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Christmas Lechon(a short story)

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(a short story)

Mother Assumcia had just finished downing a generous serving of roast beef, washing it down with a glass of red wine courtesy of Mrs. Consi, one of the patrons of her convent. Christmas was such a festive season, oh so much food to eat. Licking her chops, Mother Assumcia remembered it would be prayer time shortly. “Goodness! How time flies,” she thought to herself. Oh, but before that she had to make a phone call.
“Mother, please don’t forget our Christmas dinner,” chided Sister Penny, sheepishly patting her overflowing belly which was getting difficult to fit into her nun’s robes, whilst clutching her rosary tightly.
“But of course, Sister Penny!” laughed Mother Assumcia as she hurriedly walked towards her office, remembering the phone call she had to make.
“Good Morning, Letty! This is Mother Assumcia from the Precious Hearts Convent! Dear me, how are you my dear. I’d like to order the usual for our Christmas dinner. Yes, the usual. Same as last year. Oh, but make it three lechons this time. We have some very special guests. Oh yes, thank you very much. I’ll have our Mang Tasio pick it up,” cheerily ended Mother Assumcia.
Getting up from her chair was quite a difficult task. “Dear me, with age it gets hard to lose all these weight and with all this delicious food this Christmas season!”, thought Mother Assumcia while struggling to get up from her chair. Suddenly, she remembered her recent visit to Dr. Lusock and her increased blood pressure. He had told her to cut down her meat intake. “Dear me,” she thought. Patting the creases in her dress, Mother Assumcia rushed to the prayer room. “All the chaos and cruelty in this holiday season,” she silently thought, “all it takes is our prayers. God is listening. God is good.” She confidently patted her scapular, thinking how she and the sisters would pray additional rosaries today for the souls of the SARs victims. “The world needs more prayers,” she muttered to herself, remembering the news on television about some terrorist bombings. “Dear me, it is a pity the British did not succeed in christianizing them, the world needs more missionaries, Catholic martyrs.” She shuddered, then crossed herself before entering the prayer room.


“Juning!,” Letty called from the cashier’s table. “Hey Tasing, would you tell Juning pick up tomorrow from Tiyoy Rootie’s shop, the order we have for lechon. And have Mang Pedro specially prepare the tanlad(lemongrass) leaves for the roasting tomorrow okay. The sucklings especially. They are for the convent ok. Special order.” She shouted then proceeded to apply her make-up.
Tasing lazily nodded and casually walked out of the busy eatery. The place was always jammed and fully packed especially this December. Now he would have to miss his afternoon nap. All these lechon orders were making the people fatter and were making him more busy and tired.


Aling Alicia strode lazily to her piggery farm.
“Botbot, how are the 6 weeks old piglets,” she shouted strolling inside the farm in her dusters.
“Good Afternoon Ma’am. They are still not weaned but they are growing fat,” replied the old man.
“Tonight, have them included for the slaughter. Including those sows okay!” she muttered while absentmindedly checking on the feeds. “Pull up one of the piglets and let me see.”
The old man scampered and hurriedly pulled one tiny pink piglet who was still vigorously sucking milk from his mother. The piglet let out a loud shriek. It was still tiny and small, its delicate pink skin showing translucently over the sparse amount of fur. It had been sleeping contentedly while feeding from its mother.
“Here, Ma’am,” said the old man while scratching his eyebrow.
Aling Alicia felt for its stomach. “But it is so skinny! You have not been feeding them well!” she scowled at the old farmhand.“Ma’am, just this suckling. It’s a sickly one you know. Runt of the litter,” whimpered Botbot, scratching his head more vigorously this time.
“I told you Botbot! These sucklings are for the Nene’s Grill, one of our most consistent customers! And look at these feeds, they are muddy!” she glared at the farmhand who stared at her blankly. The suckling let out another scream as Botbot returned it to the mother sow together with his other siblings.
“Remember tonight ok! These sucklings and those sows, ok. Your Tiyoy Rootie already knows about this,” Aling Alicia shouted while irritatedly walking out of the pigfarm.

“Tell the kids to stop playing okay!” shouted the irritated Mang Tikboy to his wife Tiyay Pinang who was cooking rice. Mang Tikboy was watching TV and had just finished downing his 8th bottle of Red Pilsen beer.
“Hahahaha you lose!” shouted Jepoy while hitting Junjun’s head with his hand. Junjun let out an ear-piercing wail.
Tiyay Pinang went outside to see the commotion and pinched Jepoy’s ear. “Jepjep, you miserable kid! Shut up ok. You father is angry now and wants to sleep!”
Jepoy smiled mischievously like a little devil. Junjun was wailing. Both stepped inside the little hut.
“O, tonight you and Junjun, are you going to work for you’re your Tiyoy Rootie tonight?” asked Tiyay Pinang as she set the table and plates. “Is he still willing to hire you? What did you do the last time, Jepoy? Mang Jomjom told your Tiyoy Rootie you did something bad and he was quite upset at you.”
“Fish again?,”asked Jepoy petulantly, making a scowling face.
“Keep quiet and eat!” shouted Tiyay Pinang. Junjun was still sobbing.
“What happened to the 100 pesos we gave you and Papang last week?”asked Jepoy, looking at his old mother accusingly. The child was just 12 years old but incredibly streetsmart.
“Don’t ask questions. Eat now or you will be hungry later,” mumbled Tiyay Pinang while looking in the direction of her husband Mang Tikboy. “ I don’t know about that man. If he doesn’t stop his drinking habit, he will spend all our money. Then what will Junjun do in the next coming school opening,” she thought worriedly. “Junjun, eat!” she told the 9 year old kid who was still crying.
Jepoy, the robicund and mischievous kid, ate as fast as he could. It would be a busy night for him and Junjun.

Warlito Mendoza was a top executive in his company. Today he has just gotten a promotion. He was on the top of the world, wait till his parents hear of this. He was on his way to his home, an exclusive subdivision, with manicured lawns and pristine surroundings. He swerved his car to the right. He was so elated, he had made the wrong turn. “What road is this,” he thought. There was a wide grayish building beside it and loads of trucks nearby. “Damn I’ll have to make a u-turn,” Warlito thought. He nearly ran over a cow. Two cows. One baby cow. An old man was pulling both cows on ropes where they were tied with nooses on their noses. The baby cow let out a loud moo. The smell of fresh dung filled the air and also moist earth and the smell of farm animals. It was a cool cold night and the wind was extremely chilly. Warlito felt a shiver run down his spine. He looked to the left. There were huge trucks with crates above. Having turned his car to the right, he made a turn for the main road. “What is this, a fiesta?” he wondered thoughtlessly. “What on earth are those crates for and so many men.” Then he realized animals were being unloaded from the crates, some water buffaloes, cows and pigs. The men were sweaty and the air was filled with the smell of moist night earth and animals. Warlito stopped his car, stupefied and curious.
“MOoooooooooo” one cow bellowed staring Warlito eye to eye in the face. The cow had just alighted from the crate inside of the truck and was passing just in front of his car. Warlito almost jumped in his seat, stunned. The cow had just looked him straight in the eye. It left just casually but Warlito was jolted. The man pulling the cow on a noose, glared angrily at Warlito who was sitting in his car. He then pulled the cow towards the rest of the animals who were moving inside the building.
Warlito feeling embarrassed, drove his car away speedily. “Man, that cow startled me.” His cheeks flushed with shock and embarrassment. “What place was that,” he thought, must be careful next time with those detours. I got so excited tonight I hardly saw the road.” He turned back and was on his way back to his safe subdivision. It dawned on him then that it was a slaughterhouse. “So that is what a slaughterhouse looks like,” thinking then that that was the last time he saw that cow that it would be alive. “Oh well animals are for food,” he comforted himself, and drove on to his house. He could hardly wait to tell his parents the good news.


