The Widow and the Princess of the Dwende
by Elaine Cuyegkeng
[Art by Mark Bulahao]
The season of rain is a time for enkanta weddings. It is a time to court your luck, barter for a change of fortune and chase your heart’s desire. But as her neighbours’ servants sneak out of their homes to lay out offerings for dwende brides — slivers of sweets, droplets of milk and sugar-water — Esperanza Zamora sits in the empty sala of her house, dressed in the black mantilla of her mourning.
Her husband, Joaquin Zamora y Escobar had been found in the streets with his heart and liver torn out. His aswang wife was the only logical suspect, and despite her acquittal, this opinion still prevails in the Interred City. Now, Esperanza has shut up her house, and closed her doors even to the foreign merchants who care only for the quality of her gossamer and embroidery. Inside, Esperanza’s silk spiders creep softly around her, sensible of her grief and her violent fits of rage. Her children sleep fitfully; as well as can be expected given the nightly visits.
The youngest child, Sabina, quickly gives up on any sort of sleep. Slender, silent as a breath, she slips out of her bed, tiptoes to the window. She peers through the slats to watch the servants outside ministering to the dwende, practicing the old superstitions. She watches the servants’ mouths, whispering Tabi tabi po, para sa inyo ‘to as they lay out slivers of sweets, sugared water, and coconut milk. The scene comforts her: perhaps because it reminds the child that the frayle may not be the only power in the world.
It is, however, a sore point of contention between herself and her mother.
“This is our house,” Sabina cried when the frayle first began visiting. “Why don’t we ask the enkanta for help?”
The Widow Zamora slapped the girl and shook her. “You stupid, stupid girl,” she hissed. “The Good Fathers are guests.” The widow pulled Sabina away, into her own room and away from the horror-stricken stares of the other children.
Esperanza had tried beating such dissent out of the girl. She reminded Sabina that the enkanta were not real, that she was blaspheming Kristo with her affection for imaginary creatures. But Sabina is too much like her mother: stubborn, contrary and wild. The child has never listened when she could help it, and now she stares at the servants outside with something like nostalgia, and something like a wish.
The church bells begin to ring, signalling five o’clock and, quickly, the servants put down their offerings and return to their homes to prepare for the coming night.
In the bounty of rains, the dwende clans prepare for their weddings. Their principe and princessa gather in the gloom of their nests. Princessas walk together in threes or fours, outlining plans for their colonias; principes boast of the colonias they will sire. They have all grown up together, absorbing meals of meat and sugar, along with instructions in navigation and astrology, how to harness winds and little breezes, how to measure humidity and temperature, and how to avoid an ignominious death by drowning. Their sister-ambassadors have studied the genealogies and histories of other colonias, determined the most desirable bloodlines and mapped out flight paths for their brothers and sisters to follow.
In a certain nest in the aboreal heights, one munting princessa walks by herself. She does not speak to her sisters, who ignore her in turn. They formed their quartos and trios long ago, with the understanding that only one of them would emerge as queen. Sacred law dictated that even in such an alliance, only the strongest would continue the bloodlines. The little ones accepted this, as little ones are obliged to accept the ways of the world. From the nursery, they began securing the alliances they would later betray.
But munting princessa refused such alliances and for this earned the scorn of her nursery mates. Princessa, indeed! Princessas should be fearless creatures, and munting princessa was not.
Her sister-nurses who considered her their favourite, had once scolded her and pressed her to reconsider. They painted vivid pictures of the dangers of the world: the scourge of the air; dragons who caught and murdered princessas in their nets; deadly plagues that strangled fledgling colonias. How did she think she would survive without the help of fellow sisters?
“I think,” munting princessa said quietly, “we need to reclaim lost alliances.”
There was no mistaking her meaning. The nurses’ distress had been such that their queen mother deigned to speak, in her fashion, with her recalcitrant child. She sent communiqués through her daughter-workers, among the thousands that administered the colonia.
“Little one what are you about?” the queen mother said. “You know why we have abandoned that alliance. You know very well we can never again trust humans.”
Munting princessa knew her history. Once, as tradition dictated, her familia had offered up a single alate daughter to a young girl from a human family. But munting princessa and her familia were descended from the Queen-Betrayed, and they could not forget her grief.
“Why did she do it?” Munting princessa asked her queen mother. “Great grandmother could have lived out the rest of her life without the girl’s offerings. The girl did not have to destroy her.”
