Author’s note: This is a short story based on Sponge Cola’s song “Kay Tagal Kitang Hinintay” from their 2011 album “Araw Oras Tagpuan”. I’ve written this around three years ago. Original post can be found on my Facebook account.)
A long, winding road in a windy, idyllic view of a seemingly sleepy town. Jeepneys, buses and trucks course through the long stretch of the highway. Four men were waiting in a small waiting shed by the same dirt road. Clad in their best suits, the boys were looking out in the distance. One of them had a guitar case with him. The other was standing by the road, his arm stretched out with his thumb up. The rest were just sitting, their eyes fixed elsewhere.
Jeepneys, buses and trucks had passed by. No-one wanted to give these boys a lift. Under the hot, summer sun, the man waited, almost brought down by the weight of waiting and desperation. Finally, a white pick-up truck stopped by them and asked them where they were going.
“Sa Sitio Cogon po, (To Sitio Cogon, please)” answered the guy, his forehead creasing from the morning sun. His friends walked to him to see what the driver had for them. At last, they were given the pickup space at the back. They propped themselves up in the back, sitting on the warm floor. Their slacks won’t give in to them sitting cross-legged. Feeling somewhat constricted, of course. But the relief that the Good Samaritan gave them was something new.
In the same sleepy town, that same morning, a couple was talking by the wharf of the sea. It was the Pacific Ocean right in front of them, ever so tranquil in the bright of the morning. The wife looked away worryingly to the sea, while her husband, a fisherman by the looks of it, came to her and kissed her cheek.
“Buntis ako,(I’m pregnant)” said the wife, worry catching her throat. “Paano na ‘to? (How am I supposed to deal with this?)”
The fisherman seemed unfazed by the news. He smiled and faced his wife.
“Bakit ka nag-aalangan? Bigay s’ya sa atin ng Diyos. (Why are you worried? God gave us this baby.)”
The wife suddenly smiled and hugged her husband, thanking him for support. In her mind, she was worried about how they will raise their child in such conditions. They were a poor couple: her husband is a fisherman who works so hard catching fish and little crabs and sells them to the market. She, on the other hand, was a laundrywoman who suddenly stopped work because of the pregnancy. But with support her husband showed her, it was a glimmer of hope she saw. And they both returned to their homes.
Along the way, an elderly woman was pacing briskly in front of the house. She looked equally worried as the wife had been earlier. The wife asked her if there was something wrong.
“Nanaginip ako! May darating na nilalang dito sa bayan natin! Sila’y mga — (I had a dream! There will be creatures coming over here!)
A young woman covered the elderly woman’s mouth, suddenly. Then she looked at the curious couple.
“Pasensya na po kayo, (I’m sorry)” she said, looking slightly embarrassed. “Si Lola kasi. Kung ano-ano ang sinasabi. (My grandmother seems to be rambling up and saying a lot of things.)”
The couple nodded as they left. They didn’t want to hear anything else about anything.
The men arrived at Sitio Cogon. They thanked the driver who brought them to the place and they were left behind. One of them threw the luggage into the rice fields.
“You should’ve thrown that to the sea,” said the man with the guitar. “The sea is just close by.”
The man who threw the luggage away gave his friend a confident look.
“Nah. It will be taken to the sea, trust me, Armo.”
Armo smiled. “Sure enough, it will be, TMac.”
The other two walked on forward into the trees. Tall grasses, rice fields, mountains and a blue sky adorn their view. They were looking around.
“Where do we stay here?” asked the man who helped hitch a ride earlier, looking at his quiet friend.
“We don’t stay here, physically. We’ll just wander around, Yael. Remember that,” answered his quiet friend.
Yael nodded thoughtfully.
His friend added some more. “Only people with good hearts see us.”
“Rightly said, Gosh,” quipped Armo. “We are sent here for something we don’t know of…yet.”
Armo looked around with such familiarity. “Doesn’t this look familiar to you guys?”
