Sunday, March 04, 2007

Dog Tales

I love dogs. In fact there was a time that I had five of them at the same time. Of course this is not possible today because of the density of the people in the purok.

The gang was imitating the Hagibis, a local band, singing, “katawan ingatan ang katawan”, in the vacant lot when we heard Ka Huling shouting “My God! Enteeeeng!, Enteeeeng” Then there was a loud thud. We all ran towards Ka Huling and found her lying on the ground unconscious. Ka Enteng was there in a flash trying to revive her with White Flower magic ointment. She kept on opening and closing her mouth, which reminded me of a fish that jumped out of the water, but no sound came out from her. “Alas Huling suffered a stroke,” a neighbor shouted. “No that’s lockjaw,” another one butted in. But it was Ka Panyang’s word that caught everybody’s attention. “ Naku! Enteng your wife disturbed an old elf. Buy some tawas and incense and I will cure her.” Through out all these commotions, Ka Huling just kept on opening and closing her mouth but this time she was pointing at Ka Tibang’s windows. We all looked at where she was pointing and we were shocked at what we saw: a swaying towel-draped figure hanging from the wood roof beam.Tagpi was my all time favorite dog. He was called Tagpi because of the black spot on his left side, which in retrospect reminds me more of a gurami than the Japanese imperial army flag that Dude used to tell me. Tagpi was special not because of his breed (he was a native punggok) nor because was he trained; he was my all time favorite because of his loyalty. All my dogs are loyal but he beat them all because he was the only one who followed me everywhere I went. Most of the times I had to throw pebbles at him to discourage him from following me but I later always found him behind me tails wagging, and tongue lolling.

There was one incident with Tagpi that bothers me until today. I was in my first year high school when I participated in an overnight leade
Brownie was one of my early dogs. He was my elementary school days dog. She had an amazing talent for stealth for I never felt her when she climbed the stairs, got onto my bed, and slept beside me. Aside from her amazing talent for stealth she also had the amazing generosity for sharing her blood-sucking pets with me. There was a time when I thought I had grown kuntils under my arms, just like my father who has lots of them under his. “Nay me mga kuntil na ako tulad ng sa tata, o,” I really idolized my father and I felt “tatayish” because of the kuntils. My mother was shocked, “Mga kato ni Brownie iyan, blah, blah, blah.”

Ulol was the strangest dog I ever had. He was a stray. My childhood friends, the Saulon Brothers, were the ones who discovered him. We were playing softball in the rice field when a large foul smelling dog chased them. That was the first time I saw three people running, flailing their hands, shouting their families genealogy, glancing behind and crying, all at the same time without tripping. It was an amazing exhibition of speed, coordination, and balance. And up to now I still can’t forget the expressions of fear on their faces. Dude, my best friend, and I were laughing our hearts out with the spectacle. We called the stray Ulol because we couldn’t tell if he’s rabid or if he just hated the Saulon Brothers. But Ulol was kind to me. I was the only one who could approach and pat him; we became friends. He never lived in our house. He just came to me every now and then to play. It’s sad that I had to sell him to the alcoholics for two hundred pesos so that I can buy a new pair of “acid washed-USED” pants. I betrayed a friend for a stinking pair of jeans and that time I felt a fraction of guilt Judas Iscariot might have felt when he betrayed the Savior.

rship seminar in school. I couldn’t sleep in the school; I missed the smell of my saliva drenched pillows and the feel of my squeaky spring bed. So I left the school compound at one in the morning and went home. Other kids my age would not venture outside at that hour for fear of night creepers. But stories of ghosts and vampires didn’t bother me. Horror movies were not that gory then, and besides I read a lot and knew that they were myths.

I was walking home and when I was in front of Ka Tibang’s house when I suddenly remembered the young lady who a few years earlier hanged herself there. I was there when that happened:

I never felt goosebumps as strong as that night. Banana trees surrounded the “haunted house”. There was no streetlight and the houses were far apart. I was walking and fighting my fear when I heard faint footsteps following me. I stopped to make sure that it was not my imagination; the footsteps also stopped. I started again and the footsteps came again. I used all the available willpower that I had to fight the urge to shout and run, but I still managed to convince myself that there had to be a logical explanation for the footsteps. So I prayed to all the saints I knew and looked behind me to see if someone was just trying to scare me. There was no one there. I was near panic so I walked-ran-trotted till I got to the house but the faint footstep just kept following me keeping with the erratic rhythm of my steps.

I was breathless and exhausted from fear when I arrived at our house. I sat on the balconahe steps catching my breath when Tagpi jumped on my lap, nearly killing me with fright. It was then that I realized that the faint footsteps were just Tagpi following me. I laughed because it was my loyal dog who was following me all along, and of course I couldn’t see him when I looked back because he was below my eyes. Despite his almost killing me with heart attack, I hugged and kissed him.

The wooden “haunted house” is now gone and in its place now stood concrete apartments that look more haunting than the old one. The bananas that used to be abundant in the area can now only be found in Ka Panyang’s compound. The vast guava field that we used to fear at night because of the big tamarind tree in the middle, which people say was inhabited by malignos, is now a vast concrete toilet for the dogs and sometimes for the people too. I really missed the rural atmosphere of those good old days compared to today’s atmosphere of, never mind.

But there is something I still cannot explain about that night. Tagpi an attention-grabbing dog always greeted me with wagging tail, the scratching, and the barking and lolling tongue. But that night he jumped on my lap he was whimpering and shaking, he was afraid of something, I don’t know, but it’s like he had seen a ghost.

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