“Perhaps the girl believed her Kristo needed a grand gesture. It does not matter. I made a princessa when I conceived you, not a martyr.”
Munting princessa felt consternation at this accusation of cowardice. “But Queen-Mother. Why should we leave the world to the servants of Kristo?”
“There is more to the ‘world’ than the domains of humans and their nosferatu masters.”
“And it seems to me there is more to the old tradition than broken promises,” munting princessa pressed. “Do we not still accept offerings from unbonded humans? Are there not fewer and fewer of them every year? They need us to rally to them, not to leave them to the mercy of Kristo’s servants.”
This argument is not far from munting princessa’s mind, for even now, she yearns for her mother’s approval. Would that she had more time to convince her! But munting princessa is alate caste: she was born for leaving, for weddings and summer flights, and today is her wedding day.
Munting princessa stands with her brothers and sisters at the mouth of their nest. Their nurses polish their wings, scent them with jasmine and whisper their benedictions. Look, little ones, we give you blessings, we give you good fortune as if we expect all of you to survive, as if we believe every single one of you will be queens and sires. The alates are given honey and caterpillar meat, the coconut milk, sugar and honey offered by kindly, unbonded humans, the last meal they will receive as children of the colonia. When these ceremonies are done, the alates are pushed out into the day, to meet their brides and grooms.
Thousands of them die by scourge in the wedding flights, and funeral dirges float up from the nests of their births.
It is the bells of the Interred City that bring the Widow Zamora to life.
Five o’ clock, chime the church bells. Five o’ clock, and Esperanza Zamora slips out of bed and calls to her four children. They are good children, quick and clever and by now, they know what is expected of them. It does not do to give the Good Fathers anything less than the most extravagant of your hospitality.
The two boys, Joaquin and Enrique slip out of bed, hurry downstairs to the feed their spiders with crickets. They go down to the cellars to pick a bottle of fine wine, then crush cacao beans in the kitchen for tsokolate, because the Good Fathers love the scents of cacao and fine wine. Their sisters get out of bed to sweep the floors and clear the strands of gossamer that their neglected, unsilked, spiders have left, while their mother walks downstairs stately as any hostess. She goes out to the courtyard to feed their dwindling flock of hens, snatches up an unlucky victim and strings the squawking bird upside down in the kitchen.
Tasks completed, the widow and her children return to their rooms. Esperanza splashes herself with cold water and puts on her black dress and mantilla. But her children dash themselves with rose oil prepared by their mother, and slip on the finery that they have come to loathe: the boys in delicate barongs of piña fabric; the girls in their gowns of silk and gossamer. The eldest, Corazon throws on a dress of golden gossamer and Sabina helps put up her hair with pearl studded combs, pins. Sabina puts her face next to her sister’s and knows better than to tell Corazon how pretty she looks.
The last of the sunlight dips below the horizon. The other houses shiver, shut up their windows and their doors, but the Zamoras’ house decks itself with lit lamps, as the family tucks their spiders into the children’s rooms. And then, in a flutter of gossamer, silk and piña, the family arrange themselves in the sala and await their guests.
In the manner of their kind, the frayle take form under the light of gas lit lamps. There are three of them: Padre Apolinario, white as marble, Padre Immaculato, white as porcelain, and Padre Legaspi, only recently made, and whose flesh has not yet gained the quality of stone.
They knock softly on the Zamoras’ door.
“Señora, Señora Zamora, your husband is dead and you and your children are alone. Would you let us come console you, give you grace and benediction, would you let us walk into your house?”
You cannot deny the frayle. Who would turn away a Good Father’s grace but the most depraved of heretics, of murderers? Obliged by the rules of hospitality, the Widow Zamora opens the door and welcomes the frayle with a warmth that chills her children.
“Welcome into our house Padre.”
The children lay out the sungkahan while their mother offer the frayle cups of warmed wine and tsokolate, and chicken blood, of course, to drink.
“I am sorry, Padres,” she murmurs, “that we cannot give you your preference.”
The priests gently dismiss her consternation and commiserate on servants’ lack of loyalty. Gently, they offer the children cups of the cooling blood and watch approvingly as the children gulp it down and lick their mouths clean like cats. Masticating meat is a base habit, and it pleases them to watch the children drink instead. They stroke the children’s hair and murmur their compliments. What beautiful children they are!
But soon the game is finished, and the smell of tsokolate and fine wine cannot appease the frayle for long.
