Lagablab ni Mang Efren (Efren’s Flame)

Everyday I ride the train for school. I see a lot of people, different from one another. Nevertheless they all walk the same way, fast.

In the midst of all these haze, there’s a man who stands still. His name is ‘Mang Efren’. He delights train passengers with his beautiful voice. He’s blind and plays a harmonica which is hanged around his neck.  A worn-out hat sits by his foot, awaiting changes from passers-by. Some notice his talent. Some don’t. I on the other hand enjoy his company and songs while I’m eating my afternoon snack. Before I go home I give him what’s left of my food money.

Mang Efren is no ordinary blind man that you always see. Many play the guitar and sing. However Mang Efren can never play the guitar. He has no hands to play it with. That’s what got me curious about him. It’s such an awful fate for a man to bear. But Mang Efren doesn’t seem to mind this misfortune. He’s as bright as the morning sun at all times.

From all of our small talks, I never really asked how he lost his sight and hands. Rumor has it from my classmates, he was born a freak. In most times, they even shout “Freak!” to his face as they went by. Kids can be harsh sometimes. The vendors at the station gossip that he was a thief in the middle-east. His hands were cut-off as punishment. I don’t believe any of that. I’ve known Mang Efren for a year now. He would never do such a thing. He is a good hearted man.

One day I finally got the guts to ask him. I bought siomai and shared it with him. I finally asked him,

 “Mang Efren, I don’t want to be rude. I just want to know…”

 “Know what my child? You mean my hands?”

I stopped eating and looked down at the floor. He was silenced also for a minute. Then patted my back with his arm and said, “It’s okay. I never really want to talk about it. Nonetheless you’ve been good to me all this time. I think my friend deserves to hear my story.”

I was relieved. Using his feet, he took out a steel flask from his coat. Drank a little of it and then he began his tale.

“I was never born like this. You see when I was younger I was a great sculptor in the municipality of Suba. I made the prominent ‘Kalabaw ng Suba’ statue at the center of the town.”

I stopped him and asked, “Suba?! I know that place in the Visayas. That’s where the great Suba fire happened right? 1983 I think.”

He paused and looked at the sky. Then said, “Yes it was a tragic forest fire. Killing almost everyone in the town. I remember it very well.”

If I could remove his shades, I knew he was already crying. He then continued his story.

 “Before that fire happened as I said, I was a sculptor. Had a daughter and wife. Life was going well for us. Until one day, a rich client came into my house. His name was Don Nepumuceno. He said he was a businessman from Manila. He was asking me for a statue like no other, a statue of my father. He said he knew my father. Then he started telling me the most unlikely story of my father.

According to his story, my father died as a criminal. Killing the whole clan of Ortiz. Apparently my father sold his soul and the rest of his descendants to the devil to give him the power he needs to take revenge on his enemies. And now he is collecting my soul.”

I said to Mang Efren, “That’s crazy!”

 “That’s what I said!” Mang Efren replied while drinking some more from his flask.

“Anyway I led this man to the door and bid him good night. Got no time for his nonsense. Before he left, he asked me if I knew the kind of power my dad had. That’s when things started to get hell-bound. His eyes started to burn. Then my eyes lit up with fire as well as my hands.

He then explained my father was a Satan’s soldier of fire here on earth. He controlled my father using the fire in his eyes. And everything he touched will burn into ashes. I inherit the same curse as my Dad’s.

To my surprise, Don Nepumuceno started to control my movements. I burned down the house together with my wife and child. Just like that, I went mad! Couldn’t believe all of his mumbo-jumbo was true. My insanity led me to town, burning everything in sight. I am the one who caused the great fire of Suba!

After the fiery massacre, I went back to Don Nepumuceno. He said I will be his soldier slave. Though my head has gone mad, I managed to come back to my senses. I realized I AM NOT MY FATHER’S SIN. I can do the right thing right now before I set the world on fire. I acted quickly.

I blinded myself using my fingers taking me out of his wretched control. Then I grabbed him. Burning him alive just like everyone else. When the rescuers came, I was the only survivor in our town. I was in the hospital for a month. Before I left the hospital, the doctors gave me money to start my life again.

I used that money to get a knife and paid a drifter to cut my hands so that I’d never use my powers again. The doctors were dumbfounded to see me back in the hospital with my hands missing. After that, I tried to get away as far as possible from Suba. Now I am here in Manila, trying to live what’s left of my life.”

When he was done, I couldn’t believe his outrageous story. I didn’t say a word. He then said, “Lighten up kiddo! It could be true or maybe…I had a little bit too much of this drink.”

Then he kept laughing.


About Seiki

a trapped corporate work-horse that longs to free the artist within.

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