The villa in Sta. Barbara
By Rex Catubig
“If you came this way,
Taking any route, starting from anywhere,
At any time or at any season,
It would always be the same: you would have to put off
Sense and notion. You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
Or carry report. You are here to kneel
Where prayer has been valid. And prayer is more
Than an order of words…”
Little Gidding, TS Eliot
The house has always stood there for as long as I can remember. It’s on a slope In Tebag, still a long memory away towards Nagcarlan, the Santa Barbara-Urdaneta junction. Passing through the arc of ancient Mango trees that used to line up the highway in humble obeisance, the old yet majestic deep-south style house known as Villa Lopez, burst into view like a proud keeper of the past — an uncrowned royalty amid the jumble of weeds and shrubberies in the middle of nowhere.
But though I was fascinated, I never stopped to ogle, nor asked around; I just drove by slowly if reverentially. The folks claim it’s haunted, maybe so, and its spirit occupants must have guarded the house with all their territorial might as it has withstood and has seemed impervious to calamities.
Come hell or high water, it has stayed steadfast, unflinching. But for some broken windows and falling walls, it remains a sturdy sanctuary of the past. I wonder what memories were made there, what dreams happened, what romances took shape, what stories provoked laughter that resonated and wafted with the diaphanous smoke of tender bonfires.
But it’s not for me to know, only to bow in homage for the life it kindled — that reminds me that life despite its why’s and wherefore’s, and the many punctuations that mark it sporadically, is in fact, a series of incessant ellipsis.
Post script: Sometime after I wrote this, the house has been painted a shade of yellow. Life has stirred, and some developments seem underway.
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