28 July 2013


She thinks the dog’s name is Pogi, meaning handsome. In general, the names she has decided to call the animals are based on how they look: Budoy is Browny, Tata is Whitey, Maja is also Whitey. The cat that my cousin Frederick used to have, she must have called with a five-letter word that starts with P, but surprisingly Brutus, who’s dead now, she never called Ugly. He was simply Brutus.

Anyway, I shake my head, pick up the non-permanent Pentel marker, and write on her flimsy strip of whiteboard: “Dog’s name: Emilio.”

Ah, says Lola Auring, we can call him Emil then, or Emi.

Lita, one of her two caretakers, who is sitting with us at the round table in the veranda after merienda, folding newly dry clothes, explains that the new dog is named after the Philippine independence leader, because he was born on June 12. Lola, of course, doesn’t hear this. She went deaf five years ago, at the age of ninety-two. This was also around the time a tropical storm hit northern Philippines and she slipped on a wet floor, breaking her pelvis. Now she’s stuck in a wheelchair, and has to have a priest or clergyman called in every Sunday for service, and all she ever hears, she says, are the songs of angels, sung by tenors and sopranos. 

Has Emil been baptized, Lola asks. She’s obviously joking. What I can’t determine is whether or not the joke is slightly cruel, something about how I, already in my late twenties, have yet to give her a grandchild. Between the two of us, the matter has not been spoken of, ever, but I can’t be entirely sure that she doesn’t know, because her eyes—brown? gray? brownish gray?—never give anything away, they are sly, like a cat’s. So I nod my head and say, yes, he has been baptized, and with the same marker I write “Bassig” as Emilio’s surname. Bassig! Reading it makes Lola giggle. Her teeth show, her dimples appear. This is my mother’s mother. Because the people in the house still aren’t sure of who Emilio’s father is—it could be Budoy, but it could also be some random neighborhood dog—I am tempted to add, “No father; Tata (or Whitey), like Mama Mary = virginal conception of Emilio”; but in the end I decide not to. Anyway Lola has already sort of changed the subject, and begun to repeat the story of a certain uncle of hers who died of rabies. She’s tapping a part of her oily, age-spotted wrist to point out where exactly this uncle had been bitten, and she says, be careful, don’t get too close until after Emil has been given injections.

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