Through their eyes
A loud thud echoed throughout the classroom and heads snapped towards the wooden figure at the table.
Mrs. Reyes stood behind it, sporting a small smile at the triumph of getting our attention.
"Does anyone know what this is?",she asked. I recognized the small carving but didn't raise my hand. Unfortunately, it looked like Mrs. Reyes saw my familiarity with the object because she immediately called my name.
I reluctantly stood up and whispered, "Bul'ul". I sat down quickly afterwards. I didn't really like reciting.
"What did she say? Bulol? ", a classmate of mine said, snickering. Bulol meant stutterer.
"Makoy, It's BUL-UL not BU-LOL", my teacher clarified.
"What if i told you...", she trailed off for dramatic effect before continuing, "that there's a ghost in here".
I mentally rolled my eyes at her words, but it seemed to pique my classmates' interest.
"This Bul'ul came from the Ifugao Province. The Ifugao people treat these with utmost care and respect.", she lectured.
"Why? I mean, that thing is just ugly!", a girl classmate of mine said in disgust, eyeing the black statue.
"Hey! It is not ugly!", my teacher said, defending the object and even going so far as to cover its ear.
Once she was sure that no one would insult the statue anymore, she removed her hands from its ears and continued, "These are statues of Ifugao gods".
"As you know, the Ifugaos are known for their excellent agriculture. See for example, the ingenious engineering of the Banaue Rice Terrace by the Ifugao ancestors", she lectured.
"They believe they owe their agricultural luck to the guardian spirits in these Ifugao gods", she said while gesturing towards the Bul'ul.
"They have to treat these right or else the gods will be angered and they would suffer", she added.
"So these agriculture spirits are the ghosts you were saying?", a classmate asked.
"No. You see, there is another belief about the Bul'ul", Mrs. Reyes answered.
"While some have Bul'ul in their household for the agricultural blessings, some have Bul'ul because they believe that the spirits of their ancestors reside there", she explained.
"They believe their ancestors watch over them through the eyes of these statues and they felt safer with the Bul'ul in their household", she explained.
I thought back to the Bul'ul statues we have back at home. My father was one of those who believed that our ancestors' spirit were in those small black statues. When he went to the city, he brought those statues with him so they could continue to watch over him and his future family: us.
He was extremely protective over them and almost worshipped them. I, on the other hand, just found them extremely creepy. I also found the thought of being watched constantly by multiple spirits, very unsettling.
"Nowadays, outside of Ifugao Province, these gods are simply seen as important works of Philippine cultural art. These are highly valuable and can be seen in different museums and collections.", she added.
She then instructed a classmate to distribute plastics of dark grey clay around to all of us.
"Your task now is to create your own Bul'ul using clay. You may search online for reference. Submission is on Monday, but you may begin now."
I immediately set to work with my Bul'ul. I didn't need to search for reference because I was very much familiar with the object. I just visualized the statues back at home and tried to mold the clay as close as I can to the image in my head.
That was easier said than done. The thing in my hand was getting uglier and uglier. However, thinking about it, the thing was naturally ugly so maybe I was actually doing great.
I continued working on the clay figure as my classmates chatted. By the end of class, I somehow managed to make it look like a Bul'ul.
I looked at it and joked at the object, "Now what? Will a spirit suddenly posses you?". I suddenly felt a slight hum from the clay figure, but that was probably just me imagining things.
I tried to pass it to Mrs. Reyes when I realized I couldn't put it in my bag and I didn't want to carry it all the way home. Unfortunately, she only told me to bring it home and pass it on Monday with everyone else. She said I could also do more to improve my project.
I only grumbled in reply before walking out the door. Luckily, she was the last teacher I had for this Friday so I immediately went home. Some people looked at the clay figure I was carrying and I tried to hide in my hands.
I arrived to an empty household. My parents were out working and my siblings probably had extracurricular activities after their classes. For now, I was on my own with many creepy statues.
I quickly placed my Bul'ul along with the other Bul'ul and set to change my clothes. I also cooked dinner and ate my share before going to my room to drown myself in research.
My head was pounding with all the effort it exerted, constantly coming up with jargons to make the research sound smart. It didn't help that my group mates were so busy with their love life or social media life to actually care about our grades like I did.
Knocks came from my bedroom door and I looked behind me to see my father holding my Bul'ul.
"This belongs here", my father said, placing the Bul'ul on the space beside my laptop.
"But that thing's creepy and it should be with the other Bul'ul", I protested even if I knew I wouldn't succeed in my plea.
"It's a fake. It doesn't belong with our ancestor's statues.", he explained , lightly patting my project.
