Photo by: Joe Owens
Manolito received the figurine in a little town outside Tulancingo. He stopped there for juice to cool down, but also he sought happiness. With luck, he might at last find a woman he could love. Looking back, he realized, the tiny village really did show him the way.
He didn’t seek out the bruja in the streets with banana trees where chickens and goats walked beneath them. She found him. Without a single word of introduction, she thrust the Dia De Los Muertos sculpture into his hands. “You need it more than me,” said the elderly village witch. She walked away, leaving a perplexed Manolito behind her.
It took three months before Manolito no longer believed he was mad. At last he settled down, and realized his dead grandparents really could speak to him through the figurine. The figure displayed the skeletal couple standing stiffly with heads bowed. As he spoke with them, he realized how happy they were together in the afterlife. Unfortunately, one thing still made them sad.
“You must find a good girl, Manny” said his abuela, Maria. “We’re sad that you are alone.”
“But you must follow our tradition, Manny,” said his abuelo, Thiago. “Your father failed in this, and look what happened!”
Manolito’s mother ran off with a rich Arab. His father fell into depression and drank himself to death two years later. His beloved grandparents raised him from the age of nine. They were happy and wonderful people, always smiling and laughing. Because of them, he harbored high standards in a woman. Unfortunately, it meant he was still single at 31.
“We will help you, and if you listen, we can guarantee your happiness.” continued Thiago.
“You have my keepsake box,” said Maria. “Look there for clues.”
The next day, Manolito sat in the cafeteria of the software company where he worked. His usual lunch partner, Lailani from Accounting, foisted more of her wonderful Filipino lumpia on him. She loved to share food. She wasn’t beautiful, but very pretty. She loved to laugh and talk about movies. Somberly, Manolito looked at her and wondered if he could love her. With his grandparents talk of tradition, he knew they wouldn’t accept anyone besides a nice Mexican girl.
Two days later, he dated Juanita. She was rich and attractive. She ordered the most expensive items on the menu, ate little of each.
When he returned home, the figurines were face-palming.
Bad choice, obviously.
He dated Joyce who was beautiful. Unfortunately, she loved being the center of attention, and that meant she flirted with every man in sight.
At home, the figurines covered their eyes in horror.
Another bad choice.
He dated Lenora, Perfecta, Seraphela, and Dulcinea and found only frustration. He didn’t bother to visit his grandparent’s figurines. He didn’t want to see them with guns to their heads.
Lailani finally talked him into going for drinks. For once, Manolito enjoyed himself. They laughed often and talked at length about their favorite movies. Manolito found himself holding her hand as they smiled and walked down a moonlit boulevard. No longer thinking, just lost in the moment, he took her home and she stayed the night.
In the morning Manolito was sad. He’d found someone he could love, but how could he face his traditional grandparents?
While he sulked, Lailani found the contents his abuela’s keepsake box spread out on the table. She held up an old picture. It showed his grandparents beneath a banana tree with a chicken walking by. “Oh wow, where was this taken?”
Manolito grunted, “Somewhere in Mexico.”
“Can’t be,” said Lailani. “I see the word, ‘Bagacay’ on this sign. That’s Filipino.”
“They never mentioned the Philippines.”
She held up some old money. “And there’s this too.”
“Oh, that money looks weird because it’s old, but it’s Mexican. See? It says ‘Pesos’ right there.”
Lailani grinned. “No, it’s Filipino. Our money is pesos too.”
Manolito rushed to the figurine his grandparents inhabited. They held each in happiness, laughing and smiling. “At last you found a good girl!” said Maria.
“You finally followed our family tradition!” said Thiago. “We never restrict ourselves in love. We find it wherever we can.”
“Salamat sa Diyos!” cheered Maria.
“Abuela?” said Manolito. “What language is that?”
Maria grinned. “It’s Tagalog, from the Philippines, mi nino. It’s my native language!”
The Philippines lived under Spanish rule for over 300 years. For this reason, Philippines culture remains an interesting mix of Spanish and Asian culture. Many Spanish words are mixed into the national language, Tagalog, and in the other languages spoken there. Filipinos don’t typically speak Spanish fluently, but it’s easy for them to learn it. Since both Mexico and the Philippines are tropical countries, there are rural areas where both places look nearly identical. Thus, a picture of the Philippines might be confused for a pic of Mexico.
A brief language lesson:
Abuelita and Abuelito: Grandmother and Grandfather (understood in both Mexico and the Philippines)
Bruja: Witch (understood in both Mexico and the Philippines)
Salamat sa Diyos! = Thanks to God! (Tagalog)
Each Sunday, Jow Owens provides one of his own pictures as a prompt for flash fiction. This story is based upon the photo up above. Look here for more stories answering this weekly writing challenge: https://sundayphotofictioner.wordpress.com/2015/03/22/sunday-photo-fiction-march-22-2015/