Category Archives: Literature

the reluctant fellow

After stalling for the last four years, and with the goading of three senior writers (Vim Nadera, Eugene Evasco and Ricky de Ungria who tried to convince me from August 2012 to February this year), I finally gave in to the urge and submitted an applica…

What is youth?

This is another pieace written by a foremost Tausog writer, the late Ibrahim Jubaira._____________________________Some night back, my oldest boy was reading aloud a poem entitled, “To the Filipino Youth,” with passable accent and enunciation. When…

Ang Dugong-bughaw ng Malaking Astana

This is a Filipino translation of Ibrahim Jubaira’s Blue Blood of the Big Astana. This translation was done by Sofia Guillermo.
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Bagamat ang puso ay maaaring wala nang pakialam, ang isip ay palaging maaaring magbalik. Ang isip ay palaging maaaring magbalik sapagkat palaging mayroong mga bagay na maaaring maalala: ang mga mababagal na araw ng kalungkutan sa pagkabata; ang mga masasayang panahon sa ilalim ng init ng araw; ang lihim na pag-ibig at mapagbirong kapalaran, at iba pa. Kaya naiisip ko na naaalala mo rin ako.
Naaalala mo ba? Sobra ng isang taon matapos akong maulila, nagpasya ang aking tiyahin na ilagay ako sa ilalim ng pangangalaga ng iyong ama, ang Datu. Noon panahong iyon, ang mga datu ang may tungkuling tumingin sa mga mahihirap at mahihina. Samakatwid, tama ang aking tiyahin na ipaalaga ako sa iyong ama. Dagdag pa, napakahirap niya kung kayat sa ginawa niyang iyon ay hindi lamang niya nabawasan ang kanyang mga pasanin kundi ay natiyak din niya ang aking kagalingan.
Subalit hindi ko maatim na mahiwalay sa aking tiyahin nang kahit sandali. Para siyang naging ina sa akin at habampanahon ko siyang titingnan nang ganito.
“Parang awa mo na, Babo,” nagmakaawa ako. “Bigyan mo lang ako ng kaunti pang makakain. Hayaan mo akong lumaki nang kasama ka at ipagtatayo kita ng bahay. Balang araw ay mababayaran din kita. Sabihin mo sa akin kung ano ang maitutulong ko pero parang awa mo na, Babo, huwag mo akong paalisin…” Talagang umiyak ako.
Ipinatong ni Babo ang kanyang mahinahong kamay sa aking balikat. Katulad ng kamay ni Inay. Bahagya akong napatahan pero maya-maya ay napaiyak akong muli. Ang epekto ng kanyang haplos ay lubhang emosyonal.
“Makinig ka sa akin. Tahan na—sige na, tahan ka na. Hindi na natin kayang magpatuloy nang ganito,” sabi ni Babo. “Ang aking paggawa ng banig ay hindi sapat para masaplutan at mapakain tayong dalawa. Talagang mahirap, anak, talagang mahirap. Kailangan mong umalis. Pero dadalawin kita linggu-linggo. Ibibigay sa iyo lahat ng iyong kailangan sa bahay ng Datu.”
Sinikap kong makita si Babo sa kabila ng aking mga luha. Pero saglit lamang, ang pag-iisip na makukuha ko ang anumang aking naisin ay kumapit sa musmos kong isipan. Tumahan ako.
“Sabihin mong pupunta ka,” himok ni Babo. Sa wakas ay pumayag ako, limang taong gulang lamang ako noon—at masunurin.
Pinaliguan ako ni Babo noong hapon. Hindi ako napaatras o gininaw, sapagkat ang dagat ay maligamgam at nakapagpapasigla. Maingat niyang nilinis ang aking mga kuko. Tapos kumuha siya ng isang dakot ng buhangin, ipinahid ito sa aking likod, at hinilod ang aking libaging katawan, laluna sa likod ng aking mga tainga. Matapos nito ay binuhusan niya ako ng sariwang tubig. Napakalinis ko na! Subalit ang mga damit ko ay panay nisnis…
Binilinan ako ni Babo bago kami nagtungo sa iyong malaking bahay: Huwag kong kalimutang halikan ang paa ng iyong ama, at ang umalis kapag unutusan nang hindi tumatalikod; huwag kong tingnan nang diretso sa mata ang iyong ama; huwag akong magsasalita nang sobra; kailangan na palaging gamitin ang salitang “sila” at “nila”; huwag kong… Ay, Babo, napakarami para maalala.
Sinikap ni Babo na maging matiyaga sa akin. Paulit-ulit niya akong inensayo sa mga gawing maharlika at tradisyunal. At isa pa: sa halip na “oo” ay “Pateyk” ang dapat kong sabihin, at “Teyk” naman para sa “ano” o kung sumasagot sa tawag.
“Ay, Babo, bakit ko kailangang sabihin lahat niyan? Bakit ko talaga kailangang…”
“Halika na, anak; halika na.”
Lumakad kami noong hapon ding iyon. Malamig ang hanging humahaplos sa aking mukha. Hindi kami napagod sapagkat nag-uusap kami sa daan. Marami siyang sinabi sa akin. Sinabi niya na kayong nakatira sa malaking bahay ay may dugong-bughaw.
“Hindi pula tulad ng sa atin, Babo?”
Sagot ni Babo ay hindi, hindi pula tulad ng sa atin.
“At ang Datu ay may anak na babae na kasing-edad ko, Babo?”
Sagot ni Babo, oo—ikaw. At kung ako ay magiging masipag at magpapakita ng mabuting asal ay baka payagan akong makipaglaro sa iyo, ang anak ng Datu.
Tinanong ko rin kay Babo kung pwede kitang tusukin ng aspile para makita kung tunay ngang bughaw ang iyong dugo. Pero hindi na ako sinagot ni Babo. Pinatahimik na lamang niya ako. Ayan, naging madaldal na naman ako.
Bahay ba ninyo talaga iyan? Naku, napakalaki! Pinagsabihan ako ni Babu. “Hindi natin iyan tinatawag na bahay,” sabi niya. “Ang tawag natin diyan ay astana, ang bahay ng Datu.” Ah, sabi ko at tumahimik na lamang. Bakit hindi ito agad sinabi ni Babo?
Biglang napatigil si Babo sa kanyang paglalakad. Talaga bang malinis na ako? Ay, tingnan mo ang aking bingot (harelip). Nilinis niya ang aking bingot, ipinamunas ang kanyang tapis sa halos di-makitang uhog na lumalabas sa aking ilong. Poi! Mas mabuti na ngayon. Ako naman ay walang naramdamang pagbabago sa aking kapansanan. Lamang ay mas malinis ang aking pakiramdam.
Ako nga ba talaga ang batang tinutukoy ni Babo? Tumatawa ka, batang marikit na Dugong-bughaw. Masaya siguro na ako nga. O ang pagkaaliw ba sa aking bingot ang nagpatawa sa iyo? Hindi ako naglakas-loob na tanungin ka. Kinabahan ako na kung sakaling umayaw ka sa akin, ay pahihirapan mo ako. Kaya, nakitawa rin ako at ikaw ay natuwa.
Sinabi sa akin ni Babo na halikan ang iyong kanang kamay. Bakit hindi ang iyong paa? A, bata ka pa. Maghintay ako sa iyong paglaki.
Pero agad mong binawi ang iyong kamay. Naisip ko na baka nakiliti ka sa aking bingot. Subalit ako nama’y lubhang nalasing sa pananadaliang tamis na nadama ko at nagpasya ako sa aking loob-loob na araw-araw kong hahalikan ang iyong kamay. Hindi, hindi ito pag-ibig. Pabirong pagkakagusto lamang ito. Kung maipalagay mo lamang ang aking pagmamalaki sa malapit at nakalalasing na pakikipag-ugnay sa isang dugong-bughaw…
“Maligayang pagdating, munting ulila!” Para ba sa akin ito? Sa akin talaga? Tiningnan ko si Babo. Siyempre, para sa akin! Bukas-palad tayong ipinatuloy. Salamat sa kabutihang-loob ng iyong ama. At salamat na rin sa iyong pagtawa sa akin.
Hinalikan ko ang paa ng iyong Appah, ang iyong matandang, kagalang-galang, maghapong-namamahingang ama. Hindi siya nakiliti ng aking bingot tulad mo. Hindi niya ako tinawanan. Sa katunayan, nagpakita siya ng pagmamalasakit sa akin. Gayundin ang iyong Amboh, ang iyong mabait na ina. “Upo kayo, upo kayo; huwag kayong mahiya.”
Pero nandyan ka, kinukulit si Babo ng iyong mga walang-habag na tanong: Bakit ako ganyan? Napaano ako?
Para makuntento ka, marikit na Dugong-bughaw, ikaw na munting palatanong, kinailangan ni Babong magpaliwanag: Nadulas kasi ang Inay sa vinta noong anim na buwan ako sa sinapupunan niya. Ang resulta: ang aking bingot. “Kawawang Jaafar,” sabi ng iyong Appah. Mapapaiyak na sana ako pero nang makita kong tinitingnan mo ako, nahiya ako at pinigil ko ang aking luha. Hindi ko kasi maiwasang maging madamdamin. Sa palagay ko, may malaking kinalaman dito ang aking pagiging ulila sa pagkabata.
“Sa tingin mo ay magiging masaya kang tumira dito kasama namin? Hindi ka na mangungulila para sa iyong Babo?”
“Pateyk, magiging masaya ako,” sabi ko. Sa posibilidad na hindi na ako mangungulila para kay Babo ay napakislot ako. Subalit tinanguan ako ni Babo bilang pampalakas ng loob.
“Pateyk, hindi ko na hahanap-hanapin si… si Babo.”
At umalis si Babo bago matapos ang pag-uusap. Kailangan pa niyang maglakad ng limang milya bago sumapit ang dilim. Subalit hindi pa rin ako umiyak tulad ng maaaring inaasahan mo, sapagkat—hindi ko pa ba nabanggit?—nahihiya akong umiyak sa harap mo.
At iyan kung paano ako tumira sa inyo, naaalala mo? Kada linggo ay dinadalaw ako ni Babo tulad ng ipinangako niya. At kayo—kayong lahat—ay napakaraming bagay ang ikinuwento sa kanya. Na masipag ako—ay, walang kaduda-duda, sabi ng iyong Appah at Amboh kay Babo. At ikaw, munting madaldal na Dugong-bughaw, ay nakisali rin sa koro ng papuri. Pero palaging mapanghi ang aking tulugan, patawa mong dagdag. Ito ay sinundan ng sermon mula kay Babo, at hayag na pangako mula sa akin na hindi na muling maiihi sa aking banig.
Oo, dinalaw ako ni Babo, pinayuhan ako linggu-linggo, sa dalawang magkasunod na taon—ibig sabihi’y hanggang sa siya ay mamatay nang walang naiwan sa mundo kundi isang pamangkin na may bingot.
Naaalala mo? Ako ang iyong paborito at palagi mong gustong makipaglaro sa akin. Sa paglipas ng panahon ay nalaman ko kung bakit, natutuwa kang tingnan ang aking bingot. Kung minsan, tuwing naglalakad tayo sa dagat, napapatigil ka tapos tumitingin ka sa akin. Tinitingnan din kita, nagtataka. Pagkatapos, bigla kang mapapahagalpak sa tawa. Nakikitawa rin ako nang hindi nalalaman na pinagtatawanan ko ang aking sarili. Tapos kinukurot mo ako nang masakit para paiyakin ako. A, gusto mo akong pag-eksperimentuhan. Sabi mo na hindi mo malaman kung umiiyak ako o tumatawa: pareho lang ang galaw ng aking labi, sa iyong maliliwanag na mata. At kahit na sabihin mo ito ay hindi ako namula sa hiya. Sapagkat hindi ba’t nadulas ang aking ina sa vinta?
Iyan ang gawi mo. At gusto kong makaganti sa sarili kong paraan. Gusto kong tusukin ang iyong balat para malaman kung tunay ngang bughaw ang iyong dugo. Pero mayroong bagay tungkol sa iyo na nagbabanta laban sa panghihimasok ng isang ulilang may kapansanan. At wala akong magawa kundi ang makadama ng walang-saysay na pagmamalaki, umiyak at tumawa nang kasama ka—para sa iyo—para lamang mapagbigyan ang mapagbiro at imperyosong dugong bughaw na nasa sa iyo.