Mang Jomjom was sweating very badly inside the slaughterhouse. The place was crammed and hot. The men were busy and the rest of the animals were coming in. He was Tiyoy Rootie’s trusted overseer, it was a tiring job but the pay was good. The day had just ended for all people but their day had just begun. The night was long and they were just starting their work. “Hey Benum, bring in those pigs hurry up! Those calves and buffaloes later!”

Outside the building, in contrast, the night was extremely cold, the wind blowing wildly against the trees. One could smell the scent of fresh dew and sweet fields from the earth against the cold night air. The animals were slowly dragged inwards to the building. The smell of animal flesh and dung huddled from the crate intermeshing with the sweet dewy night air. The cold wind made the hairs on Benum’s body stand up in goosebumps. Benum pulled the rows of cows inside the building and dragged them to a corner. “Tuting! Keep them steady while I go fetch the pigs,” Benum ordered. The old man complied and lined up the cows and buffalos in one corner while receiving the rest of the cattle which the men were bringing in from the trucks. A calf was standing beside him. It was no more than 2 months old. Standing wobbily on its legs, the calf stared at him with liquid human-like eyes. It was petrified at having been separated from its mother. Tuting was unmindful. “Pesky animals,”he thought, “the stench is unbearable.” For him it was just a daily ritual. The men were bringing in the animals. It would be a long night again.


It was a primitive slaughterhouse without any modern facilities, as was typical of all the provinces in the
Philippines where people still used primitive means in slaughtering. There were some exclusive slaughterhouses run by a handful of International Meat companies but as for ordinary citizens, this was the way slaughterhouses were in every local towns and cities all over.


The place was gray, dark and dingy but the lights were on. The lights were yellowish with a sickening hue, pervading in contrast against the gray greasy walls and floor. Several carcasses were lined up on the left. Men were working on them, cleaning them, cutting them up. The place had a sick nauseating smell of fresh blood, live animal flesh and men’s sweat. The place was infernally hot, the men were partially naked. The yellow lights were unbearably hot but it made for good lighting in the dingy gray room.
Five young men were busy cleaning the hanged carcass of several cows.
“Roc, will you lend me some money tomorrow. The
collectors are coming for me tomorrow,” whispered Mat, a tall thin young man with a white sickly complexion.
“You always keep on borrowing money! Then you waste it all on your gambling debts!,” smirked his companion, Ramon, a black burly middle sized man.
The men were sweaty, the blinding heat of the yellow lights searing through their half naked bodies. They were unmindful of the heat and unmindful of the carcasses they were cleaning, each moving mechanically, cutting, cutting away. Each, busy thinking of the pay they would get after the night ended.

“Bring them in! Bring them in!” Mang Jomjom ordered. Dozens of men came in bringing in several carabaos, cows, and pigs. They were entering the main door of the slaughterhouse. The men pulled the cattle by the ropes. The pigs were dragged forcibly. Several pigs sensing foreboding danger started crying and had to be forcibly dragged in. The cattle quietly entered not putting up any resistance.


Several burly men were getting ready inside. Tonyo took the first sow that came in as it was being dragged in by Benum. The sow was expressionless and blindly followed Benum who had bounded it with a rope on its neck. Buboy took out a butchering knife and without further ado jammed it at the sow’s neck. Pain seized the stunned sow and it let out a bloodcurdling cry. Blood dripped out of its neck,a deep cut but Buboy had missed the bone. Fear gripped the wretched and bewildered animal and it was now panicking. Blood oozing heavily from a gaping hole in its neck, it scampered for dear life, a survival instinct innate to all animals. It made feeble pathetic attempts to kick and run away. However four large men were blocking its path. The sow was bleeding heavily but it feebly ran and cried. The unearthly wails of its cries penetrating the building. But no one could hear. Outside the pit black night and the cold windy breeze amidst the fields.
The night was still young.
“Benum, grab that damn sow will you!”shouted Buboy while still holding the butchering knife. “Stupid sow had got away. This was one of those difficult pigs.” He always hated those pigs that tried to run away. A dozen more pigs were waiting and this one was not going to give him more trouble.
Rony and Ruben cornered the frightened and bleeding sow. It was losing much blood and consciousness. Still, it tried to put up a fight. It was getting disoriented but struggling to escape it was in great pain, a gaping deep wound on its neck.

Benum, a thin but agile young man, grabbed hold of the sow’s belly grasping it tightly with both hands. The sow shrieked and let out loud several cries while making feeble attempts to struggle away. Benum took a butcher’s knife and impaled it on the sow’s neck. The sow’s neck was thick and broad, and much blood spurted everywhere on their faces and bodies as the second blow cut deeper into its neck leaving its raw flesh wide open. They were soaked and drenched in blood. The sow wailed an unearthly sound piercing the entire walls of the building blending with the eerie silence of the cool windy night. By now the sow had grown much weaker. All feeble attempts for escape were futile. Rony, Ruben, Benum and Buboy had the sow cornered and they were determined. The sow had given them enough trouble for the night. The sow, deeply wounded, panicked as it saw the four men closely coming in. It was already half unconscious and its vision was blurring but its innate instinct clung on for hopeless survival. Buboy took out the butchering knife and severed a deep blow on the sow’s neck. It struck the bone this time. Blood was gushing in huge volumes. The pungent stench of raw fresh blood was all over them drenching their sweating bodies wet with fresh blood. A ghastly mixture of sweat, raw flesh, and fresh blood permeated the hot atmosphere. The aura of fear from the dying animal’s shivering flesh filled the surroundings. Filled with sheer terror the sow urinated and defecated simultaneously. A piercing cry emanated from the sow’s much exhausted and collapsing body. It was thoroughly exhausted now and lay helpless in Ruben and Rony’s hands. Benum plummeted its neck with full force from his knife, cutting twisting the knife in all directions, cutting, cutting, cutting with brute force and cutting the edge of the sow’s neck bone. Several succeeding wails, bloodcurdling and beseeching until it grew into soft moans while Benum and Buboy alternately hacked the neck with brute force until it was completely and thoroughly severed. The sow’s body now lay on the floor, death had silenced it. Silence filled the room. It was completely still now. A heavy pool of blood streaked the grayish floor, painting it bright red. Blood was flowing all over. The smell of flesh and blood was overpowering. It filled the air with a ghastly smell of death which caused the other animals to panic. Buboy threw aside the dead sow’s body as he reached for the next sow being pulled in. Benum took hold of the next incoming sow. Buboy took out the butchering knife and proceeded with his work.


