Mill of the Gods by Estrella Alfon
Wednesday, March 20, 2013 by Magnificent Four in

Among us who lived in Espeleta – that street that I love, about whose people I keep telling tales – among us, I say, there was one named Martha, and she was the daughter of Pio and Engracia.

To all of us, life must seem like a road given us to travel, and it is up to Fate, that convenient blunderer, whether, that road be broad and unwinding, or whether it shall be a tortuous lane, its path a hard and twisted mat of dust and stones. And each road, whether lane or avenue, shall have its own landmarks, that only the traveller soul shall recognize and remember, and remembering, continue the journey again. To Martha, the gods gave this for a first memory: a first scar.
She was a girl of twelve, and in every way she was but a child. A rather dull child, who always lagged behind the others of her age, whether in study or in play. Life had been so far a question of staying more years in a grade than the others, of being told she would have to apply herself a little harder if she didn’t want the infants catching up with her. But that was so dismal thing. She had gotten a little bit used to being always behind. To always being the biggest girl in her class. Even in play there was some part of her that never managed to take too great a part – she was so content if they always made her “it” in a game of tag, if only they would let her play. And when she had dolls, she was eager to lend them to other girls, if they would only include her in the fascinating games she could not play alone.
This was she, then. Her hair hung in pigtails each side of her face, and already it irked a little to have her dresses too short. She could not help in her mother’s kitchen, and could be trusted to keep her room clean, but she was not ready for the thing her mother told her one night when she was awakened from sleep.
It was a sleep untroubled by dreams, then all of a sudden there was an uproar in the house, and she could hear her mother’s frenzied sobbing, and it was not sobbing that held as much of sorrow as it did of anger. She lay still for a while, thinking perhaps she was dreaming, until she could hear her father’s grunted answers to the half – understood things her mother was mouthing at him. Then there were sounds that was clearly the sound of two bodies struggling in terrible fury with each other. She stood up, and like a child, cried into the night. Mother?
She wailed the word, in her panic finding a little relief in her own wailing, Mother? And she heard her mother’s voice call her, panting out, saying, Martha, come quickly, come into this room!
Martha got up and stood at the door of the room, hesitating about opening it, until her mother, the part of a terrible grasp, said Martha! So Martha pushed in the door, and found her mother and her father locked in an embrace in which both of them struggled and panted and had almost no breath left for words. Martha stood wide – eyed and frightened, not knowing what to do, just standing there, even though she had seen what it was they struggled for. A kitchen knife, blade held upwards in her mother’s hand. Her arms were pinioned to her sides by her husband, but her wild eyes, the frenzy with which she stamped her feet on his feet, and kicked him in the shins, and tried to bite him with her teeth, these were more terrible than the glint of that shining blade. It was her father who spoke to her saying urgently, Martha, reach for her knife, take it away. Yet Martha stood there and did not comprehend until her mother spoke, saying No, no; Martha, your father deserves to be killed. Then it was Martha who realized what she was to do, and slowly, hesitantly, she went near them, her fear of both of them in this terrible anger they now presented making her almost too afraid to reach up for the knife. But reach up she did, and with her child’s fingers, put her mother’s away from the weapon. And when she had it in her hands she did not know what to do with it, except look at it. It wasn’t a very sharp knife, but its blade was clean, and its hilt firm. And so she looked at it, until her father said. Throw it out of the window, Martha and without thinking, she went to a window, opened a casement and threw it away.
Then her father released her mother, and once her mother had gotten her arms free, she swung back her hand, and wordlessly, slapped him; slapped him once, twice, three times, alternating with her hands, on alternate cheeks, until her father said. That’s enough, Engracia. And saying so, he took her hands in his, led her resisting to the bed, and made her sit down.
And Martha was too young to wonder that her father, who was a big man, should have surrendered to the repeated slapping from her mother who was a very small frail woman.
Her father said, “Aren’t you ashamed now Martha has seen?”
And immediately her mother screamed to him, “Ashamed? Me, ashamed? I’ll tell Martha about you!”
Her father looked at Martha still standing dumbly by the window out of which she had thrown the knife, and said, “No, Aciang, she is just a child.” And to her: “Martha, go back to bed.”
But now her mother jumped up from the bed, and clutched at Martha, and brought her to bed with her. And deliberately without looking at Martha’s father, she said, Martha you are not too young to know. And so, the words falling from her lips with a terrible quiet, she told Martha. The words that were strange to her ears, Martha heard them, and listened to them, and looked from her mother to her father, and without knowing it, wetting her cheeks with her tears that fell. And then her mother stopped talking, and looking at her husband, she spat on him, and Martha saw the saliva spatter on the front of the dark shirt he wore. She watched while her father strode over them, and slowly, also deliberately, slapped her mother on the cheek. Martha watched his open palm as he did it, and felt the blow as though it had been she who had been hit. Then her father strode out of the room, saying nothing, leaving them alone.
When her father had gone, Martha’s mother began to cry, saying brokenly to Martha, “It is that woman, that woman!” And making excuses to Martha for her father, saying it was never completely the man’s fault. And Martha listened bewildered, because this was so different from the venomous words her mother had told her while her father was in the room. And then her mother, still weeping, directed her to look for her father and Martha went out of the room.
Her father was not in the house. The night was very dark as she peered out of the windows to see is she could find him outside, but he was nowhere. So she went back to her mother, and told her she could not find her father. Her mother cried silently, the tears coursing down her cheeks, and her sobs tearing through her throat. Martha cried with her, and caressed her mother’s back with her hands, but she had no words to offer, nothing to say. When her mother at last was able to talk again, she told Martha to go back to bed. But it wasn’t the child that entered who went out of that room.
