All her life, Eliane thought her mother and her family had delved deep into mystical stuff that she could not believe any of their words anymore. But after the past incidents, she was starting to wonder if they were right after all.
Sa dami ng kanyang mga nalaman, totoo man sa kanyang pandinig o hindi, ay parang wala na siyang ibang magagawa kundi paniwalaan ang mga ito. She could not explain what happened to her these past few days without looking into the supernatural side. Lalo na ngayong nalaman niyang mayroong diyos sa loob niya.
Napabuntonghininga na lamang siya habang nakatingin sa kalangitan. The Estrellas advised her not to leave their home as it would be dangerous to be alone. Besides, their home was protected by spirit guides and Mayari’s divine blessing thousands of years ago. Dahil gusto niyang mapag-isa kahit saglit lamang ay nagtungo siya sa rooftop kung nasaan ang lambana o pook-dasalan.
Unlike yesterday, the night sky was littered with thousands of stars and the half-moon shone brightly among them. She thought it was the first time she had a longer look at the sky during night. Madalas kasi ay nasa loob lamang siya ng bahay o ‘di kaya ay apartment kapag kumagat na ang dilim. Maaga din siyang natutulog kaya wala siyang panahon para tingnan ito.
Halos mapatalon siya nang marinig ang pagbukas ng pinto. When she turned, she saw Cyrus and he was surprised to see her there, too.
Naalala niya ang nangyaring sagutan kanina nina Apolaki at Mayari gamit ang kanilang mga katawan kaya agad siyang nag-iwas ng tingin. They weren’t even close to begin with so arguing with him, even though it wasn’t really her, made her feel embarrassed. Still, she felt drawn to him and Cyrell. Pakiramdam niya tuloy ay kagagawan iyon sa mga diyos at diyosang nasa loob nila.
Lumapit si Cyrus sa kanya at tumingala rin sa langit. She took a glance at him and noticed how his unapproachable demeanor was replaced with a gentle expression on his face.
“Everything’s sinking in?” he asked, still looking at the sky. She let out a dry chuckle. “Not really. Parang lumulutang lang lahat sa utak ko. Idagdag pa na hindi naman ako masyadong naniniwala sa mga gano’n.” Naglakad si Cyrus patungo sa mahabang upuan. A little smile escaped his lips while gazing at the stars. “Kahit sino namang hindi lumaki sa ganitong uri ng paligid ay mabibigla sa mga sinabi namin.”
She wanted to say she wasn’t unfamiliar with this kind of household but held back. May mga nalalaman naman siya kahit papaano, hindi niya nga lang pinaniniwalaan ang mga ‘yon.
“So . . . those three are the deities of the sun, moon, and stars, right?” tanong niya. “Yeah,” sagot ni Cyrus. “At sina Apo Mayari at Apolaki,” sabay turo niya sa kanilang dalawa, “ay ang mga punong-mandirigma ng Maylikha.” “Maylikha?” “Ah,” sabay tingin nito sa kanya. “Ni Bathala.” “Oh. Bakit hindi Bathala ang tawag mo sa kanya?” He drew a breath, ready to explain everything. “According to my parents, the name Bathala was not the supreme ruler’s real designation. Unang nakita ang ngalan na iyon sa isang aklat na sinulat ng mga Kastila noong nakarating sila rito sa Pilipinas kaya marami ang nagsasabing marahil ay hindi iyon ang totoo niyang ngalan. Some scholars even said that the term was from a Sanskrit or Arabic word, not ours.” “Oh, so kaya Maylikha ang tawag ninyo sa kanya?” Tumango si Cyrus. “O kaya naman ay Lumikha. But neither are his real name.” Kumunot ang noo niya. “Ha?”
Naging interesado naman si Eliane kaya lumapit siya kay Cyrus at umupo sa tabi nito. Despite being part of the myth, it was intriguing because it was tied with the precolonial history of the country.
He chuckled in response. “Dahil maraming anito na maaari nilang pagdasalan o hingan ng tulong, madalas ay hindi nila tatangkain pang tumungo sa kanya. Asking for the supreme god for help only meant there would be a cataclysmic situation, so our ancestors never dared address him by his name but just by his epithets or titles.”
