Luisa and the Darbies.

I am Luisa, and I really, really, really want to have a Darbie doll.

You see, for my birthday, I want to get a big, beautiful Darbie Doll, with pretty eyes and long legs. I’ll tie long ribbons on her hair and they will dance and write my name in the wind, all cursive and pretty-like. I’ll make her dresses in the colors of rainbows and candies. It will be great, I just know it.

I asked Inang to buy me a Darbie Doll about a hundred million times already. I always tell her not to get me just any ordinary doll, but the doll – the Darbie Doll I had in mind. I even made a drawing of it, just so Inang won’t buy the wrong kind. I colored it, and all, and it’s very pretty. I taped it on her bedroom door, so whenever she’ll go out of the room, she’ll remember to buy me a pretty, pretty doll.

Inang tells me, day after day, as she cooks her delicious meals, that I can’t have a Darbie Doll.

I guess the drawing isn’t all too pretty.

She’ll say, with a slight smile “What on earth will you do with a doll, float it on water?”

This is the part where I’ll say that my Darbie Doll and I can do so many things I can’t even say it all! My tongue gets tied up in hundreds of knots just thinking about the games we’re going to play, the places we’re going to go to, the people we’re going to meet. Inang would just nod her head, half-listening to my extremely good explanation. She’ll cut me off by asking me to taste whatever she’s cooking. It’s almost always Sinigang na Sugpo. The yummy, sour, clear soup always shuts me up. When Inang starts to peel off a humongous shrimp’s shell for me, I would forget what day it was. She’s a good, good cook. No, she’s the best in all of Mindoro. I promise.

You see, we live in Talipanan, Mindoro. Inang owns this big bamboo shack just in front of the beach, and rents our rooms to tourists during the summer. We have seven rooms, and I swear they’re all very, very clean. I know because I clean them all very, very well. There are lots of big and air-conditioned hotels near our house, but the tourists like ours the best. This is because Inang is the best cook in town. You should see the different kinds of people who compliment her cooking. Mr. Doe, an American visitor even asked me once if I was willing to exchange mothers with him. I frowned and said it depends. I asked him if his mother is the type who buys him dolls. Otherwise, I said, my brow furrowing even more, he can forget about it. He bent over, looked me straight in the eye for what seemed like hours and said, “You may want to close your eyes and wish real hard for that, honey.” He winked at me and I looked at him like he was the most awkward man on earth.

Did I mention that I go to school? Well I do. I’m in the fifth grade. I walk about a kilometer a day to get to school in town. My teacher is Mrs. Perla. She’s nice. She lets us read stories, write essays and do our numbers. I hate math, but I don’t mind it that much. Mrs. Perla makes things easier for us. She just smiles at you and you learn. I know it’s stupid, but it’s like that, really. Anyway, she gave me a story book one day. It’s about a kid named Dolly who went to school with her big, beautiful doll. She always kept forgetting things, like her money, or her way home, or her name, or something. I forgot what the story was about, really. All I can remember was I liked the idea that Dolly goes to school with her doll in tow. That’s when I decided to get Inang to buy me one for my birthday.

That would definitely mean no more walking to school alone for me. But four birthdays have passed and I still don’t have a Darbie doll of my own. Inang keeps on getting me swimsuits and dresses.

It’s depressing.

One night, when I was sweeping the sand off from the porch, I heard someone call my name. It was so faint; I thought I was just imagining it. But then the sound grew a bit louder, and I was certain I could hear it – it was my name! A girl is calling out my name! Luisa! That’s me!

I ran like a madman down the porch and felt the sand tickle my rose-colored soles. With each step, the girl’s calling my name became more real, more reachable. I felt like if I extended my palm, I can feel it, all solid-like and charming.

My brain was filled with nothing other than that alluring sound, that I didn’t even notice I was knee-deep in the water. I stayed put, listening to my name being called out in the vast aqua. The longer I stayed, the louder it got. The waves lapped at my knees, shoving their way against my chocolate legs. I can’t hear the waves though. It’s as if someone turned off the sound and replaced it with the swelling hum of my name, being repeated over and over.

