Leila passes by this one house in town every afternoon when she goes home from school. At 16, she had been intrigued by this abandoned structure for as long as she can remember. The goosebumps are constant reminders that there is more to this place than what one actually sees.
The Hispano-Asian/Western style of the house shows the lifestyle of whoever lived there in the past, it was lavish yet it tried to tame the extravagance by following the dictates of societal modesty. Though now dilapidated, one can almost feel the subdued superfluity that it used to have.
On her peripheral vision, Leila tried to sneak a glance at the Capiz windows that were slightly ajar. This time, she saw…nay, she knew, that someone was staring back.
She tried to look around to see if someone else saw what she saw. A young woman, about her age, wearing a basic shirtwaist dress, was looking down at her.
Is she an apparition? Or has a family finally bought the place and is now going to restore it?
The young woman’s eyes were strikingly beautiful. But those charming eyes showed melancholy. She may be staring at Leila right now but her mind was obviously elsewhere.
“Hello?” Leila croaked at her.
The pair of raven-colored eyes was finally fixated on her then she managed to crack a weak smile.
“Are you new around here?” the young woman’s gentle voice asked.
Leila was perplexed for a moment. Shouldn’t she be asking the young woman that question? Brushing aside the questions that were starting to well up in her, she moved towards the house.
Her astonishment grew, as she looked both ways for any onrushing tricycles or vans. She then crossed the street.
“Are you…new around here?” she asked back. There was a moment of puzzlement in those eyes but she decided to stop the volleying of questions.
“My parents won’t be home for a few more hours so, you might want to come in and share a meryenda with me.”
How nice of her. For a stranger, she seemed trusting, but Leila answered this invitation without hesitation. She heard the young woman call out to someone from below the house before the wooden door creaked open.
“Please come in. She says you are her friend?” the twenty-something woman asked.
The door was then widely opened to welcome her in. The ground floor of this home was laden with Spanish tiles that were scrubbed cleaned, no doubt, by the woman who opened the door for her.
Leila liked how the family carefully preserved the old furnishings. She had no idea that such pieces were still kept inside the old home. She then heard the young woman call to her from upstairs.
The faint sound of a radio welcomed her to the family room upstairs. The furnishings that she saw downstairs were nothing compared to the vintage pieces that she is now looking at.
“My name is Miguela, daughter of Kapitan Tano. This is a small town but I don’t believe we’ve met.” her voice muffled the static sound on the radio. Leila tried to listen to both but she could not make out what the radio announcer was trying to say.
“I’m Leila…” she slowly replied as the lady helper brought them some suman and a glass of water. She squinted her eyes as she looked around. The room was unsoiled and every piece of furniture was dirt-free.
‘What was that radio announcer babbling about?!’
“Well, it’s nice to meet you, Leila. Help yourself, “ Miguela motioned at the snacks. The sad look upon her face returned as she looked out the windows once more.
“Leila, we may be far from the military operations but father says we should still be worried. And I am worried. Cebu is not far from here.”
It has been a week since the operations in Panay and the northwestern part of Negros has taken place. Operation Victor II is going to be led by Major General William Howard Arnold to try to recapture Bohol, Cebu, and southeastern Negros.
Leila’s eyes almost popped from their sockets as the words from the radio finally made sense. She then ran to the balcony to look down at the street below. What she saw was seemingly normal but hair-raising at the same time.
Below, a horse-drawn carriage just passed by and the concrete street is now a dirt road.
“Are you alright?” Miguela asked.
Leila cupped her head with her shaking hands as she tried to look for a calendar. There was none.
“What date is it?”
“The date. Today.”
“March 25, why?”
“What year is it?”
Although she already knew the answer, she still waited for the inevitable reply.
“1945. Why are you asking, Leila?”
Has she entered the past or did she come from the future? Is this quiet town, fearful of the probable bombings from a nearby province, the present?
“I…I have to go…”
Weak-kneed, she groped the wooden railing to steady herself. She then braced herself to face the truth.
What will she see outside? The busy town that she grew up in or is she stuck in Miguela’s time?
The actual, old, dilapidated ancestral home’s photographs were taken in Hindang at present day. Read more about Operations Victor I and II and the short story’s setting on this Philippine history link --
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E.S. Villamor has made a career in writing for a decade now. Her online business - GIML (Gabriela Isabel & Miguel Lucas) Publishing started in 2014. She advocated for women's rights and was once enamored with imparting financial literacy through training and blogs but she is now focused on propagating all things Filipino. This site is also being groomed as a rich homeschooling resource.