Prologue and First Chapter Excerpts
“Expect to be in awe… Stay noble…”
Baykoy and The Only Something
The story is narrated through the heart-convulsing letters of a woman to her niece, detailing her extraordinary childhood in the Philippines.
This is a gripping and magical tale of a little Filipino girl who goes by an endearing nickname, Baykoy.
At four years old, she witnesses the death of her beloved youngest sibling and her mother’s transcendent grief. In a cryptic event that follows, she has to sit in a funeral van, and gets to peek into her little brother’s casket. Soon after, a ruthless storm wipes out their home, leading her to live with her loving grandparents who are in charge of the only Primary School in a remote town where a memorable encounter with a mysterious boy only adds on to her angst.
By the time she turns five, she explores the wonders of the mind through reading and learning being an imposed family law. Her sensibilities intensify as she becomes more aware of nature, human connections and spiritual existence.
At six years old, since none of her grandparents’ pupils would even invite her to join their games, her only special wish is to have a good friend. Granted, she meets a 13-year-old girl whose angelic presence captivates her. However, in a mystical twist, her one and only friend passes away the next day.
What transpires next is 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 the cycles of life.
It’s like a carnival. Frightening, fun and wistful. With or without going for the rides. Never be disappointed. Just keep moving forward. Into the unknown, by all means. You only need one word to make it. Don’t confuse it with heavy logic. Stay away. I mean it.
Never explain. Leave pedantic elements alone. Ostentatious intellect can be a deceit. Never bargain. Never cringe away either. Challenge your heart and mind. Let go. Allow them to be tugged out. You’ll find a way. Right and wrong are tied together. Best lessons. Always.
An adversity is non-negotiable. So is love. So is a decision. Face it with bursting courage. Face it with humility. Never face it with a humbug’s pride. Allow your senses to go berserk. Never allow them to be abused.
A satisfying accomplishment is found in a haystack. Lurking in your spirit. The spirit of freedom. The spirit of wisdom. The spirit of personal experiences. Honor these. Honor yourself. Honor those who love you. You will be an accomplished human.
Feel hearts. Find out what they can do. Everything else is trivial. The truth is found in the darkest night. Defying light does the job. Never fear. You will be enlightened.
Passion is a disease of wonders. But you will experience the magic of heaven. It’s about the good, the bad, the ugly, the beauty and all the in-betweens. Never apply an educated guess. Intuition accompanies you. Use it.
Independence is like sweet honey. Go for your exciting impulses. With moral discretions as your guide. Create something that makes you happy. Never be a hypocrite. Never brag either. Delight. Never impress.
The least of your worries: recognition.
Never be an aggressive social butterfly. Keep your mystery alive. It is your prestige. Fall in love with your creative comfort. Curiosity will snatch you out of the box. Wait. Be patient. It comes at a special time.
Push yourself forward to create. Beauty is discovered in it. Make sure it is conceived out of your enthusiastic heart. To become a prodigy is to be authentic. To achieve a goal is to uphold genuine intentions. To rise is to keep your feet on the ground.
An idea and an inspiration must go hand in hand. Be content with who you aspire to be. Never rest on your laurels. Desire something kind and beautiful. Be a heartfelt human. Understand your nature. Only then you will understand human nature.
Never fear your emotions. Rupture your heart. Never fear your decisions either. Nurture sound judgment. It is a staggering world of mysteries and experiences. Seek. Have fun. Guard yourself at all times.
Pursuit is never a choice. It is a dedication. It is not a gambling path. It is an outrageous discipline. Love is magic. Expect to be in awe. Take care of it. Stay noble. Love is not a privilege. Pleasure is not always present. Acknowledge it. Stay calm.
The only something.
— Indomitable —
We haven’t met yet. But I’m your only aunt in the world. I’m your mother’s older sister, and I live in a faraway land. They send me pictures and videos of you everyday. They’re my happy treasures. I’ve been watching you grow since the moment you were born. Now you’re four years old. Smart, hyperactive. Your intense curiosity is a blasting marvel. There’s magic glowing out of your eyes. The kind of magic that I might have had when I was your age. The kind of magic that only you and I secretly and intuitively share.
