(Not My) Interview with Kathy Reichs #AskWednesday #atozchallenge2017

As I am typing this now, I just clicked on a subscription confirmation link sent to me through email. The link for what? Well, I just signed myself up for inclusion in author Kathy Reichs‘ mailing list, that’s what.

Kathy Reichs is really the reason I restarted my Maya story (although I still have to work more on that). Or maybe the more appropriate word is “cause”, not “reason”. You see, my story had been sitting around for years because several things discouraged me and I did not know how to proceed. I could, but the mere thought that it would probably just look like another Filipino story due to elements very similar to many others’ works discouraged me. I wanted something different.

Then I met BONES. If you’re not familiar with it, it was one of those earlier forensic science TV shows. Kathy created and produced the show. It ran for 12 seasons, but recently ended for good, sadly (yet, who really knows?). Now, I’ve always loved sci-fi and other science-related shows, plus I’m a sucker for adventure and detective stories. So. when those interests collided, BOOM! Bones got me so hooked!

It took me a while to learn that the show was based on a novel written by an author named Kathy Reichs. Google did its thing and I learned that Author Kathy is actually Doctor Kathy, forensic anthropologist extraordinaire. Of course, I was so impressed. I mean, since she knew her stuff, then surely, the science in her book (and the shows) was more real than fictional. And that’s when it hit me. I realized what I wanted for Maya.

It was not going to be just a fantasy-paranormal thing. I was going to add more mystery and throw in forensic science as well! I mean, currently, in the local setting, no one has done anything like that yet. If someone comes up with one in the future, remember, I thought of it first. If it’s very similar to my idea, s/he and I will need to talk.

It’s science-meets-paranormal and they don’t have to overshadow each other. Kathy caused me to do a kind of story overhaul to fit my idea. I was going to make a better version of Maya. I went back to previous drafts, totally changed several parts, and continued. I changed scenes, added characters, improved characterization, began doing research (I need to be credible after all). Well, the story is far from done, but I am working on it. I have Kathy to thank for it…

Now that that little background story is over, I am sharing an early interview with her that I found online. In fact, it’s posted on her own website. It talks about why and how she started writing, her main character Dr. Temperance Brennan, and what she thought of the show.

Kathy Reichs Interview

“I just thought the time was right for a strong female heroine and for forensic science…I started ‘Dejá Dead’ in 1994. I had made full professor at the university so I was free to do whatever I wanted to do and I had just worked on a serial murder case which had some pretty intriguing elements to it, so I thought I would give it a shot. I thought it might bring my science to a wider audience.”

I was part of that wider audience, thankfully. If my request to receive the entire Brennan book series in my Dream Crate isn’t proof enough that I’m a fan, I don’t know how else to show it.

Has any writer/author ever influenced a story you wrote?

 

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This post hits two birds with one stone. It’s a post for #AskWednesday, and it’s a post for the A to Z Challenge. Yes, April is gone, but as promised, I am going to finish the challenge, starting with this letter I skipped:

K is for “Kathy Reichs”

This piece serves as my Letter K post for the A to Z Challenge 2017. I am currently catching up with other A to Z participants. I owe them that, first of all. Second, I do want to connect.

For my previous 2017 challenge-related posts, kindly visit my A to Z Challenge 2017 page.

“Which fictional character that you created is your favorite, and why?” #atozchallenge2017

So I was late with my F post. Blame it on my very slooooow connection (very slow laptop, actually). And admittedly, I was pretty much preoccupied. The slowness was getting on my nerves on top of that. Anyway, on with my post..

Fictionists, as we know, create characters from their own imagination. Yes, maybe the characters are loosely based on other existing book/movie/TV characters or even actual persons. However, they still have their own personalities, backgrounds, battles to win. Now, being their creators’ brainchild (brainchildren???), for sure, they are special. Do these writers also have favorites, too?

Mine would be Maya, who has been with me, so to speak, half my life, I think. At first, I thought I had a clear view of what I wanted her to be, but I wasn’t ready. I got stumped. For years, her story went on and off, longer than I care to admit. I do feel a bit thankful that I waited because now, she is clearer to me. I know what she is now, I know what I want from her. She is part-me, part-Brennan of BONES, part-Abby of NCIS, and part-whatever things that are unique to her. She is as I have planned long ago, my own contribution to Philippine literature and my own way of introducing the Filipino to the world….Now, if I can only finish it now, that would be awesome! Will carry on, of course.

