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November

/ 06:55 AM November 10, 2013

November’s very name brings up a long-lost dog that the children were particularly fond of.  Now grown up, they’re likely to add to the stories during family gatherings the one about a puppy, buff in color, that wandered into our yard and stayed. When it remained unclaimed for days, they decided to adopt the dog and named it after the month of its appearance – November.

Its size, bigger than that of native dogs, kept us guessing about its breed, especially because it had shepherding qualities.  Whenever it noticed us arriving, it would meet our car, and then amble in front until we were safe in the carport.  Woe to those who got in our way – November would chase them, its intent to attack serious enough to make them scamper, fearing for their fannies.

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November truly became our best friend and we had the dog for quite a time.  In the end, when already aging and sickly, perhaps because it did not want to inconvenience us with its death, November disappeared as suddenly as it arrived.  As much as the day when it came to us, I consider the day of the dog’s disappearance a November day.

Just like today last week, the second day of the month, when, with my brother and my wife, I visited the hometown.  When our car approached our old place, the empty space across from it caught my attention.  A house stood there once upon a time.  When I was three or four, my family made use of its strong posts by taking shelter in that house during a typhoon, which was so strong it shattered my father’s violin hanging on a wall.

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What’s more, I associate the house with another dog, Magsaysay (naming dogs after famous people was then the fashion).  Just like November, Magsaysay was cock of the walk. And we were the best of friends. We posed together for a photograph taken when I was five.

The owner of the dog and of the house was a lady whose son and daughter were my playmates.  I remember her best for her beautiful voice.  She was always singing Visayan love songs as she kept house, which delighted the neighbors, us especially, who lived just across.  Not rarely, because in the stillness of the night her voice traveled far and came as though from someone near, her songs would put me to sleep.

But the lady had a difficult life.  Her husband left her when their children were small.  If not for the house that her father, a carpenter, built and left behind, she and her children would be homeless.

She declined the offers of love from several men.  This distressed one suitor so much that he took to drink and nicked his hand with a knife.

The lady was very devout and never let a day pass without attending Holy Mass.  She would lead the prayers when people gathered for the Rosary or a novena, in the case of the last in the traditional incantatory manner.

There was a time when I chanced upon her in the Basilica in the city, where she sold candles and danced the sinulog before the miraculous statue of the Holy Child.  She was alone in the world – her son died years back in a brawl in Manila and her daughter was raising a family in a far town.  In a while the lady herself would pass away.

And this month I saw that her house in the hometown, which withstood several typhoons, had given way to the passage of countless Novembers.  Time marks its claim over the now vacant lot with a clutter of weeds.

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Whenever I think of the lady, Jesus’ words of praise for the widow in the temple ring in my ears.  She put only two small coins into the treasury, but for Jesus, because the coins were all that she had to live on, she put in more than the others.

The sale of candles does not fetch much, and I’m sure that there were days, not just in November, when the lady had nothing to offer during the Holy Mass in the Basilica except the gold of her voice.

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