Ruben and Rony carried the dead sow’s body aside and threw it in the corner. Tuting took a huge knife and cut open its stomach.
“Tonyo, come over here!” the old man shouted. They would start a long and arduous process of cleaning it up. With the work he had been doing for years, Tuting silently thought he would also make a good morgue worker. “And I hear it pays more,” he bitterly thought to himself. He recoiled and pinched his nose in disgust after opening up the sow’s body. The smell of the organs were too pungent and raw and all the blood had to be let out first before he and Tonyo could start cutting out its internal organs.

“Good evening, Tiyo Jomjom,” said Jep as he and his brother ran hurriedly inside the slaughterhouse. The overseer nodded and the boys rushed to the a corner where several other young boys aged no more than 12 yrs old were busy cutting the fats and cleaning the hanged animal carcasses of fur. Mang Rootie hired these kids as a favor to their parents who were workers in his farm. Besides, he needed young and nimble hands who could pick and clean the animals’ hide as meticulously as only young children could. The young men were hot-blooded and impatient. Nobody could do a better job of cleaning than these agile young boys. In return, they could take home the animal fats’ from the cows’ and pigs’ carcasses they cleaned, and a little salary. They were easier to pay and more easily content than the adults. Jep was concentrating on the cow’s carcass, silently cutting off the fats. He had ordered his young brother Jun to clean the pig’s hide of fur. Jun was meticulously taking out the fur, cleaning the skin. Mang Rootie’s clients were the upper crust creme of society. They were very meticulous and particular about such things. These boys were very good working and obedient except for Jep who gave an occasional trouble, Mang Rootie was very satisfied with their work. Jep cut and cut away the animals’ fat from the cows’ carcass. He’d collected quite a pile and put them away in the corner.
“Make way,” shouted Tonyo, dragging in a huge cow inside. The cow was tied to a rope and Tonyo dragged the huge beast inside. It silently followed until it reached the part where the slaughtering was done. The floor was soaked in blood and the animal somehow sensed it. Still it blindly followed although putting up some slight resistance. Its eyes were blank and tired. Tonyo pulled the rope harder as the huge old beast walked slowly. It tried to lean back. It was past 3 am now. Benum was tired, he had finished off most of the pigs. The cow was going to be more difficult. It was huge. Placing the cow in position, Benum took out his huge butchering knife and lashed at its neck. The beast gave out a groan and panicked. Benum lost his balance and fell over with his knife. The cow started pacing nervously, its neck bleeding profusely. Nine men huddled over to keep cow in place. Buboy shook his head in disgust. “ I told you Benum. You have to knock it first unconscious, these cattle are huge and you just cannot do it as you do with pigs. How many times do I have to tell you,” he scowled.
“Well, do you know what time is it now. I’m just in a hurry to get this over and done with,” lashed back Benum as he picked himself up from the floor. Taking a huge boulder from beside, he viciously pounced it on the cow’s forehead, splintering its skull. Blood oozed from its eye. The beast was semi-unconscious. Rony took another boulder and pounced it further on top the animal’s head. A crack was heard; the beast collapsed on the floor. Benum took his huge butchering knife and started cutting the neck, grinding it hard and harder. It was difficult. The bone was thick. Buboy took out his butchering knife hacked it with full force. The sheer force cut off the entire head that only a strand of skin was left hanging. “There,” he sighed exhausted. Blood was pouring all over the floor. The beast was huge and a huge amount of blood was pooling on the already blood soaked floor. Rony and a group of 10 men were called in to carry the extremely large carcass on their backs to bring it to the other men for cleaning. Meanwhile, the other men came in with the cattle, this time a calf. The calf was small; the men cornered it. It was frightened and walked backwards but there was nowhere to go; just the wall behind it. The men cornered it and held its body. Buboy held out his butchering knife. They continued; soon the sun would rise, they had to work faster. A long line was still left, about 20 more animals were lined up, waiting for their turn.


Jepjep had cut up a huge pile of fats. He stealthily took a third of those he had cut and put it inside a small plastic bag. This would fetch a sum for him in the market. Mang Jomjom would not notice it. Junjun was cutting off the fur off the skin. The skin were now glistening a gleaming pinkish white. The other boys were busy working. It was hot inside, the sweat of the menfolk and the blinding lights. The pungent smell of raw blood and flesh was unbearable. Tuting was tired even if they were several of them helping in cleaning the internal organs. He was an old man. He had grown weary of this daily job. He went outside and lighted a cigar. Outside it was fresh and windy and cool. Very serene. The night air smelled so sweet, fresh dew and fields. His father was a sakada (farm worker); he wondered if it would have been easier, had he not quit his farm job; but the pay here was better. “Ahhh,” he sighed. The fresh cigarette warmed his old lungs as he took a breath of the fresh sweet cold night air. Jekjek was hurriedly rushing out of the building.
“What is the hurry, Jek?” the old man asked the youngster.
“Oy, Mang Tuting, we forgot the sucklings behind,” the bearded thin young man replied,hastily departing.
The old man shook his head and enjoyed his cigarette, puffing several smokes.


Jecky carried a suckling above his shoulders. It was tiny and it was easier to carry than to pull. These small piglets could be troublesome and feisty at times. The rest of the men helped him bring the sucklings inside.
It was near sunrise now. Buboy scratched his head with his blood-soaked hands. “I told you to bring them in first,” he reprimanded the young man.
Exhausted, he took out his butchering bolo, wiping the sweat dripping on his forehead with his blood-streaked sando (sleeveless shirt). Buboy felt for the suckling’s throat, pressing the bolo against it, cutting it lightly. All of a sudden, the tiny piglet let out several cries and scampered away. The knife slipped from Buboy’s finger’s and fell on his left hand, cutting his thumb. He was bleeding. “Puneta!” cursed Buboy. His left thumb was bleeding. He tore off a portion of his bloodied greasy shirt and bandaged it around his finger. “Damn pig!” he cursed. The men chased after the tiny piglet. It was nimble and fast. Ruben slipped, the bloodied floor was extremely slippery. He howled in pain while cursing. The rest of the men chased after the piglet. Rony grabbed it by its legs. The piglet was screaming and crying. No more than six weeks old, it was already terrified at being away from its mother in the familiar surroundings of the piggery and the cut from the knife had frightened it extremely causing it to panic. Benum and Sopio, a short burly looking man, helped Rony grab hold of the piglet. They brought it back and held it tightly. Benum took out his butcher’s knife and hacked its neck with full force. Fresh red blood spurted on men’s bodies. A loud high-pitched cry emanated from the tiny piglet’s small soft pink body. Several succeeding cries. Benum lunged the knife deeper, further and further deep, grinding it in till he finally severed the neck. Silence. “Jecky! Bring in the next,” shouted Benum, while wiping his sweat and blood drenched face with his shirt. A few more piglets and his night’s work would be done.


