By Jan Camille R. Tongco
“Would you like to have a painting for free?”
When she heard those words, Janine ecstatically said yes, got in her car, and drove straight to her friend’s house. For an art lover like her, opportunities like those were heard to find and she wasted no time in getting her hands on the prized portrait. “This,” her friend said with a smile “was a wedding gift from a friend. I’ve forgotten all about it until I found it in the attic the other day. I’ve never been found of paintings and so I’m giving it to someone who can appreciate it.”
After thanking her friend. Janine went straight home to her apartment, unwrapped the painting and hung it on the wall near her bed. When she had finished her adjustments, she laid down on her bed and looked at the painting.
The painting was a scene of a typical barrio fiesta. Colorful banderitas were hanging all around, a large wooden table filled with sumptuous meals amidst the townsfolk.In one corner were some couples dancing to the beat of the rondalla singers.The children were trying their luck at palo sebo and palayok-palayukan. Overhead, the setting sun gave the painting an overall feeling of flushed excitement.
The faces in the portrait were full of joy except for one. The man’s face was gaunt and he looked more at home at a funeral than a fiesta. He wore a dark brown jacket, which made him stand out amongst the colorful camisa de chinos and sayas. Janine thought it strange that such a dreary man was included in the painting.
Suddenly, the phone in the sala rang. Janine got up and thoughts of the strange man in the portrait vanished from her mind. That night, Janine had a strange dream. She dreamt that she was in a barrio attending the fiesta. As she approached the table laden with food, she saw a man dressed in a brown, faded jacket walking away, heading for the nearby woods.
Janine had an uncontrollable impulse to follow the man. The man kept walking until he reached a clearing. Janine noticed that there was a woman in a white- T-shirt and blue jeans sitting under a tree, asleep. The man made no sound and quietly approached the girl.
Sensing that there was someone beside her, the girl woke up. The man quickly grabbed her hands and tried to kiss her. Janine could see that the girl was screaming but no one could hear. She herself could not hear anything except the sounds from the fiesta. As the girl’s struggle intensified, the man slapped her so hard that her head hit the tree trunk. Before she could lift her head, the man grabbed her by the neck and started choking her. Horrified, Janine began to scream.
Janine was sweating and shivering when she awoke from her nightmare. She turned on the lamp beside her and stared at the portrait.
What she saw made her scream. The strange man was sitting beside the rondalla players, his jacket drenched in blood. And standing amidst the crowd was the bloodied girl Janine saw in her dream. The next morning, Janine’s friend brought a psychic to examine the painting. He instructed Janine to burn the painting, which she immediately did.
After reciting a prayer, the three of them watched the fires consume the portrait and turn it to ash. When they asked the psychic about the portrait, he said that he had felt a strong negative energy, perhaps anger or revenge, coming from the painting. The psychic asked Janine’s friend about its painter and she told them that that the friend who gave it to her was also the one who painted it.
The painter had died a year ago from a car accident. He had a sister that was murdered when attended the fiesta in their hometown. He was devastated by her death and he frequently cursed the man he suspected to be the killer. He gave the portrait to Janine’s friend as a wedding gift, saying that he hoped that it would fulfill her wish for happy life the same why it had fulfilled his.
“Do you know what happened to the suspected murderer?”Janine’s friend asked her. “I found out later that he had died from a nightmare. Binangungot. My friend’s wish of revenge was fulfilled.”