“Señora,” Padre Apolinario says. “We must speak of the children’s welfare.”
The children’s hands tighten around their cups. They say nothing. Their mother speaks for them.
“Oh Padre, the children are very well where they are,” the Widow Zamora says. She is still smiling blandly, and pours just a little more wine in the frayles’ cups, so the room bursts with the smell. The children are quick to murmur their assent. Corazon puts her slender hand on the priest’s, flinching inwardly at the touch of cold marble beneath her hand.
On other nights, this sweet flirtation would have appeased the frayle. But not tonight. The frayle’s smooth angelic foreheads crease.
“You will forgive us Señora but no, no child could be well in a house such as this.” Padre Apolinario takes Corazon’s hand in his, as if she agrees with him, and not her mother. The pretty girl in her golden gossamer laughs a little, too high and too fast.
“I don’t understand Padre. Is the house drafty? To be sure, there is a leak–”
“A house,” Padre Apolinario says, “Where the father is dead and the mother — ” but Padre Apolinario places his fingers to his lips. No. The Good Fathers refuse to speak of Joaquin Zamora y Escobar.
Sabina says in a voice too soft for anger: “Maria knows our mother is innocent.”
Padre Apolinario starts, as if just remembering the reedy child next to him; so much of his attention has been focused on her beautiful sister. He takes Sabina’s hand in his and strokes it. “Of course, of course little señorita.” And Sabina, for a few moments, wonders what she was so upset about, why she was upset at all. She stares at her hand in confusion as the frayle withdraws his own.
“We do not judge, of course,” says Padre Legaspi. “We are all sinners. It is simply more difficult for some of us to fight our natures.” And he and his brothers look at the Widow Zamora with sweet, compassionate eyes that almost melt the widow’s heart. “But, ah, perhaps this conversation should not take place with the children present?”
The children rise obligingly. It is Padre Legaspi who takes the youngest ones by the hand, walks them downstairs to their mother’s study where they can pretend nothing is amiss. As they exit the room, Sabina looks back at her mother.
When her children are gone, the Widow Zamora settles herself, decorative and graceful on one of her chairs. Quietly:
“Would Padre like more blood?”
“Señora, you must trust in us,” Padre Apolinario’s says. “We must think of the little ones.”
“After all, they share your nature,” Padre Immaculato says. His tone makes it clear what he thinks of such a mixed inheritance — aswang and human — and never mind that such crosses abound within his own order.
“Believe us when we say we understand the allure,” Padre Immaculato says. “Restraining oneself with human companions is so difficult.” He coughs, delicately.
The Widow Zamora forgets herself. “I did not — ” she says.
“Señora! Señora hush, we do not judge! This is between you and your sweet confessor, after all.” Father Immaculato stands up, walks to the widow and puts his hands to her face. “You know you have nothing to fear from us.”
The Widow Zamora falls silent, no longer sure, in the face of the Padres’ generosity, even of her own innocence.
“They would be safe, Señora,” Padre Apolinario says. “Safe from whisperers and malcontents, and safe from their own nature.”
“We would teach them,” whispers Padre Immaculato. “We would give them better habits, to master their own natures. Drinking blood instead of eating hearts. The discipline we give them will make it very hard for them to kill.”
“Think of it, Señora,” pleads Padre Immaculato. “They are so innocent. They have so very, very far to fall”
The Widow Zamora shakes her head. No. No of course she could not want that for them.
“The girls would make beautiful additions to the convent. The boys would never be far from our eyes,” Padre Immaculato says.
“We would be their counsellors Señora; they would be our little hands. Such sweet children.”
Yes, such beautiful little helpers, servants of the children of God. What more could children of the Indio ask for? And they would not suffer as she had — they would never fall in love, they would never be tried for their darling’s murder.
At this, the Widow Zamora starts. She shakes her head, and the glamour in her mind clears a little.
“My girls,” she says. “My boys.” She puts her hand over her mouth.
The Good Fathers have the grace not to snarl their displeasure. They stare disapprovingly at the widow, ready to admonish her for her mistrust.
But night is fading: the frayle can feel the dawn creeping into their veins. They can only leave her with this:
Señora, think of the children.
The frayle utter this warning just as the Church bells strike the warning toll for dawn. As quickly as they came, the frayle vanish, disappearing into the Church and the crypts where no light can enter. They will come back. The next night, the next night and the next, working their glamour until the widow succumbs.
