My mother filled our heads with ridiculous beliefs and far-fetched ideas since birth. Stories of vampire-like witch ghoul called aswang and goblins whom you can only see if you stand on a crossroads and put your head between your knees at twilight or selling a rare all white chicken to a mythical being at the beach so you can obtain a magical purse which contains nothing but a hundred peso note that has the ability to reappear after you spent it were examples of her amazing tales.
She told us that the Grim Reaper doesn’t wear a hood but a hat, which has a magical power to make you invisible. All you have to do is wait for someone to die, harvest the last tears of that person (she said everyone cries after taking their last breath) apply the fluid over your eyelids and you will see the Reaper when he comes to visit the dead and collect the soul.
Then, you have to snatch the hat and run as fast as you can to the nearest body of water and jump in there. Apparently, the angel of death doesn’t like water; he’s afraid of it. He will beg you whole night to give back his head gear because he has a lot of work to do but be tenacious and hang in there because when the dawn comes, he has no choice but to leave.
When I was a child I swallowed her stories without hesitation and never question their authenticity. To me (to us) it was the norm. As normal as hearing the works of Edgar Allan Poe as bedtime stories. She used to recite Annabel Lee and the likes before we go to sleep. From time to time she diverted from the usual and declaimed Captain, oh my Captain, Faustus or Peter and the dyke (The little Dutch boy) to us. That time I thought, every mother does this sort of things, feeding nonsense to her children. I was already freshman in high school when I realized that our upbringing wasn’t the same as my classmates. They accused me of using grown up words and having ridiculous ideas. Unwittingly, my mother made me (us) an outcast. That and being dirt poor convicted me to a life behind the fence, forever on the fringe but never a part of. I can’t say, I like or dislike it. It was difficult (and still is because we are the end product of our childhood) but I can’t imagine myself being someone else.
Not even If I wanted to. My background and my upbringing sit in my blood and engraved deeply in my bones changing myself means I have to be reborn into another family and lead another life. It is like changing or renouncing my faith. Earlier this year I said I don’t believe in God anymore and stop going to church. I cease to pray as well and avoid paying respect to statues of saints and bringing flowers to Holy Virgin Mother. But I still catch myself praying unaware sometimes or making the sign of a cross when passing churches or upon seeing a funeral car. You cannot simply erase the past (especially if your mother tied you around a foot of a table whole night without food because you failed to recite Our Father prayer in English) you cannot outrun them too. Like I said, it has a funny way of catching up on you when you’re not looking. We are who we are whether we like it or not.
To be continued…