I was curious about other writers and their creations. I, therefore, posted this question over at Quora:

“Which fictional character that you created is your favorite, and why?”

Luckily, I found people who were willing to share. I think they deserve to be featured simply by sharing. Find out their answers below. Maybe you’ll like their books. Click on the screenshots to get to their respective pages.

 

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Do you have your own faves? Please share and don’t forget to leave your relevant links in the comments! Meanwhile, working on my G post.

F is for “Fictional Character”

This piece serves as my Letter F post for the A to Z Challenge 2017.

If you’re interested:

A for Alibata – How to Spell the Ancient Filipino Way

B for Block – “How do you personally deal with writer’s block?”

C for Contents – Contents with all the Feels

D for Dialogue – Why Dialogue is Important

E for Edit – Mark Your Words!

Why Dialogue is Important #atozchallenge2017

I learned to write fiction first by writing in script form. That means, except for a very few and brief inclusion of actual descriptions enclosed in parentheses, my stories were 95% dialogue. Some friends liked the stuff I wrote, though. Well, they were kids, too, so it was not hard to impress them.

The nice thing about it was even with the absence of actual storytelling, the dialogues worked. My few readers understood the stories, liked them even somehow. Why? Because the dialogue has its own specific and important role in literature.

The Whys of Dialogue

Years ago, I learned of this. I cannot recall from whom or where, but I learned that dialogues are essential in a story. Novels need them, be they fiction or non-fiction.

Here are what I know:

Dialogue makes interaction between characters more natural.

Without dialogues, can you imagine how it would be like? Sure, you can write them this way: She told him he was very wrong. Fair enough. But if you were a reader, how would you like to read something like this one?

She told him he was very wrong. He told her that he was right. She answered back saying he had to prove it. The man then accepted the challenge and said he would be back. Before he left, she reminded him that….

Oh, my. Major headache, that’s what one will get if he reads a whole book without actual dialogue. It’s not just boring, but rather annoying. Even if the character is supposed to be mute and doing sign language, you must be able to let the readers know what it is the character is telling somebody else. This is in written form, folks. There is no other way for your readers to see the actions. It is up to you to make them see–and hear–the character in their heads.

Dialogue adds “character” to the character.

It makes the reader understand a character better. Dialogue gives him personality, background, attributes, etc. If he talks with a certain accent that is recognizable through how the words and even grammar are written, the reader can immediately gauge from where he’s been, maybe get an idea of what his morals are, his beliefs, other things. Like if he sounds Texan, maybe he carries a gun.  This is not merely stereotyping, rather a part of characterization. In fact, you can make him more interesting by making him different, like he’s a guy who has never held a gun in his life–that would be an interesting angle.

You can even let details about the character be known through his indirect words. For instance, one of my inspirations for Maya, the main character in my story, is Dr. Temperance Brennan a.k.a. Bones. Brennan is a genius who likes to share and insert trivia and stuff  in conversations. So by letting Maya talk and talk about trivia and stuff that she learns from her doctor-friend (who does most of the forensics talk, naturally), I let the readers know that Maya’s got the brains, too, and that she could also be a tad like a know-it-all sometimes, like Brennan.

Dialogue fills in the void.

When something about the character or what is happening to him is not explained clearly, whether done by the writer intentionally or not, dialogue reflects the character’s thoughts and feelings. It makes him more human, or in the case of fables and children’s stories where animals and non-living things talk, more human-like.

Through his words and by the way he says them, that gives the reader an idea of him. How does he communicate? How does he speak to others–is he rough, angry, soft-spoken, prone to using coarse language, gentle? How does he treat particular characters? Those maybe clues to things the readers have yet to unravel.

Of course, there could be twists in stories. The well-mannered gentleman may turn out to be the murderous psychopath after all. So how can we say that his dialogues are the reflection of him? They are. He is deceitful, cunning, malicious, and his next dialogues will prove how cold, horrible or conflicted he is.

Dialogue provides white space for the reader.

Not unless a dialogue is turned into a whole speech, it allows for white space. It is literally that empty space on a page that lets your eyes “breathe” or rest. They will need rest after reading loooong paragraphs. I even learned this in my journalism class in college. Dialogues being often shorter allow that break, which then allows the brain to more clearly process what has been read.

