“East of the Sun” by Dean Francis Alfar

East of the Sun is a short story in Chapter 4, Understand the Culture, of Dean Francis Alfar’s collection, How to Traverse Terra Incognita. I highly suggest reading this if you can grab a copy of the collection. The stories are written in English, and the writer describes the creatures well enough that you don’t need to be familiar with Philippine folklore to get the story. (I had actually forgotten what a tikbalang was, but the story reminded me anyway.)

The tale is excellently told; it included:

  • a call for sympathy because desperate people do desperate things; and
  • a smack in the face because one always has a choice.

The story starts off when a poor family’s youngest daughter is given to a tikbalang, a creature that is half horse and half man, in exchange for wealth. But also: the tikbalang has threatened to kill off the whole family if they did not give up their bunso, the youngest daughter. Nevertheless, once it becomes agreed upon that the bunso is to be given away, everyone but her mother is already thinking of what to do with the wealth that is to come. And so the bunso is taken.

Before the tikbalang brings the bunso to his home, he rapes her practically to death. He eventually takes her home, and she can get anything she wishes for with the ring of a bell. And then late at night, after the lights have gone out, the tikbalang would lie down beside her, vulnerable and eager for love and affection. Say what? Please explain:

  • Why did he rape her if all he wanted was love?
  • How can he expect love after the crime he committed?

Some things you just cannot fathom.

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