"Nang, palihog ko'g hipos sa mga butang sa mga bata. Mo larga ta'g Bohol ugma" said Jean, the 34 year old "amo" who's working in a 10-hour night shift at a call center with her husband, Carlito.
"Sige ma'am" answered Nang Karing.
She hates traveling to Bohol. In fact, she hates it there but what else can she do, she has no other obligation but to take care of the kids. She sighs and gets back to finishing the laundry.
While cooking for dinner, Jean furiously calls her to their bedroom
"Nang wala paman lage ka naka hipos?" (Nang, why haven't you packed the kid's clothes yet?)
"Aw, g tiwas pa nako ang mga nilabhan ma'am unya nagluto ko'g sud-an pagkahuman", (Oh, I had to finish the laundry first then I cooked dinner after) replied Karing. Jean turns to ease, enabling herself to understand her maid has to do a lot of things.
"Ah sige, mamalihog lang ko Nang ha igka human nimo ana tanan" (Okay Nang, can you just please do it after you finish everything?)
Jean turns back to their bedroom telling her kids goodnight. She appears back in the kitchen.
"Mo lakaw nako Nang" (I'll be going now).
The next day, Nang Karing woke the kids up by 8:00 to get ready for the trip. The two kids, Medi and Rosa helped Nang with her packing.
"I thought you were packing last night," said Medi
"Yes pero I packing your bags" Nang answered in broken English
By 9: 25 am, Jean has arrived from work and by 10:15 am, all of them are on the pier except for Carlito. They took the 2-hour boat ride to Bohol and called their family to pick them up.
"Long time no see!" cried Rhea, Jean's sister-in-law, and Carlito's sister.
Medi and Rosa ran up to her, "Ate Rhea!" and blessed her.
"Asa man ang uban?" (where are the others?), asked Jean
"Naa's balay di pasamok", joked Rhea. (At home, they don't wanna be bothered).
Rhea notices Nang limping towards the car after everybody else has sat down. "Galisod man ka ana Nang, ambi ng is a bih" (Let me help you with that, you like you're struggling!)
As she takes one of the bags Nang was carrying she wasn't able to handle the weight leading her to fall on her back.
"Pastilan", Rhea cursed
They traveled to Albur, which is a 20-minute drive away from the city. They arrived at a house just near the highway and were greeted with a warm welcome from the family. Anna, Rhea's third child, helped Nang with the bags as the others went to the kitchen to eat.
"Kamusta man ka Nang?" (How are you Nang?)
Nang Karing lets out a heavy sigh, "Okay ra ko indai"
"Mangaon na ta Nang ta! G gutom man ko ga hunahuna sa inyong byahe" (We should probably eat now, I got so hungry thinking about your travel)
Anna immediately stuffed her face with meatballs and rice. Her brother Jeff was about to sit next to her but she shooed him away and said it was for Nang. She waited for Nang to come to sit next to her but she never appeared.
Lounging on the couch, Anna heard her Lola shouting demands to somebody. Knowing that her grandma shouts at anyone, she ignores it.
After a while, she sees her mother looking tense. "Nagano day to Ma?" (What happened?)
"Ahh, si Mama" she replied coldly and headed towards the kitchen.
Later she realized that it was Nang who her Lola screamed at accusing her of theft when she just wanted to eat lunch because she was told to arrange the kid's clothes first.
Upon hearing this, Anna got so mad that she bolted to Medi and Rosa's room and told them they should've done the arranging. Rather than listen to their older cousin, both girls started to cry and accused Anna of being maldita.
Later that afternoon, when Rhea, Jean, her two kids, and Grandma went to the mall, Anna volunteered to stay in Albur and accompany Nang Karing.
"Ngano'ng magpabilin man jud ka ana niya?!"(Why do you always have to always stay with her?!) scolded her grandma.
Anna shrugged and went inside the house.
She found Nang washing some cups, she was startled when she saw Anna standing behind her. " Kurat man pud ta nimo 'dai! Abi ba nako
``g ning uban ka" (You scared me! I thought you were with them?)
"Kapo'y uban Nila Nang oy" (They’re so draining to be with) replied Anna. "Have you eaten already?"
Nang kept her head down, trying not to show Anna her embarrassment, "Oo, 'dai. G hatagan ko's imong mama tung na to'g imong Lola" (Yes, your mother gave me some food when Lola slept).
"Pasaylo-a jd ko ni Lola Nang"(Forgive me for her actions Nang) said Anna, humiliated at her family’s actions.
Nang nods her head. She's angry, we know that but she has always been told she's in no position to complain, so she keeps her mouth shut.
"Lagi 'dai" (I know indai) was all she said.
