Apr 10, 2013

Child Wife by Delfin Fresnosa

Delfin Fresnosa

                There were eight of us in the family, including grandmother who could hardly do anything any more because she was so old. Father was in his forties, but from his boyhood up his life had been one of toil and he looked like an old man: slow, taciturn, grey. He worked very hard but it was time for planting again, we would have no more rice left in the house. Mother and sister Carmen, the eldest, made abaca slippers but at most they could finish only four pairs a day between them and each pair sold for not more than three centavos. The other children were still too young to be of help on the farm, except Tino who took care of our carabao and the pigs and the hens. He came after Mameng and was only twelve years old.
                Then things took a turn for the better.
                As I remember, it must have been a month or two after we had planted the rice that Mang Julio began coming oftener; he had been in our house before, as he and father were good friends. I know it was a month or two after the planting, for I remember we had hardly a thing to eat in the house. Everytime he came, he brought fish and a ganta or two of rice for us. At first my folks were ashamed o take the things he brought, but Mang Julio insisted very nicely. After that we hardly lacked anything.
                Mang Julio brought many dresses for Mameng. Some were of imitation silk, but you could hardly tell the difference; some were of cotton that had pretty designs of flowers and leaves. He also gave mother yards of cloth that she made into skirts and pillow cases and handkerchiefs. We boys got only undershirts but wore them at the first opportunity. Sister Carmen did not at first want to wear the dresses, but father and mother would coax and scold her until she would finally put one on. She looked very pretty in any of them.
                Father and mother were more than usually kind to Mameng. They would ask her what she would like to eat and what she would like them to bring back to her when they were going to town. They told her not to work too hard because she might tire herself, and they did not allow her to make any more abaca slippers. They also said that she did have to cook or wash clothes or even the dishes if she did not want to. All this embarrassed her, for she had never received so much attention before. There were times when she would suddenly run away from them and go to grandmother. Grandmother would ask her what she was crying for, and would pat her head and say” “Poor child, poor child.”
                For almost a month, Mang Julio came uninterruptedly at least three times a week. He always stayed a long time, talking to father or mother and his eyes would follow Mameng as she moved about the house. Sometimes he would try to talk to her, but she would only answer him in monosyllables, eyes everted and trying to show her desire to run away. He often spoke to her pleasantly, smiling and trying to gain her confidence, but then she would leave on some pretext or other and he would resume his conversation with the older folk. After he left the house, our parents would reproach her for not being nice to Mang Julio, but she would not say a thing, and so they would add that the next time he came, would she please try to be more agreeable to him?
                And Mang Julio would come again with more presents. He would be wearing a new suit of clothes, but as it was in the rainy season, he carried an umbrella and came barefooted. The older folk had to entertain him, but he did not seem to mind; his agreeableness seemed without bounds.
                Then one day, as he was leaving, he said that perhaps he would not be coming as often as usual. It was after mother had told him, haltingly, that Carmen was still too young. She had just turned fourteen. Mang Julio said that he would send men to repair the house, and he himself would drop in now and then.
                Our house was a poor sight – something which the old folk had casually mentioned. Mang Julio had said that they could get all the necessary things or repairs at his store in the village and he would also send men to help do the work. So then three men came to repair the house and they brought with thyem nipa, bamboo, and wood from Mang Julio’s store.
                It was while the repair work was going on that mother told sister and Tino and to me to go to the village to borrow a few gantas of rice from Mang Julio. Mameng said that she was ashamed to go to his store where he might see her, but mother said that if Mang Julio would lend us anything, he would give it to her rather than anybody else. Mameng put on a green dress. She turned around several times before mother and asked how she looked, and mother replied that she looked very pretty. Mother also arranged Mameng’s hair and touched her face and neck with powder. Then the three of us started for the village.
                We did not find Mang Julio in his store, but his wife was there and asked us what we had come for. Mameng was in a panic at first and she turned red and seemed to shrink away. She must have had only a vague idea that Mang Julio was a married man and had perhaps never thought of meeting his wife face to face. She must have felt how far away was pur house and father and mother. Everything in her seemed to want to escape.
                Mang Julio’s wife was struck with a sudden thought and asked: “Are you Carmen?” and sister nodded her head dumbly. The the elder woman made haste to offer her services. She was thin and very ugly, and her face was marred by a distorted mouth that was constantly twitching. She was already an old woman; her face and neck and hands were wrinkled, and her hair was all white. Mang Julio was very much younger than she was; ,maybe he had married her for her money, for they said she was rich.