 

Alright, so far, those are what I know. I did do a research and found more valuable information. I have collated resources and listed them down below. I suggest you pay them a visit.

Importance of Dialogue to the Readers

It mentions about dialogue also being…

  • critical to plot advancement
  • a tool of foreshadowing
  • one way readers learn about the setting and conflict in a story’s exposition

Reasons for Using Dialogue in a Story

It listed down more ways dialogues help in stories, such as in making the story advance, developing the characters, increasing the story’s pace and dynamics, and showing what is happening rather than telling it.

“How important is dialogue in a novel?”

Writers shared what they know about dialogues. They may echo what have already been said here, but there are more valuable nuggets of knowledge and wisdom to be found.

 

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It is always my pleasure to share, so I am hoping you gleaned at least one thing from this post. Be back tomorrow!!!

D is for “Dialogue”. Like you don’t know it yet. PFFFT.

This piece serves as my Letter D post for the A to Z Challenge 2017.

If you’re interested:

A for Alibata – How to Spell the Ancient Filipino Way

B for Block – “How do you personally deal with writer’s block?”

C for Contents – Contents with all the Feels

How to Spell the Ancient Filipino Way #atozchallenge2017

The written language is most important in writing.Without it, we’d all be like cavemen drawing stories, probably even opinions, on walls, tree trunks, leaves…I imagine there would be much more confusion in this already-confused world.

Of course, there would be the spoken  language, probably mostly grunts coupled with hand gestures. We’d probably be fighting over and over due to sound and gesture misinterpretations. I mean, cave paintings are now art, but isn’t art subject to various interpretations? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, in a manner of speaking.

So, without the written language, we’d be so far from the civilized world of today…Well, almost civilized. (Some people do seem to even openly and unabashedly show or express their Neanderthal tendencies.)

A Sense of History and Identity

An uncivilized society with no history, that’s exactly how the country’s Spanish conquerors made the natives, our land’s indigenous people and my ancestors, believe they had. After all, we all used to be made up of tribes that practiced pagan beliefs. For around 400 years, they called us ‘indios’, their colonial and discriminatory racial term for us. The conquistadors made us believe our forefathers were illiterate prior to their arrival. The better to reign over us, right?

“The colonial masters required the native Filipinos to swear allegiance to the Spanish monarch, where before they only had village chieftains called ‘datus;’ to worship a new God, where before they worshipped a whole pantheon of supernatural deities and divinities; to speak a new language, where before they had (and still have) a Babel of tongues; and to alter their work habits, where before they worked within the framework of a subsistence economy.” (Encyclopedia of Southeast Asia: Philippines)

Illiterate with no social identity, though? That was the biggest lie Spain gave us. Before they came barging in, we already had our own ancient writing system, the baybayin, also and more popularly known as alibata.

The Baybayin/Alibata

What is baybayin?

“Baybayin is a pre-Spanish Philippine writing system. It is a member of the Brahmic family and is recorded as being in use in the 16th century. It continued to be used during the Spanish colonization of the Philippines up until the late 19th Century.” (Mandirigma.org)

Pre-Spanish era, we were not yet Filipinos. I say this for the simple reason that Filipinas–the Philippines–was named after Spain’s ruler Haring (King) Felipe once they conquered us. The whole truth was, we were an already-learned people with our own history, as proven by our writing.

“History is impossible without the written word as one would lack context in which to interpret physical evidence from the ancient past. Writing records the lives of a people and so is the first necessary step in the written history of a culture or civilization.” (Ancient.eu, on Writing)

This is our ancient writing system, the Baybayin. Here you see when to make the characters sound with an “e/i” or an “o/u”, all depend on where you put the marks or dots. The cross has a different purpose and was not part of the original system

The Baybayin Advocacy

Back in 2008, when I used to simply call it ‘alibata’, I wrote about it in my old and now defunct first official blog. I said (with some edits here),

Alibata is slowly being re-introduced to Filipinos. A decade or so ago, some began sporting alibata characters, the Philippines’ ancient alphabet, especially as tattoos. Most popular of these is the ‘pa’ character to represent the letter P, to symbolize being ‘Pinoy’, slang word for ‘Filipino’ or ‘Pilipino’. Once in a while, I encounter people wearing shirts bearing some of the characters. In the ’90s, GMA (Channel) 7 came up with the action show titled Pintados. In our ancient times, ‘pintados’ were the tribesmen-warriors called so because they had their bodies painted all over. No, tattooed all over. Anyway, this show took a lot of liberty using alibata characters, but without educating the audience on what they meant…

I think I’ll call myself an Alibata advocate. I’ve been trying to practice it this year and I plan to use it in other things…(I do follow what I’ll call ‘Neo-Alibata‘, though. Old and ‘new’ must meet somewhere.)