Nang, as usual, woke up at 5 am and prepared breakfast. She tried to quietly work to avoid getting screamed at by Lola but failed. Everyone in the house dared not say a thing and instead took to their beds and listened. While they were listening all they could ever think about was the uncooked food.
By 9am, Rhea and her kids came in to visit. Jean told her what happened during breakfast and insulted Nang for her "elaborate" noise. "Banha jud siya kaayo. Kami ha, layo kaayo mi'g kwarto sa kusina pero madunggan jud ag iyang lihok! Cornbeef ug itlog raman 'ta to iyang lutuon" (You know how far the kitchen is to our room but we can still hear her and she was just going to cook corned beef and some eggs!)
"Ahh, of course, you exaggerate every little thing but you're my auntie so of course...I believe you", thought Anna, who is pretending not to care but in reality, all she wanted to do is to cry.
Anna drops by Nang's room, (which is actually a storage room) "Hi Nang!"
Nang brings out a hard cough before she notices Anna.
"Kamusta ka indai?" (How are you?) replied Nang.
"Okay ra", said Anna. She sat next to Nang who was looking at her Nokia keypad. "Kinsa na Nang?" (who is that?) asked Anna,.
"Aw, kuan, akoang manghud 'dai", (My younger sister) replied Nang, shyly.
"Naa ka'y manghud diay? Pila mo kabuok diay Nang?" (You have a sister? How many are you in the family?)
"Naa rako'y isa ka igsoon man, bali duha rami" (I only have one sibling) she continues, "Bertday niya karon" (It's her birthday today)
"Dah!" cried Anna, "ingna sya happy birthday Nang! Asa man siya karon?" (Really? Tell her I said happy birthday. Anyways, where is she now?)
"Naa siya's Toledo karon. Ga yaya pud siya parehas nako" (she's currently in Toledo right now doing the same thing as me).
"Dah, layo-a gud ng Toledo Nang. Ti'g kita pud mo kada Pasko?"(Really? Toledo's so far. But you both see each other during Christmas, right?)
"Dili 'dai, akoang last kita ni Connie kay mga duha na tingali ka taon" (No, we don’t, the last time I saw Connie was two years ago)
At that moment, Anna felt ashamed knowing Nang dedicated herself to this family that treats her so poorly while her own family is out there waiting for her to come home.
Nang woke up with a shake on her foot. She coughs.
"Nang! Nang! Mata sa" (Nang, wake up), it was Rhea, shaking her.
"G pang gutom ang mga bata, luto-a sa sila ug noodles or nuggets bih" (The kids are hungry, can you make them some noodles or nuggets?)
"Oo, sige" replied Nang.
"Sige, salamat", said Rhea before she walked away.
Nang takes out her phone and checks the time: 3:25 am. When she walks out of her room, she can hear music and laughter coming from the kitchen.
On their last day in Bohol, Jean booked all of us on a trip to Carmen.
"The most visited town in Bohol where we could find the beautiful Chocolate Hills!" cried Jean. As a Boholana, Anna and her family faked their excitement. They rented a van and a driver for the tour.
"Look at the hill!" exclaimed Rosa. " That one has a perfect cone shape!" The driver took them to the Chocolate Hills Complex, a complex where two hills were transformed into a cemented road going up the hill where restaurants and other tourist accommodations are catered in the middle of the hill.
"Fuck," uttered Medi, "fuck fuck fuck fuck. This is too high. Fuck!"
"You're literally in the middle of the road" observed Anna, "That," pointed Anna to a long staircase leading to the tippy-top of the hill, "you should be afraid of."
"Ma-ma", cried Medi.
After a cup of coffee and a few moments of stalling, Medi was forced to go up the staircase with her family. ``Do you really wanna be the only one left in here?", asked Jean. Yes was Medi's answer. "Okay dear, I understand pero if ever there is an earthquake, hesus maryosep, wouldn't you be scared to die alone while your whole family's up there?"
So there they went, up to the stairs where only one railing to hold on to and a single push to bring you back down. Rosa leads the group up, forcing herself not to look down. Followed by Anna and her younger brother Jerry, who promised to count every step but lost it when he took a quick view of the surroundings. Rhea followed them with her other son Jacob then Medi who's holding her mama so tight they almost stumbled backward.
"Karing!" scolded Lola, "ayaw sigeg dali diha! Tabangi ko ani!" (Karing! You're walking too fast, are you blind? Come and help me here!). The frequent scolding didn't bother her for she liked the view and the fresh air she's in, reminding her so much of home.
Everyone decided to take a nap as they arrived back at the house. Nang started coughing again, she drank a glass of water making sure Lola wasn’t standing in her way. Back in their rooms, Jean commented on Nang’s coughing and said it’s disgusting and morbid. She called Nang into the room and handed her a mask and told her to start making dinner. As she cooks, Rosa hands her her phone saying, “na’y nangita nimo” (Someone’s looking for you). To her delight, it was her mama, calling her from Alegria. They talked as she cooked but ended it swiftly. All she wanted to do was cry. “Gusto nako mo uli”, she murmured.
