The Sagala


It is the month of May again and a lot of people are busy for it is a month of celebration. May is the month of happiness. It is the month of a handful of fiestas in our country. The streets are crowded, parades are held and people prepare for the town salu-salo. This setting is very much familiar in the provinces where fiestas are often held. But not everyone enjoys these fiestas. Like Grinch during Christmas, some people do not take value of these at all.

The town of San Ignacio was known for its grand fiestas. Especially during May, it is famous for its colorful “Sagala”. The Sagala was a commemoration of the time when the crowned-prince Constantine and Reyna Elena sought to find the cross in which Jesus Christ was crucified. It was sometimes held the whole week. The opening parade was held at night time. Led lights are glimmering with colorful and lighted arcs. The titles were placed at the middle of each arc. Every person is out of the street watching the beautiful ladies in their long gowns and handsome gentlemen in their well-knitted Barongs.

“Oh how adorable the opening parada is!” Nanay Ruffa exalted.

“Cut it out mama, stop talking to yourself” cried Berto who was watching his favorite anime.

“Hey there now Berto instead of watching those cartoons, why don’t you just watch the art of Sagala?”

“But Anime is an art too!  It is done with great detail by artists and they also teach various lessons!”

“Wow look who’s talking? Really eh? I dare you to give me at least five lessons you have learned from watching anime.”

“Number one, “Dragonball Z” and other sports anime such as “Captain Tsubasa” and “Slam Dunk” taught me that giving up is not an option. Number two, “Naruto” taught me that friendship is very much important for life. Number three, “Detective Conan” taught me that the truth shall set you free. Number four “Yakitate Japan” showed me that creativity is a key to necessity. And lastly number five, “Curious Play” taught me that love is boundless. Satisfied mom?”

Nanay Ruffa was stunned. She was speechless on how her son answered. The balcony was silenced. Only the laughter and chitchat of the crowd on the streets were heard. Finally, the silence was broken

“Sometimes I really think that I have raised a very stubborn and impolite son!” Nanay Ruffa shouted

But it seems that Berto did not hear her at all. What a stubborn child he was! His headphones were stuck on his ears and again he’s back to his “world.” It is the world apart from our world, the world of anime and cartoons. But who could blame Berto? Anime is what all he had. He had been engaged into anime when his mom and dad separated. But who could blame his parents. In this life, it was a sin to leave your spouse but for Berto’s family, it was worse to force two people to stay in a relationship forever. Berto understood the situation. He knew it was unbearable for his family to be together.

 For Berto, being the only child was absurd. He knew no friend at all. Well he had friends back in primary school but those years were the worse years for he was teased a lot. Well some kids just misunderstood him and they never will unless they knew how painful it was for Berto. Only God knew his pains, his desires and his dreams. But Berto did not know that God knew him. He was lost in his childhood.

It was midnight and the television was still on. The empty streets were now crowded with spirits. They were whispering to the wind. No mortal was insight.  Every man was dreaming about his harvest and every woman dreamt of beauty. Well not Berto. Berto, the manila boy was wide awake, watching the last few episodes of “The World God Only Knows.” Half an hour had passed and the spirit of sleep whispered to Berto’s consciousness. Bed was calling him and any minute now, his eyes were about to close but in a snap, and the sandman was gone.

“Once again I tricked sleep!” Berto laughed.

“But I guess it is too late to watch an anime. Oh well who cares? Better late than never” Berto got up again and turned on his laptop

“Who needs to attend a parade anyway? It is nothing but a beauty pageant! Fame is the key for success. What do I have to do with real life beauty? I am already satisfied with anime! The girls there are cute and nonetheless they do have personality. It is a miracle for me to replace anime anyway. And in this world, there are no miracles.”

Berto thought to himself while waiting for his laptop to start-up. But Berto was unfortunate. He fell asleep even before the laptop started.

Berto then had an unusual dream. He dreamt of the Sagala. But to his surprise, he represented Constantine. The Reyna Elena’s face was blurred but she wears a white long gown. Her face was as white as pearl and it was as smooth as silk. Oh how he wished it was not a dream. But it was a dream after all. He was awaken by the nagging of his sister, Alice

“Mom, mom! Berto won’t wake-up!” Shouted Alice

“Stay away Freeza or else, I Goku, will give you a Kamehameha!” Exclaimed Berto.

“Let him be! If he does not want to prepare for the fiesta, then let him be!” Nanay Ruffa shouted angrily.

“Oh brother, you really waste a lot of time” Said Alice while turning away.

Waste of time? It was a never a waste of time for Berto. He was having fun anyway, that’s what he thought. Having fun depended on the person itself, doesn’t it? Berto got off his bed and tried to reach for his laptop when suddenly the whole household heard a terrible scream.

“Manang Ruffa! Are you home? Oh please Manang Ruffa answer us!”

It was Hermana Cynthia, a the committee head of Sagala. She has dedicated her life to God since her senior years. It could be seen in her eyes that she was in big trouble

“What is it Hermana? You are earlier than the earliest bird! What brings you here?” Nanay Ruffa exclaimed.

“Manang Ruffa! We need a new pair for Constantine and Elena!” the worried Hermana answered.

