February 13, 2010

TRESE: I Carry Your Heart

Trese woke up as the car rolled to a stop in front of The Diabolical. She stretched in the backseat as the Kambal told her, “We’re home, bossing.”

She was not happy to see the 7am sun blaze above her. She just wanted to get inside, take a long shower, and wash off the aswang blood that had dried on her hair.

She squinted and saw a PNP police car parked in front of the club. Captain Guerrero was waiting at the entrance where he sign that said CLOSED.

“Good morning, Captain,” Trese said. “Anything I can help you with? You usually call or text first.”

“Nothing so urgent. I was in the area and saw Hank through the window. I was wondering if I could trouble you for some breakfast and that really great barako coffee?” Guerrero smiled.

“Is that all? Come in, Captain. Have a seat while I freshen up.” Trese lead them down into The Diabolical.

By the time Trese joined them, Hank had served his famous tapsilog— with really crispy tapa, crispy like bacon. The Kambal were already on their second serving. Capt. Guerrero was already enjoying his barako coffee.

As soon as Trese sat down, Hank served her a glass of her favorite red wine; something she drank to wind down before going to sleep. Trese took a sip and nodded to herself. As usual, the wine was chilled just right, all thanks to the ghost that kept the cellar at the proper temperature.

“So, what brings you around here?” Trese asked.

“I came from one of the dorms, near the university. College boy was found dead in his room. It was locked from the inside. No sign of forced entry. No signs of struggle and no wounds on the body. And since there were no visible means of suicide and no note, my guess is he died of natural causes. We’ll just have to wait for Spunky from the morgue to tell us otherwise.” Guerrero finished the rest of his tale as well as his coffee.

Trese closed her eyes and asked, “Was the body drenched in sweat? Or at the very least, did his forehead and lips have beads of sweat?”

Guerrero thought about it for a second and said, “Why, yes! Yes, it was!”

“And did the air smell sweet? As if you were standing near a lot of fruit?” Trese continued.

“Yes. I thought it was the boy’s cologne or something. Why? You know what killed him?”

“It was a bangungot!” the Kambal raced to answer the question. Trese raised her glass to the Kambal for giving the right answer.

“A bangungot? Really? So, how does a bangungot pick its victims?” Guerrero asked.

“Its victim? You mean, its lover.” Trese corrected him.

“Doesn’t a bangungot sit on the chest of its victim til he can’t breath anymore?”

“You’re confusing it with a batibat. No, a bangungot is a very rare breed of enkanto who seem to get attracted to people who are in despair, lonely, in pain.

“The bangungot wanders until it finds someone and it clings onto that person and decides to take care of that person’s wounded heart. So, whenever that man feels jealous or spurned or unwanted, he feels this dull pain clutch his chest. He thinks it’s heartache, but it’s actually the bangungot holding on to his heart, trying to prevent it from breaking.

“In a matter of days or weeks, the bangungot becomes more protective over the man and it just keeps on embracing him; ever so tighter, squeezing the heart until, unwittingly, it causes his heart to stop; forcing the last breath out of his dry lips.

“The bangungot will later realize what it has done and will cry these tears that cover its lover’s face and sometimes his body. If you make the mistake of tasting those dewdrops left on the man’s cheeks, it will taste like the sweetest honey and cause you to go on a deep depression for weeks.

“After the bangungot has cried all its tears, it becomes this mist like substance, leaving this sickly sweet scent hanging in the air, as if there was nearby tree with too much fruit to bear.”

Guerrero didn’t realize that he had not touched his new cup of coffee and it had already grown cold. Guerrero asked, “What can you do to stop it?”

“Not much. It all depends on the person. If he manages to get out of his despair, he may have a chance of making the bangungot lose interest in him and let go of his heart.”

Guerrero leaned forward and said, “But some of these people --who’ve supposedly died because of bangungot-- came from happy families or marriages. They’re not all loners like the boy in the dorm.”

Trese shook her head. “I don’t really know. Lolo tried to study the bangungot long ago and he could never figure out what made it pick this person, instead of that person; but more often than not, these people secretly longed for a lost love, a passion they’ve put aside for more practical things, fell into despair and didn’t tell anyone. But the bangungot knew and would try its best to love them.”

Capt. Guerrero placed his spoon and fork together, cleared his throat and said thanks for the breakfast. He stood up and was about to leave when Trese said one last thing.

“Captain, expect to find more bodies today.”

He was about to ask why, but stopped when he realized the date.

Today was Valentine’s Day.

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
i fear

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart (I carry it in my heart)

e.e. cummings

Story by Budjette Tan
Art by Kajo Baldisimo


  1. and for those interested, here's the traditional description of a bangungot based the research adn writing of Maximo D. Ramos:

    Geographic origin of myth: Ilocos and Tagalog

    The Bangungot (called Batibat by the Ilocanos) is described as a large, dark man or woman who sits on the chests of sleeping persons. Unable to breathe, the victim dies unless medical attention is given. The name comes from the root words “bangon” (to rise) and “ungol” (to groan). As a medical phenomenon, bangungot is exclusive to Asians, primarily Filipinos. All victims are males. Bangungot is not to be confused with sleep paralysis, which is common and harmless.

  2. I've had this happen to me, and I'm definitely female. I also know of one other female that this has happened to. Not a happy experience, to say the least. I'm just lucky I was able to wake up in time. XD

    I liked your take on the story, though. I wasn't aware that the third book had already come out. I need to schedule a trip to the bookstore to pick up a copy. Cheers!

  3. I like the stories from The Diabolical.

    I wrote a story and posted it on my blog, and i would appreciate it if you read it. I'll wait for your comment.


  4. Aztiig! It's always fun to read stories from the diabolical. I have grown more interested in Trese. In fact, I think I'm inlove with Alexandra righ now! Hope a bangungot won't come to me. haha! Kidding aside, Thanks a bunch sir Budj! I much much MUCH appreciated and enjoyed your work, Trese. :)