At 6 am, everyone was up and ready to go back to Cebu. Packed bags, carry-ons, and pasalubong are all in check. Nang’s coughing didn’t go away so she wore a mask the whole trip from Bohol to Cebu. She takes it off frequently but Jean reminds her that it would be her fault if anyone contracts her virus.
Finally, back in Cebu, Jean and the girls slept the whole day, Nang was at peace with her work, she went to her room and cried her eyes out.
When Jean finally woke up, she gathered the courage to tell her that she wanted to quit. Jean eventually told her no but will grant her one week's leave. Nang accepted the deal.
By November 4, Nang took the bus ride home. She was greeted with love and a sweet welcome from her family. There, she told them about the cruel hardships she has to face every single day, especially when they visited Bohol. She poured her heart and soul into them.
It’s been a full week since Nang took leave and Jean expected her to be back at 6 pm that day. But Nang never showed up. She called her cell but somehow she couldn't reach it. "Where are you Nang? I really need you". By 8pm, there was no sign of Nang so Jean woke her kids up and told them they'll be the only ones left alone. "What about Da'?", asked Rosa. "hmm, he's at work", said Jean, but the truth is the last time she saw Carlito was the day they left for Bohol. “I’ll be going now okay? Take care of your sister and if Nang does show”, she pauses, “just text me.”
As the night went by and the rooster next door sang, Jean went home and anticipated Nang's return. When she went back home, a cloud of gloom flourished throughout the entire household. She dropped her things and instantly bolted to the room. To her belief, Medi and Rosa are both sitting quietly on their shared bed. “I thought you guys were” she gulped, “kidnapped”. She was shaking alright but she managed herself to look upright and told her girls that she loves them but both replied with a numb stare. “What’s wrong Medi?”, asked Jean.
“It’s Nang”, replied Rosa with a cracked voice.
“What? What’s with Nang?”, snapped Jean.
Medi and Rosa were quiet for a while. But in that silence, their eyes began to turn red and their lips pale.
“Ngano si Nang?!”, cried Jean.
“She died last night, Ma.”
In the following hours, Jean dropped every errand she had that day and took the girls with her to Alegria. She called Rhea and told her the news, who told Anna, who did not get out of her room for the next two days.
It was raining when they arrived in Nang’s hometown. They waited for two hours for Nang’s cousin to pick them up at the bus station.
After 30 minutes of travel from the bus station to Nang’s house via motorcycle, Jean was surprised with the number of guests. Some gave up their seats so that Jean and the girls could sit.
“Mao na sila noh?”, (That’s them right?)whispered a little girl to her ate. They gawked at the new visitors, inclined to shoo them away back to the city. Jean, who shoulders superiority and power especially to the indigent, felt loved and welcomed by the family. She approached some members and talked about Nang’s loyalty and kindness, saying “She’s like a second mother to me”. Though touching, Nang had already told them about the spiteful attitude they treated her with.
“Nakatanaw naka niya?”, asked Connie. (Have you seen her already?)
It took Jean a couple of tries to look at the sleeping Nang. She would make up excuses or stand 3 feet away from the coffin only to find Nang’s hands intertwined on a rosary. Connie urged her to look and assured her she’ll be holding her hands the whole time.
And there it was, Nang Karing, all dressed up in white. “She looks so peaceful”, thought Jean. She studied Nang’s face, the lines under her eyes, the creases on her forehead, the sweet voice coming out from those lips. A pang of pain waved over Jean. Everybody thought that she was just faking it.
Back in Bohol, Anna came out of her room. “Kamusta naka?” asked her mother. “Ambot, Ma” (I don't know, Ma), answered Anna. “Lubong niya ugma sa hapon ‘dai”, informed Rhea. (Tomorrow’s her burial)
“Why? Why did she just… what caused her to die?” asked Anna.
Sources taken from Jean in Alegria, she informed them that Nang died on January 15, 2019, from Pneumonia. She was 55 years old, husbandless, and childless. Nang Alice and Connie told Jean that the only thing that made Nang happy throughout her life was to see Medi and Rosa grow up and who had always taken pride in taking care of them. Upon hearing this, Jean took care of all the financial payments for Nang, saying she owes Nang a big part of her life and this is one way of showing how much she appreciates her.
“Unta’g buhi pa si Nang para maka dungog unsa ka pasalamaton si Auntie niya” (I wish Nang was still alive to hear how much auntie valued her), said Anna to Rhea.
“Yeah. Did you know Nang asked Jean if she could quit?”
“No,” replied Anna with a smile.