 It was now 5 am. The night was freezing cold. It was still dark. The slaughtering was almost done. The men were packing up and cleaning up. Jepoy and the children had also finished their work They were packing off the fats they were allowed to bring home and were receiving their salary from Mang Jomjom. Jep hid an extra portion of fats in his pocket. He nodded at Mang Jomjom who gave him 20 pesos. Jepoy held his younger brother’s hand and made their way outside. It was a long walk before the tricycle station which was situated at the highway. Jep shivered. It was biting cold outside. They walked hand in hand slowly. Junjun yawned, the young boy was tired. They hitched a ride at the back of a passing tricycle. Mang Juning was their father’s friend and he let them ride for free. They clung on to the back seat of the tricycle, both hands clenching the tiny tricycles bars. They were on their way to the market. The stalls were just opening. Jepoy and his brother alighted and rushed towards Aling Diday’s meat stall. Aling Diday was busy selling to customers. On the side, she was selling chicken’s broth. The men who worked in the slaughterhouse would usually pass by her stall for a cheap and fast breakfast. The stall was bustling with people; women who had come to do early morning marketing and the menfolk who were cutting up the meat being sold. Jepoy sat on a stool. Junjun followed him. “Good morning, Aling Diday,” he greeted the old woman, handing her a plastic bag of cow fats, he had brought with him from the slaughterhouse. In return, the old woman, prepared two bowls of rice broth for him and his brother. Jepoy and Junjun hungrily gulped down the hot soup. They hurriedly consumed it and alighted from the stools. The two boys ran towards their home which was just behind the market stalls. After a hard night’s work, they could finally sleep till the next evening. Reaching their makeshift hut, Jepoy and Junjun rushed inside their room and lay down on the floor on their sleeping mats. They were tired and raring to sleep. The sun was now rising, a soft glistening orange glow warmth gleaming outside the grayish blue purple skies.

Letty unlocked the padlock on the door of Nene’s Grill. It was now time to open shop. She put the key back in her purse. Sitting on the cashier’s table, she ordered the women to clean up the room. The waitresses started sweeping the floor and arranging the chairs.
A truck parked in front of the restaurant and several men came inside bringing pig carcasses.
“Good Morning Letty,” greeted Juning, while he and the rest of the men brought in the delivery.
“O Juning, those are fresh ha?” said Letty, raising her eyebrow. “Those are for the convent you know.”
“But of course, Miss Letty. Very very fresh. Just newly slaughtered. ” grinned the burly fat man.
“Ok. Ok. Bring them in to Mang Tasing,”she grumbled.

It was almost noontime now. Mang Tasing was sweating badly. The heat was scorching hot and unbearable especially inside the room. The pigs were roasting nicely and the smell of the tanlad(lemongrass) leaves was very delectable. The skin was extremely crispy now and had the color of reddish-brown, just the right color. In all his 20 years of roasting pigs, Mang Tasing was the expert. No wonder Nene’s Grill was always jampacked with orders and customers especially during Christmas season. They had to turn down many orders. Only those who were their special and long time customers were accommodated regularly. Mang Tasing prided himself, that the restaurant he worked for was known for having the best lechon in town.
An old man barged inside the room.
“Oh Tasio, its you!” Tasing smiled. “Here, your order is here.”
The toothless Tasio grinned. Tasing carefully took out the roasted sucklings and expertly wrapped each up inside a huge carton.

“Mother Assumcia,” cheerily called Sister Penny, “is Father Felipe that priest from Spain going to join our party this afternoon?”
“Oh yes, I think he will be here shortly,” said Mother Assumcia replied while pulling up her frock. She closed the bathroom door behind her.
Sister Herpigolda passed by. “Sisters, the orphans are here.”
“What about the faculty, the teachers?” asked Mother Assumcia while placing her spectacles in place.
“They are already here,” piped in Sister Purificacion. “The lechon also.”
“Has Aling Purita set the table. Is everything in place?”asked Mother Assumcia worriedly. “Sister Purificacion did you tell Nante yesterday to have the table cloths washed immaculately white. They are so old and dusty?”asked the frazzled Mother Assumcia.
“I did, Mother,” answered Sister Purificacion, “and the tables are all set and so are the special silverware.”
“Did Sister Delina help Aling Puring arrange the utensils properly. Dear me, you know we have some very special guests and the utensils must be arranged properly,” fussed Mother Assumcia, her eyebrows knitting.
“Don’t worry Mother Assumcia,” chimed in Sister Penny, “ I did follow-up to that. They have been arranged properly. I just went outside and checked it all up.”
“Thank goodness for that,” exclaimed Mother Assumcia, heaving a loud sigh. “You always are a great help to me Sister P. I do not know what I would do without you.”
Suddenly, the phone rang. “Goodness gracious,” exclaimed Mother Assumcia, “Mrs. Consi would be here any minute. Dear me. Dear me. Sister Purificacion and sister Penny, please, please, dear me, do receive the guests in the waiting area. You know several of our patronesses are coming,” Mother Assumcia hastily mumbled trying to catch her breath, while rushing towards the office to receive the phone.

The party was now starting. The buffet table was laden-filled overflowing with food, more than enough for a week’s feast. On the right side, were 3 lechon de leches (roast sucklings) with one additional lecon (roast pig), courtesy of Mrs. Lucrecia Poncha, a rich Filipino-Chinese businesswoman.

“Buenas Dias , Father Felipe,” shyly greeted Sister Penny.
“You speak Spanish,” nodded the shy unassuming priest.
“But of course, Father, we speak Espanol, you know the Precious Hearts Convent was originally founded here by Mother Asuncion, originally from your Precious Hearts Convent in Madrid,” smiled Sister Penny.
“Oh yes, oh yes. How could I have forgotten,” smiled the young priest. “A thousand pardons, Sister....”
“Sister Estefania, but the sisters here call me Sister Penny. Do take a seat please, Father. Mother Assumcia will be here in a few minutes. She is just taking a phone call.”

Mother Assumcia rushed out of the office.
A middle-aged woman walked inside the waiting room. She was bedecked in jewelry, unconspicuous stones but worth millions. Dressed in a white pantsuit and with uniformed maids in tow and a driver, the woman warmly bussed Mother Assumcia on the cheeks.
“Merry Christmas, Mrs. Consi. Dear me, its so nice of you to drop by,” gushed Mother Assumcia.
“But of course, Mother, when have I ever failed you,” Mrs. Consi smiled.
“Come, come inside, do take a seat please. Where is your husband, Gov?”
“Oh, Mother you know how busy he always is. He is at a political function in Talisay.”
“Oh yes, yes. But, of course, yes,” smiled Mother Assumcia while pulling out a seat for Mrs. Consi. “How are the children? Why did you not bring them? Where is Raffy?”
“Oh dear me you know how kids are. He is at a friend’s party at the Marapara Golf Club. He hates to be seen with his mother.”
“Oh, but why, why , my dear, is there a problem,” cooed Mother Assumcia. “Perhaps, I can be of help.”
“No, no my dear Mother, he is perfectly fine. Just like normal teenagers you know he is embarrassed to be seen tagging along with his mother,” Mrs. Consi gave out an elegant laugh. “Besides, you know how these kids are. They have their own parties. Right now, he is at a friend’s party. You know, Robin, the son of Mayor Asuncion. They are going drag racing later this afternoon,” Mrs. Consi smiled congenially.
“Oh, yes and Robin’s mother, Mrs. Asuncion is coming today here today too,” nodded Mother Assumcia in acquiescence, her head bowing profusely.