Naaalala mo? Mukhang payag akong gawin ang lahat para sa iyo. Umaakyat ako para pumitas ng buko para sa iyo. Hangang-hanga ka sa liksi at tulin ko sa pag-akyat sa puno ng niyog, habang natatakot na mahulog ako. Nagmamakaawa ka sa akin na bumaba kaagad, dali. “Hindi.” Pinupukol mo ako ng mga maliliit na bato tuwing tumatanggi akong bumaba. “Hindi, hindi pa rin.” Hindi ako naaabot ng iyong mga bato—kulang ang iyong lakas. Tapos nagbabanta kang magsumbong sa iyong Appah. “Sige lang.” Gustong-gusto ko ang nasa itaas! Tapos ay kumakanta ako habang tinitingnan kita sa ibaba. Wala kang anumang magawa. Sa isang bugso ng galit, sinusumpa mo ako, na mamatay sana ako. Sige, hayaan mo akong mamatay. Sa langit ay aakyat ako sa mga puno ng niyog. At magbabalik ang aking multo para dalhan ka ng… para dalhan ka ng mga buko mula sa langit. Tapos bumabalik ka. Kita mo? Ang isang utusan, ang isang ulila, ay maaari ring magdikta sa maganda at mapagmalaking Dugong-bughaw na pumarito o pumaroon.
Tapos namumulot tayo ng mga munting kabibi, at naghahanap ng sea-cucumber, o sumisisid para sa sea-urchin. O tumatakbo sa kahabaan ng puti at nakakasilaw na buhangin, ako sa likod mo—namamangha sa iyong malambot at matulin na mga paa at sa iyong lumilipad na buhok. Tapos ay tumitigil tayo, hinihingal, tumatawa.
Pagkatapos magpahinga sandali, tumatakbo tayo muli patungo sa dagat at nakikipagdigma sa malalakas na alon. Hinihilod ko ang iyong makinis na likod pagkatapos nating maligo sa dagat. Kumukuha ako ng sariwang tubig sa isang malinis na bao ng niyog at binabanlawan ang iyong malambot at ebonyang buhok. Makinis ang bagsak ng iyong buhok, kumikinang sa palubog na araw. Ay, napakaganda. Pagkatapos ay maingat kong ginugupit ang iyong mga kuko. Kung minsan ay napapakislot ka sa sakit. Tuwing nangyayari ito, nagmamakaawa ako sa iyo na paluin ako. Para lamang malaman mo ang pagkakaiba sa aking pag-iyak at pagtawa. At kahit ang sakit na ibinibigay mo sa akin ay may halong tamis.
Iyan ang gawi ko. Ang tangi kong paraan upang maipakita ang aking pagpapasalamat para sa mga bagay na natikman ko noon: ang iyong pakikipagkaibigan, tirahan at pagkain sa iyong malaking astana. Kaya sinabi ng iyong mga magulang na tunay nga akong magiging mabuting utusan.
Noong ikaw ay pitong taong gulang ay ipinadala ka ng iyong mga magulang sa isang paaralang Mohamedan. Hindi ako ipinadalang mag-aral nang kasama ka, pero bale-wala ito sa akin. Sapagkat hindi ba’t gawain ko ang dalhin ang iyong pulang Koran nang nakapatong sa aking ulo apat na beses sa isang araw? At masaya ka sapagkat inaaliw kita. At mayroon kang tagabuhat ng tubig. Isa sa mga hinihingi noon ay ang pagdadala ng tubig sa bawat pagpasok sa klaseng Mohamedan. “O, bakit? Ipagpaumanhin ang pagkautal ng aking bingot, subalit gusto ko po talagang malaman.” Tinitigan ako ng iyong Goro, ang iyong gurong Mohamedan, nang parang sinusuri ang aking buong sistema. Bobo. Hindi ko ba alam na kaydaling magagap ng ating puso ang paksa, tulad ng dahan-dahan at walang-patid na agos ng tubig? Puso, puso. Hindi utak. Subalit tumahimik na lamang ako. Kung sa bagay, hindi naman ako naroon para walang-galang na magtanong. Mahiya ka, mahiya ka, aking bingot, sa pagtatanong, tahimik kong pinuna ang aking sarili.
Ganyan ko ginampanan ang papel ng Epang-epang, isang utusan-alalay mo. At araw-araw ay naging mas masigla ako, humahakbang sa likuran mo. Para akong tapat at mapagmahal na asong sumusunod sa kanyang amo nang magaan ang paa at umaawit ang puso. Sapagkat ikaw, sa unahan ko, ay mistulang inspirasyon na kaya kong sundan nang walang-pagod, hanggang sa dulo ng mundo…
Ang nakakabagot na monotono ng pag-aawit mo sa Koran ay tumagal nang tatlong taon. Napakabagal mo raw, sabi ng Goro. Kung minsan, gusto niya ikaw paluin. Pero hindi ba’t alam niya na ikaw ay anak ng Datu? Naku, mahahagupit din siya. Subalit ang pamamalo sa isang ulilang utusan at ang pag-iipit sa kanyang mga biyak na labi sa dalawang piraso ng kahoy ay malinaw na pinahihintulutan. Kaya nakita ako ng iyong Goro bilang tamang-tamang kapalit mo. Kung paano ako napaiyak sa kanyang pamamalo! At kung paano natawa ang iyong Goro; hindi nagtagumpay ang mga kahoy na sipit na isara ang aking bingot. Palaging natatanggal ang mga ito. At ang buong klase ay napapahagalpak sa tawa—at nangunguna ka.
Subalit sa iyong maluwag na astana, hinahanda ka na para sa pagkadalaga. Matanda ako sa iyo ng isang Ramadan. Madalas ay nagtataka ako kung bakit ang bilis mong lumaki samantalang nanatili akong sintu-sintong unano. Maaaring ang pobreng pangangalaga sa aking maagang pagkabata ay may malaking kinalaman sa aking mabagal na paglaki. Subalit, sa isang banda ay masaya ako na hindi ako nakahabol sa iyo. Sapagkat kutob ko’y hindi mo na ako pahihintulutang tulungan kita sa ilang mga delikadong gawain—tulad ng paghihilod sa iyong likod tuwing ika’y naliligo—kung naging kasimbilis mo ang aking paglaki.
Naroon ako sa kama tuwing gabi, mag-isa, lasing sa mga pagkahumaling at damdaming nahahawig sa yaong sa lalaking nasa edad na. Inisip kita nang palihim, nang hindi nahihiya, nang may pagnanasa: isang dalagang Dayang-Dayang na nakahiga sa kanyang kama sa pinakamalayong dulo ng kanyang pinakaloob na silid; dahan-dahang tumataas-bumababa ang kanyang dibidb na parang tubig na hinahagkan ng hangin; mamula-mulang pisngi, nakahaplos sa malambot na unan; mga matang nangangarap ang tingin sa kalawakan—masaya, parang may hinahanap, makahulugan; malambot na puwit at malambot na mga braso; makinis at ebonyang buhok na umaalon…
Dayang-Dayang, mapapatawad mo ba ang isang may-kapansanan at ulilang-utusan kung siya’y mahibang at mawalan ng paggalang at takot sa iyong Appah? Mapapatawad mo ba ang kanyang ulol na paglalakas-loob kung lumundag siya mula sa kanyang higaan, sumugod sa iyong silid, niyakap ka, at kiniliti ang iyong mukha ng kanyang bingot? Gusto ko sanang ipagtapat na sa isang sandali, nananabik, nagugutom, nauuhaw… hindi, hindi, hindi ko masasabi. Magkaibang-magkaiba tayo ng tabas. Maging ang iyong kagandahan—ang malaking astana kung saan ka nakatira—ang iyong dugo… Marahil na maging ang mga daliri ni Allah ay hindi kayang ihabi ang ating mga tela sa pagkakapantay-pantay. Kailangan kong makuntento na lamang sa pribilehiyong pagmasdan nang madalas ang iyong walang-kawangis na kagandahan. Ang isang pangit na utusan ay hindi dapat lumampas sa kanyang makitid na hangganan.
Subalit hindi nagpatuloy ang mga bagay tulad ng dati. Dumating ang isang batang Datu mula sa Bonbon para hingin ang iyong kamay. Napakasaya ng iyong Appah na patuluyin siya. Walang mas mabuti pa, sabi niya, kaysa sa pag-iisang dibdib ng dalawang taong parehong may dugong-bughaw. Dagdag pa, tumatanda na siya. Wala siyang anak na lalaki na hahalili sa kanya balang araw. Kung sa bagay, ang batang Datu ay nababagay lamang na mapasahan ng sulong maharlika na ilang taon ding dinala ng iyong Appah. Subalit ako—ako ay iba ang pagtingin, syempre. Ang gusto ko ay… Hindi, wala akong maaaring kinalaman sa usapin ng iyong kasal. Sino ba naman ako?
Siyempre, tama ang iyong Appah. Guwapo ang batang Datu. At mayaman din. Mayroon siyang malawak na lupaing pinagtatamnan ng mga punongkahoy, niyog at abaka. At masaya ka rin. Hindi dahil sa mayaman siya—sapagkat mayaman ka rin naman. Sa tingin ko ay alam ko kung bakit: mas mahusay kaysa sa akin na mahihilod ng batang Datu ang iyong malambot na likod tuwing naliligo ka. Hindi kasinggaspang ng aking mga kamay ang sa kanya… Subalit, hindi ko ito sa iyo sinabi. Siyempre.
Inutusan ng iyong Appah ang kanyang mga pinamumunuan na magtayo ng dalawang magkabilang ekstensyon sa inyong astana. Malaki na ang inyong astana subalit kailangan pa itong palakihin pa sapagkat daan-daang tao ang darating para saksihan ang iyong maringal na kasal.
Pawisan ang mga tao. Katakut-takot ang pagmamartilyo, pagpuputol, at pagbubuhat habang nagtatayo ng mga haligi. Maraming kainan at daldalan. At pagnguya ng nganga at katutubong timpladong tabako. At pagdudura ng pulang laway pagkatapos. Sa loob lamang ng isang araw, gawa na ang mga ekstensyon.
Tapos dumating ang araw ng iyong magarang kasal. Maaga pa lamang ay puno na ng tao ang iyong astana para tumulong sa ritwal na pagkakatay sa mga baka at kambing. At para tumulong na rin sa paglamon sa iyong handang pangkasal. Dumami pa ang mga tao pagsapit ng gabi. Ang mga hindi na magkasya sa itaas ay nanatili na lamang sa ibaba.
Umaapoy sa gabi ang mga sulong gawa sa tuyong dahon ng niyog. Sinindihan ng mga halos hubad na mga katutubo ang mga ito sa lutuan. Ang iba ay nagbayo ng bigas para sa kakanin. At humuhulas ang pawis sa kanilang mga kayumanggi’t makikintab na katawan.
Sa bakuran ng astana, ang mga pinamumunuan ng batang Datu ay nagsayaw sa malalaking bilog. Mahusay na nagsasayaw ang mga binata mula sa bayan, maya-maya’y ikinekembot ang kanilang mga magagandang-hugis na balakang, maya-maya’y iginagalaw ang kanilang mga brasong malalambot. Maliksing gumagalaw ang kanilang mga paa nang halos hindi makita.
Ang mga lalaking mananayaw ay yumuyuko nang mababa, tangan ang kahoy na sibat, kris o barong sa isang kamay, at kahoy na kalasag sa kabila. Nagpalabas sila ng madugong labanan sa pamamagitan ng pagsugod sa sirkulo ng mga nagsasayaw at pakikipagtagisan sa isa’t isa. Ang mga katutubong plawta, tambol, gabang, agong, at kulintang ay malaki ang idinulot na sayang musikal ng gabi. Sayaw. Kanta sa tuwa. Musika. Ingay. Tawanan. Umapaw ang musika sa daigdig na parang pusong puno ng dugo, buhay na buhay, tumitibok. Subalit ang puso ko’y umaapaw sa sakit. Sumisigaw ang mga tao: “Mabuhay ang Dayang-Dayang at ang Datu, MURAMURAAN!” sa bawat intermisyon. At ako rin ay sumisigaw—parang makina, nang hindi ko namamalayan. Lubha akong mangungulila sa iyo…
