December never creeps in slowly. It always comes in a mad rush if you are in the city doing the usual things, wrapping up the year, so to speak. You would have to brave the traffic. There is always last minute shopping to be done. Everyone seems to be doing it. Hard to enjoy the crowd at the mall where even the coffee shops are full all the way till evening.
Unless you have been very lucky, you will have missed seeing how wonderful the moon was this past week, how it set into the hills at dawn, big, round, and beautiful like the female form of sun. And at night, the way it glowed with an almost blue light, so bright you could take a walk without a flashlight or torch.
“Manulo” is the word in Bisaya which means “to light your path at night with a torch.” This derives from the word “sulo” which is the torch itself, made from coconut leaves compressed into a cylinder and then sun dried until it is brittle and quite flammable. But just so that it burns for a long time lasting the distance of one’s trek over the boondocks, perhaps to visit a friend, perhaps to woo, perhaps to sin or at least to take the risk of it.
It is risk which is essential. As when two rural women smile at each other whispering: “Tuara na sad si Maria. Nanulo tunga sa gabii.” (There goes Maria, walking by torchlight in the middle of the night.) Maria is searching for something, of course. She might be searching for love. Nanulo.
No need for that when the moon is out. And when it shines this brightly you can literally take a walk in the middle of the night sans sulo. The moon lights your steps through footpaths never wide enough to hold two abreast. And so Maria and her love walk one behind the other. The better for him to see her sway from the hips with a peculiar grace timed to a silent tune that sings inside him, perhaps by coincidence as by design this tune sounding much like Beethoven’s “Piano Sonata No. 14” in C-sharp minor Quasi una fantasia, one of his most popular compositions, also known as Moonlight Sonata or to some simply, Moonlight.
We cannot be certain the lovers have ever heard this tune before. We can only guess. For certain things have a way of being universal even if inexorably subject to a diversity of interpretations. Some say Moonlight is a dirge or a funeral march, even. It is true there is a gentle sadness about it. The notes seem to ripple their way to an impending end, waiting there patiently in the distance. But death is only metaphor to the journey. All journeys.
As when two lovers wind their way through footpaths cut by bare feet over hills, through fields and trees, running beside the fishpond dike, cutting through Sandayong and Kalabuon, the two springs from which the villagers draw their water; for the latter, using the kabu, which is only a recycled oil can. The lovers do not stop until after they cover the distance of a small hill going into a cliff. Here they can see the next island, clouds rising from its crags and hills. And over all these, the moon flying more beautiful than they have ever seen before.
It is by her beauty that they seal their love, each falling into each other’s sleep, falling like the last few notes of a strange haunting piece of music, surely dedicated to woman, love, life and death. But why not just the sight of it? The round moonlight reflecting on calm waters?
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