A few more guests arrived, elegantly dressed middle-aged women. All of them were patronesses of the convent.
“Mrs. Lucrecia, Mrs. Asuncion,” warmly greeted Mother Assumcia while bussing both of them on the cheeks and warmly hugging them. “Do come and take a seat,” she exclaimed pulling out two seats for them. “The party will start soon.”
In a corner, Tasio and Yoyoy, the gardener were taking turns grilling the roast calf over the fire, courtesy of Mrs. Hilania, one of Mother Assumcia.’s closest friends, who could not come because she was vacationing in America with her family for the holiday seasons. Nante, the houseboy of the convent was swatting the flies which were trying to land on the lechon de leches. The orphans from the Mother Tiburcia Orphanage were seated at a table while the faculty members, teachers and a few sisters from the convent were seated near the main table. The guests were now complete. Mother Assumcia was busy entertaining her patronesses. It was now time to start eating but before that Mother Assumcia would lead the prayer.
“Thank you oh Lord for the daily blessings in our life. We pray and celebrate and commemorate the birth of your son, Jesus Christ on this season and thank you for sending him to save us from our sins. Thank you so much Lord God. We pray for the turbulent times this season, the barbaric atrocities and cruelties in this world. Let our prayers be the answer for your call for compassion. We pray that your people may grow compassion in their hearts. We thank you for the blessings and for the food you have prepared for us. Amen. In the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” Mother Assumcia ended while making the sign of the cross. She clasped her rosary tightly. “Come, let us all start eating,” she smiled meekly to the guests.
Everyone rose up towards the buffet table. Sister Purificacion stood up and assisted Mother Assumcia in escorting their patronesses towards the buffet table. She took a plate and handed it to Mrs. Asuncion.
“Oh thank you, Sister,” exclaimed Mrs. Asuncion congenially as she received the plate.
“Nante, please cut up a piece of the lecho de leche skin for Mrs. Asuncion here,” said Sister Purificacion.
Nante, using the cutting knife, mechanically cut out the crispy red-brown skin, roasted to perfection and placed it on the plate of Mrs. Asuncion.
“Thank you very much, Sister,” smiled Mrs. Asuncion.
“It is a very special Lechon,” piped in Mother Assumcia, who was escorting Mrs. Consi. “You know, from Nene’s Grill.”
“Oh really but they usually cannot accommodate orders during Christmas week especially,” said Mrs. Totiyangco.
“But the convent has been a long-time customer of them,” chimed in Sister Penny, “They accommodate us as we were ordering from them for 20 years now and since when they were just starting at Carmencita Street.”
“Oh really, that is very interesting. I did not know they started there. We also have ordered one from them for our Christmas dinner tonight,” said Mrs. Consi.
“Believe me, they make the best lechons in town,” said Sister Delapina, who was busy putting some pot roast on her plate.
“No doubt about that,” smugly replied Mrs. Lucrecia.

The sisters escorted the women and they took their seats. The other people were pouring in the buffet table.
“You say they make the best lechons in town, but what about Lito’s Restaurant,” challenged Mrs. Molez, another middle-aged woman who was the wife of one of the old-rich landed Spanish mestizos from Silay city.
“Well,” Mother Assumcia replied, “someone once sent us a lechon from Lito’s restaurant but we are used to Nene’s Grill. The skin is crispier and they use a lot of tanlad(lemongrass). And the one who cooks these lechon is an old-timer who has perfected the art of cooking it. Do you know Mang Tasing, a friend of our old driver here Mang Tasio. He is the expert in roasting lechon. Even Manileno’s come for Nene’s Grill’s Lechon. Their timplada(recipe) is quite famous.”
“Hmmm it is a golden crisp indeed,” observed Mrs. Totiyangco, taking a crackling bite at the crispy red-brown skin.
“Yes,” nodded Sister Penny, while taking a bite of the crispy lechon skin on her plate. The delectable scent of fresh lemongrass filled the air.
“I have to agree with you on that Mother,” said Mrs. Consi. “My husband, Ramon, will eat no other lechon than the lechon de leche from Nene’s Grill.”
Mother Assumcia nodded, smiling cheerfully, as she took a bite of the delectable crispy brown lechon skin, roasted to golden perfection.
“Eat, eat,” she motioned to her guests, “there are plenty more, you know we ordered 3 de leches especially for this occasion.” She smiled, the crispy skin making a loud crackling sound in her mouth. She consciously wiped her mouth with the table napkin and proceeded to take a second bite.
Nante was busy cutting up the lechon for the guests who were lining up before the buffet table. Yoyoy was busy turning the roast calf over the fire while Tasio was occupied fanning away the pesky flies that would come to hover around the lechons. Gleaming a golden crispy red-brown, the lechons glistened and shone brightly against the glaring sunlight resting on the patio of the convent, amidst sounds of crackling lechon skin, on a sunny afternoon on Christmas Day.




            Cerbivor gazed into the vast horizon. From afar, he spotted a lone solitary planet bustling with great noise and energy.  The chaotic aura emanating from the planet disturbed his sensitive nature.

            “Solaris, may I ask what lies yonder?”

            The deity looked in his direction and replied with amusement, “Oh Melthipus.home to the flesh-eaters..beings exist there in a different state from yours here.”

            “How so? “

            “First, they inhabit physical bodies which prompts a need to consume physical matter in order to survive and nourish their bodies.  Secondly, by virtue of their lust for matter, they eat flesh of other living beings.”


            “Flesh physical bodies made of matter in which all inhabitants of Melthipus possess.  The beings there inhabit various bodies by virtue of their desire or past action. They consume and eat each other for their own survival. Life of one is the death of another, a parasitic-like environment.”

            “It is so unusual”

            “To you it is, but to them, that is the way of life there. And they think I created certain beings for their consumption. They actually use me and this line of reasoning to justify their taste for flesh.”

            “I should like to experience life there.something does not feel right ..I want to change it.”

            “Nobody can change anything. I give unto every being freewill.”

“Yes but.”

            “It may be far more than your sensitive nature can take, Cerbivor. Think deeply on are not accustomed to such things. By living there, do you understand you would have to do as they do? To be consumed and to consume. And that is not quite easy. For life on Melthipus is a life filled with pain and suffering.”

            “Suffering and pain? What is that?”

            “They have frail limited bodies governed by laws of nature there. They are born in new bodies, it ages or ceases to function, they die, and get a new body according to their actions and desire. Everything is temporary in Melthipus; nothing lasts. But rebirth is constant and so is change.”

            “Is there any way they can move out of this planet?”

            “Once they reach the human form, they can.”

            “How so?”

            “By self-realization, freeing themselves of material desires and not causing pain to other beings once they reach the human form of life.  They are just like you and me, Cerbivor, but the beings there temporarily inhabit different bodies: humans or animal bodies, depending on their desires and past actions.”

            “Human or animal bodies..:”

            “Yes. Humans eat animals and animals after they die, become humans and humans who eat animals become animals to be eaten by humans. They do not actually consume the flesh of those having the same physical appearance as them.  They consume those which are different which cannot speak their own tongue. Prejudice numbs their heart.”

            “Perhaps, I can deliver the message to them..”

            “You cannot teach a person who refuses to listen, my idealistic child they lack this which you and I have.”said Solaris pointing to the center of Cerbivor’s being.

            “What is that?”

            “The capacity to feel for the pain of others different than them. That is why I gave them extremely diverse physical teach them that love and compassion is not exclusive to one group of beings just.”