Nagtakbuhan at nagsipag-gitgitan ang mga tao papanhik sa iyong astana habang inihahatid sa iyo ang batang Datu. Sapagkat maliit, nagtagumpay akong makasiksik papasok nang sapat ang lapit para makita ka nang lubos. Ikaw, Dayang-Dayang. Ang iyong mukhang hugis-buwan ay metikulosong pinulbuhan ng giniling na bigas. Ang iyong buhok ay mataas na nakapusod sa tuktok ng iyong ulo, at namumutiktik sa mga kumikinang na gintong pang-ipit. Ang iyong masikip at makinang na itim na bestida ay natatakpan ng manipis na alampay ng pinakapinong kulay-rosas. Napapalamutian ng mga gintong butones ang iyong damit-pangkasal. Tuwid kang nakaupo sa kutson, may mga katutubong burdadong unan na maingat na nakaayos sa iyong likod. Napakandang pinalambot ng ilaw ng kandila ang iyong mukha kung kayat nagmistula kang diyosang naaninag sa panaginip. Pirmi kang nakatingin pababa.
Dumating na ang sandali. Hinatid ng nakaturbang pandita, habang nagsasalita sa mala-sendang boses, ang batang Datu sa iyo, samantalang patuloy ang pag-awit ng mga dalaga sa likod. Hinawakan ng pandita ang hintuturo ng Datu at tatlong beses itong inilapat sa gitna ng iyong mga kilay. At sa bawat beses ay umalma ang aking dibdib at hindi ko mapigil ang paggalaw ng aking mga labi.
Naaalala mo? Napapaiyak ka, Dayang-Dayang. Sapagkat, sabi nga ng mga tao, malapit ka nang mahiwalay sa iyong mga magulang. Malapit ka nang dalhin ng iyong asawa sa Bonbon, at maninirahan ka doon bilang babaeng-nayon. Subalit nang di-sinasadyang makita mo ako, napangiti ka minsan, nang kaunti. Agad akong umalis sapagkat hindi ko matiis ang makita ka pang nakaupo sa tabi ng batang Datu at lubos ang kaalamang ako na nagpawis, nagpagod at nagsilbi sa iyo na parang aso ay… Hindi, hindi, kahihiyan sa akin na isipin pa ang mga bagay na iyan. Sapagkat hindi ba’t tungkulin lamang ito ng isang utusan?
Subalit tumakas ako noong gabing iyon, marikit na Dugong-bughaw. Saan? Kahit saan. Eksaktong pitong taon na ang lumipas. At ang mga taong iyon ay napakalaki ang naitulong sa akin. Hindi na ako sintu-sintong unano, bagamat ang bingot ko ay nananatili tulad ng dati.
Dagdag pa, nakaipon ako ng munting kayamanan matapos ang maraming taon ng pagbabanat-buto. Maaari sana akong kumuha ng dalawa o tatlong asawa, pero hindi pa ako nakakahanap ng sinumang kahawig mo, magandang Dugong-bughaw. Kaya, nanatili akong binata.
At ang Gulong ng Panahon ni Allah ay nagpatuloy at nagpatuloy sa pag-ikot. At heto, isang araw ang iyong asawa ay dinala sa San Ramon Penal Farm, Zamboanga. Pinagbuhatan niya ng kamay ang pamahalaang Kristiyano. Ninais niyang magtatag ng sariling pamahalaan. Gusto niyang ipamalas ang kanyang munting kapangyarihan sa pamamagitan ng di-pagbayad ng buwis sa lupa sa batayang ang kanyang lupain, sapagkat lehitimong ipinamana sa kanya, ay lubos niyang pag-aari. Hindi niya naintindihan na ang maliit na halagang dapat niyang ibinayad sa porma ng buwis ay gagamitin para protektahan siya at ang kanyang mga pinamumunuan mula sa mga mandaraya. Hindi niya natanto na, sa katunaya’y, siya mismo ay bahagi rin ng pamahalaang Kristiyano. Sanhi nito, namatay ang kanyang mga pinamumunuan nang nakikidigma para sa maling layunin. Ang iyong Appah rin ay nadawit sa kaguluhan at namatay kasama ang mga iba. Kinumpiska ang kanyang mga ari-arian. At ang iyong Amboh ay namatay sa sobrang kalungkutan. Ang iyong asawa, upang mailigtas ng kanyang buhay, ay napilitang sumuko. Ang kanyang mga lupain ay kinumpiska rin. Maliit na lamang na bahagi ang natira sa iyo para pagtamnan at patuloy na mabuhay.
At naaalala mo? Nagpunta ako isang araw sa Bonbon hinggil sa negosyo. At nakita kita sa iyong kapirasong lupa kasama ang iyong mga anak. Sa umpisa, hindi ako makapaniwala na ikaw nga iyon. Tapos tumingin ka nang matagal at malalim sa aking mga mata. Hindi nagtagal, ang pamilyar na mga mata ng Dugong-bughaw mula sa napakatagal na panahon ay nagpatigil sa sentido ng dating utusan. At hindi ka rin makapaniwala sa iyong nakita. Hindi mo rin ako agad na makilala. Subalit nang makita mo ang aking bingot na nakangiti sa iyo, nang may kaunting pagkahiya, nakilala mo ako. At masaya ako rito.
“Ay, Jafaar,” gulat mong sinabi at awtomatikong binitawan ang iyong janap, ang iyong primitibong dulos. At akala mo na patay na ako, sabi mo. Sumpa, sumpa. Iyan pa rin ang iyong prangka at madaldal na gawi. Parang kaya mo pa ring magbiro kahit na malapit nang mabura ng kalungkutan ang mga huling labi ng iyong kagandahan. Kahit papaano ay kaya mo pa ring itago ang iyong pighati at lungkot sa likod ng biro at tawa. At masaya rin ako dito.
Ah, sasabihin ko sana sa iyo na ang Jafaar na nakikita mo ngayon ay ibang-iba—malaking ang iniunlad—na Jafaar. Siyanga. Pero sa halip ay: “Ay, Dayang-Dayang,” pabulong kong sinabi, nababagabag na makita kang nagtratrabaho. Ikaw na inaruga sa maginhawa at marangyang buhay. Subalit, pinilit kong itago ang pag-unawa sa iyong kaawa-awang kalagayan.
Patakbong dumating ang isa sa iyong mga anak na lalaki na nagtanong kung sino ako. Ah, ako ay, ako ay…
“Ang iyong dating utusan,” agad kong sagot. O, sabi ng iyong anak, at nanatiling tahimik, at maya-maya’y nagbalik sa kanyang trabaho. Trabaho, trabaho, Eting. Trabaho, anak. Itali ang panggatong at dalhin sa kusina. Huwag mong pansinin ang iyong dating utusan. Hindi na siya babatang muli. Kawawang munting Datu, hirap sa trabaho. Kawawang magandang Dugong-bughaw, hirap rin sa trabaho.
Matagal na naghari ang kakaibang katahimikan. At matapos: Siyanga pala, saan na ako nakatira ngayon? Sa Kanagi. Anong ginagawa ko sa Bonbon sa araw na ito? Para kausapin si Panglima Hussin tungkol sa mga bakang balak niyang ipagbili, Dayang-Dayang. Mga baka? May lupa na ba ako? E, kung ang magandang Dugong-bughaw ay maaaring mabuhay nang parang babaeng-nayon bakit hindi ang isang lalaking tulad ng iyong dating utusan? Hindi kasi ako naging masuwerte bilang mandaragat, kaya bumaling na lang ako sa pagbibili at pagbebenta ng baka. Ah, sabi mo. Tapos tumawa ka. At sinabayan ko ang tawa mo. Walang sigla ang aking tawa. O hindi kaya ang sa iyo? Subalit tinanong mo ako kung ano ang problema. Ah, wala. Talaga, hindi seryoso. Pero, tingnan mo… At parang naintindihan mo habang nakatayo ako sa harap mo, nakasandal sa puno ng mangga, walang ginagawa kundi tumitig nang tumitig sa iyo.
Napuna ko na ang iyong kasalukuyang sarili ay gutay-gutay na alaala, multo na lamang, ng Dugong-bughaw ng malaking astana. Ang iyong mga rekurso ng kasiglahan at kagandahan at lakas ay parang naubos mula sa iyong dating kabigha-bighaning sarili, ibinuhos sa maliit na sakahang iyong pinagtatamnan. Siyempre, hindi ko inasahang magiging kasingganda ka ng dati. Subalit dapat ay nanatili sa iyo ang sapat na bahagi nito—mula sa dating panahon. Hindi mauulap na matang napaliligiran ng itim; hindi walang-sigla at tuyot na buhok; hindi sunog-sa-araw na balat; hindi kulukulubot at kalyuhing mga kamay; hindi…
Parang higit na higit mong naiintindihan. Bakit ako nakatingin sa iyo nang ganyan? Sapagkat matagal mo na akong hindi nakikita? O iba pa? Ay, Dayang-Dayang, hindi ba’t bagay para sa pagmamalasakit ng iyong dating utusan ang malubhang pagbabago sa iyo? Agad mong ibinaling ang iyong mga mata mula sa akin. Pinulot mo ang iyong janap at binusisi ang malambot na lupa. Parang hindi ka makakapagsalita muli nang hindi mapapaiyak. Tinalikuran mo ako sapagkat ayaw na ayaw mong makita kitang luhaan.
At sinikap kong maintindihan kung bakit: ang makita ako ay bumuhay sa mga lumang alaala. Ang makita ako, makausap ako, makantyawan ako, ay ang makita, makausap, at makantyawan sa lumipas na panahon sa napakasayang astana. At napahikbi ka habang iniisip ko ito. Alam kong humikbi ka sapagkat nanginginig ang iyong mga balikat. Pero sinikap kong magkunwari na hindi ko napapansin ang iyong impit na pag-iyak. Nagalit ako sa aking pagpunta at pagpapaiyak sa iyo…
“Maaari na ba akong umalis, Dayang-Dayang?” mahina kong sabi, nilalabanan ang sarili kong mga luha. Hindi mo sinabing oo. At hindi mo rin sinabing hindi. Subalit ang iyong pagtango ay sapat na para makaintindi ako at umalis. Umalis patungo saan? Mayroon bang lugar na pupuntahan? Siyempre. Maraming lugar na maaaring puntahan. Subalit bihira ang lugar na gustong balikan.
Subalit may pumigil sa akin matapos akong makapaglakad ng isang milya. Mayroong pwersang nagsusumikap na tumulak sa akin pabalik sa iyo, at nagpapalimot sa akin sa mga baka ni Panglima Hussin. Ang bawat kutob ko ay nagsabi sa akin na tama ang bumalik sa iyo at gumawa ng anuman—marahil magmakaawa sa iyo na tandaan ang bingot ng iyong dating Jafaar, para lamang mapatawa ka at sumaya muli. Gusto kong tumakbo pabalik at punasan ang luha mula sa iyong mga mata sa aking putong. Gusto kong kumuha ng sariwang tubig at banlawan ang iyong tuyot at magulong buhok, nang sa gayo’y maibalik ito sa umaagos na kakinisan at kakaibang kinang. Gusto kong gupitin ang iyong mga kuko, haplusin ang iyong kalyuhing mga kamay. Ninais kong sabihin sa iyo na ang lupa at mga bakang aking pag-aari ay sa iyo. At higit sa lahat, nag-aapoy akong lumipad pabalik at hingin ko na iuwi kita at ang iyong mga anak. Bagamat ang simple kong tahanan ay hindi kasinglaki ng iyong astana sa Patikul, kahit paano’y magiging masaya at pansamantalang kanlungan ito habang hinihintay mo ang paglaya ng iyong asawa.
Ang pagnanais na ito na bumalik sa iyo, Dayang-Dayang, ay malakas. Subalit hindi ako bumalik sapagkat may pag-aalinlangang biglang dumapo sa akin: wala akong dugong bughaw. Ang mayroon lamang ako ay bingot. Maging ang mga daliri ni Allah, marahil, ay hindi tayo kayang ihabi, kahit ngayon, sa pagkakapantay-pantay.

