Pikpik

Translated from the Cebuano by John Bengan

 

The first time I arrived in Malita, I felt dizzy from traveling. The winding road was worse than Kennon Road, particularly the way to Barangay Kidapalong.

Before I went on the trip, my Lola Lumanda told me to watch my guard because there were a lot of people who tap you in Malita.

“If someone taps you, someone who does pikpik, tap them back so you won’t get hexed or poisoned,” Lola Lumanda had told me.

I remembered what a teacher I knew from Barangay Lacaron had said. There were also a lot of those who did pikpik and poisoning in Lacaron, which was why one shouldn’t go around drinking or eating anything, especially if one didn’t know where the food had come from.

The teacher also said that those who did pikpik searched for any victim, especially those whom they didn’t know. They would tap you even if you didn’t do a thing to them. They grew weak if they were not able to tap anyone or cause trouble on others. Like some kind of evil power.

Since I was supposedly a millennial, I didn’t believe in pikpik, which many believed brought poison and harm on the body.

Because of my work as a teacher, I was able to reach Malita, in search of a job. It wasn’t the time to be picky. The trip from Matanao to Malita took about two hours. I didn’t know anyone or have any relations in that place, but with prayers, I went about charging into the unfamiliar city south of our province.

“Stop at the Warehouse, then get off. Hop on a payong-payong tricycle. Fare is only eight pesos all the way to SPAMAST,” the HR had said to me.

Because I was a single woman who had no serious responsibilities, I eagerly took the chance to look for opportunities in Malita. Back then, Malita had been part of Davao del Sur, but since many agreed to divide the province, the town became part of Davao Occidental.

As I was traveling to Malita, I saw that the town was abundant mostly with coconut trees, bananas, and mango trees. I felt like I had turned a hundred curves getting to town. As the van turned and meandered, I also felt as though my insides were swirling. All I could see was hills and the wilderness. There were a few houses scattered along the road. Most of these homes were bamboo huts with zinc roofs.

 

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Before you reached Poblacion, you’d pass by children and adults carrying jugs of water. You’d know immediately you were arriving at a barangay because there were many signs that said you are now entering barangay tubalan or barangay lacaron or perhaps, barangay kidapalong.

Upon arriving in Malita, I was relieved to have surpassed the long, snaking roads. But I also felt some fear, because even though I didn’t really believe it, I’d been told there were those who did pikpik. That was why I was very watchful of what was around me.

When I hopped on a payong-payong, I told the driver where I was headed.

“You’re new here, Ma’am?” the driver asked. I nodded and pulled out my pink coin purse so I could pay. When I reached the school, I was greeted by joyous and smiling faces.

As my classes began and I got to know my students, I was amused by their questions. Since I was from Matanao, they were thinking that there were a lot of “natives” in our town who poisoned other people, who did pikpik.

They also didn’t believe I had Blaan blood because they said I spoke good English. I laughed, a bit offended. They thought “natives” couldn’t speak English?

I also asked them if it was true that there were those who did pikpik in Malita. They told me there were none.

In return, they asked if it was true that people performed dark magic and did pikpik in Matanao. My eyes widened and I quickly denied the accusation. I was amused thinking about the various ways people from other places peddled false beliefs and spoke evil of other towns, like the often-heard story about Siquijor as the land of ghouls.

I felt the warmth and the honesty of the people of Malita. Once when I dropped my cellular phone somewhere, I called the number and was surprised to find out that it had been left at the school’s guard house by a student who had found the phone.

Because of its people and natural beauty, I quickly fell in love with Malita. The sea struck a salty breeze upon the shorelines. The hot weather didn’t sting the skin.

Months passed, then I found myself vomiting suddenly. As if a hand was wringing the insides of my stomach. My body was racked with chills, my knees quaking. My heart was racing. My roommates took care of me and rubbed Efficascent camphor oil on my belly and forehead. I vomited and vomited, until there was blood in my vomit. There was also something black, green, and brown in my barf.

One of my roommates said, “Ma’am, we need to bring you to the district hospital because your condition is not good.”

I couldn’t remember my response. I woke up with dextrose attached to my arm. I was in a hospital and there was no one in the room with me. I wanted to speak, I wanted to get up and walk, but I could only lift my eyes.

I heard voices outside my room. When they got in, I saw first my Lola Lumanda whose face was deeply worried. She was crying. Beside her was an old man I didn’t know.

Since I couldn’t really move, my eyes squinting, my grandmother cried even more.

“Your granddaughter has been cursed, Nang,” Lola’s companion said.

“This child really, so hardheaded. Won’t listen to you. I told her not to let her guard down,” Lola said as she held my hand.

I couldn’t see what Lola’s companion had brought, but I could hear clearly what he said.

“A man had done pikpik on her. Maybe she offended him, and he held a grudge on her. We have to counter the curse and send it back to him.”

I didn’t quite understand what happened next, but when I woke up again, I could already move my body, and I felt lighter. I wasn’t in Malita anymore because they had brought me to the Dominican Hospital in Digos.

