"Suspension of classes is still effective until further notice," an announcer from our town's local radio said as the typhoon left our town already but the signal warning is still active.
Dad turned off the radio and looked at us. "Since we have no electricity, we might as well pretend we're camping tonight."
"This would probably work even if we just have candles and mosquito coils." Kuya (how we call male elder siblings) Sean smiled at Dad and sat like an Indian on our sofa bed solely made of foam. "Sit straight campers, leader's orders."
Stacy and I would sit straight too, though I have a difficulty in doing so because I have scoliosis. Mom chuckles as she hands us each a fan and brings us pillows and blankets for the night. We huddle together in times like this because it's dark and as Mom and Dad said "No children of ours should be out of our league in times of peril."
Little Stacy bolts up and excuses herself to get her Alice--a doll which I passed on to her when she was about three years old. "Wait, I'll just get Alice."
As soon as she settles down with her favorite toy, Dad commences the adventure we only imagine in our heads. Most of his stories were embedded in my mind after. Sometimes it leaves dreams of me being one of the characters there. And I guess, I'm the only one who could imagine it being done like the shadow puppet shows in Thailand.
"The story goes like this: Back in the days when the Spaniards weren't here in our town yet, our residents are living in that lake we have now. That was before our sleeping volcano spew water that covered the old settlement making our lake."
"Wow so that mountain we can see outside is a volcano?" Stacy asked.
"Yes, sweetie. It does not exist yet back then but just a hill or a high ground. Now back to our story. The old town we have is quite a secret from most warring tribes. Their chieftain is Oswag."
"I wonder what he looks like Dad?" Kuya Sean asked to make Stacy imagine the man, too.
"He's tall with hair like Lapu‐lapu--black and with a bit of wave. He has tattoos of his own because he's a warrior but they're not as many as one of our great heroes. He fights for people for riches."
"So like a bounty hunter of sorts?" Kuya looked at Dad puzzled. "Yeah, like that," he answered chuckling a bit.
"I hope they use shampoo too, to have clean hair," Stacy blurted out.
"Surely they would," Mom reassured. "How would they have such beautiful locks and long hair without cleaning it?"
Stacy then smiled as I put an arm at the back of my feet for support.
"Oswag is a powerful, successful yet arrogant leader who's a widower. The people's opinion about him is divided in two, those that like him and those who don't. With this haughty attitude, Oswag would usually annoy residents like his favorite, Aminaya."
"Ate (how we call female elder siblings), what's haughty?" Stacy poked my arm.
"Bad...someone bad perhaps. If you continue being bad, you'd be called that too." I wiggled my eyebrows at her as she hugged my arm near her.
"Aminaya is a wise, funny and charming middle-class lady in town who is known for her reputation of making suitors cry because of her riddles. Oswag's son was one of them and he can't solve one of her riddles so she told him to come back again. He did every morning and yet, he doesn't solve anything she throws at her so she told him to give up already. And even after the chieftain persuaded the witty young lady, she refused his offer making the leader vex her as much as he can."
"Why can't they answer those Dad?" I laughed a bit at their being simple.
"Well, they just can't, Selene. They're probably not as learned as Aminaya is. She's a very advanced lady like you are."
I blushed at the thought. Luckily, no one would notice it in the dim firelight.
"The witty lady's riddles kept her living even after her parents died to keep thieves away from their house. If a thief gets in her house, it has this trap where she would be awakened with the noise and she would give him or her a riddle to solve to keep him alive but if he or she could not answer it, she'll give him or her to Oswag the next day to have his or her trial. With this wise and just character, people would usually come to her for advices and as gratitude they would give her food and things she can use for living though she doesn't require them. Oswag became so jealous of this lady because his supporters also loved her though he wanted her dead."
"So mean!" My little sister hugged her toy tight and pouted.
"Well if a woman is that wise, people would make her the next leader so Oswag is not just jealous but afraid of her," Mom said analyzing the story and kissing Stacy on top of her head.
"That's right. Bathala saw this commotion to his people and after thinking it through he devised a plan. He disguised a stranger to Aminaya's home to ask for advice."
A small shy yawn was heard from the one of us. "Well, we should continue this tomorrow night because one of our campers is in the brink of sleeping," Dad announced.
Kuya and I sighed. We settled to our places in the bed where we should sleep and rested the night through, waking up happy the next day.
The next night, Dad continued his story but did a little recap before resuming to the next part.
'Get in,' Aminaya said and offered the old lady some food and water. She doesn't know she was being tested by Bathala."
'Lady, what can I do for you? I'm sorry for the trouble it caused you to go so far as to come to my house. Please sit for awhile, tell me your concern and I'll help you in the way I can.' She looked at the woman in a concerned way."
'Well, Lady Aminaya, I am in need of a warrior's service but I am not sure who to ask here though you are famous here. I volunteered to go here because I know this town has a warrior but I have no idea who that is," the elderly replied."