Ang Dugong-bughaw ng Malaking Astana

This is a Filipino translation of Ibrahim Jubaira’s Blue Blood of the Big Astana. This translation was done by Sofia Guillermo.
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Bagamat ang puso ay maaaring wala nang pakialam, ang isip ay palaging maaaring magbalik. Ang isip ay palaging maaaring magbalik sapagkat palaging mayroong mga bagay na maaaring maalala: ang mga mababagal na araw ng kalungkutan sa pagkabata; ang mga masasayang panahon sa ilalim ng init ng araw; ang lihim na pag-ibig at mapagbirong kapalaran, at iba pa. Kaya naiisip ko na naaalala mo rin ako.
Naaalala mo ba? Sobra ng isang taon matapos akong maulila, nagpasya ang aking tiyahin na ilagay ako sa ilalim ng pangangalaga ng iyong ama, ang Datu. Noon panahong iyon, ang mga datu ang may tungkuling tumingin sa mga mahihirap at mahihina. Samakatwid, tama ang aking tiyahin na ipaalaga ako sa iyong ama. Dagdag pa, napakahirap niya kung kayat sa ginawa niyang iyon ay hindi lamang niya nabawasan ang kanyang mga pasanin kundi ay natiyak din niya ang aking kagalingan.
Subalit hindi ko maatim na mahiwalay sa aking tiyahin nang kahit sandali. Para siyang naging ina sa akin at habampanahon ko siyang titingnan nang ganito.
“Parang awa mo na, Babo,” nagmakaawa ako. “Bigyan mo lang ako ng kaunti pang makakain. Hayaan mo akong lumaki nang kasama ka at ipagtatayo kita ng bahay. Balang araw ay mababayaran din kita. Sabihin mo sa akin kung ano ang maitutulong ko pero parang awa mo na, Babo, huwag mo akong paalisin…” Talagang umiyak ako.
Ipinatong ni Babo ang kanyang mahinahong kamay sa aking balikat. Katulad ng kamay ni Inay. Bahagya akong napatahan pero maya-maya ay napaiyak akong muli. Ang epekto ng kanyang haplos ay lubhang emosyonal.
“Makinig ka sa akin. Tahan na—sige na, tahan ka na. Hindi na natin kayang magpatuloy nang ganito,” sabi ni Babo. “Ang aking paggawa ng banig ay hindi sapat para masaplutan at mapakain tayong dalawa. Talagang mahirap, anak, talagang mahirap. Kailangan mong umalis. Pero dadalawin kita linggu-linggo. Ibibigay sa iyo lahat ng iyong kailangan sa bahay ng Datu.”
Sinikap kong makita si Babo sa kabila ng aking mga luha. Pero saglit lamang, ang pag-iisip na makukuha ko ang anumang aking naisin ay kumapit sa musmos kong isipan. Tumahan ako.
“Sabihin mong pupunta ka,” himok ni Babo. Sa wakas ay pumayag ako, limang taong gulang lamang ako noon—at masunurin.
Pinaliguan ako ni Babo noong hapon. Hindi ako napaatras o gininaw, sapagkat ang dagat ay maligamgam at nakapagpapasigla. Maingat niyang nilinis ang aking mga kuko. Tapos kumuha siya ng isang dakot ng buhangin, ipinahid ito sa aking likod, at hinilod ang aking libaging katawan, laluna sa likod ng aking mga tainga. Matapos nito ay binuhusan niya ako ng sariwang tubig. Napakalinis ko na! Subalit ang mga damit ko ay panay nisnis…
Binilinan ako ni Babo bago kami nagtungo sa iyong malaking bahay: Huwag kong kalimutang halikan ang paa ng iyong ama, at ang umalis kapag unutusan nang hindi tumatalikod; huwag kong tingnan nang diretso sa mata ang iyong ama; huwag akong magsasalita nang sobra; kailangan na palaging gamitin ang salitang “sila” at “nila”; huwag kong… Ay, Babo, napakarami para maalala.
Sinikap ni Babo na maging matiyaga sa akin. Paulit-ulit niya akong inensayo sa mga gawing maharlika at tradisyunal. At isa pa: sa halip na “oo” ay “Pateyk” ang dapat kong sabihin, at “Teyk” naman para sa “ano” o kung sumasagot sa tawag.
“Ay, Babo, bakit ko kailangang sabihin lahat niyan? Bakit ko talaga kailangang…”
“Halika na, anak; halika na.”
Lumakad kami noong hapon ding iyon. Malamig ang hanging humahaplos sa aking mukha. Hindi kami napagod sapagkat nag-uusap kami sa daan. Marami siyang sinabi sa akin. Sinabi niya na kayong nakatira sa malaking bahay ay may dugong-bughaw.
“Hindi pula tulad ng sa atin, Babo?”
Sagot ni Babo ay hindi, hindi pula tulad ng sa atin.
“At ang Datu ay may anak na babae na kasing-edad ko, Babo?”
Sagot ni Babo, oo—ikaw. At kung ako ay magiging masipag at magpapakita ng mabuting asal ay baka payagan akong makipaglaro sa iyo, ang anak ng Datu.
Tinanong ko rin kay Babo kung pwede kitang tusukin ng aspile para makita kung tunay ngang bughaw ang iyong dugo. Pero hindi na ako sinagot ni Babo. Pinatahimik na lamang niya ako. Ayan, naging madaldal na naman ako.
Bahay ba ninyo talaga iyan? Naku, napakalaki! Pinagsabihan ako ni Babu. “Hindi natin iyan tinatawag na bahay,” sabi niya. “Ang tawag natin diyan ay astana, ang bahay ng Datu.” Ah, sabi ko at tumahimik na lamang. Bakit hindi ito agad sinabi ni Babo?
Biglang napatigil si Babo sa kanyang paglalakad. Talaga bang malinis na ako? Ay, tingnan mo ang aking bingot (harelip). Nilinis niya ang aking bingot, ipinamunas ang kanyang tapis sa halos di-makitang uhog na lumalabas sa aking ilong. Poi! Mas mabuti na ngayon. Ako naman ay walang naramdamang pagbabago sa aking kapansanan. Lamang ay mas malinis ang aking pakiramdam.
Ako nga ba talaga ang batang tinutukoy ni Babo? Tumatawa ka, batang marikit na Dugong-bughaw. Masaya siguro na ako nga. O ang pagkaaliw ba sa aking bingot ang nagpatawa sa iyo? Hindi ako naglakas-loob na tanungin ka. Kinabahan ako na kung sakaling umayaw ka sa akin, ay pahihirapan mo ako. Kaya, nakitawa rin ako at ikaw ay natuwa.
Sinabi sa akin ni Babo na halikan ang iyong kanang kamay. Bakit hindi ang iyong paa? A, bata ka pa. Maghintay ako sa iyong paglaki.
Pero agad mong binawi ang iyong kamay. Naisip ko na baka nakiliti ka sa aking bingot. Subalit ako nama’y lubhang nalasing sa pananadaliang tamis na nadama ko at nagpasya ako sa aking loob-loob na araw-araw kong hahalikan ang iyong kamay. Hindi, hindi ito pag-ibig. Pabirong pagkakagusto lamang ito. Kung maipalagay mo lamang ang aking pagmamalaki sa malapit at nakalalasing na pakikipag-ugnay sa isang dugong-bughaw…
“Maligayang pagdating, munting ulila!” Para ba sa akin ito? Sa akin talaga? Tiningnan ko si Babo. Siyempre, para sa akin! Bukas-palad tayong ipinatuloy. Salamat sa kabutihang-loob ng iyong ama. At salamat na rin sa iyong pagtawa sa akin.
Hinalikan ko ang paa ng iyong Appah, ang iyong matandang, kagalang-galang, maghapong-namamahingang ama. Hindi siya nakiliti ng aking bingot tulad mo. Hindi niya ako tinawanan. Sa katunayan, nagpakita siya ng pagmamalasakit sa akin. Gayundin ang iyong Amboh, ang iyong mabait na ina. “Upo kayo, upo kayo; huwag kayong mahiya.”
Pero nandyan ka, kinukulit si Babo ng iyong mga walang-habag na tanong: Bakit ako ganyan? Napaano ako?
Para makuntento ka, marikit na Dugong-bughaw, ikaw na munting palatanong, kinailangan ni Babong magpaliwanag: Nadulas kasi ang Inay sa vinta noong anim na buwan ako sa sinapupunan niya. Ang resulta: ang aking bingot. “Kawawang Jaafar,” sabi ng iyong Appah. Mapapaiyak na sana ako pero nang makita kong tinitingnan mo ako, nahiya ako at pinigil ko ang aking luha. Hindi ko kasi maiwasang maging madamdamin. Sa palagay ko, may malaking kinalaman dito ang aking pagiging ulila sa pagkabata.
“Sa tingin mo ay magiging masaya kang tumira dito kasama namin? Hindi ka na mangungulila para sa iyong Babo?”
“Pateyk, magiging masaya ako,” sabi ko. Sa posibilidad na hindi na ako mangungulila para kay Babo ay napakislot ako. Subalit tinanguan ako ni Babo bilang pampalakas ng loob.
“Pateyk, hindi ko na hahanap-hanapin si… si Babo.”
At umalis si Babo bago matapos ang pag-uusap. Kailangan pa niyang maglakad ng limang milya bago sumapit ang dilim. Subalit hindi pa rin ako umiyak tulad ng maaaring inaasahan mo, sapagkat—hindi ko pa ba nabanggit?—nahihiya akong umiyak sa harap mo.
At iyan kung paano ako tumira sa inyo, naaalala mo? Kada linggo ay dinadalaw ako ni Babo tulad ng ipinangako niya. At kayo—kayong lahat—ay napakaraming bagay ang ikinuwento sa kanya. Na masipag ako—ay, walang kaduda-duda, sabi ng iyong Appah at Amboh kay Babo. At ikaw, munting madaldal na Dugong-bughaw, ay nakisali rin sa koro ng papuri. Pero palaging mapanghi ang aking tulugan, patawa mong dagdag. Ito ay sinundan ng sermon mula kay Babo, at hayag na pangako mula sa akin na hindi na muling maiihi sa aking banig.
Oo, dinalaw ako ni Babo, pinayuhan ako linggu-linggo, sa dalawang magkasunod na taon—ibig sabihi’y hanggang sa siya ay mamatay nang walang naiwan sa mundo kundi isang pamangkin na may bingot.
Naaalala mo? Ako ang iyong paborito at palagi mong gustong makipaglaro sa akin. Sa paglipas ng panahon ay nalaman ko kung bakit, natutuwa kang tingnan ang aking bingot. Kung minsan, tuwing naglalakad tayo sa dagat, napapatigil ka tapos tumitingin ka sa akin. Tinitingnan din kita, nagtataka. Pagkatapos, bigla kang mapapahagalpak sa tawa. Nakikitawa rin ako nang hindi nalalaman na pinagtatawanan ko ang aking sarili. Tapos kinukurot mo ako nang masakit para paiyakin ako. A, gusto mo akong pag-eksperimentuhan. Sabi mo na hindi mo malaman kung umiiyak ako o tumatawa: pareho lang ang galaw ng aking labi, sa iyong maliliwanag na mata. At kahit na sabihin mo ito ay hindi ako namula sa hiya. Sapagkat hindi ba’t nadulas ang aking ina sa vinta?
Iyan ang gawi mo. At gusto kong makaganti sa sarili kong paraan. Gusto kong tusukin ang iyong balat para malaman kung tunay ngang bughaw ang iyong dugo. Pero mayroong bagay tungkol sa iyo na nagbabanta laban sa panghihimasok ng isang ulilang may kapansanan. At wala akong magawa kundi ang makadama ng walang-saysay na pagmamalaki, umiyak at tumawa nang kasama ka—para sa iyo—para lamang mapagbigyan ang mapagbiro at imperyosong dugong bughaw na nasa sa iyo.