They tell me you seem to be my clone. You’re terrified of rains and thunderstorms. I was terrified of the orange sunset skies. Your dolls’ arms got away. My doll was thrown out the window. You learn the language fast enough by watching cartoons. I learned the language by listening to a cassette recording of Aesop’s Fables, along with your great grandparents’ teachings. You’re already telling stories. I thought of creating them. You like to make friends with adults. They were my warmth and comfort.
When you were about to be born, I couldn’t sleep. It was a radiant winter. I was in my apartment, glued to the computer screen. Waiting for the wonderful news. Munching on snacks. Heart-thumping.
And there it was.
Your photo. Newly born. Already showing courage. Couldn’t wait to be amazed. The mesmerizing adventures ahead. Of life. Of love. Of fun and miracles.
I was in blissful tears. My coffee tasted a lot better. The chips were more crunchy. The classical music sounded more impactful. Everything seemed to stand up for their integrity more. They knew their worth. They held their presence up high.
I stood up for my integrity more. I knew my worth. I held my presence up high. My life changed. My priorities and goals changed. Even my everyday mantra changed. It was the crowning event of my life. Like I already achieved something wonderful. The most wonderful present that only the heavens could give.
I’ve written a lot of stories since. Witty, dark and heart-wrenching. Stories that would make me laugh. Stories that were my emotional and mental purges. Stories that would redeem who I was.
I didn’t know who I was. My purpose. My heart. My dreams.
I didn’t know what truly mattered to me. My sincere desires. My spiritual search. My conscious achievements.
I didn’t know what life was really about. My rights. My wrongs. My lessons.
I, your aunt, your middle-aged aunt who lives in a faraway land, who has experienced every unimaginable adventure, am yet to discover my inner greatness.
Thus, the conception of this book. Which had been bugging me since you were born. But I had to wait for the perfect time.
And right now must be the perfect time. Hence, it drove me to jump out of the bed in the middle of a lonely night.
So here they are.
My delightful confessions. Though at times, cuttingly painful.
As the child in me recalls these gripping and enchanting memories.
In a world that you might never get the chance to know.
The only something.
Just for you.
As I let go.
— Indomitable —
The entire story is set in
the middle part of the Philippines
between 1983 and 1985.
Actual places shall not be divulged
due to personal discretion.
— Indomitable –
Age: Four years old.
— Indomitable —
The Beautiful Cherub
Your mother and I had a little brother. His name was Jiji.
These were my vivid memories of him.
I was sprawling on the front steps, cradling him in my arms. I wanted him to cry. Because I never heard him cry. Not even once. So I kept on begging him for a whimper. Nothing. Oddly enough, I can’t remember his face anymore. Though I remember him staring at me. Just staring. Smiling a little bit. Mostly, just the bedazzling spirit of a two-year-old boy, beholding my presence. It still baffles me to this day, believe it or not. How could I recall a special memory? A special memory of the beautiful cherub whose face had faded away.
We visited him in his hospital room. I gave him a yellow toy bell. He was ecstatic. He played with it like it was the most magical thing in the world. He was entertained by the clinging sound. His giddy chuckles enthused me. I would chuckle along, too. I couldn’t help it. We would take turns. As he struggled to breathe. As he fought for a good laugh. As he pretended that life was okay.
Your grandma and I were riding a public jeepney, heading home. Our home was grandma and grandpa’s house. It was in a country side.
He was wrapped around your grandma’s arms. Frail, ready to give up. I was seated right beside them. The jeepney was packed. The insufferable humidity would even tighten up my chest. I was gasping. I looked at your grandma, and her face was brawling against enormous pain. It must be the insufferable humidity, I thought. It should be the insufferable humidity.
A knock on the jeepney roof. We had arrived.
We hopped off. Your grandma, with Jiji wrapped around her arms, sprinted towards our church. The Seventh-Day Adventist Church, which your great great grandmother helped build and run.
She knelt down and collapsed into her deepest cry. A mother’s grief. The grief that still lingers on to this day. The grief that only shattered me later on in my life.
I was standing next to them. Confused. Yet heartbroken. I knew something horrible had happened. I knew I should cry just as much as your grandma. I just didn’t know what it was all about yet. Though I knew it had something to do with the beautiful cherub. I just didn’t know what happened to him. All I knew was he had been really sick. The way I understood life was about playing and laughing. Crying must only be heard time and time again. And crying was seldom heard in our home.