And yet the terror of that night was not so great because it was only a terror half – understood. It wasn’t until she was eighteen, that the hurt of that night was invested with its full measure. For when she was eighteen, she fell in love. She was a girl of placid appearance, in her eyes the dreaming stolid night of the unawakened. She still was slow to learn, still not prone to brilliance. And when she fell in love she chose the brightest boy of her limited acquaintance to fall in love with. He was slightly older than herself, a little too handsome, a trifle too given to laughter. Espeleta did not like him; he was too different from the other young me n on the street. But Martha loved him. You could see that in the way she looked at him, the way she listened to him.
Martha’s pigtails had lengthened. She now wore her braids coiled on the top of her head like a coronet, and it went well with the placid features, the rather full figure. She was easily one of our prettier maidens. It was well that she was not too brilliant. That she did not have any too modern ideas. The air of shyness, the awkward lack of sparkling conversation suited her Madonna – like face and calm. And her seriousness with love was also part of the calm waiting nature. It did not enter her head that there are such things as play, and a game. And a man’s eagerness for sport. And so when she noticed that his attentions seemed to be wandering, even after he had admitted to a lot of people that they were engaged, she asked him, with the eager desperation of the inexperienced, about their marriage.
He laughed at her. Laughed gently, teasingly, saying they could not get married for a long time yet; he must repay his parents first for all that they had done for him. He must first be sure to be able to afford the things she deserved. Well turned phrases he said his excuses with. Charming little evasions. And if she did not see through them while he spoke them, his frequent absences, where his visits had been as a habit; his excuses to stay away when once no amount of sending him off could make him stay away; these but made her see. And understand.
And then the way neighbours will, they tried to be kind to her. For they could see her heart was breaking and they tried to say sweet things to her, things like her being far too good for him. And then they heard that he had married. Another girl. And they saw her grief, and thought it strange that a girl should grieve over an undeserving lover or so. She lost a little of the plumpness that was one of her charms. And into her eyes crept a hurt look to replace the dreaming. And Espeleta, with all the good people, strove to be even kinder to her. Watched her grief and pitied her. And told her that whatever mistakes she had committed to make her grieve so, to make her suffer so, they understood and forgave. And they did not blame her. But now that she had learned her lesson, she must beware. She knew her own father as much as they knew about him. And it was in the Fates that his sins must be paid for. If not by himself, then by whom but she who was begotten by him? So, didn’t she see? How careful she should be? Because you could, they said it to her gently, kindly, cruelly, because she could if she were careful, turn aside the vengeance of the implacable fates. And she believed them kind although she hated their suspicions. She believed them kind, and so she started, then, to hate her father. And that night long ago came back to her, and she wished she had not thrown that knife away.
Espeleta saw Martha turn religious. More religious than Iya Andia and Iya Nesia, who were old and saw death coming close, and wanted to be assured of the easing of the gates of heaven. Espeleta approved. Because Espeleta did not know what she prayed for. Because they saw only the downcast eyes under the light veil, the coil of shining hair as it bowed over the communion rail.
Yet Martha’s mother and father still lived together. They never had separated. Even after that night, when she was twelve years old and frightened, and she had called for him and looked for him and not found him. The next day he had come back, and between her mother and him there was a silence. They slept in the same bed, and spent the nights in the same room, and yet Martha and Espeleta knew he had another bed, another chamber. Espeleta praised Martha’s mother for being so patient. After Martha had fallen in love, when she began hating her father truly then also she began despising her mother.
You did not know it to look at Martha. For her coil of braided hair was still there, and the shy way of speaking, and the charming awkwardness at conversation. And Martha made up her earlier lack of lustre by shining in her class now. She was eighteen and not through high school yet. But she made up for it by graduating with high honours. Espeleta clapped its hands when she graduated. Gave her flowers. Her mother and father were there, too. And they were proud. And to look at Martha, you would think she was proud too, if a little too shy still.
Martha studied nursing. And started having visitors in her mother’s house again. Doctors this time. Older men, to whom her gravity of manner appealed, and the innate good sense that seemed so patient in her quiet demeanour. Espeleta was now rather proud of Martha. She seemed everything a girl should be, and they cited her as an example of what religion could do. Lift you out of the shadow of your inheritance. For look at Martha. See how different she is from what should be her father’s daughter.
But what they did not know was that all of these doctors Martha had to choose someone slightly older than the rest. And where the girl of eighteen that she had been almost a child unschooled, now she was a woman wise and wary. Where the other nurses knew this doctor only as someone who did not like their dances as much as the younger ones, who did not speak as lightly, as flippantly of love as the younger ones, Martha knew why he didn’t.
Between the two of them there had been, form the very start, a quick lifting of the pulse, an immediate quickening of the breath. From the very start. And where he could have concealed the secrets of life, he chose the very first time they were able to talk to each other, to tell her that he was not free. He had a wife, and whether he loved her or not, whether she was unfaithful to him or not, which she was, there had been the irrevocable ceremony to bind them, to always make his love for any other woman, if he ever fell in love again, something that must be hidden, something that might not see light.