                Carmen was much surprised when she found the woman fussing about her, very amiable and all the solicitude. With a dumb-like expression on her face, Mameng listened to what she was saying. By that time we had already made to sit down. The two of them sat face to face at a small table, and Tino and I were some distance away eating what the woman had given to us. Now and then snatches of their conversation reached our ears.
                She told of how she and her husband had been married for more than twenty years and that they had never had a child. That was why they wanted to have a child and Carmen was to be its mother. The old woman spoke of many other things, and as she talked her eyes remained on Carmen’s face, watching her every expression and taking in her youthful freshness. Carmen listened with an impassive face, and now and then nodded her head in assent or pronounced an almost inaudible yes. All the time she was nervously twisting a handkerchief in her hands. Then the old woman adjured her to take care of herself, and gave her much other advice. After a while we went away with Tino carrying the rice in a sack. Sister brought up the rear and sometimes we would stop a while and wait for her, for she walked very slowly and was sniffling most of the time.
                While the work on the house was in progress, Mang Julio dropped in now and then and stayed to chat with the old folk and inspect the work done. A lean-to had been added which was made into a room for Mameng. The workers went away and we we left alone with a remodeled house, and new chairs and tables. Mother hung curtains in the windows and we children were not allowed to play inside the house anymore because we would dirty the shiny new floor.
                Harvest time had passed, the rainy season had set in, and the farmers began breaking the soil. Father now did not have to go out so early in the morning with the plow and the carabao, because Mang Julio had made him his overseer. All that father had to do was to go around to Mang Julio’s farm and to see to it that the renters or other workers did not neglect the planting. The months passed. Mother often went to the village, and sometimes when she came home, she would complain to father of something that had happened to her there. But father would shrug his shoulders and say: “Let them talk; what do we care?” Most often, however, she came home with a smile of satisfaction on her face which she would try to hide in a meeker expression.
                When June came, tino and I went to school because father did not need our help any more on the farm. We did not lack anything in the house and we children had clothes and plenty to eat. Carmen grew prettier with her body filling out, and she grew taller, too. Even grandmother was not neglected, and sometimes reeived presents from Mang Julio. At mother;s urging, she discarded her rags, bathed more often, and came out of her dark corner.
One morning, when I woke up earlier than usual, I saw Mang Julio leaving. I believe it was the first time he spent the night at our house. Mameng was with him, and he stayed for some tine at the door. He had an arm around her shoulders and she was shivering slightly, for she had on only a thin cotton dress. She did not say a thing to him but did not move from his side; she just stood there silently and resignedly with head bowed down. He was a rather tall man and he looked big and strong beside her girlish body; her head did not quite reach his shoulders. For some time they stood thus, scarcely moving, while he bent his head and spoke to her in a low voice. As the mountains stood suddenly strongly outlined against the red dawn, he gave her a hurried squeeze and held her tightly for a moment; the he went away.
                When he had gone, Mameng suddenly seemed to give way and to be very near to crying. She did not look at his retreating figure, and after a moment, she turned in and went to grandmother’s room. When Mang Julio glanced back, and was about to raise her hand to wave to her, she was no longer at the door.
                Mameng stayed for a long while in grandmother’s room. She talked excitedly, sometimes sobbing, and grandmother quieted her and murmured reassuring words. Mameng was calmer when the other children were waking up and mother began preparing breakfast. The younger children went down into the yard and began to play and I joined them. Mameng watched us for a while, and then she shouted that she was coming down to play with us. In a moment she came running down the stairs and into the yard. She was very much excited and she romped and laughed and we were very happy together. It had been quite a long time since she had played with us because she had always had many things to do in the house, and when Mang Julio began coming mother told her that she must not play too much with us now because she was already a big girl. But now she was free and wild and she laughed and chattered and ran around the yard with our smallest brother riding on her back and the others clinging to her dress.