"Anyway, thanks for dinner! Good night sweetie", he said, lightly kissing the top of my head.
I smiled at him as he left. As soon as the door closed, I tried to get back to work, but was unable to because I felt like someone was watching me. That could be my paranoia with a Bul'ul nearby. I still tried to get some work done, but I soon realized I was getting nowhere.
I decided to just let sleep take me away. I crawled to my bed and made sure that the Bul'ul was facing in the opposite direction before I could allow myself to drift asleep.
I suddenly felt myself being shaken awake.
"5 more minutes, ma", I groaned. I felt like I only slept for a second. Scratch that. I felt like I never slept at all!
I was shaken with more force so I reluctantly pushed myself to sit up. I rubbed my eyes open and was surprised to see no one there. I looked at the clock by the wall and saw it was midnight.
I was instantly alert and looked around my room. I was sure someone shook me awake. I never woke up on my own in the middle of the night!
My heart was pounding fast and I covered myself in a blanket even if it was hot.
I had a strong suspicion on what really woke me up, but I refused to believe it. My eyes slowly found their way to the Bul'ul which was now facing me.
I stood up and away from the bed, inching my way towards the door. I was fully awake and ready to make a run for it.
I found myself next to the door and I was about to turn the handle when I felt something stopping my hand from moving.
"May I borrow your body?", a female voice asked.
I tried to scream but found I had no voice. I tried to scream again but no matter how hard I tried, no sound came out of my mouth.
If I was scared before then I was absolutely terrified now. I tried pulling at the door but it just would not budge.
"Sweetie!", the voice called out
"Don't be afraid! I won't hurt you!", the voice said in a "comforting" tone.
"That's what killers say to lure out their victims!", I thought to myself.
"Oh my! You sweet, sweet young lady! I'm no killer", the voice said in an amused tone.
"Wait... You can hear my thoughts?", I ask in my mind.
"Well, obviously! Anyway may I borrow your body?", the voice asked again.
"Oh my gosh! There's a voice in my head! I'm mad! I'm being possessed." I started to pray in my mind.
"I wouldn't call it possession since I would just be borrowing it for a few moments.", the voice asked.
"No! You can't borrow my body! Who are you anyway? Why can't I speak? Are you going to kill me?", I asked the voice in my head.
"Please don't kill me! I'm still young and I have a lot I still want to do in my life!", I pleaded desperately.
"Young lady! How many times do I need to tell you that I don't have any intention to kill you?", the voice said with obvious irritation.
"What do you want with me then? My soul?", I asked the voice
The voice sighed before saying, "Will you please calm down and let me explain everything?"
Knowing I had no choice but to comply if I wanted this to end, I nodded, walking towards the bed. I sat myself down and prepared myself to listen to an actual ghost's story.
"Now.. where do I begin?", the voice said thoughtfully.
"So things went like this: I was a vague consciousness. For how long, I don't know. It could be years, decades or centuries. I was barely there. I felt like the wind but I only seemed to roam around this barangay. I have this strong feeling like I had to find something", the voice started to explain.
"Then, earlier this afternoon, I felt a tug pulling at my consciousness. I felt myself being pulled until my spirit landed on this clay figure of yours. All my consciousness seemed to condense in this statue and now I am able to think normally."
"What does this have to do with my body?", I asked
"Well, remember when I said I have a strong feeling to find something? I feel like I'm getting so close and you are the only way I could find it", the voice said enthusiastically.
"Can we just find what you're looking for without you possessing my body?", I asked the voice.
"I suppose that could also be an option, but how? Will you flaunt the Bul'ul around?"
"Yes. How would you know you find what you're looking for?", I asked.
"I reckon I would get this tingly feeling", the voice sounded unsure.
"Tingly feeling?", I asked
"I can't explain it! All i know is that if I'm near it I'd know", the voice said with a bit more conviction.
"Okay...", I trailed off unconvinced.
"So, later we'll walk through the barangay and roam around until you get a tingly feeling. Okay, that's not weird at all", I thought.
"Think about it, sweetie. If I find what I'm looking for later, you'd be rid of me quick!", the voice said.
"Fine.", I answered in agreement. The bed was suddenly pulling me into its arms and I barely had time to whisper a goodnight before I was out.
I woke up earlier than my usual for a Saturday morning. I felt irritation radiating from the Bul'ul. I couldn't hear its voice anymore but I think it wanted me to hurry so we could start searching.
"Just wait, please. At least let me eat my breakfast", I whispered to the statue.
My family was very surprised to see me up and early. I told them I had to go out for a group performance task practice at a classmate's house. We actually had plans for a practice but it got cancelled because our classmate had a family emergency. It was a good thing my parents didn't know about the cancellation or else I would be stuck at home doing chores all day.