Perhaps, it was why I wanted him to cry on that day. Because I’d seen and heard other kids cry so hard. In church, especially.
So there it was.
Your grandma, on her knees, with him wrapped around her arms. Tightly yet lovingly. Kissing him all over his face. Whispering something. As her grief echoed all around.
Relatives swarmed over. Panic ensued.
I stood there, watching the commotion. As it unfolded before me.
Jiji had already passed away halfway through our home journey.
— Indomitable —
Jiji’s casket mooned away in the living room for days and nights. A tent was built outside for mourners. First family members, relatives, neighbors, friends and church people were present for vigil service. There was a lot going on. Quite an animated affair, actually. They prayed and sang gospel songs. They cooked and feasted on sumptuous meals. They laughed and cried. They shared personal stories and maybe even gossiped. They played card and board games. While your mother and I would simply observe. As if from a close distance. Though I remember us being quiet. Just solemnly quiet. As our aunts would look after us. It was a confusing time.
A relative taught me a card game. My four-year-old brain couldn’t grasp it. So I just sat on top of that huge round table and became a spectator instead. Rain poured. Thunderstorms growled through. Lightning struck down. We ran inside. Packed. Squished. Some got caught by the splash. Amidst the blasting nature, cheerful laughter and merry chitchats were thrown into air. Again, I was confused. I can’t remember where your mother was. Perhaps, she was already sound asleep. But I was there in the crowded living room, with a puzzle to solve in my head.
The puzzle of life and death.
On one of these days, one of your grandma’s sisters disappeared. She was one of our beloved aunts. She was quiet and domesticated. She was loving and caring. She loved us kids.
She loved Jiji the most.
Agitation shook the house. People were worried. They investigated the woods, nearby houses, and even the vast rice fields. They called out her name. They prayed. They prayed for her safety. In our family, prayer was the supreme help of all.
Later in the evening, she came home. Drenched in tears. Heavy-laden spirit. They interrogated her. In a comforting tone. She said she rested up in a tree somewhere. To cry it all out. As Jiji’s passing had just sunk into her. She prayed, too. But she prayed to die. So she could take care of him again. Then she sang a gospel song. Something in the lyrics told her to go home. She did.
I witnessed it all. Without an understanding. Though my heart understood something. It understood love and sadness. A lot of it. When I grew older, I asked them about it. They told me the exact details. The details scribbled above. As my memory recollection barged in. Vague and vivid at once. It surprised and bewildered me at the same time.
One thing I knew for certain, my heart understood something.
It understood love and sadness. A lot of it.
As Jiji’s casket was laid in grandma and grandpa’s home for days and nights.
As your mother and I would simply observe. As if from a close distance.
It was a confusing time.
— Indomitable —
The church service had long vanished from my memory.
What I remember now is a lot more chilling and stupendous.
There was a flock of mourners. Faces that I had never seen before. All ages. Even babies in their parents’ arms were there. For what special reason, I didn’t know. All I knew was, it was about the beautiful cherub awaiting his final resting place.
It was a mere portrait of solidarity of the entire town. The solidarity of grief. The solidarity of all hearts. The solidarity of mortality.
Your mother and I were in the funeral van. With the beautiful cherub. We would peek into the casket. We could still see his peaceful face through the glass. As it drove along, prayer chanting and gospel singing were uttered. As grief breathed on. Crying, loud laments, an awful thud of emotional torment. It was the biggest day. It was also the saddest day. It was the only day when I felt the enchanting presence of angels.
Somewhere in the crowd. Above the funeral van. With me and your mother.
The beautiful cherub’s face was not only peaceful. There was a subtle smile. There was a wondrous relief. No more suffering. No more fighting for oxygen. No more heaving frights.
No more chuckles. The giddy chuckles. The innocent chuckles of a two-year-old spirit. Our shared moment on the front steps. As I pleaded for him to cry. As he would just stare at me, with his glowing eyes. Our shared moment in his hospital room. As we rang the yellow toy bell. As our hilarity was witnessed by endearing eyes.
