I Cry Like She's Family: Part 5 of I Spend My Birthday in the Mountain and Other Stories

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Part 1: I Say Goodbye to the Storm Clouds
Part 2: I Squander Half of My Pocket Money
There I was, the day after my birthday, sitting on a bus with Kat – a traveler based in South Cotabato that I've met on Facebook. She was to accompany me to my next destination: the home of the once National Living Treasure Be' Lang Dulay.

The legendary T'nalak weaver of the T'boli has always fascinated me. Nay, she was revered by me – as all the other guardians of Filipino culture were. Unfortunately, the Great Lady passed away several days before my visit.

We arrived at her humble house,  which also serves as a weaving school under normal circumstances. But, that day, circumstances were anything but normal.

We took our shoes off before stepping inside, being greeted by one of her grandchildren. I stalled a little and asked how things were. I was told of how she died and how the National Commission for Culture and the Arts shouldered the cost of the interment; that they paid a hefty sum for Lang Dulay's loom and her remaining T'nalak. I was also informed that her grandchildren intend to keep the art of T'nalak by continuing the weaving school, but they were having difficulty in acquiring financial support.

"You want to take a look?" asked Lang Dulay's granddaughter, holding an arm to the direction of her lola's casket.

I stealthily took a deep breath and obliged.

There she was. Adorned in the regalia of her people. The same intricate garbs that, in life, she had adamantly refused to discard for the raiment of the modern world. Her face was like parchment etched with lines that tell stories of her wisdom and greatness. There truly was nothing more tragically beautiful than that of an aged face.
lang dulay
Two soldiers stood guard on each side of the Great Lady's casket.
I stood there, flanked by soldiers standing guard, astonished by the profound grief that suddenly took hold. I've only known Lang Dulay by her reputation as the Dreamweaver. Yet there I was, quietly sobbing at the sight of a cultural sentinel as though I were a granddaughter bereaved of a beloved grandma. That was how profound the loss was. It was not painful; it was hollowing. I knew something great and irreplaceable was gone and it left the world a bit less magical.

I will keep you alive in the world inside my head, Great Lady. Go forth and dream.


Next on the series: I Take a Deja vu Selfie

Read more of I Spend My Birthday in the Mountain and Other Stories

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