Pagpaygwan

[Fiction]
by Genory Vanz Alfasain

“Bapa Docx, Rasul has a problem,” the woman said. “His tayan eloped with a woman and he wants to get him back.”

“I thought your husband found another woman for duwaya,” my father asked.

“Sorry Bapa, I lied to you,” said the woman.

“Fahad! Where are you?!” my father’s voice echoed from our terrace.

I was in my room when my father called me and requested to prepare their coffee and snacks. I immediately did what he had commanded me. As I prepared it, I noticed that Rasul wiped his tears that was trailing his cheeks.

“That’s why we came here, Bapa Docx, to ask for your help,” said the woman.

I poured the hot water in the cup while listening to the testimony of the woman. I did not notice that the hot water was already spilling.

“Be careful!” my father said.

I went to our kitchen and took a cloth to clean the spilled hot water. As I cleaned the mess, I imagined myself in the shoes of that patient. Would I have done the same if I had gotten in love with a man who had chosen a woman over me?

“Are you going to bathe me Bapa Docx?” said Rasul, as he tried to calm himself from crying.

My siblings peeped through our window to see the patient. I called their attention and told them to go inside their rooms. After I prepared their coffee and snacks, I went back to my room and waited for another request from my father.

“He has guts,” I said to myself while scanning a book.

 

It was a rare case—a gay Maguindanaon patient asking the help of my father to get back his male lover from a woman. My father usually accepts patients who have marital problems. In some cases, he would entertain patients who would like to have a love potion to charm their desired lover. His love for the man fed his courage to confess his problem to my father. I did not have his courage because I do not want to upset my father.

“What is happening in this world?” he once said. “They know it is immoral. But they still try to push it.” My father felt he was about to throw up anytime soon when he saw the news on the possibility of same sex marriage in the Philippines. I just remained silent, acting as though we had the same opinion.

My father’s face looked flushed. I changed the channel and searched for a movie.

“Have you seen this movie?” I asked.

He did not respond. Instead, he only stared at the TV.

“What was the reaction of your parents about your lover?” my father asked Rasul.

“They did not know,” the woman answered.

Inside my room, I heard their conversation, as if I was listening to a confession of a sinner to a priest. I read a book to entertain myself, pretending that I did not hear them. I could not finish the first paragraph of the introduction of the book.

Pagpaygwan ko saka,” my father said. “So that you could pass the Civil Service Exam. I want you to pass it and work in the government.”

After I graduated in college six years ago, I took the Civil Service Examination. Just like a normal fresh graduate from Mindanao State University, I took the laborious exam with the hope of passing it. But I did not pass the exam. I did not wonder why because I did not imagine myself working in the bureaucratic system of the government.

“What’s the point?” I asked my father.

“Government work is a secure job unlike other jobs available,” my father explained. “I have incantations that you could recite whenever you would apply for work. I can write it on a piece of paper and put it in a bottle of cologne. You can use it to attract your future boss.”

I did not respond to his explanation. I just remained silent. That time, my father was expecting that I could pass the examination because he believed in his son’s intelligence. But I failed him, that’s why he had offered me to use his power, just like what he had done to my cousin who had passed the Nursing Exam.

“Your cousin did not pass on his first take. But he was determined to pass the exam. That’s why he asked my help and did the ritual.”

“Fahad, prepare the water,” my father’s voice reverberated from our terrace.

I immediately did what he had requested. I went to our pitcher pump, took the planggana, and pumped some water. After that I left it in our bumba and went inside my room.

“Fahad, I made a lana for you. It has ashes of paper that has incantation written in Arabic. Just apply a small amount of it on your face. Any person that sees you would be kind to you,” he said.

“Thanks, Ma,” I said while looking the oil inside the Efficascent oil bottle.

 

I understand the concern of a father to his son. But the problem is I am torn between believing his power and choosing my own destiny. I try not to disappoint him, not to upset him, not to provoke him. I am trying to be a good son to him.