                After that day, Mang Julio came to the house very often. Sometimes he came in the night and left in the early morning. Sometimes he stayed the whole day and we would go out and have a sort of picnic under the tall trees by the river. He was always considerate of Mameng’s slightest wish and would talk to her slowly and in almost a whisper, and when walking he would take her by the arm of the slightest rise of the ground. She talked to him now and even laughed a little at his jokes, shyly and guardedly watching his face. And she grew prettier everyday it seemed. There was always a flush on her face and her skin became fairer and she had tome to arrange her hair. Mang Julio still brought her many things; dresses, creams and powder, and after he had given her a bracelet, he brought her a necklace. They were not costly, he said, but they were very pretty just the same. And she wore them because mother told her that Mang Julio liked her more when he saw her wearing the things he gave her.
                We still had the outings when the weather was fair, and sometimes, on special occasions,
we went to town. We had many sacks of palay and father even sold some. We were well-fed and well-clothed and the children looked healthy and strong and happy as the months rolled on.
                But sister Carmen did not play with us anymore. She went about in the house silently and mother warned us not to bother her. Father and mother treated her lovingly, but now, unlike before, she was not embarrassed any more; she seemed hardly to be aware of anything. She was under spell of something greater than the things that happened around her. Mother, counting the months, said that her time coming near, and watched Mameng very closely, hardly letting her do anything that might tire her.
                All the dresses that Mang Julio had given her had become too tight, sohe brought her new dresses, loose and comfortable. He still came very often, bringing her delicate things to eat, and all the time he was in the house he would hardly leave her side. Sometimes of an afternoon, he would take her out for a short stroll, and they would walk very slowly, he giving his hand to support her.
                One Sunday morning, Mameng told mother that she would like to go out for a little walk. It was a very fine day, with not a trace of a cloud in the sky and it was not yet very hot. Under the trees, the sun had penetrated just enough to dry the dew on the grass. Mother said that she should not go out alone, and warned her again that her time was very near. Mameng said, “Please, mother, it feels so close in here inside the house; I want to go out for a little fresh air.” So mother told me to go with her, and said, “But you must not go far from the house.”
                Mameng flung an arm around my shoulder and I could feel a little of her weight as we started out. She looked around at the green countryside and at the blue mountains in the distance. The grass that grew rank beside the path brushed our legs and the smell of the flowers and the earth floated lingeringly. Even at our slow pace, she soon breathed hard. I told her we should stop a while if she were tired already, but she told me that she was not tired at all, so we walked on farther. For the most part was remained silent. She just looked at the grass, and at the trees growing tall and green.
                When we were quite far from the house and we could not see it any more because of a rise of the land and the trees,s he began all of a sudden to feel differently. She became more cheerful, and laughed, and it seemed as if she wanted to play with me again, to throw off her weight and be as light and free of foot as before.
                We stopped for a while and she asked me to help her sit down, and when she was seated, she told me that I could play. So I lifet her side and gathered some stones and threw them into the river which was not far away. Little by little I had walked quite a distance away from her, absorbed in what I was doing. Then I heard her shriek. She shriekd several times and kept calling for mother. I ran back to where I had left her, and when I caught a sight of her, she was already running. She ran in short, sudden burst, and all the time she ran, she kept calling for mother.
                When I reached her, she had fallen to the ground. I helped her to a sitting position and when she looked at me, I saw that her eyes were wild with fear and her face, covered with dirt and tear stains, was contorted in a grimace of pain. She kept sobbing, “Oh… Oh… Oh…” and her mouth kept twisting as she tried hard to stop from crying out loud.
                For a time the pain must have eased, for her face became clearer and her breath came more regularly. Then she got up suddenly and ran again. I ran after her, shouting to her to stop, but she wouldn’t heed me, and so we ran wildly up the path to the house. Mother ran to meet her, and afterwards father came and took her in his arms and carried her into the house. She had already lost consciousness.
                Word was sent to Mang Julio and he in turn sent for a doctor, but when the doctor came he could not do anything any more. Grandmother and the other children were in the room, and the old woman kept saying to herself: “Poor child, poor child…”

Originally published in Philippine Magazine, June 1940

Apr 9, 2013

Anak ng Birhen by Jesus S. Esguerra

Jesus S. Esguerra

KUNG HINDI PA nagkasakit nanag malubha si Luis Ver. Llama, kilalang isportsman sa Maynila at litaw na bohemyo sa larangan ng lipunan, at isang malikot na paruparo, ay hindi pa sana naalaala ang asawa at naisipang umuwi sa kanilang nayon ng Masantol.