Eliane never expected that learning about the deities would be a bit enjoyable. At the same time, she felt scared because that only meant the stories were real . . . because the gods inside them were the proof.
Agad nagbago ang timpla ng kanyang mukha at napatingin siya sa kanyang mga kamay. She did not like what she experienced a while ago. Having her body taken over by someone else was not something she would want to go through. It felt weird to see everything from inside her body.
“Don’t you feel weird?” tanong niya kay Cyrus. “Hindi ka ba natatakot? I mean, there’s a goddess inside you.” Maging si Cyrus ay napatingin sa kanyang kamay. “I admit it felt strange at first, but we are prepared for this kind of circumstance.” “Dahil sa parents n’yo?” He nodded. “Nakinita na ni Mama na muling magigising ang mga anito pero hindi niya inaasahan ang mga nangyari. Still, we somehow managed.”
Nagpakawala siya ng isang malalim na buntonghininga. She still could not understand their world and she felt like she had to catch up real fast to survive whatever danger was looming. Now that she thought about it, few days ago, she was just busy with her thesis writing, this time, she was the vessel of a god.
Eliane still get creeped out with the whole situation, but she felt like she had to accept it, not for her own sake, but for others. Pakiramdam niya tuloy ay hindi na bilang si Eliane ang tingin sa kanya ng mga Estrella, kundi bilang sisidlan ni Apolaki.
“Pero bakit ako?” tanong niya makalipas ang ilang minutong katahimikan. “Pakiramdam ko, nasali lang ako dahil nandoon ako noong nangyari ‘yon . . . and I don’t want this . . . whatever this is . . .” “Proximity might be one of the factors, but the deities won’t choose someone who isn’t compatible with their essence,” he replied. “He chose you because he knew he could exist inside you.” “Why not someone else? Bakit hindi iyong ibang descendants ng mga naging kampeon niya?” “Not all descendants are born as potential vessels.” “What do you mean?”
Cyrus turned toward her and placed his palm in front of her face.
“Alam mo ba kung ilan ang kaluluwa natin sa katawan?” he asked. She frowned upon hearing his question. “Uhh, isa . . . ?” He folded his thumb. “Wrong. We have four.” “Seryoso ka ba?” she blurted out.
Agad naman niyang tinikom ang kanyang bibig nang mapagtanto ang kanyang nasabi pero mukhang wala lang iyon kay Cyrus. He motioned at his fingers and her gaze followed it.
“Una ang katambal,” he said, pointing at his forefinger. “Or the soul proper. Ito ang ating kakambal kapag tayo’y nabubuhay. Basically, it’s our very own essence. Sa pagkamatay natin ay tuluyan din silang nawawala. Pangalawa ay ang kalarma. This is the soul of vigor and reason, and one of the two souls that can be stolen.” “Stolen?” she intoned. “Yes. Supernatural creatures and entities can take it and its absence leads to the person’s insanity. Kaya nga ‘di ba sa mga kasabihan at kwentong bayan, kapag may naeengkwentro silang engkanto ay sinasabing nawawala sila sa kanilang mga sarili? They love to take one’s kalarma because it lengthens their lifespan.”
Kinilabutan si Eliane nang marinig iyon. Hindi rin siya naniniwala sa mga aswang at engkanto pero dahil bahagi sila ng paniniwala ng mga Pilipino noon ay tiyak siyang mayroong katotohanan sa ilan sa mga iyon.
“Which brings us to the third one, the aniwaas, the soul of sleep and wandering,” he continued. “Ito ang lumalabas sa ating katawan tuwing tayo ay natutulog. It’s also the one responsible for our dreams and nightmares.” Kumunot ang noo niya. “Responsible sa panaginip natin? How . . .” “That particular soul can travel through time and space, and through dimensions, and that’s why our dreams vary greatly. Kapag may napapanaginipan kang tao, mataas ang tsansang naroon din ang aniwaas. Kapag walang mukha ang taong napanaginipan mo, madalas ay mayroon itong kaharap ng anito o engkanto.”
She swallowed back the fear crawling through her throat. She remembered that one time she had a sleep paralysis. May kinalaman din bai yon sa aniwaas?
