Chapter 2:

Chapter 2

Kaika Reijou no Suiminsen

The men gathering rattan found Kawayan the following afternoon, sprawled on the damp leaf litter, covered with more fallen leaves and touched by buzzing insects. Stunned by the unusual beauty and unsure who it was, they did not pick her up right away, but quickly sent word to the big house, which dispatched a pair of warriors to secretly carry the princess back to the palace in a hammock.

The babaylan examined the princess in the presence of the distraught Datu and the elders. The mother was weeping loudly. But the healer was unmoved. There did not seem to be any cause of concern. The girl had no sign of insect or other bites, and nary a scratch. Her fair, supple skin, even that on the soles of her feet showed no stain or blemish of dirt or mud. Her hair was not in any way tangled or disheveled, even though she must have been out in the forest for what must have been the whole night and half of a day.

Kawayan woke up in a fog and only regarded the crowd with a bored expression. Why is father here? Did I…? Am I out of my room?

Oh… I had been in the forest.

“The bluebird!” she suddenly yelled.

They were all speechless at this.

Her mother’s tears now fell lamely down a face frozen in disbelief.

That same evening she was returned to the forest, but not very far away, just far enough from prying eyes. Her feet were on a wood platform raised high above the damp and unworthy ground, and her hands tied to a branch over her head… tied with a silk kerchief to ensure her noble wrists were not bruised. But she was naked, and her breasts quivered from the chill night air.

“Amang!” she whimpered loudly and tearfully, “Enough! I will never do it again! Never! Please!”

But the Datu took another jar from the servant and splashed the cold spring water on his daughter a third time.

"Did you think you can escape punishment just because we would not dare blemish you with a good blow?"

The frightened girl shriveled into herself. If anything, the cold made her skin even paler, exactly as her parents would have it.

“You have not even mastered half of half of the song Piway-a was reading to you! Have you been addled by all the special treatment you are having?”

“Bana,” pleaded the mother, “your child will have a fever! She is too young. Hah… She will learn. We will have Piwaya beaten, just lock the girl up in another room and add two more maids to guard her.”

“No. Your daughter shall learn right now.” He took another jar and threw the water at Kawayan yet again much to his wife’s horror. “And don’t you dare touch Piway-a, she cared for me since my boyhood, she is our heirloom.” He turned and ordered everybody to troop back to the house, leaving the hapless princess shivering.

At around midnight, Piwaya herself braved the night with a blanket and found her charge shuddering violently. She wrapped her up at once and carried her on her back.

Kawayan stayed in bed for two days with a mild fever as her mother had feared. But skillful care helped it subside, and on the third day, the princess was sleeping soundly, probably dreaming of bluebirds and feathers.



For all the restrictions laid on Kawayan as a binukot, they did allow her a single sliver of sunshine into her room.

The girl was absently picking through the turquoise and other beads, holding them up, letting them sparkle in the morning light. She fancied herself a trader, inspecting her merchandise. These beads…. Could there be anything else that sparkles like this? Maybe if she had those bluebird feathers….

“Achi…” called someone gently from the curtains.




It was Piwaya.

“Achi? Hey…”

Only Piwaya would call her such a childish name.

“Achi, dress up. Your sister is coming.”


The servant finally emerged from the entrance with a basin of water and knelt down with her charge. She began washing the long, straight-to-wavy mane, black as night. Piwaya enjoyed this one task. It was exactly the same as washing a bolt of silk, remembering her days as a merchant’s apprentice. Before she was taken captive and brought to this palace.

“The spirits of your forebears are protecting you,” she told the girl. “The babaylan said so. Look at this hair. I can’t believe you have actually been outside. So pleasant to the fingers, I say.”

“Tell her to go away.”

“Really now? You have not seen each other for weeks!”


“She has a right to talk to you, child. Don’t you turn her away when she gets here.”


Around half an hour later, after Kawayan had been properly dressed, the princess had returned to sitting on the floor with her beads. It was then that, Alunsina, or Alsani, had arrived. Alsani had a certain presence about her, explained only partly by her wondrous form. She was graceful. The elder sister parted the curtains and let herself into the room. Her feet was also as white and supple as the younger one’s, and she had never in her life been outside.

“I did not want to believe it,” she began, standing over her seated sister, towering over her. “But with someone like you, I can never put it beyond you to leave your room.”

“Oh…” went the reply, not to her, but to the piece of jade that flashed in the sun for a moment.

“I see you still have no manners. I sometimes wonder why they put so much value on you.”

"I certainly don't feel like they value me right now. Can you still feel me shivering?"

"But you do not get the water cure everyday, do you?"


"You have been eating far more eangkuga than your stomach can handle."

"You're being jealous..."

"Why should I be jealous of a fattened pig?"

"Pig? Fat?! I have a better figure than yours!"

Alsani closed her eyes and let the words sink in. “That may be true.” She opened her eyes once again and regarded her little sister. Fair as the waxing moon. Carries herself with the movements of wind. Does it so easily, without the practice she had to go through. But no matter. She is far better than her in that now… and she was not so sure she wanted to be her sister, anyway.

She let some of her thoughts slip. “You know inside of yourself that you are better than everybody. It makes you reckless. Even now, even now you in your heart have decided you can get your way because no one, not even the spirits, would dare strike a blow to someone like you.”

Alsani paused. Her expression softened. But she went on.

"Quit fooling yourself that you are important to them for your own sake. You have a use. They expect you to be useful. So be of use. Do it."

“And what if I don’t want to be used?”

“The robe that would not give warmth has no reason to being. You child. Even you yourself would throw away such a thing, don’t you think?”

“I will never throw away any of my possessions! Even if they are old! Even if they are worn down!”

“So you say.” To Piwaya, “Bring in the fruits here! The child is airheaded, she mustn’t have eaten anything yet.” And she sailed out of the room.

The servants quickly brought in two large bilao full of slices of mango, of langka, of peach they obtained from a faraway land. But Kawayan did not see any of it. “I don’t want your fruit,” she mumbled.

Binukot, of course, eat their meals away from the rest of the household, so around midday the servants brought in steaming pots of sinigang and tinola to go with the fruit.