Naaalala mo? Mukhang payag akong gawin ang lahat para sa iyo. Umaakyat ako para pumitas ng buko para sa iyo. Hangang-hanga ka sa liksi at tulin ko sa pag-akyat sa puno ng niyog, habang natatakot na mahulog ako. Nagmamakaawa ka sa akin na bumaba kaagad, dali. “Hindi.” Pinupukol mo ako ng mga maliliit na bato tuwing tumatanggi akong bumaba. “Hindi, hindi pa rin.” Hindi ako naaabot ng iyong mga bato—kulang ang iyong lakas. Tapos nagbabanta kang magsumbong sa iyong Appah. “Sige lang.” Gustong-gusto ko ang nasa itaas! Tapos ay kumakanta ako habang tinitingnan kita sa ibaba. Wala kang anumang magawa. Sa isang bugso ng galit, sinusumpa mo ako, na mamatay sana ako. Sige, hayaan mo akong mamatay. Sa langit ay aakyat ako sa mga puno ng niyog. At magbabalik ang aking multo para dalhan ka ng… para dalhan ka ng mga buko mula sa langit. Tapos bumabalik ka. Kita mo? Ang isang utusan, ang isang ulila, ay maaari ring magdikta sa maganda at mapagmalaking Dugong-bughaw na pumarito o pumaroon.
Tapos namumulot tayo ng mga munting kabibi, at naghahanap ng sea-cucumber, o sumisisid para sa sea-urchin. O tumatakbo sa kahabaan ng puti at nakakasilaw na buhangin, ako sa likod mo—namamangha sa iyong malambot at matulin na mga paa at sa iyong lumilipad na buhok. Tapos ay tumitigil tayo, hinihingal, tumatawa.
Pagkatapos magpahinga sandali, tumatakbo tayo muli patungo sa dagat at nakikipagdigma sa malalakas na alon. Hinihilod ko ang iyong makinis na likod pagkatapos nating maligo sa dagat. Kumukuha ako ng sariwang tubig sa isang malinis na bao ng niyog at binabanlawan ang iyong malambot at ebonyang buhok. Makinis ang bagsak ng iyong buhok, kumikinang sa palubog na araw. Ay, napakaganda. Pagkatapos ay maingat kong ginugupit ang iyong mga kuko. Kung minsan ay napapakislot ka sa sakit. Tuwing nangyayari ito, nagmamakaawa ako sa iyo na paluin ako. Para lamang malaman mo ang pagkakaiba sa aking pag-iyak at pagtawa. At kahit ang sakit na ibinibigay mo sa akin ay may halong tamis.
Iyan ang gawi ko. Ang tangi kong paraan upang maipakita ang aking pagpapasalamat para sa mga bagay na natikman ko noon: ang iyong pakikipagkaibigan, tirahan at pagkain sa iyong malaking astana. Kaya sinabi ng iyong mga magulang na tunay nga akong magiging mabuting utusan.
Noong ikaw ay pitong taong gulang ay ipinadala ka ng iyong mga magulang sa isang paaralang Mohamedan. Hindi ako ipinadalang mag-aral nang kasama ka, pero bale-wala ito sa akin. Sapagkat hindi ba’t gawain ko ang dalhin ang iyong pulang Koran nang nakapatong sa aking ulo apat na beses sa isang araw? At masaya ka sapagkat inaaliw kita. At mayroon kang tagabuhat ng tubig. Isa sa mga hinihingi noon ay ang pagdadala ng tubig sa bawat pagpasok sa klaseng Mohamedan. “O, bakit? Ipagpaumanhin ang pagkautal ng aking bingot, subalit gusto ko po talagang malaman.” Tinitigan ako ng iyong Goro, ang iyong gurong Mohamedan, nang parang sinusuri ang aking buong sistema. Bobo. Hindi ko ba alam na kaydaling magagap ng ating puso ang paksa, tulad ng dahan-dahan at walang-patid na agos ng tubig? Puso, puso. Hindi utak. Subalit tumahimik na lamang ako. Kung sa bagay, hindi naman ako naroon para walang-galang na magtanong. Mahiya ka, mahiya ka, aking bingot, sa pagtatanong, tahimik kong pinuna ang aking sarili.
Ganyan ko ginampanan ang papel ng Epang-epang, isang utusan-alalay mo. At araw-araw ay naging mas masigla ako, humahakbang sa likuran mo. Para akong tapat at mapagmahal na asong sumusunod sa kanyang amo nang magaan ang paa at umaawit ang puso. Sapagkat ikaw, sa unahan ko, ay mistulang inspirasyon na kaya kong sundan nang walang-pagod, hanggang sa dulo ng mundo…
Ang nakakabagot na monotono ng pag-aawit mo sa Koran ay tumagal nang tatlong taon. Napakabagal mo raw, sabi ng Goro. Kung minsan, gusto niya ikaw paluin. Pero hindi ba’t alam niya na ikaw ay anak ng Datu? Naku, mahahagupit din siya. Subalit ang pamamalo sa isang ulilang utusan at ang pag-iipit sa kanyang mga biyak na labi sa dalawang piraso ng kahoy ay malinaw na pinahihintulutan. Kaya nakita ako ng iyong Goro bilang tamang-tamang kapalit mo. Kung paano ako napaiyak sa kanyang pamamalo! At kung paano natawa ang iyong Goro; hindi nagtagumpay ang mga kahoy na sipit na isara ang aking bingot. Palaging natatanggal ang mga ito. At ang buong klase ay napapahagalpak sa tawa—at nangunguna ka.
Subalit sa iyong maluwag na astana, hinahanda ka na para sa pagkadalaga. Matanda ako sa iyo ng isang Ramadan. Madalas ay nagtataka ako kung bakit ang bilis mong lumaki samantalang nanatili akong sintu-sintong unano. Maaaring ang pobreng pangangalaga sa aking maagang pagkabata ay may malaking kinalaman sa aking mabagal na paglaki. Subalit, sa isang banda ay masaya ako na hindi ako nakahabol sa iyo. Sapagkat kutob ko’y hindi mo na ako pahihintulutang tulungan kita sa ilang mga delikadong gawain—tulad ng paghihilod sa iyong likod tuwing ika’y naliligo—kung naging kasimbilis mo ang aking paglaki.
Naroon ako sa kama tuwing gabi, mag-isa, lasing sa mga pagkahumaling at damdaming nahahawig sa yaong sa lalaking nasa edad na. Inisip kita nang palihim, nang hindi nahihiya, nang may pagnanasa: isang dalagang Dayang-Dayang na nakahiga sa kanyang kama sa pinakamalayong dulo ng kanyang pinakaloob na silid; dahan-dahang tumataas-bumababa ang kanyang dibidb na parang tubig na hinahagkan ng hangin; mamula-mulang pisngi, nakahaplos sa malambot na unan; mga matang nangangarap ang tingin sa kalawakan—masaya, parang may hinahanap, makahulugan; malambot na puwit at malambot na mga braso; makinis at ebonyang buhok na umaalon…
Dayang-Dayang, mapapatawad mo ba ang isang may-kapansanan at ulilang-utusan kung siya’y mahibang at mawalan ng paggalang at takot sa iyong Appah? Mapapatawad mo ba ang kanyang ulol na paglalakas-loob kung lumundag siya mula sa kanyang higaan, sumugod sa iyong silid, niyakap ka, at kiniliti ang iyong mukha ng kanyang bingot? Gusto ko sanang ipagtapat na sa isang sandali, nananabik, nagugutom, nauuhaw… hindi, hindi, hindi ko masasabi. Magkaibang-magkaiba tayo ng tabas. Maging ang iyong kagandahan—ang malaking astana kung saan ka nakatira—ang iyong dugo… Marahil na maging ang mga daliri ni Allah ay hindi kayang ihabi ang ating mga tela sa pagkakapantay-pantay. Kailangan kong makuntento na lamang sa pribilehiyong pagmasdan nang madalas ang iyong walang-kawangis na kagandahan. Ang isang pangit na utusan ay hindi dapat lumampas sa kanyang makitid na hangganan.
Subalit hindi nagpatuloy ang mga bagay tulad ng dati. Dumating ang isang batang Datu mula sa Bonbon para hingin ang iyong kamay. Napakasaya ng iyong Appah na patuluyin siya. Walang mas mabuti pa, sabi niya, kaysa sa pag-iisang dibdib ng dalawang taong parehong may dugong-bughaw. Dagdag pa, tumatanda na siya. Wala siyang anak na lalaki na hahalili sa kanya balang araw. Kung sa bagay, ang batang Datu ay nababagay lamang na mapasahan ng sulong maharlika na ilang taon ding dinala ng iyong Appah. Subalit ako—ako ay iba ang pagtingin, syempre. Ang gusto ko ay… Hindi, wala akong maaaring kinalaman sa usapin ng iyong kasal. Sino ba naman ako?
Siyempre, tama ang iyong Appah. Guwapo ang batang Datu. At mayaman din. Mayroon siyang malawak na lupaing pinagtatamnan ng mga punongkahoy, niyog at abaka. At masaya ka rin. Hindi dahil sa mayaman siya—sapagkat mayaman ka rin naman. Sa tingin ko ay alam ko kung bakit: mas mahusay kaysa sa akin na mahihilod ng batang Datu ang iyong malambot na likod tuwing naliligo ka. Hindi kasinggaspang ng aking mga kamay ang sa kanya… Subalit, hindi ko ito sa iyo sinabi. Siyempre.
Inutusan ng iyong Appah ang kanyang mga pinamumunuan na magtayo ng dalawang magkabilang ekstensyon sa inyong astana. Malaki na ang inyong astana subalit kailangan pa itong palakihin pa sapagkat daan-daang tao ang darating para saksihan ang iyong maringal na kasal.
Pawisan ang mga tao. Katakut-takot ang pagmamartilyo, pagpuputol, at pagbubuhat habang nagtatayo ng mga haligi. Maraming kainan at daldalan. At pagnguya ng nganga at katutubong timpladong tabako. At pagdudura ng pulang laway pagkatapos. Sa loob lamang ng isang araw, gawa na ang mga ekstensyon.
Tapos dumating ang araw ng iyong magarang kasal. Maaga pa lamang ay puno na ng tao ang iyong astana para tumulong sa ritwal na pagkakatay sa mga baka at kambing. At para tumulong na rin sa paglamon sa iyong handang pangkasal. Dumami pa ang mga tao pagsapit ng gabi. Ang mga hindi na magkasya sa itaas ay nanatili na lamang sa ibaba.
Umaapoy sa gabi ang mga sulong gawa sa tuyong dahon ng niyog. Sinindihan ng mga halos hubad na mga katutubo ang mga ito sa lutuan. Ang iba ay nagbayo ng bigas para sa kakanin. At humuhulas ang pawis sa kanilang mga kayumanggi’t makikintab na katawan.
Sa bakuran ng astana, ang mga pinamumunuan ng batang Datu ay nagsayaw sa malalaking bilog. Mahusay na nagsasayaw ang mga binata mula sa bayan, maya-maya’y ikinekembot ang kanilang mga magagandang-hugis na balakang, maya-maya’y iginagalaw ang kanilang mga brasong malalambot. Maliksing gumagalaw ang kanilang mga paa nang halos hindi makita.
Ang mga lalaking mananayaw ay yumuyuko nang mababa, tangan ang kahoy na sibat, kris o barong sa isang kamay, at kahoy na kalasag sa kabila. Nagpalabas sila ng madugong labanan sa pamamagitan ng pagsugod sa sirkulo ng mga nagsasayaw at pakikipagtagisan sa isa’t isa. Ang mga katutubong plawta, tambol, gabang, agong, at kulintang ay malaki ang idinulot na sayang musikal ng gabi. Sayaw. Kanta sa tuwa. Musika. Ingay. Tawanan. Umapaw ang musika sa daigdig na parang pusong puno ng dugo, buhay na buhay, tumitibok. Subalit ang puso ko’y umaapaw sa sakit. Sumisigaw ang mga tao: “Mabuhay ang Dayang-Dayang at ang Datu, MURAMURAAN!” sa bawat intermisyon. At ako rin ay sumisigaw—parang makina, nang hindi ko namamalayan. Lubha akong mangungulila sa iyo…