Yael, Gosh and TMac gave Armo a quizzical look. Armo knew they were feeling the same thing he was feeling. The whole place emanated with some recognisable energy. It was as if they had been here sometime before.
And they walked into the trees, still looking around, admiring the view their Master made for them and everyone else eons ago.
Night falls on the town. The four men were still out in the town, walking and exploring every place. They stopped by a house. A gas lantern served as its light inside. The wife was looking out to the window. She looked lonely.
Armo swung his guitar case in front of him and took out his guitar. It was a shiny, black guitar. He then started to play a tune, his fingers gliding, strumming and plucking on the strings. The wife moved about in her seat, trying to figure out where the music was coming from. She smiled at the tune, trying to hum it. Armo played on as they watched her admire the tune.
It was her they wanted to see. The song was a gift to her and to her child. They wanted her to see them, but not now. Armo and the boys walked on into the darkness, still carrying the tune with them into the night air.
The wife still hummed to it, clinging onto the song. But it seemed far away now. She still tried to listen to it but it was way away now.
The husband returned home that night. He saw his wife happy, while cooking their dinner of crabs in coconut milk, and some chicken a neighbour gave her earlier.
“Masaya ang asawa ko… (My wife seems happy today)” he said aloud, as if greeting her. The wife walked over to him and kissed him.
“May narinig akong tinig kanina, (I keep hearing this song, this tune)” she began, her smiling unfading. “Hindi ko masundan kung saan galing pero maganda s’ya. Ikakanta ko sya mamaya sa pagtulog. (I could not make the tune out, but it is a beautiful one. I’ll sing it for you later before we sleep)”
The husband seemed curious about his wife’s cheerfulness, but whatever it was, it pleased him as long as he sees his wife smile.
Months into the pregnancy, the wife continued to sing the untitled tune to her husband at night, and to their baby everyday. The husband strokes his wife’s tummy, talking to it, knowing that their child hears them. They never put words to the song, it was fitting enough they hum it to their child.
The four men always watch the happy couple in their home, unfailingly so. Armo plays the same tune for the couple in the distance. Out of the blue, Yael sang a few words.
Hawakan mo ang aking kamay, (Please hold my hand)
At tayong dalawa’y, maghahasik ng kaligayahan (and we’ll be spreading joy)
Bitawan mong unang salita (Say the word)
Ako ay handa nang tumapak sa lupa…(And I’m ready to go back on land)
The couple stopped to listen to the song. At last the song had words! It was sung clearly and they loved the words. They went out of the house to see who was singing it. Yael, Gosh and TMac walked away. Armo continued strumming his guitar, keeping on with the song, walking slowly into the night. The couple was not able to see them.
While walking to the sea, TMac asked the rest of them. “What if we show up?”
Yael stopped. He also thought about that too.
Armo still played on.
Gosh stopped to answer TMac’s question. “If we do, momentum will be lost.”
“But, Gosh,” said Yael. “We’ve been here watching over them for months. Can’t we show up to them?”
“Let them wonder,” answered Gosh. “We will show up at the right time.”
“And when is that?” asked Armo, still playing the song.
“We’ll know,” replied Gosh.
The sea waves were coming closer, drowning Armo’s tune. The moon was high up in the sky, watching them just as the boys watch the couple sing to their child.
Tapos na ang paghihintay, (The waiting is over)
Nandito ka na (Now that you are here)
Oras ay naiinip nang dahan-dahan (Time moves so slowly, so impatiently)
Sinasamsam bawat gunita (Remembering all those memories)
Na para bang tayo’y ‘di na tatanda (Like we’re never ever getting old)
Ligaya’y noo’y nasa huli
Sambit na ng iyong mga labi…
“Gosh puts the sense into the song rightly so,” commented TMac, looking at the the sky.
It was nighttime again. Yael has just sung the next few lines of the song exactly on the eighth month of the wife’s pregnancy. They were all sitting by the beach, looking at the sea.
“Thank you, TMac,” said Gosh, smiling a bit.