It was used in many parts of the country back then, especially in Visayas and Mindanao, so it’s not necessarily Tagalog, our most widely used dialect originating from Luzon. The Spaniards came and forced people to become Christians and the ancient letters began disappearing. The style I’m using isn’t exactly the original. I’m following some changes especially when I’m not writing in Filipino. There are letters in the English alphabet that we don’t have.”

The “Ka” character on a Philippine flag

What I meant by “the style I’m using” was that I was/is following the altered version created by a Spaniard that adds the cross sign to indicate that a character is to be read as a simple consonant–“pa” is simply read as “p”.  Meanwhile, our writing system did not have any R-sound so one of the usual things done, which I follow, was/is to use the “da” or the “la” character instead. I am very partial to the second one because I find it prettier, to be honest. The Mandirigma Research Organization‘s site should be able to tell you much more, so I recommend that you refer to it.

Another popular character, the “Ka”, is another fave of mine. It was used in one of the flags of the Philippine Revolution, by the revolutionary group called Katipunan. Now I know what that image on the flag symbolized.

Check out how I did my name (Jennifer Federizo Enriquez) and my alias (Li’l Dove Feather) respectively using a generator I just found.

Nice, eh? When I wrote the post mentioned above, I actually offered to write readers’ names for them if they requested it in the comments. It was a total hit, I tell you. That second image you see on this post is my handwriting in ali–oops–I mean, baybayin! 

“The term Baybay literally means ‘to spell’ in Tagalog…Some have attributed it the name Alibata, but this name is incorrect. (The term “Alibata” was coined by Paul Rodriguez Verzosa after the arrangement of letters of the Arabic alphabet  alif, ba, ta (alibata), “f” having been eliminated for euphony’s sake.” )…no evidence of the baybayin was ever found in that part of the Philippines and it has absolutely no relationship to the Arabic language. Furthermore, no ancient script native to Southeast Asia followed the Arabic arrangement of letters,…its absence from all historical records indicates that it is a totally modern creation.” (Mandirigma.org)

Like I said, I aim to be a baybayin advocate. In fact, in the story I am working on, the alibata/baybayin is mentioned.

“…It was proof that unlike what the Spaniards claimed, Filipinos were not an uncivilized race before they arrived and conquered. It was only what they made everyone believe.

Maya had scoffed at that in a conversation saying, ‘Ha! I was learning my A-Ba-Ka-Da loooooong before I met any of them. My father taught me that and his father taught him, and so on. If I had my way, I’d put learning alibata in the grade school curricula.’ She would, too, knowing her. In fact, her journal notebook was filled with things always written in alibata, one way to keep most people away, ironically.” (MAYA [CHAPTER 2: DEAD AIR, Scene 4])

The point made regarding including the writing system in the school curricula is definitely my opinion. And time may come that I shall write a whole story in our beloved baybayin. I can’t wait for other Filipinos to do the same (although there are those who have been incorporating it in their comic books). After all, according to the Mandirigma site, Baybayin was noted by the Spanish priest Pedro Chirino in 1604 and Antonio de Morga in 1609 to be known by most, and was generally used for personal writings, poetry, etc.”

Our literary world has suffered for centuries and it’s time to bring back pride for what we can do and continue our history!…But for now, you can bet that the writing system will figure more in my story’s chapters to come. We always start somewhere.

