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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!”