of Hacienda Buyung
Rosario Cruz Lucero
The Composo of Toto Kiko’s Despair
WHEN THE PEOPLE OF BARANGAY HACIENDA Buyung heard the news at a bunch of jewels hadbeen found entangled in the bushes on the riverbank of Ilog Danao, they were not surprised. Ever sincethey could remember, their mother had sung them to sleep with the
about Don Enrico Soler,whose suit Inday Juana had rejected. The families of Inday Juana and Don Soler—named in the
as Toto Kiko—owned adjacent haciendas, so of course, a love match between the two would have beenideal. Toto Kiko was heir to what had once been an
granted by the Spanish crown to FrayFernando Duertas, who had had a son by Francisca Tim Chua, who was the daughter of a merchant fromFu Chow. But on the day that the two families were to formalize the betrothal, with Toto Kiko bringingwith him a bagful of jewels as his family’s proof of the purity of their intentions, they found Inday Juanagone. She had eloped with Jose Buyung, their
.From the bag of jewels clasped in Toto Kiko’s hand sprang many legends that slowly grewbranches all around it, many of them sinking to the ground, weighed down by the many rings of truthsthey carried, each one taking root in the fertile soil of the people’s imaginings. ‘When Tiya Estrella beganto sing the opening lines of the
of Toto Kiko, people would gather ‘round her store, ready tolisten to a story they had already heard hundreds of times but ready, too, to be surprised at a new twist toit or a continuation to a story that they thought had already been brought to closure.
O mga señores kagsenoras, Pamati-i ninyo, akon iga-asoy ining higugma ni ‘To Kiko.
Tiya Estrella would then sing about how Toto Kiko, still numbly clutching his bag of jewels, hadslumped on the riverbank, sunk in the depths of despair. Then he had looked up and seen, from the deep,middle part of the river, the scales of a large fish’s tail flashing silver in the dawn light, He stood up,opened the bag, and walked several paces up and down the riverbank, scattering the jewels on it beforewading into the river until he vanished, pulled in by the river
whose heart had gone out to him asshe watched him suffering the kind of torment that only a mortal woman could inflict upon mortal man.“And that’s why,” Tiya Estrella sang, “when the moon is very bright and full, sometimes you cansee diamonds half-buried in the sand, sparkling like sugardust on the riverbank.” And then she wouldend the
in the traditional way, which was either with a moral or an apology or a warning, likethis: “But don’t go there to pick them up, for the sirena will get you.”Tiya Estrella owned the store around which the men and women gathered ‘round at the end ofthe day, but she was proud to know that they applauded her
not because they owed her threemonths’
wages on sardines, rice, and gin but because she had a memory for the formula phrasesof the
, which she combined with her own original turns of phrase—a gift that many said she hadinherited from her family line of epic chanters, who as the
of the people, had been massacred bythe Spanish soldiers that had come with Fray Fernando Duertas to Christianize them.“
,” said Tiyo Sardo, “Fray Duertas was not the first fraile to arrive here; otherwise hewould be 200 years old now: Fray Duertas was only Toto Kiko’s great grandfather, which makes him just120 years old.”Tiyo Sardo, who was the hacienda timekeeper, prided himself on being the only one among themwho had gone up to second year college, and so he knew enough about history and mathematics to makethem useful in conversation. Besides, he wanted to add, our
s don’t have fish tails. Women withfish tails were the
s, and Tiya Estrella made that up from watching
starring Mice Dixson, ormaybe
The Litol Mermaid
starring Walt Disney.But the people’s eyes were already rolling upwards as the more impatient ones shushed himbecause Lito Libat was beginning to strum his guitar to sing his own version of what had happened to the jewels. He sang about Toto Kiko’s suicide, which he committed by tying the sack of jewels around hisneck and jumping from the pumpboat into that part of the river that all the children avoided swimminginto because of the whirlpool. And Toto Kiko had done this out of shame, for already there had beenrumors that he kept two different wardrobes in his closets: one for the daytime and another for theevening, when he turned into Darna.