'Hmmm...I think I know whom I can recommend for that. Come on, let's get you there.' Aminaya smiled and led the old woman to the chieftain's house. 'Let's talk more about your dilemma on the way.'"
"When they arrived there, Aminaya was welcomed warmly by Oswag. 'What made you come here, esteemed lady?'"
'She,' Aminaya gestured towards her companion. 'is in need of a warrior for some problem in her own village. She has nowhere to go and is tired of finding people who won't help her. Can you be of service to her, dear leader?' The wise lady looked at the chieftain intently."
"Oswag gestured like he was thinking. 'Should I really help her? If this would please the Lady Aminaya, then I'll try to help this grandma but I have one condition, lady. Answer three riddles before I help the old lady,' Oswag said smiling wryly and in a villanous way."
'Okay then. Easy-peasy!' The young woman smiled at the chieftain."
'Two black stones which can travel anywhere far and wide, what are they?' Oswag smiled at his guests."
'Eyes. Black stones represent the pupils and irises, travelling refers to how our eyes can see.' Aminaya shrugged. 'You got something more difficult than that?'"
'I look tall when sitting, but is short when standing, what am I?' The chieftain winked at the young lady."
'It's either a feline or a canine species. No other animal does that, you know.' The young lady looked sharply at the chieftain. The old woman becomes more amazed of her helper's knowledge."
'This would be the last: I walk in four legs in the morning, two legs in the afternoon and three in the evening.' The arrogant leader's eyebrows are stitched almost together with a frown."
'Human. First thing, four legs because babies crawl on fours and morning means infancy. Second, two legs from childhood to middle age and afternoon is the stage where life has the most challenges which is childhood ending in middle age. Lastly, three because a cane is already used for support of weak legs and evening is senility to the death stage of a human. Now will you help grandma here?' The young woman put her hands to her hips."
We listened intently to Dad and cheered for the wise young lady.
'As you wish, esteemed lady.' Oswag sighed. 'You may now leave her to my care.'"
"Aminaya bowed, patted the woman's shoulder lightly. She felt sad as she went back to her house. But with her hopeful thoughts, she let the bad predictions go away. Oswag on the other hand talked to the old lady about the problem. 'As you can see dear chieftain, we have no one to call for near us to save us from this monster my people call, triburones. They're winged sharks and we don't know how to fight it. Surely you have an idea based your tattoo pattern dear leader,' the lady said frightened."
'I know I am wise and I have been in many battles. I'll try to think about it first before helping,' the self-centered leader stroked his goatee with his hand as he thought of the right answer."
"Knowing that the woman could not give her gold and gems, the leader said, 'I think I refuse.' And before the old woman could say another word, Oswag pulled the lady out taking her to a grassland further outside of town where the dormant volcano is now located. 'In your own words you are pertaining to your town as poor so why should I help you? I am paid for helping Ma'am, I'm not for free.'"
"With that attitude, the old lady turned into Bathala and gave Oswag a prophecy. 'When the last of your kin rules this land, the waters will eat this ground whole and you'll be turned into fishes.'"
Gasps were heard among us as Dad continues the tale.
"Oswag did not believe that and shot him with a poisoned arrow but he hit nothing as Bathala went back to the sky without a trace. Suddenly the ground shook and opened it's jaws of rocks and earth. It swallowed the chieftain and his men but only one soldier survived to tell the news to the little town."
"Poor Aminaya, she helped the old woman but the leader became a meanie!" I hugged Stacy as she got sad of the story.
"When the wise young lady heard the news, she got sad too for the old woman, just like how you felt Stacy. And with it, she planted a tree near the burial site to remember the good soul that the arrogant leader killed. Oswag's son succeeded his father eventually. As the months passed, a mound grew on Oswag's burial site becoming a big mountain over the years. The people would often be asked of the mountain's name and called it Oswag's Mound. Aminaya's kin still lived on the edge of town until the prophecy came so her home is saved from the water. Some of the townsfolk transferred near her place to live when the catastrophe ended. The witty lady's descendants and neighbors became the first people of our town we have now. Oswag's Mound became known as Asog to merchants and travellers as they can't seem to say the chieftain's name right. The name stuck even after it erupted that's why we call it Mt. Asog."
Dazzled looks were exchanged between my family and I as the story ended. Stacy with her little signature yawn told us that it's bedtime already so we huddled back again to wait for the electricity to come back and to be back to school again.
Looking back at Aminaya's actions, I realized hospitality is not really studied but learned and being given to people needing it. Thieves are not allowed in her home because they wreck havoc while people who need help are welcome just as long as they do not exploit the hospitality they were given.
To Oswag's attitude, he is wary but he should not go beyond accusing someone he doesn't know. Surely, Dad taught us the wise way to which we have been doing since then. And as Joan D. Chittister said, "hospitality is simply love on the loose." I say, it should stay that way.