Christmas Back Home… Long Ago


Naimbag a Pascua yo amin Apo

Naimbag a Pascua yo amin Apo (photo courtesy of Arnold M Velasco Studios)

The bomber’s moon shone brightly, rising above the acacia, santol and mango tree tops. The bamboo clumps framed the full moon with its delicate lattice-work of leaves and branches. The dew-drenched fields, the little shanties we called home, the goats and carabaos tied to the tamarind tree all lay resplendent in the magic glow of the December moonlight.

We had been caroling since dusk and now nightfall enveloped us. We carried a torch made of bundled rice straw – well, what was left of it. Its dying embers now flew every which way. We walked briskly toward Apo Peelees’ house. A dog barked from the house across the irrigation ditch. Our instruments at the ready, I gave the signal to sing…

“Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright… Round yon virgin mother and child… Hollllyyyy eeennnffaanntt….” we were suddenly interrupted.

“Pumanaw cayo. Anak ti diablo… Nargaan ti turog linocag yo! Balsigek ta rupa yo amin la… alsa…” The voice of Apo Peelees was unmistakable. It was a gravely voice seasoned with years of drinking Basi, Si Hoc Tong, Anisado, Creme de Menthe and quatro cantos Ginebra San Miguel – rut gut stuff. Apo Peelees also beat up on people when drunk. Sober? He was the nicest old man in the neighborhood but when he gets into that rut gut stuff – there is no telling what he’ll do.

My instincts told me to run. Flee before the axe came flying from the front door to the front yard where we stood singing. But the rest of the carolers started to sing again…

“Alan Apo inkan alaen… tay pascua mi nga inka iteden… ta dikam unay agtaeng… toy paraangan yo nga katimtimel…”

All I heard was a swoosh, then a stampede of carolers fleeing the scene. Apo Peelees was awake now and he came out with an axe. He was screaming and yelling, “Di cay agsubsublin. Tagbatek amin ta saksaka yo. Caponen cayo. Anak ti diablo…”

His voice trailed as we left his front yard in a hurry. After we felt Apo Peelees didn’t follow us, we stopped in the middle of the fields to catch our breath. I noticed Ricky, our purser, looking pale even in the moonlight. “What’s the matter Ricky?” I asked.

“i think I dropped the purse,” he said reluctantly.

“How about the bag with the rice cakes, the fruits and vegetables?” I continued my query.

“I left it by the makeshift stairs when we sang…”