Alone in the sala of her house, Esperanza Zamora shakes off the last of the frayles’ glamour. She stands, trembling, her hands on the arms of her chair and waits for her children.
They come up to her, her pretty girls, her beautiful boys, nerves worn and frayed after an evening of fighting off the nosferatu’s glamour. But the dawn is coming, and they rush to open the windows, to let the light in, and banish the trace of the frayles.
The Widow Zamora opens her arms and lets her children cluster around her. They breathe in each other’s smell, their human, living smell… the smell of blood.
“Sabina, what is this?” the Widow Zamora asks, snatching the girl’s hand. Sabina tries to retrieve her arm, but her mother holds her in a vice’s grip.
Enrique says in a small voice:
“We were playing at cards. Padre mentioned he was hungry, and Sabina offered him her wrist.”
The Widow Zamora stares in horror at her youngest daughter.
“He was so hungry,” Sabina snaps. “We had so little to give him and — ” seeing her mother’s face, she cries out: “You’re the one who said we had to be good and obey, Mama!”
The widow says nothing. Her face is ash as she pulls her youngest child into her arms.
Later, when the children are asleep, Esperanza shuts herself in her room. She closes her eyes swallows the gall in her throat and writes letters to her family, to her friends among the aswang clans who cling perilously to the goodwill of the Interred City, the goodwill Esperanza almost destroyed for them. She says only this:
Help me. There are monsters at the door.
Esperanza does not have to wait long.
The family suffers through two more days of entertaining the frayle, appeasing them with offerings of wine and tsokolate, allowing them to play counting games with the children. But finally, a letter arrives: delivered by a messenger spider arriving via wind and silk balloon. Esperanza feeds the spider a little cricket and reads its brief missive.
Esperanza. Look to the dwende.
Esperanza closes her eyes. Her sister is being cruel. Esperanza has shut that route for herself and her children, and her sister knows it. There is no going back, not after what she has done.
She crumples the note in her hand, drops it on the table and retires to the room, horrifying the little messenger. It scuttles to the table to retrieve its ruined message, determined to wait for a more accommodating member of the family.
In the night, munting princessa seeks shelter amidst the leaves of a mango tree. She remains giddy; slightly tipsy with love.
Regaining her composure is more difficult than her professors had promised her it would be. But the dark smells of nosferatu and of her deadly night time kin, and in spite of herself, she erects enchantments to ensure invisibility from malevolent creatures. In the morning, she will scout for viable nests. She is leery of this tree, strangely innocent of enkanta.
Below, human lights glow like globes of sunlight, particles of scent and conversation drifting up to her via the wind. The air carries a familiar scent, one passed to her by her teachers, so that munting princessa would steel her resolve when she was among humans. Her teachers took it from their mother, and their mothers in turn, the grieving daughter-queens who received a message from their poisoned queen mother.
The scent of the Betrayer.
Munting princessa clicks her mandibles, half lifts herself as if to attack the thing she scents but cannot see. The girl smells older now, of course, for humans live for far longer than the dwende. She smells of motherhood and Christian sanctity… suffused by the rank scent of an oathbreaker. But it is the same scent munting princessa remembers from lessons in history, and it is a scent rich in shared memory: the delight of a daughter of an allied human family; the contentment of a queen and her colonia fed much sugar-water and mango; the remorse and bewilderment of the queen as the girl began to smell of foreign sanctity and grief.
“Sister,” the Betrayer had at last whispered to the colonia, “Sisters, I am sorry. I cannot love you and love Kristo at the same time, and I am, if nothing else, a devoted child.” The queen mother and her daughters, confused and bereft, could only taste the sweetness of the sugar cane syrup she offered. They could not taste the poison.
The memory still embitters as munting princessa clicks her mandibles furiously at the lights below. She would have loved to commit murder but the dwende are weak unless they are in great numbers, and the strength of their magics lay in misdirection and manipulation, not destruction. Instead, she clings to the underside of the leaf, and sips at the dew to wait for dawn.
Sabina waits until she is sure there is no movement in the house. She gets up from the bed and peers through the slats to watch servants from other houses continue their ministrations: Tabi tabi po, ito para sa inyo.
Sabina tiptoes out of her room, slides the door closed softly, softly, so as not to wake her family. The little messenger startles her: it is so clearly not one of her family’s, and yet it scuttles towards her, and into her arms like an affectionate cat. She soothes it, the way she wishes someone would soothe her, and takes the letter from its jaws, the letter from the aunt she hears of, but never sees.
