Once, a little girl named Menggay had a pet chicken that could do magic.
It was a odd-looking chicken--black where it should have been brown, and brown where it should have been black--and it acted oddly, too. While all the other chickens in her family’s yard would rush forward at feeding time and gobble up every grain of chicken feed that Menggay scattered on the ground for them, the odd-colored chicken would eat only some of the grains that she spread in front of it.
It would leave most of the chicken feed where it fell; but it would pick up several grains one by one in its beak, then put them down carefully in different spots on the ground. And Menggay would look at this pattern the chicken made, and read important messages in it for her family and their neighbors from the nearby farms and town.
When it rained early in the season, Menggay was able to tell her father in advance, so he could decide the best times to plant and harvest. When the carabao of the farmer next door got sick, Menggay knew it was because the carabao had stepped on the home of a nunô; and that the farmer should offer gifts of salabat and milk candy, so that the dwarf would stop being angry. When a fisherman from the shore thought he was in love with a mermaid he had spotted at sea, Menggay learned that it was really only a friendly dugong; and after the fisherman got over his embarrassment, he started courting a nice young washer-woman instead. And when the town albularya, despite her charms and potions, could not find her missing magical ring, Menggay and the chicken found out that she had accidentally baked it into a bibingka meant for her merienda that afternoon.
So more and more people started coming from farther and farther away to see Menggay and her chicken. The strangest one was a blue-eyed, bluish-skinned man who never asked any questions as others did. He would just stand outside the chicken yard every afternoon, watching Menggay feed the chickens. Menggay, who had been taught to be very polite, would always bring him a glass of water to drink; and the man would take a pinch of salt from somewhere in his pockets, sprinkle it into the glass, drink the water down in one long gulp, and hand the glass back to Menggay without saying a word.
One especially hot day, Menggay went into the kitchen to get the man his water, and decided to save him some effort by putting a little salt in the glass herself. So she took just a bit longer than usual inside the house; and by the time she went out into the yard, the strange man was gone… and so was her pet chicken.
Menggay was so upset! She ran and asked her mother to please help her, and together they looked all through the house; across the front yard, back yard, and chicken yard; and around the nearby fields. But the chicken was nowhere to be found; and by the time Menggay’s father had come in from their field and joined the search, they all had to agree that the chicken was missing and that the strange man had probably taken it.
This made Menggay even more worried. She missed the chicken terribly and knew that her pet must be missing her, too. So the next morning, she asked her parents if she could go and look for her chicken; and her parents, who knew that they had raised her to be able to take care of herself, gave her their permission, some words of caution, and a few pandesal to take along.
“Be careful,” her father reminded her, as he prepared to leave for work himself.
“And don’t forget to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’,” said her mother, handing her a small bag containing the pandesal, a bottle of water, and a change of clothes.
“Yes, Papa. Yes, Mama,” said Menggay. And she set off on her search.
to be continued next Tuesday!
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Andre Mischa Cleofe
Cathy delos Santos
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