DISCLAIMER: First Draft/Unedited
Critics and Editors welcome to comment
By: Luis Batchoy
I no longer wish to see the color red, Dodoy Manuel. I detest the color. I could clearly recall how Indang Teling’s roses offered at the Virgin’s altar would turn from the deep color of water cellophane red – the ones used to wrap pastillas and yemas – to the scarlet of ripe pimples on your older sister Manay Binyang’s face, to the bruise color of the juice from the lampunaya leaves used to cure coughs finally drying up to a brownish black death. I recall how Manay Binyang and her posse would mash the reddest tapulanga mixing them with tisa from the river to paint their lips and cheeks. Oh, and speaking of lips and cheeks, when I see girls rouge their cheeks, I am almost homicidal! Most especially when they smudge their lips with that color! I find it atrocious how these painted lips leave marks on Nyora Pacing’s bone china cups. Such putrid marks, really. I could clearly recall Doy, how my own mameng made a ruckus when my dadong came home with the incriminating stain on his collar. You do recall that Doy, don’t you? That time I pleaded you to come with us to the banwa, didn’t I? When dadong said it’s time for my second baptism? He took me to some sleazy igpat igpat where he proceeded to get me my ‘maninay ikaduha’ to rebaptize me. Oh how I loathed these women. ‘Kaluod gid ya kaayo, Doy!’ You just laughed at me and told me how you are spared from that because your dadong could not afford these frivolities. I cringe until now Doy, with the thought of that whores blood red lips, and the stain she left when she gave me a blow job, all botched, blotched and blotted! Enough of reds, I say! There was too much red too, days ago when I decided to have an accident that acquainted my wrists to the sharp kiss of the sanduko. Too much red, doy!
I would have wanted to watch it turn shades the way I watched Indang Telling’s floral offering, but no. I lost consciousness. When I came around, I saw how they put some tinctures on the gapping wound. Everything was all orange, doy. As orange as the minama that we used to steal from Ulang Basyon’s tilaran. Oh how we grimaced at the acidic, limey, bitter, herby thingamajig; all endured just for that desired orange-y fiery reddish spit. We have become dragons spitting fire then, doy. Orange as the bowl of soaked atchuete I used to cook your favorite adobo. You said I cook better than anyone else, and that mine was the best adobo you have ever tasted. For the life of me, I can not tell if it was povidone-iodine, or if it was that damned mercuchrome solution that they put on my wound. Yes, doy, mercuchrome, or merthiolate, as the manikyurista Tiyay Sitang calls it. That orange tincture she puts on the nails of her client, supposedly, to cure the nicks, skin breakages, scratches, lesions, or wounds her nipper made on your fingers or toes. How we would laugh then as even her husband, the town bully Tiyoy Karding is not able to escape the orange tincture. He would hide his hands under the table when we play tong-its, to hide the newly manicured digits, sheened with colorless nail polish, and that orangish-pinkish merthiolate tint. Of course, in no time at all, thanks to the endless chain of Evergreen’s he would smoke, Tiyoy Karding’s nail would start to yellow again; as nicotine stained as his yellowed enamel. Yellow used to be a favored color, remember? It was the yellow of the brave widow seeking justice from the dictator. Yellow became the color of victory. So much so, that people who work abroad come home jaundiced with yellow gold jewelry, you included. You and I know, though, that they could have just treated my wound with fresh, green malunggay leaves. Old folks swear by the efficacy of this in disinfecting a wound and drying it up quickly. Maybe the young green leaves of the Guava would do better too. Remember that summer, doy, when we would search for ‘ugbos’ leaves of the guava early at dawn, while dewdrops were still on them? How we would chew them while we headed our way to the river to wash up, and then, dress our newly circumcised dicks with the masticated leaves, and a sprinkling of powdered penicillin tablets? Agurang Juaning said that the saliva is what makes this concoction potent, much to the visiting doctor’s protestation that it was the penicillin.
Right now, I see so much green around me doy. The field of grass where we would let Tiyoy Tikboy’s Carabao graze is all soft and velvety. As velvety green as the green of that first felt topped table bought by your dadong. Thanks to the money you sent, Manuel’s Billiard Center is now a bustling enterprise enjoying brisk business from regulars, not only from this god-forsaken sitio Casanayan here in our town in Pillar Capiz, but as far as from Natividad, or sometimes, even those from the poblacion. I was always proud of you, doy. You were the dreamer; the ambitious one. Your dreams carried you far from the mountains of Pillar; far from the roaring sea. Farther away from this god-knows-where sitio, of which, its only claim to fame is that mummified corpse of that cult group leader Apo Maria. Oh, how we would be grossed out by Apo Maria and her minions. How we would secretly watch the minions give the corpse a bath on Fridays. We shuddered at how the water used to wash the corpse would be collected and bottled by the cult members, and how they were sold to those who believed in the potent cure of this water. A lot of people came to Apo Maria. People from far and wide would readily shell out for a bottle of this miraculous healing water. They would use it as salves, balms, ointments, and even tonic. Our stomach would overturn with the thought and we would vomit uncontrollably when we saw one over-eager pilgrim dredged a whole bottle right there and then, and that is how we got caught and severely reprimanded. Reprimands or what-nots, you never stopped dreaming. Not even when you would repeatedly get spankings from your dadong and mameng when they catch you sketching away. You drew great pictures, doy. You had such an eye for beauty. I would say that my favorite of all your drawings is that one you made of two boys riding a Carabao, with the blue skies up above them, and the sparkling blue sea beyond. I have never seen such wonderful use of the color blue, doy. I daresay it is even better than those blue skies I see in some donated school books we shared. I bet, though, no one is as blue as I am right now. Do you remember how the crayon blue was the first to go in that box you won for a poster you made? How many colors were they in that box, doy? 48? 64? Basta, there were a lot. My favorite was the indigo. All the flowers I could see in those coloring books you won with the crayons, I would color indigo. Oh how you laughed at me way back then, doy. How all my flowers looked mashed up because I colored beyond the lines? Do you remember how you gently held my hand to steady them, teaching me how to properly and neatly color, doy? I love the color indigo. That’s the color of the blossoms of the weed periwinkle, I argued. You counter argued that there was another crayon named ‘periwinkle’ in the box, but I disagreed and picked one flower for you to closely examine and compare with the crayons. They were indigo, not periwinkle colored, doy. You laughed and laughed at me. That is what I missed most when you went away, doy; that infectious laugh. That laugh that told me everything was alright. Even in horseplay, your laughter was never mean or derisive. It was always just a laugh of pure joy and innocence.
How many years did I wait for you? Five years, doy! Five birthdays, five town fiesta’s, five summers, five rainy seasons, five kite-flying seasons, five Christmases, and five New Years. I kept staring at the vast seas hoping I’d paid better attention to our teacher when she pointed to the world map and told us where