Chapter 2

Pagdating na pagdating ko sa apartment namin, wala na akong sinayang na panahon. I just quickly changed my clothes and prepare my favorite tea at pagkatapos ay sinimulan ko na ang gagawin ko. Pagkalipas ng ilang oras kong pagbobrowse at pagsesearch on the internet, sa kasamaang palad, wala pa rin akong makitang matinong results. Kung hindi Twilight Saga ni Stephanie Meyer ang lalabas, kung ano-anong werewolves and vampires inspired movies and novels ang nakikita ko. I am getting tired and hopeless. Bakit ba naman kasi nacurious ako at nagkaproblema yung writer namin? I let out a big sigh. Puro buntong hininga na ang maririnig mo sa akin dahil nawawalan na talaga ako ng pag-asa. Vera naman kasi ang tapang-tapang mo eh hindi naman pala achievable yung naiisip mo!

Bago pa ako tuluyang lamunin ng aking pagkalugmok, at pagkabaliw dahil sa mga frustrations ko, buti na lang, Jane arrived home. Narinig ko ang tunog ng kotse niya kaya nagmamadali akong pagbuksan siya ng pinto. Imagine, I had been searching for almost eight hours. Mas matindi pa ito sa overtime but I just felt the urge to keep on searching. Hindi ko alam kung saan nanggagaling ang sipag ko. 

Maya-maya pa, pumasok na sa bahay si Jane. Hindi ko Mabasa ang nasa isip niya pero base sa emosyong nakasulat sa mukha niya, she probably on the middle of annoyed and concerned. "Just like what I think. Ang galing mo talaga tumakas at magexcuse, Vera. By the way, I have a takeaway food from your favorite resto. Come, let's eat dinner, I am starving." nangaasar na saad ni Jane pagpasok niya sa bahay. Hindi ako nagkamali pero sa tingin ko mas lamang yung pagka-concerned kaysa sa pagka-annoyed.

I prepared the utensils na pagkakainan naming ng uwi niyang spaghetti aglio e olio. This is my comfort food, and my bestie knows me well. I need this talaga. After Jane changed clothes, she sat down in front of me. Kilala ko na yung mga tingin niya sa akin. She is intently looking me in the eyes as if I am hiding something illegal. I hate Hane when she does this.

“Ano ba Jane? What’s with that look? Wala akong ginagawang kalokohan okay?” I assured her. “Talaga ba? Eh bakit umuusok na sa galit yung boss natin kanina?” she asked. “Well, hindi ba lagi naman siyang ganun?” I spoke. Maya-maya pa, natawa na lang kaming dalawa sa naisip namin. Hindi ko alam kung tama ito pero baka mabilaukan na si John sa pagkaalala namin sa kanya ngayon.

"Alam mo, John was so furious. Galit na galit. He said that you are just taking your position for granted. And thank you kasi lahat ng inis niya, sinalo ko." pagkekwento ni Jane.

"I am so sorry Jane, I truly is. You know, I just needed time to research for something that is connected to Angelo's work. If I do not focus on this, mas maraming sermon ang maririnig natin sa sobrang nakakainis nating boss." sagot ko. 

"Eh, ano ba yang ginagawa mo? What is his problem this time?"Jane asked.

"He has a writer's block na somehow peculiar and strange, but I already had an idea to cure it. I just needed to find an artistic inspiration for him. " I said in full confidence.

"Are you sure? Do you need my help?" Jane asked. 

"Nope. I can handle these things. I will just update you and tell you kapag hindi na kaya ng powers ko." saad ko. Jane just nodded and sighed.

After eating, I washed the dishes. Jane decided to rest but I remained doing my job. Hindi ko kayag matulog na wala pa akong nahahanap na solusyon para kay Angelo. I need to prepare something kais bukas haharap ako sa boss namin. I don’t like to look inferior so, I ned to do my best. But it is already 10 pm and still, I am having a blank sheet as if I didn’t even take some effort to fill the void. Nasabunot ko tuloy ng mahina ang buhok ko dahil sa frustration ko. I cannot imagine my misery. Bakit wala pa rin akong makita?

Pagkatapos kong magrelease ng frustrations, bumalik na ako sa aking ginagawa, hoping na this time, I will find something. I tried different key words to search, and I am praying na makita ko na ang gusto kong makita.  In the middle of my deep researching and reading, I suddenly bumped into a site of an unpopular news company. Hindi ko alam pero I have a feeling that I am close on getting my desire.

When I reached the web page of the news company, I can conclude na mukhang matagal ng walang bumibisita sa site and it looks like the company is no longer on operation. When I scrolled down, my attention was caught by an article they posted way back 2014 which was about the hidden ancestral tribes of Benguet.