She was a woman now, Martha was. Wise and wary. But there is no wisdom, no weariness against love. Not the kind of deep love she knew she bore him. And as even she him, she found within herself the old deep – abiding secret hate. Against her father. Against the laws of man and church. Against the very fates that seemed rejoiced in making her pay for a sin she had not committed. She now learned of bitterness. Because she could not help thinking of that night, long ago, when her mother had sat on the bed, and in deliberate words told her just what kind of a father she had. It had been as though her mother had shifted on to her unwilling, unready shoulders the burden of the sorrows, the goad of the grief.
Espeleta, that was so quick to censure, and to condemn; even Espeleta had taken the situation in Martha’s house as something that could not be helped. And as long as there was no open strife, Espeleta made excuses for a thing that, they said, had been designed by Fate. Martha’s father came home. Acted, on the surface, the good husband. And since he was married to Martha’s mother, so must Martha’s mother bear it, and welcome him home again. Because she would rather he came home, then went to the other one, wouldn’t she? Espeleta cited heavenly rewards. For Martha’s mother. And Martha went to church regularly, and was a good nurse. And still called her father, Father.
You have heard that one of course, about the mill of the gods, how they “grind exceedingly fine, and grind exceedingly slow.” Espeleta hadn’t heard that one, nor had Martha. But Espeleta of course would have a more winded version of it. Anyhow, one day at the hospital, Martha was attendant nurse at an emergency case. A man had been shot. There were three bullets through his chest, but he was still alive. Martha laughed queerly to herself, saying I must be dreaming, I am imagining that man has my father’s face.
It was the doctor she loved who was in charge. With a queer dreaming feeling, she raised her eyes to meet his, and was shocked to see him drop his gaze, and over his face steal a twist as of pain, as of pity. They were instantly their efficient selves again, cloaking themselves in the impersonal masks of physician and nurse. It was as if he who lay there beneath their instruments and their probing fingers was any man, the way it could be any man. Not her father. But all while, training and discipline unavailing. Martha said to herself, but it is my father.
He died on the table. He never gained consciousness. Martha drew the sheet over his face and form. And watched as they wheeled him out of the room. She still had the instruments to put away and the room to put in order. But this did not take long and when she went out into the corridor, she found her mother weeping beside the shrouded form on the wheeled table. There was a policeman beside her awkwardly trying with gruff words to console the little woman over her loss. Beside the policeman stood also the doctor, who passed an arm around the shoulder of Martha’s mother, saying simply, we tried to save him.
Martha joined them, knowing that she should be in tears, yet finding that she had none to shed. It would ease the tightness within her, would loosen the hard knot in her heart to cry. But you cannot summon tears when you feel no grief, and the pain you feel is not of sorrow but of the cruel justness of things. She could not even put her arms around her weeping mother. When the doctor told her that she would be excused from duty the rest of the day, that he would arrange it for her, she did not thank him. She did not say anything for indeed she no longer had any words, nor any emotions that required speech. Or should be given speech. For one cannot say, how right! How just! When one’s father has just died.
Her mother and she took a taxi together to accompany the hearse that took her father home. There was a crowd awaiting them. Espeleta in tears. Espeleta crying condolence and opprobrium in the same breath. It was from them – their good neighbours, their kind neighbours – that Martha learned how “God’s justice had overtaken the sinner.”
Colon is not as intimate as Espeleta. For it is a long street and broad street. But where the railroad crosses it, the houses group together in intimate warmth and neighbourly closeness and its families live each other’s lives almost as meddlingly as Espeleta does. And is as avid for scandals as Espeleta is. Among the people in Martha’s house were some from Colon. And it was they who supplied the grimmer details, the more lucid picture.
In that other woman’s house – and Martha did not even know the other woman’s name there had existed the stalemate state of affairs that had existed in Martha’s house. Only where in Martha’s house it had been a wife who was patient, in that other woman’s house it had been the husband who had bided his time. And yet the neighbours had thought he had not cared. For indeed he had seemed like a man blind and deaf, and if he raised his voice against his wife, it was not so they could hear it. Yet today, he had come home, after he had said he was going away somewhere. And had come upon Martha’s father in the house, and had, without saying anything, taken out his revolver, and shot at him.
Martha heard all these. And thought you know often life seems like an old – fashioned melodrama, guns and all. And yet the gun had not gone off. It had jammed, and Martha’s father had been able to run. And running, even as he seemed far enough from the house to be safe, the gun in the husband’s hand had come right again. The man had gone out in the street, aimed at the fleeing figure. That explained why the bullets had gone in through his back and out through his chest. They said that the street was spattered with blood and where he fell, there was a pool of gory red. The killer had surrendered himself at once. But everyone knew he would not pay with his life he had taken. For the woman was his wife and he had come upon them in his own home.
Martha stayed with the kind condolers only a while. She left her mother for them to comfort as best as they could. They would have praises like “The good God knows best;” they would have words like, “Your grief is ended, let your other grief commence.” She went to look at her father lying well arranged now in his bier. Already in spite of the manner of his death, there were flowers for him. Death had left no glare in the eyes that the doctor at the hospital had mercifully closed, over the features lingered no evidence of pain. And Martha said, Death was kind to you.
In Martha’s room there hung a crucifix. Upon the crossed wood was the agonized Christ, His eyes soft and deep and tender, even in his agony. But as Martha knelt, and lighted her candles, and prayed, in her eyes was no softness, and on her lips no words appealing for pity for him who had died. There was only the glitter of a justice meted out at last, and the thankfulness for a punishment fulfilled. So she gave thanks, very fervent thanks. For now, she hoped, she would cease to pay.

