A Recollection and Revelation of a Childhood's Well-Kept Secret
“My God, what are we going to do?” I panicked as my nine-year-old big brother, Manong Pericles, and my eleven-year-old Auntie Estrella, tried to push the heavy pole away from Bantay after he was fatally hit with it when it fell to the ground. The poor dog didn’t stand a chance.
He seemed to enjoy watching the three of us, rambunctious kids, play in our front yard. He was always following us around when he wasn’t with Tatay Kokoy, our grandpa, on a hunting trip.
Being bored playing inside the house, Manong Pericles and Auntie Estrella called me out to play. Actually, Manong needed help to pull the basketball pole back up so he can shoot hoops. It had been knocked down by the heavy rain and fierce wind that came through three days prior. In fact, the water in the river was still high and some of our neighbor’s pets drowned there.
“Go to the top end and push it up while I hang on to it in the middle,” Manong ordered Auntie. Trying to be as much help as I could be, I assisted my auntie push the pole from the top.
“Bantay, get out. You’re in the way. You’ll get crushed if this pole falls on you,” I said.
Half-way up in the air, Auntie said, “Stop. It’s heavy. Let me put it down first.”
Unable to balance herself, the pole slipped off her arms and fell.
“My God! Bantay is under the pole!” I yelled.
We all panicked when we saw his lifeless body underneath the pole.
We’ll be in for a big whipping when Tatay finds out.
“Okay. Push that pole away and pull him out. We’ll take him to the river,” my Auntie announced.
“And nobody better says a word, otherwise, we’ll have sore behind tonight,” she warned us.
At dinnertime, as we gathered around the table, Tatay did not see Bantay. He always comes to the table because Tatay feeds him off his plate. That’s how attached Tatay was to Bantay.
“Bantay, where are you? Come here,” he called.
We were all quiet. We pretended we did not hear as we continued to eat.
“Does anybody know where Bantay is?” Tatay said.
“No,” we all said.
“Where could he have wandered off?” Tatay said. He went outside, calling him. That dog would have run to the master by the sound of his voice and by his whistle but there was no sign of him around. So, he came back inside the house and instructed us to look for him in the morning.
“Maybe he went to the river and was swept away by the flood?”
Nobody dared to say a word.
He had no other sensible answer but to assume that Bantay must have wandered off to the river and drowned or eaten by a crocodile in search for prey on dry land.
I was only six years old when this happened. Albeit, this image floats fresh in my memory on occasion even to this day in my senior years, like the other night.
I was half awake and half asleep, when this scenario came back to me. Then it dawned on me that perhaps Grandpa never found out what really happened to his hunting dog.
So, I called my auntie Estrella in the morning.
“Auntie, remember Tatay’s dog, Bantay?”
“I can’t believe you still remember that…That was many, many moons ago.”
“How can I forget? The poor dog got smashed to death and we threw him in the river to cover each other’s back. I want to write about it and include it in my memoirs to show what we got away with as children.”
“We were just kids and we were into everything.”
“Well, what I want to know is this: Did Tatay ever find out what really happened?”
“Not that I know of. I was the oldest and I protected you two little ones from the horsewhipping we would have gotten had he known. I never said a word and the topic never came back.”
“So, Tatay went to the grave without ever knowing! Wow! I can’t believe it!”