit taller than me. I felt like one of the mini biscuits that could be bashed down any second. But I acted tough.
I had to act tough.
Tough enough to strike fear into their…
… innocent bliss!
“I’m joining the game whether you like it or not!” I announced.
A grinding halt.
They looked at each other. Shot to pieces.
“Okay,” a tame girl shrugged.
“Okay?” a stalwart girl reacted. “Are you crazy? What if she’d get hurt?”
“I don’t care!” I blurted. “I wanna get hurt! I wanna get hurt more than you do! You think you’re the only ones here who deserve to have those cuts and wounds? I deserve to have them, too! Let’s play!”
“No!” the stalwart girl protested. “You go back in there and read your books! You’re not playing with us! And I’ll never play with you even if the world has to end!”
“Ooh really?” I stepped up, facing her.
“Cut it out!” the tame girl ordered.
“If you get hurt,” the stalwart girl pointed out, “then we’d be in trouble ‘cause you’d be in a hospital, then our parents would get mad at us, then we’d have to pay for it, and since we’ve got no money to pay for it, we’d have to work a lot harder, then we’d get really tired, then we’d get sick, too, then we wouldn’t be able to play and go to school anymore, and what if we’d die? And what if you get bad broken bones? Then your blood would run all over, then it would go right up into your head, then you’re dead. That’s why you can’t play with us. Ever.”
I thought about it. I calmed down. “Ooh really?”
“Yeah,” they replied, nodding.
I could feel their sadness embracing me.
“Just do your own thing,” the stalwart girl said, “and just leave us alone. We just don’t wanna take our chances with you… ‘cause you’re so little, so tiny, and so… fragile. Just read your books or play with your dogs, do whatever. Just not… this. At least, not yet. Maybe once you’re big and strong enough, then we can play. Just not right now… Okay?”
Cuts, wounds, scratches… and bad broken bones… were merely a child’s play. They could heal.
While rejection would last a lifetime. So surreal.
I wished I had never come to an understanding at all. But I did.
And what else was more painful?
Not staying tough enough to stand up for my privilege as a kid.
Being able to play with them.
I hated myself.
Rejection teaches you a little wonder.
Which one is a child’s play.
Which heart’s desire matters.
— Indomitable —
I ran inside the classroom, bawling my eyes out. Grandma caught me right away and made me sit on her lap. I told her about what happened, and she simply giggled.
“It’s not funny!” I cried.
“Go play with Kidlat and Kuwago instead,” she said.
“Wanna read a book?”
“What would you like to do then?”
“I wanna go home!”
“You can’t be home alone anymore.”
They knew! They knew! They knew!
I needed my shiny pencils now. Now! They must be sharp. So sharp!
But I had to wait and be patient.
Grandma gave me an eagle eye. Stunned. Noticing my mood shifts.
As I was in my best behavior all of a sudden. Like magic. “I’m reading a new book then,” I said.
She left me alone at the desk, then moved on to her tasks. Though on the lookout. Surreptitiously. Nervously. Breathlessly.
And I was humming the baykoy song as I read along. The horror in her face was beyond my comprehension.
She looked at me. Really looked into my eyes. As grandpa would. “Don’t ever do something that would hurt you, or grandpa and I would die, you understand?”
“Grandma, I’m tired,” I groaned.
She understood what I meant.
I was tired of it all. Thinking. Crying.
A lot of thinking. A lot of crying.
Rejection. Life. What people believed. What the kids believed.
Life had been rejecting me.
And the world had been spitting me out anywhere, anyway.
Out of it all. But wait. Into… where exactly?
Heaven? I didn’t believe in it anymore.
And angels were a lie, and out to keep on betraying me.
Betraying my good heart. Betraying my baykoy song.
I had been hurting. Might as well hurt my skin, too.
Some concrete pain would do the trick. Here I go.
Real pain. Real cuts and wounds. Something real and concrete.
Bad broken bones? Yes, all right. I was all set.
My skin was ready. My blood, my bones.
Someone would peek into me.
Into my casket… as I was going home.
Jiji. Angeline. They would never be alone.
Betray your baykoy song.
But never betray your good heart.
The only something.
— Indomitable —
The distraught woman reappeared. Grandma and grandpa engaged in a grave talk with her outside. By the Marcos-type building. Away from my sight. Away from my ears. Away from my grief.
But I was no fool.
It got even worse.
Whispers hissed around:
“Her dead body’s probably home now.”
“From the morgue? From the morgue?”
“Are you going to the wake?”
“We all have to go to the wake.”
“I’m scared of dead bodies.”
I stood up. “Shut up! Shut up!”
Silence. Dead silence.
They understood. They knew something.
They sympathized with my pain.
I ran outside, screaming. They twitched out of their seats to run after me.
A wild commotion rolled in! “Ma’am! Sir!” they called on grandma and grandpa.
I ran and ran and ran! To the back of the classrooms! Into the woods! The treacherous woods that I had never been into before!
Kidlat and Kuwago skittered off from behind, wildly barking. They seemed to be in panic, too.
“Baykoy!” grandpa yawped. He was scrambling after me. “Baykoy! Baykoy, stop! Stop it! Stop!”
I had knocked some tree branches along the way. I was sloping downward. I was losing my balance.
Kidlat grabbed me by my dress. Kuwago walloped on for the second move.
Grandpa caught me for a tight hug, running out of breath.
I screamed it out some more, in a tottering and fierce feat.
We slumped down on the ground, and he cradled me in his arms.
“We don’t know what to do with you anymore,” he muttered, almost in tears.
Kidlat and Kuwago sat down beside us, panting.
I was writing a letter to Angeline in my mind. A letter about angels’ betrayal. A letter about heaven not being real. A letter about me being tired of having a good heart.
Magic didn’t exist. God never existed either.
The only thing that life had been showing me was death. Apart from being alone. In a room full of vibrant kids.
How could I have realized all this at six years old? How could I have been exposed to a small casket? How many times should I meet dead bodies along the way?
When would I stop crying? What could make me stop crying?
Death. The shiny pencils were waiting. I had to make sure they were sharp enough.
Grandpa stared down at me, taken aback. The same way as grandma looked at me a while ago.
I snapped back into my best behavior. Hush… hush… hush…
I was tired. Just awfully tired.
It was like a magical snap. Gone. Right away.
In the midst of exhaustion. In the midst of grief. In the midst of dead loved ones’ faces flashing before me.
Hush… hush… hush…
Eyes were directed to nowhere. Feeling light. Yet a bit heavy at once. Hard to describe.
A snatch away. Of all the sorrows. Of everything else that was squeezing my heart to rack.
Hush… hush… hush…
It may come to pass.
Yet it will always stay that way.
A life mystery.
The only something.
— indomitable —