            “I must go there.”

            “I will not depriv e you of your desire.yet there are some things you should know before leaving..”

After being briefed by Solaris, on the laws of nature encasing Melthipus, Cerbivor steeled his soul in preparation for his subsequent rebirths into different life forms on Melthipus.  Cerbivor descended into blackness and felt his soul contracting and writhing inside the vacuum.  In the pit black darkness, a feeling filled his entire being, something he never felt before. It was the feeling of “pain”, Cerbivor cried in excruciating agony as he was sucked into the pit black hole and descended from it.  Cerbivor felt something physical encapsulating his soul. Cerbivor heard strange noises voices. He saw beings moving in fast pace. In his exhaustion, he drifted into unconsciousness.

Cerbivor awoke the following day. He tried to move but found himself in an infantile body capable of only feeble movements with his tiny hands and feet.  His human parents, Tiyay Pinang and Mang Tikboy took intermittent charge of feeding him.  Cerbivor learned the new ways of the world, eating, drinking, sleeping, defecating and gradually adapted to it.  As he grew

from infancy to childhood, Cerbivor gradually learned the human language of conversing with his parents and siblings.  Cerbivor lived in a make-shift wooden shanty, in one of the depressed slum areas, in a city which he heard his parents refer to as Manila.  Mang Tikboy, his aging father was a jobless bum and an alcoholic, drinking one of those human beverages which caused him to be intoxicated and abusive towards his wife and children.  He would beat them while in a drunken stupor.  He would also pawn their meager belongings in their shanty just to buy himself another drink or two from the neighborhood stall.  Tiyay Pinang was very hard up and would do laundry for several families to earn a day’s keep to feed her growing brood.  She also raised a few pigs right behind their shanty which Mang Tikboy her husband would slaughter, to be sold as meat in the market.  Cerbivor learned the ways of his new world and realized money, pieces of paper with written numbers of value of it, were the most prized possessions of humans.  By the time he was 16 years of age, his four elder siblings, Junjun, Jepoy, Jecky, and Tonyo by then, were already languishing in jail for petty thievery which they resorted to, to indulge their drug habits.  Drugs were a kind of powdery substance, largely passed around in their neighborhood in exchange for a sum of money, which the people there indulged in, to get a temporary lift or high from their mundane existence.  Life in the slum area was depressing but more so, because the humans there either did not care to work, or indulged in many vices.  Cerbivor vowed he would work hard to uplift his situation. Having only finished 6th grade in school, one of the institutions in the human world, where one was taught to read and write, Cerbivor was still far more intelligent than young adults his age. Cerbivor took on odd jobs, selling newspapers, collecting garbage, and helping in a nearby construction site to help make ends meet.  Cerbivor also pondered the meaninglessness of his existence: industrialization, empty cash in exchange for

living in filthy impoverished surroundings, when one could easily live in the mountainside farms.  His human mother Tiyay Pinang, who was from a mountainous province in Albay, brought him there once during his childhood. He longed for the unpolluted surroundings in the lush mountainside. He contemplated he could live well there, farming crops daily and they would never go hungry but his mother had new ideas, to her the idea of advancement was living in the city never mind if it meant living in fitlhy impoverished conditions.  What they earned in day, was just enough to feed the entire family. Cerbivor felt disillusioned with everyone’s mad scramble for money, to earn, to keep it.  He merely wanted to live in more peaceful conditions, working but without the need for money. 

One day, his elder brother Juning, who had resorted to taking drugs also, casually invited Cerbivor to join him.  Cerbivor refused.

“Come on, don’t be a sissy!” Juning shoved Cerbivor towards him and forced it on him.

Soon Cerbivor slowly got hooked on the habit as well.  In between, he would do his daily odd jobs.  Mang Tikboy, his father soon grew incapacitated, always in a drunken stupor.  Tiyay Pinang, by now had grown feeble and old from decades of doing menial work by her lonesome to feed her large brood.  She still raised pigs, and by now left Cerbivor to take charge of slaughtering the pigs.  Cerbivor, being extremely feeble hearted, balked at the task of doing it, but having no choice, with two other younger sisters to feed and his aging parents as well, he resorted to taking drugs and drinking as well, in order to give him the emotional strength to rise up to the task.  Cerbivor gradually drowned in his vices, in between bouts of drinking and drugs.  One night, his father arrived home in a drunken stupor, proceeding to beat his wife and daughters.  Cerbivor heard the commotion from afar.  He had just finished slaughtering

their last remaining pig and was washing his hands which were drenched in fresh red blood.  Cerbivor, knife still in hand, under the influence of liquor and drugs, stabbed his father continuously on the back. Tiyay Pinang screamed. Soon the neighbors arrived and the police came. Cerbivor, bathed in blood, gazed at the policeman like a madman possessed. Tiyay Pinang, still sobbing, implored him to put down his butchering knife which he refused to do so. A flood of bullets rained through his body sending it flying into mid-air. Cerbivor felt a sudden exploding pain then he saw his lifeless bullet-ridden body drenched in blood lying below him. Suddenly he was seized by a powerful force and found himself inside a dark endless tunnel going on never-ending spirals. Cerbivor writhed in agony. At the end, gleamed a tiny light. Cerbivor reached for it.

He awoke and saw small furry white creatures on four short stubby legs lying beside him drenched in blood, all yelping, crying alive with life, and wailing in the forlornness of the night.  He looked around and saw himself in a deserted filthy alley.  In extreme exhaustion, he lost consciousness. Awaking the next day to the searing sunlight, Cerbivor saw a huge furry creature licking the small tiny ones he saw last night.  He tried to stand up and found himself struggling. He realized he himself occupied a four legged body as these creatures.  He had taken on the body of the dog, creatures that hovered around their shanty by the dozens, in his past human life.  He tried to speak but all that came out of his mouth were subsequent wails and cries.  He felt incredibly lost and alone now, crying from the depths of his soul, he gave a soft crying whimper, and his canine mother proceeded to lick him, comforting him.  Like his siblings, he nursed milk from his mother, and temporarily forgot about his worries in deep slumber.


Cerbivor adapted to his new life.  With the company of his canine mother and siblings with whom he could converse and snuggle with, he felt safe.  One day, his canine mother did not return, after her usual forage outside the alley for food.  Cerbivor got extremely anxious; he was beset with worry.  Nighttime came and still no sign of her. Cerbivor and his siblings were left crying in the filthy alley. It was a very cold night.  A man came, beady eyes approaching them.  He grabbed two of Cerbivor’s siblings and grabbed Cerbivor by his hind leg. His fingers slipped. Cerbivor managed to wriggle himself free. Frightened, he ran away as fast and as far as he could, lost in the darkness of the night, feeling extremely vulnerable and more alone than ever.

Daybreak came.  Cerbivor, exhausted from last night’s running, sat desolate in a corner.  A group of huge burly men came passing by, looking much like his Tatay Tikboy’s beer drinking friends in his past life.  A black and tan dog passed by the road.

“Run!” the dog shouted to Cerbivor, “run as fast as you can! Turn around and follow me! Hurry!”

Cerbivor did not understand why but just listened and ran along with his newfound companion.

“What is wrong? Cerbivor managed to mutter in between panting breaths.

“Did you see those men?’        


