The Sugilanon of Epefania’s Heartbreak

That night, Epefania stood over her grandmother who was sleeping in her wobbly chair beside the window. When the young girl closed the windows the old woman awoke with a start. She saw Epefania’s face and was troubled. There was something there, spreading from the darkness of her eyes that did not bode well. “Are you all right, hija?” she asked.

“I have found what my heart wants,” Epefania replied simply.

“Is it a boy?”

“It is my future.”

Epefania said nothing more and went to fill every lamp with her oil. Soon the house was bright with a strange orange glow. The lamplight lasted through the night, and into the morning. When dawn came, Old Woman Intan woke up to extinguish the lamps, but found that no matter how much she tried, and no matter how much air she blew from her lungs, the flames would not die. She quickly evoked Laon’s name, and went to see her granddaughter. Epefania was asleep on her bed, but on her face, instead of the innocence of slumber, there was the bright determination of one who was willing captive to the uncertain promises of the heart.

That day, when Epefania walked to Tiyay’s house on her daily errand, she found Tiyay herself, and not the beautiful young man. For the briefest moment, Epefania’s heart sank. But soon, she was filled with a resolve she herself did not recognize. “Manang Tiyay, where is your son?”

“Bangbangin is helping his father till the soil for the planting season. How is your lola? Have you come to get your three silver coins’ worth of oil?”

“Yes,” Epefania said, “but I have also come to tell your son that my heart beats only for him.”

Tiyay did not know whether to laugh or to get angry at such a pronouncement. Curiosity kept her rooted to the spot. She recognized the plea behind the girl’s abruptness and frankness. The announcement–plain and simply declared without even a hint of trepidation–sounded ridiculous but truthful. And coming from the mouth of such a young girl! How old was she? Perhaps only fourteen harvests? Perhaps not even that? The young should not be allowed to speak with such forcefulness, and especially about matters of the heart! Tiyay thought. What does a young girl know of the heart’s secret wants? Does she know that Love had a sinister twin, which is Heartbreak? Only the wisdom of the years could prepare one for the gravity that love demanded, or the grimness that heartbreak caused.

“You shouldn’t say such things,” Tiyay finally said.

“But I speak the truth.”

“Nonsense. Go to sleep, and perhaps you will wake from this foolishness.”

“I don’t understand. I only know that I love your son.”

Tiyay took Epefania’s flask, and quickly filled it. “Here’s your oil, Paning. Now, go home.”

Epefania had not gone two meters when she turned around and looked back at Tiyay. “I love your son,” she repeated. “And I will have him.”

“Go home, before I take this broom, and spank you,” Tiyay said. “Nothing will come of this. Not until Cuernos de Negros stops sending its cool air over Tolong. Not until the winds cease to chase away the walo-walo. Not until the clouds disappear. Not until someone steals the moonlight from the night. The world has to stop spinning before I grant your foolish romantic wish!”

And Epefania replied, “I shall come back, when I have persuaded the world to stop spinning.”

When she went home that night, the orange light still burned.


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