“How about you smile again?” suggested TMac. “You seem to be frustrated and troubled with something.”
Seemingly, Gosh was in deep thought, always.
“Armo doesn’t smile a lot too, you know,” Gosh said, his hand under his chin. The thought made Yael laugh.
“But I smile a lot than you do,” answered Armo, defending himself, grinning. “See?”
Yael and TMac laughed. Gosh only smiled at Armo’s reply.
One morning, the wife woke up, only to see that her husband left early without any breakfast. She walked off from bed, tied her hair and looked at the calendar. She was nearing that very day.
She sat by the dining table, reaching for a box behind a statue of the Virgin Mary. She took the lid off and took out some shells and a piece of yellow ribbon. She threaded it into the shell and made a knot to make a necklace. It was a gift to their firstborn. She smiled admiringly at her craft and placed it around the statue.
Out by the window, there stood Gosh and TMac. They watched the wife make the necklace, and pray to the statue after putting the necklace around it. Out of the blue, the wife faced the window, to their direction. Gosh and TMac were sure they were seen, but they escaped in time. The wife went out of the house to look around, hoping to find who they were. Kids flock around her, sensing her curiosity.
“Ate, may nakita kaming dalawang tao sa may bintana n’yo kanina, (We saw two people by your window earlier today)” said one of the kids, eating a mango-flavoured ice candy.
“Ano hitsura nila? (What do they look like?)” she asked, her curiosity mounting.
“Yung isa matangkad, yung isa maliit, (One is tall, the other one is short)” answered another kid. “Yung matangkad, nakatali ang buhok. Ta’s yung maliit, naka-sumbrero. (The tall one wore a ponytail, and the other guy wore a hat)”
“Parehas pa silang naka-Amerikana, (They were both wearing coats.)” said another.
“Pamburol ‘yun eh, (Those looked like something a corpse would wear at a wake)” a little boy said, clutching a yoyo.
A middle-aged woman came by, pulling the kids away from the befuddled wife. “Nako, gumagawa na naman kayo ng kwento ha! (You’re all making up stories!)”
The wife still knew she and the kids were right. There were people standing by their house, possibly watching her and her husband.
From a distance, Gosh and TMac listened carefully. They were now positive the kids and the wife saw them both, but not the adults in the purok. They walked away to find Armo and Yael by the sea.
Her husband arrived at noon, surprising her with the crabs he caught. He placed the crabs, as if making them crawl on the table, one by one. She karate-chopped her husband’s wrist jokingly after he held the crab close to her face. After the last crab, the husband surprised her with a yellow flower he picked from a bush along the way. He brushed it on her nose, then she took it and hit his nose with it. The husband mock-grimaced to her, stroking his nose.
“Aray ha, (Ouch!)” he said, still stroking his nose, then reached to her to kiss her lips. “Alis na ako, ibebenta ko na ‘to. (I’ll go ahead now. I’ll be selling these crabs.)”
The wife nodded as he waved at her and left. She was now alone again. She didn’t bother telling her husband about the two men the kids saw earlier.
“Mamaya, siguro, (Maybe later)” she mused as she prepared food for herself.
Yael and Armo were waiting in an empty house near the shore. They didn’t walk around the town like Gosh and TMac. They serenaded the sea this morning, so that the fishermen will have a good catch.
“I wonder where the two went,” said Yael, looking out to the window, admiring the sea.
“You know them,” replied Armo, holding his guitar on his lap. “They like exploring.”
“Don’t we all?” said Yael, looking at Armo.
Armo sighed. “Yes we do. But in this situation, we can’t.”
The door opened and in came the fisherman. Armo and Yael scramble quietly at the back to watch and wonder why he came. The fisherman closed the door behind him and dropped a big bunch of rattan to the floor. He bought them from a friend off this morning’s earnings. The fisherman sat on the floor and began to work.
“He’s making a basket,” whispered Yael, smiling at the fisherman.
The fisherman was busy with making a little rattan crib for the firstborn. Just like his wife, he’s making a gift to their baby, who’s due to be out soon. Armo and Yael watched the fisherman work quietly.
