Eliane woke up groggily. Pakiramdam niya ay masusuka siya dahil umiikot pa rin ang paligid at tiyan niya. Still disoriented, she tried to find her bearing, but she could only gape upon seeing her surroundings.
It was pitch black. She could not see nor hear anything besides herself.
Dahan-dahan siyang tumayo habang dinig ang dumadagundong na tibok ng kanyang puso. The place looked and felt like a chasm with no way out. She was starting to panic when a speck of light the size of a firefly appeared in front of her. She stared at it in wonder. Then two more appeared. And several more, until the light illuminated the place.
Napaawang ang kanyang bibig sa nakita. Behind her was a dais adorned with golden potteries and figures. In the middle sat a burning throne that looked like it was made from the sun’s plasma. Kinurap niya ang kanyang mga mata sakaling nililinlang lamang siya ng mga ito ngunit naroon pa rin ang naglilyab na luklukan.
“What the heck?” she blurted out.
“Gising na ba ang iyong diwa, pitulon?”
Napatalon siya nang muling marinig ang tinig ngunit kaiba sa kanina ay tila galing na ito sa labas. The voice was reverberating through the chasm, making the presence more daunting. Hindi niya alam ang isasagot niya kaya marahan na lang siyang tumango.
All of a sudden, she could see everything again—the Estrellas, their living room, and even her own hands, but there was something wrong. She was not in control of her body. It was as if she was in the back seat, and someone had hijacked the driver’s seat.
“Pagbati,” the voice greeted.
Nagulat siya nang biglang yumuko sa kanya si Dr. Estrella pero nanatiling nakatindig ang kambal. That was when she realized even Cyrus’ appearance changed. His eyes were pitch black and the ends of his hair were turning silver. Napaatras siya nang bigla na lamang siya nitong sinamaan ng tingin.
“Tala, mas maiging tayo lamang dalawa ang mag-usap,” Cyrus said but his voice was quite feminine.
Eliane could feel the irritation in her body, but she knew it wasn’t her own emotion. “Tila nakalilimutan mong saklaw ng aking kapangyarihan ang sandaling ito, Mayari,” the voice controlling her body retorted.
Cyrus rolled his eyes in return. “At natatanaw ba ang araw sa sandaling ito, Apolaki? Unti-unti nang nababalot ng kadiliman ang kalupaan sapagkat patuloy na nahihimbing ang iyong kapangyarihan. Pulos ka lamang kapalaluan.”
Maging si Eliane ay tila nahabag ang buntot sa palitan ng kanilang salita ni Cyrus. Kung hindi pumagitna sina Cyrell at Dr. Estrella ay paniguradong magkakasakitan ang dalawa at ayaw niyang mangyari iyon dahil lang sa hindi nila hawak ang kanilang mga katawan.
That was when she also realized something. The entities inside them called each other by their names—Tala, Mayari and Apolaki. She was sure she heard those names before but couldn’t remember when or where.
Nagulat naman siya sa kanyang sarili. She could not believe she was starting to accept everything as the truth. That despite her hatred toward the occult, she could not deny that it was real.
Cyrus’ right eye suddenly returned to its original state. “Apo Mayari,” sambit niya na tila may halong paunawa. “Patawad, Apo, ngunit maaari bang bumalik muna ang iyong hilagyo sa pitulunan?”
Eliane watched in horror and awe as Cyrus seemed to have two personalities. Ngunit makalipas ang ilang segundo ay nanumbalik ang dati niyang anyo at tila nawala ang babaeng nagsasalita kanina lamang. Even Cyrell turned back to her usual self.
Agad siyang napaisip sa nangyari. Could she also force herself to go back to the “front” and gain her control back? However, she did not know how to do that.
“Apo Apolaki,” called Dr. Estrella, and she could feel the annoyance coursing through her body.
Her surroundings spun around again. This time, she felt like riding a roller coaster but a hundred times faster. Her body jerked violently and the next thing she knew, she and her own presence was back right where she should be.
Confused and frightened, she stared at the three, waiting for any explanation.
“What the heck did just happen?”
Pakiramdam niya ay hindi tunay ang mga nangyayari ngunit kahit itanggi niya ay batid niyang hindi iyon nalalayo sa katotohanan. Somebody was messing with her body, so were the twins.
Dr. Estrella held his gaze for a few seconds. “Hindi ba’t sinabi ko sa iyo na tunay at nananatili pa rin sa kasalukuyan ang mga nagdaang anito?” He exchanged looks with his children. “Naging pintakasi rin kami ng aking asawa noon . . . at ngayon, sila ang napili nina Tala at Mayari.”
She was still processing what happened to her a few seconds ago that Dr. Estrella’s words just lingered in her mind. Tila hindi na kaya ng kanyang utak na magdagdag pa ng hindi makamundong kaalaman. She tried to recall the names she had heard a while ago and gasped sharply upon recognizing them.
No way, she thought.
“Did you finally realize it?” Cyrus commented but she could not answer.
“To make it short, you are Apolaki’s new vessel.” Cyrell chimed in and Eliane looked at her friend, dumbfounded. “The sun god dwells inside you, Eliane.”
She did not know how many minutes had passed already. She was just vacantly staring at Cyrell, trying to process everything that they had told her.
Apparently, the myths of the old were indeed true and she was housing one of the deities inside her.