"Mill of the Gods"  by Alfon, Estrella. Philippine Literature. Web. 121 March 2013. <>

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013 by Magnificent Four in

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Estrella D. Alfon - Prolific Filipina Writer from Cebu

Lit102 - Philippine Literature


Life and Works of Estrella Alfon

by Magnificent Four in

The Story, Low Wall by Estrella Alfon talks about a girl told her story about her experience while she was taking a bath inside her home. She described her house with weak foundations and low walls. She talks about how difficult it was for them to take a bath because of the low walls for people came and tried to sneak on them. She describe the problems they had with the noise around their house for buildings and constructions were surrounding them and more and more infrastructures were leaving them behind.

She then talks about an incident wherein she was taking a bath and caught a man watching her bathe. She scram and her mother came in and helped her change since she was filled with anger that she could not think straight. Her father came back with the man and with she guessed to be the man's father. She wanted to slap the man across the face but then seeing him infront of her with eyes filled with guilt and fear, she gave up and decided to let it go.

In this story, Estrella Alfon shows the changes one experiences within the society. Since the girl was living in a house that was not urbanized or was not well-built, she felt the problems and difficulties that were rising because of the construction of buildings around their home and the changes in the society's attitudes and thinkings like changing the way she dressed.

When she encounters the man who she caught watching her with she bathe, we can see how she changed her mind when she had the decision to punish the man. It can be said that she felt like she could not do anything anymore for she she felt pity for the man for she also blames herself for the reason why this man did the act.

Over all, the story can be related to so many people. The feeling of getting left behind the fast changing society is so evident in people that they try their best to adjust to these different scenarios in life. The struggle that one encounters in order to keep up with their surroundings and the struggles that come with it along the way. Estrella Alfon was able to show a side of the society where people struggle to adjust to a more 'urban' or more 'industrialized' society.

