By Annie Gorra
The following excerpt is from the book “ The Mystery on 17th Street “ written by Annie Gorra, a Kagay-anon. The story is set on 17th Street of Cagayan de Oro. A boy looks back on his life on
17th Street. It was ordinary yet so full of beauty, play, wonder, and love.
The book was a finalist in the “Gintong Aklat” Awards in 2018 and is now part of the digital library of the New Westminster Public Library in New Westminster, BC.
“The Mystery on 17th Street” is available online on Lazada, Shopee, and on Amazon.
Gasa made the rounds of 17th and 18th Streets, canvassing the families to wash their clothes or
clean their house for pay. She even approached Iya Vellit, and surprisingly the surly woman provided
her with laundry work. She did not have much money, but she still had Gasa do her laundry.
The four-year-old Andres followed us around, especially when we played in the park, catching
grasshoppers, or on the street, playing bulan-bulan at night. He was still thin but starting to gain weight. He seemed like a happy kid and was happiest when he was playing with us. He could climb a tree better than anyone in our neighborhood.
“Where did you learn to climb a tree?” asked Noli.
“Home,” answered Andres.
“Home” was his frequent response to our questions about his family. I remember the night when we
played bulan-bulan on the street. I remember it because of Andres’s saying “home” and because of the fireflies.
The moon was out, the air was cool, and a few fireflies were flying around, like dots of light in the
darkness. It was the kind of night that invited people to go outside and talk.
Our parents did just that, each one bringing their own chair to sit on. They recounted events of the day,
what they had done, whom they had met; they spoke of the rebels and the military, told stories they had told before, and shared plans for the future.
Andres joined us, and Gasa came along because her son was there. She stood at the edge of the circle.
Nanay moved her chair to invite her in, but she refused.
The moon hid behind the clouds, and the whole street became dark. We stopped playing.
“Time to go home,” Tatay said. “It is too dark to be outside.” He was facing our house, and his back was turned towards Iya Vellit’s mango tree.
The others did not move. They looked beyond him, not hearing what he said. My father turned around to check what they were staring at.
The fireflies had gathered around the mango tree in Iya Vellit’s yard and lit it up in white light. It looked like a brilliant Christmas tree with shades of green peeping out from the mango leaves.
We were startled into silence by its beauty. No words were exchanged because only silence could pay
tribute to the miracle in front of us. We felt like we were standing on holy ground.
The silence was broken by Andres. “Nanay,” he said, pointing at the tree, “it is just like home.”
Gasa picked him up and softly cried, “Yes, my child.”
If it had been any other moment, we would have thought, wondered long, and been nosey about what Andres meant by “just like home.” But it was not any other moment.