“So kapag nakaranas ka ng sleep paralysis . . . what does that mean?” “Hmm. That means somebody got a hold of your soul,” he replied. “Kaya madalas ay hindi ka rin makagalaw o makasigaw. Then you see something in front of you, trying to choke or keep you from screaming. Tulad ng kalarma ay nakukuha rin ng iba ang aniwaas. Those entities are trying to steal it away, and once that happens, the person will fall into a long slumber.”
There was a hint of grief in his voice and upon glancing, she thought he looked sad for a moment. Saka niya na-realize na parang ganoon ang nangyari kay Dr. De Luna. She was not sure if it was because of the deities’ awakening or it had something to do with the souls he was talking about.
“A-and the fourth one?” she asked, trying to bring his attention back to the topic. She did not like seeing someone bearing a sorrowful expression. “Right,” he mumbled, jarring his thoughts back to the present. “Pang-apat, ang alariya. The soul of the dead. It’s the soul liberated from our bodies upon death. Sa kasalukuyan, ito ang tinatawag nating kaluluwa.” “Oh . . .” “That’s the case for normal people. But . . .” Cyrus suddenly unfolded his thumb. “Some have a special soul reservoir, and that niche can be inhabited by special spirits . . . like what we have right now.” Eliane reached for her stomach. “A fifth soul . . .” “Pitulunan,” he added, and she remembered how he said that word when talking to Mayari earlier. “And since you have it, that means you’ve been a potential vessel since you were born. Marahil ay itinadhana ka para rito.”
Hindi niya alam kung dapat niya bang ikatuwa o ikatakot ang narinig. Somehow, she felt like it just made everything worse. Ibig sabihin ba noon ay nabuhay lamang siya para maging sisidlan o pitulon? Na itinadhana ang lahat ng nangyari at kahit anong gawin niya ay hindi na mababago iyon? Na kailangan na lang niyang tanggapin ang lahat?
“I did not want this . . .” she muttered.
Gusto niya na lang bumalik sa dati ang lahat. Okay lang kahit mahirapan siya sa thesis o maubos ang oras ng tulog niya para rito. She wanted to return to her mundane routine, not this supernatural world she was suddenly pulled in.
Bumalik ang isip niya sa kasalukuyan nang makarinig siya ng ingay. Sabay silang napatingin sa pintuan dahil bumukas iyon at sumalubong ang mukha ni Cyrell.
“Nandito pala kayo. Kakain na raw,” anunsyo niya.
Sabay-sabay naman silang bumaba. Pinakiusapan siya ng pamilya na dito na muna matulog ngayong gabi pero nahihiya siya kaya nakailang pilit si Cyrell bago siya mapapayag. After eating in silence, her friend steered her toward a guest room.
“Kung may kailangan ka, punta ka lang sa kwarto ko,” sabi ni Cyrell. “Okay.”
Eliane plopped on the bed and let out a long and deep sigh. Pakiramdam niya ay napakahaba ng araw ngayon kahit na kabaligtaran naman ang nangyari. She still could not believe everything that happened and everything that she learned. It would be comforting if she realized all of it was just a dream, but she knew otherwise.
Dahil sa pagod ang kanyang katawan at isipan ay mabilis siyang nakatulog kahit wala siya sa sarili niyang kama.
Deep inside her, Apolaki’s essence stirred. He heard everything they talked about and felt her emotions, albeit not understanding half of them.
Apolaki was a proud warrior. Ang alam niya lang noon ay ang makipaglaban. Ang dahilan ng kanyang kayarian ay ang pagkamit ng tagumpay. He could not understand why a vessel would not feel proud if they were chosen by a god like him.
Ngunit hindi batid ng diyos na hindi lahat ng tao ay nais makipaglaban o nais magtagumpay sa anuman. Ang ilan ay kuntento na sa kung ano ang mayroon sila.
Also, he admitted Eliane was not his first choice. The girl did not have any outstanding demeanor or abilities, but she was the closest to him at that moment. Still, he stood by his decision.
‘Bagama't hindi ang unang hinirang, batid kong mayroon kang kakayahang pumukaw sa pumapanglaw na araw,’ sambit nito bago tuluyang mahimbing sa pitulunan.