After a few hours, and a few adjustments, the crib was done.
“Good work!” commended Armo in a whisper. Yael clapped.
The fisherman stood up and cleaned his workspace. He placed the unused bits of rattan to a corner near Armo. He carried the crib and then left the house.
Armo and Yael became very pleased with what they saw. But, as they looked out to the sea, they became nervous about Gosh’s and TMac’s whereabouts. They went out of the house and went back into the village. Finally, they saw Gosh and TMac walking towards them.
“We were seen,” said TMac, pursing his lips, looking at Gosh, who was still serious.
Yael and Armo sighed at the news. “Who saw you?” asked Armo after a moment.
“Kids,” replied Gosh, at last. “And the wife, possibly.”
Armo looked at Yael, who shrugged. “We can’t do anything about it,” he replied. “We’re all in this together. And good people see us. There’s no harm in that.”
“Suspense is lost, though,” quipped Gosh, looking at Yael.
“Who cares about suspense now?” answered Yael. “Suspense is coming — she’s giving birth soon.”
“Yael has yet to sing the last stanzas,” said TMac. Armo and Gosh nodded agreeably.
“Yup,” Yael said, smiling. “We’ll have to wait for the night to fall and we’ll do our work.”
That night, the husband showed his wife the crib he made for their newborn. The wife, in turn, showed her husband the necklace she made. The couple was so overjoyed with the gifts they made for their baby. They sat in the bed, recalling the times they first met, and the time they got married. Happy and content as they are now, they are very excited for their baby’s coming into the world.
Nagkita rin ang ating landas, (Our paths have crossed)
Wala nang iba akong hinihiling (I couldn’t wish for anything else)
Kung ‘di ika’y pagmasdan (Than to look at you)
Mundo ko ay iyong niyanig (You shook my world)
O anong ligayang sumama ka sa ‘kin…(What joy that you came with me)
That song! It was that song again! The wife and husband stopped to listen. It was that song again! The wife walked out of the house to follow the song. The husband followed suit, holding a jungle bolo, just in case.
Outside and somewhere near the house, Yael, Gosh, Armo and TMac stood sentinel, singing the tune that they are offering to the happy couple. Their eyes were on the couple, who was looking for the source of the song.
The wife stopped by the tree, exactly where Yael and Armo and were on. Gosh and TMac were close by the tree, standing on the ground near the husband.
“Dito galing yung kanta! (The song came from here)” the wife said. The husband walked next to her, and looked up at the tree.
“Bumaba kayo d’yan! (Come down!)” he called out, his jungle bolo at his side.
Armo strummed along as Yael hummed. They didn’t leave their place. Gosh and TMac were standing behind the couple.
“Bumaba kayo d’yan! (Come down!)” the husband called out again.
Suddenly the whole place was awash with bright light. Everything was bathed in white. And the song was still in play. The couple finally saw who they were looking for.
“Sino kayo? (Who are you?)” asked the wife, fear in her voice. The husband was in awe.
“Ako nga pala si Yael, (I’m Yael)” said Yael, then pointing to Armo, who was waving at them. “Eto si Armo. (This is Armo)”
“At sila, (And they)” Yael said, pointing at Gosh and TMac, who were right behind the couple. “Ay sina Gosh and TMac. (Are Gosh and TMac)”
TMac and Gosh smiled at the couple, who was clearly surprised.
“Pero sino ba talaga kayo? (But who are you, really?)” asked the wife again.
“Malalaman n’yo rin, (You’ll find out)” answered TMac, his smile sincere. “Malapit na ang araw. (The day is near)”
Armo continued to play the tune for the couple. The light began to fade around them, and the men disappeared. The couple was left in awe of what they witnessed: four men in dark suits, surrounded in light. They were cherubs sent by God to honour the couple with their faith.
The next morning, the wife was left alone at home again. She woke up and sat by the dining table, her thoughts were of last night’s encounter with the four men. They seem young to her, just like her age.