Sabina stares at the note, then at the door that hides her sleeping mother.
“What do you know about the dwende, Mama?” Sabina whispers. Her mother, after all, insisted the dwende were not real. Esperanza Zamora sniffed at their servants’ need to bring out offerings of sugar, fruit and syrup for wishes, for good luck, their transparent insistences that these were dishes for stray cats. She told her children such actions were nonsense.
But then, Sabina had always wondered, if it was nonsense, then why would it be such an affront to the frayle?
It is early afternoon, and the heat from the sun bakes the wooden house, cleaning it of the frayles’ traces. It will be five o’clock within a few scant hours, time to prepare for another nightly visit. Sabina puts down her little muning and turns, tiptoeing downstairs into the kitchen. When she was small, she had been made complicit in her yayas’ small disobediences against her mother. She was allowed, giggling, to watch them prepare food for the dwende and she knows to find the little sugar that is left, to melt it slowly over a tiny flame and mix it with a little water — not too much — so that it remains sugar-rich and sweet as syrup. She sprinkles the mixture into a little dish, tiny droplets that she remembers seeing her yaya make, and walks out in the courtyard, just a little girl leaving out dishes for cats.
She puts down her dish of melted sugar-water out in the garden and whispers: “Tabi tabi po, para sa inyo ‘to.” She sits and waits, heart beating fast, not knowing what she is waiting for. She has no idea what a dwende looks like.
Summer insects fly by, taste her sugar water, and fly off again, seemingly indifferent. Eventually, a winged ant sips from the sugar-water, and deliberately, comes onto Sabina’s sugar soaked finger, antennae brushing her hand.
“Kumusta,” Sabina whispers. “Do you know where the dwende are?”
The ant seems to her to grow unnaturally still.
Can you help us?” Sabina whispers. She feels silly. “Please. I don’t know what else to do. The frayle want to take us from our Mama. I will give the dwende all the sugar and honey they want, and feed them bibingka cakes. I will take care of them and make sure they are safe from nosferatu. I don’t care what Mama says.”
The ant is still a moment more, then brushes its antennae against the girl’s hand. But then it raises itself as if to hiss at the figure who has appeared behind the girl.
“What are you doing here?” Esperanza Zamora hisses.
Sabina looks up in dismay to see her mother. The winged ant on her finger scuttles forward and gnashes its mandibles at Esperanza Zamora.
Sabina blinks at the voice inside her head. She stares in disbelief, in dawning comprehension at the munting princessa on her finger.
The Widow Zamora is beside herself. She drags Sabina back to the house and into the room where her daughters sleep and takes munting princessa downstairs to her study. Sabina remains an obedient child for all of five minutes. She shushes her confused, sleepy sister and dashes out to save her dwende.
“What are you doing here?” Sabina hears her mother say as she stops outside the door. “Go away,” her mother hisses, as if someone had replied. “You can’t help us. You can’t─-”
But Sabina opens the door and steps into the room, frightened for her new friend. Her mother stares at her, and sees her as if for the first time -− a mirror of Esperanza herself, in her youth. There are shadows under Sabina’s eyes from days and days of restless sleep, of nightly visits. Esperanza remembers how Sabina had looked with the blood on her wrist. How sure Sabina had been, so bright and sure, that giving the frayle her blood was the right thing to do, how frightened and ashamed she had been when she shook off the glamour. Esperanza puts her face in her hands.
Sabina does not move. She watches her mother slowly make her decision. She knows it is not an easy one.
“Alright,” Esperanza snarls. “All right. Bargain with my daughter, if that’s what you wish.” She turns to her daughter, poised beneath the doorframe. “Come here, hija.”
Sabina obeys, wide eyed and curious. Her eyes fly to the desk where munting princessa sits, whole and safe. She sighs with relief as she kneels at the desk, and gently holds out her finger for the princessa to touch.
“Mama who is she?” Sabina asks. She looks up at her mother, who holds such secrets.
“She is your princessa, sweetheart,” Esperanza Zamora says. She leans down to whisper in the girl’s ears. “Take very, very good care of her, and of the children she will have. They are the beginning of all our hopes.”
Munting princessa stretches out her antennae towards the girl’s finger, and something grows between girl and dwende.
Familia, munting princessa says, broadcasting to nearby relatives and allies via wind and scent, this bloodline is secured. But we have one more task.