“Fahad! Where are you? Please guide Rasul,” said my father.

I went back to our bumba to get Rasul.

“Where’s your CR?” Rasul asked.

I accompanied him as if I was a tour guide in our home. I waited for him outside our bathroom until he was done taking off his clothes and wearing his malong, as instructed by my father. Then I accompanied him back to my father for the ritual.

“Fahad, if you have friends who have love problems or who want anting-anting, you can recommend me to them,” said my father.

“Yeah,” I feebly said.

How could I deny his abilities when I belong to a family of healers?

“Is your father a faith healer? Can I consult him for my problem?” a friend once asked me. I wondered how he knew about my father. I did not usually talk about my father’s abilities with my Christian friends.

“Fahad, stay there and pump some water if needed,” my father said.

I stood there, in front of my father and his patient, waiting for my father’s command. My father recited softly his incantation in Arabic while pouring the water using our green sakadu. The patient’s face looks relaxed as he felt the cold water falling down his body.

It was cold, as I remembered it when my father did the pagpaygwan to me when I was a kid. When the month of Ramadan started, my siblings and I experienced this kind of ritual. I still do not know what it is all about. Maybe it is needed to make us more faithful to our religion.

“It’s Friday. Are you not going to pray?” said my father.

“Yes, I know,” I meekly responded. I admit I am not religious. I am not a devout Muslim. And I have an unorthodox way of expressing my faith. The ultra-conservative Muslims would denounce me as kafir. That is why I do not usually hang out with them. I am more afraid of their judgment than the concept of hell in Islamic tradition.

“Shukran Bapa,” Rasul said to my father.

The ritual did not last for a minute. I accompanied again the patient to our bathroom for him to wear his clothes. I noticed that his face looked radiant after that bath. My father went back to our terrace. After Rasul finished putting his clothes on, I accompanied him to go to our terrace for the final advice.

“Drink this water before you sleep,” my father said while he gave the bottled water to Rasul.

“Shukran ged Bapa Docx,” said the woman. “We will call you for updates.”

My father just nodded and made a faint grin. The two went back to their place with the hope that the ritual would soon have its expected effect.

“It didn’t work,” I said. “I still have my chicken pox.”

“Maybe you do not believe in its power. That is why it did not work,” father said.

When I got a chicken pox from a college friend, my father gave me a piece of paper with Arabic inscription on it. I could not decipher what was written since I did not study Arabic in Madrasah School.

“Put this again on your chest. It will work.”

“Pa, what is his problem about?” I asked. I wondered why he did not reject Rasul. Maybe because as a faith healer, he cannot refuse a person who is in need of his help, even if that’s a gay Maguindanaon patient.

“It’s nonsense problem! Dupang ged. He asked for my help to get back his lover. And he had guts to ask for that ritual. I think he felt ashamed about his problem,” he said.

That time I sympathized with Rasul. He sought the help of my father, with the hope that his lover would come back. My father just gave an illusion of relief to mend his broken heart. In reality, the patient’s love for his male lover is haram.

My father went inside our home to drink water. I sat on the wooden chair in our terrace, thinking about that patient and his hope that his lover would come back to him.

 


 

Genory Vanz AlfasainGenory Vanz Alfasain, also known as Yadu Karu, is an advocacy blogger and writer based in Sarangani province. His written works have been published in a variety of publications, including New Durian Cinema, Film Criticism Collective 3 (Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival), Cotabato Literary Journal, Dagmay, and SunStar Davao. A co-founder of the Sarangani Writers League, Alfasain directed, wrote, and produced short films. His first short film, , won Best Short Film (Sarangani Shorts Category) in the first SalaMindanaw Asian Film Festival. His second short film Jamir was nominated for Best Short Film in the 2014 Mindanao Film Festival. He is also one of the festival staff of Salamindanaw Asian Film Festival.