“Good morning,” said Yael, who was seated next to her. The wife stood up in shock. It was the cherub she saw from last night.
“Ano ang ginagawa n’yo dito? (What are you doing here?)” she asked, accidentally bumping Gosh.
“Binabantayan ka namin, (We’re watching you)” replied Gosh. The wife walked to the kitchen cautiously, only to see Armo and TMac bringing her coconuts.
“Just relax,” Armo said, smiling, as he offered the wife the coconuts. “Hindi ka namin sasaktan. (We’re not here to hurt you)”
“Nandito kami dahil masaya kami sa pagdating ng iyong anak, (We’re here because we’re happy for the birth of your child” added TMac.
The wife was still not convinced. The guys still knew that.
“Alam naming nag-a-alangan ka sa’min, (We know you’re worried)” began Armo, pouring some coconut juice into a glass for her. “Pero hindi na namin kailangan ipakita ang pruweba na kailangan mo. Nasa iyo na lang kung maniniwala ka o hindi. (But we do not need to show you proof. It’s up to you if you believe us or not)”
The wife smiled a bit. They were clearly angels.
“Kumain na ba kayo? (Have you eaten already?)” she asked, rather relieved of what she heard from Armo.
“’Wag ka na mag-abala! (Please don’t bother, we’re fine!)” said TMac, joyfully, at which the wife became overjoyed with what was on the dining table: food. Lots of food. The wife was speechless. Suddenly, the husband arrived with this morning catch. He was bringing a big net with him, and his smile was beaming.
“Madaming pagkain! (We’ve got a lot of food!)” the wife said, cheerfully.
“Madami rin akong huli! (I got a huge catch!)” beamed the husband.
The couple was so delighted with everything that they forgot about the angels’ presence. Yael, Gosh, Armo, and TMac left quietly for the couple to rejoice. They were also delighted that they made them happy.
It was a tranquil noon by the sea the next day. Yael, Gosh and TMac were all seated on the shore, while Armo was playing a song for the sea. The fishermen were busy catching fish out there, all in their boats, tossing the net into the water. The fisherman was waving at his wife, who was close by. She was clad in a blue duster that reached her thighs. Tall blades of grass surround her as she walked along, enjoying the sun and the sea. Then the wife walked to the shore, crossing the little dunes and the writings on the sand.
The boys were watching her walk on the sand. They realized she’s been cooped up in their house for so long, and now she’s out enjoying her view while her husband was out in the sea.
Suddenly she stopped. Her hand was clutching her heavy tummy. Armo stopped playing and walked up to her to see what was going on: the wife was about to give birth! Yael, Gosh and TMac called out to the fisherman, who was so far away. The kids all helped in calling to her husband. Armo was already carrying her, her face pale and sweaty.
From far away, the husband saw the crowd at the shore sending signs to his general direction. He squinted to see his wife being carried by Armo and Gosh. He jumped off the boat and swam back to shore. He took his wife in his arms as he instructed the kids to call a tricycle for them.
“’Eto na, (Here she comes)” he said, tearfully, his joy could not be contained. “Lalabas na ang anak natin! (Our baby’s coming out!)”
The wife could only nod, as the pain was swelling in her. The baby was raring to go out. At last the tricycle arrived and they all went in. Some of the kids were with them, hurrying the driver up to take them to the general hospital. Armo, Gosh, TMac and Yael were left behind. The event was only for the couple to relish.
The boys were still by the sea that night. The moon was high up in the sky. Stars were out in the sky, all of them bright and twinkly. Armo strummed his guitar to the same tune they’ve been playing for months. Yael sang the final verse that they’ve left.
Parang isang panaginip (It’s like a dream)
Ang muling mapagbigyan (that we’ll have a chance)
Tayo’y muling magkasama (that we’re together again)
Ang dati ay balewala (The past is gone)
Panatag na’ng kalooban ko (I am relieved)
At ika’y kapiling ko na (that you’re already here)
Kay tagal kitang hinintay…(How I’ve waited for so long)
Back in the hospital, the husband was anxiously waiting at the waiting area. At last the doctor came out to see him. The fisherman approached the doctor to hear something about their baby and his wife.
