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The great ghost Jangkin

Jangkin haunts the old Lozada house at Ylaya in Dumanjug municipality, 73 km south of the city. It haunts it still although it has been many years since anybody reported a sighting. From most descriptions, he is only a dark shadow, gigantic by local standards, the average height of locals being only 5 feet, more or less.

Many stories tell who he was and where he came from. One goes that he was an African American left here by his comrades when the country fell to the Japanese at the start of the last war. His real name might have been Jenkins. He died by drowning one dark night when a squall hit the small “sakayan” he was riding in the middle of Tanyon Strait between Guihulgnan and Dumanjug. As their boat began to fill with water it became obvious the boat could not carry two people. Jangkin’s companion threw him into the water and hit his head with an oar as he tried to climb back in.

He was always reputed to be a big man, friendly and much respected while he was still alive. Even as a ghost he was not all that bad. If they feared him it was only as a matter of principle. That principle being that all ghosts must be feared because they are not allies of God. They must be feared along with the sigbin, onglu, kikik, all the dili-ingon-nato who inhabit the agate beads.

The local religiosity equates these creatures with Yawa. This word now means “devil”. But Pigaffeta, the Spanish chronicler of Magellan’s voyage, defined the word differently in his short vocabulary of 16th century Bisayan words. Yawa meant simply pagan. Only in the run of the Catholic-dominated colonial culture would pagan be equated eventually with devil. This equation by way of text is unfortunate. It ensures the inevitable death of all creatures of local mythology. If they were not equated with superstition they were equated instead with devilry and witchcraft. And it was short work making people afraid of them as surely as they were afraid of even heroes like Leon Kilat.

They were equally afraid of Jangkin even if mostly secretly. For as one might eventually observe in these parts, those who are most loud in announcing their lack of fear of ghosts are often the most afraid of being left alone in the dark. And nobody wandered alone and at night into the old Lozada house. Stories abound of children thrown out of windows in the middle of the night waking up by morning on the ground below completely unhurt. The Lozada men slept in the house only after they were completely plastered drunk and only if there was absolutely nowhere else to sleep.

But there was once when one member of that large family got thrown out of their house in the city. Having nowhere else to go he returned to the old house bringing with him his few belongings and an aide. Everything went well for a few days. The house seemed comfortable even if the toilet left much to be desired. But quite mysteriously one day the aide told his boss he was resigning and planned never to return to the house.

The young boss was surprised and quite bothered he would be sleeping in the old house alone that night. But he was brave, well-educated and did not believe in ghosts. He was quite optimistic not only of surviving the night but of eventually finding his fortune here. He was wrong. That night proved inordinately warm and humid for him to sleep under the cover of his blanket. But without his blanket the mosquitoes attacked him not just with bites but also by the loud noise of their buzzing. Try as he could, he could not sleep until the morning breeze came and things became cooler.

But as he came to the edge of sleep he saw a procession of little creatures crawling through the dark sala and out through the main door. He was struck by their colors like little beads of light. How beautiful they were and how filled with a secret life, each like an untold story or poetry that had yet to be written. And then one of them flew and landed on his chest. He was no more than gauze or just a squiggly little black ball of lines so light it flew with the slightest breeze. And it spoke to him.

It said: “When you walk through here be careful where your steps fall. We are very frail creatures who easily die. We do not understand why people are so afraid of us. We cannot possibly harm them. But easily, they can kill us or make us disappear forever.”

The young man returned to the city that same day. He had too many stories he needed to tell. Yet to this day he still wonders. Is this all only a memory of a dream? Or indeed if finally, did he come to meet the great ghost Jangkin?

 As with their sitcom predecessors, the existence of these two women has always cheered me, though I have never met them, nor even glimpsed their coordinating pixie coifs in person. Maybe that’s because they’ve been close since they were sorority sisters at the University of Virginia, despite moving to a town where friendships can curdle faster than Ms. Levine’s clotted cream at high noon in August. Maybe it’s because, long before That Book, they hoisted the torch of top-shelf retail femme-trepreneurship aloft through marriages and pregnancies, even as pioneers like Selma Weiser of Charivari and Linda Dresner bowed out of the race.

Or maybe it’s because, unlike some temples of high fashion (Comme des Gar?ons, I am looking at you), they don’t seem to be taking the whole enterprise too seriously. Like the Shotz Brewery’s madcap duo, they’re doing it their way, yes their way, making all their dreams come true, for me and you. If me and you have cash flow.

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