"Property owner's guide in how to eject squatters effectively". CGBP blog. 2011. Web. 16 March 2013. <>

"Low Wall" by Alfon, Estrella. Web. 16 March 2013. <>

CRITIQUE: Servant Girl
by Magnificent Four in

Estrella Alfon's Servant Girl talks about Rosa, an abused maid who longs for freedom, happiness and love. She was being maltreated by her mistress and was hoping that one day she would be able to be freed from all the abuse she was experiencing. Then one day, while she was out, carrying a basin on her head with her mistress' clothes, she accidentally slipped and fell causing for her ankle to swell. A man in his tartanilla stopped and helped her with her basin.

After the incident, Rosa felt happy and somewhat in love with the cochero. Imagining him wanting him to see her and wanting him to hear her voice. She would sing aloud when her mistress was in an up mood so she would not be scolded and she would imagine how the cochero, even though he cannot see her, he would long for her voice. She would also imagine him passing her mistress' house while she was inside and so that was the reason why she could not see him. She pitied those who would mock her for she believed that she had an 'Angel' that took care of her when she was in distress.

Then one day, she encounters a cochero who was recklessly riding his tarantilla. Due to her anger, she threw a stone and the cochero got angry. He threatened Rosa that he would bring her to the municipio but then she realized who it was. It was 'Angel' who was infront of her. She kept calling him Angel but he kept saying that that was not his name. He did not recognize Rosa until she mentioned the first time they encountered each other.

After this incident, she then realized how much she was just imagining 'their love' and that all of it was not real. And that 'Angel', now his real name 'Pedro' did not think of anything when he helped Rosa when she was injured. And so Rosa went back to her mistress' house and continued on with her job.

In this story, we can say that it can be related to so many real-life situations of those who are in the same position as Rosa. It tells us the sad reality of some of the people working under others who have a higher societal class than them. The abuses that one experiences is caused by the superior thinking of their 'masters'. Estrella Alfon's work shares the story of Rosa and her experiences being a maid under someone who abuses her. It captures the emotional roller coaster than she has; from the crying to the joy of having an 'Angel' then coming back to the state of mind of who she really is and what she is doing.

The use of 'Angel' as Pedro's name before Rosa knew, symbolized even though it was just for a brief moment, the longing for happiness and freedom of Rosa. The way she imagined Angel seemed like he was also loning for her and that he was looking for a way to see and be with her again. Estrella Alfon was able to show how desperate Rosa felt in order to feel happiness. The thoughts and illusions that she was having was a simple way to get away from all the hardships that she was encountering day in and day out. It was a way for her to tell herself that she has it better among other people for they did not have an Angel that took care of them when they were in need. It was a reason for her to be happy.

But then, at the end of the Estrella's story, it shows how her imagination took her to a place in her mind that did not exist. The sad truth that Angel or Pedro did not think of anything of his kind gesture to this woman brought her back to reality that what she was just imagining was just an illusion for her to get away from the abuses that she was experiencing inside her mistress' house.

Estrella Alfon shows another sad side of a person is the same condition as Rosa. In reality, it can be said that there are people who, unfortunately, can relate to Rosa's experiences. The writer was able to show and share all the thoughts and emotions of Rosa throughout the entire story. This work o Estrella Alfon will surely bring you to a realization that even though it is hard to say, the reality is there is really cases like this all over the country and the world. This work will definitely get us reflecting on how we treat others.

Reference (photo and story):
"Servant girl" by Alfon, Estrella. Web. 16 March 2013. <>

CRITIQUE: O Perfect Day
by Magnificent Four in



                The story started at a bus as they went home from their trip. It is about a very nice trip with their friends and family. Well for others like Bebe it was not a very happy trip. There are things that happened that made her sad. Like what happened to her and Kint. She is also afraid of some things just like what happened to her when she was young. Also she is like daydreaming about the vampire and other stuff. While the others had their nice day she had a very different day. Her day wasn’t so nice.

             The story is well written. It is like that you will feel that you are in that same place as where the author’s is telling. You feel that you are in that place with the happy people around. For her having this “perfect day” is not about being happy. Perfect day for her is about feeling everything, laughing, being sad etc. She also spent time with the loved ones like her family and friends. Even there is a conflict between her and Klint. She feels that it is still a perfect day to look forward to the next day.

