(My life as Germelina Lacorte is still a work-in-progress. This is an excerpt.)
THIS IS a snapshot of our house, before the old porch was torn down. It was probably taken in the 1980s, in one of the hottest, driest summers of the El Nino, so, all you see here is the stark wooden structure standing against the bleak dried up landscape of B’la, one of those little known villages in the surrounding towns of Mt. Apo.
All the leaves of the trees are gone. Even the bermuda grass in the front yard had browned and wilted.
Ma must have taken this with the Kodak 110 Instamatic camera that Eve was prodding her to buy at that time. A camera is supposed to capture beauty. Here, it captured the color of dust (gray and hazy) and the dried up stems of the gumamelas (brown). Even before time has turned them into sepia. Ma had tucked it for years among her files of old letters.
If we had known, then, that Ma was taking this picture, we would have stopped her at that time. Imagine, the house taken in the midst of a drought! Without even a single leaf to hide the truth. It was unthinkable. We barely reached our teens then. The truth, for us, was just too ugly to bear : a blurry image of a wooden house tilting in the uneven landscape. It was a one-bedroom house, perched high up on wooden pillars, with a porch and staircase facing east, and turns inward to a very small living room that leads to an even smaller dining room and a much smaller dirty kitchen and a bangkera to the south. The porch windows—which had long rectangular boxes holding potted plants—had wooden grills of geometric designs.
The living room—had a couple of wooden jalousie windows facing east---opens to the small bedroom to the west, where we used to peer out at the setting sun with fear in our hearts. Small kerosene lamps light our nights. We slept on wooden lauaan floor and wake up to the harsh sun, dappling the floor near the porch with geometric shapes, and the living room and the bangkera, with stripes.
The dining room opens to a pantawan facing west, where a huge rotting wooden table stood nearby a rickety wooden ladder that led to our muddy backyard. On top of this rickety structure, precariously stood a huge water tank, where once upon a time, a cat had drowned. I used to be afraid that this water tank might fall and spill its contents down the termite-ridden ladder, in a deluge. Nothing of the sort happened and yet, the fear and apprehension I used to suffer in the good old days in that house, stayed with me until now...