Finding grace and Fortune

    Her name speaks of good tidings—Fortunata. She is 80 years old and is abandoned most painfully by her mind. She could not find her way home. Or more precisely, as she herself would explain, a manunulay whispered on her ears to get on a jeep when she should not. A manunulay, as I checked later, refers to a foul spirit in a jungle that has the ill-intent of putting people at loss.

    Upon scrutiny, a despicable manunulay might have been “real” because before she was asked to ride a wrong jeepney she was lured to beg for a kilo or two of rice. When she was found in a market, she was keeping a plastic bag of what to her was her own portion of what she begged for.

    Lola Fortunata was brought to a nearby DSWD. From a scanty verbal DSWD report, she was seen roaming around a market looking for her way home. Because nobody could tell, she was content to sleeping on the market stalls for several weeks.

    When I first saw her at DSWD, I knew she was off-tangent for the place. She was not given a decent bed as there was none. Obviously, as most government agency would say, there is no budget for her. The DSWD could not even afford an electric fan so she could ward off the intense heat and the furious mosquitoes attacking her in the evening. But, as most Filipinos, she could not complain. She has not learned to complain.

    As a consolation, she was given a small space, a bangko to be precise, where she could stretch her old and tired body. Since I have three electric fans in my house, I knew one had to go. If asked for the exact location of her house, her flimsy mind could only remember a gasoline station with two intersecting bridges. I was of course, thrown nowhere and everywhere. The clue was mind boggling, to say the least. In my calculation, I could probably identify at least five places with such a description.

    However, when I hit the sack, and plead my prayers to the Divine, I knew I could not sleep the sleep of the contented without extending a hand to this old woman. After two weeks of intense search (going to a television and radio station, and putting photo copies of her face to several churches and barangays), I knelt in exasperation, without any success of finding her home. I prayed the prayers of an equally abandoned. In grace, the Divine sent me images (or so I thought) not of Lola Fortunata’s face, but that of my own mother. My mother is still alive and is still in the best of health. But her face, hovered in my mind.

    The following day, still in the brink of desperation, another grace cut my way. A text message saying that she is the daughter of Lola Fortunata hit my cell phone. I thought I won a lottery seeing an old woman with her daughter when the two finally met. It was not an easy meeting as Lola Fortunata’s daughter was really hard on cash, as most Filipinos are. But, Lola Fortunata’s daughter was not bereft of spirit as I later realized. Initially, I was even antagonistic to Lola Fortunata’s daughter as she could pass for a manunulay that Lola Fortunata spoke of.

    When Lola Fortunata finally entered her small hut, I thought I saw a happy turtle getting inside her home. As a way of thanking, Lola Fortunata asked a photo from me. I vehemently hesitated especially when she disclosed her sinister plan of putting my picture in her small altar. I later agreed on the photo when she told me that she might forget to thank God so a photo would remind her. Moreover, she told me that I almost resembled her own long lost son whom she had not seen for a long time. When I asked Lola Fortunata’s daughter about a son that Lola Fortunata spoke of, Lola Fortunata’s daughter told me that her brother had a terrible fight with her mother. They have not seen her brother for many, many years and they do not know his whereabouts.

    And I thought, the heaven listens to a prayer of a prodigal mother, doesn’t it? A prayer of an old woman would not hurt, wouldn’t it?


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