Meanwhile, here are samples I personally made:

If you found this blog’s landing page, this surely welcomed you

If memory serves me right, this was my first attempt at doing baybayin. I mixed images and using a mouse with an unsteady hand, I tried to write down my alias, Li’l Dove. Though the “B” didn’t look that right, I think it was okay because the effect I was going for was a “smokey” effect

For my then blog, I made this for fun. The girl was supposed to be me, only with better hair and with earrings (well, only one visible) when I am not the type to often wear them. I spelled out “kopi kat” in baybayin and added a personal logo I created

 

These were just some of the many names I spelled out in baybayin, as requested. I have deleted the others

My own personal logo, in various renditions. It honestly does not strictly follow the writing system’s spelling rules. I’ve just stylized my logo. The above character, yet another one of my favorites, says “G” (meaning me, Gi); the one below says “pi” because no matter what happens, I’m proud to be Pinoy!

 

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I hope you enjoyed that one and learned a thing or two! Come back on Monday for the next A to Z post! Maybe I’ll have something nice again for you again 😉

By the way, all rights reserved to me, J.Gi Federizo, except for images and quotes that are linked to the right sources. I had original sources in 2008 as well, but the links are gone, and Mandirigma.org shares enough and proper information already, so my thanks to the whole research organization.

Also, DISCLAIMER: This post does not aim to spread hate against Spain or any other country. We are not accountable for whatever bad deeds our forebears did during their time.

A is for “Alibata”, otherwise known as “Baybayin”.

This piece serves as my Letter A post for the A to Z Challenge 2017.

MAYA [CHAPTER 3: REUNIONS, Scene 6] #atozchallenge2015

“C” is for CHAPTER and for today’s A to Z Challenge, I present the long-overdue  next scene of my story’s third CHAPTER. I will need to alter the look of the texts some other day. A few translations to follow soon.

C of A to Z

For past chapter pages, CLICK HERE

CHAPTER THREE: REUNIONS (Scene 6)

SHE was blabbering, Maya knew she was, as they settled at a table near the windows of the deli. She was well aware of this, very nervous that she even had a moment of dilemma simply deciding with whom to sit (she chose Santi who happened to be nearer). She knew, too, that they knew she was agitated. It could not be helped for their souls were too connected to hers. Whether that was an unfortunate thing or not, it was not helping at the moment.

…and I remembered you once told me to take culinary lessons so that I could be a chef since I wanted to learn, so I took your advice—well, almost, because I decided to do my own stuff and create anything I wanted, so since Santi, here, didn’t want to join their family business, I decided maybe I could be a secret business partner of the family—”

This is yours?” Gabriel addressed Santi from across the table.

Maya answered for the doctor with “I just told you, he didn’t want to be a part of the family business, so technically, it’s not really his. Mine would be a better way to put it, although,” she suddenly realized she was not supposed to talk aloud about it and whispered, “it’s a secret, really. Santi is the only one who knows and he coordinates with his lawyer for me and the lawyer coordinates with the Rivases. And when there are meetings, I need only log in to Skype for a voice chat.” She looked around the place to make sure no one had heard her careless storytelling. It was a good thing peak hours were not there yet.

Congratulations then, I’m happy for you.” He really did not sound like it. “I just wonder, if you’re not business associates,…?” The unfinished question still sounded malicious.

We’re really just friends, like she said” Santi replied coldly, matching Gabriel’s forced smile. “As I suppose you two are, correct?”

Hmnnn….” was the response coupled with a little sneer that seemed designed to annoy.

Mga loko!” she exclaimed. “You’re both not my type!”

That’s not how I remember it,” Gabriel added with a wink at her then a glance at Santi that he made sure was not missed.

Santi took the bait, saying, “Maybe that’s not how she remembers whatever it is you’re remembering.”

Is that so?” her old friend asked, now addressing her with raised brows and the sneer still pasted on his face.

Maya pretended to be unaffected. “Ay, ewan ko sa iyo! Anyway, we’re here to eat so why don’t we order? I know! I’ll order your favorite for you, Gabi—“ she caught herself, “—Gabriel. I’ll order for you the Puto Bomb! That’s my own style of puto bumbong. Isn’t that funny?”

Isn’t that supposed to be available only during the Christmas season?”

Not this one. And that’s a silly idea to get stuck with, anyway, when we can have it all-year round. Ours come with syrup that you can pour on it or dip into, if you don’t want it the regular way. We’ve got caramel, choco and honey to choose from.” She was blabbering again. “Then how about coffee? We’ve got barako, obviously. But maybe you’d like to have a taste of our rice coffee or corn coffee? We’re the first coffee shop to offer those, as far as I know. Or how about hot choco? Ours are made from actual tablia.” Mentioning those things somehow gave Maya a sense of calm, like they were familiar territory where both she and Gabriel belonged.

