Back in the days (and I say this like I’m already 50 or something), power outages were not so dull in my neighborhood in the Philippines. When the power company decides out of whim that we’ve had happy days too many and could do without electricity for the night, out come our guitar and Solid Gold “songhits.” My siblings and I would sneak out of the house and participate in the delirious jamming that would take place in the balcony of a neighbor’s house. Usually it’s over at Arnold’s, which is just two houses away. Sometimes we would be host, and we would make it extra special by serving everyone some Nissin wafer biscuits to entice people and let them know we are special. We were very popular in the block.
When our vocal chords are not in the mood, we resort to whatever diversion our nutty little minds could think of. Many times we go for “Spirit of the Glass” wherein we call the attention of some wandering spirit and trap it inside an overturned drinking glass. Don’t ask how, it just works. The glass would be positioned on an improvised Ouija board and we’d take turns asking the trapped spirit any questions while everyone held on to the glass. The spirit is supposed to answer by moving the glass around the board and point to Yes or No or spell out a word or a name.
“What is your name?”
The glass, supposedly on its own, would begin to move.
R. I. T. A.
“Hello Rita. How’s the spirit world today? We hope it’s okay that we trapped you in this glass.” As if the spirit of Rita had a choice. “Why are you dead?”
M. U. R. D. E. R. E. D.
“Tell us, Rita, is the murderer someone in here?”
Someone in the group would always be presented as the murderer, at which point this murderer protests and declares innocence.
“Who is your murderer and whose brains will you eat tonight?”
When I was about ten years old, my neighbor’s house caught fire.
There was another power outage, I remember, and everyone had resorted to using either emergency lamps in their homes or good old candle sticks. My neighbor’s cat knocked an unwatched candle off the table, dropping it right onto a curtain that promptly caught fire. In a matter of minutes the entire house was burning.
It happened around eight in the evening and I was busy doing my homework when we heard people running and screaming like mad outside.
“Kema! Kema! Alla canda Laygan (Fire! Fire! Over there at the Laygans)!”
Immediately, we sprang to life as if we had practically been waiting for that moment all our lives. I grabbed my homework and threw it inside my backpack, along with whatever valuable I could find lying around. I grabbed my shoes, my school uniform and all of my school books. I was every parent’s dream.
It so happened that our playmate by the name of Ling-Ling (weird name, I know) was in our house at the invitation of my brother. They were playing in the living room when news about the fire broke out.
Sensing the end of the world, Ling-Ling went berserk and began screaming. Annoyed, my mom asked my brother to help calm Ling-Ling down, but to no avail. “Kema! Kema!” she kept screaming at the top of her lungs and ran around the house. She was totally possessed.
My dad came to the rescue. He pulled Ling-Ling to a corner and shook her hard to try to bring her back to reality. Suddenly, the door opened and in came Ling-Ling’s mother who had been looking for her child all over the neighborhood. She demanded to know what was happening.
"What are you doing?" she asked my father coolly.
"Your daughter, she’s gone nuts!" my dad replied and explained Ling-Ling’s episode.
"No, I mean, what are you doing?” Ling-Ling’s mother said. “You should slap her to get her back to her senses. That child!”
Oh, I miss my neighbors.