Love in the time of Bacunaua
XII. BEDTIME STORY was not her words that he listened to, but her voice; for despite all his ignorant actions that hurt her, he truly adored her.
* Loved, lived in, and lost, Matt’s bedroom as a child was painted an unforgettable aquamarine.
Li ghted by a n overhead incandescent lamp, and a night lamp on the bedside table.
He had memories: his young self and Mercedes just finished reading “The Legend of Isla Pulang Pasayan” in bed.
One more time, Grandma, Matt begged. Please read it to me one more time.
Mercedes shook her head, albeit lovingly. Please. Pretty, pretty please?
* How many times do we have to read this story until you go to sleep, Matty Matt?
Just one more time, please? Promise! Promise? Proh-mise! How can a grandmother refuse the twinkling glee in her grandson’s eyes? She opened the book.
* No! cried Matt. From the very start, he said. Mercedes gave him a puzzled look. Matt closed the book, pointed to the title.
Mercedes bargained with a smile, All right, you read that part.
Beaming with pride, Matt read, The Legend of Pulang Pasayan.
Mercedes corrected him, The Legend of Isla Pulang Pasayan, stressing the unread ‘Isla.’
* Perhaps Matt was too young to be diagnosed with dyslexia back then.
Mercedes never suspected because, although he couldn’t spell them, Matt was pretty good with names of dinosaurs.
The Legend of Isla Pulang Pasayan, Matt repeated hurriedly as he opened the book.
Mercedes read: To my beloved grandson, Mateo, who wants a pet bakunawa.
* The first spread of the picture book was an undersea picture.
On the upper left hand side was the green lush island with white sand beaches. Everything below it was just lots of blues, greens, and aquamarines of the sea.
There were also yellow starfishes, a big oyster with pink pearl bed, lots of blue- and- violet shrimp, multi- colored corals, a pair of clownfish.
( Mercedes told Matt that the clownfish’s scientific name i s
ocellaris. Matt liked scientific names of fishes and Amphiprion dinosaurs.)
On the lower right hand side, the coiled half tail of which is later revealed as … the bakunawa, the blue-green sea dragon.
* Mercedes read from the book, Once upon a time, many, many full moons ago, there was an island without a name.
It was surrounded by the deep blue sea, which was always calm and smooth every season of the year.
Even when storms and typhoons raged in the sky, the surface of the sea was as quiet as quiet can be.
* She opened the book to the second spread.
Still a largely blue- and- green illustration with the sea monster— its eyes and mouth red, its scales more iridescent—stretched around the whole two pages, as if chasing a school of shrimp.
The other creatures of the sea seemed to be shrinking or scooting away. The big oyster had clammed up.
* Then, one midsummer’s day, Mercedes continued, a school of naughty shrimp played a harmless prank on Bakunawa, the hideous sea monster who usually slept soundly in the depths of the deep blue sea.
Everyone knows that it is wiser to play a trick on a drunk than on someone who is sound asleep.
But shrimp have smaller brains than people.
So when the sea monster was awakened by their silly prank, the shrimp came face to face with a raging bakunawa who chased them furiously around the ocean.
* Matt opened the book to the third spread.
The illustration had more reds and yellows now on the lower left