Now his eyes were closed. Our eyes streamed down tears. As the heaven’s eyes watched over us. As your mother and I had no fear.
Though I never understood as to why your mother and I had to share the funeral van with the beautiful cherub. I never bothered to ask your grandma about it. Perhaps, there was no other ride available. However, all of them just treaded the roads all the way to the cemetery. Even folks with babies in their arms. It felt like a long winding ceremonial walk. As the funeral van drove along slowly. In an obliging rhythm. Non-stop. Just in an obliging rhythm.
Your mother and I never spoke a word to each other the whole time through. Not one word. We would exchange glances once in a while. Sadness was felt. We knew he was gone forever. And it was the only time that we realized that he was really gone forever.
Jiji, your uncle, was gone.
As his peaceful face was seen through the casket glass.
The beautiful cherub’s biggest day.
It was also his last.
— Indomitable —
An esoteric discovery thrilled up my innocence a lot more.
Your grandmother took home the glass jar filled with Jiji’s blood removed during the embalming process.
It was an eerie day. Quiet at home. Your mother and I were in the living room. We were browsing through old books. Your grandfather was not around. It was a sunny afternoon. Not humid. As we could hear the soft gush of the wind breezing in from the open windows. It should have been a delightful day.
Clanking clicked in. Along with a gentle cry. Footsteps thomped in, and they were heading out of the kitchen back door.
My curiosity kicked in. I dashed after the footsteps. Your mother stayed put.
I followed your grandmother’s trail. Out into the backyard. Green grass all around. Bamboo trees also stood with pride. Along with tropical fruit trees, bushes.
The soft gush of the wind told me not to worry. The sunny afternoon radiated with its beauty.
And there she was. With her back on me. Without looking back. Though I knew she knew somebody was watching closeby.
She was holding a glass jar filled with dark red liquid. Really awfully dark red liquid. The kind that I had never seen before. The kind that jolted alarm, curiosity and astonishment inside of me. All at once.
She was moaning and sobbing. Perhaps, she was also whispering prayers. But it was all I could hear. Just the moaning and the sobbing. She was still in grief. My heart knew that for sure. Though I had no idea what the dark red liquid was. Until it was revealed to me years later.
She delivered it to the ground. She knelt down to inspect it and ponder on it. She was calm and collected. Birds and crickets suddenly chirped around. It didn’t make her budge. She kept on staring at it. I stood there quietly. As my innocence struggled to understand it all.
It lasted for quite a while. The eerie silence. The birds and crickets chirping along. The bamboo trees creaking. The soft gush of the wind. The sunny afternoon. Your grandmother kneeling down before the glass jar filled with dark red liquid. Really awfully dark red liquid. Which turned out to be the beautiful cherub’s blood.
I never asked your grandmother why she did it. I just came to understand its meaning.
Broncho-pneumonia took Jiji’s life. He was born on the fourth of August in 1981. Since his death, your grandmother hardly spoke a word on the beautiful cherub’s birthday. I never noticed it until I got older.
Once I asked your grandmother about him. She never responded. She just gave me a scowl. As tears threatened to burst out.
Though in one family discussion, I overheard her say, “He shouldn’t have been his father’s junior. It was already a bad omen. We need to believe in superstitions sometimes.”
While other relatives would say, “His cherubic beauty was enticing enough for witches. They took him. They killed him and they owned him.”
As for me, I believed the angels rescued him from something early on.
The only something.
Life in an unkind world.
— Indomitable —
Baykoy and The Only Something
About the Author
When my niece was born, an epiphany thumped into my heart. This invigorating voice. This book.
I’m a writer for the first time.
I have been running Tearjerker Fiction since February of 2020. I go by several pseudonyms depending on genres.
J.J. Ireneo was born and raised in the Philippines.
She studied Mass Communications and English Literature.
She lived and worked in China as an ESL teacher.
She was an International English Language Testing System Instructor in Manila for a long while.
She has been writing plays and books.
At 18 years old, while studying at the University of San Agustin in the Philippines, she wrote a full-length play for the Elementary Department. It was “The Wand of Fantasies from the Cradle”.
She has been living in Canada for many years.
She resides in Toronto, Ontario.
She loves her niece so much.
They have not met yet.