“Why? What happened to the siblings, Kiko and Anabelle? Weren’t they any good?” Nanay Ruffa asked while roasting a whole chicken.

“Kiko and Anabelle went back to Manila for an emergency! Their parents called them back for they have to visit their grandpa who was very ill” Replied Hermana Cynthia.

“That is a big problem Hermana but where could we get a new pair? It would be hard for us now because almost all people in the barrio were assigned with their specific job” Nanay Ruffa worried.

“Well I sorted the problem out for Reyna Elena, my granddaughter just arrived from Manila this morning and I asked her if she could participate on this year’s sagala and she agreed without a doubt”

“So the problem now is for Constantine —-“

“Ineng! Come here Ineng please take the food here!” the Hermana shouted

A girl appeared at the door step. She was skinny and had a pale white skin. Her face was covered with long bangs and  her pocket was stuffed with a small pocket book. At that time Berto was about to fetch some water from the poso and his mother caught-up with him.

“Berto! Berto it is.” Cried Nanay Ruffa

“What? But, bu—–“

“No buts Berto, you will lend us a hand or else —“

“Or else what?” Challenged Berto.

“You will return to your father. If you want to stay with me, follow my rules. I know you don’t want that to happen, do you Berto?”

Berto was speechless. He could not argue with it. His anime was his life and he could only watch anime with her mom. His dad was a dictator, a hitler, a military leader of a family. He was heartless towards children. That was the reason why Berto did not want to be with his dad. This was one thing that he hated about reality.

“Okay fine, just for this week” Berto agreed.

“So it is settled then” Nanay Ruffa smiled with ease.

 She did not want for Berto to be with his father either. She knew it would be hard for Berto but she had to do this. Berto should learn an important lesson. She did not know what it was but something was telling her that this was the right decision.

Rehearsals were scheduled and Berto had to attend them all. He had nothing to do important though. He just needed to escort this girl. This girl who was never been introduced to her properly. They were paired according to their escorts and Berto was paired with Hermana Cynthia’s granddaughter.

The granddaughter seemed to be a bit shy. She was very uncommunicative. She was a bookworm. It was awkward for both of them. On the third day, Berto finally mustered enough courage to break the ice between them.

“Hi my name is Berto. How are you? Berto asked.

The girl did not reply. But she smiled at Berto.

“Is there something wrong with my face?” Berto asked.

“No, I just found it amazing that there is still a man inside you after hiding it for three days” The girl answered.

“What do you mean?” Berto asked again.

“It seems to me that your heart has been closed for years. Your eyes told me so. Those are eyes who gave-up on reality. Probably you are in one of your deepest setbacks in life now—- oh by the way, I am Evangeline, just call me Eva for short” Eva answered.

“You know nothing okay? You don’t know me” Berto insisted.

“I know because I was once like that even until now. Books have been my setback when my mom and dad died. A book is wonderful you know? It brings you to various worlds. A book is gate to a lot of insights, a lot of themes, a lot of views and perspectives but it is not the reality.” Eva replied

“If reality is a book, then it is the worst book ever written!” Berto laughed. “Or for me, it might be the worst anime ever produced!” Berto added while chuckling.

“You’re funny don’t you know that? And that is the reality.” Eva told her. Berto laughed with her.

“Just remember you could give up on reality, but you should never give up on the people around you and of course yourself” Eva added.

“I guess reality has some good points too” he thought. “By the way I am Berto sorry for my late introduction” Berto said

“It is ironic that I knew who you are first before knowing your name” Eva smiled. “But you know what Berto? Reality for me is the second best world” Eva added

“Then what is your first then?” Berto asked curiously

“My best world is my ideal world” Eva replied

“What is your ideal world then?” Berto asked eagerly

“It is personal Berto. In my case, a book is an ideal world. I guess in your perspective, anime is the ideal world” Eva guessed.

And she was no doubt right! She saw through Berto. She knew that Berto was an anime addict. Berto then realized that she was one bright girl. Her light was glimmering and it seemed that darkness was beginning to subside on Berto’s heart. He was startled. No words could express how Bero admired her. He was stricken with this girl’s light.

The bell rang and it ended the day’s rehearsal. Still he had not seen Eva’s face. It was covered with long bangs. It was the last day of rehearsals. The participants needed to rest for the next two days for them to prepare properly. That night, he did not open his laptop. At around nine in the evening he took the night off but he did not sleep until it was half past eleven. He was at his bed, thinking.  He was thinking of what Eva told her.  Could it be true that he was wrong? There was nothing wrong with anime anyway? It made him happy and what was wrong with that? We live to be happy anyway, didn’t we? That was the last thing he thought before he fell asleep.

The next day, Berto was up early. Nanay Ruffa and Alice were shocked when they found out that Berto was already awakened. Berto visited Eva’s house. When he arrived there, he did not found Eva but Hermana Cynthia was there.

“You are early, cool boy” Laughed Hermana Cynthia while trying to sound “bagets”

“I am looking for Eva, manang, have you seen her?” Berto asked

“Oh Eva you asked? She was out to deliver newspaper. You know, she was a very industrious girl. It was my job to deliver newspaper in the barrio but she presented herself to do it.” Hermana proudly told Berto.