I took a bath, got dressed and ate my breakfast quickly with the excuse of running late for practice.
I grabbed the Bul'ul and stashed it in my bag before running out towards the barangay marker. I figured we should start at the entrance of the barangay and making our way towards the end.
When we reached the barangay marker, I pulled the Bul'ul out.
It still wasn't speaking, but I felt its eagerness to start.
"Let's go?", I asked the statue. I felt a light hum which encouraged me to begin walking around the barangay.
I would point towards a direction and ask if we should take it. The Bul'ul would agree with a light hum and disagree with a deep hum.
I was passing through the barangay's playground when the humming from the Bul'ul in my hands became frenzied. I got excited since that meant she was having the tingly feeling.
I walked around the park with the Bul'ul acting like a metal detector until we struck gold. It turns out goldie was the classmate who had a family emergency.
She seemed to have been crying but tried to hide it when she saw me. She tried to force a smile but failed miserably.
Knowing she needed a friend, I immediately sat beside her.
"Need to talk?", I asked.
"It's Lola Lauren", she started.
"She fainted earlier. We were worried sick. She doesn't want to go to the doctors.", she told me, crying again. I put my arm around her shoulders and pulled her in a side hug.
"She told me she doesn't want to take drugs. When it's her time to go, it will be her time to go", she continued before full-on sobbing.
"I think Lola is just excited to see her sister again.", my classmate said after calming down a bit.
"When did her sister die?", I asked.
"Lola's sister died when she was in high school. Lola has missed her ever since", she shared.
"Lola told me that even if she dies, she would watch over us, like how she knew her sister and ancestors were watching over her", she continued.
She finally noticed the Bul'ul in my hand which had gone silent the entire time my classmate was talking.
"Is that a Bul'ul?", she asked. I nodded my head.
"How did you know that?", I asked.
"Oh. We have a lot of these at home. Lola said she already had a Bul'ul prepared for when her time comes. She claimed her spirit would watch over us with her Bul'ul", she explained sadly.
I realized what I had to do.
"This is for your lola", I told my classmate, placing my Bul'ul in her hands. My Bul'ul hummed happily before it left my hands.
"Huh? W-why?", my classmate asked, startled at the gift.
"I have a strong feeling your lola would appreciate it. Trust me", I told her with a reassuring smile.
My classmate still held the statue, unsure, but gave me a small smile. Somehow, I knew she was feeling comfort from the Bul'ul.
We got up and I decided to walk her home. Her lola was sitting in a rocking chair on their porch. She smiled at us as we arrived at the gate. My classmate thanked me for walking her home and I assured her it was no problem.
I walked away with a smile on my face, happy that the spirit in my Bul'ul found its family and purpose. I had only walked a few steps before I heard my name being called by my classmate.
I saw her lola beside her, holding the Bul'ul in her hands with a bright smile on her face. She mouthed thanks to me and I smiled in return. She looked truly happy, and my classmate looked happy her lola was happy.
There was a new face, barely visible. Beside Lola Laura was a transparent young girl who I knew was the spirit in the Bul'ul. She looked very happy and smiled at me, mouthing thanks like her sister did.
I knew I should go home so I waved them farewell. As I walked on my way home, I suddenly thought,
"I guess I'll need to make another Bul'ul for school"
"No more spirits, please", I pleaded in my head.
She sat on her throne,
carved from demon's bones,
polished with crimson blood.
She was not impassive,
So unlike her father
She always grinned in gory glee
She looked down at her subjects
Or what remained of them
Flesh and bones disarray
She needed fresh blood
So she reached for her father
The Devil...they called him
She cackled in amusement
If he were the Devil
What would she be?
What should we call an evil
Who was greater than he?
He, feared by all, even gods?
Let's think for that another time
For now, she shall bask in triumph
For her turn to rule has come
She suddenly felt a pull
It tugged her away
Up, up and upwards
A mundane kitchen
She found herself there
Quite amusing, she thought
Instead of a throne
She sat on a stool
With backrest's absence
Instead of blood
She was faced with strawberries
Frozen in sweet cream
With as much fervor
As she would show with blood
She drowned herself with pink cold cream
She only later noticed
A poor mortal agape
Such a poor unfortunate soul
You dare summon me?
Asked she, feigning anger
Oh Dad's gonna kill you
She said in a teasing tone
Too bad I killed him first
She was geared up for her new adventure. She made sure she had everything she needed before settling herself for the exciting journey ahead.
She started slow, wanting to savor the moment of freedom. She always found peace in exploring a new place. She always felt like a person anew.