Nagtakbuhan at nagsipag-gitgitan ang mga tao papanhik sa iyong astana habang inihahatid sa iyo ang batang Datu. Sapagkat maliit, nagtagumpay akong makasiksik papasok nang sapat ang lapit para makita ka nang lubos. Ikaw, Dayang-Dayang. Ang iyong mukhang hugis-buwan ay metikulosong pinulbuhan ng giniling na bigas. Ang iyong buhok ay mataas na nakapusod sa tuktok ng iyong ulo, at namumutiktik sa mga kumikinang na gintong pang-ipit. Ang iyong masikip at makinang na itim na bestida ay natatakpan ng manipis na alampay ng pinakapinong kulay-rosas. Napapalamutian ng mga gintong butones ang iyong damit-pangkasal. Tuwid kang nakaupo sa kutson, may mga katutubong burdadong unan na maingat na nakaayos sa iyong likod. Napakandang pinalambot ng ilaw ng kandila ang iyong mukha kung kayat nagmistula kang diyosang naaninag sa panaginip. Pirmi kang nakatingin pababa.
Dumating na ang sandali. Hinatid ng nakaturbang pandita, habang nagsasalita sa mala-sendang boses, ang batang Datu sa iyo, samantalang patuloy ang pag-awit ng mga dalaga sa likod. Hinawakan ng pandita ang hintuturo ng Datu at tatlong beses itong inilapat sa gitna ng iyong mga kilay. At sa bawat beses ay umalma ang aking dibdib at hindi ko mapigil ang paggalaw ng aking mga labi.
Naaalala mo? Napapaiyak ka, Dayang-Dayang. Sapagkat, sabi nga ng mga tao, malapit ka nang mahiwalay sa iyong mga magulang. Malapit ka nang dalhin ng iyong asawa sa Bonbon, at maninirahan ka doon bilang babaeng-nayon. Subalit nang di-sinasadyang makita mo ako, napangiti ka minsan, nang kaunti. Agad akong umalis sapagkat hindi ko matiis ang makita ka pang nakaupo sa tabi ng batang Datu at lubos ang kaalamang ako na nagpawis, nagpagod at nagsilbi sa iyo na parang aso ay… Hindi, hindi, kahihiyan sa akin na isipin pa ang mga bagay na iyan. Sapagkat hindi ba’t tungkulin lamang ito ng isang utusan?
Subalit tumakas ako noong gabing iyon, marikit na Dugong-bughaw. Saan? Kahit saan. Eksaktong pitong taon na ang lumipas. At ang mga taong iyon ay napakalaki ang naitulong sa akin. Hindi na ako sintu-sintong unano, bagamat ang bingot ko ay nananatili tulad ng dati.
Dagdag pa, nakaipon ako ng munting kayamanan matapos ang maraming taon ng pagbabanat-buto. Maaari sana akong kumuha ng dalawa o tatlong asawa, pero hindi pa ako nakakahanap ng sinumang kahawig mo, magandang Dugong-bughaw. Kaya, nanatili akong binata.
At ang Gulong ng Panahon ni Allah ay nagpatuloy at nagpatuloy sa pag-ikot. At heto, isang araw ang iyong asawa ay dinala sa San Ramon Penal Farm, Zamboanga. Pinagbuhatan niya ng kamay ang pamahalaang Kristiyano. Ninais niyang magtatag ng sariling pamahalaan. Gusto niyang ipamalas ang kanyang munting kapangyarihan sa pamamagitan ng di-pagbayad ng buwis sa lupa sa batayang ang kanyang lupain, sapagkat lehitimong ipinamana sa kanya, ay lubos niyang pag-aari. Hindi niya naintindihan na ang maliit na halagang dapat niyang ibinayad sa porma ng buwis ay gagamitin para protektahan siya at ang kanyang mga pinamumunuan mula sa mga mandaraya. Hindi niya natanto na, sa katunaya’y, siya mismo ay bahagi rin ng pamahalaang Kristiyano. Sanhi nito, namatay ang kanyang mga pinamumunuan nang nakikidigma para sa maling layunin. Ang iyong Appah rin ay nadawit sa kaguluhan at namatay kasama ang mga iba. Kinumpiska ang kanyang mga ari-arian. At ang iyong Amboh ay namatay sa sobrang kalungkutan. Ang iyong asawa, upang mailigtas ng kanyang buhay, ay napilitang sumuko. Ang kanyang mga lupain ay kinumpiska rin. Maliit na lamang na bahagi ang natira sa iyo para pagtamnan at patuloy na mabuhay.
At naaalala mo? Nagpunta ako isang araw sa Bonbon hinggil sa negosyo. At nakita kita sa iyong kapirasong lupa kasama ang iyong mga anak. Sa umpisa, hindi ako makapaniwala na ikaw nga iyon. Tapos tumingin ka nang matagal at malalim sa aking mga mata. Hindi nagtagal, ang pamilyar na mga mata ng Dugong-bughaw mula sa napakatagal na panahon ay nagpatigil sa sentido ng dating utusan. At hindi ka rin makapaniwala sa iyong nakita. Hindi mo rin ako agad na makilala. Subalit nang makita mo ang aking bingot na nakangiti sa iyo, nang may kaunting pagkahiya, nakilala mo ako. At masaya ako rito.
“Ay, Jafaar,” gulat mong sinabi at awtomatikong binitawan ang iyong janap, ang iyong primitibong dulos. At akala mo na patay na ako, sabi mo. Sumpa, sumpa. Iyan pa rin ang iyong prangka at madaldal na gawi. Parang kaya mo pa ring magbiro kahit na malapit nang mabura ng kalungkutan ang mga huling labi ng iyong kagandahan. Kahit papaano ay kaya mo pa ring itago ang iyong pighati at lungkot sa likod ng biro at tawa. At masaya rin ako dito.
Ah, sasabihin ko sana sa iyo na ang Jafaar na nakikita mo ngayon ay ibang-iba—malaking ang iniunlad—na Jafaar. Siyanga. Pero sa halip ay: “Ay, Dayang-Dayang,” pabulong kong sinabi, nababagabag na makita kang nagtratrabaho. Ikaw na inaruga sa maginhawa at marangyang buhay. Subalit, pinilit kong itago ang pag-unawa sa iyong kaawa-awang kalagayan.
Patakbong dumating ang isa sa iyong mga anak na lalaki na nagtanong kung sino ako. Ah, ako ay, ako ay…
“Ang iyong dating utusan,” agad kong sagot. O, sabi ng iyong anak, at nanatiling tahimik, at maya-maya’y nagbalik sa kanyang trabaho. Trabaho, trabaho, Eting. Trabaho, anak. Itali ang panggatong at dalhin sa kusina. Huwag mong pansinin ang iyong dating utusan. Hindi na siya babatang muli. Kawawang munting Datu, hirap sa trabaho. Kawawang magandang Dugong-bughaw, hirap rin sa trabaho.
Matagal na naghari ang kakaibang katahimikan. At matapos: Siyanga pala, saan na ako nakatira ngayon? Sa Kanagi. Anong ginagawa ko sa Bonbon sa araw na ito? Para kausapin si Panglima Hussin tungkol sa mga bakang balak niyang ipagbili, Dayang-Dayang. Mga baka? May lupa na ba ako? E, kung ang magandang Dugong-bughaw ay maaaring mabuhay nang parang babaeng-nayon bakit hindi ang isang lalaking tulad ng iyong dating utusan? Hindi kasi ako naging masuwerte bilang mandaragat, kaya bumaling na lang ako sa pagbibili at pagbebenta ng baka. Ah, sabi mo. Tapos tumawa ka. At sinabayan ko ang tawa mo. Walang sigla ang aking tawa. O hindi kaya ang sa iyo? Subalit tinanong mo ako kung ano ang problema. Ah, wala. Talaga, hindi seryoso. Pero, tingnan mo… At parang naintindihan mo habang nakatayo ako sa harap mo, nakasandal sa puno ng mangga, walang ginagawa kundi tumitig nang tumitig sa iyo.
Napuna ko na ang iyong kasalukuyang sarili ay gutay-gutay na alaala, multo na lamang, ng Dugong-bughaw ng malaking astana. Ang iyong mga rekurso ng kasiglahan at kagandahan at lakas ay parang naubos mula sa iyong dating kabigha-bighaning sarili, ibinuhos sa maliit na sakahang iyong pinagtatamnan. Siyempre, hindi ko inasahang magiging kasingganda ka ng dati. Subalit dapat ay nanatili sa iyo ang sapat na bahagi nito—mula sa dating panahon. Hindi mauulap na matang napaliligiran ng itim; hindi walang-sigla at tuyot na buhok; hindi sunog-sa-araw na balat; hindi kulukulubot at kalyuhing mga kamay; hindi…
Parang higit na higit mong naiintindihan. Bakit ako nakatingin sa iyo nang ganyan? Sapagkat matagal mo na akong hindi nakikita? O iba pa? Ay, Dayang-Dayang, hindi ba’t bagay para sa pagmamalasakit ng iyong dating utusan ang malubhang pagbabago sa iyo? Agad mong ibinaling ang iyong mga mata mula sa akin. Pinulot mo ang iyong janap at binusisi ang malambot na lupa. Parang hindi ka makakapagsalita muli nang hindi mapapaiyak. Tinalikuran mo ako sapagkat ayaw na ayaw mong makita kitang luhaan.
At sinikap kong maintindihan kung bakit: ang makita ako ay bumuhay sa mga lumang alaala. Ang makita ako, makausap ako, makantyawan ako, ay ang makita, makausap, at makantyawan sa lumipas na panahon sa napakasayang astana. At napahikbi ka habang iniisip ko ito. Alam kong humikbi ka sapagkat nanginginig ang iyong mga balikat. Pero sinikap kong magkunwari na hindi ko napapansin ang iyong impit na pag-iyak. Nagalit ako sa aking pagpunta at pagpapaiyak sa iyo…
“Maaari na ba akong umalis, Dayang-Dayang?” mahina kong sabi, nilalabanan ang sarili kong mga luha. Hindi mo sinabing oo. At hindi mo rin sinabing hindi. Subalit ang iyong pagtango ay sapat na para makaintindi ako at umalis. Umalis patungo saan? Mayroon bang lugar na pupuntahan? Siyempre. Maraming lugar na maaaring puntahan. Subalit bihira ang lugar na gustong balikan.
Subalit may pumigil sa akin matapos akong makapaglakad ng isang milya. Mayroong pwersang nagsusumikap na tumulak sa akin pabalik sa iyo, at nagpapalimot sa akin sa mga baka ni Panglima Hussin. Ang bawat kutob ko ay nagsabi sa akin na tama ang bumalik sa iyo at gumawa ng anuman—marahil magmakaawa sa iyo na tandaan ang bingot ng iyong dating Jafaar, para lamang mapatawa ka at sumaya muli. Gusto kong tumakbo pabalik at punasan ang luha mula sa iyong mga mata sa aking putong. Gusto kong kumuha ng sariwang tubig at banlawan ang iyong tuyot at magulong buhok, nang sa gayo’y maibalik ito sa umaagos na kakinisan at kakaibang kinang. Gusto kong gupitin ang iyong mga kuko, haplusin ang iyong kalyuhing mga kamay. Ninais kong sabihin sa iyo na ang lupa at mga bakang aking pag-aari ay sa iyo. At higit sa lahat, nag-aapoy akong lumipad pabalik at hingin ko na iuwi kita at ang iyong mga anak. Bagamat ang simple kong tahanan ay hindi kasinglaki ng iyong astana sa Patikul, kahit paano’y magiging masaya at pansamantalang kanlungan ito habang hinihintay mo ang paglaya ng iyong asawa.
Ang pagnanais na ito na bumalik sa iyo, Dayang-Dayang, ay malakas. Subalit hindi ako bumalik sapagkat may pag-aalinlangang biglang dumapo sa akin: wala akong dugong bughaw. Ang mayroon lamang ako ay bingot. Maging ang mga daliri ni Allah, marahil, ay hindi tayo kayang ihabi, kahit ngayon, sa pagkakapantay-pantay.