I was healed. My grandmother didn’t speak again about what had really happened to me. My medical certificate said that I had food poisoning. My grandmother didn’t want me to go back to Malita. She asked me to resign from my job. My students sent me text messages, asking how I was.

I thought very hard about what had happened before I started vomiting. I couldn’t recall any person I had offended. Who was this resentful man I had supposedly hurt? No matter how hard I thought, I couldn’t remember anything.

What I remembered was that a student came to me. He asked me to let him pass even though he hadn’t been attending class.

Because his grandmother had just died, I felt sorry for him so I told him that I’d require a school project. He was happy with my response and when he left, he tapped my shoulder.

Pikpik

Elizabeth Joy Serrano-Quijano

In the original Cebuano

 

Sa unang higayon nga kaabot kog Malita, nalipong ko sa byahe. Labaw pa man diay sa Kennon Road ang pagkabitin-bitin sa dalan, ilabi na sa may Barangay Kidalapong.

Sa wa pa ko nibyahe, gitugonan ko sa akong Lola Lumanda nga di magkompyansa kay daghan mamikpik sa Malita.

“Kung pikpikon ka sa di nimo kaila, pikpika og balos kay aron di ka madutlan sa iyang patakod o hilo,” mao kini ang tugon ni Lola Lumanda sa ako.

Nakahinumdom ko sa gisulti sa akong kailang teacher sa Barangay Lacaron. Daghan sab daw mamikpikay ug manghiloay sa Lacaron mao nga di siya gapatakag kaon o inom, ilabi na kung wa siya kabalo asa kini gikan.

Dugang niya, ang mamikpikay mangitag biktimahon bisan kinsa, ilabi na kung dili nila kaila. Pikpikon ka nila bisag wala kay sala sa ila. Bale magluya sila kung di sila makapikpik o makahimog kadaot sa uban.  Morag evil power daw.

Kay kuno millennial, di ko motuo sa pikpik nga adunay dalang lanag ug kadaot sa lawas.

Tungod sa akong pagkamaestra naabot kog Malita, kay trabaho man ang gipangita. Wa nay higayon nga mamili pa. Halos duha ka oras ang byahe gikan Matanao hangtod Malita. Wa koy kaila o paryente sa maong lugar apan dala ang pag-ampo, nangunay kog sulong sa langyaw nga lungsod sa habagatang dapit sa among probinsya.

“Kutob lang ka sa Warehouse, dayon naog ka. Sakay kag payong-payong. Otso lang ang plete pahatod ka sa SPAMAST,” mao nay gisulti sa akoa sa HR.

Tungod kay dalaga ug way kabilinggan, abtik kong nilayat ug nanimpalad sa Malita. Sa una, ang Malita parte sa Davao del Sur, apan kay nauyonan man sa kadaghanan nga matunga ang probinsya, nahimo na kining sakop sa Davao Occidental.

Samtang nagbyahe ko padulong sa Malita, akong nakita nga sagad sa mga tanom sa ilang lungsod kay mga lubi, saging, ug mga mangga. Mga usa ka gatos ka likoan ang akong nabati. Samtang nagsuray-suray ang van, ang akong mga tinai mora pod nagtuyok-tuyok. Wala kay makita kung dili mga bungtod ug awaaw. Adunay pipila ka balay daplin sa dalan. Sagad niini mga payag nga kawayan ang bungbong ug sin ang atop.

Una ka makaabot sa Poblacion adunay mga bata ug edaran na nga maglukdo og galon nga tubig. Dali ra ka makabalo kung duol na ang baranggay kay daghan mang nakabutang nga You are now entering Barangay Tubalan” o Barangay Lacaron o di ba kaha, Barangay Kidalapong.

Sa akong pag-abot sa Malita, nahuwasan ko kay nakalabang na sa bitin-bitin nga dalan. Apan gibati sab nako ang kahadlok, kay bisag dili motuo, naa lagi daw mamikpik. Mao nga mabinantayon kaayo ko sa akong palibot.

Pag sakay nako sa payong-payong, gisulti nako kung asa ko paingon.

“Bag-o pa ka diri, Ma’am?” ang pangutana sa drayber. Nitando lang ko ug nagkuot sa akong pink nga pitaka ug sinsilyo aron iplite. Pag-abot nako sa eskwelahan, malipayon ug mapahiyomon ang mga nisugat sa ako.

Sa nagsugod na ko sa klase ug nakaila na nako ang akong mga estudyante, nahimuot ko sa ilang mga pangutana. Kay taga Matanao man ko, ang pagtuo nila, daghan daw mga nitibo sa among lungsod nga manghiloay, mamikpikay.

Di sab sila motuo nga naa koy dugong Blaan kay hawod kuno ko mo-English. Makatawa ko nga masuya. Kay ngano, ang mga nitibo di diay kabalo mo-estoryag English?

Ako sab silang gipangutana kung tinuod bang naay mamikpik sa Malita. Ang tubag nila, wala.