                Maybe like this story we should learn to look at things in life in a different way. Maybe there are times that our day isn’t right but we should look it the other way. Maybe this is a trial in our life. We should be thankful for that day that we have and just be happy and go on. Tomorrow will bring us our dreams and also our fears. Life is hard, but just goes on and think positive.

                  I can say that her story is well written. Estrella Alfon received many Palanca Awards. She is a very good writer. She makes you feel that you are with her as she writes her stories about "Perfect Day". Maybe this is an old story or old setting but still it feels that you can see what she wants you to see as I read the story. After reading this book it made me feel to think positively about my day. Even how worst my day is, I just need to see the next day and what it holds. 

"O Perfect Day" by Alfon, Estrella. Web. 16 March 2013. <>

CRITIQUE: Magnificence
by Magnificent Four in


      The story is about the little girl who almost got molested by his tutor. His name is Vicente. He is a conductor and volunteered as a tutor for extra money. The father of the family is very busy he usually don’t talk too much with the children. It is usually the mom who is there but then when it is tutor time they are left by their mom.

      I think the story of Estrella Alfon is well written. It shows here in this story that sometimes you need to give more time for the children. Maybe if the father is just more observant about the people around him and not too busy with his job maybe he will notice something. For me this is what Estrella Alfon wants to tells us. Let’s be observant with the people that goes inside our hearts. There are people that will try to take advantage of us. Like in this situation, they didn't even bother to check his background why he seem so fond with the kids. Maybe he love the kids but is there something that more that he wants. I can see the urge of the mother to slap Vicente. As a mother she protected her daughter. She don’t let any mosquito bite her daughter. Then this guy tried to molest her daughter. But then after that the mother was still there. He really make sure that her daughter will feel well.

      Overall I can say that this is a good story. This can be read by parents for them to realize that you need to maybe check on the people that you trust your child with. You cannot trust everyone around you. Your children are very precious. As  a parent you want them to be always safe with the people around.  

