"Dios ko, sana itama po niyo lahat ng sagot ko sa mga exams ko"
It was a LOOOONG sermon/homily, a fitting end to the last simbang gabi for the year 2008. Father Damien (sarcastically called Padre Damaso by his many detractors who found themselves the targets of his sermons) was telling his parishioners that most of them were not there to celebrate mass. "Most of you are not after simbang gabi" he thundered from the altar. "Most came here to go on 'simbang ligaw'" his eyes resting on the couple, barely out of their teens, holding hands in the second row. "Most of you are enjoying your 'simbang kain'" he turned to face his own overweight, altar boy who momentarily got distracted from his dreams of eating the dozen steaming bibingkas he already paid for even before entering the church. "And most of you came here to go on a 'simbang tulog'". After saying this he pointed his finger at a young medical student sitting on the steps of the stairs just beyond the last pew. Chris was already awake and listening to the sermon when Padre Damaso pointed him out to the crowd. But his eyes were still closed. He was practically squatting since the steps were quite low, his body was leaning forward, an elbow rested on a knee to support the weight of his sleepy head that was in turn resting on his open palm.
His eyes opened when he was gently tapped on his shoulder by the cute chick beside him. He looked at the beautiful pair of eyes for a second then realized that it wasn't the only pair looking at him. He held everyone's attention since the vile priest was still pointing at him.
Mercifully, Padre Damaso continued his sermon. "All of you who came here these past Nine Days of the Novena or simbang gabi want something from the ETERNAL GOD" his eyes were now literally burning with fire and brimstone of Hell. "You will not be disappointed, all of you will get your wish."
"BUT…" the pause was deliberately long.
"Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it all…"
Chris woke up from his very deep slumber inside the library after a night of cramming for the long exam in Community Medicine. The dream about his last simbang gabi was as real as it gets. Everything in that dream happened exactly the way it did. The details were accurate except, ofcourse, for the last part about Padre Damaso's hellish eyes.
Then Chris flipped open his cellphone to see the time. It was 7:46 AM. He had to hurry. The Exam was about to start. Then he rushed to his classroom, oblivious of the fact that the wish he made during that simbang gabi sealed his fate. Because he wished that all his answers in his exams will become the correct ones.
"Dios ko, sana itama po niyo lahat ng sagot ko sa mga exams ko"
A few days later Chris' Cellphone rang. He flipped it open and answered "Hello". The voice in the other end was ecstatic. It was Mary Jane, his blocmate. He couldn't believe the news. He didn't just pass the dreaded exam in community medicine, he TOPPED it. Actually, his score was over the top. It was a perfect score. He got all the questions right. There was not a single mistake.
It took him a few seconds to realize how odd the news was. After the Exam (which his classmates call the "manghuhula convention" since the questions were so hard, the room was full of students left with no recourse but to guess most of the answers) he checked his textbook in Halamang Gamot and counted atleast 10 incorrect answers he made.
He barked at Mary Jane "MJ, is this a PRANK? If it is I will never forgive you. Who put you up to this?" MJ responded, "Dude, I'm not kidding. You better come down here to the bulletin board and see this for yourself."
Maybe it was his excitement but all of a sudden he dropped the phone because of the piercing pain that shot through his stomach like a spear going through his abdomen then out to his backside. He scrambled for the nearest bathroom. The toilet seat was made by American Standard. The brand name could already be stamped on his forehead since he couldn't help but press on it for the past 15 minutes to support his head and body weight while barfing his breakfast into the toilet bowl.
Chris had to be rushed to the ER by MJ since he was already dehydrated when she saw him sprawled on the floor of their boarding house, practically lifeless. Curiously, the ER was extra busy that day. Chris was just one of the 46 cases with exactly the same signs and symptoms. An IV line was now inserted into his left forearm. He was barely awake when the nurse came through the curtains separating him from the rest of the patients in the ER. While she was checking the number of drops per minute going into the patient, Chris opened his eyes. The nurse was the girl who woke him up when Padre Damaso was subjecting him to public humiliation during the simbang gabi.
"Toxic ba?" he asked, trying to start a conversation with the strikingly beautiful nurse. She immediately recognized him as the guy in the simbang gabi (her cheeks flushed red because she remembered seeing Chris' "cheeks" ---he was squatting and his jeans were pulled down to partly reveal his Butt Crack) The nurse responded by saying that the ER was packed like a can of sardines with patients like Chris. They all have a common history: they started exhibiting symptoms of gastroenteritis after eating banana. Chris responded it was so strange a coincidence. He remembered eating a banana just before MJ's phone call. Then an even stranger realization: during the exam in community medicine, he mistakenly answered that Banana causes diarrhea when in fact, after checking the book Halamang Gamot, it is part of the management of patients suffering from gastroenteritis to be fed with that fruit. But the Nurse's eyes distracted him from realizing the significance of this fact.
He decided he wants to get to know her better. He read aloud the name plate on her chest "Ma. Christina Dias." The nurse was briefly startled. "Do you remember me? We sat together during the last Simbang Gabi." She nodded, trying to suppress the memory of his butt cheek. She was able to give a polite reply, "Call me 'Emma''.
"So were you able to finish all nine simbang gabi novenas?", he asked.
"Yes I did, but it wasn't really a simbang gabi, but a simbang ligaw. I was with my hubby, PJ." It was a term obviously borrowed from Padre Damaso.
Chris was disheartened. "How long have you been married then?"
Emma shot him a naughty glance, after all, this guy has a cute butt based on her standards. "Since December 27, 2009"
Chris' smile lit up the cubicle. Emma was not married YET. He decided to push his luck a little bit. "So, did you wish for a fairy tale wedding this December?"
"Actually, I wished for something more practical. The truth is, I'm on duty as a student nurse. I have yet to pass many exams before I become a real nurse." She continued "So I wished that, all my answers in my exams will become the correct ones. Especially my Anatomy exams."
(Dios ko, sana itama po niyo lahat ng sagot ko sa mga exams ko)
Chris was taken aback by the familiarity of the wish. It was the exact same wish he made. The memory of Padre Damaso's flaming eyes in his dream haunted him now.
Just then, Emma's phone rang. She politely answered it. Chris saw her smile broadened. Emma was speechless. She just received news that she didn't just pass the recent, dreaded Anatomy Exam, SHE TOPPED IT. Emma was trying to fight back tears of joy when Chris saw her smile suddenly evaporate.
She was groaning now, in pain, her hand raised to her forehead, trying to ease an intolerable headache. Chris stared for a while at Emma. Then he blinked hard. He didn't notice before that Emma had 6 fingers in the hand covering her forehead…When he looked down his own hand, he was confused. He couldn't believe his eyes. He counted a pair of hands with 6 fingers each.
He was still in shock for a few minutes, the horror was mind numbing. He didn't notice that Emma had stopped groaning. In fact, the whole ER fell deathly silent. From his bed he looked across Emma now sitting in front of him, hands now covering her mouth and not the forehead, as if trying to suppress a scream. She was staring at him. Her eyes were still beautiful. So perfectly shaped.
Including the newly created eye in the middle of her forehead.