Nibalos sab silag pangutana kung tinuod ba na naay mamarang ug mamikpik sa Matanao. Misiga akong mata ug abtik nga milimod sa maong akusasyon. Malingaw ko maghunahuna sa mga tinuohan ug mali nga panghadlok sa mga tawo sa ubang lugar, sama pananglit sa sulti nga sa Siquior daghang wakwak.

Nabati nako ang kainit sa pagtagad ug pagka-honest sa mga tawo sa Malita. Kadtong nahulog ang akong cellphone, gitawagan nako ni ug nakurat na lamang ko nga naa na kini sa guard house sa eskwelahan kay giuli sa mga batan-on nga nakapunit niini.

Tungod sa mga tawo ug sa iyang natural nga kanindot, nahigugma dayon ko sa Malita. Ang iyang dagat gahapak og parat nga hangin. Ang kainit sa lugar di hapdos sa panit.

Pipila ka bulan ang milabay, nikalit lang ko og suka. Ang sulod sa akong tiyan morag naay gakumot nga kamot. Wa ko kasabot sa akong gibati. Mora na gyod kog mamatay sa kasakit sa akong tiyan. Namugnaw ang tibuok kong lawas ug nagkurog ang akong mga tuhod. Nipaspas ang pitik sa akong kasingkasing. Gitabang ko sa akong mga ka roommate ug gihaplasan nilag efficascent ang akong tiyan ug ulo. Nagsuka kog taman; naa nay sagul dugo ang akong suka. Naa say kolor itom, green, ug brown sa akong suka.

Ingon sa akong ka roommate, “Ma’am dalaon na gyod ka namo sa district hospital kay di na maayo imong kondisyon.”

Wa ko kahinumdom kung unsay akong tubag. Nakamata na lang ko nga naa nay nakakabit nga dextrose sa akong kamot. Naa na ko sa ospital ug wa koy kauban sa kwarto. Gusto ko mo-estorya, gusto ko motindog ug molihok apan ang akong mata lang ang akong malihok.

Nadungog nako nga naay nag-estorya gawas sa akong kwarto. Pagsulod nila, una nakong nakita si Lola Lumanda nga guol kaayo og dagway. Naghilak si Lola. Sa luyo niya naay tiguwang nga lalaki nga wa ko kaila.

Tungod kay di gyod ko kalihok, gipiyong-piyong nako ang akong mga mata Misamot og tiyabaw si Lola.

“Gipikpik imong apo, Nang” matod pa sa kauban ni Lola.

“Mao lagi ning bataa ni, gahig ulo. Di magpatuo. Giingnan nako nga di magkompyansa,” ingon ni Lola samtang gigunitan akong kamot.

Di nako makita kung unsay dala sa kauban ni Lola apan dungog kaayo nako ang iyang gisulti.

“Lalaki ang namikpik sa iya. Tingali napasakitan niya ug naay gitago nga kahiubos. Kinahanglan kontrahon nato iyang pikpik ug ibalik ni sa iyaha.”

Wa na ko masayod sa sunod nga nahitabo, apan pagkasunod nakong mata, makalihok na ko ug gaan na ang akong gibati. Wa na ko sa Malita kay gidala na diay ko sa Dominican Hospital sa Digos.

Naayo ra gyod ko. Wa naghisgot si Lola kung naunsa gyod ko. Base sa akong medical certificate, food poisoning ang nahitabo sa akoa. Wa na misugot si Lola nga mobalik ko sa Malita. Iya kong gipa-resign. Giteks ko sa akong mga estudyante ug nangumusta sila sa akoa.

Gihunahuna nakog taman ang mga panghitabo kadtong wa pa ko nagsuka. Wala koy mahinumdoman nga naa koy nakaaway nga tawo. Kinsa kaha ang akong napasakitan nga lalaki ug nahiubos siya sa akoa? Bisag unsaon nakog hunahuna, wala gyod koy mahinumdoman.

Ang ako lang mahinumdom kay adunay estudyante nga niduol sa akoa. Nihangyo siya nga papasaron nako siya bisan wa siyay sulod-sulod sa akong klase.

Tungod kay bag-ohay lang siya namatyan og Lola, naluoy ko sa iya ug ako siyang giingnan nga pabuhaton nako siyag project. Nalipay siya sa akong tubag ug paglakaw niya, iya kong gipikpik.


Elizabeth Joy Serrano-Quijano received a BA in Mass Communication from Holy Cross of Davao College, where she developed her dedication to journalism and passion for creative writing. She works as a college instructor, teaching Development Communication at Southern Philippines Agribusiness and Marine and Aquatic School of Technology (SPAMAST)–Malita, Davao Occidental. She is proud of her Igorot, Kapampangan, and Blaan roots. Her writing is also her advocacy for the indigenous people of Davao del Sur, Philippines.

John Bengan is a writer who teaches at the Department of Humanities in the University of the Philippines Mindanao. His work appears in Likhaan 6, Kritika Kultura, BooksActually’s Gold Standard, and Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, among others. He holds an MFA in creative writing from the New School. His literary translations appear or are forthcoming in Words Without Borders, World Literature Today, and LIT.