Without waiting for his approval, Maya stood up and went to the bar to give their orders. She realized she forgot to ask for Santi’s, but she knew he would eat anything she gave anyway, he would not mind. He would understand how preoccupied she would be with Gabriel as there would be a lot of catching up to do. He knew she missed her old friend very much for she had told him this time and again, like a broken record.

She took a look at their table and saw the two men barely talking, seeming to be eyeing each other intently like competitors would. Ah! This was not what Maya wanted, not how she wanted to introduce them, and very much not how she wanted them to react. Why she expected things to be different this time, she did not know. All she knew was that she was not ready, and surely, Maya would have a lot of explaining to do.

But not this soon!, she almost said out loud when Santi approached her to say he had to go as she received her change from the barista. Instead, she said, “Going? But we just got here!”

I’ve got work to do, you know that. I just got a text.” He produced his phone from his pocket as a way of showing that he did get a text, except he put it back almost as immediately. Maya supposed there wasn’t any text to actually show. “And I’d like to use your potion on the bones already, which I couldn’t do with him around.”

Aaaw…I really wanted you and Gabriel to get to know each other more. I want my bestfriends to be bestfriends, too.”

Santi had a serious, unrelenting look. “Sorry, Maya. It doesn’t seem likely to happen. I don’t think he likes me.”

Or maybe you just don’t like him?”

He ignored what she said. “Besides, I know he’ll be more interested in finding out what you have been up to all these years and perhaps, you know, rekindle old memories that he remembers with you…”

You don’t believe that, do you?” Maya took his left hand in hers and squeezed it to give him reassurance.

Santi gave a little laugh. “I was just joking. It doesn’t matter what I think, really. Also, who am I, anyway? He’s been your bestfriend since forever, like you said. Compared to how long you’ve known each other, it’s like you and I just met…” She could not think of anything immediate to say to that as memories flooded her thoughts. Santi pulled his hand back and checked his watch. “I do need to get back. I’m honestly sorry I can’t stay long, but I’m also glad to give you more time to be with your friend. I am sure you’ll have many things to talk about.” With that, he gave her a little wave, nodded to Gabriel who was watching them, and got out of the place.

Maya gave out a silent, exasperated sigh. There was just no way to avoid the inevitable, she might as well brace herself. She arranged for a takeout of the orders she made for Santi instead, then Maya went back to her seat to wait for orders she made for herself and Gabriel.

Now that they were alone, neither of them spoke. A certain awkwardness hung in the air. The surprise brought by them meeting again was initially a pleasant experience for her until realization began to sink in. Nothing was pleasant the last time they were together. Would it be worth delving into? Would he even want to discuss it? She was not sure if she did.

Fearing a confrontation, she decided to break the silence, anyway. “Wow, it’s been—what?—ten, fifteen years?”

Twelve,” he said. She knew that, but the idle talk was supposed to break the ice.

Can’t believe you’re an NBI agent, of all things. That’s good. A very productive way to spend the years. I’m sure they have made full use of your warrior skills.”

Not quite the way you put it. The work is very well-tamed.” He looked straight into her eyes. “You’ve been busy as well. I see you’ve reconnected with old company.”

And so we start. Can’t we just talk about my new car and the fact that I’m actually driving??? “Well, you’ve lived this life as long as I have, so you know that’s bound to happen in every generation, whether we like it or not. It’s not going to stop unless our breaths do. I’ve learned to live with it and accept it, no matter how people turn out to be.”

Oh, really?”

Sure! Did you see the receptionist?”

Sanwani.”

Yes. She is Cleo now. Looks different, but still very pretty, as she always has been the family beauty. People change face, but we recognize them just the same like it was yesterday. Every reincarnation, though, Sanwani is mean to me. It’s like she has decided to hate me for eternity.” Maya genuinely gave a little laugh.

Sounds exactly like your sister.”

Well, I don’t know how to break that cycle so I deal with it by just being happy to be with my sister in this certain Sanwani-lifetime. Now, Tilsa, guess where that kind sister of mine is. A convent! The habit suits her well.”

The talk was interrupted when their orders arrived: barako coffee and puto bumbong with all the syrups for him, just a simple cup of corn coffee for her.