Blue Blood of the Big Astana

By Ibrahim A. Jubaira

Although the heart may care no more, the mind can always recall. The mind can always recall, for there are always things to remember: languid days of depressed boyhood; shared happy days under the glare of the sun; concealed love and mocking fate; etc. So I suppose you remember me too.

Remember? A little over a year after I was orphaned, my aunt decided to turn me over to your father, the Datu. In those days datus were supposed to take charge of the poor and the helpless. Therefore, my aunt only did right in placing me under the wing of your father. Furthermore, she was so poor, that by doing that, she not only relieved herself of the burden of poverty but also safeguarded my well-being.
But I could not bear the thought of even a moment’s separation from my aunt. She had been like a mother to me, and would always be.
“Please, Babo,” I pleaded. “Try to feed me a little more. Let me grow big with you, and I will build you a house. I will repay you some day. Let me do something to help, but please, Babo, don’t send me away….” I really cried.
Babo placed a soothing hand on my shoulder. Just like the hand of Mother. I felt a bit comforted, but presently I cried some more. The effect of her hand was so stirring.
“Listen to me. Stop crying—oh, now, do stop. You see, we can’t go on like this,” Babo said. “My mat-weaving can’t clothe and feed both you and me. It’s really hard, son, it’s really hard. You have to go. But I will be seeing you every week. You can have everything you want in the Datu’s house.”
I tried to look at Babo through my tears. But soon, the thought of having everything I wanted took hold of my child’s mind. I ceased crying.
“Say you will go,” Babo coaxed me. I assented finally, I was only five then—very tractable.
Babo bathed me in the afternoon. I did not flinch and shiver, for the sea was comfortably warm, and exhilarating. She cleaned my fingernails meticulously. Then she cupped a handful of sand, spread it over my back, and rubbed my grimy body, particularly the back of my ears. She poured fresh water over me afterwards. How clean I became! But my clothes were frayed….
Babo instructed me before we left for your big house: I must not forget to kiss your father’s feet, and to withdraw when and as ordered without turning my back; I must not look at your father full in the eyes; I must not talk too much; I must always talk in the third person; I must not… Ah, Babo, those were too many to remember.
Babo tried to be patient with me. She tested me over and over again on those royal, traditional ways. And one thing more: I had to say “Pateyk” for yes, and “Teyk” for what, or for answering a call.
“Oh, Babo, why do I have to say all those things? Why really do I have…”
“Come along, son; come along.”
We started that same afternoon. The breeze was cool as it blew against my face. We did not get tired because we talked on the way. She told me so many things. She said you of the big house had blue blood.
“Not red like ours, Babo?”
Babo said no, not red like ours.
“And the Datu has a daughter my age, Babo?”
Babo said yes—you. And I might be allowed to play with you, the Datu’s daughter, if I worked hard and behaved well.
I asked Babo, too, if I might be allowed to prick your skin to see if you had the blue blood, in truth. But Babo did not answer me anymore. She just told me to keep quiet. There, I became so talkative again.
Was that really your house? My, it was so big! Babo chided me. “We don’t call it a house,” she said. “We call it astana, the house of the Datu.” So I just said oh, and kept quiet. Why did Babo not tell me that before?
Babo suddenly stopped in her tracks. Was I really very clean? Oh, oh, look at my harelip. She cleaned my harelip, wiping away with her tapis the sticky mucus of the faintest conceivable green flowing from my nose. Poi! Now it was better. Although I could not feel any sort of improvement in my deformity itself. I merely felt cleaner.
Was I truly the boy about whom Babo was talking? You were laughing, young pretty Blue Blood. Happy perhaps that I was. Or was it the amusement brought about by my harelip that had made you laugh. I dared not ask you. I feared that should you come to dislike me, you’d subject me to unpleasant treatment. Hence, I laughed with you, and you were pleased.
Babo told me to kiss your right hand. Why not your feet? Oh, you were a child yet. I could wait until you had grown up.
But you withdrew your hand at once. I think my harelip gave it a ticklish sensation. However, I was so intoxicated by the momentary sweetness the action brought me that I decided inwardly to kiss your hand everyday. No, no, it was not love. It was only an impish sort of liking. Imagine the pride that was mine to be thus in close heady contact with one of the blue blood….
“Welcome, little orphan!” Was it for me? Really for me? I looked at Babo. Of course it was for me! We were generously bidden in. Thanks to your father’s kindness. And thanks to your laughing at me, too.
I kissed the feet of your Appah, your old, honorable, resting-the-whole-day father. He was not tickled by my harelip as you were. He did not laugh at me. In fact, he evinced compassion towards me. And so did your Amboh, your kind mother. “Sit down, sit down; don’t be ashamed.”
But there you were, plying Babo with your heartless questions: Why was I like that? What had happened to me?
To satisfy you, pretty Blue Blood, little inquisitive One, Babo had to explain: Well, Mother had slid in the vinta in her sixth month with the child that was me. Result: my harelip. “Poor Jaafar,” your Appah said. I was about to cry, but seeing you looking at me, I felt so ashamed that I held back the tears. I could not help being sentimental, you see. I think my being bereft of parents in youth had much to do with it all.
“Do you think you will be happy to stay with us? Will you not yearn any more for your Babo?”
“Pateyk, I will be happy,” I said. Then the thought of my not yearning any more for Babo made me wince. But Babo nodded at me reassuringly.
“Pateyk, I will not yearn any more for… for Babo.”
And Babo went before the interview was through. She had to cover five miles before evening came. Still I did not cry, as you may have expected I would, for—have I not said it?—I was ashamed to weep in your presence.
That was how I came to stay with you, remember? Babo came to see me every week as she had promised. And you—all of you—had a lot of things to tell her. That I was a good worker—oh, beyond question, your Appah and Amboh told Babo. And you, out-spoken little Blue Blood, joined the flattering chorus. But my place of sleep always reeked of urine, you added, laughing. That drew a rallying admonition from Babo, and a downright promise from me not to wet my mat again.
Yes, Babo came to see me, to advise me every week, for two consecutive years—that is, until death took her away, leaving no one in the world but a nephew with a harelip.
Remember? I was your favorite and you wanted to play with me always. I learned why after a time, it delighted you to gaze at my harelip. Sometimes, when we went out wading to the sea, you would pause and look at me. I would look at you, too, wondering. Finally, you would be seized by a fit of laughter. I would chime in, not realizing I was making fun of myself. Then you would pinch me painfully to make me cry. Oh, you wanted to experiment with me. You could not tell, you said, whether I cried or laughed: the working of lips was just the same in either to your gleaming eyes. And I did not flush with shame even if you said so. For after all, had not my mother slid in the vinta?
That was your way. And I wanted to pay you back in my own way. I wanted to prick your skin and see if you really had blue blood. But there was something about you that warned me against a deformed orphan’s intrusion. All I could do, then, was to feel foolishly proud, cry and laugh with you—for you—just to gratify the teasing, imperious blue blood in you. Yes, I had my way, too.
Remember? I was apparently so willing to do anything for you. I would climb for young coconuts for you. You would be amazed by the ease and agility with which I made my way up the coconut tree, yet fear that I would fall. You would implore me to come down at once, quick. “No.” You would throw pebbles at me if I thus refused to come down. No, I still would not. Your pebbles could not reach me—you were not strong enough. You would then threaten to report me to your Appah. “Go ahead.” How I liked being at the top! And sing there as I looked at you who were below. You were so helpless. In a spasm of anger, you would curse me, wishing my death. Well, let me die. I would climb the coconut trees in heaven. And my ghost would return to deliver… to deliver young celestial coconuts to you. Then you would come back. You see? A servant, an orphan, could also command the fair and proud Blue Blood to come or go.
Then we would pick up little shells, and search for sea-cucumbers; or dive for sea-urchins. Or run along the long stretch of white, glaring sand, I behind you—admiring your soft, nimble feet and your flying hair. Then we would stop, panting, laughing.
After resting for a while, we would run again to the sea and wage war against the crashing waves. I would rub your silky back after we had finished bathing in the sea. I would get fresh water in a clean coconut shell, and rinse your soft, ebony hair. Your hair flowed down smoothly, gleaming in the afternoon sun. Oh, it was beautiful. Then I would trim your fingernails carefully. Sometimes you would jerk with pain. Whereupon I would beg you to whip me. Just so you could differentiate between my crying and my laughing. And even the pain you gave me partook of sweetness.
That was my way. My only way to show how grateful I was for the things I had tasted before: your companionship; shelter and food in your big astana. So your parents said I would make a good servant, indeed. And you, too, thought I would.
Your parents sent you to a Mohammedan school when you were seven. I was not sent to study with you, but it made no difference to me. For after all, was not my work carrying your red Koran on top of my head four times a day? And you were happy, because I could entertain you. Because someone could be a water-carrier for you. One of the requirements then was to carry water every time you showed up in your Mohammedan class. “Oh, why? Excuse the stammering of my harelip, but I really wished to know.” Your Goro, your Mohammedan teacher, looked deep into me as if to search my whole system. Stupid. Did I not know our hearts could easily grasp the subject matter, like the soft, incessant flow of water? Hearts, hearts. Not brains. But I just kept silent. After all, I was not there to ask impertinent questions. Shame, shame on my harelip asking such a question, I chided myself silently.
That was how I played the part of an Epang-Epang, of a servant-escort to you. And I became more spirited every day, trudging behind you. I was like a faithful, loving dog following its mistress with light steps and a singing heart. Because you, ahead of me, were something of an inspiration I could trail indefatigably, even to the ends of the world….
The dreary monotone of your Koran-chanting lasted three years. You were so slow, your Goro said. At times, she wanted to whip you. But did she not know you were the Datu’s daughter? Why, she would be flogged herself. But whipping an orphaned servant and clipping his split lips with two pieces of wood were evidently permissible. So, your Goro found me a convenient substitute for you. How I groaned in pain under her lashings! But how your Goro laughed; the wooden clips failed to keep my harelip closed. They always slipped. And the class, too, roared with laughter—you leading.
But back there in your spacious astana, you were already being tutored for maidenhood. I was older than you by one Ramadan. I often wondered why you grew so fast, while I remained a lunatic dwarf. Maybe the poor care I received in early boyhood had much to do with my hampered growth. However, I was happy, in a way, that did not catch up with you. For I had a hunch you would not continue to avail yourself my help in certain intimate tasks—such as scrubbing your back when you took your bath—had I grown as fast as you.
There I was in my bed at night, alone, intoxicated with passions and emotions closely resembling those of a full-grown man’s. I thought of you secretly, unashamedly, lustfully: a full-grown Dayang-Dayang reclining in her bed at the farthest end of her inner apartment; breasts heaving softly like breeze-kissed waters; cheeks of the faintest red, brushing against a soft-pillow; eyes gazing dreamily into immensity—warm, searching, expressive; supple buttocks and pliant arms; soft ebony hair that rippled….
Dayang-Dayang, could you have forgiven a deformed orphan-servant had he gone mad, and lost respect and dread towards your Appah? Could you have pardoned his rabid temerity had he leapt out of his bed, rushed into your room, seized you in his arms, and tickled your face with his harelip? I should like to confess that for at least a moment, yearning, starved, athirst… no, no, I cannot say it. We were of such contrasting patterns. Even the lovely way you looked—the big astana where you lived—the blood you had… Not even the fingers of Allah perhaps could weave our fabrics into equality. I had to content myself with the privilege of gazing frequently at your peerless loveliness. An ugly servant must not go beyond his little border.
But things did not remain as they were. A young Datu from Bonbon came back to ask for your hand. Your Appah was only too glad to welcome him. There was nothing better, he said, than marriage between two people of the same blue blood. Besides, he was growing old. He had no son to take his place some day. Well, the young Datu was certainly fit to take in due time the royal torch your Appah had been carrying for years. But I—I felt differently, of course. I wanted… No, I could not have a hand in your marital arrangements. What was I, after all?
Certainly your Appah was right. The young Datu was handsome. And rich, too. He had a large tract of land planted with fruit trees, coconut trees, and abaca plants. And you were glad, too. Not because he was rich—for you were rich yourself. I thought I knew why: the young Datu could rub your soft back better than I whenever you took your bath. His hands were not as callused as mine… However, I did not talk to you about it. Of course.
Your Appah ordered his subjects to build two additional wings to your astana. Your astana was already big, but it had to be enlarged as hundreds of people would be coming to witness your royal wedding.
The people sweated profusely. There was a great deal of hammering, cutting, and lifting as they set up posts. Plenty of eating and jabbering. And chewing of betel nuts and native seasoned tobacco. And emitting of red saliva afterwards. In just one day, the additional wings were finished.
Then came your big wedding. People had crowded your astana early in the day to help in the religious slaughtering of cows and goats. To aid, too, in the voracious consumption of your wedding feast. Some more people came as evening drew near. Those who could not be accommodated upstairs had to stay below.
Torches fashioned out of dried coconut leaves blazed in the night. Half-clad natives kindled them over the cooking fire. Some pounded rice for cakes. And their brown glossy bodies sweated profusely.
Out in the astana yard, the young Datu’s subjects danced in great circles. Village swains danced with grace, now swaying sensuously their shapely hips, now twisting their pliant arms. Their feet moved deftly and almost imperceptibly.
Male dancers would crouch low, with a wooden spear, a kris, or a barong in one hand, and a wooden shield in the other. They stimulated bloody warfare by dashing through the circle of other dancers and clashing against each other. Native flutes, drums, gabangs, agongs, and kulintangs contributed much to the musical gaiety of the night. Dance. Sing in delight. Music. Noise. Laughter. Music swelled out into the world like a heart full of blood, vibrant, palpitating. But it was my heart that swelled with pain. The people would cheer: “Long live the Dayang-Dayang and the Datu, MURAMURAAN!” at every intermission. And I would cheer, too—mechanically, before I knew. I would be missing you so….
People rushed and elbowed their way up into your astana as the young Datu was led to you. Being small, I succeeded in squeezing in near enough to catch a full view of you. You, Dayang-Dayang. Your moon-shaped face was meticulously powdered with pulverized rice. Your hair was skewered up toweringly at the center of your head, and studded with glittering gold hair-pins. Your tight, gleaming black dress was covered with a flimsy mantle of the faintest conceivable pink. Gold buttons embellished your wedding garments. You sat rigidly on a mattress, with native, embroidered pillows piled carefully at the back. Candlelight mellowed your face so beautifully you were like a goddess perceived in dreams. You looked steadily down.
The moment arrived. The turbaned pandita, talking in a voice of silk, led the young Datu to you, while maidens kept chanting songs from behind. The pandita grasped the Datu’s forefinger, and made it touch thrice the space between your eyebrows. And every time that was done, my breast heaved and my lips worked.
Remember? You were about to cry, Dayang-Dayang. For, as the people said, you would soon be separated from your parents. Your husband would soon take you to Bonbon, and you would live there like a countrywoman. But as you unexpectedly caught a glimpse of me, you smiled once, a little. And I knew why: my harelip amused you again. I smiled back at you, and withdrew at once. I withdrew at once because I could not bear further seeing you sitting beside the young Datu, and knowing fully well that I who had sweated, labored, and served you like a dog… No, no, shame on me to think of all that at all. For was it not but a servant’s duty?
But I escaped that night, pretty Blue Blood. Where to? Anywhere. That was exactly seven years ago. And those years did wonderful things for me. I am no longer a lunatic dwarf, although my harelip remains as it has always been.
Too, I had amassed a little fortune after years of sweating. I could have taken two or three wives, but I had not yet found anyone resembling you, lovely Blue Blood. So, single I remained.
And Allah’s Wheel of Time kept on turning, kept on turning. And lo, one day your husband was transported to San Ramon Penal Farm, Zamboanga. He had raised his hand against the Christian government. He has wished to establish his own government. He wanted to show his petty power by refusing to pay land taxes, on the ground that the lands he had were by legitimate inheritance his own absolutely. He did not understand that the little amount he should have given in the form of taxes would be utilized to protect him and his people from swindlers. He did not discern that he was in fact a part of the Christian government himself. Consequently, his subjects lost their lives fighting for a wrong cause. Your Appah, too, was drawn into the mess and perished with the others. His possessions were confiscated. And you Amboh died of a broken heart. Your husband, to save his life, had to surrender. His lands, too, were confiscated. Only a little portion was left for you to cultivate and live on.
And remember? I went one day to Bonbon on business. And I saw you on your bit of land with your children. At first, I could not believe it was you. Then you looked long and deep into me. Soon the familiar eyes of Blue Blood of years ago arrested the faculties of the erstwhile servant. And you could not believe your eyes either. You could not recognize me at once. But when you saw my harelip smiling at you, rather hesitantly, you knew me at least. And I was so glad you did.
“Oh, Jafaar,” you gasped, dropping your janap, your primitive trowel, instinctively. And you thought I was no longer living, you said. Curse, curse. It was still your frank, outspoken way. It was like you were able to jest even when sorrow was on the verge of removing the last vestiges of your loveliness. You could somehow conceal your pain and grief beneath banter and laughter. And I was glad of that, too.
Well, I was about to tell you that the Jafaar you saw now was a very different—a much-improved—Jafaar. Indeed. But instead: “Oh, Dayang-Dayang,” I mumbled, distressed to have seen you working. You who had been reared in ease and luxury. However, I tried very much not to show traces of understanding your deplorable situation.
One of your sons came running and asked who I was. Well, I was, I was….
“Your old servant,” I said promptly. Your son said oh, and kept quiet, returning at last to resume his work. Work, work, Eting. Work, son. Bundle the firewood and take it to the kitchen. Don’t mind your old servant. He won’t turn young again. Poor little Datu, working so hard. Poor pretty Blue Blood, also working hard.
We kept strangely silent for a long time. And then: By the way, where was I living now? In Kanagi. My business here in Bonbon today? To see Panglima Hussin about the cows he intended to sell, Dayang-Dayang. Cows? Was I a landsman already? Well, if the pretty Blue Blood could live like a countrywoman, why not a man like your old servant? You see, luck was against me in sea-roving activities, so I had to turn to buying and selling cattle. Oh, you said. And then you laughed. And I laughed with you. My laughter was dry. Or was it yours? However, you asked what was the matter. Oh, nothing. Really, nothing serious. But you see… And you seemed to understand as I stood there in front of you, leaning against a mango tree, doing nothing but stare and stare at you.
I observed that your present self was only the ragged reminder, the mere ghost, of the Blue Blood of the big astana. Your resources of vitality and loveliness and strength seemed to have drained out of your old arresting self, poured into the little farm you were working in. Of course I did not expect you to be as lovely as you had been. But you should have retained at least a fair portion of it—of the old days. Not blurred eyes encircled by dark rings; not dull, dry hair; not a sunburned complexion; not wrinkled, callous hands; not….
You seemed to understand more and more. Why was I looking at you like that? Was it because I had not seen you for so long? Or was it something else? Oh, Dayang-Dayang, was not the terrible change in you the old servant’s concern? You suddenly turned your eyes away from me. You picked up your janap and began troubling the soft earth. It seemed you could not utter another word without breaking into tears. You turned your back toward me because you hated having me see you in tears.
And I tried to make out why: seeing me now revived old memories. Seeing me, talking with me, poking fun at me, was seeing, talking, and joking as in the old days at the vivacious astana. And you sobbed as I was thinking thus. I knew you sobbed, because your shoulders shook. But I tried to appear as though I was not aware of your controlled weeping. I hated myself for coming to you and making you cry….
“May I go now, Dayang-Dayang?” I said softly, trying hard to hold back my own tears. You did not say yes. And you did not say no, either. But the nodding of your head was enough to make me understand and go. Go where? Was there a place to go? Of course. There were many places to go to. Only seldom was there a place to which one would like to return.
But something transfixed me in my tracks after walking a mile or so. There was something of an impulse that strove to drive me back to you, making me forget Panglima Hussin’s cattle. Every instinct told me it was right for me to go back to you and do something—perhaps beg you to remember your old Jafaar’s harelip, just so you could smile and be happy again. I wanted to rush back and wipe away the tears from your eyes with my headdress. I wanted to get fresh water and rinse your dry, ruffled hair, that it might be restored to flowing smoothness and glorious luster. I wanted to trim your fingernails, stroke your callused hand. I yearned to tell you that the land and the cattle I owned were all yours. And above all, I burned to whirl back to you and beg you and your children to come home with me. Although the simple house I lived in was not as big as your astana at Patikul, it would at least be a happy, temporary haven while you waited for your husband’s release.
That urge to go back to you, Dayang-Dayang, was strong. But I did not go back for a sudden qualm seized: I had no blue blood. I had only a harelip. Not even the fingers of Allah perhaps could weave us, even now, into equality.

