Early at night in Junquera street, people from around the block and on the other side of it and the nearby alleys, they all come out to buy food at the neighboring barbecue stalls and fast food.
This is a typical middle-class neighborhood in the Philippines. The houses are from right after the Second World War and some were rebuilt during the time of President Magsaysay after several houses were burned because of an accident from a nearby military camp.
There is one house that is in the middle of all of this. It belongs to Rio, well his family that is. Unlike his uncle’s house at the back of their house, their abode is smaller and unpainted.
His uncle was a lawyer while his dad is a musician, he could play the piano, the guitar, violin, saxophone, flute, well he was a typical brass band musician too.
This was the typical middle-class family during the late 1940s to the 1950s and even to the 1960s of Cebu. By the late 1980s and 1990s the middle classes have shrunk to almost to where the lower class begins.
Rio’s house is right along where all the busy activities are. The boarding houses, the ladies dormitories, all manner of students and transients, even lodgers who work from the banks to the police force. They all pass by Rio’s.
By nightfall the streets and the alleys become alive, usually people start coming out by six until late seven to have their dinner or buy food.
It is the middle of the week night, and on Wednesday’s people usually go home an hour late from school or work.
This is the busy day for both college students and workers. In a bid to buy food from the neighborhood stores before they ran out of food to sell, the boarders and lodgers all flock to the stores and diners at least by seven.
It is heavy with people, a lot of people around the streets.
This is where all people fall, they let their guard down, thinking that the sheer number of people outside would be security, any trouble would surely be noticed by them, and in a typical fashion of this neighborhood, everyone lends a hand when someone is in trouble.
When it’s everyone, it means a lynch mob.
Rio’s house is two story, there is a small living room about twenty square meters or 215 square feet. There is a little pantry below the stairs, and next to the living is the kitchen and dining area, about twice the area of the living.
Upstairs are three bedrooms, since his dad died and his mom who sleeps outside of the house where they have a small store. It is only he and his wife while the other two rooms are unoccupied, since his brothers have married and moved out.
Because of the sense of security that this neighborhood has, it has actually created a false sense of security for everyone. While it is still early, people usually open their doors. If you close it people will think you are being unneighborly, or they think you are not there.
When you are not there, this will usually invite unwanted elements. Thieves.
All the lights are on, windows up and down wide open, except for the unoccupied rooms. The back door is open except for the windows at the dining, and the ever more open is the front door.
For a thief, this is quite inviting, for a really good thief, this is something you must avoid. Because this is a trap set for people like them.
Amidst the busy activities outside, Rio and his wife Carrey are having a delightful conversation. A future for them, they are discussing.
An odd thing, unusual, a bat squeak, though faint, both did not mind, until it is predominant. “Is there a bat in the house?” says Rio to himself. As subtle as it came, it goes away.
A loud thud on the roof, in fact it was more of a sound of someone crashing into something metallic. It is not unusual for cats to be on the roof, even for that sound and the noise it created. Another metallic sound, then another, it is as if someone is walking on the roof.
“Can it be a cat?” they both asked and wondered.
Rio answers for the both of them, “unusual cats do not make noise when they walk on our roof.”
“Then if it is, it is a pretty large one.” His wife Carrey adds.
A clawing sound up on the roof, it is as if someone is tearing the corrugated galvanized iron sheet on the roof apart.
The noise is deafening now.
Rio stands up and looks outside of the window, the sound continues, like someone screaming, a thousand screams of death, somewhere around the sound of an Aztec Death Whistle and a roar of a tiger in a higher pitch.
He looks up above on his roof, nothing.
The clawing continues, then he sees a neighbor that actually looked at him.
“Hey, can you see anything on my roof?”
“Can you hear any noise?”
“No,” he proceeds to where he is going.
It was now evident to him this is not natural.
Quickly he closes his windows.
“Carrey ,” Rio to his wife, “you need to come with me right now, I think this is a wakwak or an abat, no, it is a kei-kik.”
They run out of their room, the clawing sound follows the couple’s movement. The side of the walls outside, it is as if someone is clawing in on the wooden walls, tearing it apart, panel per panel.
“Oh, shit, the windows.” Rio closes another window beside the stairs. The clawing sound moves to the wooden windows.
“Help!” They both shouted and pleaded for any neighbors’’ help. But none came. He punches the walls in a futile attempt to scare off this intruder. Then to the kitchen, the windows beside the door and the door he manages to close before the clawing moved there.
It follows where his wife is. Who is still at the edge of the stairs.
He managed to grab the military issue machete, the soldiers simply called it ‘jungle bolo’ it was longer than the standard civilian bolo.
“Carrey , I think it is coming after you. Stay right where you are.”
The screaming, like a cry of a thousand souls dying, the clawing continues, horrible, scary. His wife Carrey , standing in between the living room and the kitchen. The scratching continues, it is as if the wood has been torn apart.
Rio runs to the front door and closes it and then the windows.
The noise continues, it becomes louder and more violent, it is as if the whole house is shaking. No, it is shaking, like when you shake a box with pebbles inside. And they are the pebbles.
“You think I am afraid of you,” Rio challenges the creature outside of his domain, “come and get us, I am going to kill you once you come in. Com one.”
He hits the walls with his bolo. The unseen monster outside continues to intimidate them, scare them with such violent noise. But Rio never falters in his resolve to protect his wife, his legacy, his future family.
The lights went out, everything was dark inside the house. But the ambient light from the street lamps and the neighboring houses, manages to seep through the spaces in between the windows and the walls’ wooden planks.
A kerosene lamp he lights and a candle. It was enough, Rio is a smoking man, a match and a lighter is always at hand.
He reaches for his whip, made of a stingray’s tail, with a flat rubber wrapped around the base of the tail as a handle.
“Carrey , stand behind me.”
Of which his wife Carrey obliged.
He waves the whip around making a sound, and makes it crack. Then he strikes on the walls where the violent scratching and clawing sound emanates.
Then it resumes ever more violently, then Rio, not to be daunted, throws another whip, striking the spot where the intruder is adamantly trying to break in.
The lights, the electricity is back on.
The attack on the house on Junquera street, stops.