I stood there stunned and very, very happy, as the sound grew louder, louder, louder. It was my Darbie Doll, calling out to me. It just had to be her! I stood there, feeling perfect.

I must have stood there for a million trillion minutes but I felt really, really perfect. In fact I was feeling so perfect that even when Inang made me kneel down on a pail-full of mung beans as punishment for swimming in the dark, I didn’t mind. I didn’t even feel anything. That’s just how perfect it is, that sound.

The next day I went to school, and no one even noticed that my knees have small circular marks on them, so it was a great day. Mrs. Perla taught us history. She taught us about the different nations that went here to become very high people, like kings, and presidents, and movie stars, and stuff like that. She asked us one by one what we thought of Spain, Japan and America. Marie, my classmate with two craaaazzzyyy-looking pigtails, I swear, raised her hand and told Mrs. Perla that the Americans should have colonized us. Imagine all of us, she said as her hair bobbed up and down and sideways, will be American citizens! Think of the prestige, she exclaimed. Yes, that’s the word she used, prestige. She started talking about how many boxes of chocolates we’ll get to eat, and how many pairs of rubber shoes we’ll all get to wear. I started to feel my very peculiar knees and stopped listening at prestige.

If we were to become Americans, does that mean that we would have yellow hair? And fairer skin? No, we’ll get to have Darbie Dolls everyday! I guess it’s not that bad, after all!

I started walking home, the beach on my right. The sun wore a pretty orange, pink and violet skirt on the wide blue sky. I thought of Darbie Dolls, one for each day, imagine! Different hair colors and dresses and personalities – different dolls everyday!

I faced the beach and closed my eyes and wished real, real hard for different Darbies everyday.

When I opened my eyes, the sun looked like she’s ready to undress and put her skirt in her closet. The water was scolding me, “Get home, girly” she says, “or I’ll spank your soles with my long, blue arm before you know it”. I walked home. I felt like drawing something pretty.

I called out to Inang and waited for her to come out of her kitchen to greet me. When I got tired of standing and waiting, I went in.

Funny, I couldn’t smell anything being cooked.

I went inside her room, but she wasn’t there. I barged in all of the visitors’ rooms, but she wasn’t there either.

Finally, I went inside my room. There I found a Darbie Doll lying on my green and white flowery bed.

I couldn’t believe it, it was a perfectly beautiful Darbie Doll with green hair and a pink dress! Inang finally went and bought me one! I can’t believe my luck! And it’s not even my birthday!

I danced vigorously, without making any sound, just like one of those old black and white films. I jumped like I just won the lottery. Finally! A Darbie Doll!

We played dress-up and pretended to be cheerleaders, movie stars, homecoming queens, secretaries, babysitters, hairdressers, and housewives. We had awesome fun! Just then I remembered I haven’t eaten yet. I looked at the clock and saw that it was 10:15 PM. My eyes were beginning to grow heavy, and I just couldn’t wait for Inang anymore. With my new Darbie in my arms, I went to sleep with a smile that sparkled like the stubborn star you see even at noon.

The next day Inang was still out, so I went to school with an empty stomach. But it didn’t matter because I was proudly holding a Darbie Doll! I couldn’t wait to show it off! I’m the only one in town with a Darbie! Marie is going to eat her pigtails when she sees my Darbie!

When I got to school everyone was silent. Nobody moved. Nobody looked at anyone. Mrs. Perla died, my classmate said. Nobody even looked at my Darbie.

The principal asked us to read silently and to not make any noise. We were released early but the skies wore a dark blue velvet dress, with a long, black shawl. She was paying her respects to Mrs. Perla and I understood. She was a great teacher after all.

I went home with an angry tummy and expected to see Inang there. But she was nowhere to be found. I went inside the kitchen and ate bananas and apples. I searched for Inang all over the house but there was no trace of her. She just vanished in thin air.