“Malusog ang inyong anak, at babae ito, (Your baby is healthy, and it’s a baby girl)” the doctor said, sighing.
The husband clasped his hands as if in prayer and thanked the doctor. “Ang asawa ko, kamusta? (How is my wife?)”
The doctor replied, “Mabuti din naman. Puntahan mo na sila. (She is fine. You can see them now.”
The husband was so delighted to hear that both their daughter and his wife were well. He walked to the room where his wife and baby were and hugged them together. The wife was exhausted from all the efforts to push the baby out into the world. Finally their daughter was out, and in their arms. They were now hearing the song that the angels have made for them. They were there by the family’s bedside, singing the song especially for the occasion.
“Kay tagal kitang hinintay, (How I’ve waited for so long)” said the wife, now the mother of a healthy baby girl. The husband could not believe what was happening. It was the best feeling in the world, and he’s the happiest man ever.
The mother had died long before her child could ever recognise her. The child grew up a happy, bright, active child. Just like her mother, the child loves walking by the sea, laughing and making her father smile each time. Her father doted on her every single time: feeding her the right food, giving her what she wants and providing what she needs. She now goes to school where she excels in Math and English. She still wears the necklace her mother made for her when she was born. `
One day the father realized that her daughter has the spitting image of his late wife. Out on the wharf he promised to God and to his wife that he will take care of their daughter. The child was curious about how her Mother was, whom she only saw in pictures and listened from her father’s stories.
“Ang unang sinabi n’ya sa’yo ay, ‘Kay Tagal Kitang Hinintay’, (What she said first was “How long I’ve waited”)” her father mused, his eyes still on the sea.
The child smiled at the phrase. She loved how it sounded to her ears.
“Yun din ang kanta na kinanta ng mga anghel na nagbantay sa amin habang ipinagbubuntis ka, (That was also the song the angels who watched over us that time sang)” said her father, now looking at her.
The child’s face changed. She wondered, “Mga anghel? Totoo ba sila, ‘tay? (Angels? Are they for real?)”
The father smiled, embracing his child. Out from nowhere, the four angels appeared before him. They were all smiling.
“Totoo sila, anak, (They are real)” answered the father. “At kasama natin sila parati. (And they’re always with us)”
The child turned her back from the sea and saw the angels. She walked to them and hugged them.
“Magpakatatag ka, (Stay strong)” said Yael, his hand on the father’s shoulder. “Masaya s’ya para sa inyo ng anak n’yo. (She is happy with you and your child)”
The father nodded and thanked them.
The angels sat in front of the child to talk to her. The child smiled at the angels.
“Magpakabait ka ha, (Stay kind)” said Gosh, his hand on the child’s head. “Mahal ka ng iyong magulang.(Your parents love you very much)”
“Nasa’n si Mama? Kasama n’yo ba? (Where is Mama? Is she with you?)” asked the child, eager to know the answer.
The angels and her father chuckled.
“Si Mama mo ay nasa langit. Doon pa! (Your mother’s in heaven, far away!)” replied TMac, pointing at the sky. The child looked at where he was pointing. “At kagaya namin, binabantayan ka rin n’ya. (And, like us, she’s watching over you)”
“Ang layo naman, (That’s so far)” the child said, grinning.
All the angels nodded. With that, her father wanted to go home.
“Dito pa tayo, ‘tay, (Let’s stay here some more)” said the child. “Kasama nila. (With them)”
The father couldn’t do anything: his child is just like his wife. The angels doted much on her as much as he does on her.
The wife watches down on her family and the angels. She was pleased that her long wait has been done, and that her daughter is living the good life she and her husband had built for her.
By Nizrhane Abdallah
This Girl Named Nizrhane
If you liked Nizrhane’s work, check her previous works here at TUW: