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Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Woman Under the Tree

They said that I was almost kidnapped.
I was six or seven at the time, and we had just transferred into our new house in Las Piñas from Makati. Back then, the house had a lawn of green grass and a small playground made of those steel pipes (a child endangerment today), complete with a swing, a slide, and even a little basketball ring. There were several trees planted in the yard; though I didn’t know what trees were there, one of them had a huge trunk and dark green leaves that seemed to stretch its branches like arms to the sky. I was told that I was quite fascinated with the yard, as I immediately ran into it the first time we arrived at the house and played in the swing.
They said that I was a gregarious child. I would write notes introducing myself, “Hello, I’m Anna! I'm your new neighbor,” and I would stick the notes in the neighbors’ gates. I managed to meet several other kids whom I played with as I grew up. Even as I became friends with the other kids in my street, it looked like someone – or some thing – wanted to be friends with me, too.
They said that one day, I came up to Mommy and said, “There’s a lady who wants to play with me.” I went on to tell them how a woman and a little child told me to come with them, that they lived in the tree with the huge trunk and dark green leaves that seemed to stretch its branches like arms to the sky. I wanted to go, but Mommy told me no. “Don’t go with strangers,” she warned. Soon afterwards, I got a high fever. My tita, who had her own personal experiences with the supernatural in her youth, told my Mommy to have a priest bless me. I was also told that while I was in a fever, I persisted telling them about the woman and her child by the tree. Anxious that I might die, Mommy called for a priest not only to bless me, but to have the entire house blessed.
I always kept saying “they said,” for I don’t remember much of it. What I do remember is how some of my neighbors were in the living room, quietly holding candles while the priest was trickling holy water over my head. I remember how Erin, one of my childhood friends, looked up to her mom with a questioning look and being hushed as the candle wax dripped down to the paper circle wrapped around it. I remember how everyone followed the priest outside of the house as he sprinkled holy water left and right. I don’t remember how we ever reached to the tree. I don’t remember if I saw the woman one last time when the priest cast holy water at it.
I sometimes wonder about her and her child. I feel sad at times. Maybe our house’s former owners didn’t have a kid and the woman’s child was lonely for a playmate. Or if they did, their children weren’t able to see that woman. Now, what was once a green lawn has been covered in cement. The playground is now replaced by water tanks, and most of the trees are gone. That tree is gone as well. I’ll never get to know what happened to the woman and her child, but I hope they managed to eventually find a playmate.

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Maria Anna "Bamboo" Bantayan
 is an online writing tutor and a novice bodybuilder from the south of Metro Manila. She's an avid Harry Potter fan and believes heavy metal can save the world.

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