Berto then noticed Eva’s collection of books. There were a lot of them, from classics such as Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Les Miserables, Tale of Two Cities, and The Old Man and The Sea, to contemporary novels such as Catcher in the Rye, The Great Gatsby and To Kill a Mockingbird. She also had a lot of Filipino books like Florante at Laura, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo and more short story books. Berto saw the cover page of each book and it seemed that each book was a new world. Then he remembered the cover of the anime and cartoons that he had watched. Each of them had its own world to show. Each had its own perspective to give.

By the time Eva arrived at eight, Berto had already left the house. Hermana Cynthia told Eva that Berto looked for her.

Berto was busy the whole day. He did not touch his laptop and he locked himself from the whole household the whole day. Nanay Ruffa, worrying about Berto prepared his Barong and pants for tomorrow’s Sagala.

The night was silent and the wind again blew gently on the leaves of the trees. Berto retired at eight in the evening. A big smile was drawn on his face. He was excited for tomorrow’s Sagala. For the first time, Berto was excited for something in real life.

The Sagala night came. Everyone was ready. The arcs sparkeled in the night sky and the participants walked down the streets with beauty and glamour. Berto was waxing his hair when Hermana Cynthia called his name.

“Berto, it is your turn!” Hermana Cynthia cried while fixing Eva’s hair

Berto then went to the back of the line to wait for Eva. The parade has finally started. Berto was very curious. He was curious. What kind of face does Eva have?  He had not seen Eva’s face for until now the bangs were covering her it. The parade lasted for an hour and every participant went to every place in the barrio. The parade ended with the curiosity baffling on Berto’s mind.

“Uhmm uhh E—“ Berto Stuttered

“Yes Berto?” Eva replied

“Could we hang-out just a second, I want to give you something” Berto was blushing. For the first time Berto was embarrassed!

“Sure” Eva replied

While they were walking down the alley, Eva unexpectedly stumbled upon a stone and she fell. Berto was shocked. The moon lightened up Eva’s silky, pearl, white skin. Her eyes glowed like the bright stars at night. The face of an anime character! It was the face of the Reyna Elena in Berto’s dream! Berto was startled. His face turned red from pink. Berto’s heart was pumping more blood than he expected. Eva turned red too. She was embarrassed for her face. A face that for the first time glimmered with light!

“Uhmm Eva, please accept this token. It is a bookmarker that I made. Thank you for making me realize what I never saw in my life” Berto said while blushing

“T—Thank you Berto. I really do appreciate this.” Eva replied humbly.

“Shall I see you again Eva?” Berto asked eagerly.

“I don’t know Berto, but would please drop by at my house tomorrow?” Eva pleaded.

“Sure Eva, it would be nice!” Berto seemed to be excited.

That night Berto was very happy. He went to sleep immediately so he can see Eva the next day.

The next day came and Berto immediately went to Eva’s house. Again, Hermana Cynthia welcomed Berto.

“You are early again Berto!” Hermana Cynthia exclaimed

“Good Morning po Hermana Cynthia. Is Eva around? Berto was excited.

“You’re too late Berto. Eva already left this morning for Manila. But she left you a book.” Hermana told him.

Berto’s heart was crushed! He will not be able to see Eva’s face again. He held in his hand a book.  It was covered with various gift wraps. But he noticed more the picture frame of Eva. Eva’s face was different from what Berto saw last night. Eva was actually a bit darker. She has smaller eyes and her face was not perfect at all! Was it only Berto’s imagination? He too did not know.

After a week had passed, Berto went back to his routine. He watched anime again. He was on the final episode of “The World God Only Knows”

“I have given up on reality, but I never gave up on myself” The television sounded.

It did ring a bell! Berto heard this from someone he knew. It was Eva. Yes it was Eva. He then took the book and when Berto scrape off the gift wrapping cover, it was a comic manga of “The World God Only Knows.” In it was a picture of Eva and Berto during the Sagala. Eva looked like the girl in the frame. And then there was a note:

            Dear Berto,

            Thank you for this wonderful week you spent with me. It was very exciting and although you have only known each other for about two days, you did not hesitate to show me the man inside you. I was a bit hopeless that I could ever talk to you but I was wrong. You may not know it but you actually changed my view of life. The moment you talked to me, you filled the gap inside my heart. It was gap that was caused by the death of my parents. I hope that I also helped in your life. I hope that I changed your view of life.

                                                                                                                                                            Sincerely, Eva

Berto had been crying when he finished reading the note. He never knew that he could have an impact on reality. He cannot explain how it happened. How his view of Eva changed. Was it his curiosity? No, it was the miraculous element called love that filled the gap in his heart.

Berto thought of anime again. He realized the most important thing about anime. Anime could be his ideal world but he could never have it because the world was full of imperfections. Berto realized that the reality was the closest world to his ideal world. For the reality was an ideal world in a different perspective. Reality was perfected with the miracle called love.

It was the month of May, the month of celebration and the month of happiness. It was the month of miracle for Berto. It was the month that changed his view on this hopeless world called reality.