I went to my room to find three brand-new Darbie dolls lying on my bed. Three! I was so incredibly happy! I couldn’t believe it! How could have Inang brought me these? Where was Inang so I could thank her with all my heart! Three more Darbies!

We played all night! We pretended to be princesses, disco queens, soap opera stars, fashion models, bikini queens, and singers. Before I knew it, it was 12:30 AM. This time I fell asleep on the floor, throat dry from singing the mosquitoes to sleep with all my other singer dolls.

I overslept and missed school. I woke up at ten, washed my face and went straight to the kitchen. I got an overripe apple that’s already mushy to the touch and ate it. My stomach hates me and I understood just why. I decided to go look for my Inang.

I went out and looked for Inang. I walked past the coral cove. I walked over to the Iraya Mangyan community and young Mangyans looked at me in wonder, their round eyes seeming to question my walking barefoot past them.

I went past the falls, the ditch, the mountain. I saw cats making love, and pigs running from imaginary wolves, but Inang was never there. I felt teary-eyed and alone as I walked my way back. The sun was getting ready to leave the horizon.

I rubbed my eyes to shake off the forming tears.

I got home.

It was unusually dark, like the moon intended to face her dark side on our small house.

My heart stopped beating for twenty seconds. I know – I counted.

There were tens and thousands of Darbie Dolls in my house. I couldn’t even see the floor! They were all smiling and sitting down, like they were waiting to yell “surprise.” They’re eyes were all lit up, like they knew a secret that they wouldn’t dare tell. I ran to the kitchen, yelling for Inang to come out. I stepped on Darbie heads and bodies and feet, but I didn’t care. I checked all the guest rooms but only Darbies greeted my pale face.

I dashed to my room and opened the door.

There I saw the biggest, most beautiful Darbie Doll in the entire history of forever. It was as big as my bed, and it looked like a real woman. She was exactly the Darbie I wanted – she had endless legs and phenomenal hair. It was sitting still and looking out the window, as if admiring the beach view.

Then she abruptly moved and faced me and smiled a sinister smile. I closed the door and ran like crazy outside.

The moon was watching over me as I ran towards the sparkly sand. My tears were racing with my heartbeat; they were trying to see who’s faster than whom. I stared at the water and cried for my Inang. Just then, someone tapped lightly at my shoulder. It was Mr. Doe. He was one of our visitors a year ago. I almost didn’t recognize him – he looked more virile, almost younger. But he still had that look, that awkward look that he has. He was wearing a dark blue suit and was barefoot.

“What are you doing here, mister?” I asked him, my face all covered with tears and sweat that I didn’t bother wiping off.

“Well, someone summoned my mom. A little girl, I was told. And now she said she liked it here. So I guess she’s gonna stay.” He said, giving me a handkerchief that looks like a small flag.

“Where is she?” I asked, looking at his plastic-looking hands. I took the handkerchief but didn’t wipe my face.

“She’s here.” He said, dusting off the sand on his suit.

“Do you know where my Inang is?” I asked him, trembling.

“Yes.” He said, smiling at me.

“I want her back.” I said looking him straight in the eye.

“Can’t honey. You wished it, remember? You closed your eyes and you wished real hard. You can’t just un-wish a wish. That’s not the way the world goes ‘round, love.” With that he smiled, tapped my shoulder and left.

I stood alone on the shore, waiting for nothing as the waves crashed mightily at the sand. I closed my tired eyes and fell to the sand. I fell asleep.

I was awakened by the waves that slapped me senseless. It screamed at me, and said “I was right, you do need a spanking. Damn your little black locks, you need to do more than just un-wish. Get going child. Time is running out.”

I tried to stand up as fast as I could but I was dizzy with hunger. The sky was still dark and I felt cold. I grabbed our broom from the porch and buried it underneath the sand near the water.

Then, I went inside our house. It was enveloped in heavy darkness, and it’s really hard to breathe inside.

The Darbies all looked at me; some of them have disarrayed hair, mangled clothes and even dislocated body parts. I squinted my eyes and walked over the Darbies, hearing crunching and breaking sounds with every step. I grabbed two Darbies and started to open the door to my room.

