(Starting today, August 26, and for the next four Fridays, the FABWEB will be reprinting the grand winners in the storyline category of the just concluded 1 st FAP screenplay/storyline contest. But the three winning screenplays might be harder to reprint because of their length. This is the first of the five storyline grand winners.— editor )
By Leoncio P. Deriada
The word mariit, an adjective, is a Hiligaynon and Kinaray-a word that has no direct equivalent in other languages. It refers to a place that is generally forbidden because it is the abode of the spirits or allied beings or it is the place of their activities. Something mariit may be a grove, a spring, a cave, an abandoned building, a burial place or a tree like lunok (balete). A particular time may also be mariit like six in the morning, high noon, midnight, the third night of the dead and Good Friday.
One who intrudes into a mariit place may encounter the aswang, the tamawo, the kapre, the kama-kama (nuno sa punso) or any creature of the rich Panay mythology. The intruder may not encounter any of these, but he or she may develop a strange illness or may even die mysteriously. To be safe, the intruder should always be polite by saying, “Tabi, tabi” or equip himself or herself with a panguntra from a babaylan.
Another term for mariit is palhi.
This film material is a trilogy only in the sense that the three storylines all deal with the Gothic. Strictly, they are three separate stories.
Story 1 is Tamawo.
Story 2 is Ina at Anak.
Story 3 is Amaranhig.
The tamawo is more popularly called in other parts of the country as engkanto or engkantado. An amaranhig (or amamanhig or maranhig) is an accursed man or woman who cannot die unless a son or a daughter agrees to inherit the curse.
The synopses of the three stories follow:
Time: The 1980s.
Efren Rosario, 28, works in a bank. In a seminar, he meets Val Silvestre smoking in the washroom but he has not noticed him in the seminar hall or during registration.
There seems to be an immediate bonding between them. They are the same age, both good-looking and athletic. Efren is fair while Val is brown, bemustached and the outdoor type. He says he lives in San Roque, a town more than a hundred kilometers away. He invites Efren to visit him sometime and they will go fishing in the swamps.
For days, Efren has been thinking of Val, wondering at their sudden friendship. Is he getting attracted to another man? He tells Lorna, his girlfriend, but Lorna laughs this off but not without any hint of doubt and suspicion.
At last Efren decides to visit Val. Val’s house is in front of a big tree at the end of a dead road outside the town. Val welcomes him. He says that his wife is sick and is asleep. All the servants are sent home after six.
The house exhibits the opulence and the grandeur of another era. In the middle of the night, Efren wakes up from a bad dream. He is kissing a naked woman and suddenly she turns into the naked Val. Efren is about to go back to sleep when he hears music. He goes out unto the balcony and sees a party going on in the house across the road. Val is there drinking and talking to some women. Ths music is dated Spanish music.
Efren wake up early so that he can walk to the main road before the sun is up. Val asks him to have breakfast but Efren says it is too early.Val is surpised when Efren tells him about the party across the road. They go back upstairs to the balcony and Val shows Efren that there is no house there.
Efren is confused further. He steps out of the house and stares at the big tree outside just as the sun rises. He has the feeling that something behind him has cleared. He looks back. Val’s house is no longer there and instead, he sees the ruins of a house that must have been in its grandeur long ago.
Ina at Anak
Cardo is the barrio’s wrestling champion and banca race champion. He is also a good vegetable farmer even if he goes to sea once in a while. He marries Diday, the prettiest girl in the barrio and latest fiesta queen.
Sadly, Diday dies while having their first baby. Cardo cannot be comforted but he has to accept Diday’s death. His mother-in-law and Diday’s younger sister take care of the baby during the first few weeks until they have to go home to their house. Cardo has to take care of little Marita alone.
He has learned to bottle-feed the baby and leave her sleeping in a rattan hammock while he works on his vegetable patch. He has stopped fishing with the other men of the seaside barrio.