Gusto niya na lang matawa sa mga nangyayari pero sa loob niya ay alam niyang totoo ang mga ito dahil naranasan niyang makulong sa sarili niyang katawan. For a second, she felt bad because she did not believer her own mother for years.
Nagtungo si Dr. Estrella sa kanilang silid-aklatan at makalipas ang ilang sandali ay bumaba itong may dalang makapal na libro. He placed it on the table between them and gently pushed it toward her. Nag-alangan naman siyang kunin kaya si Cyrus na ang nagbukas nito.
She stared in awe at its content. The book was about the ancient deities of the Philippines in every region, along with some anecdotes about them. Huminto ito sa paglipat ng mga pahina nang marating ang rehiyon ng katagalugan noong unang panahon.
Her skin tingled upon reading one of the god’s name--Apolaki.
“Sa ngayon, tatlo pa lamang ang mga anitong alam nating narito na ang hilagyo,” panimula ni Cyrus. “Kami ni Cyrell ang naging sisidlan nina Apo Tala at Mayari dahil na rin sa kasaysayan ng aming angkan,” sabay turo niya sa mga pahina kung saan nakaguhit ang kanilang hindi gaanong malinaw na kaanyuan.
“Dahil sa iyo nakakubli ang hilagyo ni Apo Apolaki, tiyak na isa sa iyong mga ninuno ay mayroong basbas niya, o ‘di kaya ay minsan niya na ring naging pintakasi,” Dr. Estrella explained.
Hindi pa rin niya lubos matanggap na mayroong diyos sa loob niya at ginagamit siya nito bilang sisidlan. Heck, it was Apolaki, the sun god, and according to the book, he was even the patron god of the warriors. She was suddenly wary of the way she acted toward the voice, which was apparently Apolaki himself. Eliane did not want to anger a god, let alone the strongest warrior among them.
“So . . . how about the other deities?” tanong niya makalipas ang matagal niyang pagtahimik.
Dr. Estrella grimly shook his head. “Hindi namin alam kung ilan ang nagising sa kanilang pagkakahimlay. But I’m sure most of them have their own vessels by now. Hindi nga lang natin kilala kung sinu-sino ang kanilang naging sisidlan.”
Bigla naman siyang napaisip. Kung pitulon din si Dr. De Luna, sa kanya ba tutungo ang isa sa mga anito kung hindi ito nahihimbing ngayon?
She suddenly heard someone scoffing at the back of her mind. “Isang tapat na pintakasi ang sisidlan na iyon, ngunit kahit ang nakasusuklam na si Mayari ay hindi pipili ng sisidlang pinagdaanan na ng panahon.”
Napahawak siya sa kanyang ulo. Noong una ay akala niya’y nahihibang lamang siya tuwing maririnig niya ang tinig na iyon ngunit matapos makinggan at masaksihan ang pag-uusap ng mga anito kanina ay batid niyang kinakausap siya ng naturang diyos.
“Bakit?” tanong ni Cyrell.
“Uhm, h-he’s talking . . . and reading my thoughts.”
“Ah. Yeah. They can do that, and even feel our emotions,” Cyrus remarked.
“What?!” she exclaimed. “Nasaan ang privacy?”
Her friend chuckled. “They can only understand old Tagalog so you’re safe if you think in other languages.”
Hindi niya alam kung nagbibiro ba ito pero ganoon ang ginawa niya. She did not want the god being nosy about her thoughts and feelings.
Napatigil naman sila nang biglang dumagundong ang kulog. She felt like the temperature dropped a few degrees and it made her hair stand on end.
“Ayon kay Apo Anagolay ay mayroon pa tayong mas malalang problema,” saad ni Cyrell habang nag-aalalang nakatingin sa bintana.
Napakunot ang kanyang noo. “Anagolay?”
“She’s the goddess of lost things and the weaver of fate,” she replied. “She’s the only deity who did not fall into slumber because Filipinos have always been a believer of fate. And she’s also the first deity to reach mom.”
Naalala naman niya ang kaibang presensyang naramdaman niya noong nakita niya si Dr. De Luna sa kanilang rooftop. That must be Anagolay.
“She said their biggest enemy is stirring and it has been gathering vassals to do its bidding.” The thought seemed to weigh on her friend’s chest. “Someone is trying to bask the world in darkness by keeping the sun out of sight.”
Tumindig si Dr. Estrella at lumipat ang tingin sa kanya. “Apo Apolaki,” he called and Eliane felt the god stirring inside her. “Isa ito sa iyong mga saklaw. Mayroon ka bang palagay sa kung ano o sino ang gumagawa nito?”
Eliane could feel the god’s anger through her nerves. It was as if the situation reminded him of a bitter past.
“Matagal ko nang binura ang kanyang ngalan sa sangkaluwalhatian,” mariing sambit ni Apolaki sa kanyang isipan. “Ngunit tila nagbabalik ang aking walang hanggang kaalitan.”
Nabalot ng katahimikan ang paligid, naghihintay sa kanyang sasabihin.
“Hasanggan,” he said in a bitter tone. “Iyon ang kanyang ngalan.”
“Hasanggan . . .” Eliane relayed. “He said that might be the perpetrator’s name.”
The sky suddenly turned darker, along with a flash of lightning and claps of thunder, as if recognizing the name, she just uttered.