Thursday, July 14, 2016

Manti-Anak by Nards Ver Melendres

by Nards Ver Melendres
Translated from the original  Cebuano by Manny Panta


The report that Imong met  a monster roiled the entire community of Apokon. The rumor spread like wildfire. In places where people congregated such as liquor stores, barbershops and petty gambling spots, the topic on everyone's lips was Imong's supposed encounter with this monster.

"By golly," started Noy Andes who was washing his tied-up fighting cock, "Impong would have been killed if he wasn't able to run away quickly; they say he encountered a manti-anak!"

  "Yeah, supposedly. We'll just suppose it happened because we didn't see it, Noy," agreed Salo, who was stroking his bee-eating rooster that he had just bathed. "But where was Imong, Noy Naryo, that he would encounter this manti-anak?" asked Salo.

     "Oh, you know, it is already durian season. Apparently Imong was going to steal some fruit from Digirmo-Floring's durian orchard.  But instead of stealing fruit, he met the manti-anak," said Noy Naryo who fetched another rooster from the bamboo cage. "But it was raining lightly the night Imong went there," continued Noy Nario. "That's when they say the monster, if we can call it that, usually appears. They say that Imong was sputtering in terror because the monster chased him."

     "So where's poor Imong now?" asked Salo who made feints with Sidro-Kiang who had just arrived with his fighting cock.

    "Where else but at Mano Ekoy, the medicine-man. It seems that until now Imong has still not recovered his wits. Probably because of too much terror."

     "Poor man," said Sidro-Kiang. "Digirmo must be very happy that nobody is going to filch his fruit. Nobody would be stealing now!"

     "That's right!" said Noy Karyo. "Who would dare steal from that durian orchard now? That monster will not fail to appear there."

    "You,"said Noy Naryo addressing Sidro-Kiang," you've been here in Davao for a long time already, that is to say, you are among the first in the cradle in this place, what really is this manti-anak that everyone is afraid of?"

    Sidro-Kiang did not answer immediately. He thought for a moment.

    "Okay, listen well," he said. He looked at Salo then swung his gaze at Noy Naryo who had seated himself on a rice pounder while holding the rooster he had taken out of the cage. "I will tell you what little knowledge I have of the manti-anak and this knowledge came from the stories related by the natives and aboriginals of this place, the Mansaka. According to the Mansaka, the manti-anak originates from a mother who is unbaptized in the Christian faith and dies at childbirth.  Its face looks like a cat's," continued Sidro Ki-ang,” and the voice sounds like a newly-born child's cries. The unbaptized mother who dies at childbirth becomes the manti-anak and goes after men only because man is supposedly the cause of her death and therefore deserves vengeance."

     "What are they going to do with the man?" asked Salo curiously. "Will they kill him if they capture him?"

     “Of course they'll kill him!" Sidro-Kiang answered emphatically.
"The manti-anak is going to suck the blood out of the man until he's dead."

      "Come on, won't he be aware of that?" interjected Noy Naryo while looking at Sidro-Kiang.
     "That's the difficult part, because we won't be aware that our blood is being sucked away. According to the natives, when you hear the cries of the manti-anak up close, that means it is very far away. But when its cries sound far away and suddenly it is so quiet you can feel it in your bones, that’s when it is very near.

    "That's terrifying, isn't it?" Salo and Naryo exclaimed almost simultaneously.
     "Of course, it is terrifying," said Sidro-Kiang.
     "Can't we escape that fate?" asked Salo.
     "Why not? Through a woman...they say only a woman can counter the curse of this monster."
     "Why a woman?" asked Noy Naryo.
     "Why a woman is the antidote to this monster, I know not the precise reason. But that's what the natives say. The manti-anak is afraid of women."
     The conversation ended when Sidro-Kiang's eldest son fetched him for breakfast. And that's when they went home separately.


Digirmo-Floring's durian was famous in Apokon. Its fame reached even the neighboring barrios of Pangi and Anibongan. Digirmo-Floring's durian trees were first in fecundity.  The fruit were not just large but they were tasty because they were thorny. In the past years, husband and wife made a lot of money every time the trees bore fruit. Last year alone they made more than two thousand pesos. Two years ago they made three thousand pesos. But in the past harvest season, they barely tasted any durian. Every morning that they went to harvest the fruit, not even one fallen fruit was left on the ground. Everything would be scooped up by the thieves. And one of the quickest was Imong.

“The savages! The devils left nothing behind. As if they planted the trees! They’ve stiffed me who’s done the hard work!” Digirmo was complaining one morning when he visited his orchard and found nothing left behind.  “They didn’t choke when they ate the fruit of my labors!”
Digirmo went home in a fit of anger. He arrived home still muttering his complaints. “One day I am going to get you, you wretches! Your day will come!” His face was contorted in rage.
“Ay, just let it go, Digirmo, what can you do since you didn’t catch them in the act,” admonished his wife. “How can you accuse anyone whom you haven’t seen?”
“I will give the savages their own medicine,” said Digirmo, his anger abating.