Tumindi ang dagundong ng puso kong nilalamon ng kaba nang Mabasa ko ang titulo ng article na iyon. Kahit puno man ako ng takot, I immediately click the article. The site redirected me to the page where it was posted. Laking gulat ko, the author of the article was Rebecca Razon. Hindi ko naman siya kilala pero nagtayuan ang lahat ng balahibo ko sa aking katawan dahil sa panaginip ko, may narinig akong pangalan. I heard a woman named Rebecca I my dreams. Sa mga naalala ko sa panaginip ko, the man who seems to be the leader of the tribe, called the woman who physically maltreated me with the name, Rebecca. Hindi naman ako naniniwala na siya ang nasa panaginip ko. Pero hindi ko maiwasan na matakot at mas macurious lalo. My days became weirder and weirder after I dreamt that dream. To give my heart clarity, I just think of this as a coincidence and nothing of it is true. To be honest, although I am convincing myself that it was just a dream, I cannot silence my heart and mind because it seems that a part of me wanted to believe that she was the woman in my dreams.

Going back to the article, the writer of the article focused on discussing a tribe that was not discovered by human civilization for centuries. Based on the article, the tribe existed in the northern mountains of Benguet and they have a peculiar tradition every blood moon, they called it, Ka-ila-An which means appearance. There are no more details about the tradition, but the article said that every full moon, the people gather and do something about the appearance.

While reading it, I am trembling. There is something in me that is scared at its finest and there is also a part in me that is curious. In addition, the article says that this tribe has many myths and legends. Some says, na hindi ito kayang matagpuan ng mga taong hindi parte o hindi blood relative ng mga indigenous people ng tribe. Some comments on the post are also shocking. Most of it, were comments posted out of fear. Some says that Rebecca shouldn't have posted the article because the tribe was shape shifters.

On the logical side, myths and legends are just a ripple on human's vast imagination. In short, they are not realities. I tried to set aside my personal agenda and the dream that bothers me. I decided to make a proposal out of this. I look for Rebecca Razon on different social media platforms and luckily, I found her. She is now leading a radio broadcasting company near my office, named Hobre Lobo Inc. Later that night, I intricately do and finished my proposal for John to meet Rebecca and hopefully go to the ancestral tribe she had done an article about. I am also hoping that he will approve this. This is the best idea I've got to help Angelo.

Early in the morning, I rushed to the office. Iniwan ko na nga si Jane na tulog na tulog pa. I don't know but I am so excited to meet Rebecca. Hindi ko alam kung bakit but I shake off that excitement and tried to be composed. Kailangan kong magmukhang convincing kay John lalo pa't galit siya sa akin since yesterday. Exactly 8 am, John arrived, I greeted him. "Good Morning, Sir John." I said and smiled. "Ms. Vera, we have things to discuss. Come right away to my office." John replied in a very serious tone, mababakas mo ang matinding inis na marahan niyang tinatago sa kanyang usual face reaction. Kinakabahan ako kasi mukhang nasa highest level ang anger ni John sa akin. But I hope he will not lash out so much to me.

As I enter his room, he scolded me immediately just like there is no tomorrow. "Ano ba yan Vera, you are so unprofessional? You leave work for a made-up excuse. You are so childish. You know, I am so furious yesterday because you act as if you are the head. Know your place, Vera. Submit to me please, I am your editor in chief, for the company's sake! Grow up to a lady, stop being a brat!" John said. What a brat? C'mon, it is obvious that I am not like that. My boss turned on my disgust button. Naiinis ako sa kayabangan niya but I composed myself. Hindi pwedeng magburst out ako. I need to propose something.

Imbis na sumagot kahit gusto ko ng awayin ang lalaking nasa harap ko, I choose not to argue. Mas matimbang sa akin ang proposal ko. " I am so sorry, Sir John. It will not happen again. I know it is a tactless act, but Angelo needed my help because he is now facing a crucial situation. He wanted to stop writing the story that is nearly on its end. I just can't help but to create a spark again in him to continue writing. Sorry, sir. As a matter of fact, I have a proposal here to solve the problem." saad ko kay John while giving him the proposal.

Bakas pa rin sa mukha ng lalaki ang pagkaupset at pagkainis pero I must admit that I cannot take my gaze away from him. I know this sounds weird, knowing that I hate him. Yes, I must say, may itsura si John. Fine, he is indeed gifted in appearance. Kung hindi lang sana mayabang at annoying ito, I might like him. 

With a silent sigh, I can't believe that I come to think of the idea of liking John. Now, the idea made me cringe. "So, para pagtakpan ang mga childish excuses mo, you are now bribing me a solution. How sure are you that this proposal can help Angelo?" he asked with a smirk. Ito, ito yung kinakainisan ko sa kanya. He always makes me feel intimidated and wrong. Parang yung ideas ko are not good enough for him. He depreciates the value of my ideas. How annoying!

"I can assure you, sir. Let us give it a try." I convinced him with all the confidence I have. "Well, for me it is just a waste but let us see if it works. Okay, I will call Hombre Lobo Inc. I will talk to you again if the appointment was set. You may now leave." John answered.