“A week ako, they caught my friend. I’ve never seen him since then..I heard they slaughtered him and ate him up.” his new four-legged companion replied matter of factly while running briskly.

:”My mother.she did not return last night and a man came and took my sibling..”

 “Oh, probably the dog-catcher of the neighborhood market stall.”

“What is that?”

“Dog-meat here is a delicacy you know. He catches dogs to be slaughtered and sells them to those women in the stalls. I’ve seen it all one night as I managed to escape and hid right behind there. Consider yourself very lucky to have escaped. You have to learn to look out for yourself, kid!”

Everything was too fast for Cerbivor to absorb. The suddenness of events.the loss of his canine mother siblings.his aloneness in this urban jungle.Cerbivor felt such emptiness walking blankly behind his companion, he could not help himself and cried in several gut-wrenching wails.

“Come now, that is not the way to live here. Only the strong survive, remember that, young one. You just have to look out for yourself. Do not go near humans, especially those huge men.  They eat dog-meat. Say, tell me when did you arrive here?”

“I don’t know. I was just born here with my canine mother.but I remember in my past life I was a human..I lived in Manila city in the slums I had human parents.”he said lost in his thoughts,” what about you? Do you remember your past life?”

” Past life what is that. I was born here. Been here for a long time now, surviving on my own,” the seasoned old-timer replied rather proudly. “I’ve seen quite a lot.”

“But you don’t remember you were a human in your past life?”

“I don’t remember a thing at all.”

Cerbivor started a new life with his wise companion who taught him the ways of the world.  Cerbivor came to realize he was living in Baguio City, a cold mountainous area in the

Philippines, known for its beautiful mountains but then, an unfortunate place for dogs where they were considered a meat delicacy to warm people up for the cold weather.

At nighttime, they would lurk outside the market stalls, and stealthily steal the scraps left over by humans eating there.  Most of the time, they would forage in garbage cans for rotten scraps of food to fill their hunger.

“We could be eating our own canine companions,” Cerbivor muttered to his companion as the thought seized him suddenly as they were stealing some scraps from a nearby stall one night.

“Hush! It doesn’t really matter. Would you rather eat or starve?” the world-weary old canine replied to him.

Days quickly passed. One night, he was running happily in a playful banter with his old companion along the alley. Suddenly a jeepney appeared.  Cerbivor and his companion were still frolicking. It was one of the few carefree playful moments they engaged to forget the harshness of their environment. The man suddenly lunged for Cerbivor’s friend.  They ran as fast as they could away from the man. The geriatric canine lost footing and slipped. Cerbivor ran back to help his friend but the man was faster and grabbed his friend.

“Go away! Run!” the old dog screamed at Cerbivor,” I’m an old are young, run while you can! Save yourself!” he managed to cry out while the man muzzled his nose with a tin can and tied up his four legs while throwing him at the back of the jeepney.

Cerbivor cried out and ran, feeling the cruelty of his new life more than ever.  In between shallow breaths, running for his life, and thinking about his old friend, Cerbivor muttered a

fervent wish to be free from all these suffering, the worst which was the painful feeling inside his heart.

Nights passed, days went by, Cerbivor roamed the streets in solitude.  Searching for scraps of food in garbage cans, only this time he was alone.  He would stop to think about his old friend; it left him feeling extremely pained. He decided not to think of him anymore. 

One day he passed by a shanty, a human child about 10 years old, stooped down to pet him.  This was the first human interaction he had, in his life as a dog.  He licked the child’s hand.  The child gave out a cry of joy and smiled at him, softly patting his head.  Cerbivor was overjoyed at the rare chance at affection he received in his solitary life. Soon Cerbivor took to passing by that shanty daily.  The sight of the child, the child caressing his forehead gave him such joy.  Every afternoon, he would drop by and the child, usually playing along the railway tracks would stop by and call him.  The child called him “Whitey” because of his curly white coat and he would obediently run to him to have his head petted.  One day while snuggling beside the child, a tall woman appeared.

“Jepjep! What are you doing there? Stay away from that dirty dog ok!” You may get bitten by it! It may have rabies!” she screamed angrily and proceeded to grab the child away from him. Kicking Cerbivor on the rear, she shouted for him to go away.  Cerbivor was startled by the woman’s anger and ran away. The child cried out. “Stop that noise!” she reprimanded the child, “next time I won’t have you seen playing with dirty dogs ok! Remember that!” she said proceeding to spank him lightly on his behind.

Cerbivor walked forlornly, until night came. In his forlornness, he found himself back in the alley where he was born.  He fell asleep only to hear cries, barking sounds.  The man from

the jeepney who caught his old friend was there, catching other dogs.  It was too late for him to escape. He stood up and tried to run but the man grabbed him by the neck. He struggled for a moment before submitting to his fate. His mouth muzzled in a tin can and his four legs tied, he was dragged inside the jeepney with many other dogs.

“Hehehe..we have a fine catch tonight Ruben,” the fat man grinned to the man driving the jeepney.  “Aling Lucing promised to cook a fine special pulutan (dish) for us tomorrow ,”he grinned. “And these dogs are much plumper compared to before.”

The jeepney stopped in front of a deserted area.  The fat man pulled one of the dogs down. Putting the dog in a sack, he had the other man hold the sack. Then he grabbed a huge steel pipe and proceeded to beat the sack using the steel pipe, hitting it with such huge force. The dog inside the sack gave out a piercing unearthly wail, so loud it could awaken an entire neighborhood except for the fact that the area was totally deserted.  He beat the sack consecutively using the huge steel pipe with such sheer intense force. A crack. Several cracks.  The sound of cracking bones. The color of the sack turned bright red. It was soaked and dripping with blood. The smell of blood and death filled the night air. The man opened the sack and threw out the bloodied disfigured body on the floor.  The dogs in the jeepney, unable to cry because their mouths were muzzled in tin cans, they gave out soft unearthly whimpers. The man grabbed Cerbivor. Cerbivor tried to fight him off but his mouth was muzzled and his legs tied in ropes.  The man placed him inside the sack. It reeked of blood and death. Cerbivor felt himself fainting from the smell of it; he cried from the depths of his soul inside the sack. He knew what was going to happen next having seen what had happened to the previous dog. A loud crack. The pipe slammed on the sack hitting Cerbivor’s chest. Another thud. The steel pipe slammed on his

entire backbone, breaking his spine .  Extreme pain of the worst kind which he had never felt before, not even in his previous human life, filled his now disfigured body. Cerbivor panted, his mouth gripped…helpless in the agony of it all. Blood soaked his entire body. A thud. The pipe hit his skull. Cerbivor lost consciousness. Everything was dark for a second. Then he saw everything below him, the man throwing his lifeless bloodied and broken disfigured body out of the sack.  In a blur, he saw the other dogs in the jeepney, giving out unearthly whimpers, waiting for their turn. Suddenly a huge force seized him and he descended into a tunnel of never-ending darkness.  He was so lost and his soul suffered such torment. .

He opened his eyes and heard voices bursting with joy.   Two humans picked him up, kissing him with extreme joy.  He tried to speak but all that came out of his mouth were infantile cries.