The deeper she ventured, the faster her pace went. She sometimes tripped along the way, with the occasional complaint and annoyance, but she still pushed through, determined to make the most of her adventure.
She fell to the ground one time in absolute frustration, but she saw her destination grow closer. She didn't know if she wanted to crawl or run to it.
The agony grew greater until she couldn't resist and rushed towards her goal.
She growled in frustration and disappointment, and slammed the book shut.
It was an indescribable dream.
I was in a circular room, surrounded by mirrors. I looked both different and the same.
They looked like me. They all wore that same blue sweater and gray shorts. They all had their hair up in a bun and glasses lopsided.
But, they didn't seem like me. One looked at me with these very sad eyes. She looked so tired and depressed; I had to force myself to look away.
One looked at me with a murderous gleam. She sported a mad glint in her eyes and a determined expression as if she wants me to die. I immediately averted my eyes, not daring to look back.
One wasn't looking at me. She was busy. She was making calls with a cell phone (unsurprisingly) just like mine. Knowing there was not much to see, I turned to look at the next reflected "me".
One looked me up and down in disgust. I immediately felt insecure. She looked at me with such contempt and disdain, that I had to look down and look away.
One was crouched in a corner, hugging her knees to her chest. One quick peek was all I gave her, before she buried her face. She was shaking with fright and so I looked no more.
One looked at me, giving me a curious one over. I felt like a piece in a science exhibit. It was unnerving how she seemed to analyze every inch of me, so I had to move on to the next one.
One was smiling brightly and waving at me. She had a healthy glow around her and her aura was so happy I also had to smile.
The last one sent chills to my bones, greater than the murderous reflection. This one was staring at me and I saw nothing in her eyes. She was like a corpse. She felt dead.
Looking back, I now wonder... Which one of them was really me?
Her name was Charlie Anne and she was the cutest teenager I had ever met.
Don't tell her that or else I'd lose my head. *gulps*
All we know about her is that she' a very small human being who speaks like a war veteran and wears pigtails. She puts up a childlike facade but expects everyone to treat her like a serious adult.
She gets frustrated easily so if she's close to her period we all tread carefully. One wrong move and she'll explode worse than a post-dormant volcano.
She's a huge softie for some other things though. She melts for cute or gory comics. Her favorite thing to watch is probably Happy Tree Friends which gave me nightmares.
We didn't know where she was from or who her parents were. When we talk about getting to know each other she'd rudely stop us.
Her name was Charlie Anne and she will forever be remembered as the cutest teenager we all had ever met.
I Need My Bestfriend
I wiped off the sweat that was dripping down my forehead. My grip was tight and my hands were shaky. My vision was blurry and my heartbeat was frenzied. I didn’t know if I could even move past this. Every ounce of my being was holding up red flags about what I was attempting to do. My head was pounding with the danger of losing all of its brain cells.
It was like a million hours before I finally mustered just enough courage to face my nightmare...
...my math homework.
I shivered in fear of the dreaded task. I know math homeworks are almost every student’s fear, but I have a harder time than most.
I believe I should be diagnosed with mathhomeworkophobia with the level of aversion I have with that torture. Unfortunately, I don’t think there are doctors for that sort of thing so I’ll just have to settle for self-diagnosis.
I think I first showed symptoms of mathhomeworkophobia when I was doing my first math homework. At first, I thought I was doing well. The next day when I passed it to the teacher, I realised I wasn’t.
In the beginning, I wasn’t fazed with the bullying. I thought that if I’d try harder and harder I would get things right, and I did get things right, but it was too late.
I was a very slow learner. I was always a year behind my classmates’ math level. I eventually gave up trying to catch up to them and I think my parents are used to see me fail math.
Unfortunately, time came and I had to not fail math or else I would be kicked out of school. Fortunately, I had a very helpful math whiz friend. She always let me copy her homework and would find ways to send me the answers to the tests. She is an absolute pro at helping cheaters. I couldn’t have asked for a better friend.
My miraculous improvement in Math made me a superstar. My parents were dumbfounded and my teachers were impressed. I felt happy that they were finally proud of me even though I didn’t deserve all of their awe.
I owed it all to my best friend.
I was doing well and finally learning to adjust to Math. I guess I was actually learning something from all that copying. All was swell until a tragic day came... my best friend had to move away.
I was on my own.
That was why I am now dreading doing my math homework. If I got it all wrong, I would be more of a laughing stock than I was before my best friend helped me. I couldn’t afford that. How could I show my face to my classmates and family? I would be the black sheep again.
I guess I’ll have to resort to “extreme” measures which I do not know If I will come out of alive.
Launching Operation: Overcome Mathhomeworkophobia.
Phase 1: Studying