Chapter 1: Curse of the ants x
Stephen and Marie just graduated from their nursing course. The last hurdle will be the board exam in the coming months which needs a decisive determination to overcome. For the meanwhile, they need to enjoy the life of being liberated from the burden of being students. But before that, they need to do this yet. They are planning a provincial tour on one of the poorest provinces in the region.
Transportation is by commute as Fred’s car is on the repair shop due to some leaky engine. They ride the bus. The tour is an educational program of the fraternity they belong to. They will visit the province specifically on indigenous people there and interact with them in their livelihood and adopting their lifestyles for a presentation on social awareness, in the coming cultural and ethnic summit to be held in the city.
They reach the province that afternoon. Immediately meets with the Governor and other public officials. The social welfare agency would be instrumental on choosing the locality they need to blend with.
That day is a fine weather but as it is approaching dusk, the interplay of dancing lightning, clouds and the orangey hue of the horizon indicates a foul night for travel. They need a place to stay yet in town. That morning is a contrast to last night’s inhospitable weather of rain and thunderstorm.
The social welfare agency arranges for them a family to live with temporarily. A family of five, in a remote village where the source of income is planting corn. It is the Aguday family which means of livelihood requires them to work on the farm, the manpower the guests never experienced in their lives yet willing to try on this social project. Will they sustain on the challenge?
They embark by a passenger jeep, cross a shallow river by foot and hike like the trail is endless. Yet they are strongly spirited for the task. They keep going until sporadic sightings of native houses begin to appear. Their guide holding a rod for balance and traction finally locates the prospective residence. There are 4 wooden houses close to each other as some eager children approaches them giggling in that hospitable kind of ambience. There were native pigs roaming around and chickens, too. They reach the house where they find the family expecting them.
‘Hello Mr. Aguday, these are your guests for one week, the agency has briefed you already so here they are’, the guide briefly stayed after some introduction then proceeds back to town. They meet the family inside a compact and small house yet over-all civilized in athmosphere. The father is the hardworking type of peasant like a beast of burden with overloads yet strong enough to continue. The wife helps in the farm work but now that they have a one-year old baby, the father single-handedly provides for them. The kitchen is bare ground with a table and at the rear is the fire place where they cook their food through fire wood they collect in the forest nearby. An elevated single room with wooden floor serves as the bedroom. They need to sleep on the floor side by side.
For the mean-time, coping mechanism must settle so they can absorb this experience fruitfully. Marie prepares her camera and maneuvering to check on details she has to operate the initial recording. Then meal time is here.
The two children Boyet and Tisya are giggling as it’s a form of reaction to seeing strangers in the house. Marie helps in preparing food which isn’t much but simply rice, soup and cooked string beans.
Caloy is apologetic, ‘Sorry guys, its what we can only provide’, and timid like he needs to provide some sophistication on his meagre dinner.
‘Tay, don’t humiliate yourself, we come here to experience your poverty.’, and he seem to have understand it so they eat silently and developing an attachment so they can perform the project smoothly in such a way that none of them is dehumanized bec of their living condition, yes, that’s the aspiration, to make social awareness through video recordings. Yes, they are recording this.
After the consummation of dinner, some neighbours who are curious come to familiarize with them. They have no electricity but gas-operated lamp light which attracts miniature flyers, moths, and other kinds of insects. They acquaint with the probing neighbours.
Then its time to sleep. They don’t sleep immediately bec Caloy is muttering something like a haunted house on a farther vicinity north. Nobody dares go near it among the villagers as they think its cursed. Stephen peep through the window on that direction, it arouses his interest.