                Tatlong buwan ding naratay si Luis Ver. Llama at tatlong buwang inalagaan ni Dr. Felix Ma. Durbin. Isang sakit na maselan and dumapo kay Luis, kaya lumala, at ipinanganib ng mangagamot na mawalan ng liwanag ang mga mata at tuluyan nang maging lumpo.
                Ibig nang humina ang loob ni Luis. Ibig na ring mawalan ng pag-asa ang malikot na paruparong sumawi at nagpaluha sa maraming bulaklak na sinuyo, minahal upang dayain lamang pagkatapos na pagsawaan at pagsamantalahan.
                Ngunit kung may mabisa mang gamut na nagbibigay nga kaunti pang lakas at pag-asa sa pagkatao ng kilalang bohemyo ay walang iba, kundi ang matamis na pag-alo ng mabait na si Lita Santos ni Llama.
                Si Lita, buhat nang magkasakit si Luis, ay hindi na humihiwalay sa piling ng asawa. Sa kabila ng mahabang pananhong pagpapabayang ginawa sa kaniya ni Luis, sa likod ng maraming hirap na tiniis at katakot-takot na luhang nilagok dahil sa pagtataksil ng lalaki ay hindi niya natutuhang gumanti ng pait sa asawang tila unti-unti nang nadidilat ang mga mata sa mapapait na katotohanan.
                Iilang lingo lamang nagsasama si Lita at si Luis ay nagsimula nang lumagok ng mapapait na luha ang babae. Malimit na di umuwi ng bahay si Luis, at kung umuwi man ng tahanan ay hatinggabi na, at lasing na lasing pa.
                “Pabayaan mo nga ako sa ginagawa ko!” ang madalas na sabihin ni Luis kay Lita, kung nababati ito ng asawa. “Nalalaman ko ang aking ginagawa!”
                Kaya nang hindi na makatiis si Lita ay naisipan nitong umuwi na sa kanilang nayon ng Masantol, at ipinaubaya na lamang ang kaniyang sarili sa anumang kapalarang darating sa kanyang buhay! Ngunit nang mabalitaang nagkasakit si Luis at nang malamang ipinasok sa pagamutan ang asawa, hindi rin nakatiis si Lita; lumuwas ng Maynila upang alagaan ang minamahal niya sa buhay.
                At nang galling na sa sakit ni Luis, isinumpa na kay Lita, na siya ay magpapakabait na at magbabagong buhay na rin.
                “Oo, handa na akong bumalik sa ating nayon,” ang sabi ni Luis, minsang siya ay amukiin ni Lita na umuwi na sa kanila. “At isinusumpa kong ako ay magbabagong-landas na.”
                At isang araw nga, nang malakas-lakas na at makalakad-lakad na si Luis, inilabas na siya ng pagamutan ng kaniyang asawa at nagbalik na sila sa nayon ng Masantol.
                Iisang taon lamang ang nakakaraan ay lalong lumago ang kabuhayan ng mag-asawa at nag-ibayo ang kaligayahan ng kanilang buhay. Ngunit kung mayroon pang ikinababalisa ang mag-asawa ay walang iba, kundi ang hindi pagbubunga ng kanilang pag-iibigan.
                “Kung sa bagay,” sabi ni Lita, “mabuti nang huwag tayong magkaanak, sapagkat kung ang magiging anak natin ay babae, baka siya pang magbayad ng mga utang mo.”
                Napatawa lamang si Luis. Pinisil ang baba ng asawa at saka nilagdaan ng halik sa pingi.
                “Ano bang utang ang sinasabi mo?” ang tanong na sagot ni Luis sa asawa. “Wala naman akong utang na dapat bayaran!”
                “Suss! Tumigil ka na nga!”
                “Limutin na natin ang lahat!” ang sabi ni Luis. “Huwag nating sariwain pa ang mga nakalipas.”
                At buhat na nga noon, ganap na nilang pinag-aralang limutin ang malulungkot na kahapon ng kanilang nagdaan.
                Anim na buwan pa ang maligayang nagpaalam sa buhay nina Lita at Luis.
                Hindi pa rin nagsusupling ang halaman ng kanilang pag-iibigan, kaya ganon na lamang ang pagkainggit nila sa unang bunga ng pagmamahalan ng kanilang mga pinsang sina Berta at Damaso. Si Berta ay pinsang-makalawa ni Lita at si Damaso ay isa naming kanayon nila sa Masantol. Si Berta ay lubos ng ulila sa mga magulang.
