Everything was dead still during the late hours of this weird summer night. The moon half-exposed itself like a dim-lit candle lamp about to die as if it was also saddened by the events that had just taken place. The air itself stood still, and not so much than a breeze of wind was felt to diffuse the tense and the dread-filled atmosphere in addition to alleviating the victim’s pain.***
Emilia was an aspiring journalist in the dense city of Manila where she had just moved in from the province along with her writer cousin, Jane. There they lived in an apartment together and shared the monthly rent. For about six months, not so much was happening for the adventure-seeking cousins who were both beyond thrilled and excited whenever they got invited to such places and events that quite had both the interesting and awareness factors combined. They were excited about things like the Enkantada Summer Festival held on the third of every June which celebrates the enchanted and the superstitious lifeforms myths and legends around the area and the Kara Light Procession where people would march around the district of where they lived in honor of the oldest female elephant, Kara, that was held captive in the frigid bars of Manila Zoo and died of loneliness after eighty long years in captivity. Not to mention the material and writing gigs that the cousins would land which would give both their careers the much-needed jumpstart and exposure to survive in the writing world.
But it was now early into September and the overall vibe was quieter than it had ever been ever since the death of a nine-year-old girl, named Josephine, who was said to have drowned in the nearest riverbank of the city in the district of Barangay Tupong. The city and town council’s investigations couldn’t find a more viable and logical explanation as to why the little girl was drowned or even how. But some of the area’s local elders, who would not be the least bit suspicious of Bigfoot, had they heard of him, suggest that the young girl’s murder was the work of none other than the mythical giant or Kapre, whom the locals have named Bako, short for Tabako, which literally translates to tobacco or cigar. This is because enchanted Kapres are known for their shabby appearance, smoking habits and huge grubby rolled-up cigars, and are therefore believed to be heavy smokers of tobacco.
As much as the city’s districts respect and appreciate their enchanted myths, lore, and legends, the young girl’s mourning family members would not have it acknowledged that their only daughter, Josephine, was drowned by a mystical and elusive swamp-ish ghoul that would show itself only to prey after children in the dark of night or those lost amongst the thick, viny Balete trees in the dense woods. However, some facts served as evidence surrounding the final investigations stating that ball-like clumps of ash were found near the river bank where Josephine had, or was, drowned.
In the same manner, the elders of the area were nonetheless saddened by the tragedy that had happened, but at the same time were reawakened by a similar one that took place a long time ago. A good seventy years ago, around the events of the upcoming World War II, a young girl at the age of twelve was initially declared to be missing. The young girl’s parents were worried sick and out of their wits with the impending war in mind only to find her waterlogged cadaver a few days after searching, by the very same river and almost at the very same time of the year.
Such similarities were present that its aftermath gave the community the sense of a relived tragedy and horror, and even more so after the crucial evidence of ash was said to have been found littered around the riverbank, as it was stated in the official investigative reports. This strengthened the community’s worry and concern for their children and resulted in a curfew with limited nightly activities set in place to avoid the giant’s next feast on wandering and gullible children. All these restrictions led to the cousins’ loss of potential gigs and writing income.
“I want to go back.”
“Back where?” asked Emilia.
“Back home… to Cebu,” replied Jane.
“Well, I don’t think we can, Jane. Not with this storm coming up.”
Emilia was the eldest of the two. And since it was September, it only meant one thing; the closer it was to winter, the closer it was to the usual rainy monsoon storms, typhoons, and overall, bad weather conditions for flying, driving, or any kind of traveling in general. Which begs the question, how long ‘til the cousins can survive without enough material to make their writing cuts, not to mention their monthly rent as well, amongst other expenses.
With the lack of buzz and conundrum in the city for weeks on end, no story means no work, and no work means no money. With no money comes the decision. The decision to choose between practical and sustainable versus fulfillment and freedom. It’s not like they were forced into taking up business administration and management courses during university. It is more like they were persuaded at all costs, to do the practical, which was feasible for them as fresh graduates and good for the family business, of course. Who were they kidding; it’s like what their parents keep telling them: ‘a career in art is only for the rich, or for those who can afford to pay for their losses in case their art career plummets in a downward spiral.’
However harsh the reality and reasoning that tried to crush, or at least, suppress the writing dreams of the two girls, Jane was the one who pitched the idea to move to the big city and become the talented and deserving writers that they are. And Emilia was the one that hatched the plan and made it all happen. Only to return back home a few months later, if indeed all their plans go southward.
Though at this point, both girls realized that they have given up quite a lot, if not much, to pursue their dreams and make it in the city. More so for Jane after handing over the position of assistant marketing manager in a reputable company she had worked for a few months after college. Whilst Emilia kept pitching articles and her writing samples for different companies here and there. It wasn’t enough, of course, but it was a short-lived struggle before her online application was accepted at budding writers firm in Manila. This was more than enough for both Emilia and Jane, as if an immediate answer to their question, a clear sign that everything was meant to be.
But for now, by the looks of it, however, things are not exactly what the two dreamers had hoped for.
“Yes, ma. We’re fine here. Everything’s fine, thanks. … Yes, we’ve already stocked up enough supplies, enough to last us a year with this storm.”
Emilia was on the phone with her mother, taking notes of their daily consumption and stock inventory.
“Yes, we’ll come home and visit as soon as we can. I mean as soon as everything’s okay.”
“Ems, I’ve been thinking,” said Jane as soon as she was about to hang up.
“Yeah, okay. Love you too, ma. You too, take care. Bye.” She looked up at Jane.
“Ems, I’ve been thinking. Like, what if…,” Jane was speaking half-hesitant.
“What if, what?”
“What if, we do it? What if we go after the girl’s story, and cover it?”
“What do you mean, Jane? I need you to be more specific than that.” Emilia retorted.
“Listen, Ems. We go over to the place. Do our own little investigation, and we’ll cover Josephine Santos’ story. We’ll figure out what really happened to Josephine. I mean, don’t you feel bad for the little girl? And her family, gosh. I don’t think any parent can get over such a thing. Not to mention, the lack of closure.”
“I know, Jane. I mean, I feel bad as much as anybody else does too. You know. It’s just that, we’re only writers, Jane. We’re not detectives. These seem like pretty sensitive stuff. So, I don’t know.”
They shift over to their dining table with their evening coffee in hand, waiting for the hailing blizzard to stop.
“I get your point, Ems. But, just imagine. I mean think about it for a second. What if it doesn’t need detectives?”
“I really don’t see where you’re going with this one, Jane.” Emilia starts to look puzzled.
“What if, there was no sign of potential murder? I mean, from a human entity, at least.”
“Are you serious?” Emilia looks at Jane with a half-grin and a partly worried expression.
“You don’t really believe in that possibility, do you?”
“Don’t you see? Something’s been missing from the picture, Ems. I mean, what else could it be?”
Emilia is trying to avoid her cousin’s gaze flips through her journal-slash-planner as Jane seems to be more and more persistent.
“Let’s discuss this some other time, Jane. It’s getting kinda late. And this weather’s got me bummed out the more I think about it.”
Jane being the sensitive and intuitive person that she is finally giving it a rest.
“Alright, alright. Fine. I won’t push it.”
Emilia obviously the more rational and realistic of the two, partly due to her truthful and honest-to-goodness journalism principles, was anything but enticed about her cousin’s abrupt and ready-to-go idea., but she will in no doubt seize every opportunity made available to her even if it means investigating and going after a mythical and elusive, swamp-ish giant. This would be the only way if they were to remain where they are and pursue their chosen career paths as writers, for the sake of their dreams.
To be continued.