Gabriel was still not in the mood she wanted him to be in, unfortunately, and had been thinking of something else. “What’s between the two of you?” he asked once the waiter left the table.

Tilsa?” she asked back, taking a sip of her coffee.

You and that guy.”

That guy…Santi…?”

Your Dr. Santi.” If looks could kill, Gabriel’s could have already killed her.

Nothing!” To her own ears, she sounded defensive. “You should know that.”

Do I really know that?”

Why, don’t you know me by now?”

That’s just the problem. You are like an enigma to me. I don’t know who I’m really looking at right now, his Maya or the Asyama’iya I knew?”

There’s a difference?”

Definitely. For one thing, you were a suicidal wreck when I left you and now, you’re this bubbly, talkative girl with her high-tech gadgets, a driving license and a new boyfriend.”

He’s not—!” she snapped and caught herself. Maya took a moment to calm down then told him to eat his food before it got cold. Gabriel picked up his fork but absent-mindedly poked at his food. “If you’re not eating that, then I will.”

So what are you two, really?”

Does it matter?” she snapped again. She expected this, but hated it just the same.

I think you owe me an explanation.”

Why? You’re not my lover, either. If I remember it correctly, you said you could never love me.”

That was not how I said it. Besides, I am not the issue here.”

Why should there even have to be an issue with Santi then?”

You know very well why!”

“Don’t snarl at me. Can’t we just enjoy each other’s company like old friends should?” Gabriel seemed to want to say something more then decided not to. Instead, he decided to eat his food.

Maya took that as another opportunity to restart the conversation, to clear things up. “Santi…Well, we met when I saved his life from…you-know-what. To make things short, I found out about his work and thought he could help me in catching ‘them’ through that.”

“And you catch them because…?” Gabriel did not even look up from his food. She did not answer. “I see you are still on the same destructive path.”

“How is that destructive? Isn’t it your job as an agent to catch bad elements? Me, too, just other kinds of bad elements.”

Gabriel stopped eating altogether and stared her in the eye. “How is it your job exactly?” She did not reply again. She knew where this was going. “The problem with you, Maya, is you never learn. And you’ll never learn until you let go of the past. You let it keep haunting you, and you keep hunting, and now, you’ve let another past back in your life…Good luck on your future, that’s all I can say.”

And with that, Gabriel put down his fork, stood up and left Maya half-regretting seeing him again.

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*“Mga loko! “Crazies!”

*“Ay, ewan ko sa iyo!” – “Whatever!” or to be more literal, “I don’t know about you!”

*puto bumbong – steamed, violet-colored Filipino rice cake

*tablia – cocoa tablets

 

MAYA [CHAPTER 1: RIGOR MORTIS]

For the next chapter pages (and why I have started with this scene already), CLICK HERE.

LAST SCENE OF CHAPTER ONE: RIGOR MORTIS

SHE could have stayed that way, transfixed with memories of a long time gone, if not for a blood-curling scream that brought Maya back to the present. On instinct, her body sent her running towards the source before she could even think. Force of habit, she would later realize.

Maya’s feet brought her to a group of modern-day nomads who gathered around a wailing woman near the shore.

“Maurooo!!!” the woman cried out, cradling a lifeless man in her arms, shaking him as if trying to wake the dead. Maya wondered if he was killed right there, or killed somewhere else and later washed ashore. “Mauro, don’t leave us! What will become of us? What will become of our children?!!” the woman wailed on.

“What happened?” Maya asked the thin, gangly old man standing beside her, fighting the urge to sniff. He badly needed a bath. Then again, so did most of them around her.

“We don’t know yet. We just…” he started then stopped upon glancing at her, mild surprise registering on his face. She could tell he was wondering why an obvious ‘outsider’ like Maya would venture to such a dangerous place as theirs, a young and vulnerable girl at that.

But she was not interested in what he thought, only in what he possibly knew that could help her. “Yes?” she urged the old man to continue.

“Oh. Uh…We just got here and found him like that already, dead.”

“Would you have any idea why?”

He gave her a curious look then shrugged. “My child, this is Breakwater. In case you have not noticed, here, anything can happen any day, everyday. Bad things. This man? He might as well have been murdered before our eyes, but nobody—apart from his friends here and family—nobody would really care. Nobody cares about people like us. We’re dirt. Nobody cares about dirt, except to wipe it off.”