Source: http://kyotoreview.cseas.kyoto-u.ac.jp/issue/issue4/article_341.html

Blue Blood of the Big Astana

By Ibrahim A. Jubaira

Although the heart may care no more, the mind can always recall. The mind can always recall, for there are always things to remember: languid days of depressed boyhood; shared happy days under the glare of the sun; concealed love and mocking fate; etc. So I suppose you remember me too.

Remember? A little over a year after I was orphaned, my aunt decided to turn me over to your father, the Datu. In those days datus were supposed to take charge of the poor and the helpless. Therefore, my aunt only did right in placing me under the wing of your father. Furthermore, she was so poor, that by doing that, she not only relieved herself of the burden of poverty but also safeguarded my well-being.
But I could not bear the thought of even a moment’s separation from my aunt. She had been like a mother to me, and would always be.
“Please, Babo,” I pleaded. “Try to feed me a little more. Let me grow big with you, and I will build you a house. I will repay you some day. Let me do something to help, but please, Babo, don’t send me away….” I really cried.
Babo placed a soothing hand on my shoulder. Just like the hand of Mother. I felt a bit comforted, but presently I cried some more. The effect of her hand was so stirring.
“Listen to me. Stop crying—oh, now, do stop. You see, we can’t go on like this,” Babo said. “My mat-weaving can’t clothe and feed both you and me. It’s really hard, son, it’s really hard. You have to go. But I will be seeing you every week. You can have everything you want in the Datu’s house.”
I tried to look at Babo through my tears. But soon, the thought of having everything I wanted took hold of my child’s mind. I ceased crying.
“Say you will go,” Babo coaxed me. I assented finally, I was only five then—very tractable.
Babo bathed me in the afternoon. I did not flinch and shiver, for the sea was comfortably warm, and exhilarating. She cleaned my fingernails meticulously. Then she cupped a handful of sand, spread it over my back, and rubbed my grimy body, particularly the back of my ears. She poured fresh water over me afterwards. How clean I became! But my clothes were frayed….
Babo instructed me before we left for your big house: I must not forget to kiss your father’s feet, and to withdraw when and as ordered without turning my back; I must not look at your father full in the eyes; I must not talk too much; I must always talk in the third person; I must not… Ah, Babo, those were too many to remember.
Babo tried to be patient with me. She tested me over and over again on those royal, traditional ways. And one thing more: I had to say “Pateyk” for yes, and “Teyk” for what, or for answering a call.
“Oh, Babo, why do I have to say all those things? Why really do I have…”
“Come along, son; come along.”
We started that same afternoon. The breeze was cool as it blew against my face. We did not get tired because we talked on the way. She told me so many things. She said you of the big house had blue blood.
“Not red like ours, Babo?”
Babo said no, not red like ours.
“And the Datu has a daughter my age, Babo?”
Babo said yes—you. And I might be allowed to play with you, the Datu’s daughter, if I worked hard and behaved well.
I asked Babo, too, if I might be allowed to prick your skin to see if you had the blue blood, in truth. But Babo did not answer me anymore. She just told me to keep quiet. There, I became so talkative again.
Was that really your house? My, it was so big! Babo chided me. “We don’t call it a house,” she said. “We call it astana, the house of the Datu.” So I just said oh, and kept quiet. Why did Babo not tell me that before?
Babo suddenly stopped in her tracks. Was I really very clean? Oh, oh, look at my harelip. She cleaned my harelip, wiping away with her tapis the sticky mucus of the faintest conceivable green flowing from my nose. Poi! Now it was better. Although I could not feel any sort of improvement in my deformity itself. I merely felt cleaner.
Was I truly the boy about whom Babo was talking? You were laughing, young pretty Blue Blood. Happy perhaps that I was. Or was it the amusement brought about by my harelip that had made you laugh. I dared not ask you. I feared that should you come to dislike me, you’d subject me to unpleasant treatment. Hence, I laughed with you, and you were pleased.
Babo told me to kiss your right hand. Why not your feet? Oh, you were a child yet. I could wait until you had grown up.
But you withdrew your hand at once. I think my harelip gave it a ticklish sensation. However, I was so intoxicated by the momentary sweetness the action brought me that I decided inwardly to kiss your hand everyday. No, no, it was not love. It was only an impish sort of liking. Imagine the pride that was mine to be thus in close heady contact with one of the blue blood….
“Welcome, little orphan!” Was it for me? Really for me? I looked at Babo. Of course it was for me! We were generously bidden in. Thanks to your father’s kindness. And thanks to your laughing at me, too.
I kissed the feet of your Appah, your old, honorable, resting-the-whole-day father. He was not tickled by my harelip as you were. He did not laugh at me. In fact, he evinced compassion towards me. And so did your Amboh, your kind mother. “Sit down, sit down; don’t be ashamed.”
But there you were, plying Babo with your heartless questions: Why was I like that? What had happened to me?
To satisfy you, pretty Blue Blood, little inquisitive One, Babo had to explain: Well, Mother had slid in the vinta in her sixth month with the child that was me. Result: my harelip. “Poor Jaafar,” your Appah said. I was about to cry, but seeing you looking at me, I felt so ashamed that I held back the tears. I could not help being sentimental, you see. I think my being bereft of parents in youth had much to do with it all.
“Do you think you will be happy to stay with us? Will you not yearn any more for your Babo?”
“Pateyk, I will be happy,” I said. Then the thought of my not yearning any more for Babo made me wince. But Babo nodded at me reassuringly.
“Pateyk, I will not yearn any more for… for Babo.”
And Babo went before the interview was through. She had to cover five miles before evening came. Still I did not cry, as you may have expected I would, for—have I not said it?—I was ashamed to weep in your presence.
That was how I came to stay with you, remember? Babo came to see me every week as she had promised. And you—all of you—had a lot of things to tell her. That I was a good worker—oh, beyond question, your Appah and Amboh told Babo. And you, out-spoken little Blue Blood, joined the flattering chorus. But my place of sleep always reeked of urine, you added, laughing. That drew a rallying admonition from Babo, and a downright promise from me not to wet my mat again.
Yes, Babo came to see me, to advise me every week, for two consecutive years—that is, until death took her away, leaving no one in the world but a nephew with a harelip.
Remember? I was your favorite and you wanted to play with me always. I learned why after a time, it delighted you to gaze at my harelip. Sometimes, when we went out wading to the sea, you would pause and look at me. I would look at you, too, wondering. Finally, you would be seized by a fit of laughter. I would chime in, not realizing I was making fun of myself. Then you would pinch me painfully to make me cry. Oh, you wanted to experiment with me. You could not tell, you said, whether I cried or laughed: the working of lips was just the same in either to your gleaming eyes. And I did not flush with shame even if you said so. For after all, had not my mother slid in the vinta?
That was your way. And I wanted to pay you back in my own way. I wanted to prick your skin and see if you really had blue blood. But there was something about you that warned me against a deformed orphan’s intrusion. All I could do, then, was to feel foolishly proud, cry and laugh with you—for you—just to gratify the teasing, imperious blue blood in you. Yes, I had my way, too.
Remember? I was apparently so willing to do anything for you. I would climb for young coconuts for you. You would be amazed by the ease and agility with which I made my way up the coconut tree, yet fear that I would fall. You would implore me to come down at once, quick. “No.” You would throw pebbles at me if I thus refused to come down. No, I still would not. Your pebbles could not reach me—you were not strong enough. You would then threaten to report me to your Appah. “Go ahead.” How I liked being at the top! And sing there as I looked at you who were below. You were so helpless. In a spasm of anger, you would curse me, wishing my death. Well, let me die. I would climb the coconut trees in heaven. And my ghost would return to deliver… to deliver young celestial coconuts to you. Then you would come back. You see? A servant, an orphan, could also command the fair and proud Blue Blood to come or go.
Then we would pick up little shells, and search for sea-cucumbers; or dive for sea-urchins. Or run along the long stretch of white, glaring sand, I behind you—admiring your soft, nimble feet and your flying hair. Then we would stop, panting, laughing.
After resting for a while, we would run again to the sea and wage war against the crashing waves. I would rub your silky back after we had finished bathing in the sea. I would get fresh water in a clean coconut shell, and rinse your soft, ebony hair. Your hair flowed down smoothly, gleaming in the afternoon sun. Oh, it was beautiful. Then I would trim your fingernails carefully. Sometimes you would jerk with pain. Whereupon I would beg you to whip me. Just so you could differentiate between my crying and my laughing. And even the pain you gave me partook of sweetness.
That was my way. My only way to show how grateful I was for the things I had tasted before: your companionship; shelter and food in your big astana. So your parents said I would make a good servant, indeed. And you, too, thought I would.
Your parents sent you to a Mohammedan school when you were seven. I was not sent to study with you, but it made no difference to me. For after all, was not my work carrying your red Koran on top of my head four times a day? And you were happy, because I could entertain you. Because someone could be a water-carrier for you. One of the requirements then was to carry water every time you showed up in your Mohammedan class. “Oh, why? Excuse the stammering of my harelip, but I really wished to know.” Your Goro, your Mohammedan teacher, looked deep into me as if to search my whole system. Stupid. Did I not know our hearts could easily grasp the subject matter, like the soft, incessant flow of water? Hearts, hearts. Not brains. But I just kept silent. After all, I was not there to ask impertinent questions. Shame, shame on my harelip asking such a question, I chided myself silently.
That was how I played the part of an Epang-Epang, of a servant-escort to you. And I became more spirited every day, trudging behind you. I was like a faithful, loving dog following its mistress with light steps and a singing heart. Because you, ahead of me, were something of an inspiration I could trail indefatigably, even to the ends of the world….
The dreary monotone of your Koran-chanting lasted three years. You were so slow, your Goro said. At times, she wanted to whip you. But did she not know you were the Datu’s daughter? Why, she would be flogged herself. But whipping an orphaned servant and clipping his split lips with two pieces of wood were evidently permissible. So, your Goro found me a convenient substitute for you. How I groaned in pain under her lashings! But how your Goro laughed; the wooden clips failed to keep my harelip closed. They always slipped. And the class, too, roared with laughter—you leading.
But back there in your spacious astana, you were already being tutored for maidenhood. I was older than you by one Ramadan. I often wondered why you grew so fast, while I remained a lunatic dwarf. Maybe the poor care I received in early boyhood had much to do with my hampered growth. However, I was happy, in a way, that did not catch up with you. For I had a hunch you would not continue to avail yourself my help in certain intimate tasks—such as scrubbing your back when you took your bath—had I grown as fast as you.
There I was in my bed at night, alone, intoxicated with passions and emotions closely resembling those of a full-grown man’s. I thought of you secretly, unashamedly, lustfully: a full-grown Dayang-Dayang reclining in her bed at the farthest end of her inner apartment; breasts heaving softly like breeze-kissed waters; cheeks of the faintest red, brushing against a soft-pillow; eyes gazing dreamily into immensity—warm, searching, expressive; supple buttocks and pliant arms; soft ebony hair that rippled….
Dayang-Dayang, could you have forgiven a deformed orphan-servant had he gone mad, and lost respect and dread towards your Appah? Could you have pardoned his rabid temerity had he leapt out of his bed, rushed into your room, seized you in his arms, and tickled your face with his harelip? I should like to confess that for at least a moment, yearning, starved, athirst… no, no, I cannot say it. We were of such contrasting patterns. Even the lovely way you looked—the big astana where you lived—the blood you had… Not even the fingers of Allah perhaps could weave our fabrics into equality. I had to content myself with the privilege of gazing frequently at your peerless loveliness. An ugly servant must not go beyond his little border.
But things did not remain as they were. A young Datu from Bonbon came back to ask for your hand. Your Appah was only too glad to welcome him. There was nothing better, he said, than marriage between two people of the same blue blood. Besides, he was growing old. He had no son to take his place some day. Well, the young Datu was certainly fit to take in due time the royal torch your Appah had been carrying for years. But I—I felt differently, of course. I wanted… No, I could not have a hand in your marital arrangements. What was I, after all?
Certainly your Appah was right. The young Datu was handsome. And rich, too. He had a large tract of land planted with fruit trees, coconut trees, and abaca plants. And you were glad, too. Not because he was rich—for you were rich yourself. I thought I knew why: the young Datu could rub your soft back better than I whenever you took your bath. His hands were not as callused as mine… However, I did not talk to you about it. Of course.
Your Appah ordered his subjects to build two additional wings to your astana. Your astana was already big, but it had to be enlarged as hundreds of people would be coming to witness your royal wedding.
The people sweated profusely. There was a great deal of hammering, cutting, and lifting as they set up posts. Plenty of eating and jabbering. And chewing of betel nuts and native seasoned tobacco. And emitting of red saliva afterwards. In just one day, the additional wings were finished.
Then came your big wedding. People had crowded your astana early in the day to help in the religious slaughtering of cows and goats. To aid, too, in the voracious consumption of your wedding feast. Some more people came as evening drew near. Those who could not be accommodated upstairs had to stay below.
Torches fashioned out of dried coconut leaves blazed in the night. Half-clad natives kindled them over the cooking fire. Some pounded rice for cakes. And their brown glossy bodies sweated profusely.
Out in the astana yard, the young Datu’s subjects danced in great circles. Village swains danced with grace, now swaying sensuously their shapely hips, now twisting their pliant arms. Their feet moved deftly and almost imperceptibly.
Male dancers would crouch low, with a wooden spear, a kris, or a barong in one hand, and a wooden shield in the other. They stimulated bloody warfare by dashing through the circle of other dancers and clashing against each other. Native flutes, drums, gabangs, agongs, and kulintangs contributed much to the musical gaiety of the night. Dance. Sing in delight. Music. Noise. Laughter. Music swelled out into the world like a heart full of blood, vibrant, palpitating. But it was my heart that swelled with pain. The people would cheer: “Long live the Dayang-Dayang and the Datu, MURAMURAAN!” at every intermission. And I would cheer, too—mechanically, before I knew. I would be missing you so….
People rushed and elbowed their way up into your astana as the young Datu was led to you. Being small, I succeeded in squeezing in near enough to catch a full view of you. You, Dayang-Dayang. Your moon-shaped face was meticulously powdered with pulverized rice. Your hair was skewered up toweringly at the center of your head, and studded with glittering gold hair-pins. Your tight, gleaming black dress was covered with a flimsy mantle of the faintest conceivable pink. Gold buttons embellished your wedding garments. You sat rigidly on a mattress, with native, embroidered pillows piled carefully at the back. Candlelight mellowed your face so beautifully you were like a goddess perceived in dreams. You looked steadily down.
The moment arrived. The turbaned pandita, talking in a voice of silk, led the young Datu to you, while maidens kept chanting songs from behind. The pandita grasped the Datu’s forefinger, and made it touch thrice the space between your eyebrows. And every time that was done, my breast heaved and my lips worked.
Remember? You were about to cry, Dayang-Dayang. For, as the people said, you would soon be separated from your parents. Your husband would soon take you to Bonbon, and you would live there like a countrywoman. But as you unexpectedly caught a glimpse of me, you smiled once, a little. And I knew why: my harelip amused you again. I smiled back at you, and withdrew at once. I withdrew at once because I could not bear further seeing you sitting beside the young Datu, and knowing fully well that I who had sweated, labored, and served you like a dog… No, no, shame on me to think of all that at all. For was it not but a servant’s duty?
But I escaped that night, pretty Blue Blood. Where to? Anywhere. That was exactly seven years ago. And those years did wonderful things for me. I am no longer a lunatic dwarf, although my harelip remains as it has always been.
Too, I had amassed a little fortune after years of sweating. I could have taken two or three wives, but I had not yet found anyone resembling you, lovely Blue Blood. So, single I remained.
And Allah’s Wheel of Time kept on turning, kept on turning. And lo, one day your husband was transported to San Ramon Penal Farm, Zamboanga. He had raised his hand against the Christian government. He has wished to establish his own government. He wanted to show his petty power by refusing to pay land taxes, on the ground that the lands he had were by legitimate inheritance his own absolutely. He did not understand that the little amount he should have given in the form of taxes would be utilized to protect him and his people from swindlers. He did not discern that he was in fact a part of the Christian government himself. Consequently, his subjects lost their lives fighting for a wrong cause. Your Appah, too, was drawn into the mess and perished with the others. His possessions were confiscated. And you Amboh died of a broken heart. Your husband, to save his life, had to surrender. His lands, too, were confiscated. Only a little portion was left for you to cultivate and live on.
And remember? I went one day to Bonbon on business. And I saw you on your bit of land with your children. At first, I could not believe it was you. Then you looked long and deep into me. Soon the familiar eyes of Blue Blood of years ago arrested the faculties of the erstwhile servant. And you could not believe your eyes either. You could not recognize me at once. But when you saw my harelip smiling at you, rather hesitantly, you knew me at least. And I was so glad you did.
“Oh, Jafaar,” you gasped, dropping your janap, your primitive trowel, instinctively. And you thought I was no longer living, you said. Curse, curse. It was still your frank, outspoken way. It was like you were able to jest even when sorrow was on the verge of removing the last vestiges of your loveliness. You could somehow conceal your pain and grief beneath banter and laughter. And I was glad of that, too.
Well, I was about to tell you that the Jafaar you saw now was a very different—a much-improved—Jafaar. Indeed. But instead: “Oh, Dayang-Dayang,” I mumbled, distressed to have seen you working. You who had been reared in ease and luxury. However, I tried very much not to show traces of understanding your deplorable situation.
One of your sons came running and asked who I was. Well, I was, I was….
“Your old servant,” I said promptly. Your son said oh, and kept quiet, returning at last to resume his work. Work, work, Eting. Work, son. Bundle the firewood and take it to the kitchen. Don’t mind your old servant. He won’t turn young again. Poor little Datu, working so hard. Poor pretty Blue Blood, also working hard.
We kept strangely silent for a long time. And then: By the way, where was I living now? In Kanagi. My business here in Bonbon today? To see Panglima Hussin about the cows he intended to sell, Dayang-Dayang. Cows? Was I a landsman already? Well, if the pretty Blue Blood could live like a countrywoman, why not a man like your old servant? You see, luck was against me in sea-roving activities, so I had to turn to buying and selling cattle. Oh, you said. And then you laughed. And I laughed with you. My laughter was dry. Or was it yours? However, you asked what was the matter. Oh, nothing. Really, nothing serious. But you see… And you seemed to understand as I stood there in front of you, leaning against a mango tree, doing nothing but stare and stare at you.
I observed that your present self was only the ragged reminder, the mere ghost, of the Blue Blood of the big astana. Your resources of vitality and loveliness and strength seemed to have drained out of your old arresting self, poured into the little farm you were working in. Of course I did not expect you to be as lovely as you had been. But you should have retained at least a fair portion of it—of the old days. Not blurred eyes encircled by dark rings; not dull, dry hair; not a sunburned complexion; not wrinkled, callous hands; not….
You seemed to understand more and more. Why was I looking at you like that? Was it because I had not seen you for so long? Or was it something else? Oh, Dayang-Dayang, was not the terrible change in you the old servant’s concern? You suddenly turned your eyes away from me. You picked up your janap and began troubling the soft earth. It seemed you could not utter another word without breaking into tears. You turned your back toward me because you hated having me see you in tears.
And I tried to make out why: seeing me now revived old memories. Seeing me, talking with me, poking fun at me, was seeing, talking, and joking as in the old days at the vivacious astana. And you sobbed as I was thinking thus. I knew you sobbed, because your shoulders shook. But I tried to appear as though I was not aware of your controlled weeping. I hated myself for coming to you and making you cry….
“May I go now, Dayang-Dayang?” I said softly, trying hard to hold back my own tears. You did not say yes. And you did not say no, either. But the nodding of your head was enough to make me understand and go. Go where? Was there a place to go? Of course. There were many places to go to. Only seldom was there a place to which one would like to return.
But something transfixed me in my tracks after walking a mile or so. There was something of an impulse that strove to drive me back to you, making me forget Panglima Hussin’s cattle. Every instinct told me it was right for me to go back to you and do something—perhaps beg you to remember your old Jafaar’s harelip, just so you could smile and be happy again. I wanted to rush back and wipe away the tears from your eyes with my headdress. I wanted to get fresh water and rinse your dry, ruffled hair, that it might be restored to flowing smoothness and glorious luster. I wanted to trim your fingernails, stroke your callused hand. I yearned to tell you that the land and the cattle I owned were all yours. And above all, I burned to whirl back to you and beg you and your children to come home with me. Although the simple house I lived in was not as big as your astana at Patikul, it would at least be a happy, temporary haven while you waited for your husband’s release.
That urge to go back to you, Dayang-Dayang, was strong. But I did not go back for a sudden qualm seized: I had no blue blood. I had only a harelip. Not even the fingers of Allah perhaps could weave us, even now, into equality.

Source: http://kyotoreview.cseas.kyoto-u.ac.jp/issue/issue4/article_341.html