                “Tingnan mo nga sina Berta at Damaso,” and pakli ni Lita, isang tanghali na sila ni Luis ay nagpahinga sa pugad ng kanilang pag-ibig sa kanilang nayon. “Iisang taon lamang ang pagsasama ay nagsupling na agad ang kanilang pag-iibigan.”
                “Nakakainggit nga!” ang sagot naman ni Luis. “Oo, nakakainggit nga!”
                Isang gabi, matutulog na lamang ang mag-asawa nang gelatin sila ng sunod-sunod na tawag.
                “Lita! Lita!”
                Dinungaw ni Lita ang tumawag.
                “Aba, Aling Husta,” ang patakang sagot ni Lita, “ano po ang ibig ninyo?”
                “Madali ka! Si Berta ay…”
                “Napapano si Berta?” ang katlo ni Luis.
                Ngunit hindi na narugtungan pa ang gayong tanungan, at ang mag-asawa ay medaling lumipat sa tanahan nina Berta at Damaso na malapit lamang sa kanila.
                Hindi na makausap si Berta. Pinapawisan ng malamig at hindi na halos makakilala.            
                “Dumaing lamang ng sakit ng tiyan,” ang sabi ni Damaso, “kaya ang ginawa ko ay nag-init ako ng tubig, ngunit nang pumasok ako ay masama na ang kanyang lagay.”
                “Ano ba ang kaniyang ginawa?” ang usisa ni Lita.
                “Naglaba kaninang umaga at pagkatapos ay kinuha ang nilabhan, at kaninang hapon ay dinilig pa ang mga damit,” ang marahang paliwanag ni Damaso.
                “Marahil ay naalimuuman,” ang agaw naman ni Luis.
                Nang dumating ang manggagamot na ipinatawag pa sa nayon ng kamatsili, na kanugnog lamang ng Masantol, si Berta ay nag-aagaw buhay na.
                Ang manggagamot, pagkatapos mapulsuhan ang babae, ay tumindig sa pagkakaaupo at saka malungkot na napailing.
                “Patay na po! Huli na tayo!” ang malungkot na sabi ng manggagamot.
                Napaiyak si Damaso!
                Humagulgol naman si Lita!
                Nalungkot si Luis.
                Parang walang anumang nakaraan ang dalawang lingo buhat nang maihatid sa libingan ang bangkay ni Berta.
                Isang umaga, nagsadya si Damaso kina Lita at Luis na dala ang anak.
                “Mangingibang bayan ako,” ang simula ni Damaso. “Kaipala ay sa malayong lupain ako tutungo. Aywan ko kung saan, at natitiyak kong hindi na marahil ako makababalik. Kaya, ipinagkakaloob ko na sa inyo ang anak ko at ariin na ninyong tunay na anak iyan, at kayo na rin ang magpabinyag!”
                Tinitigan ng mag-asawa ang sanggol na dala ni Damaso. Tila isang anghel na nakangiti sa kanilang hulog ng langit ang nasa harap nila. Ang mag-asawa ay nagtinginan na lamang, ngunit maya-maya ay nagsalita si Luis.
                “Bakit ka nakakaisip ng ganyan?”
                “Ngayong wala na si Berta,” ang sabi ni Damaso, “ay wala na ring halaga sa akin ang buhay!”
                Nang makaalis si Damaso, pinabinyagan agad ng mag-asawa ang kanilang pamangkin,
                ANGELICO VER. LLAMA! Iyan ang iningalan sa bata!
                Sunod sa apelyido ni Luis ang bininyagan!
                At buhat na nga noon, inari nang tunay nilang anak si Angelico.
                Nagdaan pa ang maraming taon.
                Si Angelico ay tumutuntong na noon na sa kaniyang ikalabing siyam na taon.
                Magandang lalaki! Makisig pa!
                Si Angelico ay tapos na sa hay-iskul. Papasok na siya sa U.P. upang mag-aral ng panggagamot.
                Nang ipagpista ang mahal na patron ng Masantol, si Angelico ay sinundo ni Luis. Isang malaking pagdiriwang ang idaraos at isasagawa sa kanilang tahanan.