Thus began the haunting of the durian orchard. After Imong got scared off by the manti-anak, nobody dared go  into Digirmo-Floring’s orchard. The couple was able to sell fruit again. But mostly what remained of last week’s harvest.


Salo, Andes, Atoy and Sidro-Kiang met at Nang Eka’s tuba place at the Crossing. Andes who was already there offered a shot of tuba  to Sidro-Kiang when he arrived. “Oh, this is your glass, Dro."
Sidro drank the liquor with a gulp as if it was nothing. Salo gave a separate shot to Andes who drank it without spilling a drop, dregs and all.
As their drinking wore on, their topic turned to Digirmo-Floring’s durian orchard.
“Dro, I admire your courage,” said Salo who was already slurring his speech, “so, hey, will you be going into Digirmo-Floring’s durian orchard?”
“Really?”  riposted Sidra-Kiang at Salo’s challenge. “I would, even tonight,” he boasted.
“Aren’t you scared of the manti-anak? What if it gets you?” asked Andes as he gulped his shot.
“Hey!, Des, Lo, Toy… I’m gonna tell you the truth, Sidro ‘aint scared of a dozen manti-anak!” Sidro-Kiang answered back. “I will eat anyone who is foolish enough to play monster with me, raw and without vinegar!”
“Bai, in order to test Abai Sidro’s bravery,” said Andes who was exchanging looks with Salo, “let’s all bet a demijohn of tuba. What say you, Bai Salo?”
“Agree!” Sidro-Kiang exclaimed. “What should I do to win?”
“This: tonight you are going to Digirmo-Kiang’s orchard,” explained Atoy. “If you can bring back a durian fruit, we’ll cut the story short. You win a demijohn of tuba. The loser pays!”
“If you can bring back a durian, we lose!” Salo added.
“All right!” said Sidro-Kiang who gulped down his glass of tuba. “Sidro aint scared…”

That night they all met at the tuba place at Crossing. It must have been eleven in the evening. Their plan was that Atoy, Salo and Andes would be waiting. They were getting tired because Sidro was nowhere in sight. They suspected that Sidro-Kiang was making fools of them.
After a while Sidro-Kiang showed up carrying eight pieces of durian fruit on a pole. At each end of the pole were tied four durian fruit. Their eyes widened at the sight of Sidro-Kiang who was staggering from the weight of the fruit.
“So you lose, eh?” declared Sidro-Kiang after he had unloaded the fruit right near Salo and Andes.
“Golly, we’re impressed, bro!” said Salo.
“So did the manti-anak find you?” asked Atoy who was waiting for the answer with bated breath.
“The manti-anak was nowhere in sight!” declared Sidro boastfully. “It was afraid of Sidro…!”
They all drank the contents of the demijohn of tuba. Salo’s ear had hardly heated up when he hurled the challenge again: “Again, on Saturday, and the prize once again is a demijohn of tuba. Perhaps the manti-anak was inattentive tonight. It didn’t rain.”
“Anytime, I will always say yes,” said Sidro.

Digirmo was fuming with anger that morning. He was only able to harvest two fallen durian fruit. “Stricken again!” he thought. “Now let’s see what you’re made of!”  He forced a smile on his lips.

Early that evening Digirmo hid among the durian trees. He promised himself that he would not fail to be vigilant for as long as fruit remained on the durian trees. Every night he would make his way to the abaca grove where he had prepared a bed of dried fronds. He would rest there.
At around nine o’clock Digirmo heard noises. He felt excited. “I’m gonna get you know you wicked man,” he said silently.

Dried sticks snapped on the ground, surely under the weight of a man’s feet. Then he made out the shape of a man who was starting to pick up the durian fruit that had fallen to the ground. He saw a lighter turn off and on which the bastard used to illuminate his misdeed.
Digirmo started to press off and on the belly of the object in his hand. At once the cries of a suckling baby spilled out. The cries were loud. Digirmo saw that the man looked around. He touched the belly softly. The crying subsided. Silence fell. But the man continued picking up the fruit as if nothing had happened. Digirmo impatiently put down the doll which belonged to his youngest kid and which in turn was a gift from his younger sister who was in the United States, a doll that cried when you pressed its belly. He took out a lamp that had already been filled with compressed gas and lighted a candle that had already been fitted into the lamp.  He pressed the doll’s belly down at the same time that he lighted the lamp. The resulting flare looked like a St. Elmo’s fire gone amok.

     Digirmo could barely suppress his laughter as the thief scampered away for dear life, shouting for help.