It was nothing Maya had not heard before and she would have uttered a sympathetic reply, but she was more interested in the corpse at the moment. Squeezing through other spectators, she was able to get closer to it. As expected, the body was already rigid and a bit bloated. Maya was disappointed to find that Mauro, indeed, was killed somewhere else and dumped into the water. It was harder to inspect that way. Murders were always harder to solve because water could not only wash bodies ashore. It could wash evidence away as well and speed up decomposition.

She looked closer. Judging by the level of decomposition, “Rigor mortis set in just days ago. He has been dead for two, maybe three days…” she thought out loud and said to no one in particular. People looked at her quizzically that Maya remembered where she was and offered a simple explanation that was half-true. “I, uh, work for the authorities so, you know, I know things like this.”

 “Oh?” the old man she spoke to earlier asked from behind. “Like SOCO?”

Barely had she answered, “Yes, like SOCO,” that everyone—save from him, the woman, and the dead—scurried away. Obviously, authorities were not welcome there, if not avoided.

He squinted his eyes at her. “You look awfully young. What are you, eighteen, twen—? ”

“—ty-five. I’m baby-faced, yes, it’s possible. I was in that SOCO show on TV one time, I guess you did not see that. Who was that guy again with the distinct guttural voice? I forget.”

“So…is that why you’re here? They sent you?”

“No. I simply happened to walk by and heard the scream, so here I am.” At least that one’s true.

“Ah, yes, that is correct. We have just found him. Anita,” the old man pointed at the crying woman who was reduced to weeping by now, “was just wondering where Mauro had gone. He was supposed to be back last Saturday after scraping rust off a ship for two months. Then someone screamed and, well, here we are…What a pity. He was a good man, always tried to earn a decent living. Not easy as around here…”

She did not let the old man’s thoughts trail off. “Has it—uh—he any marks on his body?” Her query was greeted with a confused expression. “Marks. Like, uh, bruises, or stab wounds, maybe? Anything that may explain how he died or how he was…killed…”

Parts of Mauro’s clothes were torn or with holes in different places. They could be due to blows inflicted on him before he died, or simply due to sea creatures that ate at his clothes and body (a notion Maya did not especially like entertaining in her head). Letter C, she pushed in her mind. His clothes got caught up with sharp, inanimate, floating objects, that’s it. Take those unsavory thoughts off your head!

“His heart.” It was Anita who answered in-between her weeping. She could have been pretty but at the moment, grief and agony were written all over her face. “His heart was carved out.”

The old man gasped in horror. “Diyos ko!” He did try to regain his composure. “You said you are like the SOCO people, right? Maybe you can…check his…” he half-suggested, as if wishing he had not suggested it at all.

But that was exactly what Maya had in mind. She kneeled down and asked permission. “May I?” Anita answered with a nod, mutely loosening her hold on Mauro’s upper body, allowing Maya to see the large, gaping hole on his shirt. True enough, his heart was not where it was supposed to be. “Did Mang Mauro have any enemies that could have done this?”

Anita shook her head. “I don’t know of anyone who would be angry enough to do this. I don’t think he had enemies, not really. He was a good man who hardly argued with anyone…Still, there are those who treat people here badly, so maybe…”

“Who? Can you give me their names?”

Anita did not answer and studied Maya instead, seeming to be weighing her options: to tell or not to tell. Indeed, that would be Maya’s question, too, if she lived amongst these nomads. They were always at the mercy of those in power, at least those who had power over poor, desolate souls like them.

“Let me guess,” she directed the question back to the old man, “the police?”

He stared at her for a while then with hesitation in his voice, “T-They own this place, what can we do? They…But you are not like them…?”

Maya gave him a small, reassuring smile to appease him. “You have nothing to worry about me, that I can tell you.” They, however, have a lot to answer to me, they should start worrying already.

Of course, they still looked at her with extreme doubt. She would.

Maya turned her attention back to Anita. “If you will accept, I have a suggestion.”

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*Rigor mortis– stiffening of the muscles when a person or animal dies

*SOCO. – Scene of the Crime Operatives

*“Diyos ko!”“My God!”

*Manginformal Filipino term synonymous to “Mister”

NEXT: MAYA [CHAPTER 2: DEAD AIR, Scene 1]