                “Halika, anak ko,” wika ni Luis kay Angelico, “marami akong panauhin ngayong araw na ito na dadalo rito sa atin. Isa sa kanila ay ang dalagang napipisil ko upang maging kabiyak ng iyong dibdib, pagkatapos ng iyong pag-aaral.”
                Hindi nakaimik ang binata.
                Nalalaman ni Angelico ang ugali ng kaniyang ama. Hindi mabali ang sabihin at maibigan. Buhat ng tumanda si Luis ay nabago na ang ugali. Nagging bugnot at magagalitin. Ayaw niyang makakasama sa lakaran ni Angelico ang mga binatang malilikot at masasama. Ibig niyang huwag maakay sa liko-likong landas ang kaniyang anak.           
                “Si Myrna, ang kaisa-isang anak ni Don Mamerto ALtamar,” ang sabi ni Luis, “ang napili naming ng iyong ina upang maging asawa mo.”
                “Ngunit ako po ay may katipan na,” ang mahinahon at magalang na sagot ng binata.
                “Ha! May katipan ka na?” ang mabalasik na tanong ni Luis. “Nalalaman mo ba ang isinagot mo?”
                “Opo, may katipan na ako.”
                Halos manlaki ang mga mata ni Luis sa matinding galit sa anak. Kung hindi niya mapipilit na pakasal si Angelico kay Mryna, mapapasubo siya sa malaking kahihiyan kay Don Mamerto Altamar, na isa niyang matalik na kaibigan.
                “Bibigyan kita ng ilan pang panahon upang isipin mo ang bagay na ito,” ang marahas na patapos ng matanda kay Angelico. “Ngunit dapat mong malaman, na, mamumulubi kang lubos at hindi ka makakatapos ng iyong pag-aaral kung sasalungatin mo ang gusto ko!”
                Kilala ni Angelico si Myrna. Maganda nga si Myrna, ngunit ang makabago niyang kilos at ang pikitmatang pagsunod sa singaw nga bagong panahon ang nagiging dahilan kung bakit mailap sa kanya ang puso ng binata. Si Myrna ang nag-aaral din sa Maynila. Palibhasa’y anak-mayaman, kaya nasusunod ang lahat ng layaw sa buhay. Malimit siyang Makita ni Angelico na nag-iisang naglalakad na kasama ng iba’t-ibang binata. Pumapasok na nag-iisa sa mga sine at dumadalo sa mga sayawan na nag-iisa rin.
                Kinabukasan, si Angelico ay nagbalik na sa Maynila upang ipagpatuloy ang pag-aaral. Pagdating sa Maynila, nagtuloy agad siya sa tahanan ng kaniyang irog.
                “Kumusta ang pista sa inyong nayon?” ang tanong at pakibalita ni Corazon.
                Hindi agad nakasagot si Angelico.
                “Bakit?” ang tanong na muli ng dalaga.
                “Corazon!” ang malungkot na wika ng binata, “nakatatanaw ako ng ulap na ibig magpadilim sa ating langit!”
                “Alam ko nay an,” ang maagap na agaw ng dalaga. “Sa simula pa, nababatid ko nang magiging salungat ang tatay mo na makipag-ibigan ka sa isang babaeng mahirap na tulad ko.”
                Si Corazon ay napaiyak, kaya nilapitan siya ng binata upang aliwin.
                “Hindi Corazon! Kung ayaw man sila sa iyo, ang puso ko ay hindi nila maaring masaklawan, sapagkat ako ang makapangyarihan sa pusong ito. Iibigan kita na gaya rin nang dati at magiging ibayo pa marahil, sapagkat sa ganyan lamang maaring ipakilala ko sa iyo ang kadakilaan ng aking pag-ibig. Walang kailangang ako ay mahinto sa pag-aaral at magdildil ng kanin at asin, kung sa piling mo ay mananatiling maliwanang ang langit ng aking buhay!”
                “Angelico!” ang agaw ng lumuluhang dalaga. “Mahal kita, ngunit hindi ko yata maatim na maghirap ka nang dahil lamang sa akin. Sundin mo ang kanilang ibig. Bayaan mo na ako. Babalik na ako sa aming bayan upang pumiling sa aking irog na ina. Kung sa bagay nalalaman mo ang dahilan ng paghahanapbuhay ko rito sa Maynila. Nais kong makatipon ng maraming salapi upang may maipagamot sa mga mata ng ina kong nawalan na ng liwanag. Ngunit kung ako lamang ang magiging sagabal sa iyong landas, pag-aaralan kong lumayo, maging dahilan man iyan ng aking kamatayan.”
