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Ms. America

She appeared out of nowhere one day and slowly and surreptitiously installed herself as a permanent fixture in the busy public market. All we knew was that here was another addition to the vagrants that roam the marketplace day in and day out; an addition to the "nalisu-an ug pangisip"(loose-minded) in formal terms. But everybody referred to her as another "bag-ong nabuang"(who just recently went nuts).

But what made her remarkable was the way she was. She looked between 40 to 50 years old, but her movements and demeanor were very fine: an ingenue under the scrutinizing eye of society. And she was clean and dressed well for a vagrant: changes of paisley blouses and colorful pastel dresses everyday, always with an umbrella, a bag, and a handkerchief in tow.

Was someone taking care of her? Did anybody gave her those clothes? We never knew. These questions were what we had in our minds every time we saw her. We had other more important things to think about and these questions were relegated at the back of our heads. The curious however had gotten into asking her her name, and always getting their answers in the same high pitched, tiny voice: "America". Where was she from? "America". Where did she live? "America." Did she have any relatives in that small town of ours? "America". And it seems that it was all she could ever say....

Despite her being unusual from your everyday hobo down the street, some would still manage to make fun of her, and even make dismissive, disparaging remarks on her fragile and innocent nature. But eventually, the novelty and the newness of "Ms. America's" existence wore off and everyone let her be, sashaying about with her tote bag and umbrella in tow; a colorful, flowery presence in the middle of the chaos that commerce brings.

One day, that chaos was broken by a loud shriek and ahouts at the second floor of the Market Administrator's office at the very mouth of the public market. As passers-by and concerned individuals came up to the office to check what the commotion was all about, there was Linda, the Assistant Market Administrator, alone and terrorized, tears, snot and spittle all over her face. She shouting madly, flailing arms and legs to not let "Ms. America" near her.

But Linda never got better. Laid off from work because of her condition, she stays at home in a constant state of wide-eyed terror, always telling everybody to not let Ms. America get her. Doctors diagnosed her of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and another said it was schizophrenia.

Still, everybody could not help but ask, whatever happened that day? Unsatisfied with the doctor's answers, Linda's family quite expectely sought the help of the "mananambal"(folk doctor) in the area, and he had some astounding things to say.
Linda was passed on the curse of a princess of the "dili ingun nato"(otherworldly). The princess, or so the old man said, was exiled from wherever she came from due to a grave offense. Only when she was treated the same way as she treated others of her kind will the curse be passed on and she can go back home.

Word spread about the old man's tale, and suddenly everybody remembered how Linda, with her large stature and quick tongue, bullied the timid Ms. America every time she saw her; this to the laughter of the people around them. She commented on how out-of-place the vagrant was with her dresses. She made snide remarks about how Ms. America was saying that she should act more her age. It was much later that people remembered the stoic and even submissive expression on the vagrant's face as Linda went on and on about her tirade.

And what of "Ms. America"? What became of her? After that incident, nobody saw her ever again. The last time anyone saw her was on that fateful day, gingerly climbing up the stairs to the second floor of Market Administrator's office, still seemingly timid and neat in a flowery paisley and pastel dress.

(based on a true story. names and places were changed to protect the identities of individuals)

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