September 25, 2023

Many surprising things had happened to my childhood friend Amelia, and her transformation from what I’ve known her since she left our dangerous neighborhood to work in Vietnam after college.
I saw how she bloomed a week before the storm; her gleeful entrance in her grand beach wedding in Paoay, Ilocos Sur, near the sand dunes, facing the lake where the Malacañang of the north stood. It was as miraculous as the scenes in “Himala”. After many years of not seeing her, she was truly healed.
The most unexplained thing that happened to Amelia has started when we were young. We played sticks and stones in the backyard and boys of our age will surround this new girl from the province. Curious, we went to see what’s happening and there we saw her, struck by lightning, her spirit momentarily left our play-world for about a minute or two. We shook her, called her name and waited until she returned. She didn’t know what happened and we were worried. Later, her siblings explained that what happed to her is some kind of spell that occurs unpredictably many times a day.
Since then, we, her close friends will guard her until we go to school. We sat beside her and explained things to our classmates and teachers. They would comment about it but would later understand. Amelia knew about her spells but unable to explain it herself. She would capture us with her beautiful smile, filled with openness and fully surrender to things we do not know at that time. In fact, we feared about her safety. What if she crossed the road and stood there alone, what if on her way home some bad guys will pick on her, what if she is holding some heavy things and would cause herself accidents.
None of these fears had clouded her journey in the life she wanted to live. She continued her study, lived her youthful days and she charmed many suitors from our ethnic group. Our best moments with her are our occasional picnic in the forest near their old house at the small stream where we took a bath and water-away our fears. Amelia widened her friendships and cultivated her private life. We heard her “spells” have lessened year after year. We were happy to see her joining a community church and all along we pray by her side uttering healing for her. Later, she met Marcos in a church in Vietnam.
I am tempted to ask, “Where do you go when you leave us momentarily, Amei?” Do you travel back to our province where our ethnic group lives contented in our wide rice farms and danced cañao during weddings? “What do you see when you close your eyes?” Have you seen a terrible future ahead of us? Do ethnic conflicts still happen in our beloved Sadanga? Her spirit is great that if she has terrible spells, she always came back to the real world and forged a path that makes a difference in her life and for others.
Amelia was so beautiful on her wedding day. She chose green and white as her motif. The men and women from our place endured the six-hour trip to Ilocos.
“The Igorots went down to the plains and endured the heat,” one guest commented. Hundred years ago, lowlanders were our enemies. Today, we brought along gongs and sugarcane wine.
Amei’s husband, Marcos, and his clan gave us their warmest smiles, their beautiful lake, the grand entourage amidst the backdrop of fruit trees and sea-side sunset. This is what inter-ethnic marriage is all about. Could Amelia have seen this during our childhood days, that despite her unexplained spells she always returned with a smile. Her laughter seems to resonate to the other world. Truly, she was healed and we stood there cheering for her and whenever we remember that moment, her miracle unfolds before us every day.