With no electricity, what could one do except sleep. For most of the villagers, that was their only option.
Rolly had left: his job waited in the city. I stayed.
To pass time, I introduced the after supper storytelling. I, the attentive visitor, listened to tales of old, experiences in far away lands, stories similar to how the West was won.
Manong and his wife, Manang, were too eager to entertain me with their respective stories. I could sense that they shared the passion to reminisce of their younger days, he, with his adventurous times in another province while she, her difficult childhood, growing up without a father who died when she was only five.
If I thought I had a wealth of material to write about, I was mistaken. Their stories combined were too original and too numerous that I was grateful I landed in their midst.
“You should have seen this place thirty years ago,” Manang remarked, busy washing the dishes. “Trees were too huge that three people were needed to embrace a single tree.”
I tried to imagine what it was like by approximating the size using my arms. The diameter could easily be near two meters. Most likely they were part of the virgin forest that made up the terrain before emigrants were allowed in.
“What was it like? I mean, how did you survive in such a harsh environment?”
“Since most of our parents came other provinces that are more developed, all we needed was a land of our own. The government partitioned a wide area and permitted the beneficiaries to clear their respective areas.”
“I suppose that took a long time, a year or two perhaps.” I visualized how families sacrificed much time and hard work to create a new life in a new territory.
“More than five years,” Manang said, sadness in her face. “Father got ill. But before he died, he had prepared the land for us. All his strength he used so that his family would get a better life.”
“I am sorry for your loss,” I said, adding nothing more but a long pause.
“Please do not cry.” Manong rescued me from falling into tears. “I did not meet my father-in-law but almost everyone agreed he was a joker.”
“Yes, Father would always end the day with funny stories about his childhood before the war. He was a bragger that often we could not say if he invented his tales or not.”
“Can you tell me one, something to finish our evening?” I waited anxiously.
“I think it’s near midnight,” Manong interrupted. “We can continue tomorrow and every evening thereafter. I have better stories to tell you.”
“My father might be a bragger,” Manang broke in, “but my husband here could bring back the dead to life if he wishes to.”
“He could do that?” I asked, totally amazed by the revelation.
They both laughed which I did not understand why.
“My wife does not believe my stories. For her, everything was a figment of my imagination, especially about my former girlfriends before I met her.”
“Liar!” she exclaimed, laughing, playfully pinching her husband’s side.