CARNIVAL QUEEN

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By:  Giovanni  Paolo J.  Yazon

“She’s the ugliest beauty queen in the Philippines pageant  history!”

This was  the remark  of Jose on the sepia portrait  of ” Nympha II,” a carnival  queen of pre-war era. Jose, Manuelito and I were at a photo exhibit  dedicated to Filipina beauty  queens  from  1908 to the present.

Here he goes again,  destructively criticizing  beauty queens  who didn’t  pass hisstandards, I told myself.

Jose and I  have been acquaintance for two years now. And in those years that  we’ve  been together in coverages, I’ve see how he made a lot of  titleholders cry during  press conferences because of his unfavorable comments about them. Sometimes,  Manuelito and I had  to apologize either to the beauty queens of to their parents for his behavior. And just recently, Jose was  banned by a pageant organization matriarch- a former beauty queen herself-for publishing her decades-old photo wearing a swimsuit.

“Shhh…  if you don’t like her, just respect her. Don’t  mock the dead,” I said to him.  Manuelito added, “Don’t you know that this carnival queen was rumored  to be  a witch during  her time?”

” I won’t be surprised. It shows naman eh. I just can’t  get over the fact that  she won.  Perhaps the other candidates in that era  looked like  dinosaurs,” Jose  replied while laughing  loudly at the portrait.

Two days later, I received a text message from  Manuelito, Ivan, I’ll  fetch you from the office later. Jose’s sister told me that he has been confined in the hospital for two days now.

We were  shocked upon seeing Jose-his face  was full  of rashes!  when I asked Manuelito what they  ate after  attending  the exhibit,  he said they didn’t eat anymore. They went  home immediately after the event.

“Do you have a friend  named  Nympha?” Jose’s sister asked us. “None,” Manuelito  replied, “why, ate?”

“While Jose was sleeping a while ago,  he was calling that name,” she said . Manuelito and I looked  at each other. That night, while I was lying on my bed  busy revising  an article, I thought I  detected  a slight  movement  in the corner of my eye, near the doorway  of my room ( I sometime leave the door open).  I looked out thinking it was my mom or sister coming  to bed me goodnight. I was  surprised, but not really alarmed, when I saw no one in the doorway. Maybe  they just peeped in, I thought, going  back to the article I was revising.

Suddenly I felt the temperature in the room go down. I grabbed my blanket and cocooned myself in it.  This is funny, I thought,  there wasn’t any breeze in my room, why was it so cold? Then I felt a prickling sensation on the back of my neck. The same  feeling you get when you think  someone is  watching you,  Since I am  sensitive to these things, I knew  what would  happen next.  I saw a moment in the mirror  which was  in front  of my bed.  There in the  mirror , I saw a  hazy figure of a woman.  It was  the woman in the old  photo at the exhibit,  Nympha! She looked  angry. She  opened  her mouth to speak, “He  tore the hearts of lots  of beauty queens…I will  teach your friend a lesson  he will  never forget! Ha! Ha! Ha !” And then,  she vanished!

Ring! Ring! Ring!  The loud  sound of my  alarm clock awakened  me.  Was it just  a dream, I asked  myself.

I was about to go to  the bathroom when our  extension phone  rang.  Manuelito’s landline number  registered at the caller ID.  “Ivan, Jose is  already at home but his face  has still a lot of rashes. He wants us to accompany him tomorrow  to the photo exhibit  at 11 a.m.  “Manuelito said.

“Okey, then  let’s  meet at 10:30,”I replied.  While  we were heading  towards  the exhibit room of the building , I told  Jose  about the dream that I had  the previous  night and advised  him to  apologize to the  carnival queen’s soul through  her portrait  before  it’s too late. He just  laughed  and told  us to leave  the room and  wait for him at  the lobby.

While Manuelito  and I were  going downstairs, I once again felt a cold breeze touching my skin. I looked back and saw a lady  clad in an old-fashioned terno smiling  at me and saying. “Thank you.” I didn’t tell Manuelito  anymore about it, but I’m sure that the one  I saw was Nympha!

After 30 minutes, Jose finally  showed up to us at the lobby. We noticed  that his face didn’t  have  rashes anymore!

When Manuelito  asked  him what he did inside  the exhibit room,  Jose said,  “I  asked  her forgiveness for what I said about  her portrait  days ago. I really learned my lesson. From this day on, I won’t  bash beauty  queens anymore; especially the dead  ones!”

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