Before we went to sleep every night, my sister and I begged our dad for stories. Daddy never tucked us into bed. Instead we joined him and Mommy on their bed, and we used his chest or his stomach as pillow for our heads as we listened to the stories. The experience was strange, as the stories were told to the sound of his heartbeat and breathing.
Much stranger were the stories themselves, for they were not your typical bedtime fairy tales. Being the farmer’s son my father was, our bedtime stories were set in my father’s hometown of San Luis, Pampanga, and were peopled by wily mermaids, mischievous tiyanaks (demon children/changelings), temperamental duwendes (hobgoblins), and obnoxious kapres (giants). But the stories weren’t scary at all, because they always had happy endings. More importantly, the hero in all the stories was somebody we knew, our small but terrible great granduncle Apung Ano who barely stood 5 feet tall, who claimed to have had encounters with these creatures of Philippine folklore. It would be interesting to note that Apung Ano was also the barrio’s main source of entertainment as family and neighbors gathered around him nightly by the light of a kerosene lamp, or a full moon, and he told them tales of his tussles with creatures from the supernatural world.