Then strange things begin to happen. One night, while sleeping on his mat on the floor of the main room where Marita’s hammock is, he suddenly wakes up. The kerosene lamp is on but it has flickered almost to dimness. He feels the fragrance of flowers and there seems to be some presence in the room. When he is finally able to rise, he discovers that Marita’s bottle is full and cold beside her, but there is a streak of milk on one corner of her mouth.
The next night, the same thig happens. Only this time, the kerosene light is totally put out. Again paralyzed on his mat, he can hear Marita’s cooing as if being carried about the room. Then he hears sounds like a baby feeding at her mother’s breast. When finally Cardo rises and lights the lamp, he sees Marita awake in the hammock, a streak of fresh milk on one corner of her mouth. In horror, Cardo also sees that the door is half open.
Cardo thinks of an idea. The next evening, he raises the hammock higher so that he can put his sleeping mat under it. Since the edge of Marita’s mosquito net reaches the floor, nobody would know that somebody is lying under the hammock. From there, Cardo can see the door.
Cardo lies and waits. He is well-hidden under the hammock. It is now midnight. The light begins to flicker but is not put out. The room is filled with the smell of flowers. His eyes strain as he watches the door. It creaks as it slowly opens.
A woman comes in but he can see only the lower part of her body. She now approaches the hammock and lifts up the mosquito net, but before she can touch the baby, Cardo grips her ankles firmly. The woman moves back, dragging Cardo on the floor. The mosquito net is now loose from its strings and totally covers the woman’s face.
Marita cries as the two grapple for a moment until Cardo pins the woman on the floor. It is Diday. The overpowering smell is hers and he feels tingling of desire. He pulls the mosquito net off her face and sees not Diday’s face but a skull.
Screaming in terror, Cardo stands up and snatches Marita. The skull-faced woman stands up and slowly retreats to the open door.
The village has been terrorized by an amaranhig, an old woman who lives alone in a hut at the foot of the mountain. There have been incidents of people being chased by the woman and so everyone is afraid to be left alone in the dark or in a secluded place even in the light of day.
Agurang Clemente, the babaylan, tells the people that an amaranhig is actually harmless, except that his or her starved skin-and-bones appearance can be scary and may cause one a heart attack or even instant death. The amaranhig chases one because he or she would like to ask for help. The amaranhig wants to die, but cannot die even if he/she does not eat anymore because the amaranhig is accursed. He/she will die only if one of the children agrees to inherit the curse. There is a problem if the amaranhig has no children. Someone in the community has to be the heir.
There have been attempts to kill the amaranhig. During an encounter, Kadyo stabs the old woman and leaves her for dead only to learn that she has been roaming the fields two days later. Kaingero Masoy burns the cogon thicket where he has thrown the woman but she emerges from the ashes unhurt. Widow Primitiva hits the accursed woman with her metal cane, but the amaranhig merely retreats into the bushes.
Dondon, 17, the barrio captain’s son, is on vacation from college. He forms a basketball team for the fiesta tournament. A member of the team is a Fil-Am, the teenage son of a balikbayan visiting his brother in the barrio. The barkada members are annoyed by Stewart’s arrogance. He despises Filipinos and finds them dumb. He criticizes Filipinos as unprogressive and superstitious. He laughs loud when he hears the tale of the amaranhig.
He tells the barkada that he will prove the amaranhig tale wrong. He is willing to inherit the curse and be the amaranhig’s heir.
The group, seven of them and two of their girlfriends, go to the amaranhig’s hut. They find the cadaverous old woman lying down on a torn mat on the floor. Weakly, she begs one of them to help her so that she can be at rest. Stewart volunteers. The woman grabs him and blows something into his mouth.
The woman dies. Stewart laughs off the incident with the amaranhig, saying that what the woman has done is merely reflex action expected of a dying person.
Stewart goes home to the States with his family. One day, his uncle who has hosted their visit announces that he has received a message that Stewart’s family has had a car accident. Everyone has been killed except Stewart.