"Servant girl." by Alfon, Estrella. Web. 16 March 2013. <>

O Pefect Day by Estrella Alfon
by Magnificent Four in

Estrella D. Alfon

“You cannot write a story about today.” Bebe was sitting on the seat beside me in the lurching bus that was taking us home from Guadalupe. It was evening and there was a full moon. There were many of us in the party.
Why can I not write about today? What happened that would be so hard to write about?
“For one thing,” she said, “ we were very happy. I try to read all your stores and they are never happy.”
But I can write about today. Very early this morning, we went to the wharf to meet the boat that was bringing your sister to us.
“Yes,” Bebe said, “and we started being very happy then.”
We started being very happy then. How many we were! There were my mother, and your mother, and your sister, Bingbing. Then my brothers, Nene and Boy. That is the family. Of the others, there were Asnsiang and her husband. And there was Luis, who is in love with your sister Inday. And there was Kint.
When we arrived at the wharf, there was your father, too. And we waited, for the boat was late. Soon the sun was glaring fiercely. It seems soon, because there was so much laughter to push away the hours. Boy made a pretense of jumping into the sea and we cried, “ Oh please don’t.”. The people looked to see what we were screaming at and then smiled to ook at us. We laughed so. Because who would jump into the sea? Certainly not Boy, who is fifteen and is in the throes of growing pains. We all know he is in the grip of puppy love--- and for a girl older than himself. We tease him so about it: about his sudden consciousness of neatness; the wave he tries to put in his hair; his efforts to keep to the side of the road when we are walking and she  is with us; and about girls in general. He tries to pretend he is angry, but how evident it always is that he only huge a baskets on their backs, hung from their heads by straps of banana trunk fiber. There are tomatoes, cheeky and colorful, in shallow woven trays on the heads of children who have rolls of smoking tobacco in their mouths.
We come at short last to the cottage that awaits us. Set at the foot of a hill; bamboo and nipa, unpainted, browned by sun and rain. Torpedo, the keeper’s dog, chases some pigs away from the cultivated plants and the rosebushes. There are chickens; and hens very jealous of their chicks. There are green coconuts that await the splitting. And there is a mango tree with its branches hanging low with clusters of green mangoes. Boy finds a carabao lying placidly in the river. It is the keeper’s beast and it knows Boy, so he clambers on its back, and now that animal is climbing ponderously up the side of the hill, until Bebe screams that is should not be ridden, pity the beast, it has just had a baby!
The keeper’s wife smooths out a mat and brings out pillows, white-sheeted. We are so tired without eating; it is very welcome to lie down and pat our stomachs. But someon suggest volleyball. There is a court somewhere near; we can hear the smack of a ball being met by hands and served and returned. There are men playing there, and we wait for  them to finish their game. Then we take sides--- all the women on this side; all the men on that side. We are so many against them, and except for Inday, who captains all three (gosh!) of her school’s teams, not one of us knows enough about the game to keep from chiding the men because they serve hard balls, or because they toss the ball too far out of our reach! But what is a game for except for shouting and jumping, even if one never touches the ball at all!
We played volleyball until the light grew rather dim, and even then waited only because the ball fell plunk on to a cake of carabao dung.
Someone brought out some patadyongs and we girls scurried into what cover there was to change into them. Armed with dippers of coconut shell, we went, Bingbing and I, to the riverbed where there was a well that we cleared of moss and dipped into. There were wild bushes by the river’s bank, with many flowers. We gathered these, and plucked their petals and sent them with the water coursing away. How lovely they looked floating thus, petals of orange, very small like confetti, many like stars. And then Bingbing, digging in the well to make it deeper, said, “Come and see what I see.”
Dusk was falling, but in the well, nevertheless, the lightness of the heavens was very clear. I leaned over Bingbing’s shoulder and watched my face among the clouds reflected in the water; clouds that kept forever moving, so that now the well darkened, and now lightened again. And then---I clasped my hands in delight, for while we watched one star glimmered in the well. “Star light star bright, first star I’ve seen tonight, I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight.” Bingbing threw her head down and bent over so that her wet hair hung into the well, and drops dripped from it and disturbed the image of the solitary star in the water. Then the water cleared again, and now there were other early stars in the sky. How early they were! Bingbing got up and went away.
I should be afraid. All around me there are trees, and no the river there is now no person but myself, beside the cold well, under the early stars. Bathing at night, or even at dusk had always held a kind of fascinating terror for me. The cold water seems to envelope me in a mantle that grips my limbs and prevents me from moving. A coldness creeps into me that seems to reach my very bones and makes me shiver in chilled terror. I remember how one night, with some friends of my mother, we went to Talisay in our car, with Mother driving. I was a girl of twelve and I sat beside Mother in the driver’s seat. The other matrons in the seat behind us were very gay, and I joined in with their laughter. In Talisay, where there are swimming pools, we asked the owner to fill a small pool for us. We changed into our bathing suits; then we waited for the pool to fill until the moon was high. And the coconut palms around the tank cast shadows of their leaves on the water. And then one of our party announced that the pool was almost filled. We went into the water, I staying in the shallow end. As soon as my body was wholly in the water, with just my head out, I felt suddenly afraid, yet somehow, I didn’t want to get out. Someone stood on the diving board, a slim mestiza, in a bathing suit that for those days was very daring because it was white and molded her body like a sheath. She poised herself, her body very straight, very white under the light of the moon; her arms stretched out before her, her feet a tiptoe. She sprang upl there was an arc of white through the air and a gentle cutting of the water, and then she disappeared from view. I held my breath and waited for her to come out, and when she did, she was near me, and my mother and the others were clapping their hands.
