Fortunately Unfortunate :
One time in my childhood, my family and I visited my father’s hometown. It was a very tiring trip to the north, lasting for almost half a day. We arrived at my grandmother’s place in the afternoon. All were tired and everyone started to rest.
I was unable to take a nap because my cousins started to approach me. We played and I certainly had enough fun to keep up with them. That’s when we all got bored and the eldest of them said,”Why don’t we go and visit the river?” His idea surprised us. Nonetheless, we all agreed and my grandmother said we can take a picnic at the bank of the river first thing in the morning.
Next day, all of us got up earlier than expected. My aunts and uncles, together with some of my cousins, sang folk songs together while we rode the 10-minute bumpy ride to the streams. We had to walk the rest of the way because vehicles wouldn’t be able to trudge it. I’m paying attention to my steps. It was rocky and moss stuck to my shoes. I kept on wiping my shoes with leaves to keep them clean. I realized I was the only one left behind so I started to sing songs. I sang nursery rhymes that I knew when I heard a faint cry:
“Bata, bata, kamusta? (Kid, how are you?)”
I faced the direction of the voice and found a lady sitting on a boulder. She was very beautiful. To my surprise, she didn’t look like everyone else in town. Her hair was flaming bronze in hue, flowing from her head to her hip. She shone greenish, in contrast of the folks having caramel complexions. I felt like walking to the boulder. Her unusually golden eyes seem to hypnotize me…
“Alexa!!! Where are you, child?” I snapped out of myself. I faced the direction of the voice whose my aunt owned. I tried to find the woman atop the boulder, only to find no lady sitting on it. I was puzzled but then my stomach started to grumble. I ran to my aunt’s arms and she carried me to the cottages.
We ate seafood and a healthy roasted pig. Fried rice was steaming hot with mixed-in vegetables. We used banana leaves as our plates and used our hands to serve ourselves. It was a merry feast. After eating, we covered the leftovers, cleaned up the place, and changed clothes for swimming. My cousins were inviting me to jump in the waters. I did not hesitate and my parents allowed me after I put on sunblock lotion. I was ready to step my foot on a steady rock when an unusual glint caught my eye. Amidst the cheers of my cousins, I heard the beautiful voice once again:
“Halika na, lumangoy ka.. (Come now and swim..)”
I saw her smiling and in the water, several meters away from my cousins. I seemed to imagine it but I thought I saw the color of her eyes change. This time, it was emerald green. Her pearly white teeth emphasized her full red lips. No one seem to notice her but me.
“HEY ALEXA! Your taking so long!” My focus melted and I was back again in reality, if the apparition of the lady was a dream, though..
We swam a lot. The current was steady and most of my teenage cousins climb the short cliff to dive into the deeper waters of the river. For my other cousins and I were obviously small and young to do those things, we satisfied ourselves by wading near the banks while our parents chat and watch over us. I was fascinated by the stones and marbles. I didn’t notice that I was singing again when I saw a pretty one after another that sooner the water level reached my neck. The water was still clear and the river floor was visible, even without having to dive one’s face in the water. I saw a pearl between two large rocks. I was amazed to see a pearl in that part of the river so I started to reach for it. “What a beautiful pearl you are, oh my darling since when have you been far?” I sang those words in my grandmother’s own love song. I was about to touch the pearl when another hand immediately fell on mine. I was so frightened I screamed. “Aaaaah!!!” I searched the hand’s owner. It was the beautiful lady again.
“Nagulat ka ‘no? (You were frightened, weren’t you?)”
I was startled. She seemed to be more beautiful than the last time I saw her sitting on the boulder earlier. “Who are you?” I asked. “I live here,” the lady replied. “Where do you live?” “Here.” “Where are you from?” “You want to know?” this time, she laughed. A stiff laugh, indeed. Her eyes were smiling in a different way. She seemed to have something in mind as she looked at me and moved her face closer to mine. “Come with me..” Her gaze softened and I thought her eyes swirled into deep hazelnut brown. I felt her hands hold mine. I dreamt as if the waters started to whirl around us. I was starting to fall asleep. “Come away with me, dear. Come with me. Come..” She seemed like singing me to sleep. My mind shut down and my weariness drowned me. I managed to open my eyes and this is what I saw: large, red gleaming eyes that stare at me, fin-like ears that seem to flap, an angler’s mouth open wide, and an entire nightmare shining in sharp green glow. A deafening shriek put the final blow to my awakening.
“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!” I woke up and as I opened my eyes, I became aware that I was about to be drowned. I tried to reach the surface. I swam, I tried to breathe. Luckily, my uncle caught my neck and swam with me to the shallow part of the river near the bank. “You were nearly drowned by a whirlpool awhile ago. I told you kids not to wander very far, haven’t I?” My parents were very anxious when my uncle carried me to the cottage. In my weariness, I drifted to sleep. Here’s the story behind it 5 years later:
My uncle went to the river after he was called by one of my cousins. My cousin told him that I was missing. My uncle became frantic and started to call my parents attention. He swam the currents while my other uncle followed him while walking along the bank. They found a whirlpool. I was there and he saw someone with me, having a shiny back and long, brown hair flowing above the whirlpool. My uncle quickly shouted for a torch and my other uncle was allowed to take one from another’s cottage who was roasting catfish that time. My uncle reached for it and threw it at my direction, targeting my companion. He swam fast to me for the whirlpool started to grow and sooner I’m going to be drowned if not for him. That’s when I learned that a mermaid tried to snatch me away. As a kid, I was defenseless to her charms, my grandmother said. I asked her why, among my other younger cousins, would she choose to take me. She said I have a pretty song, indeed at my age. I attracted a song mermaid and because I was a girl, made me more enticing for her to take away. The creepy part is, no one really knows what happens after a mermaid captures a victim… That I was able to detail out my visions of that nightmare proves I’m fortunate to be alive. To this day, mermaids are still believed to hypnotize innocent children and anyone who goes near the banks. I forgot to tell you the name of the river. Its name is Ilog Sinawimpalad (Unfortunate River), only known to its folks for the river only appears when wailing is to be heard somewhere among the towns near it…