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The World of Iday

The Red Pouch

 

by Marcelina

 

A village with an estimated population of 200 (in 1965), with no indoor plumbing, no electricity and a Carabao to use for farming, was my home. We planted and harvested our grains and vegetables, went to the nearby chapel on Sundays, and walked for miles to the nearest town on Wednesdays for Market Day.

Women walking with children tucked to their waist, and a basin filled with dirty clothes on top of their head, was a normal scene on Saturdays. This was the day to do laundry and to bathe and maybe gossip a little. Most other days were good also for bathing in the river, but never on Friday, and especially at noontime. That was the day for the elementals or "Encanto" to play in the river.

Being the youngest in a family of nine, six girls and three boys, I was destined to be called Iday, little girl. Other girls in the village may have been called Iday, but grew out of it in their puberty. In my case it was more like a brand name that I carry there, even now. Along with the name Iday, came a small, red, square pouch on a white cord to be worn as a necklace, especially made for me by my Godfather, Ulpiano. In it were some roots, a vial of oil with herbs, and more roots.

I was not to ever take it off, but only when I bathe, and even then I had to keep close watch of it. The red pouch was to protect me from even the most mischievous Encanto. But one Friday, I made a decision, it was becoming embarrassing for an eleven year old to be wearing such a silly pouch, and I was determined to get rid of it, the name Iday, and all. I headed for the river.

This time I wouldn't change into my bathing sarong, just in case. Carefully placing the red pouch on top of a rock, I dunked my head into the water quickly, once, again, then again. The pouch and I were both still safe. Feeling confident, I submerged my whole body and enjoyed the warm sparkling water. I was actually okay!

Carrying the pouch in my hand, I began to walk home. Should I tell my parents? With wet hair hanging way past my hips, I could not easily deny what I had done. When I reached my home, I could see in their eyes concern and worries, but I wouldn't say a word.

As the evening approached, my body temperature started to rise and I felt a much warmer and heavier feeling on my right cheek - it had swollen to twice bigger than my left cheek! My Godfather was summoned immediately.

He gathered up a few fist sized stones and heated them on hot coals. In a big bowl of water, he mixed several kinds of herbs and oil, then he had me sit on a chair. He placed the hot stones under my chair, and as he splashed the stones with the prepared potion, he murmured something continuously in Latin. As I bathed in the hot steam for hours, I thought I'd pass out.

The following morning, I woke up with a leaf the size of my palm, stuck to my right cheek. The swelling was almost gone, thank god. I was informed that a Water Encanto had slapped me on the cheek for disturbing their day of play. At that moment, I really didn't care how I looked with that silly pouch, I put it back on!

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