            Time quickly passed. Cerbivor grew from infancy to childhood.  Reborn in a human body, Cerbivor was more keen and aware of life on Melthipus. His human parents were prominent political figures in the city of Sagada, a mountainous province.  They were overjoyed at his precociousness.  They bought him presents, books, all the beautiful things wealthy human parents could afford to give their offspring.  His parents were busy; he hardly saw them. His father was the governor of Sagada, busy with political functions and overseeing his haciendas(farms). His mother was occupied with social functions or accompanying his father to political gatherings. To make up for it, Cerbivor had a yaya(nurse) to look after him and a huge pet cat to keep him company.  As a child, Cerbivor felt different from other children. He was wiser than his human years.  He spent most of his time alone with his pet cat with whom he found an unusual affinity, talking and taking care of it. Books were also his constant companion,

having a constant thirst for knowledge. In time, Cerbivor grew into a robust handsome young man. He had just finished college, taking up a course called philosophy.  Blessed with material things, Cerbivor was the envy of most humans.  And yet Cerbivor, even in his now pampered surroundings, was not happy because he saw things beyond the surface and was greatly disturbed by the way of life on Melthipus.  Cerbivor found he had little in common with young adults his age who seemed obsessed with the latest model of expensive cars, sexual conquests, and money. He concluded life for the materially privileged was not much different from those living in impoverished conditions; in such that all of them were rather preoccupied with material pleasures and hedonistic escapism. He felt incredibly isolated. His father, an astute and worldly politician could not understand Cerbivor’s sensitive nature and almost grew to despise his son.  “How on earth, is he going to succeed me as governor of this city, when all his time, he spends toying with those animals in our farm! And now he has refused to attend our annual lechon(roast pig) fare festival as well!” Governor Salcedo remarked to his wife. 

            “Give him time, Tony. I’m sure it’s just a passing phase for the young boy.”

            “Look at him! All his peers are already getting married with jobs! Raising families of their own. And all he does is spend time chanting those silly beads and going about rescuing stray animals in the city! That boy is going to be the death of my political career! If word ever gets out.”

            Mrs. Salcedo rushed to appease her husband. “Come now dear, let’s have a cup of coffee.” she diverted the topic seating him at their imposing veranda.

            The governor sat on the chair, his hands shaking as his took his cup of coffee.


 “And all the time he spends in our hacienda in the mountainside! Juning told me recently he has forbade him to slaughter our cattle and pigs. He is becoming mad! Look at those silly vegetarian cookbooks! He is growing sickly and pale and his mind is going mad!”

            Mrs. Salcedo hushed her husband up. “Dear, be patient. He has always made good with his studies and doesn’t go out much unlike other kids nowadays. Why look at your Kumpadre Ramon’s son, died 2 months ago in drag racing..”

            “Well yes, but he reads too much books and .why instead of wasting his time in our farm, can’t he hang out with his classmates from IS(International School) or even his cousins Raffy and Nonoy who are already busy running their sugar-milling businesses doing productive things in their life..the last time we had a party here, he had a scathing argument with Mother Assumption of the Tiburcia Convent. You know how important it is for us to be in good terms with those nuns. We have sent him to the best Catholic schools in the country and now what does he do! Turn to those Indian cult-like religions, I tell you this boy will cost me my next election!”

            “Why don’t we send him to America for postgraduate studies? He has always wanted to go there.”

            “I’m not spending a single cent more on that boy’s body. He has been nothing but a complete failure and disappointment. He can very well rot here until he shapes up and follows my way!” he exclaimed in fury. “Last month he had the gall to join the save-a-tree conservation caravan against my Kumpadre Ignacio! If it were not only for me, our Kumpadre would have dragged him to the precinct!”


Cerbivor felt suffocated by the pressures his father was placing on him. He was already quite disillusioned with humanity and society, it was one endless party of meaningless charades and polite smiles to hide the true nature of innate human malice and viciousness, a never-ending hypocritical rollercoaster ride. He found himself most happy in the magical idyllic mountainside in the company of farm animals which his father’s farmhands raised in their mountainside hacienda. He found peace and happiness in the simplicity of animals and seemed like a perfect paradise. Forbidden by his father from engaging in anymore controversial activities; the nearest election approaching soon, he found his life in a limbo and retreated to the mountains in a happy hermetic existence, tending to their animals and sometimes assisting their farmhands in planting crops which he found great personal satisfaction in doing.

  One late afternoon in the mountainside, Cerbivor received a call from his mother asking him to assist her with a small evening function; his father being away in another city.  Nightfall creeped in, Cerbivor in his rush to reach home, got lost and detoured to an unfamiliar road.  He found himself passing by a slaughterhouse. Seized with apprehension at the sight of it, he almost ran over a man pulling an old carabao(buffalo) towards the slaughterhouse. The man, seemingly drunk, hit Cerbivor’s car window with a large piece of wood.  Cerbivor alighted from the car. The man demanded money which Cerbivor promptly gave so he could go about his way. The man grinned happily, grabbed the money, and proceeded to walk away. Using the piece of wood, he struck the carabao’s back as it refused to budge. The beast gave out a cry.  Cerbivor’s heart went out to the poor beast and in indignation he admonished the man. The man, angered at him for meddling with the way he treated his beast, lashed back. A fight ensued. Cerbivor got badly beaten up by the man and his companions who arrived after hearing the commotion. The police came, not believing Cerbivor was the governor’s son, dragged him to the precinct. Finally, dismissing him a lunatic, had him dragged to the psychiatric ward in a nearby hospital.

            Cerbivor, fumbled for his cellphone; it was not in his pocket. Dragged by two huge steely-eyed nurses, Cerbivor protested, trying to explain his situation but they did not care.  A young girl was crying softly while a gruff- looking male nurse shoved her to a chair, jabbed a needle at her arm, and strapped her on a bed.  Cerbivor was appalled. “You should not be so rough on her. Can’t you see you’re hurting her?” he reproached the nurse.

The male nurse motioned to the elderly nurse, “The patient here is getting unruly. Please restrain him.”  The huge female nurse grabbed Cerbivor’s arms as he struggled to break free. “Look I was just trying to help”   

“Restrain him! Restrain him!”

He could hear voices and a swarm of nurses, aides grabbing his arms, his legs, so controlling, so rigid, he could feel their seething insecurities deep inside, their callousness, they, struggling to make their power be felt to him.  Cerbivor struggled to break free causing the syringe to land on the nurse’s arm, causing a bigger commotion. They all chased him with such intense ferocity as to almost annihilate his existence, to make him powerless. His petulant remark had annoyed their autocratic veneer of control and power; it infuriated them so. In the mad struggle, he felt one of the nurses almost barbarically seizing his chest, he could hardly breathe. He summoned every last ounce of strength to break free from their autocratic grips and flung himself.  Cerbivor’s head hit the wall with such a huge force. Everything came to a halt.  Cerbivor saw his body, his face bathed in blood.  For a second, he saw everyone still in a commotion, trying to seize him and finally finding out that his body was pale and unmoving

lifeless.  Suddenly the scenario below him grew hazy and he found himself slowly drifting away till he saw the entire planet Melthipus far below descending..fading away...into a mere glob of speck in the vast horizon. Cerbivor was speechless, sobbing from the depths of his soul...the swiftness of all his experiences on Melthipus he realized had come to an end.          



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