The house is a 2-storey affair: galvanized iron roof with patches of earthy red where the rust has set; unpainted wooden planks grayed by time and exposure to the elements; the ground floor hollow blocked much later, added as an afterthought like the protruding extension for the kitchen. It was much like Amang Lakay’s and all the middle class houses in Almaguer. It is tucked in a street corner beside the small church, a huge mango tree standing guard in the front yard, which Abet and the Samahang Dilim always passed by when they go roaming in the laud.
“Napigsa ti gamud na, Insan”, RR of the Samahang Dilim told him one day, referring to the small old woman with graying hair and Chinese eyes in the house-beside-the-church-with-a-big-mango-tree-in-front, while they were lolling in Manong Van’s covered banauang bridge, passing a single stick of Hope menthol cigarette between them. Abet stared at the house. There’s nothing sinister about it. The old woman may look like a witch but she ain’t one as far as he is concerned. No, he don’t believe in gamuds and silently sneers at the neighbors who place thorny potted plants in their front yards and bullets in their pockets to ward away the evil of the manggagamud. Not until Sergeant A came along.
Auntie Ibang brought Sergeant A to Almaguer from Fort Magsaysay. The medium-built, fair skinned, and almost brooding sergeant is supposed to be an expert in exorcising the spell of manggagamuds. The hollow blocked ground floor of Amang Lakay’s GI-roofed and wooden planked house served as the exorcism room. Sergeant A would place something between the toes of his patients and they would blabber away, supposedly possessed by the manggagamuds who jinxed them. That is how the manggagamuds get caught.
JD of the Samahang Dilim and his sisters were supposedly jinxed by their own aunt. So is Manang Baning --- sister-in-law to the aunt --- who then went around Almaguer after the supposed exorcism, carrying with her a sefia photograph of her child who died supposedly because of her hipag’s gamud. And there was that unforgettable episode with JD’s father.
“Ukinnam Patupat, aramidek nga camel diyay bakam!”, that’s JD’s father (or Patupat which is his birnas) cursing himself while under the spell of Sergeant A. The voice is supposedly that of Manong Milo, a bachelor who lives with his brother and sister in a small house behind the small church that is beside the house-beside-the-church-with-a-big-mango-tree-in-front, and whom Manong Patupat entrusted a cow as a pataraken. Manong Patupat later rushed to Manong Milo’s house after the exorcism session but he is not there.
A day after, Manang Liming who is JD’s aunt, Manang Baning’s hipag, Manong Patupat’s sister, and Abet’s capidua came to see Sergeant A in Amang Lakay’s house. The sergeant supposedly commanded her to come during yesterday’s exorcism rites so he can cure her. They spent time cloistered with Auntie Ibang inside the kamalig where Abet saw egg yolks being thrown out. When they came out, Auntie Ibang happily told those anxiously waiting in Amang Lakay’s compound that Manang Liming’s power of the gamud has been exorcised.
These proofs made Abet a believer (he is sure his cabagyans and capiduas could not have been acting during the exorcism rites). But he still has his doubts. Perhaps it is because Manong Lito, despite his faults, just does not fit in as a manggagamud. And Manang Liming, snakelike eyes that seem to bore and all, is a close family relative. During the last night wake for Abet’s mother, Manang Liming came and hugged him tightly. It was a cold night but Abet felt the warm and true emotions of his capidua. He hugged her back.
Many years later, Abet was invited as a resource person on campus journalism in Fort Magsaysay and would again meet Sergeant A. “I’m trying to get a college degree. Para pa-promote naman,” Sergeant A told him. Abet forgot to ask the sergeant how many gamuds and manggagamuds he has healed since their Almaguer meeting.
PHOTOS (top to bottom):
BAGABAG, NUEVA VIZCAYA. The town was first established in 1743 as an ecclesiastical mission for the Dominican’s attempt to subjugate the proud Ifugaos. By 1746, parochial buildings were reported to be existing and probably replaced by bigger and stronger structures between 1777 and 1794 by Fr. Alejandro Vidal (OP) then Fr. Juan del Rey (OP). These were razed by fire in 1839 and rebuilt, including the unfinished bell tower, by Fr. Raimundo Gonzalo (OP) and Fr. Remigio del Alamo (OP).
KIANGAN, IFUGAO. Kiangan’s American colonial era UCCP church was built by the American missionary Myrtle Metzger in 1926 upon the establishment of the nearby Ifugao Academy --- the first high school in the province. (3) Its St. Joseph’s church is the oldest Roman Catholic church in Ifugao and was built in 1910 by Fr. Jerome Moerman.