There was still that chilled terror with me, but I gritted my teeth and bent my knees so that my head was covered by the water, I was in the shallow end, yet somehow, with my head under the water and my breath held, I had a sudden feeling I was alone in the world, in the pool, that I was near to drowning and must hurry to save myself. I had only to stand up, and my head would be out of the water, but some unreasonable panic possessed me, and I thrashed my arms wildly about and opened my mouth to shout, but I only drank in quantities of water; and then I had managed to stand up at last, and I was breathing in hungry gasps of the cold air. There were my mother and the others, out at the deep end, and they were laughing, and telling stories, and daring each other to dive. But the feeling of being all alone would not leave me, the feeling of danger from the water stayed with me, and I grasped the iron railing that ran around the entire tank, swung myself out of the water, and changed hurriedly into my clothes. But the chilliness never left me. I wrapped myself in some towels but I could not drive away that awful feeling of fear. All that night, I dreamed I was in the water, and my mother woke me up once because I was screaming, and then in the morning, I was sick, and the doctor said it was my lungs.
That was so long ago. Here it was dark and it was cold, and I was, I realized, afraid again. I poured some dippers full of the water over myself. I imagined bogey men in the trees that clustered on the banks, and when some chance winds made the bamboos creak, I thought it would be someone calling to me, someone of the evil creatures that hide themselves and prey on humans, like vampires, like witches--. I stood up quickly, left the well, and ran to the others in the cottage. They were singing again, and preparing a bamboo table out under the moon to eat our supper from. They seemed so busy with their preparations, everything was so cheerful—the songs, the moonlight, the food on the table--, that I laughed at myself and changed into dry clothing, chiding my fancy for weaving such frightening thoughts.
We had no lights to eat by except a solitary candle that someone found somewhere in the cottage. Usually the keepers do not need light. This early, they are already in bed, all their chores done. But there was light from the heavens and we saw well enough by that. Our mothers began putting into the basket what things we must not leave behind. We soon finished with supper and prepared ourselves for the walk to the road, and the ride back home.
There are no lights to walk by. There will be mountains and there will be shadows. Ansiang whimpers we shall be so afraid. But the keeper of the cottage gathers some withered coconut palm leaves, and twists them into tight bundles, gives one to every boy in the party, and ligts each torch from the precious candle. Kint keeps beside me, and Luis keeps beside Inday. There is a sudden brilliance as the torches flare up; brilliance that startles after the preceding dark. Te shadows move away, and draw up in walls beyond the reach of our flares. Kint holds something in his hand that looks lovely, a nosegay of white kamuning flowers, and in their center, ringed around by their curling whiteness, a single pink rose bud. Kint holds it out to me and says, “Picked it for you.”
We raise our voices in song, through the short walk to the road. There is more water in the river, and sometimes we cannot help wetting our shoes. How ineffective is moonlight when there are so many trees and mountains and your fears to cast their shadows!
We are out on the road. We are in the courtyard of the church. Behind the roof of a house, there appears a luminous glow as of a fire rising up in flames. We point to it and wonder aloud what it is. We do not have long to wait. The moon peeps over the roof, and we clap our hands in delight. There are bamboo trees with turfs that look like giant feathers when the moon’s glow is behind them; and coconut palms, their fronds hanging demurely down, so that with a little fancy one can say they are maidens casting their eues bashfully down before a suitor too bold.
Kint looks at the moon, and stamps out his flare. He says, “ Do you remember?” I know what he has in mind: nights when we used to walk to the pier and sit down and talk and sing; a whole crowd of us. That was before he fell in love with me. When he did, he was barred from the group and its singing, for he had committed a grievous breath of friendship. He says, “ I am always asking do you remember, when there is nothing to remember!” I look at him in silence, then before I know it, the cruel words have sprung from my mouth. “Haven’t I shown you yet how bad I can be? Are you still in love with me?” He turns his head away, and there is a fierceness about his mouth.
I walk away, feeling sorry for him. I watch Luis sit on a big stone beside the church door. I watch his eyes follow Inday about. And Inday keeps on singing and walking about among us, flinging jokes at us, slinging off smart talk she must have learned in Manila. Inday’s mother and my mother are talking together. I know them so well. Their talk will be about me and Inday, and the others; about their hopes for us. They will mention so many things they feel they can be proud of. They will have so many dreams to tell about, and all through their words there will run their love for us, their fear of anything happening to us. I go back to Kint and let him watch me being careless with the flowers he has given me. I tell him of someone I love very dearly. And he smiles at me and says he hopes I will be happy.
I sit down beside Luis and ask him not to put his chin that way on his hand. But he says it is restful that way, and he tries to join in the singing there is. The bus arrives and we take our seats in it. Bebe sits beside me, and tells me I cannot write a story about today. There is a moon in the sky. There are fragrances carried on the breeze. We pass a cemetery and Ansiang points out the grace of her sister. There are so many crosses, and they look so peaceful standing there in rows. My brother Nene sings lustuly. But always Nene will be by himself; he and his jokes about women and their defects, his apparent hardness to everything that one can cry about. How hard it goes with a picture of him I have in my mind, when one day I saw him taking a bath and he crossed himself before getting his head under shower. My brother Boy, how big he is! Only yesterday I was boxing his ears and bullying him.
I look at Kint and realize how I must have hurt him… how I always have hurt him. A woman may feel triumphant about such things but it will never be true that she is happy about them. There is Luis. He will always love Inday too. Inday’s mother will always think of him or any many unworthy because she loves Inday so much. Luis will always follow her about and not speak to her, and dance with her but nit look into her eyes. There are our mothers. They will always have such dreams of us, and we shall always never quite fulfill them. They will always love us so much; it will always hurt them to see us fall in love. Inday leads the singing. “Another perfect day has gone away,” What peace that song breathes! Perfect day. Bebe sings but she looks out of the bus window and watches the moon.
Today was perfect not just because it held laughter; but because, like every other day, there were yesterdays to remember, to cry about and to be glad about; and tomorrows to look forward to in fear and hope.

"O Perfect Day" by Alfon, Estrella. Web. 16 March 2013. <>