Wednesday, November 2, 2011

My claim to uniqueness.

My maternal grandmother has a hole at the top of her skull. Her anterior fontanelle did not fuse as it was supposed to do. Throughout her life, it was a source of her own uniqueness and pain.

I don’t know anyone, alive or dead like my grandmother. I also have not heard any stories told like hers. I am also not able to find anything like her case on the internet. So let’s just suppose it is that rare. The only possible similar story is the article I found on Wikipedia about the hole in the skull of Chihuahua called molera.

The hole may be was an abnormality. But she did not suffer any mental disorders. She was supposed to be very intelligent. She was also supposed to be very modern and advanced thinker for somebody who lived in the mountains and was not properly educated. She was not sent to school simply because of her being a female. Some girls in this time and age are still not being sent to school; so we won’t go into the why’s and how’s of her parents. For the record, not being able to afford to was not one of the reasons.

My mother tells us that the fontanelle throbbed all the time. Just like the fontanelle of an infant. Our grandmother never went anywhere without wearing anything over her head. Even inside the house she had to wear a bandana. It was protection against panuhot (pain in the stomach and/or other muscle groups due to excessive gas). And the salakot (a wide-brimmed hat made of rattan and palm leaves) over the bandana she had to wear at all times when she was outside the house was also a dubious protection against any hard and pointed objects. There was a constant threat of death through that open fontanelle.

Local folktale existed until this day because of that fontanelle. She was supposed to be a witch. My grandmother’s torment probably started with another legend, much older and a national sort this time I suppose. It is commonly believed that fair-skinned and beautiful women in the middle of nowhere are nothing but witches and fairies. Her situation was simply made worse by the hole in her skull. She was not just any witch but one that went out into the night and did terrible things to people. It is told that during one of her witching expeditions, an ever-vigilant local folk who caught her in the act whacked her on the head with a hammer; hence the hole. Any normal human being would not have survived being whacked like that. And so another legend was born. My cousins who still visit the place because they grew up there say, the tale is as alive as ever before.

Growing up, the tale was a source of fascination for us kids. It was a source of pride, albeit a misplaced one and a way to intimidate childhood enemies. But we never really give it much credit until we went to visit our mother’s barrio in the north of Cebu when we were teenagers. There and then we experienced the awe. Not that it was our first visit ever. That occasion I suppose was different because we all grew up into young women with white complexion and beautiful and mestiza features (my older sisters that is). We looked as expected of the descendants of a supposed witch. People actually came to visit simply to take a good look at us. But there was this wariness that suggest, they would flee or fight if provoked.

The hole in the skull is not just a tale. We have proof. We have a photo of our grandmother’s skull. Others might say that the hole happened after death. That somehow due to the elements the hole was developed. But the hole has uniform, even, and fine serrated edges. I’ve seen the hole for the first time almost thirty years ago. It looks exactly the same. Let the experts on anatomy and physiology decide. If ever one happens to read this post.

Biology predicts that recessive traits sometimes re-occur in the fifth generation (if I remember my biology lessons correctly, that is). I never saw her alive. She died when my mother was still eighteen. There is already a fourth generation in our family. I am hoping I would live to see at least one fifth generation issue with her trait.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

British Subjects


I’ve been to London. To visit the Queen!

Well, not really. I couldn’t as yet afford it.

I’ve had, however, very good interactions with her subjects. Well, mostly they were one-sided.

In January, I read three books from two British authors, Tom Sharpe and Doris Lessing. Tom Sharpe’s book, Grantchester Grind was funny. Doris Lessing’s “The grass is singing” and “The cleft” were both disturbing; a woman’s grinding poverty and hopelessness in the first book and cruelty in the second.

During the Sinulog weekend, I met two Brits, Anne and John. They came here to learn diving. Anne has already left middle of February while John will leave end of this month. When we met, I kept quiet the whole evening. I always keep quiet when I met new people. Sometimes I hate my reticence.

On the same month, from Jessica Zafra’s blog, I read a poem from another Brit, Philip Larkin who incidentally happened to be a librarian.

January was a very productive month. And somehow the interactions with Her Majesty's subjects were a change from the usual American literature I seemed to be always reading and American accent I always hear, maybe because the latter is more accessible than the former.

And last night, for the first time, out of sheer boredom (not that I had nothing better to do, but sometimes the brain simply refuses to work at top notch), I visited audible.com. What did I listen to? Love stories. Samples of them anyway, and I found out, I preferred listening to the British narrators. I don’t know why, but there is just something elegant about their accents.