Thursday, February 15, 2007

7. My Grandmother the Legend

In barrio Wawa my grandmother built up a reputation of legendary courage and mythical abilities. Kaka Berta as she was known was somebody who was respected by the barrio folks and regarded with respect even by the “tulisan” or bandit groups that Cavite was notorious for. When there was talk that a bandit group would pass the town parents would entrust their young unmarried daughters to Kaka Berta who took them in her house to get them through the night safely. A person with a warm and sympathetic touch she was known to have healing powers and she dispensed this to anyone who sought her help. Her courage, healing ability and kindheartedness spread beyond Wawa. It was rumored that sometime after the war the infamous outlaw “Nardong Putik” passed by her house asking to be healed for some affliction. The neighborhood kids in Wawa would attest to all these stories.

Some of the myths that grew around her included her ability with weapons; a familiarity with the use of guns as well as spears and sabers. A story that I heard from the kids in Wawa was about grandmother’s having shot but missed my grandfather after she found out about one of grandfather’s errant excursions in town. That was one story my mother did not tell us about. She has denied this and dismissed it as one of those yarns, which the uneducated barrio folks are fond of weaving. Knowing mother she probably just wanted to bury and suppress that story because it seemed to be a shameful anecdote that did not fit the other stories of a grand and illustrious heritage.

There were stories about supernatural beings that shared my grandmother’s estate. There were elves who were the guardians of a golden calf that was hidden in the bole of a giant santol tree. The little people and other malignant spirits took abode in the venerable and stately trees that covered and reigned over the estate. A story which held me in fearful wonder was of a Princess on a swing who at the fading of the day could be seen enjoying the wind-rush in her face and in gay abandon swung high on the branches of the century old santol and chico trees. Grandmother must have treated them as kindred spirits because she didn’t seem to mind their presence and talked about them as if they were some close acquaintance. The townsfolk had accorded her the status of a folk hero, an honor more important than the stature of a town mayor that my grandfather had or that of being the town beauty queen whom her daughter, my mother, had been entitled.

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