                “Corazon! Hindi maari iyan. Sisikapin kong maiakyat ang lupa sa langit upang ipakilala ko lamang ang kadalisayan ng pagmamahal ko sa iyo.”
                At tumupad sa sinabi si Corazon. Nabalitaan na lamang ng binata na ang kaniyang minamahal ay umuwi sa kanilang bayan.
                Si Angelico naman ay walang ginawa kundi ang magsikap upang makatapos agad ng kaniyang pag-aaral.
                Akala ni Luis ay limot na limot na ng kaniyang anak ang dalagang nagiging dahilan ng pagtatangi ng binata upang makipag-isang dibdib kay Myrna, kaya lihim na inihanda ang araw ng pag-iisang dibdib ng mga batang ipinakipagtipanan.

                Limang taon ang nakaraan.
                Si Angelico ay maluwalhati ring nakatapos sa kaniyang pag-aaral, at ngayo’y isa na siyang manggagamot.
                Isang sayawan ang isinagawa sa tahanan ng mga Llama sa Masantol, bilang parangal sa patatapos sa pagkamanggagamot ni Angelico. At nang gabing yaon, ipinahayag ni Luis ang pakikipag-isang dibdib ng kaniyang anak kay Myrna, na anak naman ni Don Mamerto Altamar. Gayon na lamang ang galak ng lahat, ngunit si Angelico ay nananatiling walang kibo.
                Nang matapos ang sayawan, si Angelico ay tinawag ni Luis.
                “Ang kasal niyo ni Myrna ay nakahanda na upang isagawa sa isang lingo,” isang araw ay nasabi ni Luis.
                “Tatay,” ang hadlang ng binata, “ayaw ko kayong sinsayin sa inyong pithaya, ngunit kung hinahangad ninyo ang aking kaligayahan, hindi ninyo pipilitin akong mapakasal sa isang babaeng nagging manika nang basahan sa kamay ng maraming lalaki. Lingid sa kaalaman ninyo ni Don Mamerto, si Myrna ay nagkaroon ng maitim na kabuhayan sa Maynila. Kung sino-sino ang nagmahal sa kaniya at nagmay-ari ng kaniyang pag-ibig.”
                “Sinungaling!” ang agaw ng matandang ama. “Hindi totoo ang sinasabi mo, sapagkat hanggang ngayon ay mahal mo pa ang babaeng iyong katipan na ayon sa pagkakatalos ay PUTOK SA BUHO. Alam ko ang buong kabuhayan ni Corazon. Marami ang nagsabi sa akin, na ang dalagang iyan ay anak sa ligaw, na hanggang ngayon ay hindi makilala kung sino ang kaniyang ama.”
                “Ngunit siya ay mabait po,” ang agaw ng anak.
                At kasabay ng gayong matigas na pangungusap ay isang malakas na tampal ang dumapo sa mukha ng binata.
                “Sumulong ka! Lumayas ka! Walang turing!”
                Kung hindi naagaw ni Lita ang rebolber sa kamay ng kaniyang asawa, marahil ay napatay si Angelico.
                Noon di’y umalis si Angelico. Sinagasa niya ang kadiliman ng gabi. Naghintay siya ng masasakyan upang magbalik sa Maynila. Sa kabutihang palad, isang trak ng mga maggugulay ang nagdaan at siya ay nakisakay.
                Pagdating sa Maynila, si Angelico ay sumulat.
                Ganito ang kaniyang kalatas:

Mahal Kong Ama,

                Pagkatanggap ninyo ng sulat na ito ay maari na ninyong ibalita kay Don Mamerto na hindi matutuloy ang kasal naming ni Myrna. Tutungo ako sa bayan ni Corazon upang tumupad sa pangakong siya ay ihaharap ko sa dambana. Kung PUTOK man sa BUHO ang babaeng yaon ay hindi niya kasalanan, sapagkat nagkaroon siya ng isang amang walang puso. Patawarin ninyo ako sa aking gagawin!                  


                Pagkatanggap ni Luis ng sulat ng binata, ay nagbihis agad upang sundan si Angelico at pigilin sa anumang paraan ang pakikipag-isang dibdib niya kay Corazon.
                Parang limbas na nilipad ni Luis ang Maynila at sa kaniyang ginawang pagtatanong ay nalaman niya kung saang bayan hahanapin si Corazon.
                Nag-aapoy na mabuti and dibdib ni Luis. Galit nag alit siya.
                Nang dumating si Luis sa bayan ng Malibay ay ipinagtanong niya ang bahay ni Corazon, at may nakapaghimatong naman.
                Ilang hakbang lamang ang nagagawa niya ay natanaw na niya agad ang dampang sinasabi ng napagtanungan sa may labasan. Tiniyak niya sa kaniyang sarili na pagkakita kay Angelico ay babarilin ito agad.
                Ngunit nang siya ay malapit na sa hagdanan ng maliit na dampang yaon, isang dalaga ang nakita niya sa may pinto na tila siya ang sinasalubong.
                Biglang nagbago ang kulay ng mukha ng matandang Luis, nang Makita ang kariktang yaon. Sandal niyang nalimot ang kaniyang galit.
                “Dito po ba nakatira si Aling Corazon?” ang tanong ng bagong dating.
                “Ako po ang hinahanap ninyo!” ang sagot ng dalaga.
                Lalong naibsan ng poot ang puso ng umuusig na matanda, nang marinig niya ang tamis na tinig ng dalaga. Kay-lamig ng tinig na yaong tila himalang pumatay sa ningas ng apoy na naglalagablab sa kaniyang dibdib.
                “Tumuloy kayo sa maliit naming dampa!” ang matamis na anyaya ng dalaga.
                Si Luis ay tila nagayumang naanhik sa tahanan.
                “Tatay!” ang sabi ni Angelico pagkakita sa ama.
                “Sino ang tao?” ang tanong ng ina ni Corazon na noon ay nakahiga sa papag at ginagamot ni Angelico.
                “Sila po ang ama ko!” ang sagot ng binata.
                Ang tinig na yaon ay dati nang kilala ni Aling Mameng. Nang marinig niya ang tinig na yaon ay nanumbalik sa kaniyang gunita ang mga araw ng kaniyang kabataan. O, kay-tamis ng pangitain!
                “Mameng!” ang muling sabi ni Luis.
                “Luis! Luis!” ang lumuluhang sagot ng babae na nagbabatis na ang mga mata sa masaganang luha.
                At sina Corazon at Angelico ay tila natubigan sa tagpong yaon ng dalawang puso. Tila sila namalikmata sa kanilang mga nasaksihan.
                At malungkot na ipinagtapat ni Aling Mameng ang lahat.
                “Tinangka ko sanang dalawin ka sa pagamutan noong ikaw ay magkasakit,” ang simula ni Aling Mameng. “Ngunit hindi ko nagawa sapagkat ako ay bigla ring nagkasakit. Kinabukasan ay bigla na ring nawalan ng liwananag ang aking mga mata, kaya ipinakiusap ko sa aking ina na ako ay iuwi na sa aming bayan. Nagintay ako sa pagdating mo, ngunit ako ay nabigo… Oo, nabigo lamang ako!”
                “At si Corazon!” ang tanong ni Luis.
                “Iyan ang kaisa-isang bunga n gating pag-ibig. Siya ang laman ng aking tiyan nung ako’y magkasakit.”
                “Tatay!” ang agaw ni Angelico, “diyata’t kapatid ko si Corazon?”
                “Hindi! Hindi, Angelico!” ang malungkot na sagot ng matanda. “Halika at isasalaysay ko sa iyo ang isang lihim na hindi mo pa nalalaman.”
                “… at, nang umalis ang iyong ama,” ang patuloy pa ni Luis kay Angelico, “ay ipinagkaloob ka sa amin at sinabing mahalin ka naming parang tunay na anak!”
                Saka lamang nakahinga nang maluwag si Angelico. Akala niya, ang babaeng kaniyang kasintahan ay tunay niyang kapatid.
                “Samakatwid,” ang patuloy pa ni Angelico, “si Corazon ay tunay na ANAK NG ISANG BIRHEN!”
                Matapos na iluwas sa Maynila si Aling Mameng at maipasok sa pagamutan upang gamutin ang mga mata, maligaya naming idinaos ang pag-iisang puso nina Corazon at Angelico sa nayon ng Masantol.
Originally published in the book 50 Kuwentong Ginto ng 50 Batikang Kuwentista Aklat II