"Oof! Sorry," Tiffy said tripping on something she never expected. A black cat laid flat on its tummy a few inches away from where she sat editing a report for one of her classes. She squatted in front of it.
"I'm sorry I didn't notice you, sweetheart." Pats and strokes soothed the kitty making it purr in gratitude. Gracefully, it sat into a loaf and looked at Tiffy with curiosity.
As soon as she stopped stroking, the feline began staring at her. She casually looked at it back with a questioning look. "Okay?" As she stared at it deeper, her surroundings begin to cave in and warp into swirls as if she's entered a portal to another dimension. A terrible quake also tossed her to sit on the ground.
"What is happening?" The girl shut her eyes tight, gripped some grasses around her and breathed deeply, calming herself. "Relax, Tiffy. Inhale, exhale. This'll pass."
Slowly, she squinted, peeping under her lashes. "Is it over?" she thought. First thing she saw was grass and a shadow of something on the grass. With this, she fully opened her eyes and traced her sight from the shadow upward. "Kitty!"
The black feline was still there but instead of the building of her college department at the back of the balete tree she was facing, a large expanse of field and trees were scattered in the area.
"Where am I?" she asked herself. The cat jumped to her right shoulder. Being anxious, she grabbed and carried the cat in her arms instead. She noticed that her garb looked different. "Is this...?"
Confused, she listened if there is a stream somewhere and found one about 10 yards away from the balete tree. "This brook is not as clean as before and sometimes it smells terrible with trash. What just happened here?"
As Tiffy eyed her garb and kneeled on the ground, she noticed it was different. "A baro't saya? Am I really in the dark 300 years of Philippine history or a much later time perhaps?"
The cat looked at her and laughed. "I heard you saying that your country's past is ridiculous so I want you to see what your past looked like."
Hearing its voice, Sita threw the cat off of her and screamed. "YOU WHAT? And how can you speak? What is going on here? Am I going insane? Or are you CGI?"
"I've always spoke, you humans just don't understand me. But in actuality you can, especially here, for you have babaylan blood." The cat landed on its paws on the ground and sat with its hind legs. Its right front paw was moving as if a human is explaning with its hand gestures.
Tiffy's jaw just dropped. "Hey, are you still with me?" The cat slapped her cheek at least thrice.
"Ouch, that's unnecessary!" She carried the cat on both hands by its sides. "Of course I am. Why here though and how can I get out of this dimension?"
"How to get out? According to the laws of babaylans, if you ever successfully learn and help in a given situation, you may surpass your challenge. And that means, by learning in history and helping, you can go back to the present. Easy, right?" the cat grinned.
"That is just plain crazy! How would I do that when I have no clue what to do at all?" Tiffy angrily shook the cat with all her might as her frustration boiled.
"Figure it out. I'm here to guide you to it, if you want."
"So you're gonna be like my spirit animal?" The girl desperately sighed and looked at the cat defeated.
"In a way, yes. Your spirit animal, Tiffy. By the way, my name is Habagat." A friendly smile showed on the cat's face.
"How did you know my name? Well I won't call you Habagat. You look more like Dagtum to me." Tiffy's right eyebrow shot upward and a mischievous smile appeared on her lips.
"Ugh, why do you have to make it so obvious?" Habagat frowned and wriggled off the girl's grasp turning its back at her.
"Kidding aside, what's the name of this place, Habagat?" The girl observed her surroundings.
"This is Albay. Don't you remember? The road is that way." Habagat pointed his paw toward his left. "That's the highway in your timeline beyond that grove of trees."
"Well then, let's explore history at its peak." Tiffy carried her familiar and tried to walk fast with her clothes that felt so foreign to her.
During the long walk, the two talked about anything and everything even how Habagat's language will never be understood by other people in that dimension.
"Did you know that I have not worn anything like this heavy, itchy and too-warm-for-my-expense dress ever since we celebrated Buwan ng Wika yearly at school?" The girl gathered her skirts and was walking almost unladylike towards the edge of the grove.
"That's how conservative they are here." Habagat sneered when he saw how she walked with her clothes. "Tired with your saya?"
"Is it not that obvious, Sir Apparently-A-Jerk?" The frown upon her face was replaced when she saw that they reached the highway. "We're here. Now we wait for someone to take us to town."
A travelling cart got near them after about an hour of waiting. "Sir! May I hitch a ride on your cart to downto–er–plaza?" Tiffy hollered loud enough for the man to hear her.
"Oh, are ye lost or somethin', Señorita?" the friendly driver asked her back.
"In a way, yes. I and my cat may be lost. So, can I please hitch a ride? I will pay you once I arrive there."
"Yes, ye may, young lass."
"Thank you very much, sir." Tiffy sat at the back of the cart with her cat.
"What a cute gray cat ye have there, Miss!"
"Ah, yeah. Yes, I guess." She grinned with doubt at the driver. The lady looked at her familiar and saw that it actually changed colors before the man passed them by. "Camouflaging?"
Habagat nodded and whispered, "Ever since the Spaniards came, they hated on the black cats because they think it means evil."
"Oh, you poor thing." Tiffy stroked the feline's fur and hugged it.
"Ye seem close with the cat, Señorita," the driver tried to have a small talk with the girl he will be dropping off in the town square.
"Yes, Ulap has been with me ever since my parents left me with a fortune I never needed."
Habagat slapped his forehead looking away from the driver and pretended to clean his fur. "Won't you just tell the man the truth?"
"If I do, then they'll throw me in a mental institution," she whispered to the cat.
"Alright you win. But I will never tolerate that."
The ride lasted about an hour too with the carabao driven cart.
"Thank you so much for dropping me off here, sir. I owe you a lot. I'd be at your service when you need it," Tiffy slightly bowed and smiled waving at the man as he tipped his buri hat and continued to his destination.
"Now, what?" She looked around and found a boy selling newspapers. "Oooh. This would be informative."
"October 22, 18-WHAT?" Tiffy thought and surprised herself with the date she entered the dimension. "This is crazy indeed."
The lass looked around her surroundings and walked away from the newspaper stand.
"What happened next, grandma? Did Tiffy escape?" A little boy of about four years old eagerly stared at his grandma for the continuation of Tiffy's story.
"Let's continue by tomorrow, shall we? It's almost late. You should sleep, iho. I will wait for your parents in the living room. They'll be here soon after the party." His grandmother tucked him in bed and kissed his forehead.
When the old woman got out of the kid's bedroom, a black cat approached her. A smile appeared on her lips. "Hello, old friend. Are you fetching me now to go with you to the next world?"
"Maybe tomorrow would be a better day for it. I'll aid you in waiting for your daughter and her husband's arrival before we go to the next world." The cat grinned purring and rubbing his fur against the lady's leg.
"Well then, join me in watching some movies."
As soon as the old lady sat on one of the couches, the cat sat on her lap too and curled itself. "I feel sleepy, Habagat. Let's try to get some while my daughter is not here yet."
By around ten in the evening, the couple arrived and found the old lady snoring herself in the couch. "Let's not wake her up, sweetie. She's been through a long day."
The younger lady told her husband to carry old Tiffy in bed in the guest room. Tucking the old lady, the younger woman kissed her mother again and saw a smile pass through the sleeping woman's lips. "Good night, Mom."
The next morning, a cat's purr from the guest room woke the young couple up. It wasn't a cry for help or a wail but a happy one as if someone was playing with the cat. Alarmed, the young couple opened the door and found old Tiffy, resting peacefully with a smile but lifeless.