I go out from his room as soon as I can. Hindi ko na matagalan yung attitude niya. He is such a pain and torture in my ego. I hate him. I head towards the comfort room and while looking at the mirror, umikot nang mabilis ang aking paningin. My eyes became cloudy and it feels like my consciousness traveled in a different dimension. It had given me tons of headaches. Ang sakit.

I don't know if I am dreaming while I am standing, or I already passed out but now I can see fields of tall grasses and sea of clouds katulad ng panaginip ko nung nakaraan. The only difference is, mukhang nasa ibang timeline ako.

"Lizette, halika na. Bilisan natin. They are now coming." tawag ng isang nagmamadali sa takot na lalaki sa babeng humahangos din ng takbo na tila ba may tinatakasan. Her face was familiar to me. I saw her in some photos of my dad. The man that was rushing, looks like my dad but younger. Hindi ko rin maclaim na siya ang tatay ko kasi magkaiba sila ng pangalan. My dad's name is Carlo. Imposible din na siya ang tatay ko pero bakit kamukha siya ni dad? My kakambal si dad? Wait, in the first place, why do I even dream about these things?

"Leon, tumakas ka na, dalin mo ang bata, magpakalayo layo ka. Hahadlangan ko sila hanggang sa makakaya ko." giit ng babae. "Lizette, hindi ko kaya na wala ka. I cannot live without you." saad ng lalaki. Dama ko ang matinding pighati na nararamdaman ng lalaki. "Leon, makinig ka, mahal na mahal kita at yang bata na nasa mga braso mo. Alagaan mo siya para sa akin. Tumakbo ka na. Bilisan mo. Sige na." sabi ni Lizette in the middle of her cries. Tumakbo si Leon ng napakabilis at unti unti naglaho siya sa dilim ng kagubatan.

"Lumabas kayo dyan. Ilabas niyo ang mga anyo niyo. Mga halimaw." sigaw ni Lizette. "Hindi lang kami ang halimaw, Lizette. Halimaw ka din. Baka nakakalimutan mo, bahagi ka ng lahi natin. Dugo ng tinatawag mong halimaw ang nanalaytay sa mga ugat mo" saad ng lalaki na tila ba siya ang pinuno ng mga humahabol sa kanila. "Wala akong ginagawang mali." diin ni Lizette. Unti-unti sa dilim, naaninag ko ang mga mata nilang, kumikislap katulad ng liwanang ng buwan. May mga kuko sila na mahahaba at matatalim. "Hindi ko kayo papayagan na saktan si Leon at ang bata. Dadaan muna kayo sa bangkay ko." sigaw ng babae. "Ikaw pa naman ang nakatakdang maging susunod na pinuno. Wala kang galang at respeto sa lahi natin. Traydor ka!" sigaw ng isang babae.

Mabilis ang naging sunod na pangyayari. Lumaban si Lizette pero walang kasing bilis ang kanyang mga kalaban. Tila hangin kung gumalaw ang mga ito at dali daling pinuntirya ang lokasyon ni Lizette. Alerto si Lizette. Nagawa niyang itumba ang ilan pero nakapagtamo pa rin siya ng malalaki at malalim na kalmot mula sa mga kuko ng mga ito. Dahil sa panghihina, inutusan ng pinuno ang kanyang mga alagad na hawakan si Lizette sa magkabila niyang braso at iharap sa kanya. "Wala kang laban sa amin. Pinahina ka na ng emosyon mo. Wala ka ng silbi." tinuran ng pinuno. "Alam niyo na ang gagawin dyan." dagdag niya habang dahan dahang nililisan ang lugar.

"Sa tingin mo, nagtagumpay ka na? Magbabalik ang anak ko at puputulin niya ang mala halimaw niyong pamumuno. Hindi kayo nararapat maging pinuno." sigaw ni Lizette. Sa isang iglap, parang papel na tinusok ang katawan ni Lizette. Walang awang dinukot ng isang babae ang kanyang puso. "Marami ka pang sinasabi, you cannot win against the tribe, Lizette. Never." saad ng isang babae. Nawalan ng buhay ang babae at iniwan ng mga taong lumapastangan sa kanya ang kanyang bangkay na nakahilata sa gitna ng kagubatan

"Darating ang araw, magbabalik ang anak ko, na siyang tunay na itinakda na maging pinuno ng lahi namin. Vera, magpalakas ka." mahinang bulong ng babae habang unti unti nawawalan ng hangin ang kanyang mga baga.

Bakit niya binanggit yung pangalan ko? Why does my name utter by an unknown woman? These words made me even more confused. What? Is it me? Ako ba yung bata na kasama ni Leon? How is that possible? Maya't maya pa, in just an instant, nakaramdam ako ng sobrang sakit sa aking ulo, tila ba napipilipit ang mga ugat nito. In the middle of the pain, I was able to open my eyes. Then, I saw myself in a hospital bed. 

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