It was time to face the biggest Darbie of them all; she was smiling her sinister smile.

“You heard me call your name, Luisa. In the sea, remember? You have good ears! Way to go!” she said, her teeth unmoving, a smile plastered on her perfectly made-up face. Her voice sounded superficially happy.

“I know I have good ears.”

“Great! That’s great! Let’s play dress up! Let’s play movie stars, or how about princesses? Let’s play Luisa!” She extended her arms; both were stiff, milky-white and had a mesmerizing plastic sheen.

“No I want to play something else.” I told her.

“I want to play exterminators.”

With that, I beheaded one of the Darbies in my hand. The smile vanished from the big Darbie’s face, and she twitched uncontrollably. I stepped on the other Darbie’s body and she twitched again, like she had short wires in her system.

“Luisa, stop it, darling! That’s not the game we want to play!” She said, her smile beginning to turn into something hideous. From a stiff sitting position, she stood up, without bending her knees. She slowly reclined her back and stood up straight. She walked stiffly, like an angry robot set out to kill everyone in sight. Her smile didn’t leave her face.

I ran.

The Big Darbie was chasing me, her legs moving like stiff machines that can kill anyone within its path. I ran down the corridor, purposely stepping on Darbie Dolls on my way out.

“Luisaaaaaaaa! Let’s play Luisaaaaaaaaa! Come here you little piece of shit!” She screamed my name, and I felt my heart throb out of fear.

The Darbie was going to kill me, I thought. I ran outside. The Darbie Doll was right behind me. I searched for the buried broom and waited for the Darbie Doll.

I was panting like crazy. I got one chance. Just one. The Darbie Doll slowed down and looked at me with flashing eyes.

“You stupid little girl. You wanted to play with me! I’m here now, you little idiot!”

“Where’s Inang?” I asked her, panting and sweating in fear and anticipation.

“She’s out playing,” her face contorted into a devilish smile that caused me to gasp. “So stop acting like a stupid little girl and play with me!” Her smile grew wider, an unbelievable feat, as she bellowed out in anger.


Her nostrils flared and her phony smile was cracking from pressure on the sides, like it’s to burst from the seams. She twitched like she wanted to crack my skull in hundreds and hundreds of uneven pieces.

“OK, Let’s play,” I said.

“I call this game ‘floating’.”

With that I whacked Darbie’s head with the broom, and she twitched and screamed as I pounded her head and neck with all my might. Guts and bats and spiders and melted plastic and quarters and pennies oozed out from her head.

She screamed a guttural scream that overpowered the shouts of the strong waves and I almost covered my ears but I remembered the game I made up had but one rule – Don’t stop till someone’s floating. She tried to claw at me with her slender arms but I was smashing her without pause, giving out every last ounce of energy I had. My arms were like unfed robots on a hunger-strike gone wrong – they were angry, and so was I.

She fell into the sand twitching, her eyes flaring momentarily then it turned black, like two coals. I pushed her off to the sea, and let the waves strike her as she moves closer and closer to oblivion.

I was so exhausted, I fell asleep holding the broom in my hand on the soft sand. “I won.” I muttered under my breath and felt the rich, velvety sand tuck me in.

The next morning I woke up to the smell of garlic rice being fried, and tomatoes being cut. I heard Inang whistling as she prepared breakfast.

For my next birthday, I told myself as I massaged my aching arms, I’m going to ask Inang for a trusty bicycle instead.


10 Responses

  1. But I still want Darbies!

  2. You’ll get ’em! Hahaha!

  3. It reminds me of the Doll Island in Mexico.

  4. Rey, this place looks amazing. Sarap magphoto dun. Pati magisip. Haha! 🙂

  5. finally, i found your world. linked you on my blog. 🙂

  6. Hey Justine, thanks! 🙂

  7. If I could just put that fight into play…

    This is so cool! =)

  8. Thanks, Chin Chin. 🙂

  9. i imagined myself panting while reading this. 🙂 great great read!

  10. Thanks so much, brew. 🙂

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