Related dwende of nearby houses stir. And despite the late hour, they broadcast the call.
When the frayle come to the Zamoras’ house they know, deep in their bones, that something has changed.
The Father of marble keeps his lesser brethren back with his arm and steps toward the Zamora household. He sniffs the air deeply and turns to his brethren with blazing demon’s eyes:
This house is no longer ours.
This is inconceivable to the Fathers who are surrounded by houses of the Interred City, houses which will sup them on servants’ blood, ply them with perfumes of tsokolate and fine wine. There can be no such thing as a house which has rejected them utterly. Padre Immaculato and Padre Legaspi snarl their displeasure, this insult to their office. They will have Widow Zamora arrested. They will take her children to the convent and the seminary, they will hold them up as examples of miserable seditionists, of monsters who failed at grace.
They do not notice the dwende, munting princessa’s relatives, scuttling towards them. Why should any nosferatu notice insects? But more of them arrive, congregating in jewelled masses at their feet under the lamplight, so that the frayle are compelled to notice their numbers. Inexplicably, the frayle find themselves compelled to count.
They point their fingers towards the dwende, counting their ever-shifting numbers as if they were grains of sand and salt, forgetting the house, forgetting their purpose until they feel the light touch their bones.
The frayle flee, evaporating into mist, but not before the dwende catch the weakened nosferatu in the nets of a spell, of invisibility and forgetfulness unique to the dwende. The frayle flee through the streets of the Interred City, towards the Church, to the crypts where they lay to rest, and when they wake the next night, they will have forgotten the widow and her children. They will have forgetten why, puzzled, irritated, they feel so much thwarted desire.
In the Zamora house, thousands of dwende scatter back to their colonias. Their queen mothers, half asleep, compose messages to congratulate munting princessa and welcome her to their dwindling sorority.
The munting princessa settles in the wardrobe shelf where Sabina keeps her — princessa no longer. She is Reyna now, queen, ally to a human familia. She keeps her new eggs nestled close, for warmth, for luck, for love. She will feed them all she has, and anything her sweet girl provides. Sabina refuses to let her siblings peer into the nursery, to greet the new mother and her infants.
“She needs privacy,” Sabina told them with her newfound authority. “You can see them later, when she says yes.”
Softly, quickly — for the dwende are fast — the first of the Reyna’s daughters begins to grow.
Enkanta: Derived from Engkanto/Ingkanto, a general term for environmental spirits that were a part of the belief system of some parts of the pre-Hispanic Philippines.
Dwende: Derived from Engkanto/Ingkanto, a general term for environmental spirits that were a part of the belief system of some parts of the pre-Hispanic Philippines.
Aswang: While this is a term that always describes a dangerous supernatural creature, it can have a wide variety of nuances. It can be used to refer to a monster in general, or to a class of monster that transforms into a dog, or sometimes to the winged creature more popularly known as the manananggal.
Mantilla: A mantilla is a lace or silk scarf worn over the head and shoulders, often over a high comb, popular with women in Spain. It is particularly associated with traditional devotional practices among women in Catholicism. [Wikipedia]
Tabi tabi po, para sa inyo ‘to: “Tabi tabi po” means, roughly, “excuse me sir/ma’am” and is the traditional way of announcing your presence to spirits, and asking for their permission to pass through their territory. “Para sa inyo” means “For you”.
Frayle: Catholic friars, who were at the forefront of evangelization efforts during the Spanish occupation.
Munting Princessa: Little Princess.
Barong: Short for Barong Tagalog: an embroidered formal garment of the Philippines. It is very lightweight and worn untucked (similar to a coat/dress shirt), over an undershirt. It is a common wedding and formal attire for Filipino men as well as women. [Wikipedia] Piña fabric is one of the most expensive kinds.
Sungkahan: Sungka is a traditional Filipino Game played by two participants. The objective of the game is to amass stones or cowrie shells in the player’s home base (bahay) by continuously distributing the shells around smaller holes until the player runs out of shells to distribute. The person who collects the most shells in his or her bahay wins.
A Sungkaha, or Sungka board, consists of a set of cups that hold stones. Each player has six playing cups, along with a home cup at the far right end. Each cup (except for the home cup) initially holds seven stones. [Global Pinoy]
Kumusta: Roughly, “how are you?”
Hija: A term of endearment for a young girl, adopted from the Spanish.