Bahay Kubo

I must have caught the virus at that gym I checked out last Saturday. I felt weak and sluggish when I woke up the next day. I chalked it up to the workout made more strenuous by the core exercises that I hadn’t done in four months. Fatigue remained throughout the day, and sore throat came in the evening. By Monday, I had a cold and my apartment bulged with lumps of tissue in every corner. Good thing the wind and clouds provided a welcome reprieve from the blazing heat of the past weeks, or my sinuses and chest might have exploded from the discomfort.

As I walked home from a fruit stand that Monday, I noticed a new tailor shop beside the eatery that serves the best laing in Raha Matanda. A strong wind blew at that moment, taking me back to another breezy day in my childhood.

My mother and I were inside a neighbor’s house in Sitio Manggapo-gapo. I remember the house well because I had found it a little strange. It was an old bahay kubo (traditional Filipino hut made of nipa palm and bamboo) and was the only structure perched on top of a little hill in our village. It stood vividly against the blue sky. The wind played gaily against its walls, causing them to rattle.

I remember the strong smell of fabric inside. It emanated from the piles of clothes on a wooden bed that occupied most of the small space. Near the hut’s only window, a woman with grey hair and round glasses wheedled a tired sewing machine into creating more clothes. I think her name was Pining, Manggapo-gapo’s only dressmaker. My mother haggled laughingly with Tiya Pining over the cost of making my kindergarten uniform. Mama got the price she wanted, as she usually did, and my measurements were taken. I don’t recall if I felt excited or not over going to school for the first time. I only remember the chaos of that house on the hill, the wind, and being with my mother.

Maybe I remembered her so clearly that day because I was feeling ill. Times like that she’d be cooking my favorite meals, making sure my back was free from sweat, ensuring I take my medicine on time, and urging me to move around now and then because “it would be good for my body.” She used to say that we should always try to help ourselves, to do what we could even when we were sick. As a child, I would scoff at this and dismiss it as one of her ‘rants’. Today, I see the wisdom in it.

So I go out to find the food that would help me get well instead of just munching on the soda crackers sitting in my kitchen. I go out in spite of the blistering weather that came back with a vengeance after Monday. I see these little forays outside as a way of helping me recover.

And all the while I would hear my mother’s voice in my head, always urging me to get up and get moving. Soon, I know I will heal completely.

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